Whether you are divorced, single, or married, your responsibilities as a parent trumps your feelings, regarding your ex-spouse. As difficult as it may be to navigate your history with them, you cannot allow those feelings and those actions to affect your ability of being the best dad that you can be.
Your child custody situation may be problematic, in preventing you from being as active as you would like, but during your parenting time and even when it is not your parenting time, there are ways of continuing to be the best parent that you can be.
Importance of communication
Children in difficult child custody situations have a lot on their plate. They have to come to terms with the fact that their parents are no longer together, while adjusting to all of the changes that entails. They have process the fact that two locations are both considered to be home, as well as the idea that both parents will no longer be at their beck and call under the same roof.
While you may not be living in the same home as your child as often as you would like, there are other ways of being an active parent in your child’s life. Communicating with them does not require being under the same roof every second of every day. It requires thinking of them enough to send a text message or Facetime them when you can.
The conversations do not necessarily have to always be meaningful. Asking your child what is new in their lives or how their homework is going can give you insight on what your child may be going through in their day-to-day routine.
It also shows your child how interested you are in their life and what is important to them. Depending on a child’s age and maturity, having a parent reach out to them in this way and support their interests can be exactly what the child needs.
This does not only mean when your child is away from you, but also when your child is with you. Some parents spend so much time on their phones, working and planning their week that their children can feel left out.
Whether you have custody or not, the time that you spend with your child is precious. They deserve to be the center of your home, and when they are with you, you need to be the parent that they deserve.
Invest in your child’s future
This means getting involved in their world, and for children, their world is partially comprised of school. Help them with their homework without doing it for them. If they have a test or a quiz, help them study. Learn more about their educational habits, and find out how you can go about helping them.
This also is important, because of how a parental divorce increases a child’s risk of dropping out. The rate of high school students who have dropped out after going through a parental divorce is at 31 percent, according to collaborative research from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, as well as the Brookings Institute.
What’s important to them
If they are involved in a sport, helping them practice is a great way to bond, especially after a parental divorce. The uncertainty and unpredictability of everything surrounding a parental divorce can negatively impact a child’s performance in school and in extracurricular activities.
However, if a child sees that a parent can become just as invested as the child is in their success at the sport or extracurricular activity, they have a better chance at bonding over it.
Even if it is not a sport, but rather, an instrument that they have taken up or they are a part of a choir, they may require the same level of practice and support. They need to know that no matter what endeavor they pursue, that you, as their parent, have their back.
Similar to that of helping a child with homework, an easy way of getting involved in a child’s sport or extracurricular activity is to learn more about it. If it is an instrument, research everything there is to know about the instrument and the music that your child is studying. If it is a sport that you are unfamiliar with, learn more about it.
It is these types of little things that will show your child how much you care and how much you support them and their life, even when aspects of their home life may be changing.
However, if you are a parent who is unable to be there for your children to the extent that you desire, due to the child custody schedule and parenting plan, then it is important that you are proactive about it. Contact your family law attorney, and go through the proper legal channels, in order to fight for more parenting time.
Not occurring overnight
Improving your ‘Dad-game’ is not something that happens overnight, and it is not something that you are going to get right the first time. Just as it would be for parents that are married, there will always be room for improvement. Your children may not always make things easy for you and your relationship with them, but that never means that you stop trying.
It means that you are there for them, even when it may not be your day for parenting time. It means that you send them a message, give them a call, Facetime them, or find a way of letting them know that you care, and when it is your time, you provide them the love and support that they need, in whatever situation they may be facing.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.