Being a Dad after separation – Father’s Day 2019
Being a dad can be difficult, even at the best of times with work and other activities making it hard to be there for your children. Divorce and separation can place more stress and barriers to being a good father. This father’s day, we’ll look at ways separated dads can deal with separation and being a dad.
Children and separation
The way children will react to is always different. It depends on many factors including:
- family relationships before separation
- age and personality
- how both parents manage the situation
A major factor in children’s adjustment is the level of conflict that exists between the parents.
Most children feel vulnerable and have many fears, some realistic, some unfounded. Some will express strong feelings and younger children can often experience fear of abandonment and separation anxiety. This is often triggered by particular events such as saying goodbye.
These are normal reactions to an extremely stressful time. Generally, children are resilient in the face of major changes. Once the situation has stabilised, most children manage well.
If a child cannot settle down, particularly if there are other difficulties in their lives, seek professional help.
Helping your children accept the separation
Explain what is happening in ways that they can understand.
They need to know it’s not their fault and their job is not to reunite their parents. Reassure them that both parents love them.
Always a father
Separation does not mean the end of your relationship with your children. You and your former partner will continue to be parents and you will always be a father. The family will continue, but in a different form. Your children will have two homes.
While relationships will inevitably change, the challenge is to remain connected and involved with your children in a meaningful way. This will mean establishing new rituals and routines. Some fathers find being the ‘primary carer’ extremely rewarding.
Generally, contact with both parents is important for stable and happy children.
Children are adaptable but require structure and stability. If you are moving house, it is important that children have their own space in your home for their things – ideally a room, but at least a cupboard or storage box for possessions.
Involve them in any changes to the house such as choosing their bedroom colour.
Being there for your children
Being there for your child or children is very important. While it may be difficult at first, new routines and ways of relating can be discovered together.
Share activities like cooking, bike riding or fishing. Stay interested and in contact with their friends and start creating your own rituals for celebrating their birthdays and significant achievements. Keep in touch with their school and school activities. Children want to know you’re thinking about them.
Have a special bedtime ritual with your child – e.g. a story, a little chat or prayers.
“My greatest concern was retaining contact with my two children at home.” This is a common reaction of a father shortly after separation.
Different arrangements for children after separation include:
- living mostly with one parent and spending time with the other parent
- spending equal amounts of time with each parent.
Remember, parenting arrangements are not set in stone. They can be changed according to changing needs and circumstances.
Generally, who the children live with and spend time with depends on the ages of the children, the capacity of both parents to care for them and how the family worked before separation.
Try to create a parenting plan where both parents continue to spend ‘substantial and significant time’ with children, but the fewer the changes for them, the better. Different children may require different parenting plans. Be sure the new arrangements work well for them and take into account grandparents and extended family. You may find it helpful to get advice from family dispute resolution practitioners or counsellors.
For support on being a dad after separation, contact your nearest Relationships Australia office.