Dads, here's how to survive Father's Day post-divorce

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Celebrating special occasions post-divorce may no longer be the same, not just for ex-spouses but for the children caught in between as well.

In the immediate years following a divorce, Mother's and Father's Day can be emotionally charged seasons.

Such occasions can also be confusing and pressurising for children as they adjust to not celebrating the occasion together with both parents.

For Mother's Day a month ago, I shared how divorced mothers can and should still celebrate their motherhood.

On the back of Father's Day this weekend, my hope is for ex-partners to embrace their lives post-divorce or separation.

In these times, dads are no longer just breadwinners for the family. They are actively involved in their children's lives and do make the time to bond with them.

My experience has revealed that divorced dads can be plagued with feelings of inadequacy for not always being there for their children.

This is a real concern post-divorce if they become the non-residential parent. It is still possible to nurture a loving relationship with children post-divorce.

Here are some suggested strategies to make fathering forever:

Don't be a 'Disney Dad'

Some dads feel a need to "make it up" to their children by trying to plan every visit as a fun-filled one.

From taking the children to amusement parks or buying them the latest toys or gadgets, there may be an internalised perception that indulgence is the best way to show love.

While children may respond well to gift-giving, it is suggested that the load of routine and daily parenting, such as helping children with homework or getting them to help out with household chores, form part of time spent together.

Sharing consistent boundaries

While you may not be living with your children, it may go a long way to participate in the dos and don'ts in a consistent manner with your co-parent.

Where possible, develop an approach that is enforced in both homes.

Composing such a list as co-parents, for example, a set bedtime on school nights, displays a commitment to parenting children as a team, putting personal differences aside.

Treat your ex with respect and civility

It may be challenging for ex-partners to maintain a cordial relationship all the time.

Yet, continued hostility and conflict between parents hurt children.

Avoid directing feelings of resentment or anger about the demised relationship to your children.

Rather, reinforce to the children that both parents love them, no matter what.

Be emotionally present

Your divorce, separation or breakdown in relationship may have taken a toll on you emotionally, but do try not to emotionally detach from your children.

Children thrive on love, affection and affirmation.

Always let your children know you are available and willing to talk or listen, even if you may not physically be with them.

Parenting is forever, even if a relationship has ended. Involved fatherhood post such an event can be a reality.

This Father's Day, a big shout-out to all dads. A very happy Father's Day!

To the giants in my life, my loving father and husband, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." (Isaac Newton in 1676).

Michelle Woodworth is a Partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, Court-appointed Child Representative, Senior Mediator under the Law Society Mediation Scheme, and an IMI and SIMI certified Mediator.

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