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!