Divorce –The Children & Their Needs
The reports are in, the statistics are out, you’ve heard the news. Nearly everywhere you turn, divorce is on the rise. In fact, chances are you know someone personally who is in the process or has been through a divorce. That couple that you thought had what it takes to go the distance suddenly announces that it wasn’t meant to be.
But as tragic as the dissolution of a marriage is, the tragedy is compounded when kids are involved. Even the best of divorces, where both sides are most concerned with the well-being of the children, can’t ignore the fact that children simply do better emotionally, psychologically, even academically, when they’re being raised in a two-parent home.
But when that environment is no longer an option, what’s a single-parent to do?
The Presence of Male Role Models
While it’s true that single-fathers are becoming a much more socially acceptable option, according to US statistics, still more than 80% of single-parent families are headed by mothers. In practical terms, that’s a lot of children that are being raised without the presence of a male role model.
The best-case scenario for these mums is that there is a grandfather or uncle that can step in and fill the void. But if extended family is not an option or is simply nonexistent, these mums may find that they now have to wear the pants in the family as well.
It may seem the obvious conclusion that boys are missing out most on having their dad around. After all, who will play sports with him, roughhouse and teach him how to shave?
But in reality, it’s just as important for a young girl to have a father figure in her life. He’s the one who will demonstrate how a man treats a lady, and research shows that a woman’s healthy romantic relationships are based primarily on the relationship she had with her father.
Be a Father to the Fatherless
So how do you fit in? As a father, you have the amazing opportunity to shape the lives of your children and provide them with the encouragement and strength that only a father can give. But does your role stop there? Look around and you’ll find children do need a stable, healthy male figure in their lives.
Perhaps you have a female colleague or a neighbour with children in tow just trying to keep the pieces together. Why not consider being a father to these fatherless children? Being that voice that challenges these children to do more, go farther, and do it to the best of their ability.
Reach Out in a Formal Role
Even if you don’t personally know a single-parent family whose children would benefit from a male’s presence, consider volunteering in a programme that will put you in touch with such children regularly. Teach them a skill such as reading.
Why not take up coaching? Whether it be basketball or chess, coaching provides an environment for you to positively influence the children in your care; to reach them in a place where they’re doing something that they enjoy and are passionate about.
Just Reach Out
Here are some ways that you can extend your fathering role to the fatherless:
1.Find something that you have in common with the child. Do you enjoy the same sports, play a musical instrument, or does he aspire to pursue the same career as you? However you can, establish that connection to form the basis of your relationship.
2.Take the child shopping for special occasions like Mother’s Day or on her birthday. Mum is usually the one to help with gift buying for special occasions; what a special surprise for her to receive something chosen especially for her by her kids.
3.If she has a son, take time to have an age appropriate talk about the birds and the bees. You would relieve a lot a pressure for a mum to talk to her son about some of those sensitive issues.
4.Invite her children to spend the afternoon with your family. It will provide mum with a much need break and allow the kids to see how a father interacts with his own children and wife.
5.If she and you both have daughters, take them both out on a “date”. Make the evening special and treat them with respect and dignity. Chances are, she’s rarely, if ever, had this kind of experience with a man in her life.
6.Above all, don’t promise more than you can deliver. Kids from single-parents situation have had enough experience with broken promises.
In a time when divorce is increasing and the phenomenon of the single-parent is much more accepted, it’s important to remember that just because it’s more common doesn’t mean it’s the best environment – especially for children.
Children need to have the presence of both a mother and a father, and regardless of whether you are blood related, you have the opportunity to fill the void for these children.
About the Author: Danielle Whetstone, is a Manager with Focus on the Family Singapore (FOTFS). FOTFS is a local charity dedicated to helping families thrive. FOTFS aims to support every family with affordable and quality family life.
First published on 31-03-2011.