The Stress of a Divorce can make you become a very poor Father. But it doesn’t have to be like that………

It’s strange when we think of the options in our behaviour when we go through stressful situations, like a divorce. We can end up doing things that are plainly wrong and yet we cannot see it, because we are so engrossed in the situation. Nearly always the people who get really damaged, are the children.

Recently I learnt of a situation concerning a couple who were going through quite an acrimonious divorce. Who was at fault is irrelevant, what is important is the behaviour of the parents during the whole process of the divorce proceedings. In particular, the father, which is why I want to talk about it on this Blog.

The wife realised she was first and foremost the mother to her children, and subjugated her position and stance to not involve the children in the situation as much as possible. In other words, she did all she could to protect her children from the acrimony of the divorce proceedings. But the husband undermined this by committing the cardinal sin of using his children as pawns and trying to turn them against their mother. In the short term this succeeded, but in the long term this will cause irreparable damage to his integrity and relationship with his children. But he could not see this.

At every opportunity he ‘bad mouthed’ the mother to the children, and tried to undermine and break up the relationship between them. The mother on the other hand, always remained dignified and did not do the same. This was very selfless and perceptive of the mother, because at all times, she acted in the best interests of the children, even to the point of financial loss to herself. She realised that one day when the children were older and understood the situation fully, they would make up their own minds.

It is at that point in the future, the consequences of the father’s behaviour will really become apparent to the children and to himself. And this is the key message…..

The husband behaved as a very poor father indeed in this instance and showed his true character and colours to his children. Their mother will always be their mother and by trying to undermine her, he has damaged severely his own relationship with his children. Because he became so wrapped up in the divorce proceedings, he could not see that, and therefore he forgot his principal role. Namely to protect his children, as much as possible, from the inevitable emotional trauma that they were going through. He was still their father, and they were not just pawns in the proverbial ‘game of chess’……………………………………………

 

 

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You must be a positive Role Model to your Child, if you want to avoid problems in the future……

It is your duty to be the best possible father to your children and to complement their mother. Your role is very different to hers, but is equally as important, so teamwork is key. It is like a football match. If everyone on the team knows what they have to do and plays and supports each other, they have a much better chance of winning. The sum of your individual parts as a father and a mother is greater if you work together, than if you work alone. It takes two parents working closely in unison to bring up children which is why it is so important for you to be fully involved right from the start.

Your child will observe and copy everything you do, all the time. Boys particularly, will observe very closely what you, their father, is doing. Remember you are his idol, particularly when he is very young, so absolutely everything you do matters to him. Your child’s behaviour will reflect the way you are and how you behave on a day to day basis.

If you are always shouting, this will be considered normal behaviour, or if you can’t be bothered about things, your children will simply copy you. So you need to be a strong, positive and good role model for them. “Your children are what you make them”. You must never forget this, it is key to your role as their father. Here is a list, not an exhaustive one by any means, of a few tips to ensure you are a good role model for them.

Work hard at what you do (paid or unpaid).

Be nice to people, even if they irritate you.

Be polite and kind to everyone you meet.

Be tolerant of other people’s differences with you.

Always help others if you are able to.

Never be aggressive, nasty or react violently.

Be a good citizen and respect the laws of the country.

Be a good listener and give your time to people you meet.

If you haven’t got anything nice to say about someone, then don’t say it at all.

 

Does your Toddler need complete silence and darkness to go to sleep? You can avoid the hassles and inconveniences this can bring.

Bedtime can be one of the most challenging and daunting times of the day and really doesn’t have to be difficult. Once you have got your Toddler into bed, don’t close his bedroom door, leave it open. Many children can be afraid of the dark for no reason at all. Therefore, it will be reassuring for him if he wakes up in the middle of the night, and doesn’t feel cut off from the rest of the family. Pitch blackness can be very intimidating and scary for a young child.

