Even writing the phrase ‘about the ex’ sends people scurrying for the exits, fearing expletive riddled diatribes and raging self-pity. But what about your kids, when they aren’t really kids anymore. As your sons and daughters head into their own adult lives, is there a point where it becomes okay to tell your kids about the ex?
There must have been some incredibly important reasons for you to go through the harrowing process of separation and ultimately divorce. But are there things that your kids need to know about their mum?
Young Kids vs Young Adults
You separated when your kids were younger, and honest discussions with them in those years reached the level of why they couldn’t have two packets of chips in their lunchbox like they did when mum packed it. Now that they are late teenagers, with boyfriends and girlfriends and part time work and all the things that makes up life pre-marriage, is there a time when it is okay to simply talk to them about the things that led to your separation?
Most professionals advise about the damage that we can do as parents if we fall into the trap of disparaging the ex in front of our kids. There is absolutely no doubt that one of the most important things we can do for your kids as they go through the divorce process with us is to bite our tongue and simply encourage them to have feelings of respect and admiration for their mother. Remember, they are already dealing with trying to find their feet in the lives of separated parents, two homes and readjustments.
There are a lot of things to be aware of as your young kids grow through the divorce and challenges that come with their age. There are many articles that provide good guides for what to do and what to say up to the age of 14. But, at that age your kids are beginning to desire more independence, they’re questioning parental authority, and they’re developing relationships outside the home which are even more important than their relationship with us. It is next to impossible to find advice on talking to your kids beyond the early teenage years.
But as they age they are no longer kids needing to be shared and managed between two separated parents. They are now young adults who are exposed to many adults in differing settings, and you and your ex are becoming less unique to them.
They are becoming young men, like you, and young ladies, like their mum. They are adults in secondary and post-secondary education and they are taught to think broadly, apply their understanding and their moral code to develop their own personal impressions and opinions on situations and events they experience. They will be developing opinions about the people who make up their lives, the things they like and dislike, and the things they need and detest.
You have very strong opinions about their mother which are undoubtedly a big part of why you are not together anymore.
Naturally, you want the best for your kids as they build their own lives. Don’t you need to tell your kids about the ex and what led to the divorce?
If you have a daughter would it be okay for her to never know anything of what it was that brought your love for her mother to end? Would you be happy for your son to choose the partner he will spend the rest of his life with without knowing anything of what it was that broke down the mrriage with his mother?
Tell Your Kids About the Ex
The kids probably spend a lot of their teenage years living with their mum. If anyone knows mum well, they do. They are now far more resilient and self assured than when they were the 7 or 8 years old when they just wished mum and dad still lived together. They now have seen many of their friends go through divorces with their parents, and discussing mom and dad’s divorce with these trusted friends is easier than with anyone else. These discussions likely have been going on for years, thus helping to forge their ‘critique’ of you as their dad and your ex as their mum.
So, if your son or daughter at 17 or 18 asks why you and your new partner don’t seem to argue as you did with their mum, or they raise an issue they have had with their mother, is it okay to be honest about their mum? Whenever there is an elephant in the room it is better to simply confront it than trying to beat around the bush?
So long as the discussion remains objective and has the right mix of honesty about yourself as well as about their mum then aren’t you arming your kids with knowledge that you likely didn’t have as you grew up in a generation when divorce was more rare?
Many articles point out that you may anger your children if you try to describe the process of separating as something like ‘mummy and I still love each other, just not in that way’. That’s because it minimizes your child’s maturity to form their own opinion.
Honesty is Always the Best Policy.
We have always been told that it’s best to tell the truth. It has always been drummed into us not to lie. In fact it is almost impossible to think of another area where telling the truth to your child is seen as anything but the best parenting practice.
It has become more acceptable to discuss sexuality with our kids. Thank goodness. And in the process we reinforce the importance of intimacy and feelings with the people that we choose to love and cherish in our lives.
We know we will have to comfort our kids hearts when their boyfriends and girlfriends have broken their hearts. Is it really so bad to admit that that was something missing from your marriage with their mother? Is it preferable to lie? Or won’t that go the same way as trying to tell them that you still love mummy? Your kids know you and they know when you are lying.
