By Rochelle Anixt Gold, M.A., M.S.W.


Fatherhood after divorce is seen by many parents as a secondary role. Fathers often feel constrained by a new and unrehearsed setting within which they carry on their parenting with their children. To most children, father's visits represent the depth of their love and commitment. In successful visiting relationships or joint custody, there is a positive correlation between the child's self-esteem and a good father-child relationship. This is also true at the time of separation, where the frequency of visits is valued by the child who tends to keep a careful count. Visitation at the time of marital separation is especially reassuring of the father's love for his children, and maintains a sense of family life as it was before the divorce. This keeps the memory of the family alive.

Mother and father both face the challenge of parenting outside the usual family framework as they shift to a single or visiting parent arrangement. Continued child-rearing includes a separation of spousal from parental roles. Each parent then provides for their children in a primary way and satisfies the desire to protect the parent-child relationship outside the marriage. This effort can be compromised when parents need to manage their own feelings of loss while responding to their children's increased need for attention.

The father is usually in the position of the "visiting" parent, requiring a particular adaptation and role change. The jarring experience of being confined to time limitations is disorienting and leads to symptoms of depression and helplessness. Fathers fear rejection by their children and often respond in extremes, by staying away or by giving too much materially which can be financially and emotionally draining.

Every member of the family experiences the uncertainty posed by divorce. Parents who are concerned with their children's mixed feelings and mood changes do best when they also understand their own emotional reactions during this transition. Non-custodial fathers, while facing many similar challenges as the custodial mother, experience a unique revision of their parental role. Co-parenting under circumstances of separation and divorce is best accomplished when the emotional demands imposed upon the non-custodial father are taken equally into consideration.

Posted on Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 02:44PM by Registered CommenterSite Administrator in | Comments Off

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