How to stay involved as a spends-time-with parent
For one parent, divorce and separation means an uncertainty in how to be involved and stay involved in the lives of the children. According to the ABS, 3.1% of Australian families are headed by a single father (sole father families)(1) which means that the majority of primary carers are females. As gender equality improves, stigmas associated with domestic roles reduce and decisions are made in the best interest of the child, the statistic will shift.
No matter whether you are a spend-time-with mother or father, it is important for children to have a meaningful relationship and regular connection with you. Here are 8 suggestions for you to implement immediately:
- Show affection. Physical affection like hugs, cuddles, soft touch to the shoulder go a long way to building up a child’s confidence, security and understanding that they are cared for and loved.
- Speak supportively and encouragingly. Talk in the positive and your child will want to hear more words of encouragement from you. You can criticise and when you do, make sure it is done in a way which keeps the self-confidence of the child intact. You can ask “how do you think you could do it better next time?” or “do you think that was a good choice?”
- Share experiences from your past and things you have learned. Children love to hear stories of when adults were children and when they were growing up. The “in the olden days…” stories can be funny and enlightening because “back then” we didn’t have smart boards, ipads and computers. Sharing stories and experiences helps to bridge the gap between parent/adult and child and also helps the child learn about their family history.
- Take an interest in what interests your child. Children like to please their parents so be mindful not to force the child to take an interest in what you like because it suits you. You will make more of an impression on your child if you take an interest in what they like (and yes, these interests will change)
- Be a child with the child. Sometimes it is fun being a kid again. Play board games, jump on the trampoline, play ‘Marco Pollo’ in the pool, hide-and-seek and chase-tip – enjoy hearing your children laugh and take delight in laughing with them. Life doesn’t always have to be serious and filled with responsibility or chores. You will leave a greater impression on your child by playing and interacting with them rather than having a clean home.
- Tell the child “I love you.” When a child is fully grown, they finally understand that the hard work and effort that you went to was for their benefit because you loved them. If a child doesn’t hear the words “I love you” they don’t have the emotional intelligence to understand that you have done what you did because you loved them. They need to hear and have it spelled out to them that you love and care for them, even when you don’t like their behaviours sometimes.
- Turn up! If it is your scheduled visitation or time with the child, make sure that you turn up. There is nothing more damaging than a parent who regularly or continually lets the child down. No matter what the child is told, the reasons that a child makes up in their mind are often much worse than the reality and it hurts the child just as much. Equally, make the phone calls to your child and take an interest in what is happening in their life (not their other parent’s life)
- Keep the children out of the divorce. It is important for children to be children. Keep children clear of any conversations, adversity or frustrations surrounding your divorce. Find a way to communicate with the other parent that minimises tension and maintains the peace for the ultimate benefit of the children.
Parenting is a verb - a doing word. The decisions you make today will shape your future relationship with your child. You will reap the rewards from the effort that you put into your children today and the positive impression you leave on them will last a life.
If you believe that your parenting plan needs reviewing or updating to reflect the current circumstances, you can download Divorce Answered’s click-the-clause Parenting Plan for a fraction of the cost to have a lawyer create it. Better still, you will be able to afford a professional to review and offer advice on your plan for your unique circumstances.