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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Have you ever wondered why your child behaves in a particular way? The answer is quite simple…………..

This is a perennial question that every parent asks himself from time to time. How many times have you heard yourself say, “why does he behave like that?”. The answer is of course not always simple and in many cases quite complex, however there is very often an underlying reason, which crops up time and time again.

Your child reflects you totally, particularly in the early years, when you and your partner are his principle sources of reference. Your child is what you make him. If he sees you behave in a specific circumstance, or react to a particular situation, he will interpret this as the appropriate way to respond. And if he sees you do this on multiple occasions, for him, this will become learned behaviour and the correct way to react because he has witnessed you do this.

So, this should make you doubly careful in what you do in front of your child. If you shout in an aggressive manner if something annoys you, he will do the same. If however you respond calmly and in a considered way, he will also do this.

You can stage your own experiment with your own child at home. Create a specific situation in view of your child, together with your partner, and then stage your reaction to it. Do this several times over a couple of days. Then do it again in front of your child and let him react to it before you say anything. You will be amazed by his reaction…………..

All of this to say, that your child will copy you completely, and you need to be his role model. Your child will reflect you and your partner’s behaviour. So you will end up answering your own rhetorical question about why your child behaves like that. Of course once he goes to school and starts mixing regularly with other children his points of reference will widen…………………but you and your partner still remain the key influencer in his life, as of course it should be.

 

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.

 

How do you keep your children close to you from babyhood to adulthood? It is possible, you just need the right approach and philosophy…………………Every Day

How do you know if you have got it right with your children? How do you judge if you are a successful parent as you watch your child grow up? What mistakes and pitfalls can you avoid and what ones are inevitable? These questions and many more are always in the mind of you as a parent. What you do know is that you want to be the best parent possible to your child.

So where do you start? Right at the beginning, as soon as your child is able to communicate with you. This is the door through which you must walk with your child and never let it close on you. Open communication between you as your child grows up, will allow you to overcome virtually every problem that presents itself to you. In fact even before issues become problems.

As a parent, never have any subject which cannot be discussed openly by you and your child, however uncomfortable it is for you. Strategies like always having a special time of the day when you talk about what has gone on, for both you and your child, will really work. This could be at supper time, or when you child is in bed, or those tender moments just before going to bed. You will find that this lays the foundation for a very strong relationship as your child grows up, and will make your bond together unshakeable.

At these special times, you also need to be telling your child your daily challenges as he needs to be able to relate and understand your world. Of course you need to tailor what you say depending on his age. You say your bit and encourage him to say whatever he wants to. You will be amazed at what you learn. The conversations will change as your child grows older, but will always be open and frank. Those key links you build together will always work whether your child is 2 or 22.

It is really worth making the effort on this, and you and your child will have created a bond which will help you both, and enhance your relationship together for the rest of your lives.

How do you stop subconscious mental barriers being constructed with your children?

In the past fathers 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 be emotional. 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 as they do. They also need to be able to see you actually showing those emotions.

Doing this prevents any subconscious mental barriers being constructed within the vital relationship between you as a father and your child. Be very tactile with your children, they need physical contact with you as their father just as much as they do with their mother.

Don’t be afraid to give your child a hug when you see her, or to always kiss her goodnight when she goes to bed, irrespective of what age she is, whether 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.

How often do you hear children say to their parents “you never listen to me”? If you really want to, it’s easy to always listen carefully to what your child is saying. This philosophy is your chance to make sure your children know from a very early age, that you do listen to them. They need to know that their contribution to the family dynamic is just as important as yours. It is always a two way relationship and you must never forget that and communication and love will flow between you totally unhindered if you get it right.

 

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.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try……try…..and try again!” If your child wants it badly enough encourage her not to give up.

Sharing and experiencing your child’s proudest moments will be very rewarding for you both. For example, if your daughter is in a Talent Show at school, try to be there to see her perform. Or if she is in a Sports team and it is a special occasion such as a final, always make the effort to be present. In fact, even for regular school matches, you should try to support your child as often as possible. If her team loses and she doesn’t do as well as she had hoped in the match, you will be there to support her through her disappointment. You can use situations like these to help your child understand and accept that in life you will not always succeed.

I always remember what my mother said to me when I was a child and have used it so often with my own children. It is as true today as the first time I ever heard it. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”.

This philosophy will help your child hugely as she embarks on the journey of life, as she grows up and goes her own way. Tell her about things that didn’t work out for you and how you never gave up, but moved on and achieved something different. For example it could have been a University which rejected your degree application, or an unsuccessful job interview. But you ended up going to a different place and had an amazing time there anyway. Some things just don’t go to plan and work out differently to how you wanted and imagined it. Your child needs to understand that life can be like this.

But if it is a specific goal she wants to achieve, you can help her keep aiming for it and suggest a different route to achieving it. There are always several ways to succeed, it just may not be the route she originally thought it would be. This is where your guidance, support and encouragement are vital and she will value you so much for this for many years to come.

What do you do when honesty might hurt your child? An eternal parental dilemma but it all depends on his age.

As a father and a parent, you will never want to hurt your child, but sometimes if you tell them things as they really are, they will get upset and the effects may even last for sometime. Occasionally a ‘white lie’ is acceptable if it is done to protect your child from something, particularly if they are not yet at an age when they can understand the full consequences of it. However, you should always try to be honest with your children and never lie to them on serious issues.

Sometimes it is very difficult to stick to this guideline, but remember that your children deserve you to treat them correctly. It doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is of your ‘white lie’, but your judgement of the situation will determine if it is the correct course of action. If your child is a toddler or under five and his grand mother passes away, you might tell him that ‘nanna has gone to a special place with the angels’.

