Collecting my girls or dropping them back at my ex’s house was emotionally very difficult for me, especially in the first few months after our separation.
As I drove to collect them, there was always a fear that they wouldn’t want to see me, or they would only come reluctantly. Those fears were mostly unfounded, but my separation and divorce was acrimonious and my ex and her family, shall we say, certainly didn’t make the process an easy one!
When I dropped them back at my ex’s, the feeling was totally different, but no less distressing. The drive back, although only short, seemed to last for an eternity, and often very little was said by either me or my girls.
Those days were over a decade ago now, but as I look back, I still feel that same sense of emptiness and sadness deep inside… it’s almost as though I’m stepping back in time.
Thankfully, those days are long-gone for me, but there are a few things I tried to make things better, and easier and other things I wish I’d thought more carefully about. Of course, in the midst of everything else going on, it’s often difficult to think straight, so we don’t always make the best decisions.
So here are some Do’s and Don’ts
First of all, some things to do:
Come to an agreement where your kids are always dropped off, rather than them being collected. This will definitely be beneficial for the kids and also for both parents. It shares the responsibility of getting your kids to where they should be… your ex drops them off at your house, and you drop them off at hers. It means you’ll never arrive in the middle of your kids doing something they don’t want to leave or at an awkward time for your ex… or for you.
Find something positive to do when you drop your kids back. Play some of their favourite music, give them a favourite snack or maybe play a game, if your kids are young.
Agree on a window of time when kids will be dropped off. This means kids can finish off what they’re doing, rather than being rushed out of the door, so they’ll be more relaxed when they arrive. (Obviously, there may be occasions when you’re going out somewhere for a certain time, but most of the time, an exact time isn’t necessary and just builds pressure and arguments if someone’s just a few minutes late.
If you’re having the kids in midweek, arrange to collect them from school. That way, it’s totally in your control.
If you’re able to talk politely to each other, then make a point of having a discussion. It’ll be great for your kids to see that and, if you keep to the facts and simply pass on information, you should be able to avoid an argument.
If you’re not on good terms, simply pass on a notebook with anything important that needs to be said.
Do whatever it takes to avoid an argument… for the sake of your kids!
Smile! It’ll make you feel better and it’ll make your kids feel happier and more relaxed. I know you won’t always feel like smiling, but believe me, it will work wonders for everyone.
If you’re dropping off, make sure you bring everything with you that your kids need and put things in bags so you don’t need to hang around too long, especially if you and your ex aren’t getting on well.
And a few things not to do:
Don’t get your kids to act as a go-between, by sending messages with them. They don’t need the added pressure of having to remember stuff! So, make sure you pass on any information, messages, meeting times etc either verbally or in writing.
Don’t do anything that shows your ex in a bad light, either whilst you have your kids or when you’re dropping them off. Although it’s hard to accept at times, you’re in this together. Parenting is still a joint effort and setting your ex up to fail, means your kids will suffer… and ultimately, so will you.
Don’t tell your kids you’ll be lonely or sad without them. The last thing they need is to be worrying about you when they can do nothing about it. It goes without saying, you’ll miss them, so be positive and do what’s best for them at all times.
Don’t prevent your kids seeing their mum or do anything that will damage their relationship with her. In fact, you should go the other way and positively encourage a good relationship with her. In the long-term, this will massively benefit your relationship with your kids… and your ex. Kids need to have a good relationship with both parents and it’s the responsibility of both of you to ensure that happens. It doesn’t matter what your ex is doing, you must see the bigger picture and do what’s right for your kids.
Of course, every family’s different and dropping kids off can start off as a nightmare! One thing’s for sure though, it will get better with time, but you will have to work at it. The important things is to keep trying and if something isn’t working, adapt and try something else.
Let me know how you’re getting on…
And, if you have any thoughts of your own, please let me know so I can pass on the information to other divorced dads.
After all, we’re in this together, aren’t we?
Until next time…
On a Mission to Help Divorced Dads Find a Way to Excel