A few years ago, I wrote a book titled Be a Great Divorced Dad. When I wrote this book, I wanted to provide men with ways to get off to a good start with their children after a divorce.
So, what’s the single most important thing a dad can do for his kids after a divorce? In my opinion, it’s creating a warm, loving home. Here are six tips I give to fathers to help them establish a new home that children will always regard as their own.
Choose a neighborhood where there are other children.
In a two-parent household, children usually spend lots of time with their friends. They don’t just hang around the house with mum and dad because kids need to be with their friends. After a divorce, when they leave mum’s house to be with dad, they often end up leaving their friends behind. It helps children a great deal if they can make friends in dad’s neighborhood, too. I realise it isn’t always possible to relocate to a family neighborhood after a divorce, but it’s an important factor for a father to consider as he looks for a place to live.
Each child should have his or her own place to sleep.
Whether you live in an apartment, your parents’ condo or a single-family house, your goal as a divorced dad is to help your children feel like they belong in your new home. When children have their own place to sleep and a spot for their possessions, it helps them adjust to the new arrangement. So make sure your kids have a space to call their own, whether it be a separate room or a sleeping bag with a bookcase for their belongings.
Keep your children’s favourite foods in the kitchen.
Your children will feel right at home if they open the refrigerator and discover that you have stocked their favourite foods. If possible, go shopping with your children. They love helping dad set up a new home for them.
Have a set of clothes and toys in your home.
It’s uncomfortable for kids to lug clothes back and forth between their parents’ houses. I realise that money is often limited after a divorce, but gradually you can accumulate toys and clothes for your house so your children feel like they really do have two homes and two parents who still love them.
Place your children’s photos and schoolwork around the house.
When you hang your children’s artwork on the refrigerator, and their photos around the house, you’re reminding them that this is their home, too.
Consider a pet for your children.
A cat, a hamster, a parakeet or a puppy can help children look forward to seeing dad and get over the sadness of having to travel between two homes. The sooner you help your kids associate your place with fun, the sooner the children will adjust to having parents in different homes.
After a divorce, fathers often fear that their children will grow up damaged because of the separation. They worry that their children won’t want to be with them, and that they won’t have enough time with their kids to influence and guide them. However, when a man makes a real effort to establish a warm, fun home for himself and his children, he has good reasons to let go of these fears. Through his actions, he’s making it loud and clear that his children are, and always will be, a priority in his life.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.