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A Father’s Impact on Child Development

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Thursday, November 10, 2022

A Father’s Impact on Child Development

By: Children’s Bureau 6/07/2018




 

Father’s Day is a time in which we recognize fathers and father figures and their contributions to their children, as well as society overall. There are tremendous advantages that are afforded to children who have active, involved fathers during childhood and adolescence. The Fatherhood Project, a non-profit fatherhood program seeking to improve the health and well-being of children and families by empowering fathers to be knowledgeable, active, and emotionally engaged with their children, researched the specific impacts of father engagement during the different childhood development stages.

Here are ten important facts that were collected during their research:

10 Facts About Father Engagement


  1. Fathers and infants can be equally as attached as mothers and infants. When both parents are involved with the child, infants are attached to both parents from the beginning of life.
  2. Father involvement is related to positive child health outcomes in infants, such as improved weight gain in preterm infants and improved breastfeeding rates.[2]
  3. Father involvement using authoritative parenting (loving and with clear boundaries and expectations) leads to better emotional, academic, social, and behavioral outcomes for children.
  4. Children who feel a closeness to their father are: twice as likely as those who do not to enter college or find stable employment after high school, 75% less likely to have a teen birth, 80% less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms.
  5. Fathers occupy a critical role in child development. Father absence hinders development from early infancy through childhood and into adulthood. The psychological harm of father absence experienced during childhood persists throughout the life course.
  6. The quality of the father-child relationship matters more than the specific amount of hours spent together. Non-resident fathers can have positive effects on children’s social and emotional well-being, as well as academic achievement and behavioral adjustment.
  7. High levels of father involvement are correlated with higher levels of sociability, confidence, and self-control in children. Children with involved fathers are less likely to act out in school or engage in risky behaviors in adolescence.
  8. Children with actively involved fathers are: 43% more likely to earn A’s in school and 33% less likely to repeat a grade than those without engaged dads.
  9. Father engagement reduces the frequency of behavioral problems in boys while also decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families.
  10. Father engagement reduces psychological problems and rates of depression in young women.

Overall, the impact that fathers and father figures can make is substantial. Just as there are many positive aspects to father involvement, the effects of father absence can be detrimental as well.

Father Absence

According to the 2007 UNICEF report on the well-being of children in economically advanced nations, children in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. rank extremely low in regard to social and emotional well-being in particular. Many theories have been explored to explain the poor state of our nation’s’ children. However, a factor that has been largely ignored, particularly among child and family policymakers, is the prevalence and devastating effects of father absence in children’s lives.

For starters, studies repeatedly show that children without fathers positively present in the home suffer greatly. Even before a child is born, their father’s attitudes regarding the pregnancy, behaviors during the prenatal period, and the relationship between their father and mother may indirectly influence risk for adverse birth outcomes. In early childhood, studies show that school-aged children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie. Overall, they were far more likely to exhibit prosocial behavior.

In adolescence, the implications of fatherless homes are incredible, as these children are more likely to experience the effects of poverty. Former president George W. Bush even addressed the issue while in office, stating, “Over the past four decades, fatherlessness has emerged as one of our greatest social problems. We know that children who grow up with absent-fathers can suffer lasting damage. They are more likely to end up in poverty or drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a child out of wedlock, or end up in prison. Fatherlessness is not the only cause of these things, but our nation must recognize it is an important factor.”

 

Narratively speaking, many individuals can attest to the fact that the lasting impact of a father in child’s life cannot be denied. Many would admit that they have struggled with feelings of abandonment and low self-esteem, due to the lack of a father’s love in their lives.  Some have turned to drugs, alcohol, risky sexual activities, unhealthy relationships, or other destructive behaviors to numb the pains of fatherlessness.

Although the absence of their father is not an isolated risk factor, it definitely can take a toll on the development of children. This is important to take note of, as many would argue that one parental role is more significant than the other. That is simply not true.

