Thursday, April 16, 2009

"12 Tips for Live-Away Dads" Nos. 7-12

My last post included the first half of my "12 Tips for Live-Away Dads." Here is the second half-dozen suggestions or dads who are divorced, deployed, travel frequently, or have some other reason they live away from their children for long periods.

Some very dedicated, experienced divorced dads helped me put these tips together, especially Bill Klatte, author of the fabulous Live-away Dads: Staying a Part of Your Children's Lives When They Aren't a Part of Your Home. (NOTE: pronouns alternate between daughter and son, because the tips are meant for dads & stepdads of both).

CO-PARENT WITH MOM. If possible, I communicate openly with her mom. As our child grows up, it's incredibly valuable to have her other parent's perspective. We do our best to work with each other (and our partners/her stepparents) for our child's well-being. When I share my concerns and joys about our child with her mom (and vice versa), she gets our best and most informed parenting.

MY CHILD AND HER MOTHER ARE DIFFERENT PEOPLE. I won't misdirect any anger at my child's mother toward my child. When my child doesn't listen, does less than her best or makes other mistakes (normal kid behaviors), I won't confuse her mistakes with her mom's actions. Instead, I'll remember that mistakes are great teachers, and do what I can do to make things better.

LISTEN TO MY CHILD. Lecturing and arguing get me nowhere. I can't help my child if I minimize his feelings or tell him everything will be okay when I can't guarantee that it will. Instead, I listen and am there for him. I accept my child for who he is; not who I want him to be, think he should be, or think he would be if he were raised only by me. I take the lead in communicating -- even when I feel unappreciated. I may not agree with everything he says or does, but when I listen, I build the emotional connection that will help him listen to me when it really counts.

FOCUS ON MY CHILD'S POSITIVES. I don't father by always pointing out what my child did wrong, so she can fix it. That may work on the job, but not with my children. Focusing on negatives undermines her strength and confidence-already stretched by living in two homes.

MANAGE EXPECTATIONS WISELY. My child has different rules and expectations in his mother's house. I am patient with his responses to those differences, while remaining clear about my expectations for our home. I try not to compensate for our family situation by giving in to demands that I spoil my child or lessen my expectations just because he is a child of divorce. I remember that an honest, solid and lifelong relationship with him is more important than what happens today.

BE THE FATHER, NOT THE MOTHER. I am a powerful and encouraging role model, and I tell her she has a special place in my heart. My masculine actions and loving words help her realize that she too can be adventurous, playful and successful - and should expect respect from affectionate, honorable men. My belief in her will help her blossom into a young woman who can make me and her mother proud.

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