You have spent a lot of time talking about times past through rose-colored glasses only for the benefit of your young kids. If you have a strong relationship with your grown kids where you can speak openly and honestly about things such as your work relationships, your thoughts about the future, and your thoughts about the world, then speaking honestly about what wasn’t right about your marriage to their mum shouldn’t be taboo.
You can discuss how people change over time. It may have been a process of falling out of love with the woman you married as you discovered she was turning into someone you didn’t like. You can discuss the need to continue to develop as a person. You can talk about what it is like when someone stops listening. The kids would have similar stories in their lives already.
Part of parenting is helping your kids find the best parts of both yourself and your ex for them to emulate. In a strong marriage that endures, both partners are reinforced by the other such that pointing out each other’s strengths and weaknesses is a very normal part of life. Separation and divorce is oft times about two people who are no longer being reinforced by one another. And, as they go through the process they lose the opportunity to tell their kids the truth.
You’ve survived the break-up, the children are finally settling into their new routines and it looks as though life might be on an even keel at last. Then, suddenly the bombshell drops. Your ex has a new bow. And now you’re going to be dealing with your ex and her new partner. In an instant everything changes. You thought things were on the up and up, but suddenly you fell back to rock bottom.
This guy won’t just be in your ex’s life, he’ll be in your children’s lives, in your marital home and sleeping in your old bed. He’ll take over everything you used to own. He’ll be relaxing in your chair, cooking in your kitchen, eating food from your cupboard, smiling at your ex and listening to your children tell him about their day. Not surprisingly, dealing with your ex and her new partner will likely stir one of the most common emotions in life after divorce – anger.
Initially, it will be a huge shock. Even if you thought you were prepared for it, when your ex announces she has a new man in her life, you’re likely going to be consumed by the news. You’ll be resentful, jealous, or angry. And, you’ll be worried about the impact this guy will have on your kids.
Take A Deep Breath
Take some much needed time to adjust to the news. Don’t lose your cool. And don’t say the first thing that comes into your head. The truth of the matter is, no matter hard it is to accept, your ex was inevitably going to find someone new and start a new relationship. Keep calm. Focus on your own wellbeing and that of your kids as much as you can.
Think things through and make a list of your priorities, then you have a better chance of having a calm and productive conversation with your ex. You’ll want to know whether your children know about the new man, when they’ll be meeting him, if they haven’t already, how they are feeling, whether he’ll be moving in, or how often they’ll be in his company and a little about him. Try to push aside that image of him enjoying breakfast at your table and crawling between the sheets with your ex. Stick to practical matters. Remember, your ex loves your children and will most likely be looking out for them and doing what she believes is best for them. Even if you vehemently disagree, try to be realistic. You’re all in the process of moving on and creating news lives, and a certain amount of flexibility will be needed to keep peace. One day, it will be her turn to deal with the new woman in your life and handing her children over to you and some other woman.
Look After Your Mental Health
Be kind but firm with yourself. After the first few days of rage and self-pity, or obsessing about the injustice of it all, you’ll need to start to bury those feelings. It won’t be easy, but you need to understand that negative emotions can have a powerful effect on you physically and psycholgically.
Likewise positive emotions can affect you deeply too, so concentrate on promoting positive thoughts. If you find yourself regularly drawn to dwelling on the changes, purposely steer your thoughts to something happier. Distract yourself. Pour yourself into something you’ve been thinking about doing, or a meeting with friends or even a work project. Distract yourself from these cyclical anxious thoughts. Tell yourself, I’m not going to think about that right now, and then don’t. Focus, focus, focus – on you, and your kids.
This will be hard and you’ll keep dwelling and worrying about the same things, over and over again. But as time goes by you’ll find it easier to push negative thoughts aside. Try not to imagine his new place in your family’s life.
Don’t let anxieties about your relationship with your kids take over. Being anxious about your place in their lives is natural. You’ll wonder if they’ll like him more. He’ll no doubt spend more time with them than you if he lives with them. They’ll tell him things and he’ll give them advice. They’ll have fantastic trips together. He’ll get to do all the things that you thought you’d be doing as they grow up. Stop.
Remind yourself, they love you. You’re their dad and however big a presence he is in their lives, he cannot replace you. If they love him, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean they love you any less. It means they’re comfortable and happy with the people in their lives, which is how it should be. If you’re honest, you know that you wouldn’t want them going home to someone whom they don’t want to be around.