According to Psychology Today, researchers have found these narratives to be true. The results of father absence on children are nothing short of disastrous, along a number of dimensions:

  1. Children’s diminished self-concept, and compromised physical and emotional security (children consistently report feeling abandoned when their fathers are not involved in their lives, struggling with their emotions and episodic bouts of self-loathing)
  2. Behavioral problems (fatherless children have more difficulties with social adjustment, and are more likely to report problems with friendships, and manifest behavior problems; many develop a swaggering, intimidating persona in an attempt to disguise their underlying fears, resentments, anxieties and unhappiness)
  3. Truancy and poor academic performance (71 percent of high school dropouts are fatherless; fatherless children have more trouble academically, scoring poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills; children from father absent homes are more likely to play truant from school, more likely to be excluded from school, more likely to leave school at age 16, and less likely to attain academic and professional qualifications in adulthood)
  4. Delinquency and youth crime, including violent crime (85 percent of youth in prison have an absent father; fatherless children are more likely to offend and go to jail as adults)
  5. Promiscuity and teen pregnancy (fatherless children are more likely to experience problems with sexual health, including a greater likelihood of having intercourse before the age of 16, foregoing contraception during first intercourse, becoming teenage parents, and contracting sexually transmitted infection; girls manifest an object hunger for males, and in experiencing the emotional loss of their fathers egocentrically as a rejection of them, become susceptible to exploitation by adult men)
  6. Drug and alcohol abuse (fatherless children are more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs in childhood and adulthood)
  7. Homelessness (90 percent of runaway children have an absent father)
  8. Exploitation and abuse (fatherless children are at greater risk of suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, being five times more likely to have experienced physical
  9. Abuse and emotional maltreatment, with a one hundred times higher risk of fatal abuse; a recent study reported that preschoolers not living with both of their biological parents are 40 times more likely to be sexually abused)
  10. Physical health problems (fatherless children report significantly more psychosomatic health symptoms and illness such as acute and chronic pain, asthma, headaches, and stomach aches)
  11. Mental health disorders (father absent children are consistently overrepresented on a wide range of mental health problems, particularly anxiety, depression and suicide)
  12. Life chances (as adults, fatherless children are more likely to experience unemployment, have low incomes, remain on social assistance, and experience homelessness)
  13. Future relationships (father absent children tend to enter partnerships earlier, are more likely to divorce or dissolve their cohabiting unions, and are more likely to have children outside marriage or outside any partnership)
  14. Mortality (fatherless children are more likely to die as children, and live an average of four years less over the life span)

 

 

Tips for Dads

Dads! It would be best if you made every effort to become actively involved in your child’s life – whether you live in the same home as them or not. Here are some great ways to create healthy, positive engagement with your children (adapted from the Modern Dad Dilemma):

  1. Speak positively to, and about, their mother. It is so important to be on the same page as their mother about what you desire your role to be, and what that will look like. This is especially important when the relationship is severed through divorce or separation. Be clear and respectful, emphasizing your desire to be an involved father to your children. Also, speak positively about her in front of your children! You may have disagreements at times, but your child needs to know that you respect their mother. They are just as much her child as they are theirs! Speaking poorly of their mother will only damage your relationship with them.
  2. Create a vision for fatherhood engagement. Twenty years from now, what do you hope your children say about you as a father? What do you hope they don’t say? Answering these questions will help you clarify your sense of purpose as a dad and guide you in important decisions with your own children. How can you get there?
  3. Be the bridge between your own father and your children. Whether or not you look to your father (or mother) as a model for parenting, the legacy of our parents, for better and for worse, lives inside each of us.This is why it’s important to explore and understand your family legacy, particularly your relationship with your father. How will you pass on the positive aspects of your relationship with your father to your own children? How will you avoid repeating the negative aspects of your relationship with your father?
  4. Establish a ritual dad time. One way to spend positive time with your child regularly is to create a Ritual DadTime. This is not meant to replace more frequent rituals like taking your kids to school or reading to them at bedtime. Get together as father/child at least once a month. Minimally for at least one to two hours and with only one child at a time (this may be difficult for larger families, but it is essential for building a one-on-one relationship). Choose an activity you both agree on. You may allow your child to choose or alternate who decides. We don’t recommend executive decisions, except in cases of extreme resistance. Make sure you talk during your time together. Using “action talk” (i.e., shooting baskets or playing video games while talking) is great, but men also need to model face-to-face dialogue for children of all ages. You don’t always need a distraction! Be consistent. The ritual does not have to be on the same day each month, but make sure it happens so your child can count on it. Try scheduling your next ritual time at the end of each time together!
  5. Know your children. Every child craves the interest, attention, and presence of their primary caregivers. They need you to know who they are as unique individuals, not as vessels for our own grand plans or unrealized dreams. By becoming an expert about your children’s lives – knowing what a certain look on their face means, the best way to get them to sleep, who their friends are, what they’re doing in school, what causes them stress — you send a clear and powerful message that they are worthy of your time, interest, and attention.

