When we started writing this column, we said we would tackle only those common ordinary hurdles of fatherhood. We didn’t, and still don’t feel, comfortable stepping into areas that are above and beyond the typical minefields of living with teenagers.
However, we received a request from a reader who asked us to talk about the single dad, the separated or divorced father who may see his children every other week but who still wants to preserve the relationships and be an effective dad. We stepped gently into this topic and asked a couple of long-distance dads just how they navigate that rugged terrain.
Always be consistent with expectations and discipline, emphasized one dad who sees his young daughter every other weekend.
“Sometimes I find myself in a tug of war with her mother about discipline,” he says. “But it doesn’t matter if I’m not my daughter’s favorite parent that day. … I won’t give in to that. Discipline is important.”It’s not about mom and dad. It’s all about raising the child.
Create structure and be dependableChildren, young or older, need structure, the dads agreed. They make every effort to see their children on a regular timetable so that their children have that stability in their lives.“
If I go two or three weeks without seeing my daughter, it breaks my heart,” one dad said. “I call her as much as I can and talk for as long as I can.”This dad adds that he tries to establish and stick to a calling schedule so that his child can depend on and anticipate that regularity.
Preserve a sense of family
One dad said when he visits his children, he sometimes tries to arrange an outing to a park where he, his ex-wife and children can go and be as much of a family as possible.
He admits that it’s sometimes not easy.
For the sake of the kids, however, “we try to act as a family unit where my daughter can see us.”It takes a mature and loving mom to turn on the speaker phone and let her ex-spouse read a story to his child at bedtime. What an unselfish gesture!
The perfect role for a loving third party
It is vital, they point out, to be patient and never lose your temper.
When estranged parents are together, they are modeling behavior that the children see and hear.
The adults must be adults. Some disagreements, however, may require a third party.
One dad says it worked for him when he and mom needed a mediator ― the perfect role for an impartial grandfather.
"Your guy” will always come back
“When I leave, I always reassure my child that I’ll be back,” one dad points out.
This reinforces consistency and continuity, two important factors in a child’s life.
That same dad concluded with this advice, which we will leave for the reader to interpret.
“One thing I was told about a year ago by a very wise person was ‘to be that guy’ every day to your child, to your ex-wife, to everyone. “Just work hard to be that guy.”