by Bruce Provda, Esq.
When Juan and his wife started to talk about divorce, Juan’s concern was for his relationship with his children. He had seen friends who lost touch with their children even though they still shared custody with the ex. Their kids were important to them to be sure, but they just couldn’t figure out how to remain a good father when they only got to see them a few times a month.
Divorced dads can remain a central part of their children’s lives after the split. Maintaining the emotional and familial connection can be a strong possibility going forward, if dads will follow some basic principles. Here are 7 that I’ve found to be invaluable with the dads I work with:
Divorce the Ex: Not the Kids
Typically, some fathers disconnect from their children when they divorce. With a little thought, the divorce can open the door to connecting with your kids in a way that was never possible before. You’ll possibly have limited opportunities; make the most of them.
Who Cares What Others Think?
When you were still married, you had others’ expectations hanging over you like Damocles’ sword. Your parents, her parents, and she, all had expectations of what being a good dad was all about. Even Dr. Phil would chime in on how you should be doing the job. Remember, when it comes to your children, you are the expert. Identify your expectations and what you will accept.
Now Hiring, A Part-time Dad — NOT!
Either you are a father or you are not. There’s no middle ground when it comes to being a parent. Often, divorced fathers spend more time with their children after the divorce than they ever did while the marriage was still intact. Regardless of how much time you can spend with the kids, commit to it. When you’re a dad, you’re a dad.
Not a Babysitter Either
You don’t have to take your kids on pricey trips and adventures. Also, don’t worry about covering them with gifts or keeping them entertained. If you spend time with them being a father, not a babysitter, you might just find they’re as happy just to be with you.
The Kids Have 2 Sets of Rules
The kids don’t have just one home, and they visit you. They live with you. They have two homes. One with mom and with dad. If the kids can adapt between one set of rules at home and another set at school, they can adapt to two different sets of rules, one in each of their homes. Remember, “But Mom lets us …” doesn’t carry any more weight in your house than “But Dad lets us …” carries in hers.
Learn to Trust the “Inside Father”
You have a gut instinct that will tell you when it is all right for your child to stay up late, when it is ok to be interrupted on the phone, and when the situation calls for some stern rules. You’ll also know when a no-holds-barred, family wrestling match is called for. Learn to listen to the inside father and you will get to know him. The process will make you the kind of dad your kids are meant to have.
Do What You Want
Often, mothers and fathers feel they have to be the martyr to make the now-divorced parenting process work. You don’t have to choose between being a parent all the time or a single father. With a little planning and a lot of communication with the kids, you can find you still have a life that you can enjoy.
Just Maintain a Strong Connection. Just Be DAD.
Bruce Provda is a veteran New York family law attorney and fathers’ rights advocate who has been practicing for more than four decades at his NYC office – nydivorcefirm.com. He is married and has two children.