 

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8 Big Signs Your Marriage Isn’t in Trouble

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, December 17, 2021

8 Big Signs Your Marriage Isn’t in Trouble

There's always work to be done. Taking a moment to realize how good you're doing is important.

By Jeremy Brown  Dec 13 2021, 12:54 PM



 

It’s easy to get caught up on the wrong side of self-improvement, isn’t it? To focus on your weaknesses rather than your strengths. This can be especially true of relationships. You know what you and your partner need to work on (because you talk about it, right?) but it’s easy to get so bogged down in the whole being-better-than-yesterday thing that you lose sight of — or don’t take the time to appreciate — the areas where you succeed. It’s a natural impulse (we humans are, after all, wired to focus more on the negative) but one to actively fight. Because in focusing on what works — whether that’s discussing each other’s points of view openly, making time for fun in your relationship, or being able to enjoy a quiet silence together — we’re able to live in the moment and enjoy the small victories. That’s a big win. So, in the effort of helping you focus on just that, here are some eight signs your relationship is doing alright. 

1. You Know You’re a Work in Progress (And You’re Willing to Do the Work) 

It’s easy to look at other couples and think Why aren’t we more like them? or to list out all the ways your relationship could be better. While comparison is the thief of joy, it’s good to have goals and keep in mind some points of improvement so forward progress can be made. Healthy couples understand that they haven’t reached perfection, and that they probably never will. They do, however, have a vision of where they want their relationship to go and are committed to doing what it takes to get there. “They understand the power of yet,” says Kathryn Ford, MD, a practicing psychotherapist and couples therapist. “As in, ‘We’re not good at offering positive comments — yet!’ The most important attribute of a good relationship is the ability to learn.” 

2. You Take Risks (And You Encourage Your Spouse to As Well) 

Trying new things, and supporting your partner when they are inspired to, say, take a new class, learn a new skill, or embark on a unique adventure, helps keep the marriage fresh. Importantly, it also provides opportunities for you to learn and grow, both independently and together. Healthy couples know to prioritize risk and to stretch beyond their comfort zone. “This means that you will fumble and make mistakes,” Ford says. “In a good relationship, you encourage each other to do this – rewarding the effort even when the results aren’t yet what you hope for.”

3. You Have Different Points of View (And You’re Open to Them) 

Healthy couples own and explore each other’s respective points of view. When you want different things, you don’t spend the discussion trying to get your way or digging in your heels on the opposite side just to spite your partner. Instead, you hear what they have to say, take it into consideration, and vice versa. Then, you compromise or relent based on whatever factors are involved. Will it be easy? No. But it’s a balance. “Treat all ideas offered as valuable,” says Ford, “and then both of you play with all points of view instead of owning one and getting into a tug of war about who’s right.”

4. You Don’t Always Talk When You’re Alone (And That’s Okay) 

Comfortable silences speak volumes. Healthy couples understand that not every moment alone together requires that the two of you have some deep and meaningful discussion. Sometimes just being together is enough. “No, you aren’t required by some command of the universe to get absolutely everything off of your chest the moment you feel it,” says Lee Wilson, a relationship coach with 20 years of experience. “That doesn’t mean that you keep everything bottled up or that you don’t have disagreements. It means that sometimes it’s a great thing after a busy day to be able to say nothing while simply resting with the one you love.”

5. You Don’t Tell Your Spouse Everything (Because It’s Unnecessary) 

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be honest with your spouse. You very much should. What healthy couples understand is that they don’t need to do is voice every concern, every flaw, and every negative trait that you see in your partner. “Your job as a spouse is not to make your spouse a better person. Your job is to love your spouse,” says Wilson. “People often become better versions of themselves when they feel loved and feeling that their spouse is overly critical often has the exact opposite impact.”

6. The Fireworks Have Dimmed (But You Have Something Better) 

The early days of any relationship are filled with incredible highs and almost magical feelings of bliss. This is a result of something known as “limerence,” a dopamine-fueled state that causes intense feelings of infatuation for another person. Limerence can be wonderful, but it always subsides and the couples that last are the ones who are still happy with what remains: commitment, companionship, and connection. “That doesn’t mean that there won’t still be occasional fireworks and highs — especially when you do new things together,” Wilson says. “But the highs of the early days of your relationship will fade and it’s not realistic to expect them to be permanent.”

