Today, when roughly half of all marriages end in divorce, many children live in single-parent families. Since mothers are more likely to have custody, many fathers only see the children on weekends and perhaps for a portion of some holidays.
The tendency for men is often to fill these precious hours with “fun” activities, so the children will remember their time with Dad as a special treat. However, this is not a good plan to follow for every visit. Fathers were meant to be part of their children’s everyday life.
It’s important to do routine things with your children, things you would do if you were still at home with them every day: help with homework, work on a badge for Guides or Scouts, fix a bicycle, visit grandparents, or throw a baseball in the back yard. These are the things your children probably miss the most.
Learn about upcoming school events, sports practices and extracurricular activities in which the children are involved. Make a point of attending as many of these as possible. Your presence will assure your children of your continuing love and support.
In order to co-parent comfortably, you will have to establish a relationship of respectful cooperation with your children’s mother. This will not be easy, especially if you have recently been through a bitter divorce, but for the sake of your relationship with your children, you must try to do it. Here are a few tips about establishing this type of working arrangement with your ex:
* Always be on time to pick up the children. If for some reason you are delayed, phone and explain.
* Advise her of your plans for the day. She may help by providing suitable clothing, necessary accessories, or by offering helpful information or suggestions.
* Do not question the children about her lifestyle, new friends, or daily activities. Unless the children are being neglected, it is no longer any of your business. The children will feel uncomfortable because they won’t know what they can tell and what they should not mention.
* Do not criticize, or insult their mother, or question her judgment in their presence. If you have any concerns in this area, be courageous enough to take them up with your ex.
* Occasionally, buy a necessary item of apparel for a child without being asked. Sometimes a new pair of snow boots will really stretch a single mom’s already-tight budget.
* Help the children buy appropriate gifts for their mom on special occasions, such as Christmas and her birthday. She will realize that yours was the guiding hand behind the gifts and be appropriately grateful.
* If one of the children gets bruised, scratched, chips a tooth or suffers some other mishap during their time with you, explain how it happened. Don’t leave her to discover the nasty surprise after you’ve left.
* Bring the children home on time. Do not have your current romantic interest in the car when you drop them off.
Being a single dad who still exerts a significant influence in his children’s lives will not be easy. It will sometimes interfere with your rest, your leisure, your work schedule and your social life. It will mean making your children and their welfare your top priority. After all, isn’t that really what responsible parenting is all about?
You can opt out of marriage these days, but you should never dismiss the responsibilities of parenthood. Your children’s future depends on your integrity.