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How to Connect Your Children With Their Divorced Dad

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Research indicates that while some kids can cope with divorce just fine, others might fall behind academically, abuse drugs and end up divorced themselves, notes Dr. Laura Markham on her Aha! Parenting website. The reason that some children fair well after a divorce is often because their parents work together to show support for the children and to meet their needs. Part of this includes recognizing that children need to feel a connection with both parents when possible. If your children’s dad is responsible and eager to continue his relationship with his children, it is likely in their best interests for you to do what you can to support your kids’ relationships with their father.

Encourage Dad to pick up the kids for visitation in a peaceful environment. Don’t fight or get snarky with each other in front of the kids. Greet him with a smile and cooperate in getting the kids out the door to make the most of his time. The visitation requirements of your divorce decree are guidelines, but you can encourage him to see them more often as long as there are no safety issues, such as required monitored visitation or substance abuse issues. Offer to let him play with the kids in the backyard or at the park down the road for a few hours in the afternoon even when this time isn't included in his visitation schedule, suggests Nancy Fagan, a HuffingtonPost.com divorce correspondent. You might also ask if he would like to shuttle the kids to activities to facilitate their time together. Let him know that you acknowledge his love for the kids and his need to be a part of their lives.

Invite him over to share big events, such as birthdays or non-major holidays, or plan them together in a neutral location. Keep him aware of special events such as your kids’ participation in a school or church play, sporting events and other activities where your kids have a big part. Inform him when you have parent-teacher meetings, doctor’s appointments for the kids and other times when his input could be helpful. Let him decide if he can participate and work to keep the atmosphere amiable. According to the University of Delaware website, the dads who are most likely to abandon their kids are those who were heavily involved in parenting during the marriage, but don't share legal custody -- or the right to make decisions concerning their children -- upon divorce.

Agree to let Dad contact the kids often and in ways that work for everyone. Set up the computer for Skype calls when Dad is going to be away and spend time in another room so he and the kids can talk freely. Let him provide the kids with cellphones and pay for the service to facilitate frequent communication, suggests Markham. You can work together to spell out the rules for these types of communication, such as not using the phone during class and only Skyping, emailing or instant messaging people you both agree are acceptable.

Avoid quizzing your kids about what they do when they are with Dad or making them feel bad for having a good time. Treat your ex and the kids with dignity, respect and trust until you have reason and proof that you shouldn’t. Keep negative comments about your ex to yourself and disagree at times and in places where the kids are not likely to overhear, advises Markham.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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