7. You Apologize When Necessary (And Work Hard on Your Apologies) 

Things happen. We all make mistakes. To err is human, and so on. The healthiest couples understand this and, importantly, try not to let pride stand in the way of admitting fault or seeing the forest through the trees. They also work hard at making necessary apologies meaningful (here’s what all good apologies require) and accepting meaningful apologies from their partner. “It’s much more important to be quick to acknowledge mistakes and generous in forgiveness than to not make mistakes,” says Ford. “And attachment research shows that a good repair process strengthens bonds.”


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15 Ways I’m Making Sure My Son Grows Up to Be A Real Man

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Monday, April 26, 2021

15 Ways I’m Making Sure My Son Grows Up to Be A Real Man

My truths for raising a strong, loving, compassionate, caring and empathetic dude.

Father and Son at the Beach



By Ryan Link for Fatherly

It has been more than two years since I first read the Huffington Post blog entry by Justin Ricklefs titled 15 Things all Dads of Daughters Should Know. The 15 things seem like no-brainers when you read them. But in practice, I find it difficult to feel like I am successful in all of those areas on a regular basis. So, I’ve revisited the article every month religiously (I have a monthly reminder set) in an effort to remind myself of the importance of being a positive role model for my daughter, and as a regular check on how I am doing.

While I am still working toward perfecting my role as dad to my daughter, I have been thinking more about what 15 things I should focus on in raising my son as well. After reflecting on my own childhood and the past 10 years of raising my son, I have identified 15 truths for raising a strong, loving, compassionate, caring and empathetic dude.


Teach Him the Power of Love by Telling Him “I Love You” Every Chance You Get

He wants to be loved by you just as much as any daughter. He may shrug it off during his teen years, but he wants to hear it on a regular basis. Our family started saying “I love you” regularly from the beginning (props to my incredible wife for bringing this practice from her family to ours). Now, my son and I rarely end any discussion, phone call or text exchange without those 3 powerful words. Sometimes he says it first, sometimes I do. But it is a regular reminder that our love for one another is there, regardless of the situation, and it is the norm for males to openly express that to each other.


You Are a Direct Influence on How He Acts With Other Boys and Men

He is watching, whether you know it or not. Teach him that everyone on this great planet is equal and deserving of love and respect. Be the man, friend, and partner you want him to become.


As He Grows Up, Go All-In

I did some really stupid things growing up, he will too. There is a fine line between being overbearing and letting him learn from his mistakes. Science tells us that the male brain takes longer to mature than the female brain, this is partially why teenage boys do stupid things. But we should not let this be an excuse. You can be his friend during the teen years, but that should not stand in the way of your being his dad first and foremost.


Treat His Mom Well — He Is Watching

The way you treat his mom will shape how he treats women throughout his life, including his future partner. To paraphrase Justin Ricklefs, “One of the best things you can do for your daughter [or son] is to love [their] mom well.”


Let Your Feelings and Emotions Show, and Show Him It’s Alright to Cry

This one is huge, and I say that from personal experience. I grew up in a very loving family, but somehow I came out as an adult that was not confident in showing his emotions. God bless my wife — when I met her 25 years ago I didn’t have much to say, didn’t voice my own opinions and was emotionless. To this day I wonder what she saw in me. There is still resistance by males in this world to show emotion as if it is some sign of weakness. Steer your son away from this mindset, by all means necessary.


I remember one time my son and I both cried together, initially in sorrow and then in laughter. I am embarrassed to admit that it did happen in a rather stereotypical male way (over the Baltimore Raven’s losing their playoff game in 2012 that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl). Since then we have seen each other shed tears during movies and other emotional times. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign that we are human and we care.


Teach Him How to Stand Up for Others and What Is Right

Now more than ever it is important for him to have confidence in standing up for what is right and to know that his dad supports him. Whether it is standing up for a cause he is passionate about, a friend, his sister, or an innocent bystander. He needs to know that there are certain things that are worth fighting for.


Make As Many Memories As Possible

And they don’t have to occur in a “man cave.”


Make Sure He Knows It’s Not Always About Him

As good citizens and humans, we have the opportunity to make a difference in this world every day. But in the overall scheme of things, we are insignificant — but a speck on the universal time line. He will be remembered not for how cool he thought he was but for the type of person he truly was and how he treated others.


