Single Dads: After Divorce, 4 Tips to Deepen the Relationship with Your Kids
The most difficult post-divorce adjustment for many non-custodial fathers is getting accustomed to not seeing their children on a daily basis. For many men, the loss of custody is felt more acutely than the end of the marital relationship. The once constant presence of children is gone and usually replaced by a sense of longing and loneliness. While getting used to this absence can be very painful, many non-custodial fathers have learned that divorce also poses an opportunity to redefine their relationship with their children.
According to Dr. Mel Krantzler in the book Divorcing, many non-custodial fathers have learned to deepen the quality of the interactions they have with their kids in response to a new sense of urgency around the time spent with them. Instead of asking routine questions about school or extracurricular activities (which can sometimes develop an unintentional trivial quality over time), these fathers have learned to be interested in their kids’ inner lives, including their aspirations, fears, challenges, and emotions.
Here are some ways you can start deepening the relationship you share with your children:
1. Nurture your children.
Kids always need support and encouragement from their parents, and this is especially true during a divorce. Maybe you were the kind of dad who didn’t say, I love you,” to your kids very often. As Dr. Krantzler points out, this is your chance to change. Try giving them hugs or kisses, too.
2. Be curious about your kids.
Start asking your kids how they are feeling and listen intently to their answer. This tells kids that they matter during a time when they are likely to be feeling insecure. Making space for both good and bad feelings teaches children that it’s safe to talk to you about anything. If you only get one or two-word answers, try the next suggestion.
3. Share your feelings.
Let your children know how you are doing (just be sure not to burden them with your problems and make sure they always feel safe and secure). Sharing your experience tells them that it’s okay to talk about emotions and shows them how important they are to you. Sharing emotions naturally fosters two-way communication, so it is a great way to encourage kids to share.
4. Put yourself in their shoes.
Imagine what your kids might be feeling in regards to the divorce and ask them if you’re right. If you are, they will feel understood and are likely to talk about it. If you’re off a bit they’ll probably tell you what they actually are feeling. Either way, you’re creating a meaningful dialogue with them.
Divorce can be more than a time of loss. It can also be a time for personal growth and positive change in relationships, including with your children. While the amount of time you have with them may decrease, the significance of that time can increase. Try to focus on this and other positive changes as you move forward.