We men generally are brought up with a strong sense that being strong and hiding our emotions is the “manly” thing to do. We have ingrained into our mind these rules:
“Don’t cry in front of anybody.”
“Tough it out.”
“Boys don’t cry.”
“Only wimps get hurt.”
“It’s a sign of weakness to let people know you’re hurting.”
“Put on a brave face”
Often men are incapable of crying even if they feel sadness ripping through every part of their body. They may be depressed, thinking of something that brings them sadness and feel it relentlessly every minute of every day, but they are still not able to let loose that gut wrenching cry of pain they are hiding within themselves. They keep it inside of them, hidden under the surface, as well as they can. It keeps building and intensifying every moment.
‘A Dad’ contacted ‘Ask a Life Coach’, who is currently feeling at a point where his heart is breaking, and his looking for answers. He has gone through a very difficult period with his health, which is unassociated with this issue but has given him time for reflection.
His a father who no longer lives with his children, and for various reasons isn’t able to see them as regularly as he would like, or get to spend sufficient time with them when he does. This lack of time spent with his children makes him feel as though he is standing on the outside looking in. He understands that his children have their own lives, but he fears it will affect his relationship with them later in life. He just misses them badly.
This separation from his children has given rise to a number of emotions, such as heartache, frustration, isolation and even guilt! He is doing the best he can to hide these feelings, but he is hurting badly inside. He feels he has let them down in the past, and wants to make it up to them somehow. He doesn’t want to lose them, and is so frightened that he is.
So much of their life, he has tried to be a father that can make sure of their future. He worked hard, and long hours. He wanted to make as much money as he could so that he could make their life much easier. On this same theme, he wanted to give them everything they ever wanted or needed, bring them up in a big house, provide them with as many luxuries as he could. At the same time he wanted their love to radiate from the love he had always shown them. Now he feels guilty for not spending the quality time with his children, because he had been too busy trying to provide for them.
He knows that it is essential for him to start forging a connection. He wants to rebuild the emotional attachment his children feel for him, because at the moment he isn’t seeing it. It’s like his been cast away, being held 100% responsible for the break up with his wife. He understands that it is still early days, and his separation has been a traumatic time for them, and they’re undoubtedly trying to make sense of it within themselves.
Going through a separation is one of the toughest situations any child may face, and of course its hard for both parents too. Nobody comes out totally unscathed from this type of sadness. But it is important for him to understand that not only does he have to deal with the practicalities of his own feelings of hurt, sadness and isolation; but also he has the hurt they are going through to think about. But with a little understanding, he can build bridges, and it needn’t be like this forever.
Children will often feel torn between their parents and don’t want to choose. They are going to be upset that there parents have separated, and are now going through life without each other. It takes time for them to sort out their emotions. It is a difficult time for everyone involved, and as individuals they’re all going to react differently. You have to give it time.
You need to be realistic and allow your reconnection with your children to build slowly and naturally, rather than trying to force a ‘happy family’ scenario. Allow things to come together naturally in time. The most important thing to remember is that however impossible things seem at the moment, he will come out of it the other end.
Separating from a partner is tough. Being separated from your children can be even tougher. But he wants to be there for them so he can help them face the realities of life in this world and the challenges it brings them.
Well here is the good news. You have another chance. Of course you miss seeing them every day. You miss all the goings on. But now you are taking the time to become more reflective about your fathering role. You are now entering another stage of fathering which offers you the opportunity of another chance. You’re still a father. That will never change.
Here are a few tips how to make things work after separation
1. Let them know you love them. Remember, no child ever outgrows the need to hear, “I love you,” or “I’ve been thinking about you.” This is the most important message they can hear right now. Your children need to know that they still have two parents who love them with their entire hearts, and who will continue to care for them. Just keep reminding them, but don’t over do it.
2. Be open and honest. Your children not only need to know what’s going on, they also need to feel that it’s OK to discuss the situation and ask questions. Let them know that their feelings and opinions are important, and try to answer questions as honestly as possible, in a way that they can understand and process. Remember this is a frightening time for all of you.
3. Give yourself time. It might take a little while to get used to having a relationship with your children separately from your wife. As you were often working they are more used to being away from you. Go easy on yourself if things don’t always go the way you plan. Give them time, nobody has given them the rule book on how to handle their parents separating, or how to make both parents feel loved still. It’s emotionally tough on you all. Time is a great healer.