Show Up to His Events (He Will Remember)

To this day I don’t remember the score, opposing team or outcome of the majority of the lacrosse or soccer games I ever played growing up. But I vividly remember glancing to the sideline while I was on the playing field and seeing my dad leaning on the fence cheering me on. The first person a boy looks to for approval and acceptance is his dad — he needs to know that you are paying attention.


Be Present

I still struggle with this, I’m sure I am not the only one. Mobile phones are a daily part of our lives and jobs. Teach yourself to put them away and give him your undivided attention. Do play plenty of non-violent video games with him, but leave your phone somewhere else.


Show Him How to Clean Up Well

Teach him to wash, wear deodorant and brush his teeth properly, every day. There is something to be said for not worrying about this at a young age, but our sons need to know that this is part of being respectful and considerate to others.


Teach Him the Meaning and Importance of Beauty

It is important for him to appreciate the beauty in other people and the world around him. As dads, we need to help our sons understand that beauty is more than just looks. The sooner our sons understand this, the sooner they will shift the paradigm for the better.


Encourage Him to Be Friends With Boys and Girls

Growing up I was never friends with girls — boys were friends, girls were girlfriends. As a result, I was very awkward around girls throughout my school age years. I see this same dynamic play out with boys and girls today. Make sure your son knows how to be friends with girls from a young age and treats them the same as anyone of his boy friends. They could turn out to be the most valuable long-term friendships he has. He will thank you for it one day.


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How to Teach Kids to Listen, Change Their Minds

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, March 09, 2021

How to Teach Kids to Listen, Change Their Minds

Listening is more than paying attention. It is about understanding the story being told.

By Matthew Utley Jun 05 2020, 1:41 PM

It can be hard to truly listen to other’s perspectives, particularly if they are far removed from one’s own experience or document pain that has been ignored for generations. But much of the pain and anguish displayed in cities across America today are the result of pleas falling on deaf ears, and ostensible allies dismissing the daily experiences of millions of fellow citizens because it seems so far outside their norm. It is a failure to listen and empathize with other perspectives. This is an oversimplification, but when people listen — really listen — and empathize, things can improve.

 

nd that makes it all the more important to teach children how to listen and empathize. Today’s children will still be sorting through these issues of justice when they enter adulthood, and the way a child is raised helps determine the kind of adult they become. So what can parents do to help raise kids who listen with empathy and emotional intelligence and can change their minds? It requires an ongoing conversation at every age. Here are some things to know.



 

Infancy: Be There For Your Baby


The seeds of empathy are planted during infancy, when neurological development is very sensitive to parental behavior. In fact, so many systems are developing in babies that even something as simple as changing a diaper reinforces socialization.

“A basic concept here is ‘neurons that fire together wire together’ – so when there is a diaper change, for example, all sorts of things happen: eye gazing, soothing speech, and relief of displeasure of a mushy diaper,” explain Dr. Brit Creelman, a licensed clinical psychologist at Allendale Association’s outpatient therapy clinic in Chicago.

Dr. Creelman adds that these social interactions happen in the context of needs being met, and regulation being supported, “with all this coming together in such a way that neurologically the brain starts to develop and become hard wired for well-regulated social interaction – the foundation building blocks for empathy.”

 

Early Childhood: Lead By Example, Focus on Empathy


Children in early childhood tend toward an egocentric moral position; they only understand the world from their own perspective, and form their moral positions based on what their family rewards as good behavior. This isn’t an indication of a bad kid — it’s simply how kids figure out the world. But it also presents parents with an excellent opportunity to nurture empathetic behaviors by modeling them. “The best way to raise empathetic kids is to do so by example,” says Dr. Lea Lis, a double board-certified adult and child psychiatrist and author of No Shame: Real Talk With Your Kids About Sex, Self-Confidence, and Healthy Relationships. Express emotions, talk about feeling sad, discuss making mistakes, listen intently to your kids and others, and your children will learn from watching you. Modeling is paramount. “Children often understand their emotional reality only in the context of others,” notes Dr. Lis. “They also understand if they will get into trouble, but have not really internalized why they must behave.” Parents, therefore, must model and explain why it is important to do the right thing, even if they won’t get into trouble.

Certain tools can help young children better understand empathy and the world in general. Reading fiction and discussing the feelings characters might have experienced during a particular moment. Feelings charts can help increase emotional vocabulary. Dr. Lis recommends social stories, which are narrative templates that allow children to run through various social situations and understand how to navigate them. Social stories often offer perspectives, discuss the feelings and opinions of multiple characters.  “They help children grasp social norms, routines, and expectations, like walking down the hall, using restroom facilities, following lunch procedures, using manners, using greetings, asking for help properly,” she says.

