Families need fathers
Whether parents are together or apart, living in the same house, road, town, county or even country, children need their fathers just as they need their mothers.
Not all relationships work out and many children grow up with parents who live apart. For some fathers, this can lead to them seeing their children very little, and for others they may see them regularly but, even so, less than when they were all living together. The loss of daily contact with a child can be desperately hard.
This is what one dad wrote: ‘The breakup of our marriage was like a bereavement. So was the realisation that I was never going to live permanently in the same house as my children again. I had to give myself time, space and permission to cry. I wept from my gut for about twenty minutes every day for six months. Thereafter it reduced, but it continued for about eighteen months in total. I found that letting out the pain made me feel better and I am sure it helped the healing process.’
However hard it is to be apart from our children, a father’s role is still vital whether we are with them or not. Penelope Leach, the renowned childcare guru, wrote a book about family breakdown from the child’s perspective. Speaking about it she said “If there’s one message from my book, it is that children need both their mother and father more than we ever knew”.
There is a huge amount of research to show that children need input from both mother and father, and it’s not just about spending time with them – it’s about the joint responsibility that both have, together, to raise their children.
Leach suggests the way forwards is through ‘mutual parenting’ – a joint emotional commitment to put your children’s wellbeing and happiness first. This means never using your children as weapons or trying to alienate the other parent. And it also means keeping the channels of communication open, even if you are feeling that you want nothing whatsoever to do with each other. ‘It’s not easy, but for the children’s sake, it is worth every effort,’ she says.
This is what dads have said about mutual parenting after separation:
- “Since we’ve been making an effort to get on in front of the children, the difference in their behaviour has been dramatic – they are so much happier.”
- “ We are talking a lot more and generally getting on much better, we even stood next to each other at rugby AND are going to Parents evening together!”
- “This new framework is helping us to break down the walls between us. We can now move forward to a place of calm, peace and healing, being the best parents we can be for [child] and ultimately his personal growth, health and well being.”
Interested in learning more about parenting after separation?
Or if you want help to build a better parenting relationship with the mother, try mediation: