On our podcast ‘Tales That Tethr’, tethr Founder & CEO Matt Zerker interviews entrepreneurs, experts, thought leaders, and regular people about what is means to be a man, the challenges that modern men face, and how to overcome challenges and live life in a more connected and authentic way.
If you are recently divorced you might be wondering how you could be the best dad for your kids as a single parent. Based on my experience as a Divorce Mediator, I've put together a list of ways that might help you to be the best dad you can possibly be after your divorce.
Spend As Much Time As You Can With Your Kids
Being separated from your kids is the most painful experience in any divorce. Not only for you, but for the children themselves, no matter their age. They miss you as much as you miss them. Likely they did not want their parents to split up. So it is imperative that after divorce you spend as much time with the kids as possible to restore some normality in your and their disrupted lives – and it’s not just how much time, but how you spend that time.
Whatever you do with them needs to be positive even if it’s doing chores around the house. Eat together, play together, watch TV together and try not to allow work-related or other side shows distract you from your time together. Make the kids feel that they are your number one priority. Today, you belong to them.
Technology has made communication so easy these days, even if you live in another town or state, so phone, video call and send them messages regularly. Ask them about their day, their schoolwork, their friends and listen to their stories. Just hearing your voice lifts their spirits, and the same goes for you.
Kids want to feel that you still care for them, so stay involved in their lives, in their schooling and whatever activities they do or enjoy. Just by being at that game, school concert or any other event, tells them that you care and it means so much to them.
Arranging midweek visits (in accordance with any parenting plan or parenting order) or having dinner together keeps the family bond alive and heals the wounds, especially during the early stages of being apart.
Make Your Home Welcoming For Them
If you are the one who relocated, try to choose a home that is conveniently located to make travelling between homes easy for everyone. Make it as comfortable for the kids as possible, even allowing them to choose some of the décor too, making them feel that it’s their home too.
Stick To Your Commitments
Breaking a promise to a child is sacrilege, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem to you. By sticking to your commitments they learn to trust you, setting an example for them to follow and live by. If you promised to attend that game or school concert, be there.
Make Time For Self-Care
During and after a divorce it is imperative for you to remain mentally and physically healthy. So eating healthy, exercising, getting enough rest and remaining socially active, become more important now than ever before. And don’t forget to include some“me-time” in your daily routine – you need to heal too.
Don’t Try To One Up Your Ex
Trying to show the kids you are “better” is a common mistake divorced parents often make - trying to buy the children’s affection by out doing each other with gifts, toys and fancy trips. All quite unnecessary. There is no need to spend a fortune to make your children happy. All they want is to be close to their dad.
An ice cream in the park or a day on the beach are simple activities that bond families and create memories and also cost very little. A simple hug and a kiss and the words “I love you” cost nothing too.
Be Consistent With Discipline
Separation is a difficult time for children too and may affect them in many different ways. Don’t be alarmed if you notice a change of attitude or unusual behaviour over the first few months or so.
No need for drastic measures here; just apply the same code of discipline they had when you were all living under one roof, as long asthe rules remain consistent between homes and clearly understood.
Maintain Routine and Structure
Maintaining a set routine and structure are also vital in retaining discipline and general harmony in your new lives. The greater the similarity in routine between the two homes the easier it is for the children.
Create Some New Traditions
It is unavoidable that certain traditions may not be possible after a family break up. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just time for some new traditions. Celebrate a “second” birthday or a “second” Christmas in your new home or that of your parents. Grandpa and grandma are important people to any child too.
Keep It Civil With Your Ex
One thing that children do not need to see, is ongoing conflict between their parents. Remaining civil with your ex is not always easy, especially when you’ve been through a difficult divorce. But it’s time for you to rise above and let the healing begin. As hard as that may be, let it go. The war is over.
Ian Shann is the principal mediator and director of Move On Mediation in Perth. Move On offers affordable and effective divorce and family mediation in Perth for separating couples. Ian’s commitment is simple – to help keep separated couples out of the Family Court and minimize their need for lawyers, saving them time, money and anguish.