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How to Be a Good Dad to a Child of Divorce

by Anthony Oster

Only 17 percent of parents with primary custody in 2009 were fathers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This suggests that the time that fathers spend with their children may be precious and limited, so whether you share custody with your wife, have partial custody or have only visitation rights to your children, being a good dad to a child of divorce requires that you be as involved with your children as possible.

Talk to Your Children

Young children are egocentric and may feel they are to blame for their parents' split. Let your children know that the divorce was not their fault, even if you think they already know that. Explaining the nature of a divorce to your children can be overwhelming, especially if they are not mentally or emotionally mature enough to understand the real-world logistics of a divorce, so don't go into great detail -- and don't badmouth your spouse to your children. Reassure them about your love and continued involvement in their lives.

Show Affection to Your Children

Some children may believe that your affection is a resource that can be depleted. Showing affection can solidify their understanding you love them. Saying "I love you," giving them hugs and kisses, listening to them and being involved in important events in their lives -- and ordinary days, too -- are just the start.

Be Civil

Though you and your ex-wife have parted ways, you still have important life events to share with one another, including graduations, weddings and the birth of your grandchildren as well as mundane regular communications such as about doctor visits or during the regular pick-ups and drop-off with each other. Keeping a civil relationship with your ex-wife will make the divorce less stressful for your children, less damaging to them in the long term and your interactions with your spouse less awkward. Being communicative with your ex can also ensure consistent discipline at both homes.

Keep Your Promises

Being a divorced father of children may mean that you have to go out of your way to see your children. A study published in the November 2006 issue of the "Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy" suggested that the relationship that children have with their father as a young adult was closely related to the amount of time that a father talked to and spent time with them following a divorce. Don't let your children down by canceling dates with them unannounced. In the event that you do have to cancel or reschedule a date, apologize to your children and collaboratively create a plan to make up your missed visit with them.

About the Author

Anthony Oster is a licensed professional counselor who earned his Master of Science in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as a writer and lead video editor for a small, South Louisiana-based video production company since 2007. Oster is the co-owner of a professional photography business and advises the owner on hardware and software acquisitions for the company.

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