If things get too much for you, find someone to talk to. This could be a sympathetic friend, a family member or, if you’re really struggling, a trained counsellor. Just make sure that the person you’re talking to is giving you good advice. Friends are great for sounding off at, but it won’t be helpful to spend time with someone who is ready to label your ex as toxic. You’re looking for kindness but honesty. Sympathy is great, but a good friend will help you accept what you cannot change and won’t let you wallow in bitterness.
Dealing With Your Ex and Her New Partner
After you’ve got over the initial shock, make sure that you keep the channels of communication open so you can deal with your ex and her new partner. You’ll want a certain amount of information about her new partner if he’s going to be spending time with your children. You’ll need to know whether he’s moving in or how often he’ll be seeing them. Keep it civil. If things get heated you’ll miss the opportunity to find out what you want to know. And your input is more likely to be heard if you make your case calmly.
Stick to your existing routines and implement any changes cautiously. Everyone’s priority should be the kids and how they’re coping with the new situation. This article gives an idea of how to sensitively introduce a new partner into your children’s lives – and how not to.
First, know that you don’t have to meet this new guy if you really can’t face it. But, getting to know someone a little can help stop your imagination from running wild. And, it would be useful if you can pick up the children from him if your ex can’t make it or have a phone conversation with him to make arrangements for the weekend.
If you do decide to meet him, make it somewhere neutral at first. Try hard to be polite and approachable. If you find him aloof or less than friendly, stick to your guns and be the better man. Don’t steam in and start trying to lay down rules as soon as you meet him. Start with more general terms; you should at least both be able to agree that you want your children to feel happy and settled. It would be more appropriate to leave detailed rules to a meeting with your ex at another time. Then at least you can say that you have met him and given him a chance.
Over time, things should ease up and become a little more comfortable between you and he. Keep the tone of any meeting professional and try and let the children see that you are able to speak to him without animosity. If you can be civil to each other, as well as easy going and helpful it will make everyone’s lives easier.
How You Can Help Your Kids
Your children will be going through a major change in their lives when your ex finds a new partner. They will suddenly be having to share their mother with someone else and may well have to adjust to a new person living in their home.
Make sure you’re not dismissive when you speak to them about him, however hard it is. Younger children in particular may look to see how you respond to him and pick up on your feelings. It won’t help if you manoeuvre them into feeling negative about him, it will simply give them anxiety and make their lives less happy. And if they do get on well with him, they may feel guilty about it.
Your role is to be a rock for them. Reassure them that nothing will change their relationship with you, he won’t be replacing you and you will always be there for them. And then make sure you are, as often as you can be. Don’t be tempted to indulge them with treats and gifts; what they really need is quality time with you. This doesn’t have to be trips out or vacations, quality time is simply time when you are connecting with each other, over meals, shared books, games or movies for example. Concentrate on giving them a relaxed, pleasant time with you. Let them talk about him if they want to, and try and put your own feelings aside for their sakes. It won’t be easy, but if you manage it you really will be a great dad.
Throughout this difficult time, remember to look after yourself. Remind yourself that there are still good things ahead for you and that this will pass. Focus on building strong, healthy and happy relationships with your children and on creating a good life for yourself instead of focusing on dealing with your ex and her new partner. These are your priorities now, and negative emotions have no place with you.
This is without a doubt one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. Seeing your children accepting a new man into their lives and reacting with good grace can feel impossible at times. But persevere. You may be filled with negative emotions, but put every ounce of effort into putting the negativity aside while you’re with your children. In the end, this will help you too; by getting into the habit of behaving in a positive and easy going manner, you have a good chance of raising your own mood and being able to cope well with the change. As time goes by, the new situation will become easier and more comfortable for everyone and you’ll feel happier about the future as it becomes clearer that although your ex has a new man in her life, your place in your children’s lives will never be in doubt.
Like you, I’m hurting. Hurting from a wound buried deep inside that no one can see, feeling a pain that can’t be expressed. How do you love someone you hate so much? How do you remain calm when your insides are screaming? Keep calm, keep reading, and I’ll show you I reached the sweet bitter end.
