You Can Be a Good Dad Even in Tough Situations

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A while back, I was talking about Championship Fathering on a radio program. I told my stories about the importance of Loving, Coaching, and Modeling for your kids, Encouraging other kids, and Enlisting more dads to join the team.

After the program a dad wrote to me and said, “How can someone be a ‘Championship Father’ when the system and the mother won’t let him?”

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For a growing number of dads today, this dad’s question is the only one that matters because they don’t have access to their kids; they don’t have opportunities to be the dads they want to be.

I don’t fully understand how dads feel when they’re shut out from the lives of their children, but I do hurt for them.

In today’s culture it’s easy to lump all non-custodial dads together. We talk about custody battles and child support and we forget that these are individual dads who love their children and are fighting for the chance to be involved fathers. That’s real, and it’s a tragic consequence of the divorce culture that we live in. The impact on children is even more tragic.

These dads already know there are no easy solutions, but they don’t give up calling attention to their challenges and the injustice they feel.

If you can relate to this situation, I hope you’ll keep reading, because I want to offer three pieces of encouragement that can apply to whatever fathering challenges you may be facing:

First, focus on your long-term commitment to your child. That will help to see you through daily ups and downs or even major roadblocks to your fathering.

One dad we know was separated from his three kids by a very bitter divorce when they were school aged. Barred from direct contact with his kids and faced with parental alienation, he remained steadfast in his attempts to connect with his children. His oldest daughter eventually sought contact and moved in with him when she was able to do so independently. Just a few months ago, after seven years of separation, his son expressed a desire to connect and reestablish a relationship.

No one wants to go through something like that, but some dads do, and an unwavering, steadfast commitment will a huge factor in making the best of it.

Second, find ways to keep practicing the fundamentals of Championship FatheringI do believe in the validity of the research behind loving, coaching and modeling, and I know they can make a difference for you. Every dad needs to soak these in, practice them, and make them part of his skill set. These fundamentals can be creatively applied to just about any situation.

Years ago, one dad worked on a submarine for 90 days at a time, and he had to cut off all communication. That was a huge fathering challenge. So ahead of time, he wrote postcards to his children for every day of his trip, then had a friend drop them in the mail every day. So his kids had messages just about every day from their dad, and they felt special that he thought enough to do that. He adjusted his fathering for his situation, and found ways to be effective despite his challenges.

So what about the dad who doesn’t have access to his children because of divorce and his custody agreement? That dad will have to live out loving, coaching, and modeling in different ways from other dads.

For example, if loving the child’s mother isn’t part of the equation, that dad can at least work on respecting her, cooperating with her, and giving his children access to other people who are modeling healthy relationships. Maybe the best coaching you do is through email and texts.

If you aren’t able to be an everyday role model for your kids, keep doing what’s right in your work and other areas of your life, and do all you can to stay positive with your kids. Trust that your high character and poise will make a difference in the long run, and that through the months and years your children will notice and appreciate how you carried yourself despite horrible circumstances.

Those are just a few examples. You may face a challenge of different a kind, and you can find ways to make the principles work. That goes for active duty dads, stepdads, dads who travel a lot, dads in prison, and so on. Loving an infant is much different from loving a 12-year-old. Coaching a daughter will likely require a different approach than that involvement and insight with a son.

If you want more specific tips for applying Loving, Coaching, and Modeling, you’ll find some on our website.

Finally, I encourage you to get together with other dads in your situation.

You may be a divorced dad, a single dad, an adoptive dad, stepdad, traveling dad. You may be very busy. I know there are dads out there like me that struggle in this area at times, trying to find a balance. Find a dad who’s a step or two further along, and ask him, “What’s working for you?” “What have you learned?” “What’s the best way you show consistency for your children?”

Dad, no matter what, don’t let frustration get the best of you. Other dads in your situation have found ways to stay connected with their kids. You can do it too.

Help other dads by sharing. What adjustments have you made or creative solutions have you used to connect with your kids despite a challenging situation? Please join the discussion below or on our Facebook page.

