Whatever the reasons for separation or divorce, the sad fact is there will inevitably be winners and losers where children are involved. Divorce remains something of an adversarial system where the mother usually takes custody of the children, unless particular circumstances state otherwise. Yet even the most amicable separations may still result in emotional tensions and a requirement for parents to adapt their role according to new circumstances. In this Sharepost however, my focus is on separated fathers and a few thoughts as to how they might cope.
Various research findings point to the fact that men seem to come off worse after a separation or divorce. Divorced men are more likely to feel devastated, betrayed, depressed and perhaps even suicidal. They are more likely to take time off work, more likely to turn to alcohol, and more likely to turn to casual sex or join an online dating site. This aside, many fathers will be concerned about the time they can spend with their children and the effect that separation will have on them.
The process of separation can be physically and emotionally draining. All those issues about who gets the car? What happens to the house? are all potential flash points. Getting through this in a business-like fashion is important to the children who are likely to be more vigilant and sensitive to what is happening. Trying to stay positive around the children when there are relationship tensions isn’t easy, particularly when coping with a sea of personal negative emotions. And the prospect of less time with the kids, squashed into maybe a few hours a week, is often a painful reality for many dads.
Over time a routine is generally established where fathers try to maximize their time with the kids. Fathers with younger children can use the time playing games, visiting places of interest, going to the park, the zoo and so on. Teens tend to prefer less general activity, unless it’s a particular sport or hobby, and may be quite happy doing very little so long as they are hanging out with their dad. In the midst of all this it’s important to remember that your separation, and any bitterness that follows, shouldn’t be used as a weapon to undermine their mother. It places kids in a situation of conflict where they feel they are being asked to take sides.
These days physical separation doesn’t mean overall loss of contact. Many dads agree with their former partner that it’s fine to phone, email, text or Skype their children on a regular basis. A separated father can also remain involved in sports days, teacher interviews, birthdays and so on. This is so much easier if the couple agree a kind of contract over how parenting should be conducted. For example, what are the ground rules for the kid’s bedtime? Are any foods, television programs or video games off limits? So far as the kids are concerned, they will feel less conflicted and more secure if the rules are consistently applied.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.