How it Started
13 years, that’s how long I was married. I was in love, I loved her laugh, her smile, and all that she was and did for my heart. I was a Corporal in the United States Marines and she was a PK or Preacher’s Kid. We met while I was visiting my sister, about 5 hours away from my duty station. I fell hard for her and fast, some would say that it was love at first sight. I did anyways, for years!
The Problems Begin
We had our first child 10 months after we were married and from then on, we had problems. Now I’m not going to go into details, just know that somewhere along the road, she lost faith in me. She had 3 affairs and waited until our 10th year of marriage to tell me about them. I, being the wise idiot, believed that if I forgave her and didn’t mention the affairs or address them, it would give her a chance to heal and be the wife that I always dreamed of. It worked! We were great, had our last child and bought a home together, life couldn’t get any better…or so I thought!
The Beginning of the Bitter End
I started to notice an all too familiar distance forming between us. Me being Mr. Fixit, decided that that was the point in which I needed to introduce change…and change is what I got! She told me for the 3rd and last time, that she wanted a divorce! How could this be? I was always faithful. I always provided for the family and made sure we had all that we needed. I wasn’t a drunk or abusive. What could I possibly do to fix this inevitable problem? The answer…NOTHING! No matter what I tried or could try, she was leaving, and that pissed me the hell off!
I gave up my military career for her! I gave up my business endeavors for her! I gave up my dreams for her! How dare she tear away my passion and then just end up leaving me anyways? I hated her! I hated her voice, her smile, hell, even her name drove me to anger! On top of it all, she took the very soul from my body when she stole my kids and moved five hours away to live with her parents! I was devastated, a shell.
How could I have been so stupid, so naïve in thinking that I could change her mind, or even change the course her actions had set us on? I waited until the bitter end, the very last minute, to hire an attorney, and then went against his advice to force her back to my town (something that I legally could have done.) I had hoped that this decision would grant me favor with my oldest daughter, who, at this point, loved her new school. How could I be the evil dad and take her away from that? So I let them stay. I will never know if that was the best decision, but it was my decision and I have to live with it.
Needless to say, my anger grew. I went from seeing my children every day, being there for their every need, to being a 4 day a month dad. The idea of not being there for my children hurt what was left of me, and hurt it bad. I went into a deep depression. My friends tried to help, but it just took my mind off of it in short periods of time.
Enter the Therapist’s Advice
I decided that I needed to see a therapist, something everyone in the middle of a divorce should do. She listened to my sob story and gave me the weirdest and best advice possible…I need to date!
How is that supposed to help? I’m an angry, bitter, asshole, who wants nothing to do with the opposite sex. Those destroyers of men, those evil dream killers, they could never help me! Besides, I can’t be loved. I was faithful, loving, compassionate, honorable, blah, blah, blah, and my marriage still ended in divorce. How could I find love when it was obvious that I didn’t know what love meant? Her response…You need to know you are still desirable!
She was right. I didn’t think I was wanted, I hadn’t felt desired in a very long time. But how do you hide hate and bitterness while dating?
I went straight to online dating. I built an amazing profile, posted amazing pictures, wrote an amazing bio, sat back and waited for the amazing responses, and boy did I get some! Apparently I am very desirable to old overweight women who are still married but in an “Open” relationship…and I mean a lot of them! ‘Match’ my ass! Remind me how is this supposed to make me feel desired again? Still, I didn’t lose all hope.
I finally got a response from a decent looking woman 6 years my junior, I was desirable! We went on a date and I learned a lot…a lot about myself. My divorce wasn’t about me and what I had failed at, it was about her and what she failed to value in me and our relationship. I felt a huge weight lifted off of me and a peace that I didn’t know I could feel again. That date opened my eyes to the possibility of me loving again and I was a new man from then on.
Knowing who you are is a true gift and also a growing gift because you never cease to adapt and grow as an individual, so you always have the opportunity to learn more about yourself. Going through a divorce is a catalyst for growth and change. Not that you need to change, but that your life will inevitably change from it. I didn’t want a divorce, I actually hated the idea of it. But I was looking at it all wrong. A person makes a decision based on the facts presented, and that goes for anything, including marriage. Over time, as more information is provided to you about your significant other, you try and make the best decision as to whether you want to continue to be with them. I’m sure that anyone reading this, at some point in time during their relationship, thought to themselves about an event that made them think “Why would they do that?” or “Why am I still with them?” It could be a fleeting thought and never take hold, but you still had that thought. I believe it is in those moments that we notice a change in ourselves and in our desires for the other person. I guess you could call it a growth spurt!
