About 15 years ago, my friend Bill Klatte (a marvelous psychologist and dad) helped me put together a popular document called 10 Tips for Live-Away Dads. Over the ensuing years, women often asked: "what should I do about my ex and his parenting?"
The result is "Live-With Mom’s Tips for Supporting a Daughter’s Bond with Her Live-Away Dad." Let me know your thoughts n the comment below.
1. HANG IN THERE FOR THE LONG HAUL. Raising a daughter from two different homes is tough for me, her dad and our new spouses/partners. Both her dad and I remain tremendous influences in her life. I stay calm, committed, loving and loyal toward her—and do what I can to help her dad do the same. If her dad abuses or abandons her, my daughter needs me to protect her, but she also needs to make peace in her life with that relationship.
2. HELP HER PARTICIPATE. My daughter’s relationship with her dad is different than her relationship with me. My daughter needs to participate fully in it, even when that’s hard for me (or her). I encourage communication between my daughter and her dad, while recognizing that I’m not responsible for their relationship. If my daughter is more comfortable talking to her dad about certain things, I respect and encourage that.
3. REMEMBER THAT MY DAUGHTER LIVES IN TWO HOMES. The hours before she leaves my home and after she returns are a time of adjustment (and sometimes grieving) for her. I respect that she may or may not want to talk right away about her time with her dad; I let her take the lead. I don’t pry for information or play down her feelings. She may sometimes be upset or moody when she leaves my home or her dad’s, sad that she has to leave either of us “behind.”
4. SUPPORT HER TIME WITH HER FATHER. I recognize that uninterrupted father-daughter time is critical to his relationship with her and to my relationship with her. She can enjoy time with her dad without my checking in with phone calls or e mails. It is also important that she feels comfortable contacting me while with her dad, should she need something from me. I trust that her father keeps her safe during their time together—he loves her as much as I do.
5. CO-PARENT WITH HER DAD. If possible, I keep communication open between me and her dad. As our daughter grows and changes, it’s incredibly valuable to have her dad’s perspective. I will do my best to work with him and his new spouse/partner for our daughter’s well-being. When I share my concerns and joys about our daughter with her dad (and vice versa), she gets our best parenting. I encourage her to communicate with and trust her dad, especially when she makes mistakes.
6. DEVELOP HEALTHY SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORTS FOR MYSELF. It’s normal to struggle sometimes with anger, loneliness and other difficult emotions. However, I’m careful not to work those feelings out by using my daughter as my confidante or best friend. Instead, I meet my adult emotional and social needs with maturity by spending time with healthy adults.
7. DON’T TRASH DAD. In word and gesture, I speak well about my daughter’s dad even when I’m angry at him—and even if he speaks poorly about me. If I have trouble speaking well, I will wisely say little. Negative talk about her dad is a little wound to my daughter, and causes her to think less of herself, her dad and me. Trashing him or her stepmother through words or gestures (in public or at home) humiliates my daughter and damages my family. No matter what the circumstances of our divorce, I respect that her father’s new family is now part of my daughter’s family. I’ll keep my daughter out of the middle, even if others don’t, and I’ll resolve adult conflicts away from my daughter so she can be the child.
8. REMEMBER: MY DAUGHTER AND HER DAD ARE DIFFERENT PEOPLE. I won’t misdirect anger at my daughter’s father toward my daughter. When my daughter doesn’t listen to me, does less than her best in school or makes other mistakes (normal kid behavior), I won’t put the blame on her dad. I’ll remember that mistakes are great teachers, and do what I can do to make things better.
9. FOCUS ON MY PARENTING, NOT ON HER DAD’S. I can’t change how her dad or stepmom raise her or make up for what they don’t do, so I focus on what I can control: my own parenting. I’m not judgmental about their parenting because no one (including me) can be a perfect parent. I trust that her father and I are each trying our best. I parent her calmly, give her choices, have clear expectations, and show affection.
10. MANAGE EXPECTATIONS WISELY. My daughter has different rules and expectations in her father’s house. I am patient with her responses to those differences, while remaining clear about my expectations for our home. I try not to compensate for our family situation by giving in to demands that can spoil my daughter. I don’t lower my expectations just because her dad and I don’t live together.