How to be a good dad after a divorce
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.