These growth spurts are what helped me throughout my divorce. The more I learned about myself, the more I learned that my divorce was the best thing to happen to me. I’ve grown, progressed, changed into a man that, not only am I proud of, but my kids can be proud of too!
I’ve learned to love my ex again. No, I don’t go out of my way to impress her or give her things, I just respect her and the fact that she is the mother to my two little girls. I know that she will disappoint, that is her character, I just don’t dwell on it. I use it as a learning tool and move on. The important thing is to put aside my bitterness and focus on my children, life is too short to kill your spirit with bitter and angry thoughts. Move on!
My divorce was finalized after 26 months, and I’ve since been dating and am engaged to a wonderful, unique woman that is everything I have ever wanted in a partner. What makes her so great? She helps me grow and be the man I want to be, all while loving me along the way! I’m happy that I never turned into that bitter woman hater that lives his life full of discontent with the opposite sex. I am so happy with how things have turned out and I know it won’t be an easy road to travel, but it also won’t be a lonely road either. In all honesty, what more could a man ask for? I’ve reached the sweet bitter end.
Most people believe strangers are responsible for the majority of childhood abductions, but national statistics say parental kidnapping is more often to blame. A family abduction occurs when a family member, likely a separated or divorced parent, takes and hides a child for some length of time. This heartbreaking and devastating crime occurs more than 200,000 times each year.
Childhood kidnapping is usually driven out of anger, frustration, abandonment and desperation. Often, emotions overwhelm personal judgment and sound reasoning. And in custody disputes, this often leads to one parent losing their child to parental kidnapping.
Often cited reasons for parental abduction include:
- Forced interaction or a reconciliation with the parent left-behind
- Spite or punishment against the other parent
- Fear of losing custody or visitation rights with the child
- Protecting the child from the other parent who is perceived to molest, abuse, or neglect the child
Are You at Risk of Losing Your Child to Parental Kidnapping?
There are often subtle and obvious warning signs of a pending abduction. The most common signals your child may be in danger of parental kidnapping include:
- Threatened abduction or attempted abduction in the past
- Suspected abuse supported by family and friends
- Paranoid delusion or severely sociopathic behavior
- Your spouse/ex has alien citizenship (in a foreign country) and may potentially flee the US
- Your spouse/ex feels alienated from or fears the legal system, and has family or social support in another community or abroad
- Your spouse/ex has no strong ties to your child’s home state
- Your spouse/ex has no job or is not financially tied to the area
- Your spouse/ex is planning to quit a job, sell a home, or close bank accounts
- Your spouse/ex applies for passports, or obtains copies of school or medical records
Pay close attention to these any and all of these potential signs and contact the family court and/or your attorney for assistance. Any direct threat of parental kidnapping must be taken seriously. The family court and law enforcement authorities should be contacted immediately if you feel your child is in grave danger.
Parental Kidnapping is a Serious Crime
Both parents are entitled to equal rights and access to a child unless an order specifically limits one parent’s rights or access to their child. Before a divorce or child custody suit is filed, either parent can take their child and maintain custody of them.
Once a custody order is in place, each parent must abide by it. If a parent without legal custody of their child violates a custody order and snatches or conceals a child, they may be potentially charged with parental kidnapping.
The taking of a child is considered kidnapping by looking at three main factors:
- The legal status of the offending parent
- Any existing court orders regarding custody
- The intent of the abducting parent
Parental abduction often violates many federal and state laws, and if parental abduction occurs, contact law enforcement immediately. As enraged as you may be, don’t take the law into your own hands. Let experienced officers use the justice system to help you locate and bring home your child. You should also contact your family law attorney, and if the where abouts of your child are unknown, consider hiring a private investigator to locate your child and to focus dedicated resources on the case.
State Kidnapping Laws
Laws vary by state, but generally parental kidnapping involves a suspect abducting a child and holding them in a location they won’t likely be found. Some states laws maintain a parent cannot keep a child more than 24 hours with the intent to conceal them. In some states, just the unlawful retention of a child is sufficient for a charge of parental kidnapping; the use of force or a weapon is not required in all states to support the criminal charge of parental kidnapping. However, many state also include a defense for any parent attempting to protect their child from real threats.
