How to be a good dad af­ter a di­vorce

Jamaica Gleaner - - DEDICATED TO DAD FEATURE -

DI­VORCE IS hard on ev­ery­one in­volved, and it is es­pe­cially hard on chil­dren, no mat­ter what age they are. Given the fact that in most cases the mother re­ceives pri­mary cus­tody of the chil­dren, it can be dif­fi­cult for men to know how to best stay in­volved in their chil­dren’s lives un­der these new cir­cum­stances. Here are a few guide­lines that can help:

1. Pay your child sup­port

You have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to take care of your chil­dren whether or not they live with you full-time. If you are con­cerned that your ex-wife is not us­ing the money to take care of the chil­dren as best as pos­si­ble, then it is your duty to ask the court to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter. But you must en­sure you con­tinue mak­ing pay­ments.

2. Never say any­thing neg­a­tive about their mother around them

Chances are, they saw you ar­gue ex­ten­sively prior to the di­vorce, and there is noth­ing that can be done about that now. But you can take the high road now, even if your ex doesn’t. Chil­dren are not stupid, and they will fig­ure out on their own that nei­ther of their par­ents is per­fect. Talk­ing bad about their mother will only make you look bit­ter and make them feel they need to de­fend her. Kids should never be put in the po­si­tion of feel­ing that they have to choose one par­ent over an­other.

3. Be there when you say you will

One of the very best things you can give your chil­dren af­ter a di­vorce is con­sis­tency. Their world has been turned up­side down, and you pick­ing them up on week­ends that you have them, tak­ing them to din­ner dur­ing the week, and call­ing to tell them good­night as of­ten as pos­si­ble will ac­com­plish two things. It will re­turn some sense of or­der to their lives, and just as im­por­tant, re­in­force the fact that you’re not leav­ing them and that you will still be there. This will in­volve deal­ing with their mother more than you might like, but it’s a small price to pay.

4. Make sure they know that your new home is their new home as well

Your chil­dren need to feel just as much at home with you as they do with their mother, so cre­ate a place that’s theirs, even though they don’t live there. If pos­si­ble, and it will be dif­fi­cult if you have more than two kids, give them each a room of their own. Most men tend to live in about two rooms of the house any­way, so you won’t miss the space. You will also be al­ready pre­pared if the point should come where you have pri­mary cus­tody.

5. Make their time with you as nor­mal as pos­si­ble

Es­pe­cially in the be­gin­ning, you will be deal­ing with guilt about not see­ing your kids ev­ery day, and you will be tempted to make ev­ery one of their vis­its with you a ma­jor pro­duc­tion. But ev­ery visit can’t be a ‘Dis­ney­land ex­pe­ri­ence’. It’s im­por­tant that you spend time just as you would if you still lived with them full-time. This in­cludes fun ac­tiv­i­ties, of course, but it also in­cludes just sit­ting with them watch­ing TV, rak­ing leaves or mow­ing the lawn, and even run­ning er­rands that you may think are bor­ing. Also, giv­ing them ex­pen­sive gifts ev­ery time only dis­torts the ex­pec­ta­tions they will have later, and makes the tran­si­tion from time with you back to their mother’s awk­ward for ev­ery­one. You can’t buy their love, or their for­give­ness, and you don’t need to. They love you al­ready.

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