Tag Archives: divorce

How To Tackle Tough Subjects With Your Kids

Last night, dinner conversation turned to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

We had seven people at the table with four under 14 and three between 40-60.  Perspectives varied based on snippets from the news, political views, emotional reactions, and forming views based on respected opinions.

Photo Credit: Zed The Dragon via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Zed The Dragon via Compfight cc

I could not help but think about other difficult conversations.  Especially those between me and my son about the divorce.  It reminded me how important our job as dads is in helping our kids formulate opinions, inform their perspectives, and take on an attitude of learning.

Here are a few helpful guidelines:

  • Only answer questions they ask.  My son’s therapist, when asked about good tactics to discuss the birds and the bees, instructed me to answer questions honestly and to only answer the questions asked.  In other words, if asked if babies grow in mommy’s stomach, just answer the specific question and do not begin to tell them how the baby got there.  Keep an open, honest dialogue going with your kids so they will be willing to ask you questions as they come up.  Do not overwhelm them with details and information they likely cannot process anyway.  You may find yourself taking conversations a step further, but rely on common sense and age-appropriateness.
  • Allow them to own their emotions.  If your kids express fear of a terrorist attack or sorrow about the loss of a parent through divorce or death or deployment, affirm their feelings.  Find ways to help them process those by telling about a time where you felt the same thing. If they feel heard with respect to their emotional reaction, they will probably be more open to the rational/logical follow up you may want to share with them.  I remember the fear I felt in the 80s during the height of the Cold War – as unlikely as nuclear war may have been, I went to bed many nights afraid of Russia attacking the US.  I can now tell my son about the value of recognizing fear but not allowing it to paralyze me.
  • Encourage learning.  This may not work quite as well with respect to the three D’s (divorce, death, and deployment), but when it comes to world events or “monsters in the closet”, find ways to help your kids learn more and help them inform their reactions and feelings.  I remember being very scared of monsters as a young boy.  I checked out a book from the library at my elementary school about monster movies which demystified them.  I saw the transformations of the actors by makeup artists and while I still had some fear, I knew Bela Lugosi and Lon Cheney, Jr. were the ones scaring me…not the real thing.

As our kids get older, the conversations get more interesting, engaging, and often more complex.  Consider what voice you want to have with your kids and how you will ensure to be part of their conversations.

What difficult conversation have you had with your kids?  What lessons did you learn from it?

Do You Know How Much Your Kid Hurts?

Few people can make you laugh and think as much as Jon Acuff.

I have seen Jon speak live twice (once at Donald Miller’s Storyline conference and once at the ICON Conference), and both times I found myself writing down some hysterical lines and some incredible wisdom.

A lame photo the author took of Jon Acuff on stage at the ICON Conference

A lame photo the author took of Jon Acuff on stage at the ICON Conference

At the ICON Conference, he asked the adult crowd if they had celebrated the gift of not being a teen with social media.  He went on to explain he had shaved a stripe in his eyebrow to look more like Vanilla Ice when he was in high school.

Not long after, he reminded the audience empathy was not just understanding what someone needs, but acting on it.

Last week, Jon wrote a blog post and it took my breath away.  You can read it now or after you finish this short post, but do read it.  Especially if you have primary custody of your kids.

Photo Credit: ashallowtown via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ashallowtown via Compfight cc

My son lives with me between 41 and 43 weeks of the year.  That means he lives away from his mom the same number of weeks.

When I read Jon’s post, I first wondered if he sat next to my son this summer and got the age wrong or altered it to protect privacy.

Then I wondered if my son cries on his flights between our two homes.  Next, I wondered if I showed him either empathy or sympathy for the pain he endures being split between two parents he loves.

He and I have a solid relationship, but I could always do more to make sure he knows I love him and do not want him to ever feel badly about missing his mom or wanting to be with her.

Jon spoke the truth – divorce causes extraordinary pain, and as dads we need the reminder…especially when we have custody.

Will You Please Remarry Mom?

When will my kids be ready for me to date again?

Several months after my divorce, my son and I took one of our routine trips to the zoo.  I bought a membership to the Phoenix Zoo because I could take up to three kids, and my son always enjoyed having friends go with him.