Preventing Family Abductions
Custody battles are frustrating and can be infuriating, and child abductions are not uncommon. To keep your children safe, consider following these recommendations:
- Start any child custody process immediately upon learning of your impending separation/divorce (as you need a custody order to prove your rights)
- Impose visitation restrictions, such as supervised visits, if there is imminent danger of parental abduction
- Include parental kidnapping prevention measures in the custody order such as having both parents post bonds. This will serve as a deterrent, and if the child is abducted by your spouse/ex, the money helps you with costs of recovery. For further information visit the Professional Bail Agents of the United States at www.pbus.com.
- Maintain a certified copy of the custody order at your home.
- Document any abduction threats and report them immediately to your family court and/or attorney.
- Contact the police to intervene and alert your spouse/ex of the consequences of child abduction.
- File certified copies of your child’s custody order with their schools, healthcare providers, daycare, sitters, etc. Make sure it’s known not to release your child to the non-custodial parent without your permission and demand to be notified if an attempt is made.
- Keep a record of all physical descriptive information on your child and your spouse/ex, including height and weight, hair and eye color and any distinguishing marks, and maintain current photos (6 months). List social security numbers, license plate numbers, vehicle information, and other identifiable data.
- Obtain a passport for your child, and let authorities know your child cannot leave the country without your written authorization – see the U.S. Department of State for more information.
Although it may be difficult to do, maintaining a friendly connection to the your spouse’s/ex’s family may be beneficial. It could help you avoid the trauma of family abduction, and in the event of a kidnapping, you may need their support to bring your child home safely.
What Else You Can Do
Keeping your children safe also requires open communication between you and your child. Ensure your children know as much information as possible including their full name, your full name, and full addresses and phone numbers. Make sure they know how and when to call you, and how and when to contact 911 services.
Most of all, make sure your child feels loved. Convey a message – without mentioning, or accusing the your spouse/ex of being a potential threat, and that you will always love them, look out for them and will do anything and everything to be with them.
Losing your child to parent kidnapping is gut wrenching and heartbreaking not only for you but also for your child. Fortunately, laws exist to help you get your children back. Should you ever lose your child due to parental kidnapping, turn to the criminal justice system and law enforcement for help.
Should you have any questions specific to your child custody or visitation case, or if you would like help enforcing a child custody order, contact a divorce attorney or a Father’s Rights attorney in your area for help.
Photo Credit: Canstockphoto.com
As a newly divorced dad, you may feel a sense of emptiness or loss of identity when everything’s finalized. Especially if you no longer live with your kids, you may wonder how exactly you can succeed in fatherhood after divorce.
The most important thing to focus on is maintaining a good relationship with your children, regardless of how you’re getting along with your ex. The last thing your kids need to worry about is parental conflict. To succeed in fatherhood after divorce, you need to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex, open up lines of communication with your children, and most importantly, take care of yourself to properly take care of your kids.
If you’re not at you’re best, how do you expect to take care of anyone else?
Fatherhood After Divorce
Every divorce is unique, and every child will respond to divorce differently. There’s no way to guess how your kids will react and there’s no way to know how you’ll take the divorce until it happens. For their whole lives, your kids were used to an easier relationship where you got along with their mom, lived in the same place as them, and didn’t have to make plans to see them. It’s going to be an adjustment for all parties involved, but there are some things you can do to make the best of difficult times.
Take a look at eight ways to succeed at fatherhood after divorce.
1. Talk About the Divorce with Your Kids
Your kids need to know they’re always in a safe space to talk to you about the divorce. Holding in questions and emotions can be hazardous to their mental wellbeing. It can also lead to them lashing out in certain ways, either at home, at school, or outside the home. Let them know they can express their feelings to you and that you’re always there to chat if they need to. And recognize that this will be a long-term discussion and there will be ups and downs. It’s not something that they’ll need to talk about once and then be done with it; they’ll likely need to talk about the divorce with you for years to come.
