A new year is beginning and that means it’s time for new year’s resolutions. If you are a single father, chances are good that one of your resolutions is to be the best dad you can be in 2019. Whether you are newly separated from your ex or you have been a single father for man years now, here are some tips on improving your relationship with your child and being the best father possible.
Respect Your Child’s Mother
It took two people to create this child, and ideally, it takes two people to raise a child. You might or might not be in the position where your child’s mother is taking on an avid role in raising him or her. Whether you are raising your child on your own or you have joint custody or visitation, it is important that you do not bad-mouth your ex. It is understandable that you might have some issues getting along with her, and there might be some trauma in your relationship. Regardless of the situation, your child deserves to have two parents who can each respect the other.
In addition to not bad-mouthing your ex, talk to her about issues pertaining to your child. Stay in communication and try to work together as you co-parent. This will help give your son or daughter a sense of security.
Honor Your Custody or Visitation Agreement
Whether or not you agree with it, it is important that you honor your custody or visitation agreement. In a perfect situation, you and your ex will share joint custody of your child and you’ll each have him or her for roughly half the time. In reality, your case might or might not work out that way. If you disagree with your judgment, you might be able to go back to court. In the meantime, however, it is important to honor the agreement that you do have.
Sometimes, fathers are awarded supervised visitation. This can happen if there has been a history of abuse, mental illness, or substance abuse. If you are in this situation, you might be able to follow a case plan in order to get unsupervised visitation in the future. Make sure that you do what is on your plan. For example, you might need to go to anger management classes or counseling, spend some time in rehabilitation, or talk to a doctor about medications for untreated mental illness. In some cases, you will not be able to have unsupervised visitation. In this case, attend your visitation times and do your best to create a relationship with your child.
Pay Child Support as Ordered
The child support that you pay, if applicable, will fund things like housing, utilities, school supplies, clothing, and other necessities for your son or daughter. Withholding child support is not only illegal but it is potentially harmful to your child. This is true even if you don’t agree with the way your ex is spending the money. It’s even true if your ex is not allowing you to have the visitation or custody that has been ordered in your case.
Contact National Family Solutions for help if you need to request a child support modification or if your child’s mother is not letting you see your child. A legal resource group can help you assert your rights to see your child and can also help you ask for a fair child support agreement.
Create Memories and Traditions
You might feel as though you’re at a disadvantage when it comes to creating traditions with your child. This can feel particularly true if you are struggling financially or if it is the first year that you are spending without being married or partnered. The good news is that you do not need two parents and you do not need a lot of money to create traditions and memories that your child will treasure for a lifetime.
If you are worried about how you will spend holidays or birthdays, think about what you used to do as a child. Your strongest memories likely have little to do with a large financial investment and instead revolve around family togetherness. You can have that togetherness even if it’s just the two of you. Maybe you can prepare a special food that your parent or grandparent prepared for you as a child. Or maybe you might be able to come up with something completely new, such as volunteering at a certain organization, going for a walk in the snow or at the beach, or taking photographs in front of a particular tree. Use your creativity and don’t hesitate to look for ideas online.
Be Affectionate and Loving
Part of being a father is being affectionate with and showing love to your child. Whether you have a boy or a girl and whether your child is a baby, a preschooler, or a teenager, be sure to show affection in an age-appropriate way. Tell your child that you love them and don’t be afraid to hug your child. Play with them on their level and spend time doing the things they enjoy. A child will remember that Dad took them to the park, played legos on the floor, and spent time talking about what was important to them well into adulthood.
Be Firm When Needed
At the same time, it is important that you offer firm and loving guidance to your child. Don’t get into the habit of being only the “fun parent” and leaving your child’s mother to handle discipline and teaching. Let them know your expectations for their behavior, and decide on age-appropriate boundaries and consequences for breaking those boundaries. For a young child, that might entail a time-out, while an older child or teen might lose privileges for breaking the rules. Remember that your job is to teach your child how to function in an adult world and that they need to learn how to follow rules and laws.
You can be the best dad you can be in 2019 by being a solid, loving presence in your child’s life. If you aren’t sure how to get the rights to see and spend time with your child, contact National Family Solutions for help.