The more a father wants to be involved in the life of his kids, the better off everyone is in the end.
One of the largest complaints clients have post-divorce is about communication with their ex. If there are children born of a relationship, then communication is going to have to continue for quite a long time. I often advise clients that it goes on past your children’s eighteenth birthday. And, it will play a role in how successful your ex is as a parent after you two divorce.
Your children will have college graduations, weddings and perhaps even one day give birth to your grandchildren. And if you and your ex want to be around for those life events, how you both react to one another now is imperative.
I chastise my clients the most during their divorce when they continue to set their exes up for failure. Most often, the only thing that changes after a divorce is your marital status. He is still who he is and you will remain in large part who you are. Regardless of his small flaws why not help your ex succeed at fatherhood?
If he was untimely when you were married, why do you believe he will become Mr. Punctual post-separation?
It is unlikely his attentiveness to scheduling and homework requirements will be better now that you are divorced.
There is not much you can do if your ex is unwilling to be an active or even generic father. But there are several things you can do if he is at least trying in order to help him continue to be a successful father.
Here are 10 starting points if you wanted your ex to succeed at parenting after divorce:
1. Keep your mouth shut about the little things. If ice cream after baseball practice every once in awhile has always been Dad and kiddo’s “thing”, let it continue. It may not be how you parent or the choice you would make but that doesn’t make it wrong.
2. A shared online calendar for important dates involving the kids, extracurricular activities, visitation, and vacations is a helpful tool. Allowing both parents to enter dates and be advised of events so there are no miscommunications and limited contact between you and your ex is beneficial to everyone.
3. Never use visitation exchanges to discuss matters about the kids while they are present. This is not a reason to continue to berate or even criticize him and NEVER should it happen in front of your children.
4. Be flexible. Unless there are safety concerns, allow more visitation if it is being requested. It doesn’t have to be much, but even a few hours during a week may be exactly what your children want and need with your ex.
5. Do not let your children become messengers between you and your ex. If your ex continues to send messages through your little ones, continue to explain that no message conveyed in this manner is an acceptable form of communication.
6. Clarify everything you do not understand. You were married to the man and you know what he meant when he said certain things, but the language you use post-divorce must evolve. Do not allow mixed message, silent threats or innuendo to continue. You are not his mother, babysitter or secretary and you both need to explain yourselves fully and completely when it comes to your children.
7. Stop making excuses for him. I never recommend telling children everything about why or how parents make the decisions they make. However, that does not mean you should lie or cover up for your ex. “I do not know why Dad didn’t come to your game” or “He did not say why he was late picking you up” are both solid answers if they are truthful.
Children are brilliant and they can figure things out for themselves. And the less you insert yourself into the relationship between your ex and your kids, the more they will pick up and discern for themselves.
8. Let him fail. If he is doing parenting right, he will fail; just like you. Do not use his failures as a chance to cover for him or to make excuses. As long as his decisions are not safety issues, everyone will turn out just fine.
9. Say something kind in the presence of your children. There is power in just saying “thank you.” Regardless of the action, everyone needs to hear that their efforts are being noticed. You get double points if you thank him in front of your kids.
10. Anything involving your kids should flow freely between both your households. Information directly impacting your child, backpacks, homework, toys, and clothes all belong to the child and they should travel with the child. Do not become fixed on a set of clothes for your house and your ex’s and do not hold information about parent-teacher conferences and new extracurricular activities. The more everyone is knowledgeable and involved, the healthier a transition to two household kids will become.
You do not have to parent alone after divorce and you shouldn’t be expected to. The more a father wants to be involved in the life of his kids, the better off everyone is in the end. And, most fathers stay involved if they believe their involvement is wanted and needed.
*No part of this article is to be considered legal advice and does not create or imply an attorney/client relationship between the reader and the author. Please refer to your local bar association in order to secure an attorney or the advice of an attorney.