But on this particular Saturday, only he and I went.  And as we entered the Savanna, teaming with giraffes and zebras, he asked if mom and I would get married again.

Photo by Jason

Photo by Jason

No matter the circumstance of the divorce and the feelings your ex may stir up inside, having an innocent child ask this question in hopes of the family reuniting and returning to the “old normal” can really turn on the guilt (and sympathy for your kid).

I stared at the giraffe for a few seconds, giving me time to could come up with a wise and comforting answer.

“No, buddy.  We won’t get married again.  Look!  Do you think that poop is from a giraffe or a zebra?”

Not exactly Dr. Phil, but I figured it best to answer and quickly divert.  It worked.

My son had asked the same question several times over the preceding months.  I answered in a similar fashion, trying to be consistent and empathetic: following up the statement with a touch or a hug.

My son (and, frankly, I) had more healing to do before contemplating dating.  Here are a few of those thoughts specifically related to my son:

  • He did not need to know if and when I decided to date.  This may be a function of your kid’s age and maturity, but I saw no reason to bring my son into my dating life.  If I had a date, he had a sitter and just knew dad was going out.  I did not provide details unless he asked, and then I told him I was having dinner with someone he did not know.  Usually, the conversation ended there.
  • When one date turned into multiple dates, I continued to keep it quiet.  Someone gave me some great advice…do not introduce your kid to someone you date (or their kids) until well into the relationship because if it ends, your kid may go through the equivalent of another divorce.  It is possible to have them meet and interact, even on a regular basis, but keep the relationship platonic in front of the kids.  The thrill of dating, especially when it begins to get more serious, can make you want to bring your kid into the relationship to check compatibility and just enjoy everyone being together.  But be sensitive to how your kid will react if it ends – another loss.
  • He needed me to be continue being a dad.  Enjoy dating, but be sure to set aside one-on-one time with your kid every day and make him a top priority.

How have your kids reacted to you dating or getting remarried?  What did you do to break the news?

When Should A Single Dad Start Dating?

As my son and I made the two hour drive from Tucson to Phoenix, I got lost in the music and the monotonous white dotted lines.

Out of the blue, my son startled me by loudly calling “Dad!”

I turned down the music and asked what he wanted.

“I know how you can get a girlfriend.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes,” he declared with all the confidence in the world.  “All you do is go on the computer, type in eHarmony.com and give some pertinent information.  Then they find you a girlfriend.”

Inside, I roared with laughter.  On the outside, I thanked him and told him I was not sure I needed their help, but appreciated his concern and for sharing.  And, of course, I asked him where he heard about eHarmony.

My son informed me of this amazing dating tool about three years after the divorce and after about a year of asking me when I planned to get married again.

Photo Credit: The Grapes of Jason via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: The Grapes of Jason via Compfight cc

I, on the other hand, dated for a short time right after the divorce and then, after realizing I was not ready to date, took some time off to really focus on being a dad.  What my son did not know at the time of his suggestion was I was dating someone at the time – covertly – and chose not to tell him until both she and I decided to tell our kids.

Another story for another day.

Back to the matter at hand, immediately following the divorce, many well-intentioned friends and family wanted the best for me and began suggesting women I could date.  Everyone has a “friend” I should meet.

About the last thing I wanted to do after the divorce was get back into a relationship.  When I started dating someone a few months after the divorce, it became clear after a short time I was not ready.

So, when should a single dad get back in the dating game?  Let me offer a few thoughts:

  • Do not get into dating to medicate or try to fill the void from the loss of your spouse.  You should take some time getting comfortable with yourself and finding contentment with being a single dad.
  • Make sure you have a few close friends and/or family who will give you honest feedback about your readiness.  Maybe even consider some counseling.
  • Take the time to write down what you want in a future spouse and include non-negotiables. This way, once you begin dating, you can refer back to the list and make it harder to settle for less than you and your kids deserve.
  • Do not let others, including your kids, guilt you into dating or make you feel like you should be healed and ready to go.  They probably want the very best for you, and feel free to tell them you are not ready, but thanks for caring.

When, if ever, did you know you were ready to date again following the loss of your spouse?  Did you get pressure to date from friends and family before you were ready?