In any case, virtually all young children do not need complete darkness to sleep. When they are tired, they will sleep anywhere, even in bright sunlight. How many times have you seen a small child fast asleep in his parent’s arms, in the middle of the day? It can also be a good discipline for later on in life. My theory is that it may well help keep your child with an ‘open’ attitude to you and others, as he grows older. Hopefully it will help avoid him trying to always close himself off in his bedroom when he is a teenager, and distancing himself from the rest of the family. It’s amazing how something as simple and unscientific as this, can help promote good habits, later on in life.  And these habits definitely last in later years.

I always found that our children didn’t need silence to sleep. Young children sleep if they are tired, and if they are not, then they don’t. It can be reassuring for your young child to hear normal family background noise when they go to sleep, so they do not feel cut off at bed time. It also means that your family can continue its normal household (sometimes noisy) routines in the evening. It is very important for your child’s development that he is raised in as normal household environment as possible. It goes without saying that normality is relative, and based on your particular religion and culture

Sometimes a little night light in the background, or even just the bathroom light, particularly when your child is very young, will prevent him becoming afraid of the dark. Because he has this light on, as he grows older, darkness should never become an issue for him.

Be part of your child’s life even before she is born. Talk to her while she is still in your partners tummy………………

Hearing your voice as well as its mother’s is part of the bonding process. Your unborn child hears its mother’s voice every time she says anything while it is developing inside her, but it is also important that your child hears your voice as often as possible as well. Your baby also needs to feel your touch as you caress her through her mother’s tummy. The amazing journey of fatherhood begins now.

It takes two to make a baby and it definitely takes two to bring one up. The easy part is making it, the hardest and also the most rewarding part, is bringing it up. Getting to the end of the road, if there ever really is an end of the road, is an incredible achievement and a truly satisfying and wonderful experience.

So when it’s time for your baby to be born, you should do your utmost to be present at the birth if at all possible. The three most moving and profound moments of my life were the births of my own children and I am sure it will be the same for you. I can remember each one as if they occurred, as if it was just yesterday. I know very occasionally circumstances can be out of your control and therefore it isn’t possible, but with good planning, you can try to minimise the chance of you missing it.

If you can do this, you will feel you are an integral part of the arrival of your child into this world and that you aren’t a peripheral figure to everything that is going on. Try to hold your baby before the umbilical cord is cut. She will see your face before she sees her mothers. Of course it is not a competition to see who is loved the most, but it is important that the bonding between you and your child is cemented the moment she comes into this world.

It will be the natural progression of the bond which you started developing with her before she was born and it will be one of the foundations of the relationship you will develop with her throughout her entire life.

 

Managing your child when he is a Toddler is one of the most challenging and rewarding periods of his childhood.

Well, you made it through those early months, and now you have the Toddler years to look forward to. These can be really fun years as your child grows and develops. He will look up to you and learn very quickly from you, whether it is how to hit a ball, ride a bicycle, learn nursery rhymes, or simply socialise with other people. His brain is like a sponge and everything you do will be observed and taken in. Sometimes you will only realise exactly what he has registered when you are least expecting it. So be ready to be surprised.

Some people say that the mother is the most important point of reference for your child during these early years. This may seem to be the case, but don’t let it put you off. I believe you are both as important as each other, only in different ways.

These initial years can have a huge impact on the closeness of your relationship with your child later on. Trust, respect, and love is built up during these early years, and all of these will help you overcome the challenges that lie ahead as they grow up. They will allow you to be truly involved with your child and be able to offer a balanced upbringing to him. You will never be a peripheral figure to your child, and together with your partner, you will be taking just as important role as she does. Remember, you as his father, also have a duty to be involved in every aspect of his life.

The few years when your child is a toddler can be very tiring and stressful high energy stuff. They are so inquisitive and want to discover so much and so quickly, but their attention span is very short. Beware they can be a danger to themselves without you watching over them. When you couple your toddler’s naivety and inexperience with their sudden energy spurts, you have to balance the need to let them discover and explore life, with the need to keep them safe themselves.

These are also really fun times, as you and your partner are the total centre of your child’s universe. This is a huge responsibility, as you are your Toddler’s idol, role model, comforter, play mate, provider and protector. However, the sense of satisfaction and joy for you, not to mention for your child, during these years, as you build closer and closer bonds, is nothing short of incredible.

