In an ideal world there would be no relationship break down. There would be no divorce and separation between husband and wife. And there would be no separation between mother, father and children. And it must be acknowledged that divorce and separation is something God frowns upon and the Scriptures make clear that it isn’t God’s best for us as individuals and society. But, we don’t live in an ideal world. The world we live in is corrupted through sin. It permeates all through society at every level. It causes us to do that what we don’t want to do and even acknowledge is not the best.
I am a divorced dad. I have remarried. For the most part my boys live with their mother. The purpose of my post here isn’t to go into the pro’s and con’s of divorce, separation and remarriage. But if your one of those who believe that marriage should never be separated ever no matter what goes on in that marriage, I too once wholeheartedly believed the same. But experiences of life has proven to me that sometimes divorce is the lessor of two evils and the lessor of the two evils means that I am still here today alive to tell my story. However I am rambling. I want to make the caveat here that my post is aimed towards guys. Fathers in particular. I acknowledge that indeed there are mothers out there who don’t have custody of their children for what ever reasons they may be, the father has custody – and in your case, what I say is relevant for you also. But, I don’t apologize for my writing this post directly to fathers. For I am a father and can only write as one father to another.
No matter the reason for separating or divorce – you are not divorced from your children. Your children still need you. As their dad you have responsibilities to parent them as their father. However, I acknowledge that circumstances can make this easier at times then others. Sometimes bitterness and anger from their mother can prevent you access to your children. They can stop phone calls from being returned, letters from being received, contact with children denied. I have heard and seen many heart breaking stories of this happening and there is little you can do to prevent it. Except to fight this through the courts which can be a costly experience. Costly in terms of finances; but not only in finances, its emotionally, spiritually and physically draining. BUT! Your kids need to know that you will fight for them no matter what. They need to know that you will go all out to see them, spend time with them and that you want to be their father.
Now, at the moment I am assuming that you are a dad who wants to see and spend time with your kids. If however your one of these dead beat fathers who gladly walked away from your partner and kids and have no interest in seeing them ever again – my words to you are “Pull your head in!” Despite you being a total and complete jerk and one whom in all likely hood your kids are better off without – the truth of the matter is that those kids need you to be the dad that God created you to be and you are simply shirking your responsibilities. A number of years ago I came to know some young blokes – who were what society would say were headed down a criminal pathway of destruction. The truth is, despite their involvement in drugs and crime, I really liked these young guys. One day I had one of them in tears when I told them I liked them and they were welcome to come around our place any time. Later one of the boys shared with me how he went to visit his father, his father met him at the door of his house and told him…“I don’t want you here ever again, piss off, I don’t want nothing to do with you ever again. Now go!” What a load for this young boy to carry. The good news is though I was able to tell him that despite his fathers actions, God was a perfect father who promises us that he will never leave nor forsake us. And I gave him a hug telling him he was once again welcome around our place any time.
There has been a lot of research done on what makes people tick. One such research is into the area of love languages. They being: Touch, Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service and Words of Encouragement. Basically the premise is that everyone has a predominant leaning towards one of these traits. It’s important for us as dads to know what makes us and our children tick. Because if we know what makes them tick, we can love them in a way that makes them feel loved and appreciated. For instance, my own characteristics are words of affirmation and touch. It’s natural for me to want to love my kids out of those same trends. However, my eldest son isn’t a touchy and feeley person. He isn’t into hugs and not so much into words of encouragement – though he did admit to me he preferred me to speak encouragingly then not to speak that way. But, he loves it when I spend time with him, just sitting in the same room with him, or take him to the skate park – when I do something for him, make something for him. Now my other son, he loves me scratching his back, he still likes to hold my hand when we go out. He loves to give hugs and massages. And I can truthfully say that if I take the time to do things with my sons that makes them tick, we end up with an enjoyable time of connection.
I can’t speak enough how its important that you continue to ensure that you are the dad and not become one of their mates. Yes, its important that you do develop mate ship with them – but its even more important that you ensure that as a dad you are training your kids up in the way they are to go. This means that there has to be some form of discipline. In my own case, the boys often hear others pulling me down and its easy for them to fall into that same habit…But here in our home I snapped them out of that, told them that I don’t care what others say, I am their dad, and they will talk to me and about me with respect. At the same time, I ensure that my own conversation is never derogatory about others in their life.. aka their mother or other family members. Within this framework, many dads feel they have to make up for lost time and do extra stuff with the kids to have fun. Take them to theme parks, meals, etc. While its important to do these things with your kids, make sure that you are sharing the normalcy of life with your children. It’s ok for them to be bored. It’s ok to give them chores to do around the house. It’s ok as a dad to tell your kids you don’t have the money to do this or that and you will do something else with them.
On the subject of money; don’t be pressured to conform, compare or perform. By this it may be that you or their mother may have more disposable income. It’s often the case here in Australia that the dad has less disposable income then the mother has because of child maintenance costs. I am upfront with my children about what we can or can’t afford for the weekend, presents for birthdays and Christmas.
I pray for my sons. I put them to bed and pray with them every night they are with me. I ask the Lord to heal their hurts, fill their hearts with the knowledge of his love, strengthen them and inspire them to become the men of God they are growing into. I make it a habit of talking to the Lord about my sons on a regular basis and time to time he shows me how to pray, and stirs me to pray for them in specific ways which I am later to find out were needed at the time. I don’t force them to come to church with me of a Sunday. They go to their own church every Sunday afternoon and just as I would not go to church twice on Sunday, I don’t expect the same for my own children. But, we do talk about the issues of life and faith.
Keep in regular contact with your children. Do this through regular phone calls, texts and emails. Some use social media such as Face Book. Even send them a hand written letter via snail mail. I have discovered that my boys don’t want me to ask them 100 questions. Instead they want me to share with them some of my week. Yes, ask them questions about their week; but ensure you ask open questions which will keep the conversation flowing. See them as much as you can. I spend time with my own sons every second weekend and 1/2 the School Holidays. I also see them other times; but because of the restrictions of finances for fuel to make the 150km round trip to do so, its not as much as I would like.
Get involved with their schooling. As much as you can, get on the same page with their mother on discipline issues. I do say as much as you can, as I acknowledge that that is often easier said then done. But you don’t want the kids to have a chance to play one parent against the other. It’s important that you teach your kids the right way to go in not encouraging them to play one parent against the other. Don’t be a do it alone and go it alone dad… you need the help of others. Rub shoulders with other men. Rub shoulders with those in their sport, school or other activities. Let your kids experience some of your own life, meet up with some of your own friends.
Finally its important to walk in forgiveness. Divorce is messy. It’s painful. It’s incredibly destructive on the family unit. Despite the sin, the pain and the mess; there is no condemnation for those of us in Christ. Christ died because of our sin. But he raised to life so that we too may live also. Receive God’s forgiveness. Forgive others who have harmed you. Scripture calls for us to pray for and bless those who miss treat us and harm us. It’s my own experience when the doo doo hit the fan on a regular basis – I felt the Lord encourage me to bless them and not curse / grumble about it. It took time and effort to do so. At first it took all of my will to say I bless you, or bless her Lord. But now, years after, I am able to speak a true blessing over the comings and goings of those who have harmed me and make life difficult for me. I am the one who is becoming free from the effects of bitterness and hurt and this has to be good for the life of my kids.
While there is more to say, I want to finish this post with the knowledge that, ” Through the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, I love you guys, like you guys and appreciate you very much. “