Try to be "That Guy" Even from a Distance
We received a request from a reader who asked us to talk about the single, separated or divorced dad who may see his children every other week but still wants to preserve the relationship and be an effective father. We 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 dependable
Children, young or older, need structure, the dads agreed. They make every effort to see their children on a regular timetable so that there's 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 that 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 getting along."
It takes a mature and loving mom to turn on the speakerphone 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, these dads 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 having an impartial grandparent help out worked
for him when he and mom needed a mediator.
"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. "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 exwife, to everyone. "Just work hard to be that guy."
Tom and Bill are authors of the new book Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers. Contact them at Dads2Dads@comcast.net. Like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dads2Dads/341019369324702