Now that you don’t see your children every day, finding ways to maximize visitation is paramount. But there is a deeper connect here … now it is more than just the things we do … it is about how we do them and the lasting memories we create. Using LOVE as our guide, I propose four ways we can enrich our time with our children and create lasting bonds: Listen, Openness, Value, and Encourage.
No amount of preparation will ever lessen the blow of structured visitation. Going from seeing your children every day to a few days a week can be devastating. The amount of time spent away from your kids versus the amount of time with them seems terribly unfair. As a divorced father, there is little advice I can give that will make the transition better. What I can tell you is that it does get better with time and there are ways to maximize visitation.
Listen – What Your Kids Say Will Surprise You
Communication is the linchpin that holds relationships together. Communication is a critical element that cannot be overlooked if you are determined to maximize visitation with your kids. I have tried to instill that into my children because I believe it. The problems come when we hear what our kids are saying, but we are not really listening to them.
Listening involves understanding, processing, and reacting.
What Happens When Your Kid is Being Bullied
When my youngest came to me and told me he was being bullied at school, my initial reaction was to talk to the principle and have the other child punished. Even though that was the final outcome, my son wanted more than just action; he wanted someone to listen.
He felt inferior and ashamed because he was being singled out. He needed affirmation that he was not different and even though he had had major back surgery at a young age, he was still able to do everything the other kids did.
Once I moved past my initial anger over him being picked on, I could address the deeper issue: his feelings and what he could do about them. What we could do about them. Together.
Sometimes, it takes a long time to help kids see their self-worth when they are constantly devalued by other kids. Listening to our children and helping them work on issues is the beginning of a lifetime of trust and acceptance, and it can be done in spite of scheduled visitation.
Tips on being a better communicator with our children include:
- Be available to your children.
- Let your kids know you are listening.
- Respond in a way your child can hear.
An extensive list of Communication Tips for Parents is available from the American Psychological Association that includes the ones just mentioned, is a great resource for single dads.
Openness – Keep the Lines of Communication Open with Your Kids
You are the one getting the divorce. Yours is the heart that has been trampled on. There are days or weeks where pushing forward in daily life seems impossible. It is in these times … of course understanding age-appropriateness … where our closest allies are our children.
We should always be aware of their pain and confusion during this time. It is a rarity when children don’t blame themselves, even though we as parents know it has nothing to do with them. Make sure you tell them it isn’t their fault. But, also show them how it isn’t by maximizing communications during visitation periods with them as much as possible.
If you want your children to open up to you, you have to be willing to open up to them.
You won’t be surprised to learn that a large part of our success in life is directly attributed to our communication skills. That means that no matter how ambitious, how committed, or how highly educated someone is, they still have a low probability of success unless they developer the right communication skills. In other words, maximize visitation with your kids by maximizing your communication skills. The good news is that anyone learn to communicate more effectively.
Your openness with your children is another way to maximize your time together and bring you closer.
Value – Show Your Kids How Much You Care
It is inherent that we place different values with people and things in our life. How important each one is determines the amount of time and energy we spend on it. If your children are not the most important people in your life, it is now time to change that thinking.
Our children need to know they are valued above whatever turmoil is in our lives. They need to be above the happiness, sadness, divorce, work, hobbies, and everything else. It is then we can begin to bridge the bond between our children and make it stronger.
Here are a few building blocks for helping our children feel their value:
- Talk about your child’s good points. By bringing out the positives, we nurture results and show how much we appreciate them.
- Praise more, criticize less. Children need to know you are proud of their accomplishments.
- Hold quality time at a premium. Even if it has been a long day, children remember when we spend quality time with them.
- Never, never compare your children to others. They are individuals (faults and all) and need to accept themselves.
- Don’t miss special occasions. Make it a priority to not miss school or sports functions.
- As I mentioned above, listen to your children. Let them know you are there.
Encourage – Be the Strength They Need
I believe every one of these four concepts are equally important. But if I had to pick one, encouraging our children would be it. If there is one truth missing from parenting these days is it encouraging our kids. Without them knowing we stand behind them, how will they come to have the confidence to face the world?
Self-motivation, by definition, comes from within. This part may not be able to be taught, but it can be shown. By being a ‘fan’ of our children … always having their backs … we can show them there is worth within. This will give them the ability to see that light from within.
What is the by-product of good self-esteem? For one, children who are confidant to be themselves without someone accepting them. Two, by encouraging them they learn to encourage others.
Maximize Visitation to Be a Better Dad
Having given of ourselves, with closeness being the goal, the bond between ourselves and our children will grow. Listening to them, striving to be open with them, placing value in our children, and encouraging them every step of the way is just the beginning. Maximizing visitation with our children will bring about a closeness you all need. These times are tough, lean on each other during the good and the bad.
Expect great results … it will take time but it’s worth it.
Think about more ways you can maximize your visitation time. Not just in what you do (even though that is important too) but how you will treat your children. What are other ideas you have to bring them closer during this trying time? You never know when something you say or an idea you have will spark someone searching for new ways to grow closer to their children.
What communication challenges have you overcome? Do you have divorce advice for men on maximizing visitation? Please share in the comments below!
Sometimes it’s not just your kids you need to communicate with! Jason White explains the difficulties in Navigating Fatherhood in a Blended Family.
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