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!