Being an absentee father
Raising Them Well:
Being there even when you can’t always be there.
Ways noncustodial fathers can help raise their children:
- Establish a united front with the other parent - especially in front of your children. Be on one accord regarding discipline, goals etc.. Kids pick up on divisiveness. It leads to distress, confusion and unhappiness. It also makes kids feel they must choose sides. The lack of parent solidarity may open up opportunities for kids to play one parent against the other. So, try your best to mutually come up with a positioning both of you can agree on, and demonstrate that to your children. It's a challenge, but it's doable.
- Don't badmouth the other parent to your kids no matter how tempting it may be.
- If possible, live close to your children so you all may have easier access to each other. If that's not possible, don't fade away. Frequently communicate with your kids. Establish visitation. You may have to do this through the court system.
- Establish a ritual or tradition that is meaningful, e.g. pick them up from school, go to parent/teacher meetings, coach their teams, get haircuts together, take them to church, etc.
- Call and/or Skype them regularly - even if it means a five minute call or good night. This is especially important if you can't be physically close for long periods of time. On Skype you can help with homework, read a bedtime story or make sure they brush their teeth. Be pen pals, friend them on social networking sites, exchange videos. play video games together via XBox Live. Again, keep the lines of communication open.
- Recognize that little intimate moments can be the best moments of their lives. No need to feel pressure to always plan a big colossal weekend adventure. Just hanging with you chilling and interacting can be good enough. Talk, Time and Attention are big deals.
- Avoid avoiding your kids. Plopping them in front of the TV or dropping them off at your mama's all weekend ain't gonna get it.
- Send voice story books where your voice is recorded reading a bedtime story. Hallmark makes several books like that. Can't buy a book? Write great adventurous letters.
- Incarcerated Dads got to be creative. Frequently send letters, clippings from magazines, and share your personal wisdom and guidance. Show you're interested in their schooling and activities. Urge your kids to send you pictures, graded papers and such. Even if they rarely write back or visit you, keep up your end of the bargain.
- If you lose track of your kids, write a journal of how you feel. Write them letters and poetry. Talk about your life, mistakes, hopes. Tell your children how much they mean to you. Pray to God on paper. And Dad, don't think you're lame for doing this. Someday, you may be reunited. This journal will answer some of their questions about you. Don't abandon your attempts to reunite with them.
Some of these suggestions may have to be tweaked to fit the situation, but I urge you fathers to not give up. And I urge you mothers to not give up on the fathers who want to be there.
To both parents and grands: Unforgiveness ruins families. It hurts your children. You must overcome it. For me, prayer, meditation and reflection help me move to a frame of mind that allows me to shed the resentment. It's good for my mental health and the happiness of those I love. It is a process. But you can do ALL things... Dad, one of those things is to be there for your kids -one way or the other.
Parents and grandparents in noncustodial arrangements: How are you handling your situation? What can you do to make it better?