10 Ways to Stay Connected With Your Kids After Divorce
1. Make the most of your time
In most cases of divorce, the mother has custody of the children. An agreement is reached about times that they will be with their father. Make these days special and happy. Go to the park. See a movie together. Let them choose what they would like to do. Just make sure they have 100% of your attention the entire time you get to have them.
2. Your home is their home
You have moved out and now have a new home. This is going to feel strange to your children. Do everything you can to make them feel welcome and wanted in your new place. Dedicate a bedroom solely for their use. Let them decide how to decorate it. This will be exciting for your children and give them a sense of security when staying with you.
3. Share an interest
Find a hobby that you both enjoy doing. Maybe your son likes snowboarding. Take it up with him! Your daughter might be an avid reader. Pick a book to read together so you can discuss it when you are together. Find out what your thing is together and build a positive connection with it.
4. A fresh start
Start a brand new photo album for you and the kids. Always have your camera with you. Take pictures of each weekend and write what you did and where you were at.
5. You are still very important
You will always be their Dad. Nothing on earth can change that fact. Your involvement in their life is critical to their future. Research by the University of Delaware concludes that children with involved fathers tend to have higher self-control and self-esteem. They also have stronger social and coping skills.
6. Be respectful of your ex
No matter the hurt feelings or circumstances, only speak of your ex-spouse in respectful tones. She is still the mother of your children and they love her. Handle this difficult time with class and dignity. Not doing so leads to devastating consequences for the mental well-being of your kids.
7. Stay consistent
Since you parted ways, it’s likely you have different ideas than your former wife. However, try to forge an agreement on how you each plan to parent your kids. Consistency is key. Your children will become confused if there are two sets of rules in two separate houses. Confusion leads to chaos.
8. Live close
If at all possible, find a place to live that is close to your kids. It will lessen anxiety knowing Dad is “just down the street.” This will also allow you to stay very involved in their everyday lives. Picking them up from school, for instance, or taking them to the doctor. Little things mean so much.
9. The new person in your life
Eventually you will begin to date again. If not handled properly, this can be very traumatic to your children –especially to daughters. Be very sensitive and careful about how and when you introduce someone new. Also, if you have teens remember they are watching how you handle dating. Behave as you would have them behave.
10. Do not wind up on cable access
Ever seen the list of “Deadbeat Dads” on your cable? Do not be that guy. Whatever obligations you have agreed to, be sure that you fulfill them. It is your responsibility as a man and a father. Make sure your kids are secure and provided for. They will respect you and you will respect yourself.
Making the Most of Visitation
Many divorced fathers are faced with the reality of visitation- an often negotiated, mediated and all too brief time they are able to spend with their children. In many cases, visitation is very limited, compared to the relationship dads used to be able to enjoy, so it's absolutely crucial that dads make this visitation time the best possible experience for their children and themselves. Here are a few ideas for making the most of your visitation:
Give it time
There's an old saying that time can heal all wounds. But time is only half of the equation. Healing old wounds also takes a commitment to getting better. Soccer players who've torn a ligament just don't give up. They gradually work themselves back into top playing form, even if their leg will remain tender and sore for years. Many fathers who have gone through a bitter divorce may find that it feels like they've got a torn ligament between themselves and their kids. Calling upon the fathering part of yourself may be painful and feel awkward at first, but with time, patience and practice, it does get better.
No "Mr. Mom"
You're first visitation may be the first time you've ever been alone and bearing full responsibility for taking care of your kids all by yourself for an extended period of time. Or, you may be an old pro at taking care of your kids by yourself. In either case, never try to be a mom. You'll only set yourself up for failure because men are not moms, men are dads. First, your children expect you to be fatherly. Do the things you always did. If you were a husband who cooked, continue to cook. If you didn't cook, don't try to "show-off" for your kids by attempting to whip-up some gourmet meal. Rather, be honest with your kids, and invite them to learn with you, on whatever you're attempting. Let them into your life. Invite them to sit next to you and read with or to them that article on bass fishing. Look for ways you can include them in your life and ways you can continue to be involved in theirs. Second, you just won't feel quite right. Trying to be something (a mom) that you're not is like trying to wear your shoes on the wrong feet. You may be able to do it for a little while, but it is awkward.
Research tell us that if you can reduce conflict, you're transitions should be smoother. But if your marriage ended with an unresolved war, you will most likely need to work harder to make the transition for you and your kids smoother. Men who have most successfully negotiated a bitter divorce or custody battle remember that any unresolved conflict they feel about their former family life rests with their ex-wife, not their kids. And they never openly battled or degraded their former wife in front of their children. Remember that she's still their mom, even though she's no longer your wife. Being aware that you still harbor negative emotions toward your former spouse can help you avoid directing them toward your children when it's "your weekend." Awareness can also help you put your hurt and anger behind you. Mentally practice and prepare for visitation. Make a game plan for how you will handle picking up and sending off your child(ren). Be sure you know where and at what time you're to be there; it'll be easier for you and your kids.
Visitation may seem very daunting. "How am I going to keep them entertained?" many fathers wonder. Stop and ask yourself if you worried about this when you were married? Probably not. Why? Because it was OK just to be in each other's presence. It was OK just to watch television together. It was OK not to have to talk. It's still the same. Even though you may have a hundred and one things you want to talk with your child about (or maybe not) doesn't mean they want to. They may need time to themselves for a while, just to be, rather than to be doing. Talk with your kids about the types of activities they would like to do. Ask them how they would like to spend their time with you. Be open and honest about your likes and dislikes. Over time, you'll establish a natural rhythm that will transform what seems to you as "fathering by appointment" into wonderful memories and strong bonds with your child(ren).