4. Look at things through your child’s eyes. While you are probably worrying about the wider emotional implications and long- term effects of your new situation, your children may see things very differently. They might be more concerned about what’s going to happen with their summer holiday, arrangements for Christmas, etc. They probably have their own personal worries, such as other relationships, schooling, There may be a big upheaval in their lives caused by this separation, and of course this may well be their own priority.
5. Keep regular contact. Of course you want to see them as often as possible, but don’t forget they have a life of their own, particularly in your case where they are that bit older. When you do see them perhaps ask them what they want to do with you, instead of you always deciding. Phone calls are an easy way to stay in touch. Let them know they can call you anytime. You can also arrange to ring at a regular day and time, so you both can look forward to catching up. Text messages are also a great way to keep in touch with older children about little things during the day. Sending letters or cards is a wonderful way to let your children know you’re thinking about them. Modern technology, like Skype, can help maintain a personal connection. Just let them know you care, and that you’re thinking about them.
6. Have a workable relationship with your ex. Don’t put them in the middle of any conflict. You need to try and keep a civilised relationship with your partner to help reduce the stress on your children. Conflict between separated parents can cause emotional difficulties, as can criticising your partner in front of them or expecting them to take sides. Another common fear among children in this situation is that they will lose one of their parents, or that they will no longer be important to them, so you must always demonstrate that you will both always be there for them.
7. Be Consistent. Work especially hard on consistency—be regular and predictable in your communication and in keeping promises. Your consistency develops trust. It makes them realise that they’re important to you, and that you won’t let them down.
8. Set a good example. Always try to keep in mind that your children are a perfect reflection of you. Ghandi’s words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” serve as a wonderful guide: “Be the change you wish to see in your children.” Are you being the parent your children need you to be? Let them see you coping well with this situation, moving your life forward in positive ways. Be an example to them, a dad that any child would be proud of.
9. Let them know you are there for them. Don’t nag your kids about seeing you, let them know you are there for them and will always be ready to willing to help them when they need it, but back off and let them decide when they’re ready. Give them some space without them feeling like you are giving up on them, or trying to push them too much.
10. Don’t go it alone. Other single parents can be a great support. There are many online discussion sites and forums, which you can find through a Google search, just get in touch with one and see if it helps. There are many dads out there, who are struggling through the everyday challenge of fathering. Many are too proud to ask for help, you have been man enough to seek the help we would all need at a time like this.
You have wonderful times ahead. Make sure you are there for them for their future. They may have some big times ahead such as succeeding with their education, selecting a mate, setting up their own home, learning to live with a marriage partner, starting a family, bringing up their own children, managing a home, getting started in an occupation and taking on adult responsibilities. There’s a place for a father in each of these tasks. And your role in their life will never stop.
Love is a powerful motivator, you will find your way.
Is there any advice you my readers can offer here. I would really appreciate your input on this situation. Please place them in the comment section. Here i am asking you to HELP the Coach!
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It is sad when a parent is going through a divorce especially when kids are involved. Tough on both sides and tougher for the kids as they are caught in the middle…
There is no correct way as what works for one may not work for another. Honesty and Patience and LOVE is needed especially from the adults as they began this process.
What happens between the adults should not be carried or burden the kids….
Larry you pretty much said what needs to be said… A child’s world is broken when parents divorce so before taking this step ask yourself honestly…..
Savira – its definetely a hard thing for all involved. Such a sad time, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Many parents try and work through things, staying together for the sake of the children, but in many of these cases i feel that it creates a worse situation for the kids. Divorce is certainly not something that should ever be taken lightly, but the home environment in which they live has to be condusive to a happy setting to bring the best out of them.
You have offered some very positive suggestions Larry. Divorce and separation where children are involved can be extremely challenging, but doesn’t have to be impossible. I think it might also be an idea to try and focus on a positive outcome to the situation…the possibility of forging close and loving relationships with the children is also very real, and the process of imagining that and feeling the positive emotions, can open the door to that desired outcome.
I know at times it can be difficult to find something positive in a tough situation, but if we keep searching, we will find it.