When the inevitable challenges of bringing him up present themselves, which they certainly will, hopefully you will feel that you have some potential options and solutions. And trust me, there will definitely be some occasions where you feel you need some.

 

Always make time to answer your child’s questions. This is one of the key foundations of your relationship through the years to come.

If your child asks a question, it is because he wants to know the answer. Of course depending on the age of your child, you respond appropriately, but never brush off their question as not being important. The fact that your child asks you a question, shows that he is curious. He has a desire to discover the world he is growing up in and has a need to interact with you and have you do it with him. The question is important to your child based upon his current points of reference, or he would not have asked it

He will value your undivided attention so much, which will become evident in later years, when you ask him a question, or need an answer. He will give it to you, because that has always been the way you have treated him. As his father, you lead by example.

It is at a very early age that you should set the ground rules for the quality of communication between you and your children. This will determine what happens throughout their whole childhood. If you get this right, at the start of their lives, it will reap immeasurable benefits for the quality of your relationship together in later years. This will be very evident during the teenage years, when the challenges are very different, and can sometimes seem insurmountable for both of you.

Think of the amount of times you have heard other fathers say to their child “ask me later”, or “go and ask your mother”. By doing this, you are sending a subliminal message to your child. ‘I do not have time for you right now’, or ‘I’m not interested in what you want to know’, or even ‘it doesn’t concern me’. Potentially this can be the start of the construction of subconscious barriers to communication with your child, which as he gets older will be very hard to overcome.

So, stop whatever you are doing, or at least as soon as it is safe to do so, and listen carefully to the question. Then answer it honestly. You both will reap the benefits of this approach right through to your child’s adulthood………………… and beyond!

 

Your child can teach you things whatever age he is, so you should take every opportunity to learn from him. This is even more important in those vital teenage years.

If you can learn to appreciate your teenager’s environment, such as his tastes in clothes, as well as his music, it will be a good start. It is very important to avoid driving a wedge between you and your child particularly at this stage of his life. Although you may not approve of some of his friends, while you can tell him discreetly about your concerns, you have to let him make his own decisions. He will discover on his own later on, whether he has made good decisions or not. If you can do this, it will keep you much closer to him when problems arise.

Keeping relevant, means making a real effort to keep up with your teenagers’ technology, his games and his music. You should learn to play his computer games with him and get him to teach and explain things to you. He will love the fact that he can teach you things as well, and it is not always the other way round. By having this approach, you will always stay an integral part of his life, as he evolves through his teenage years. Although on many occasions it won’t feel like it at all and it won’t stop the arguments and disagreements, he will definitely respect you for trying to do this. Try to empathise with his lifestyle and the things he enjoys doing as much as possible. And be careful not to condemn and be disrespectful to his personal tastes just because you don’t happen to like them yourself.

Whatever your child is up to, positive feedback about what he is doing will always be well received by him. Even if you actually disagree with what he is doing. During this period of your child’s life he will be full of self-doubt and will be trying to find his way, so if you can find a positive slant on things, he will always respond better to that than if you are always critical of him. But it can be very difficult to do this at times. Make sure you are sincere about what you say, as children are quite perceptive and can very easily see through their parents if you aren’t. There will of course be many periods of anxiety and doubt as a teenager, so your positive and constructive comments will help keep his confidence levels as high as possible.

Time to go home with your new baby. How can you make it seamless and stress free?

After the trauma and exhilaration of the birth of the family’s new arrival, it will be time to go home. This can pose a few challenges, but if you handle it right, it will be plain sailing. When you arrive home with your baby for the first time, if you have animals (dogs specifically), immediately bring your baby to be introduced to the family pet.

This will make your dog feel fully included in the arrival of the new family member and help to prevent any jealousy occurring. If you don’t push it away, it will create its own bond for looking after and protecting your child. Your baby will also start immediately and subconsciously to learn to accept them and not to feel threatened by dogs. In later life, this will be a good social skill as she will be more comfortable around animals.

