Defending Dads

You're doing your jobs. You and your kids deserve better.

Coping With Maturing Children

You no longer see your kids every day. You haven’t for a while. Your thoughts vacillate between asserting your right to see them and refraining from further upsetting them. Otherwise, you’re dealing with the pain of missing them. That’s how it goes. What are you going to do about it? What can you do about it?

Just as you have adjusted to the new normal of intermittent contact with the kids, they change on you. They’re getting older. New and powerful hormones are flooding their blood streams. To an extent, they’ve grown accustomed to your absence. It’s a coping mechanism. Missing you hurts them as much as or more than missing them hurts you.

Living in separate homes has irrevocably changed your relationship. During visits, they might show you a certain diminished affection. You feel new pain and start a new healing process. You might wonder if the heartbreak will ever stop.

Don’t worry. If you’ve done the best you can by your kids and your relationship is strong, your kids are hard-wired to love you. A break in the parent-child connection need not cause long-term damage or be permanent. How you handle such a break dictates the strength of your bond as time goes by.

Play it cool. Whatever emotional turmoil you might feel, your kids are going through ten times that without the coping skills inherent with maturity. Give them the space they need to figure things out. Say to them something like “I’m sorry that we’ll be missing each other for a while, but I want you to be where ever it is you are happiest. That’s what’s most important to me. When you’re ready to visit again, I will be here for you, I won’t be angry with you and I could never love you any less.”

Despite your fears of estrangement, forced visitation is likely to do more harm than good. The tension they experienced during the breakup of the marriage has traumatized them enough. When they are ready to return to your loving arms, they will. Just do your best to present them with a welcoming environment and a 1,000 watt grin.

Love should never be about smothering the object of one’s affections. Rather, it has to be about letting go when appropriate. You have endured enough pain to take just a little more. Try to think of the rewards to come.

In the interim, focus on you. Do whatever it takes to keep your mind off the separation. Work like an inmate on a chain gang, exercise like an Olympian, read like a PhD candidate, fix your house like a host on the DIY network, whatever it takes. Mustering the motivation to do so will be a challenge, but once you throw your self into living, chances are you can stay there…at least until the next catastrophe!

Under the best circumstances, maintaining a healthy parent-child relationship is a trial, but doing so at a distance can be excruciating. The Marines have a great outlook on facing challenges: Adapt and overcome.

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