A relationship between a father and child is just as important as a relationship between mother and child after the divorce. It’s no secret that relationships with fathers and children seemingly deteriorate post-divorce. After speaking with many fathers and witnessing my own husband’s anguish as a result of seeing his relationship diminish between him and his son; I now know that there are definitely two sides to every story, and every divorced dad is not irresponsible or disinterested. There are many obstacles that a father can and often does face when trying to maintain a positive relationship with his child. The constant conflict about child support, an ex-wife’s anger and/or parental alienation, maternal bias in court and much more, sometimes makes it impossible for fathers to maintain healthy relationships with their children. Through it all, once again, the individuals who suffer the most are the children. As such, they have something to say about their relationships with their fathers.
The results were taken from that same study in the last ‘what children want you to know’ article (read it to gain clarity). When both adult and minor children, of all ages, were asked about their relationships with their fathers, they had the following to say.
Some felt as if their relationships with their fathers had deteriorated since the divorce and were unequivocally upset about it. Blame came in all variations; from the divorce itself, to a remarriage, to the father, to a stepmother to new stepsiblings. Often times children feel as if they are being replaced when their father remarries. Therefore, it is essential that fathers are allowed to continue to foster their relationship with their children post-divorce. It is equally imperative that fathers continue to put forth the effort to do so. When a divorced dad remarries, jealously is to be expected. If it’s expected, then it won’t catch you off guard and you can deal with it before it gets out of hand. It is essential that you make your bio-children feel like they are apart of the family, as well as make them feel as if they are still important and special to you. If your bio-children don’t live with you, be sure to maintain regular contact with them. Call them regularly, send a little gift (it doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be a card) to remind me that you’re still there for them and that you love them. Sometimes, bio-children need some alone time as well. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to achieve this when there are step-children involved. A father must consider how sensitive the situation is for ALL of the children involved. However, an easy solution is to spend time alone with your bio-children when your step-children are visiting their bio-parent or extended family. At one point in my own blended family, my husband, sons and I sat down and scheduled date nights that consisted of alone time with both of our children and each other. Our children were happy to be apart of the arrangement, knew what to expect and therefore, didn’t feel the least bit slighted when each got their alone time. Children often times just want to be included (when possible) in on the decision making process that undoubtedly affects them in some way.
Another group actually blamed their fathers for the deteroriation in their relationship after the divorce. This group of older children reported that financial and lifestyle changes often dictated their decision to erase their fathers from their lives. Most went from houses to apartments, had to help take care of siblings because their moms had to work extra jobs to make ends meet and often witnessed their mothers’ anguish about finances. All while their remarried dad was living it up with the new family. They couldn’t understand why step-mom got to sport designer bags and clothing, live in elaborate homes and drive the finest cars, but they (his children) had to worry about money to sign up for cheerleading, basketball or other extra curricular activities. Or why their mom couldn’t afford shoes or clothing. HIS wife and their children weren’t suffering, so why should they have to? It just didn’t make sense to them, and as a result, they just wrote their fathers off altogether.
Fathers pay your child support! Just as much as your children deserve relationships with both parents, they also deserve to be financially supported by both parents as well. It is okay if you choose to get remarried, have more children and/or even father someone else’s, but don’t forget about those that you left behind. As a matter of fact, they should never be left behind; they are your children! Your children should always feel as if they can count on you, in every sense of the word.
Some of the group blamed their mothers for the change in their relationships with their fathers; claiming that their mothers’ words and fathers’ actions never seemed to add up. Their mothers would tell them or imply that their fathers’ didn’t care about them anymore, but their fathers were calling them every night (if they weren’t allowed to see them, for whatever reason), telling them how much he loved and missed them. When this group of children were allowed, usually via court intervention, to have relationships with their fathers, they quickly realized that the person that their mothers’ described was not that person at all. Most of this group was able to reconnect with their fathers when their mothers’ interaction was no longer necessary.
Some of the group members’ relationships got better after the divorce. This is the portion of the group that was allowed to maintain regular, equal contact with their fathers; spending two days a week and every other weekend with dad. I must also note that the parents of this group cooperated to co-parent their children effectively. Even when mom, dad or both remarried, the childrens’ relationships with either parent seemed to go unscathed. These children often viewed their step-parents and step or half siblings as an added bonus rather than a threat.
Limited Contact Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Losing the Relationship
There were some children who could not see their fathers as regularly as they wanted to. Often times this was due to distance; either mom or dad moving away due to a job or remarriage. However, a portion of these children didn’t feel any less connected to their fathers as a result. These children were apart of their dad’s life, had unlimited access to their fathers and felt completely loved by their fathers. Their fathers made it perfectly clear that they were interested in their lives and wanted their children to be apart of their lives. They called them consistently and inquired about school grades and activities. This group managed to have close relationships with their dads despite the distance. As a result, it isn’t always true that fathers who have limited contact with their children will totally lose their relationships.
In conclusion, maintaining a relationship with dad post-divorce calls for cooperation on both mom and dad’s part. Mothers should never prevent their children from having a relationship with their father due to their own issues. In the longrun, it only creates more issues for the children. Mothers are in a position to either help facilitate contact or make it very very difficult. It’s unfortunate that most choose the latter because these children all agreed that consistent contact is beneficial in maintaining that emotional bond that they long for with their fathers. And fathers should never give up on maintaining relationships with their children because it gets a little difficult. Although you may have to modify your relationship with your children; it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to develop meaningful relationships with them just because they don’t reside with you full-time, or as much as you’d like. Make good use of email, cell phones, online photos and even webcams to communicate consistently with your children. Your relationships with them and your children will be better as a result.