2. Make Your Home Feel Like Home
It may be tempting to move out and into a bachelor pad, but make sure your new home is as kid-friendly as possible. Your home should feel like their second home, not a place they visit from time to time. Hang photos of you and your kids together, give them their own room, let them help with the decorating process and make sure they have everything that makes them feel comfortable and at home. This will strengthen your relationship and ensure they always feel great when they come to your place.
3. Stay Close to Your Kids
The best way to maintain a good relationship with your kids and succeed at fatherhood after divorce is staying close to your kids. Don’t move away, don’t take a job in another city, don’t move back to your hometown if it’s far away. You need to put in the time with your kids if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with them. The farther away you are, the harder it is to build a relationship with them. Even with technology like Facetime and Skype, it’s much more beneficial to be physically close to them to stabilize yourself as a significant figure in their life and grow your connection.
4. Let Your Kids be Kids
One of the most problematic things you can do after a divorce is to involve your kids in conversations and problems that should be left to the adults. Let your kids be kids. Make sure they’re focused on their school, friends, extra-curricular activities, and anything else that’s important to them as children. Try your best to shelter them from adult issues and problems that are stemming from the divorce. Let them express their feelings about the split, but don’t drag them into anything they don’t need to be a part of. You’ll be able to succeed as a father best when you focus your energy on positive experiences with your children.
5. Educate Yourself on Child Support
If you’re not the custodial parent post-divorce, you’ll most likely be responsible for child support. It’s crucial to keep up with your financial obligations, because if you don’t, there may be substantial consequences, including getting your passport revoked, fines and penalties, and even imprisonment as a last resort. The best thing you can do is be prepared, create a budget and don’t go blowing your money on useless things.
6. Stay Healthy
If you’re not able to take care of yourself, how are you going to be able to properly take care of your kids? Make sure you’re treating yourself right after your divorce. Maintain a healthy diet, go to the gym, get a proper sleep, and don’t turn to harmful substances like drugs and alcohol because you think they’ll help you get through hard times. They won’t. Your children depend on you, so you need to always put your best foot forward and prioritize your physical and mental wellbeing. Seek professional help if you need it. There’s no shame in going to therapy to help you through a divorce. It will likely make the process much easier for you.
7. Respect Your Ex, Especially In Front of Your Kids
To succeed aa a dad after divorce, you need to make sure your children are protected from any conflict between their divorced parents. It can affect their wellbeing and mental health to see their parents fight or talk badly about one another. They are likely already stressed out and holding many different emotions about the divorce, so the last thing they need is to hear disrespectful comments about their mom from their dad. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of your ex right now, you need to maintain respect for the mother of your children. Always speak about and act in a respectful way towards your ex to maintain a healthy relationship with your kids.
8. Date Cautiously
At some point, you’ll want to get back into the dating game after your divorce, but you’re going to want to do this with caution. Your kids may not be too fond of seeing dad with a woman who isn’t their mom. As I mentioned before, every situation is unique, and your children may be totally fine with it, but a lot of time that doesn’t seem to be the case. When you do start dating again, you’re going to have to help your kids adjust to this new stage of your life. You may want to wait until things get serious with someone to introduce them to your kids, so they don’t get attached to someone new just to see them go. And if your kids aren’t okay with you dating yet, there’s no use introducing them to someone who isn’t going to be around for a long-term relationship.
It can be tough to navigate your new life at first, but just be assured that with time, it will come much easier. Follow these eight steps, and you’re on your way to successful fatherhood after divorce!
(c) Can Stock Photo / halfpoint
How to Start Getting Your Life Back
When most people think of prison, parenthood, much less fathers’ rights, is not something that comes to mind. Yet, there are 2.7 million children in this country with a parent in prison or jail.
The overwhelming majority of incarcerated parents, ninety-five percent, are fathers. Many of these dads are not new to the prison system; in fact, 2 out of 3 inmates re-offend after their release and end up back inside.
It is not surprising that incarcerated dads are usually fatherless themselves when you consider that growing up in a fatherless household dramatically increases a child’s odds of ending up in prison. If dads in prison want to give their children a better chance at a more promising future than they had, it is critical that they reintegrate into society and their children’s lives in a way that is functional and healthy. The problems many dads face in integration include a lack of parenting skills, decreased self-confidence, barriers to jobs and housing, lack of education, and discrimination based on their status as ex-convicts.
