All dads want to be the best father they can. But it can be tough to know how to do this after separation, especially when there's ongoing conflict with your ex-partner. It's difficult to be positive around your kids when you're dealing your own stuff, like anger, sadness and loneliness. This tipsheet offers some suggestions on how to parent under these challenging circumstances.
(Please note that these tips assume you have at least some contact with your children. We recognise that is unfortunately not the case for all separated men.)
Research shows that children can be psychologically harmed by seeing their parents arguing, yelling and using physical violence. So it's really important to try to develop a 'business like' relationship with your ex-partner, keeping the kids out of any conflicts. Here are some practical things you can do to protect your children:
Research indicates that effective fathering increases a child's chances of developing a good self esteem, moral strength and intellectual and social competence. Fathers also experience many benefits to their wellbeing and psychological growth when they are closely involved with their children.
If you are a non-resident father you can still be involved in the important milestones and activities of your child. For example, you can:
Children often blame themselves for their parents' separation. Because they are often too young to understand adult relationships, they sometimes feel that there must be something wrong with them that caused the separation. It is especially important to remind your kids how much you love them by giving them lots of hugs and reassurance. Tell them clearly that they are not responsible for the separation and that even though you can't spend as much time with them as before, you love them just as much.
Shared parenting plans are an agreement between both parents that covers everyday parenting issues such as bedtime, rules about things such as television and computer game use, how discipline will be enforced and so on. Routine and rhythm are important to children and while there will always be differences in your parenting styles, the greater the consistency between their two homes, the more secure they will feel. It is also easier to maintain discipline with children if the rules are clear and consistent.
If ongoing conflict between you and your ex-partner makes it difficult to parent co-operatively, professional mediation may help. MensLine Australia can refer you to an appropriate service in your area.
Although there is no denying that separation is a very difficult time both for you and your children, it can also be an opportunity to develop a closer relationship with your kids. Traditional relationships often leave the nurturing and practical parenting roles to the mother, with the father providing back-up discipline. Separation presents many men with the challenge of being much more involved in every day parenting. If you take up this challenge, you can find new levels of satisfaction in your role as a father.