Divorce is a tough enough process for a man without the added burden of being a good father during this period of emotional and financial strain. I have also found that most divorce advice for men with kids tend to focus on legal aspects of keeping custody while almost ignoring the emotional aspect of the whole process. This is the welfare of your children but also the welfare of your own psychological well-being as well.
While the legal proceedings are essential to get right. The real reason you should be doing it all is to be a good father right? Not just because you want to spite your ex by taking the kids from her. The very reasons we pursue the legal options is because of conflict and mistrust that can breed in us some very undesirable qualities if we are not careful. This is a little beside the point of this post but something to consider anyway …
What I really want to talk about though is just what you should, and should NOT do when it comes to kids in your divorce. This is based on the need to do the very best for your children in trying circumstances, but also do right by yourself so you can recover from a divorce and move on without hatred, anger, jealousy, anxiety, or any other negative emotions that will sabotage any new relationships – not to mention dealing with your day to day life. Without further ado …
What NOT To Do During a Divorce With Kids
1. Use Kids As Pawns – I know, you probably think you would never do that. That you do NOT do that … but are you really? Using children as a way to hurt your ex, to prove a point, to carry messages, or any other numbers of behaviours that brings your children into the conflict between you and your ex; this is not healthy for them or yourself. There are so many subtle ways that people use children to serve a more selfish purpose and even the smallest things things can have a profound effect on how they see the world as they grow up.
2. Assume You Always Know Best – I know this is going to sound a bit harsh to some, but you might be making emotional decisions about your child’s welfare not logical ones. We can get so caught up in our divorce battle and our own internal demons that sometimes we might be thinking about what is best for US not for the kids. Sometimes what is best for them might not feel right when we are not in the right frame of mind.
3. Act Poorly In Front of Them – Now you should not act poorly in front of your kids ever if you can help it. However during a divorce we can say some pretty terrible things about our ex-wives and that comes out in front of children sometimes. You always have to remember that your children have a father AND a mother and no matter how bad your ex is, they will most likely hold quite some attachment for BOTH of you. The more you erode this in front of them the more it may backfire on you – or warp their ideas of marriage, love and parenthood.
What To Do During a Divorce With Kids
1. Be a Father When You Are Around Them – The first bit of divorce advice for men with kids is that your children are the ones who are the most blameless people in this sorry affair and they need to feel some sense of security in a world that is suddenly being torn apart. The younger they are, the less likely they are able to converse properly with you about what has happened and will happen. The only way to really reassure them is to be a father, a dad – not a divorced man, not an abandoned lover, not an man angry at the law/courts/lawyers. You can be all these things while you process this devastating time but not for your kids. They need a father even when you might not feel like being a good one. While It is not good to hide your feelings deep inside, being a good father does not mean lying to your kids. It just means being the hero they need you to be for their small world when they need you … do your best and let the other stuff out when you can be just a man.
2. Let Them Know It Is Not Their Fault – Children too often blame themselves for a divorce. There are many reasons for this but since the family unit is all they have ever known it cannot occur to them naturally that mommy and daddy just can’t be together anymore and so they blame their own actions. This can be very traumatising, so make sure to tell them it is not their fault at all and that they are loved no matter what. They may not understand fully if they are younger but as they grow it will make more sense – if they are not told it will fester into something horrible inside them.
3. Do The Right Thing With Money & Time – I am not going to comment on the state of divorce courts and fairness or not of legalities. It is a minefield that I try not to walk into because it is beside the point of the emotional healing needed for men after divorce. It is painful, it is awful, it is heart rending to see so much of your finances destroyed, ripped apart and years of planning set alight yes. Fight all you can for equality, fight all you can for fairness – but whatever you do … do NOT shirk your responsibility to your child if you have to pay child support. Do not neglect them time wise if you only get to see them in limited amounts. Your spouse might make life hell for you in this regard treating these things as weapons to hurt you but you cannot stoop that low. You must remain as the responsible parent for your children’s sake.
4. Let Them Ask Questions – Sometimes the questioning of a child is the most heart rending thing. They ask you the questions that you perhaps cannot even ask yourself yet let alone answer. However if children fel they cannot ask questions then they might start to blame themself as has been mentioned, or they start to imagine lots of things that might not be true. They want to understand just as you might want to understand why these things are happening – except the younger they are the less they can piece things together. Let them ask even if you may not be able to answer – just make sure you respond following the guidelines already stated.
5. Love Them First & Foremost – I do not think this really needs to be stated for you. You already know your children are such important elements in your life and you know you have to help and protect them. So this is just a reminder than there is time to grieve and look inward. You need that time, just make sure you never put this before your kids. I know you all will follow this last bit of divorce advice for men with kids 🙂