I've not been very involved up until now...
Divorce or separation can mean that you are suddenly thrown into a new and unfamiliar parenting role. If your child’s mum has provided most of the day-to-day care up to this point it can be pretty daunting. Here are some tips on how to cope and we show you just how rewarding your new task can be
Start as you mean to go on
It may be that up until this point, you have concentrated your parenting efforts on making sure that there was a regular income coming into the house. You may have been working long hours and your child’s day-to-day needs were met by their mum or perhaps a child minder. Your separation will place new responsibilities on you.
Children who have positive ongoing relationships with both parents after separation are far more likely to adjust to the new situation and go on to reach their full potential in life. So get involved and stay involved. Think of all the things that you have to offer your children!
Be realistic about what you can provide
Dad’s sometimes panic and feel that they should be providing half of the care. It’s important that you are realistic about the amount and type of care you can provide. It’s also important to avoid battles about care and contact if at all possible.
The important thing for children is not the quantity of contact but the quality and predictability. Children, especially younger ones, will find a great deal of reassurance in a contact arrangement that is regular and engaged.
Think about what your children might need
Get new routines in place as soon as possible. This is particularly important if you have younger children. Think about pick-up times, meal times and bed times. Regularity helps to contain children, especially when they are coming to terms with the new situation.
You will need to make sure you are providing everything your children need to make their time with you as comfortable and reassuring as possible. Most things are pretty obvious but will include:
- having enough food in the house
- making sure they have enough suitable clothes
- buying any hygiene products such as toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo etc
- ensuring that your child has somewhere suitable to sleep and that a favourite teddy is always welcome and never forgotten
Keeping your children entertained
It’s a curious fact that children very often expect their dads to entertain them. So you will need to give this some thought. Sitting and chatting with your children can give you a good idea about what they enjoy doing but you can also try some new activities.
Cooking, model making, play stations, gardening, visiting the library, going for walks, painting, sticking, collecting, watching films or cartoons, bowling, kite flying, swimming, an hour in the park… the only limit is your imagination.
Seek help if you need it
Asking for help is not an admission of failure. There are plenty of great books and websites that will help you be the very best dad you can be. Spend a little time exploring Dad.info where you’ll find a wealth of resources and information to help you adjust to your new role.
Fatherhood can be the best job you’ll ever have!