By Richard "RJ" Jaramillo
Founder of SingleDad.com
Happy Father's Day to all divorced dads out there celebrating a special holiday this Sunday. I wish all dads a special day filled with quality family time and loving memories.
I know I will be celebrating this year with my parents and children out in my back yard, (pool side and something savory in the barbeque).
As our attention turns to Father’s Day, I wanted to share some of the changes I have recently discovered with my fatherhood.
If I have learned anything over the past 46 years, I have learned that change is going to happen in life, whether I like it or not. This year is no different than another.
Everyone in my family is getting older. My oldest daughter has one more year left in high school, my son is going to be a sophomore next year, and my youngest daughter is done with elementary school this June and will be enrolling in middle school next year. Yes, middle school.
I am not getting any younger, nor am I going to act any older than I already am this year. What I am here to write about is how much change has happened this past year in terms of fatherhood.
As a co-parent and a proud single parent of three children, I realized that my family had grown older and my fatherhood needed to change to the needs of my children. Yes, I admit I am full of father mistakes, but I also grew from them this past year.
I made a lot of important observations on the changes that I needed to make in my fatherhood and here are just a few I would like to share.
I have two teenagers now, and life as a father gets interesting. This is probably the most challenging time to be a father for a few reasons.
First, I was once a teenager. I can relate to the entire dialogue I had between my parents whenever I wanted to do something or go somewhere.
Secondly, I hear all the same requests and lame stories that I used to pitch to my parents…way too familiar. Now for me, it has taken me a while to learn the art of taking a "step back" to evaluate a decision. I used to be the "quick answer" type of dad without realizing that I didn’t have enough information to make an accurate decision. This is a bad habit to develop as a father.
For all dads out there with teens, take it from me and make sure you take a step back and request a little time and space before making a decision on anything. There is nothing wrong with having a little "wisdom time out." If anything, it makes you look smarter in front of your teens!
Trust me, I learned this the hard way and I lost a lot of respect from my teens when I could have simply asked for more information and explained that I couldn’t give an answer (or permission) to something without additional information.
In most cases, I was able to assess the risk, evaluate the parental supervision and have a healthy dialogue with my teens by simply asking a few more questions. Learn it, practice it, do it!
This applies to all children, 12 and under. My parenting advice is simple: be a father, not a friend to your child.
You know what I am talking about because it seems to be a contagious behavior that a lot of parents seem to adopt once their child has developed a little independence. It is surprising to see these fathers who feel like they have developed a kinship with their child in a way that looks and feels like a friendship.
From my own experience and observations, children need more direction, guidance and parenting during these years than ever before. Change in our family environment is happening every day.
Just look at the amount of technology that has consumed our children’s thoughts and behavior over the years. It seems that our children are growing up faster and faster every year and the need to develop a strong role model as a father is now even more important than ever before.
The last thing a family needs is a father that can’t be respected by their child and is treated more like a play date than a dad. It is easy to fall into the "play date" father role, especially if you are divorced and sharing child custody.
Time is precious and all a father wants to do is give attention, affection and let’s just say spoil the child in order to receive some attention and affection back. This "Disney Dad" relationship has long-term consequences.
I am not a doctor, only a parent with my own experiences. What I can tell you is that you can’t take back the years of a lost relationship with your child if you spend those years just being a friend, when your child needed a father.
Be present with your child and get involved with their interests, hobbies and activities. Your children do not want your money; they want your time with them. They are only young once, and the time is now to bring your fatherhood back into their lives.
Don’t Be Afraid of a Little Faith
One thing I learned most about my three children this past year is their curiosity and acceptance of religion. I have always been "quiet" spiritual in my life and rarely the one to push my faith on anyone.
Since I am co-parenting now, I have always been respectful of my ex-spouse and her spiritual beliefs. My children surprised me this past year when they asked me more about my faith and the variety of religions and places of worship around our neighborhood.
We made it a family project and visited a variety of denominations and places of worship. It felt like every weekend with my kids this past year felt more balanced after church and we started off the week together in harmony. No fussing, no fighting.
I believe it is every parent’s right to choose the time and place to talk about religion to his or her children. I was very pleased with my results on giving my children the guidance and support on making a choice to attend church with me on the weekends.
As a dad, one of the best "bonus points" about going to church is the opportunity that every sermon can offer something that relates to your life as a parent raising children. (Translation: It’s great to have a third party remind your children about the principles of life on being a good human being.)
If you are a single parent like me, I encourage you to take the challenge and open a conversation with your children about going to church together. Whatever your religion, I think any time is the right time to get re-connected. I feel that my past year attending church with my kids made a difference in my fatherhood.
Fatherhood on Father's Day
In summary, fatherhood is changing in our society today. As Father's Day approaches, I would like every father out there to embrace his fatherhood changes with optimism and confidence.
Fatherhood is a gift and should never be taken for granted. Our children need us for guidance, emotional support and stability.
From my family to yours, Happy Father’s Day!
Richard "RJ" Jaramillo, 46, is a single parent expert and the founder of SingleDad.com, a website and social media resource dedicated to single parenting and specifically for the newly divorced, re-married, widowed and single father with children. RJ is a self-employed, entrepreneur living in San Diego and a father of three children. The mission of SingleDad is to help the community of Single Parents "Make Life Happen…Again!"
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