When we had our first baby and brought him home from the hospital, we placed him in his carrier seat on the floor in the middle of the lounge. We then called our dog over to see him. She sniffed him and looked at him, and sniffed him again, and understood that he was a new addition to the family, and was no threat to her.  She immediately lay down next to his carrier seat and stayed like that for quite a while until it was time for a feed….the baby that is!

From that day onwards until she died 10 years later, she slept under his cot initially and then his bed, and ‘protected’ him. Once we had a second and a third child, she would rotate rooms virtually every night once so she could look out for all three of them.

Of course, this might not be possible in some households depending on the breed of dog. Also, if your pet is an outdoor one it will be slightly different.  However, when you do go outside with your baby for the first time make sure that you introduce your new arrival to the family pet. It works very well.

Also, if you already have children, prior to your new baby’s arrival, talk to them about having a new member of the family. It is very important to include them in all the attention their new sibling is getting. It will make them feel good towards their new sister and be really positive about her arrival. A very good strategy to get your older child to feel good about the new arrival in the family, is for your baby to ‘bring a special gift’ to them.

For years after our daughter was born our oldest son always remembered the Thomas the Tank Engine train set ‘his new sister bought him’. He loved her for that, (Toddlers can be so fickle) and never got jealous when we were giving her attention, because he understood she was smaller than him and ‘needed to be looked after’.

Exactly how important do you think it is to be a good Father to your children? Even more than just ‘vital’ if that is possible, as you will see!

You as a Father made several choices, many of them unconscious, before and when you finally decided, together with your partner, to have children. It was to become a complete change in your life and certainly will have turned out to be just that. Exactly how involved you are in your child’s life, will determine inextricably what kind of person he/she will become. Your children are what you make them into and this is a responsibility that is absolutely enormous.

The relationship between parents and their children, within the family unit, underpins the whole fabric of our society. So many ills in it can be directly linked to problems within the family unit. Very often this will be because of an absentee Father in the household. This can be for a variety of reasons, some of which can be out of the his control. If however the relationship is strong and stable, it will have a positive effect for many years into the future. A close and loving dynamic will benefit you, your child and society in general. If you are to get the most out of being a Father, you have to be prepared to take on every aspect of the job, however challenging it is, and be involved 100% in every area of your child’s life. If you do this and are totally committed to being the best dad possible to your children, it will be the most rewarding thing that you will ever have experienced.

“Great Dads make for Great Children and Great Children make for a very Happy life for everyone”. This has always been my motto, and anyone who is involved with children will know this is true.

Thank you for reading this Blog as it means you really care. I have written a book called ‘Help I’m a Father’ which talks all about this relationship and is full of really useful tips and advice. It is available through Amazon and all Royalties are being donated to sick and underprivileged children’s charities to help improve their lives.

How do you stop any ‘Emotional Distance’ growing between you and your child?

In years gone by father’s didn’t show their emotions like mothers did. Boys had to follow in their footsteps and show the ‘British Stiff Upper Lip’. Girls were considered different from boys and allowed to show their emotions. Yet life is full of emotion no matter what sex you are. Whether it is happiness or sadness, elation or despair, you should never be afraid to show your emotions as a father. Children need to know that their father experiences the same type of emotions that they do.

They also need to be able to see you showing those emotions. This will demonstrate to them that this is completely normal behaviour. The last thing you want to do with your child is to build barriers to communication. So by being open with your emotions, it prevents any subconscious mental barriers being constructed within the vital relationship between you as a father and your child.

It is also important to be very tactile with your children, they need physical contact with you as their father just as much as they do with their mother. A strong tactile relationship will strengthen the emotional bond between the two of you. A kiss goodnight, or a reassuring hug when your child is upset or unsure about something will reinforce that emotional bond immeasurably, irrespective of what age she is, 2 or 22.

For a child, at the beginning, it is totally normal that this should happen, after all, you are her father. You are one of the two most important people in her life and you should remain as that until she starts her own life with her own partner and has children of her own. Even then that bond will never be lost. If you have created a relationship built on substance, respect and love, it will last a lifetime.