After divorce, you may be parenting alone for the first time, which can be pretty overwhelming, especially considering your children may be exhibiting a variety of reactions to your divorce. Divorce causes many changes, and it is natural for a child to grieve the loss of way family life used to be. However, divorce does not change your ability to be a great dad.
As you set out to create a new normal for your family, consider what your children need as they cope with your divorce and what they need to thrive in general. Every child is different, but there are at least three general guidelines to consider as you jump into single parenthood.
Take care of yourself
Many dads have a natural tendency to trivialize or ignore their own needs. The thought behind this behavior might be that you want to focus all your energy on your child’s needs. However, if you do not regain emotional stability after divorce, your children could end up trying to take on the caretaking role. Although it may be counterintuitive, prioritizing self-care actually lays the groundwork that allows you to parent at your best.
Balance structure and fun
Children need structure, which is created by clear rules and discipline. You might be tempted to avoid creating boundaries and enforcing consequences, especially if you do not see your children as often as you would like. However, rules and appropriate consequences help provide consistency and teach children that you must also follow the rules.
However, this structure should be balanced by fun, meaningful time together. This does not mean that you must spend money on extravagant entertainment, like a trip to Disneyland or gifts of expensive toys, but it also does not mean watching movies. Instead, look for active activities you and your kids can enjoy together, like going for a picnic, playing catch, setting up an obstacle course or building something.
Keep parental conflict away from your kids
Parental conflict can be harmful for kids in many ways. You should never badmouth the other parent in front of your children, and if conflict between you and your ex is to occur, it should occur at a time and place when your children will not be exposed to it. If you and your ex are particularly prone to conflict, consider trying to limit communication to written forms, like email or text message, with a business-like tone.
Parenting on your own after divorce can involve many challenges. However, by taking care of yourself, balancing structure and fun, and keeping parental conflict away from your kids, you can help foster a positive relationship with your children and establish healthy norms for your family post-divorce.