When I was asked to write this article, I jumped at the opportunity. I am NOT a psychologist or a child education expert, but I am a father who fought very hard for time with my daughter. If you are a newly divorced dad, here are some tips that will help you move forward in your relationship with your kids and yourself.
Spend the time you have with your kids doing things! You may not be a husband anymore, but you are still a father. Be present with your kids; actively engage! When you interact with your kids, you build a relationship. Play games, read books, cook, play sports, go fishing, do projects around the house…whatever it is, create memories by doing things together. (By the way, turn off your cell phone. My daughter and I have a “no phone zone” rule when we are together.)
Focus on what you can control and quickly develop a mental picture of what you want it to look like in the future. There are so many emotions associated with divorce – anger, resentment, disappointment, relief – it is easy to let them get in the way, especially in your relationship with your kids. Don’t let your anger and frustration with your ex define the time you have with your kids. When your kids look back on this time of their life what do you want them to say about you? This is YOUR TIME with them. Create a memory worth remembering. The rewards will be amazing. Make sure your kids feel safe, secure, loved and important. Especially dads with daughters. Look up the books of Dr. Meg Meeker!!! Focus on your kids.
Prioritize! If you do this well it will make moving forward a lot easier. I developed a clear ranking for my “top 3” priorities in life. My daughter was #1 no matter what, #2 was my business, and #3 was a list of non-profit community projects I was working on. Yours may need to be different, but state them, write them, stick to them.
Stay busy doing things you enjoy. This could be reading, developing a new business opportunity (the one I chose), working out, learning a hobby, catching up with old friends, investing, gardening. Active engagement will keep you and your thoughts focused on enjoyable and stimulating topics. For more on this look up some brain research on the roles of serotonin and cortisol on your ability to thrive, or survive.
Get Some Help. Really! I know you are probably sick and tired of all the counseling you did while you were married – I get it, trust me! But, this is a great time to find a trusted counselor and figure out what *you *did wrong in your relationship (I hate to say that because it is much more fun to blame the other person). If you want something different for your own life, you need to figure out how to change your own behavior. It is amazing how receptive you are to behavioral change when you are taking the initiative to seek to improve yourself.
So that’s it. Bottom line: Take responsibility. What you take responsibility for, you can change. If everything around you is someone else’s fault, you have no power to make any changes. By taking ownership, you clear the way to the best possible relationship with your children and freedom from the chains of divorce.
k Peters is the founder of DressMeDaddy.com, the website that makes shopping for cute kids’ outfits easy. Dress Me Daddy’s philosophy is that as parents our time is better spent being active with our kids than shopping for them–which is why DressMeDaddy.com puts adorable outfits and wardrobes together for you.