While reentry into society may not be an easy road, dads returning into their children’s lives must make an effort on three critical fronts: finding a place to live, getting a job, and being a positive influence in their children’s lives. Unfortunately, once prisoners leave the highly structured life of prison, there are few resources to help them start over.
Very few dads are returning to a loving family when released. They usually lack the money to rent a place, and if they do have money for first and last month’s rent plus security deposit, they are likely to find their applications repeatedly turned down after landlords run a background check. Homeless shelters and the streets may be the only place to turn. Newly released dads find it nearly impossible to secure a job without a place of residence, making finding housing a critical step for establishing themselves.
How to search for housing
- Start by contacting churches, religious organizations, non-profit groups and government agencies in your area that offer housing for those in need and those that specifically help newly released prisoners. These include temporary housing, half-way houses, shelters, and low-income housing. There are organizations such as Delancey Street, which offer housing for ex-convicts who need to take the first step to getting back on their feet.
- Check out the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC), an organization dedicated to helping those that have been incarcerated and their families find local reentry services.
- Follow up with phone calls. Find out if there are any openings and ask what rules or requirements they may have.
- Choose the ones that seem to offer the most suitable solutions and make appointments for an on-site tour. Bring a notebook to write down what is needed to get started in case you find a good place and want to move forward in applying for housing.
Finding a Job
The U.S. Department of Labor Resources for Ex-offenders is a good place to begin. The site is easy to navigate even with limited internet skills. Click on the Get Started Guide, and it will walk you through finding what you need. It covers everything from Finding State Resources for your state, to figuring out how to start the job hunt, getting your GED or job training, exploring possible careers, and tips for putting together a resume. Unsure how to get references, find job listings or bring up your conviction in your job interview? The guide covers all these topics, and more.
Organizations such as Goodwill, and agencies like the State Employment Offices, offer job programs to get ex-offenders back into the workforce.
Reuniting with Your Children
Coming back home is not only an adjustment for dad, but it is also a big change for kids, too. There are a few tips to make reuniting after an extended absence go more smoothly. With some effort, fathers can reestablish themselves in their kids’ lives while minimizing the stress it puts upon kids who may not be sure how to react to the new normal.
- Talk to your kids about how happy you are to be a part of their lives again and how you missed them. Try to keep from making too many promises up front, let the trust build as they see, over time, that you are back for good this time.
- Ease them into your return by praising them for staying strong and helping out when you were away. Let them know you are proud of them.
- Be patient if they act out or seem unsure how to behave. Children and adolescents are less experienced dealing with emotions and change and may respond with negative behavior. Try to avoid reprimanding them for every little thing. Give them some space to make a few mistakes and to figure out how to respond to dad being back in their lives. They will eventually sort things out and begin to become more confident that you are not going to abandon them again.
- Try to avoid power struggles. This will put you and your kids in an adversarial relationship, and you want to try to become a family again, not become mired in conflict.
- Ask them about school, their lives and the things that matter to them. They may be anxious or unsure at first, so let them express themselves without judgment. Once they become comfortable and more confident, they will open up to you more. The key is not to force anything. Let them come to you at their own pace.
Reentry Services by State
Need an easy place to start looking for services in your area that help those recently incarcerated get into housing, find jobs, access family services, and more? Click on your state on the Reentry Services Directory Map.
Fathers’ Rights After Release
Fathers rights as they pertain to housing, employment, and reunification with their children vary by state. There are some federal laws, such as The Fair Housing Act which provides legal protection to ex-offenders across the country. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for landlords to ban all ex-convicts from renting. However, there are exceptions to the regulation, for example, if you are a registered sex offender you can be banned from living within a designated proximity to a school. To complicate the issue, some savvy landlords will blame your rejected application on something other than your criminal record to get around the law. If you feel you may have been discriminated against, contact an attorney for help or file a complaint online.
Fathers rights when it comes to employment and reunification can be complex and vary by the offense you served time for and by the particulars of your custody case. You may have to put in considerable time to research the laws that apply to your case or seek legal counsel for help. Don’t get discouraged; there is help out here if you are willing to put in the effort to find it and to follow through. Your kids are counting on you. Let them be the motivation you need to make a better way for your future, and theirs.
(c) Can Stock Photo / dabjola