 

Grade Schoolers: Model Behavior, Validate Feelings


As children grow older and enter grade school, the social circle that influences their ideas of morality can expand. And while that can create problems, parents still wield an incredible amount of influence. Even older kids who are internalizing their ideas of right and wrong still watch parental cues. Moms and dads must therefore reinforce those cues by asking questions and genuinely listening to their children. Parents should make sure that listening includes allowing their children to feel their feelings, even if it is unpleasant.

Validating feelings is crucial, as brushing them off teaches kids to ignore and internalize them. “When a child is afraid, for example, it is probably more helpful to say things like ‘I see you are scared, tell me about it’ rather than glossing it over with comments like ‘Don’t worry you don’t have anything to be afraid of,’” says Creelman. “When a parent acknowledges and names feelings, this helps a child feel understood. Feeling this from others helps build the ability to do this when interacting with others later on, which is a foundational component of empathy.”

Adolescence: Get Your Kids Involved


Adolescence is often when kids start to address more complicated moral ideas, such as the concept of the ‘white lie.’ Once they are able to consider another person’s perspective, lying to preserve their feelings becomes a legitimate moral question. This is not the time to shelter kids. It is a time for them to read more, to get involved, to learn from experience. 


Great Communication Starts With Understanding Your Kid

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Great Communication Starts With Understanding Your Kid

The first five years are an explosive time in terms of development. Your little one understands more than you think. Here's how to talk to them.

By   

Co-Parenting During COVID-19

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Thursday, April 09, 2020

Co-Parenting During COVID-19:

7 Tips For Navigating Custody Agreements

The COVID-19 crisis can make co-parenting more difficult
for divorced parents with custody agreements.
Here's how to navigate some common scenarios.

By Jeremy Brown | Apr 07 2020, 6:16 PM



The coronavirus pandemic has turned lives upside down in ways that we are still trying to figure out. And  for all of the family strain that has come from living under quarantine, it is perhaps divorced parents are feeling it the most keenly. With schools closed and kids home, co-parents are adjusting to a new routine, trying to adhere to social distancing practices while also honoring custody agreements that are already in place.

“From the cases that we are seeing and hearing about, the biggest issue is about whether the parties are on the same page with social distancing,” says Sheryl Seiden, a founding partner at Seiden Family Law. “It is important for parents to remember that children need the love and affection of both of their parents in difficult and upsetting times like these, so parents need to put aside their differences and try to agree to a schedule or a system that protects the children physically and emotionally.”

For divorced or separated parents, co-parenting in general can be stressful, what with juggling schedules, calendars, commitments and new lifestyles. But in an era where just leaving the house could put you and your loved ones at risk, the stress is amplified even more.

“A lot of things have been stirred up,” says Rosalind Sedacca, CDC, a divorce and co-parenting coach, mentor, and the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. “One of which is the equation of custody even when the children just live a few blocks apart. Work schedules are different, people may have financial problems, parenting plans are unable to be followed. We need parents to be extremely flexible and cooperative in making changes that really work for these times and for the children.”

But, even the most well-intentioned co-parents can come up against unexpected challenges or situations, especially while navigating the COVID-19 crisis. We ran a few scenarios past the experts to gauge how co-parenting couples can best respond.

The Problem: One parent is taking social distancing less seriously than the other. They’re bringing the child or children to parks, religious services, or other gatherings that have been deemed unsafe.

The Solution: Communication is key, but, even in such dire circumstances, so is compromise. As much as we might like to draw a line in the sand, experts say that could actually create more problems. “There can be ways of compromising,” says Sedacca. “Saying, ‘If we do this or that your way, then let’s do two things my way.’ This way, everyone feels that their values are being validated while others are being compromised.”

Of course, when a child’s health and safety is at risk, then it becomes imperative for the other parent to speak up. However, they must do so in a way that does not sound like they’re simply enforcing their own opinions on the other parent. “There are a lot of articles online being written by mental health professionals,” says Sedacca. “You could show one to your partner and say, ‘Well, you may feel this way, but look at all of these articles that are saying you shouldn’t do this, or you should do that.’ And that’s a way of validating their opinion.”

The Problem: One parent doesn’t trust the other and tries to bar that parent from visitation.

