This Father’s Day I salute all fathers, especially divorced dads in a co-parenting situation.

You are vital to your kids, you are worthy, you are appreciated. We see you. 

Here are 5 tips for dads who are co-parenting:

Tip #1 : Don’t feel obligated to move at the speed of your co-parent

If you are a father who had just received the news from your spouse that she wants to end your marriage, custody of the kids may be the first thing on your mind.

In some cases, one spouse has already planned the detailed parenting time, where the kids will live, who will do the pickups and drop offs to all their activities…. practically choosing what meals they will have for each day of the week for the next two years!

This can cause a surge of anxiety, or even anger.

I recommend a more collaborative response. When she opens up the 13 tab Excel sheet that shows you her plans, you can simply say, “Thank you for being proactive and planning this out, I will consider it and get back to you when I am ready. I need time to process the end of our marriage, before I make decisions on parenting. I would appreciate you being kind and patient with me.”

Tip #2: You don’t always have to meet in the middle

The prevailing mindset these days is that decisions made after separation have to be a) fully approved by both parents, and b) shared equally in terms of cost and logistics.

It doesn’t always have to be that way. Here’s an example:

You really want your kid to be in hockey, and your co-parent doesn’t agree. Let’s face it: hockey is an expensive sport and one that requires getting up early in the cold winter days.

Nevertheless, if hockey is important to you, why not offer to pay all the fees and do all the drop-offs, even on her days with the kids. She may be more open to considering the sport if her burden is lightened.

Tip #3: Stand up for your role

Divorced dads are much more than how they’re often portrayed by the media, movies and TV shows.

The vast majority of separated fathers I meet want to have equal time with their kids, they want to be there for their kids’ everyday lives as well as their milestones, and their top priority is that their kids are happy and thriving

Some mothers feel that it is their sole responsibility to provide all these things for the kids. Fathers know that successful parenting is a collaboration, however that may look for their specific family.

Tip #4: There’s nothing wrong with being the “fun” parent

A new study from Ohio State University found “that traits often seen as old-fashioned male stereotypes were linked to more positive parenting behaviours.”

The study found these traits are linked to being “fun fathers,” including qualities like competitiveness and adventurousness. 

Fathers statistically tend to encourage their kids to take more risk with traditional play- climb higher, swim farther, run faster. In many cases, these nudges are well received by the kids, who adore playtime with dad.

It’s easy to assume this type of parenting is less important than some of the more routine and serious aspects of the job, but that’s not the case.

When these adventurous characteristics are combined with a genuine desire to nurture, Dads who step in as the “fun parent” go far beyond their role as playmate. They’re actually helping their kids become more successful adults.

Tip #5: Divorced dads: don’t tough it out, talk it out

Despite the fun parts of being a father, let’s not kid ourselves, it is a challenging task. Coparenting makes it even harder.

It can be difficult to communicate with your co-parent, talk with kids who are struggling, or simply deal with the loneliness of an empty house on your off days.  

I want to encourage you to reach out to a friend or a sibling. For many dads it’s hard to show “weakness”, but the people who love you want to help you. They can help you by simply listening.

If you don’t have that kind of closeness with anyone around you, consider counselling. Counselling will help you process what happened, understand where you are now, and plan for a brighter fun-filled future with your kids.

In all that you do, Dads we appreciate you! If you’re in Alberta (anywhere!) and struggling to maintain a good relationship with your ex, consider mediation. Give us a call and we will help you learn what’s possible.