Divorced dads and their children

I had a subscription 10 years ago to a divorce magazine for men. Within a few months, the publication folded. Apparently, not enough men were buying it — an unfortunate circumstance since many men suffer terribly through divorce, although many would rather not admit it. We need help to get through this traumatic period, just as women and children do.

While there is probably more support and information regarding men and divorce than ever before, my sense is that most fathers face separation and divorce pretty much the way men typically did a decade ago: without helpful guidance and resources, and stereotyped and on the defensive with regard to their children.

I encourage fathers (and mothers alike) to recognize that dads have a crucial role to play in their children’s lives. Society doesn’t tell us this, and as fathers we may wonder what we have to offer our kids.

Melissa Kester, founder of Manhattan’s Madison Marriage and Family Therapy, has worked with divorced and divorcing dads for 10 years, and discovered that many of them struggle with the same questions.

How will the divorce will affect their children? How can they help their kids get through the troubling experience?

Men going through divorce are mourning their fantasy of marriage, says Kester, but unlike women they are not acknowledged for their fantasies. Additionally, they must navigate the sadness that comes with the knowledge that they might not be with their kids everyday.

It may be tempting for a mother to want her ex-husband out of her life, but when the father stays involved, children are happier and more confident, they perform better at school, and they have an easier time forming healthier, long-lasting relationships later in life.

Fathers who remain in their children’s lives can also share the responsibilities of parenthood, such as dropping the kids off at school, bringing them to the doctor, or driving them to sports lessons.

As a mother, have you thought to yourself, “My kids don’t like spending time with their father, and I don’t blame them”? Have you ever used this reasoning to justify keeping the children with you during time they are scheduled to be with their dad?

Barring abusive and unsafe situations, we need to tell our kids when they’ll be with the other parent, even though they may not like hearing it; and we need to follow through and help ensure that they’ll get this time.

Just as we make other important decisions for our children, making them brush their teeth, go to bed, attend school and do their homework, we have to do our part in following the parenting schedule, even when the kids complain and we would rather not.

When your child is crying, not wanting to leave for dad’s, it can be hard to believe – but after spending some time with dad, s/he will probably enjoy it. When it is time again to return to mom’s, many kids will complain and cry over that.

While transitions between households can be difficult, the time with the other parent can be invaluable and fulfill important needs.

It is common for children to need some time to adjust upon leaving one parent’s home and after arriving at the other’s. Give children this time. Let them feel any sadness they may be feeling, even though allowing them to do so may be uncomfortable for us.

Soon enough, most children will be just fine staying at dad’s (or mom’s).

Part two of this article will appear in the May issue.

Contact Melissa Kester at (917) 488–6364, or on her website at www.madisonmft.com/contact.html. Read her blog, Towards Healing, at towardshealing.net/tag/melissa-kester.

New York City and Long Island based divorce mediator and collaborative divorce lawyer Lee Chabin, Esq., helps clients end their relationships respectfully and without going to court. Contact him at lee_chabin@lc-mediate.com or (718) 229–6149, or go to lc-mediate.com/home.

Disclaimer: All material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Discussing your particular circumstances with a legal professional before making important decisions is strongly encouraged.