In my opinion, Father’s Day is a great time to reflect on the support that dads provide to their children following divorce. The media often portrays a demeaning image of divorced fathers. The typical divorced dad comes across as self-centered and irresponsible. When was the last time you watched a movie or saw at television show about a loving and reliable divorced father who was in touch with the needs of his kids? Fathers and children suffer from assuming the worst about dads after a family separates.
One of the biggest challenges dads face is the stereotypes that exist about divorced fathers. It’s crucial to examine our beliefs and attitudes about the role of dads after divorce if we are going to break down barriers that create distance between fathers and their children. In my opinion, fostering alienation between a child and his or her dad is one of the cruelest and most selfish acts a parent can do. Society perpetuates a negative view of dads post-divorce.
The exception is the movie Spanglish, director James Brook’s poignant portrayal of a father who is a far better parent to his daughter than her mother. We need to make and watch more movies and TV shows that portray a positive view of dads following a divorce (without diminishing the wonderful contributions of mothers).
Daughters of divorce are particularly vulnerable to a father/daughter wound following parental divorce. What girls and women need is a loving, predictable father figure – whether married to her mother or divorced. Some dads are better able to relate to their daughters and make them a priority, rather than vanishing or distancing themselves. The following statistics may surprise you. Nearly one third of the daughters in our country have divorced parents. Roughly 85% of kids live full-time with their mother after divorce; only 5 – 10 % live at least a third of the time with their dads.
What are some of the barriers that prevent dads and children from maintaining a close bond after parental divorce? Many experts cite the importance of a divorced mom promoting her children’s relationship with her father. Whenever possible, mothers need to encourage their children to sustain regular contact – such as phone calls, holiday time, and special occasions. It’s also important for moms to eliminate negative comments about their ex-husband so her children don’t feel caught in the middle between their parents. Lastly, fathers who remain an integral part of their kid’s life after divorce can promote a loving relationship that endures through rough patches.
When parents’ divorce, children are forced to give up their sense of control. Let’s face it, divorce is a decision made by parents – not children. Divorce is a painful experience for everyone but children and adults raised in disrupted homes often feel the sting of divided loyalties. Loyalty conflicts are frequently at the root of a father wound because children of divorce feel they have to choose between their parents. Since children (of all ages) are particularly vulnerable to conflict between their parents, it’s important for parents to refrain from bad-mouthing each other and to be cordial and avoid arguments in front of them. This Father’s Day, let’s celebrate dads who make their children a priority!
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry