Ask La Comadre: Parenting and Divorce
My wife and I recently divorced after 13 years of marriage. We have 2 beautiful girls, one of them is 12 and the other is 6. Their mother has full-time custody, but I pick them up every other weekend, and once a week after school to have dinner with them. It breaks my heart not to be with my girls every day, and life feels so sad without them.
I am worried about how this is going to change my relationship with my girls. I want to continue to be as involved in their lives as I used to be, but I am not a part of their everyday life. What can I do continue to be as involved as possible, and make sure they continue to see me as the father they’ve always had – available and supportive? Any ideas?
Dear Papa Anonimo,
I understand your concerns but, first, let me remind you that if you had a close relationship with your girls, that will be a good foundation for this new start. And even if that was not the case, your new life is presenting you with an opportunity to be the best dad you can be.
Realize that the quality of a parent-child relationship is not solely based on the amount of time spent with the child, but rather in how that time is spent. Children thrive on genuine attention, validation and unconditional regard. The secret to a good parent-child relationship lies in connecting to the child’s inner world. Often times, parents spent time with their children doing the things that the parent needs to do or loves to do, and not what the child wants to do. So, when the time comes to spend time with them, consider the things your children enjoy doing, what they’re curious about, and the activities that make them happy.
At the same time, don’t overdo the fun activities and the outings, at the expense of spending family time in your home. It is important that your girls spend time in your home, so they can feel at home when they arrive to your place. A separate room (or bed) they can call their own is advisable, as well as toys, art supplies, clothes and all the things they will need to feel at home. Spending time with them in your home will help build your own family rituals and traditions through memorable moments.
During the days when you don’t see your children, you can call them during the week and ask about their day and school. Of course, having the support of your ex-wife with these additional contacts will make the process a smooth one. It would be best to agree, ahead of time, to these phone calls and their frequency throughout the week. Overall, try to create a good balance in terms of how involved you are with your children during your non-visitation and visitation days, to respect your ex-wife’s own adjustment to her new life. Last but not least, be on time to your visitation (pick up and drop off) and consistent.
La Comadre, Angelica Perez-Litwin, founder and writer of ModernFamilia, is a Certified Professional Life Coach and has a Family Life Coaching practice. She has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and over 15 years of clinical experience as a psychotherapist and counselor. Email your questions to: [email protected]