If however he has been at primary school for a few years he will be starting to learn about the human life cycle and that we are born and we eventually die. You may make a judgement call in this instance and tell him the truth but couch it in more direct gentle terms like ‘nanna passed away peacefully in her sleep and has gone to heaven’. So how you communicate with your child will very definitely be relative to your child’s age and his ability to comprehend life events like this.

If however you do lie to him even on a subject as serious as this and he finds out, it will send the message that this is an acceptable form of behaviour. Remember, at all times your child will look up to you and copy your behaviour, so he will need you to handle a situation like this in the correct way. He will remember how you do this for many years to come.

How can you stay close to your Teenager as your relationship changes? It is a real challenge.

When your child becomes a teenager, the dynamics of your relationship changes dramatically, so you need to evolve and become a different kind of role model. He will be mixing with a wide variety of individuals independently of you and it is important that you remain consistent in how you behave towards him. ‘Work hard … play hard’, is a very important philosophy you need to get through to your teenager, and to do this, you must lead by example.

As he will be trying new things during these years and following your example (where it suits him of course) try to avoid doing anything to excess yourself. While he needs to understand that he can enjoy himself, this must be linked to working hard, particularly at school. Therefore, he needs to see the example of ‘normal acceptable behaviour’ coming from his father.

It is vitally important that your child feels he can still communicate with you openly while he is a teenager. So this will be one of your biggest challenges during the next few years. So keeping all lines of communication open between you both is vital, and will influence strongly how your relationship with him develops. However difficult and awkward the subject is, you can never have a ‘bad conversation’ with your child, only a good one, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. With all the challenges facing him during this period of his life, this is where you will really benefit from the investment in time and effort you made with him during his earlier years.

It is during that period where you have laid the foundations, to allow you to stay connected during the extremely challenging times ahead of you. Your child is still very vulnerable when he is a teenager, but he neither believes nor realises this, and he will get sick of hearing you telling him this. He will be rebellious and very difficult to manage at times, so, your role really is to guide him through this stage of his life. Don’t worry, he will come out the other side, every child does, and hopefully with a sense of independence and respect for you, his mother, as well as other people. He will need this sense of value and perspective when he becomes an adult.

It is possible to amuse your Toddlers whilst stuck in the car and avoid stress for all the family. Try these games and distractions and enjoy the ride.

Playing games in the car will normally stop your child getting bored and agitated. A good one that you can play with him, is ‘the snooker game’. You ask him to spot the colours of cars in the order of the balls played in a game of snooker. You start with white, then a red, then yellow, and all the way up to black. Have you ever noticed how few yellow, brown or pink cars there are on the roads? In fact there are hardly any pink ones at all. You can keep this game going for as long as you need to. It will keep your child amused for a long while, as well as distracting you.

Another game you can play is looking for the type or make of car. For example a Volkswagen Beetle, or an Aston Martin DB9. If you want the game to last a little longer for your child, then choose a rare type of car. If you want your child to find it quickly, choose a more popular model. There are many variations on this theme that you can use depending on how creative you want to be. For example, it could be marques of lorries, buses, vans or even caravans and trailers.

If you prefer to play more educational games with your child, you can play ‘Capital cities of the world’. This game is both interesting and educational for you and your child and keeps him focussed on fun learning instead of getting frustrated because he is bored in the car. Start with very easy ones such as the Capital city of England or Scotland. You call out the country and your child has to guess its Capital city. Once he gets used to some of the answers, you can progress to other more difficult ones from European or South American countries. You will be amazed just how much knowledge your child will pick up and retain.

As you know, the car can be a very challenging environment with your small child. Occasionally if the games don’t work, you can start singing songs together. This will work well for you and can be used as a means of passing time between two points on the road. If it is fifteen minutes until your exit, you can devise a game for all of you to sing songs, one after the other and you can all give marks out of ten. For example, between two junctions on a Motorway, suggest to everyone in the car to sing an agreed song or nursery rhyme, until the second junction is reached. There must be no exceptions, and everyone must join in. Let your child choose the song as soon as the one you have chosen is finished.

You will see that time passes very quickly like this and it is very good for strengthening bonds between you and your child. It also reinforces your child’s sense of doing fun things with you. Remember you want to have really good fun with your child, and that is an important part of your relationship together! For example, while going under the Dartford Tunnel, you and your child could sing “10 little ducks went swimming one day”. The goal would be to finish the song exactly at the moment when you leave the tunnel. Your child will be enthralled.

You can also invent stories to tell to your child in the car. He will be captivated. For example, you could invent a story about ‘The Wicked Witch of Gott’ (this is a totally made up name). She is an old witch who sits at her window watching the children go to school. If somebody pulls a face at her, she will cast a spell and that face would become permanent on the child who pulled it. You can only get your normal face back if you go up to the Witch’s house and apologise to the Witch in person (nobody wanted to do that). The only other way to get your normal face back is if the wind changes direction. You can adapt this story with different characters and draw it out or shorten it depending on the length of time you are in the car. This will be subconsciously teaching your child to be polite and not to pull faces at people, also to respect others who are different.

Your child will love stories which are told by you, so you can be very creative with them. For example, you could invent one about a family of dinosaurs and its prehistoric adventures, with each dinosaur representing one member of your family. You can let your Toddler choose who is what dinosaur, then you can recount a story which you can make up as you go along. If you let your child choose who you are, you might find that you always end up being the Brontosaurus! I wonder why……