ACTION POINTS for Dads on the Journey

  • Write a letter to your child where you share about a significant memory from your life and an important lesson you learned from it.
  • In whatever situation you’re in, communicate unconditional love and blessing to your child—through letters, emails or texts, or verbally. Say, “I love you for who you are, no matter what happens or how often we get to catch up with each other.” Tell him often that he’s special to you.
  • When you are with your kids, make as many deposits into their “emotional bank accounts” as you can, since time apart gradually drains that account. Read more on this.
  • Are you denied access to your children? It may be that you could see them more by getting involved at their school. (Check out our WATCH D.O.G.S. program for one great way to do this.)
  • Does your child use social networking websites and apps? Join in and learn about those, and use them as a way to connect, especially when you’re apart.
  • If you’re in a challenging fathering situation, try to maintain healthy routines with your kids—but also allow some flexibility. Be very understanding when they don’t handle the challenges in the same way you do.

 

Carey CaseyCarey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.

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  1. i too went throuh separation from my children,the key is to keep your faith and don’t give up,surrond yourself with positive people and stay busy doing what’s right,lastly what god put together no man can take apart, trust him with all your heart.

  2. The title “You can be a good dad even in tough situations” is unfortunately not true in my current situation. I am trying and trying hard but the tools I need to be a good dad and raise an almost perfect family are being snatched away rendering me crippled and not being able to help a destroying family. It is sad and I have cried out all my tears and there are no more my eyes can shed. Ours is a beautiful family with a spouse and a thirteen year old daughter. Life is never a smooth sail and I know it very well. Our daughter being the only child was given what she wanted while growing up. She is a brilliant middle school student and has excelled in her academics. However she is a very quiet and shy person. On the contrary, she is quite vocal and violent at home especially when she gets “no” for an answer or something very simple that triggers her violent reaction and then she goes on a rampage throwing things around. I am not a perfect father and I have tried to discipline her early in her age thru normal parenting procedure but since she turned into a teenage girl I have refrained from even those simple disciplining procedure. To avoid further destruction of property and to avoid her being hurt while throwing or punching things I offered her to use me as her punching bag. Despite the many occasions when I have bourne the pains and sorrows from her physical and emotional outburts my spouse always blames me for the altercation and tells that our daughter has done nothing wrong. I tried to make my wife understand the situation but have had no luck thus far. Last week, it got quite ugley when she called the law enforcement and complained to them about abuse and that resulted in the CPS involvement and placement of my daughter and wife. Since last week I have not seen my family and I have not been able to contact them. And to make things worse, this week I got served with a restraining order and was forced to vacate the house within 15 mins. This action has deprived me of the tools I need for my trade (work-at-home) and also as the head of the household I am now unable to take care of the house and my daily routine chores. How is this fair and how can I be a good dad during these difficult times and tough situation. If anybody is reading this please help and assist because I do not want to see my family disintegrate and be destroyed.
    Rap O’Reilly. (email: raporeilly@yahoo.com)

  3. Rap O'Reilly says:

    I trust God and pray that this will end soon in a positive way. My family needs me … my daughter needs me. I want to be able to provide the guidance and support that my daughter needs at this juncture of her life. Four more years and then she will be in college and these are the important years of her life for education, social and emotional development. Unfortunately my hands are tied. I am unable to provide and do what I can do best for the family and my daughter. I am helpless and am in need of help. PLEASE HELP …..
    email: raporeilly@yahoo.com
    http://www.facebook.com/rap.oreilly

  4. Thank you for giving PRACTICAL ways for dads to stay involved in the lives of their children. I have raised 4 children without the presence of a father and currently give leadership to a ministry reaching out in relationship to Single Mothers who LONG for the dads to step up to the plate and be there for the children. It gives me hope to know there are fathers who are willing to go the extra mile and really pursue relationship, to fight for the hearts of their children. So often when it gets hard we sit back and say “I can’t, they did this and the court said that” But you gave ways to go the extra mile, to find ways to connect with children…to move beyond excuses to be dad. I am sharing this article on my facebook page. Thank you.

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