Being a parent is not easy. Being a divorced parent is even harder. But being a divorced dad is on a whole other level of difficulty. The stigma they face, coupled with the challenge of a child custody process that is still skewed towards the mother (although there have been some serious strides in this area), can have any divorced dad stressed beyond belief.
Of the roughly 72 million dads in the United States, 12.9% of them are divorced, according to the most recent US Census Bureau data. That is a lot of divorced dads needing support, and that support isn’t always readily available. Not every divorced dad is willing to take it even when it is.
One of the biggest problems divorced dads face is that they feel like they don’t matter, but countless research has shown that dads do matter, even more so to children who are going through a big life change, like a divorce. Finding success as a divorced dad requires a lot of support, and the willingness to make these five commitments:
Commit to taking care of yourself.
We hear it time and time again for divorced moms- you cannot pour from an empty cup. The same holds true for divorced dads. If you do not take care of yourself first, there will be nothing left of you to give to your children and the other important people in your life. Taking care of yourself physically and mentally is crucial when you are a divorced dad. That means going get regular checkups, eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and seeking support for your mental health.
Commit to being a regular presence in your children’s lives.
More and more divorced dads are seeking and receiving, equal parenting time with their children, but there are still a lot of cases where this isn’t occurring. Even if you don’t have equal parenting time, there are still ways you can maintain a daily presence in your children’s lives- through phone calls, video chats, text messages, attending their extracurricular activities, and quick visits (if your co-parent is agreeable). Even five minutes of contact per day with your children can go a long way in keeping that bond strong.
Commit to respectfully co-parenting.
Even if your former spouse does not respectfully co-parent, you can still do your part by maintaining your cool and not feeding into their drama. Trust us when we say, your children are watching and they will appreciate your efforts someday. This does not mean you need to let your co-parent walk all over you- boundaries are important to set. If you struggle with this balance, as so many co-parents do, practicing the BIFF Response Method– Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm- is a good habit to get into.
Commit to meeting your children’s needs.
Your children still need you, whether your former spouse wants you to believe that or not. They need your help with their emotional, developmental, educational, medical, and financial needs. Continue to take care of these needs just as you would have if you were living under the same roof as their other parent. Divorce does not change their needs- it just changes the method of meeting them.
Commit to being a good role model.
A dad is a child’s hero, and that fact does not change just because you got a divorce. Continue showing up for yourself and your children each and every day, and show them that you can overcome anything life throws your way, even a divorce.
If you are a divorced dad in need of support, we are here for you! We encourage you to take advantage of the support offerings we have, including our Friday morning Coffee Talks and every other Saturday Split.fyi SOS sessions.