Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Divorced Dads as Teachers

I am a divorced father who shares all the responsibilities for raising my two daughters with my ex-wife. The relationship between LEW (lovely ex wife) and I is much better now that we are divorced. We could not live together. It is much healthier for both my daughters as well.

-  Sam

mrs K's w. dadWhen I hear a live-away dad talk about building relationships with his ex and his children, I’m always struck by how relevant his words are for me, a man who lived with his children in an “intact” family. Maybe that’s because so many of the issues are the same for both of us. What are the most important things to do for our kids when we don’t live with them anymore?

* Support her close relationship with all of her parents and stepparents.

* Don’t play her off against her mother (or stepparents).

* Communicate with her mother (or stepparents).

* The more you stay involved in child-rearing, the better off every family member is.

* Give her loving support, clear limits and regular routine.

* Remember, girls learn how to relate to men from their fathers. That means you.

I’m not divorced, but all of these concepts are crucial for me, too, as a live-with father.

It may be that live-away dads and stepfathers are our best teachers because these are the men most likely to say something. It’s awfully hard to learn from or listen to dads if no one is speaking. Stepdads and live-away dads are much more likely to talk with one another about their situations. It’s as if we fathers have to go through great crisis and difficulty before we’ll let down our “pride” and unlock our tongue to talk to another dad about being a dad.


Anonymous said...

I think one of the most difficult aspects of fathering is that it's a solo pursuit with no male peers around to let you know how you're doing, to offer advice, or give you a pat on the back when you need it. Our female partners can do that, but wouldn't it be nice to get some feedback from another father. I guess I'm no different than most, I don't find myself open to chatting with other dads about problems I might be facing at home. Dads need to have some way to share their experiences in raising their daughters; it's probably the most challenging task we'll encounter in our lives and certainly the most important. We're said to not ask for directions when we're behind the wheel and that's true of me, but sometimes I stay lost far too long before asking for help. For the sake of our daughters, where we may be a little less adept at finding our way, let's look to one another for help in this awesome pursuit, for all of us to become better fathers.

Barry said...

You have some great advice and material here.

Building a relationship with an 'ex' is one of the most difficult and most important to cultivate. I don't mean having tea and coffee together or going to the movies, but civil. The divorce means you no longer are living together and making decisions on each others lives. However, you still both need to cooperate on decisions about your children. The best description I heard was one needs to unclench their fist, while the other opens their hand. Work together and agree to disagree sometimes. But your kids will have the most to benefit. Not always easy, but it is the 'right thing to do.

Finding Heart said...

I am a teacher and lived as a divorced dad of a young daughter. I look forward to reading more of your articles.

As a teacher of 10 yr old girls, I always found it disturbing that they already came into my class saying, "I'm not as smart" or "Boys are better at.." . I spent lots of time building self-confidence and trying to lead them into positions of strength.

One of my favorite lessons for a few years were the sex education curriculum we had to teach. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, one year I had to teach both boys and girls without separating them. It actually turned out to be great for both. They each had a better understanding of what was going on in both camps, but the girls heard that they have no reason to be ashamed or fearful of their changes and boys (now acting out of knowledge) chastised others who teased based on sex image. As a male teacher, I learned a lot about talking with my female students to give them positions of strength and confidence. (..and yes, we still separated them for one last same-sex Q&A session. The female teacher always laughed afterwards because my girls rarely asked questions, but gave answers to others in the room.)

It is so very important for me as a dad to take those lessons into my own home. My daughter frequently gets self-empowering messages. For four years now, our going off to school routine ends with, "What are you?" , "I'm brave and smart!"

Thanks for sharing your insights.

Anonymous said...

What about relationships in Italy where the Father is divorced and has attached to MUCH effection on his youngest daughter he is creating a huge step for her to find in a man.....constant touching hugging loveing ways of course..... all in good sence not dirty. I am his new wife and gone 6 months a yr. she visits each weekend all yr. What advice can I help him with, Im the new wife in his life....and I dont want to look jelious or distance them if this is healthy? I just think its to much..........where is the line............THanks