As a divorced dad, you know that your relationship with your children has changed dramatically. It's heartbreaking. You have a father's full time love lived out on a part time basis. Your world may be full of painful nuances such as the children visiting you at your house, yet living with their mom in their home. Birthdays, holidays, and special days are challenging. If you or your ex-wife has a new relationship with someone, a new twist is added. Terms of a divorce decree and custody agreement may set parameters to your involvement with your children. Be sure to work within these parameters. How can you navigate through all of this? There are some specific things you can do in order to stay healthy and to provide a healthy, nurturing environment for your children. These can be challenging but the long term pay off is worth it.
SELF CARE: Attend to your basics: eat right, exercise, and get rest. Connect with a clergyperson, a friend, or a professional counselor who will be honest with you, keep confidences, and not take sides. They can help you deal with the powerful emotions that accompany divorce. Some of these emotions are: depression, anger, rage, bitterness, hatred, and rationalizing behavior that puts you at risk. Unresolved, they will harm your relationship with your children, adversely affect future relationships, and prevent you from working through the divorce experience in a healthy way. When faced with a major decision, talk to someone about it to get another perspective.
BE A MEMORY BULDER: There are basically two ways that you can try to build a relationship with your children. You can be Sugar Daddy, trying to buy their love and out buy their mother's love by giving them every toy and gizmo on the market. It won't work. Instead, be a Memory Builder. Memory Building is simple and consists of doing things with your children that create memories. It may be something as simple as looking at stars at night, or roasting hotdogs around a campfire, going to movies, hiking and biking, or having a picnic. Become involved in their sports events or hobbies. Get to know your children's schools and teachers. Accompany your children on school trips. Be a home room dad. Create new family traditions. Honor your promises to them. Show up when you say you will.
KEEP YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF THE MIDDLE. Don't try to build a healthy relationship with your children on the character destruction of their mother. You can't. Don't use them to pry into her life. Be flexible concerning visitation within the guidelines of the custody and visitation agreements to accommodate special unplanned events in your children's life. If you are the custodial parent, don't try to punish their mother by being inflexible and unaccommodating with their schedule. Your children will be hurt by this.
KEEP YOUR CHILDREN HEALTHY. When permitted by the scope of any custody agreement, arrange an appointment with their pediatrician and other doctors to introduce yourself. Be sure you are able to receive all information concerning their healthcare. Know their medications, allergies, medical histories, and status of vaccinations. The welfare and safety of your children are paramount. Don't hesitate to take appropriate action if you see signs of, or have suspicion of any form of abuse, or if they are living in a dangerous environment.
Being a divorced dad is hard and emotionally painful. It is challenging. By taking responsibility for your self care, working on building good memories with your children, and by looking out for the welfare of your children, you will create opportunities for you and your children to navigate the painful experience of divorce and develop a lasting relationship.