Bec as always you are spot on. We all know the saying every cloud has a silver lining. We know that every negative has a positive, just sometimes they are hard to find. Maybe if things between the parents had been fraut, instead of growing up in a house where arguments are rife, the children will now have a home at peace. Both parents can find happiness, maybe even be better friends than they were spouses. Perhaps the kids can now get two holidays abroad, one with their father, the other with the mother. Of course being one happy family would have been im sure all of their first choice, but now they have to find the best alternatives.
I enjoyed reading your article. Especially your words,
“Love is a powerful motivator, you will find your way.”
Great advice. Great information. I like your style. Thanks for sharing.
Linda Della Donna
Author of “A Gift of Love, A Widow’s Memoir”
Linda thank you so much for your wonderful comment. I hope to see you back and commenting more in the future.
Larry, my son Ron has gone through his parents divorce and I know it hasnt been an easy road for him. For the first three years he and his father would meet regularly but I moved away and things changed. It is only now after more than ten years he is connecting with his father again and I feel it is a very positive thing. I cant think of any more useful tips to give, you have covered it all. above all in a divorce the adults should always keep their battle away from the children. Children have no choice in this, they cannot take sides and they are torn. We as parents should not make it any difficult for them.
Rimly thank you for sharing and for actually adding a marvellous piece of advise. Both parents in any separation or divorse, have to always remember, no matter how great their dispute is with other, their responsibilities as parents is to protect their children no matter what. of course there will be hurt, but as long as the children see they are loved, and cared for, and they are not used as piggy’s in the middle then like kids can they will quickly recover and adapt to the situation
Great points Larry, as a divorced mom I found it hard to let my feelings effect how I wanted life to be for my son. I put aside my own desires, and wants and devoted everything I had in making sure my son grew from a 2 year old toddler to a well rounded young man. His father and I were horrible partners, but I feel great parents, always remaining civil and friendly and understanding of each others needs and wants for our son.
Debbie, you are a great example of how to never forget our children come first. I hope you can look at your son and enjoy a few moments of personal adulation about the part you played in him becoming the man he is.
Larry,my daughter is still confused,in between she became so aggressive,and I hated myself to put her through all this.She talks to her father everyday,and will be meeting him after 10 months next week.I have decided never again to settle down,cant do this to her. I always wanted a civil relationship with her father,but things never go the way we want…still waiting for more.
Alpana – when we expect the worse we get the worse. You are obviously still hurting and that is natural. Please, if you are going to look ahead see yourself at peace and know that what ever life brings to you will create happiness. The wounds are still fresh for all of you, but time is a great healer, if you allow it to be.
Me and the boss separated 8 years ago when the kids where but two and three years old. We kept everything as normal as possible and still did things as a family 😉 Our kids are much happier and well adjusted people then either of us!
Charles, you both found a way to behave and act that obviously paid dividends with regards your kids.
and yes..real men do cry
Alpana Surely that’s only when we have an accident and find that we are struck with force between our legs
Some really helpful tips and insights into a very difficult situation so many face. This post can prove a blessing to many.
Jessica thank you for your thoughts. It is such a difficult traumatic time, i do hope that i can through this article help others cope a little better.
Larry, What a wonderfully expressed post. I think you have hit all the important points on the proverbial head.
How I wish my ex would read this and re-evaluate his feelings. We have a very strained relationship and I am quite sure much of it is from anger… instead of just letting loose and releasing his emotions, it comes out angry and has less than positive effects on the kids… and me for that matter.
I can completely put myself in his shoes or the shoes of any father who does not reside with his children. Unfortunately however, I feel unless they were to read a post like this one and really take it to heart, often things don’t change.
This was a very touching post Larry. One that all parents should read, particularly in divorced situations.
Keep up the awesome work.
Jayne WOW thank you for this comment. I’m sorry that you have had to deal with this in your own life. The problem with so many men is that we are of the belief that we have to hold our emotions in. We do not share our true feelings. often we won’t even voice them to our best friend. We bottle it up. I admit long ago i was like that, but events in my life showed me, its better out than in.
What a wonderful post i am impressed.
I think it’s a natural tendency of man. They always showing they are strong enough but inside they are so week… it’s my personal opinion because i know some of my friends they always looks strong but they are so much hurt from inside, maximum time they don’t express there feelings to world.
Mellisa … this is meant to be a secret only known to men and not shared with women