1. Listen carefully. Now is the time to make an extra effort to put down the paper or turn off the TV when the kids want to talk.
2. Honesty counts. During the divorce, don’t make up stories about why ‘daddy is away.’ Lies, even if you think they will protect the kids, are not a good foundation for the change in your family.
3. Don’t’ forget about you. If you feel better, you’ll be better with your kids during this challenging period. Get lots of exercise and spend time with caring friends and family.
4. Ask your child about friends who have divorced parents. This is a good icebreaker to get them talking and learn their fears and feelings about divorce. Then you can answer them and focus on what’s most important to them.
5. Consider children’s books about divorce. You might not have the vocabulary to talk about divorce or find it awkward when it’s so personal. Children’s books are a good way to open up dialogue with littler children.
6. Don’t blame your kids, or let them think in any way that they are to blame. Most kids will feel this anyway.
7. Be sensitive to your child’s vulnerability at this time. Over-sized fears of monsters or robbers are common during this time. Make sure you also reassure your kids that you will always be there to support them and that means home, food, and security. That might seem silly to you, but it is very important for a child who may obsess over things they have heard or imagine about divorce.
8. Be aware that it’s normal for kids to want their parents to get back together again. You may have to hear about this fantasy for many years. Do not indulge the fantasy, but make sure they do not feel ashamed or silly for wishing that it could be true.
9. Allow your kids to express their feelings. They may be mad or sad. It’s important that they know this is okay.
10. Don’t put your child in the middle of anything between you and your ex-wife. Don’t ask your child to spy. Don’t say hateful things about your ex-wife. Don’t have your child act as a messenger to your wife. Neglecting this can be very harmful for the child since they need to love both parents and should not have to choose sides.
As a new dad, Paul Banas became very aware that many dads today are more involved in parenting but have limited resources from a man’s point of view from which to better understand the challenges of their changing role. Thus, GreatDad.com was born. GreatDad.com enables all dads-working, stay-at-home, single, gay, domestic partners, and more – to find ways to be involved and understand how dads are functioning as parents today.
Paul brings more than 25 years of marketing and business development experience from companies such as Unilever, Visa International, Alibris.com, and most recently Yahoo!. He is a member of the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) and former President and founder of the Bay Area International Advertising Association. He also serves on the Advisory Board of Pregnancy Magazine where he is a monthly contributing editor.
A published author of fictional short stories, he resides in San Francisco with his wife and two children.