Friday, February 5, 2010

Avoiding The Disneyland Dad Problem

Recently divorced dads are prone to feeling insecure about their relationship with their kids, and when that happens they are likely to do things that they think will please their kids and gain their acceptance. They get caught up in the "disneyland dad" syndrome of doing, going and buying, thinking that if their kids have a good time they will look forward to coming back.

The truth is that children don't need lots of "stuff". They just need a dad that loves them and spends quality time with them. The reason divorced dads tend to feel insecure about their relationship with their children very likely stems from unresolved feelings connected with the divorce, and from having less contact.

After a divorce, non-custodial dads face a difficult adjustment when they go from being around their children every day to seeing them once a week or once every two weeks. They often find it hard to strike a balance between discipline and expressing love. In some cases they may try too hard to be the child's friend rather than just being a parent.

Here are some ideas that can help you avoid the Disneyland dad syndrome:

*Maintain a regular routine with bedtime and meals. Avoid letting your children stay up later than usual, set limits on sweets and snacks between meals.

*Maintain contact between visits to ease the sadness that you and the kids feel when they go back to mom's house. Encourage them to call you between visits. Make an agreement to call them one or two nights a week at a certain time, and stick to it. This type of structure helps children feel secure.

*Make arrangements to visit your child's school. The more frequently you see them, the better you can maintain the bonds between you.

*Suggest that your children come up with ideas about what to do, ideas that are fun and inexpensive.

Remember that the Disneyland dad syndrome stems from your feelings of sadness, guilt and anger connected with the divorce, regardless of who initiated it. Divorce is a major life-changing experience, and you need support for yourself. Doing so will help you make an easier adjustment.

When your children are with you, give of yourself and your time. This is what they want most of all.