Long Island does not rank among one of the highest areas in terms of divorce rates, but we all know someone affected by a divorce or separation. For Dads, especially, divorce can carry a high toll: when mom retains primary custody of the children, a real sense of loss and grief can arise.
Many of today’s dads are active in their children’s lives, coaching soccer, leading Boy Scout troops, or simply just helping with homework, housework, and activities. If a divorce suddenly hits us, we may feel left out of our former roles, and most especially, the essential quality time with children. Consider:
- We no longer get to kiss them good-night every night, wake up and see their shining faces, or see them at breakfast and dinner.
- We no longer get to hear about their day, see their new bumps and bruises, or get to hug them before school. And this leaves a real hole.
- We might feel as if we no longer get to hear firsthand what is happening with our children, as if we have to hear it all form our ex-spouses.
- Even if we have a daily phone call with our children, the organic sharing about our children’s lives might be missed.
- We have to work at the relationship with our kids more, trying to glean quality time out of the precious moments allotted to us.
We also might miss our role as part of a family, craving the normalcy of being part of a family and doing things together. From water parks to pumpkin patches, from grocery shopping to sports, we want to be a part of something larger than ourselves.
Sometimes, too, we struggle more with discipline, as if we don’t want anything to mar the time that we do have with our children, and so do not want to bring up uncomfortable topics or be forced into saying “no”.
All of these things make for some pretty uncomfortable emotional territory, even aside from the anger and loss that we might be experiencing with our ex-spouses.
So What Can We Do?
It’s important to acknowledge the sadness and grief. We can talk about our feelings with the children; they can see that you are sad because you no longer get to kiss them good-night, without it being presented as a burden or a factor for guilt. Especially if our children are expressing their sadness, we can feel free to give voice to our own sense of loss.
Divorce expert Gary Neuman cautions us, though, not to cross the line into giving vent to anger over spouses with our children. "Don't fall into the trap of sharing divorce details or your angry feelings about your ex with your older kids.
Their own anxiety and need for control causes them to be 'understanding' of what you're going through, but you need to be the parent. Get outside help for yourself, get therapy if necessary, and maintain those boundaries. Making your child your cohort is wrong and does them damage." [Source: WebMD]
Find Ways To Make New Memories
Ask our children: “What are some new things can we do? What new memories can we make”? They just might have some ideas.
Create A Home
It’s important that our children feel welcomed in our new place, whether that be with a favorite toy or blanket, or even a whole new room.
It is important for them to feel as if they have two “real” homes and are not just visiting. Get their help in determining what they want to make it feel like home, and make sure to emphasize that it is a home for them, too.
Therapy Can Help
A trained psychotherapist will work on acknowledging the feelings of sadness or anger, showing good ways to validate feelings and not suppress them in constructive and manageable ways.
A therapist may also work with us on how to relate to our children (and others) in an active and constructive way, really hearing what they have to say and finding encouraging ways to respond. This can help as we learn to navigate the rocky emotional ground of a divorce.
At Nassau Guidance, our trained therapists have years of experience with fathers who are involved in a divorce. They work with compassion and expertise, and help each person to find an emotional peace.