Bruce Buccio survived his divorce and learned to make a better life for himself and his kids. Here he offers 12 tips to help newly separated fathers build a good life for themselves and their children.
One of the most difficult times a man will endure is the transition from marriage to divorce. For me, going through a divorce with children tested every part of my being.
The following list reflects a compilation of what I learned and accomplished with my children over the first three years after separating. In hindsight, achieving the points on this list wasn’t easy. And it won’t be the end of the hard stuff–working through nonsense and staying your course is the important part, and the outcome is worth it.
1. Prepare for Change – Life may look disheartening on the surface, but if you take a deeper, closer look there’s more than meets the eye. Nothing quite prepares us for this period, but it’s best to do it with integrity and dignity. It doesn’t matter how the ex responds to change. It’s now your life.
2. New household status – You’re the boss of your own domain now. One of the benefits to your newly single status is doing things your way for you and your kids. Release the inner voice held over from your ex that says you can’t buy new furniture or move furniture the way you like, or buy food for your diet and your cooking preferences. It’s the new you—change it up!
3. Adjust to your new life – There may be many reasons for your breakup, but none of it matters anymore. The pains are still there, which may drag up fears about your future, but you’re in a new place now with your new life and new heart—creating new habits, practices, and disciplines is your new norm. Your kids are a good, healthy distraction, they are your primary focus now along with your career and yourself. They are depending on you now more than ever.
4. Integrate into your kids’ lives – Regardless of your relationship prior to divorce, you have a new opportunity to build deeper bonds merely from the additional individual closeness and time together. Your consistency here will naturally develop a connection over time that is irreversible. Eventually you will see how your relationships with your children deepen and how you grow into a changed person with your new perspective.
5. Work past the ex, negativity, and games – This was your married life and maybe why you are now separated or divorced. No reason to amplify the negativity now. Don’t get entangled or prolong the anxiety. No matter what you hear through small lips, diffuse immature tactics with your warm persona, hugs, kisses, and smiles with your children.
6. Move forward– Keep your eyes on the horizon, toward your new goals and destinations. If you put too much emphasis on the other camp or keep looking back, you’ll only distract yourself from what’s really important in front of you. Stay focused on your kids and your household. It doesn’t matter what the other party is doing or saying—play out the new life you designed to benefit your children and you. Play by the rules and play nice with the ex. When it comes to holidays or other special days, be flexible.
7. Build structure – In the process of divorce, things got a little confusing for everyone. Add stability back into your kids’ lives by developing and building a framework of consistency and predictability into your home life. Structure is vital to your child’s long-term emotional health. Allocate time for important routines in your day such as playtime, meals, homework, bath, bed, etc.
8. Develop rituals with your children – Date nights, sports, and extracurricular or intellectual activities are fantastic ways to build rapport with your children. Consider coaching your child’s teams, as I did.
9. Being a reliable resource – Your kids will need you. Make your children a priority. Be there when they reach out. Share your intel: cell number, email, Skype ID, Facetime ID, etc. Communicate frequently and often with your children about your plans, travel, work, and schedule changes as though nothing other than your living arrangements has changed. Show them through example that you will be there when needed. It may help to inform your place of work in advance that you have a new household status and last-minute notices may occur for daycare or school as you adjust.
10. Mentor and teach your children – Depending on their age(s), you now have one-on-one opportunities to teach the kids to swim, ride bicycles, ski, and other fun things. These are all great ways to build connections and show them that you take stock in their lives. Rather than pass judgment, mentor your child through hard times with good reasoning and rational thinking. Keep communication lines open.
11. Stay positive – While you grieve from loss or due to new transitions it may be difficult to be positive with hurt emotions. Be selective when choosing your battles and look inward to incite personal change and ownership. Seek empathy and support if needed. Pray if it’s in your spirit. You are going to be okay.
12. Stick with what works – Identify your personal and parental gifts. If you don’t know what those are, here are a few to consider: love, patience, hugs, smiles, positive notes, holding hands, cooking, learning together, growing together, taking ownership, leading by example, not playing the victim, humor, and thoughtful acts of kindness.
After a one-year separation, it took me another two years after the divorce to work through the emotional healing, learn to cope with challenges from their mom, and fully help my children acclimate to change.
The other camp didn’t appreciate the bright spots I developed with my children, but I stayed the course, disregarded the nonsense, played nice, and everything worked out just fine.
Image of father and sons courtesy of Shutterstock