The Solution: Unfortunately, this is a common situation in divorce cases, even without the added strain of coronavirus. One parent may feel that the other is not responsible enough or too lax with the rules and use that as an excuse to keep the kids home. Seiden suggests that parents try and come to an agreement ahead of time about how they will have quality time with their kids while keeping social distancing protocols in place.

“One approach that often works is to have both parents submit their proposals to ensure parenting time continues and social distancing is maintained,” says Seiden. “If they both submit their proposals without one party seeing the other party’s proposal first, chances are there will be some common themes that can be expanded upon.”

Sedacca agrees that putting your thoughts in writing is a good way to illustrate your concerns without the other partner feeling attacked. “It may be easier to send an email with some points,” she says. “Say, ‘The reason I’m so upset about this is one, two, and three,’ and try to create a valid argument that’s not emotionally crazy but that just addresses the points. Staying calm and not pointing the finger or demeaning the other parent is important.”   

The Problem: One parent is very worried and telling the kids coronavirus horror stories.

The Solution: It’s a scary time for everyone, and uncertainty abounds. But giving into fear, and especially bringing kids into it, can only be counterproductive. “You will need to work to neutralize this for your child, again without throwing the other parent under the bus,” says Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a psychologist and Family Expert for Life360. She recommends saying something along the lines of ‘Sometimes when our brains get very worried, we look around and all we can see are the scary things. It doesn’t mean those things are true – it is just what happens when brains are in a scared state.’ Then, highlight the inherent positive in this, saying “And even though we don’t need to be concerned about that kind of stuff, do you know what I really love? I love that [the other parent] loves you so much that you are the number one thing their worried brain thinks about.”

The Problem: One parent is very rigid and insists that schedules, appointed times, and dates have to be adhered to, despite whatever changes might come up.

The Solution: Generally speaking, structure is important in a co-parenting arrangement, as it creates stability and order in kids’ lives. However, times are different now and, more than ever, it’s important to be flexible. “Flexibility is critical,” says psychotherapist Dr. Dana Dorfman. “This is an extraordinarily stressful situation and can be an opportunity to model flexibility, prioritization, and values to children.”

“This is not a time to be rigid,” says Seiden. “For example, the parents need to have flexibility to adjust schedules to minimize exchanges, increase telephone or video contact between one parent and the children, to adjust schedules so that both parties can work from home, and to modify communication methods.” However, Seiden stresses that neither parent should be taken advantage of the flexibility to modify custody or parenting issues that do not need to be modified. 

The Problem: One parent loses their job and cannot pay child support.

The Solution: There is no roadmap for the situation we’re living in, and, as a result, it’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality. To that end, experts agree that, should one parent find themselves out of work, understanding should be the first response.

“In most cases, compassion breeds compassion,” says Dorfman. “This sentiment goes a long way, though it may be difficult to muster during trying times. Minimize hostility and suspending resentments amidst a crisis is advised.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the unemployed parent is off the hook for payments. Even in the wake of a lost job, support arrangements must be made. “Instead of demanding a modification of child support the day that he or she loses his or her job it is likely a better strategy to let the other parent know what happened and to start doing his or her best to tap into resources available and to look for other employment opportunities,” says Seiden.

The Problem: Tension threatens to spill over into an argument or bitter dispute.

The Solution: Everyone’s nerves are frayed beyond their limits these days, and, when it comes to divorce, COVID-19 is adding stress to an already stressed situation. Experts say to be mindful of every word you say right now, because you don’t want it to come back to haunt you, with Sedacca even suggesting having more conversations in writing than in person. “Don’t talk on the phone,” she says. “Put it all in writing. Send each other [texts or emails] that are fact-based. Don’t get into a lot of exposition and talking about other things. Stay very focused on the arrangements and the reality of what has to happen to take care of the children.”

However, it’s not realistic to assume that all communication will be done via text, and couples should have some arrangement in place. Ben Heldfond, who, along with his ex-wife, Nikki DeBartolo, is the author of Our Happy Divorce says he and his ex have a plan that they adhere to avoid communication breakdowns: the four texts/email rule. “It is simple and easy,” he says. “After the fourth text/email goes back and forth, it is time to get on the phone. Email and text are an easy way to communicate, but sometimes people hear what they want, and tones are never accurately portrayed.”

The Problem: Work schedules are different now, and families with healthcare workers/first responders may need extra latitude.

