Each year for Father's Day we offer some tips and solutions to the common dilemma's of divorced fathers and stepfathers. Please read on for more information on how to make this year's father's day a memorable one.
Dads, let this Father's Day be a reminder to you that even though you may not see the kids as often, that you are still their teacher, their guide and their one and only father. Honor your role as you continue to lead your children to be strong in character, in self-confidence and in self worth.
A few tips for fathers of divorce:
Continue to Father. You must continue to teach and guide---even if your time with your child is too short.
Exact Good Manners. The father teaches rules of the game, sportsmanship, respect for others, self-discipline and persistence. "We look each other in the eye when we talk, we allow each other to finish talking before we start to talk, we do not interrupt," and more.
Respect. Children must treat their father with respect in order to respect themselves. If you are partnered, know that it is often emotionally difficult for your children to look at and treat your partner, and even you, with respect, teach them anyway.
Structure and Establish Positive Rules. If you are alone, decide the rules of your house. If you have a new partner, decide together on the rules of "our" house. Check out The Family Rules Book for ideas on how to accomplish this.
Honor your Partner's Point of View. Know your partner's perspective is to be honored. She may have a different point of view on how your children should act, but remember, women have been teaching social skills since the time of the caveman.
Don't Overindulge. No time to discipline? Beware of becoming a fly-me, buy-me dad; A "Disneyland Dad." You are in good company. Most dads whose children visit are tempted just to be a pal dad. Know that kids need fathering.
Be Informed. If there are difficulties, give yourself the gift of information.
Do not Badmouth your Ex. If the other parent badmouths you? Teach your kids to handle it. Tell them they must respect both points of view and that taking sides only hurts them.
CO-Parent. Remember, there are NO ex-parents, only ex spouses. CO-parenting with your ex is vital. What about the stepfather?
He is the male leader in his home, the mother's home. Yes together, they are male and female head of house. Just as is the father and stepmother is in dad's house.
Have a Happy Father's Day. Just do it!
The child's self-love is dependent on holding each parent in respect. It is a psychological fact that we cannot esteem our selves if we do not respect our parents. After all, we are one half of our mother and father. Divorced parents seem to forget that fact.
Badmouthing each other has become quite acceptable, even trendy. Think of Donney's story:"My Mom says my dad's no good, My dad says my Mom's no good, I guess I must be no good."
There are ONLY ex spouses. There are NO ex parents.
In our counseling we teach, we write legal and extensive CO-parenting agreements.
First we work to explain the divorce in way that does not put down the other parent. (I know, you're saying "but he/she deserves it!" Well I say "grow up." Saying bad things, no matter what, hurts the child. STOP IT!
Use Explanations Such As:
"I wanted to work and mom liked to go out"
"He/she like parties, I was happy with a good book or TV."
"She wanted to decorate, I wanted to save money."
Whatever... as long as it is DIFFERENT not DEPRECATING.
WHY the divorce?
The sad fact is that in many cases --- if not most cases --- the child is torn between the views of each parent.
It is up be a parent to respect their separate and different points of view. For example we teach the father to tell the child that he must honor the mother's right to believe what she believes. But, also to direct the child that there are "two points of view.
And the child must honor both his mother's and father's point of view. And, it is not a child's job to decide which parent is right or wrong, or to take sides. If the child does this he damages himself.
Today regarding "The 21st Century Family" we have not developed a vocabulary, nor a paradigm for explanation of divorce for children. Only a very few have a paradigm to explain the family of today---the new majority of divorced and stepfamilies.
We hope people will take from our writings and use them. Children and many fathers, and mothers also, have no words, nor solutions, nor way of speaking to children to soothe the grief and heal the wounds. Many feel bad and over indulge.
For Father's Day, consider the role of the Stepfather. Mothers with new partners, make this day special for your husbands. Stepfathers, remember the Ten steps to Stepfathering and have a GREAT Father's Day!
- The Stepfather Can't Function as Does the Biological Father. He is not the father and never will be. The stepfather is the male head of the household. Together with his wife, the children's mother, he can be a guide, a mentor, and even a psychological father to the stepchildren, over time. Go slow.
- Structuring the Household Is a Shared Task Between Husband and Wife. How is the time, energy, and money used? What are the duties, responsibilities, and contributions of each member of the household? This must be sorted out and decided by the couple.
- The Norms and Forms of Discipline Must Be Discussed and Agreed to by the Couple. Generally, the biological parent does the disciplining and the stepparent reminds, "In this house we . . ."
- "Over-disciplining Your Stepchildren"‹Watch It! The biological mother can perceive it as too much, too often. This can bring on the mama-bear-protecting-her-young-from-the-outsider syndrome.
- "Under-disciplining Your Own Children"‹Watch It! The biological father without custody misses his kids and fears the loss of affection and his personal input to his children. This is a legitimate fear. The less time he has with them, the less he wants to discipline. Children need parents even visiting parents‹to set up predictable structures and limits. Set up the rules quickly so you spend less time disciplining.
- Predictability and Organization Create Intimacy. In a home with structure parents and children spend less time negotiating and arguing. Parent/child power struggles over repetitive issues waste time and undermine the child's self-esteem. Talking about real issues and creating intimacy should be the goal during these limited times together.
- If Things Don't Work, the Tendency Is to Withdraw. Don't. Stepfathering is complicated, and the notion of not being the "master" of your own household is tough. Indeed, the mother may be lax on discipline. Indeed, you want to change things. Stepfathering has to do with parenting. You and the mother must, together, work out the forms and norms.
- Unrealistic Expectations Beget Rejections and Resentments. There are few models for stepfathers. Learn the dynamics of step and divorce. Know what to expect and what not to expect.
- Be Aware of a Conflict between Sexual and Biological Pulls in Stepfamily Relationships. In the original family the couple comes together to have a child, and together their energies focus on that child. The child is an extension of themselves. In step the child is connected to only one person in the couple. The blood ties and sexual ties can be polarized and can pull the couple in opposite directions.
- Guard Your Sense of Humor and Use It.
Those are the thoughts for this father's day. Fathers need congratulations on the hardest job that they will ever do.
Reprinted with the permission of the Stepfamily Foundation. © 2008, Stepfamily. All rights reserved.
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