Dear David,

I’m so glad you’re managing well with your new role as a single father. I know how hard you must be working, but your involvement in your children’s lives is invaluable. Since we’re in the same boat, let me suggest some tips that I found helpful:

  1. “Live with the times.” This teaching of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi means that the teachings of the weekly Torah portion are applicable to that particular week. In our situation, this teaching tells me to focus entirely on the moment, letting go of the past and the future.

    For example, you pick up your children from a visit with their mother. In the car, your children say they’re hungry. You’re tempted to say, “Didn’t Mommy feed you?” and get angry. Instead, say to your children, “Hey, I got an idea. Let’s go get some burgers.” Ignore what their mother has done or not done and just focus on the moment, your children’s hunger. You will feel good, your children will be fed, and you took the higher path.

  2. You can’t do it all alone. Sometimes talking to a family member, a friend, a colleague or a rabbi can work wonders. They may not have all the answers, or any answers, but they have a listening ear. The rabbis of our Chabad synagogue offer many things: classes, services and social events. I believe that it’s important to attend often. Believe it or not, being the tenth man in a minyan (quorum of ten) so someone can say kaddish, or making a visitor feel welcome in the synagogue, can do a lot for one’s soul. And when you’re feeling enriched, you’ll be a better father to your children.

  3. Create a routine and stick to it. You and your children will find normalcy in routine, but maintain some flexibility. It’s best to coordinate your routines with your children’s mother so that there will be a sense of continuity and security for your children.

    You can also create new routines. Teach your children baseball. It’s fun. I did. (By the way, I learned baseball the day before they did.) Show them a page in the siddur, and let them get used to saying the same prayer regularly. I read to them and say the Shema every night. I cherish that time oh so much.

  4. Never speak negatively to your children about their mother. Always teach them to honor both their father and mother. It may be one of the hardest mitzvahs for you to impart, but if you want your children to grow up and be decent, G‑d-fearing people, the key begins with honoring their parents. The Torah places only one condition on this mitzvah: if the father or mother ask the child to act in opposition to Torah, then one can disagree respectfully.

    Whatever differences we may have with our ex-wife is our business. In the eyes of our children, she’s still their mother.

I hope some of these tips are helpful. Best of luck!