The Solution: Sedacca recommends parents whose work schedules have changed as a result of COVID-19 should meet with a mediator to see about renegotiating the parenting arrangement. Conversations can be had about allowing the children to spend more time with one parent or another as their work schedule dictates.

“A parent who was working a 40-hour week and is suddenly working a 60-hour week has different responsibilities,” she says. “If they’re a health worker, there may be health risks that they’re dealing with, and we don’t want the kids to be affected. So, it’s a good idea to have a counselor or mediator talk with both of you and find some way of remediating the agreement.”


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Daddy Don't Go -Movie Trailer

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Friday, April 28, 2017

"Daddy Don't Go" [Movie Trailer]

Posted by Melissa Steward from National Fatherhood Initiative


Many of the nation’s top sociologists and policy makers consider fatherlessness to be the most pressing issue facing American families today. Further, disadvantaged fathers in particular face numerous obstacles in raising their children, and some fail to shoulder the responsibility. Those who stay are more important than ever and must be supported.

According to the U.S. Census, one in three children in America grow up without a father, placing them at a significantly higher risk to live in poverty, do poorly in school and run afoul of the criminal justice system. This is particularly true for New York City’s African-American and Latino children, of which 54% and 43% respectively grow up in fatherless households.

A 2014 study of over 40 million children and their parents by researchers at Harvard University found that family structure showed the strongest correlation with economic mobility — more so than other factors such as racial segregation, income inequality, school quality or social capital.



In fact, family structure is particularly important for fatherless boys who are more than twice as likely to become absent fathers themselves.

To highlight and address these challenges, “Daddy Don’t Go” is a timely and intimate journey that serves as a clear message on the importance of fathers in the lives of our nation's children. The film follows the story of four disadvantaged fathers in NYC fighting to beat the odds and defy the deadbeat dad stereotype.

"Daddy Don't Go" was conceived to inspire all parents — especially those that are disadvantaged.

“Daddy Don’t Go” will resonate deeply with urban audiences eager to see a film that challenges the “deadbeat dad” stereotype with positive and compassionate images of men persevering against the odds. Through the stories of the film's subjects, “Daddy Don’t Go” raises awareness around the obstacles that disadvantaged fathers face and can be used to inspire dads in crisis, the ones that are leaving their homes in tragically high numbers.

The film also poses urgent questions that expand the ongoing national dialogue concerning fatherhood. Can a man be a good dad in spite of not being a great provider? How does being a father shift a man’s identity?


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Parenting with a Purpose II

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Thursday, September 18, 2014

 

Parenting successfully is only possible for parents who are committed to parenting with a purpose. Unfortunately, there are many things which affect our children and as parents, we do not have control over them. Oftentimes, our children exhibit behaviors that are not addressed and they become adults who take the path of destruction. It is very crucial that parents work diligently to raise their children to do what is right from infancy. Incidentally, it is impossible for our children to avoid wrong doing and chose what is right without knowing one from another. Importantly, a Parent must provide a safe environment and develop a role model and goals for their children. A Parent who has control on who influence their children has the ability to limit outside influences on them. Parenting with a Purpose allow parents to supervise their children as they train them to do what is right. Parents are encouraged to ensure that what is being implemented is beneficial to their children. As parents we train our children to seek forgiveness when wrong, doing choices in and around their environment, proper manners during meal time and constructive and healthy paly with peers and siblings. Parenting with a Purpose is very important to promote positive, healthy and mature movement into adulthood for our children. In conclusion, in order to parent successfully we must Parent with a Purpose.

Parenting with a Purpose Part I

Delaware Fatherhood and Family Coalition - Monday, September 08, 2014

Parenting with a Purpose Part I

by:
Ajawavi Ajavon,
DAB Mediation Consultant, LLC


As Parents it is very important that we have a purpose when parenting. According to Kansas City Chiefs head football coach, Herm Edwards, “a goal without a plan is a wish”. Parenting with a purpose means that parents have to develop a specific plan to accomplish the goals they have for their children. Most parents desire that their children develop sound attitudes, behaviors, values and a positive outlook on the environment around them. However, if a parent has been absent from their children’s life, it could be very difficult to accomplish that goal. In short, parenting with a purpose requires an understanding of the influences and individuals who occupy their children’s time. Therefore, developing effective communication is important.


About DFFC

The Delaware Fatherhood & Family Coalition is an extension of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program and the Responsible Fatherhood Initiative created specifically to give a voice to fathers and the importance of their involvement for the well-being of their children.


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