Father’s Day was last Sunday and I’ve been talking to some of my Father clients about their role in their children’s lives. Especially when the divorce first happens, whether you are Mom or Dad, you may feel guilty. You are supposed to be one of the most important people in your children’s lives and yet, you are going to miss at least half of it! Or possibly, if you are a non-custodial parent, even less. Your mind runs with, “What will I miss?” and sometimes insecurities come up, “What if they like their stepparent more than me?” Or “Am I screwing my kids lives up?”. I have heard many, many questions of this nature.
What Fathers Can Do for Their Children
My suggestion to you, is to focus instead on how you be part of your children’s lives. First of all, even if you aren’t the custodial parent, you are entitled to be part of your child’s life in a significant way. You can interact with their school systems and go to conferences. You can participate in field trips and school events with your child. You can stay up to date with their scholastic achievements. You can email their teachers. You can help them with their homework. If the school permits it, you can go have lunch with your child.
You are also afforded the right to go to the medical appointments. You can get medical records. You can part of any therapy your child may need.
The same with extracurricular activities. You can speak to coaches or activity leaders. You can take them to practices or games. You can cheer them on and support them.
You can have quality time with your children. I’ve heard clients say to me, “I never knew I could be such a good Dad.”. When you are in a marital relationship you may have relied on your spouse to do the caretaking. Now, you’re on base! It’s up to you. To provide caretaking for them for 24 hours a day without the other parent telling you what to do (if they are micromanaging, that’s another topic!). You can feed them what you want, let them go to bed when you want, get them up when you want, play with them the way you want, etc, etc. I have other clients ask me, “Can I tell my ex to have the kids go to bed at ….. ?” You can suggest it but no, you can’t. Or, “Can I stop them from eating junk food while they are gone?”. Nope. You can suggest, but you can’t mandate.
Setting Up the Right Conditions
I had a very sad Father in my office earlier this week. He was talking about taking his daughter away from her room at the marital home. He said, “but she doesn’t have a room at my apartment”. I said, “Make one for her.” It can be a lot of fun for kids to have a room at Mommy’s house and a room at Daddy’s house. Don’t apologize for having a smaller house or not having all of the things they have at the marital home. Just create a fun space for them at your place. Whether it’s your own house or you are staying with your parents for a transition you can carve out a space for them. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can get crafty. Have them decorate with their own artwork. Or if they are older, have them take selfies with their friends and print them off for inexpensive decorations.
“I’m going to miss Christmas Day”. Make your own holiday time. Does the day really matter? No! It’s not about the date, it’s about the experience. Create memorable experiences with your children around the time you have them. Next year you will probably have Christmas Day, but you can choose other days and times. Who doesn’t want to have two opportunities to open gifts?!
It all boils down to your focus. You can focus on all the amazing things you have to do with your children. Or you can focus on how sad you are and all you will miss. The time is going to progress the same no matter which you choose. If you are concerned about what’s best for your kids, then it’s for you to be the happiest person you can be. If not for you, do it for them.