“Ts” Of Single Fatherhood – Therapy

In the early days of original programming on Comedy Central, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist told the story of a neurotic therapist, his neurotic son, and lots of guest stars with multiple neuroses.

Way before Dr. Katz was the old-school Bob Newhart Show full of great characters and stories from the therapist’s couch way beyond my comprehension.

Even Tony Soprano went to a psychiatrist and the show got all Freudian on us at times.

Photo Credit: Spiterman via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Spiterman via Compfight cc

Well, put all those characters, generalizations, and preconceived notions of therapy aside and consider the following – as a single dad, some kind of therapy may be in your future!

Given your position in life, you may have already been to a counselor for something associated with the departure of your kids’ mother whether it came from death, divorce or separation. And you probably did not see anyone quite like Dr. Katz.

Instead, you probably saw a licensed therapist, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist who helped you process things – like emotions – many guys struggle with. You might have also gotten some tools to help you deal with those emotions and gotten some real value out of your investment of time. While I have not finished the book yet, you should check out Donald Miller’s new book, “Scary Close” which explores these issues – what I have read so far is excellent.

For our kids, therapy can have great value. Maybe a therapist gives you tools to help you play with, talk to, relate to, or better nurture your kids. Maybe a therapist can serve as the trusted person your kid can talk to about the loss they experience. Maybe a psychiatrist can assist in dealing with neurological/biological issues affecting your kid’s mental health.

In short, we have many tools at our disposal as single dads, and these professionals can, and often should, play a part in our lives. If you have already seen one, you know the value quality therapy delivers.

If you have not, consider going to one specializing in family/children to do nothing more than check in and talk about your single parenting experience and some of your concerns and frustrations. You might get some of those parenting tools, enhance your effectiveness, and bring greater emotional health to you and the kiddos.

If you do not know where to find one, ask another single parent, your attorney, or a leader at your church.

In short, do not let preconceived notions keep you from utilizing a potentially powerful tool to improve your parenting and your kids’ emotional health.

What was the most effective or impactful parenting tool or lesson you got from a therapist?

How To Talk To Your Kid About Your Divorce And Your Ex

Divorce leads kids to ask a ton of questions.  How we answer has dramatic implications for everyone involved.

Depending on the age, these questions can range from innocent fact-gathering to downright prying.  I have gotten questions ranging from:

“Why are you and mom getting a divorce?”

“Why can’t you and mom stay married?”

“Why do I live with you most of the time?”

“Do you hate mom?”

Prior to the divorce, my ex and I separated.  During that time, my son asked a lot of questions…not unlike those listed above.  My objective – based on counseling from professionals, ministers, and friends – was to never make a negative comment or use a negative/sarcastic tone of voice when speaking about his mom.

My answers to his questions were general and somewhat wordy.  I consistently reminded him the separation (and later divorce) was not his fault.  I never felt like I was communicating clearly and sometimes begged more questions.

Photo Credit: _guu_ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: _guu_ via Compfight cc

I asked professionals for some additional input.  Here’s what I got: “Be a broken record.  Memorize a script and say it every time you get asked a question about the divorce or the custody situation.”

To this day, over four years after receiving residential custody, I use that script. “Your mom and I both love you very much.  You are not the reason we got a divorce.”  There are a few more lines in the script related to our specific residential custody situation, but you get the idea.

Find your words and stick to them.  If you are able to reassure your kids that both you and their mom loves them, do so.

My son isn’t quite to double-digits in age.  I know he’s going to continue to mature and ask questions.  I will continue to seek advice on how to answer at an age-appropriate level.  At the end of the day, the words coming from my mouth need to foster and preserve relationship and not tear it down.

What is your script?  What have you learned about answering your kids’ questions?

Welcome to Full-Time Dad

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’” – C.S. Lewis

I’ve been thinking about this project for a long time.  Putting words to paper (or characters to word processor) has never been difficult for me, but in this instance it has been met with resistance every step of the way.

Partly because of my failures:
I failed my marriage.
I failed my son.
I failed in my parenting.
I failed my own convictions.

I fail to see why I have any right to write any words about what I’m endeavoring to do.

However, failure (depending on how one handles it) brings a level of qualification to talk about a matter.  In my case, recognizing circumstances for what they are and actively seeking answers, wisdom, therapy, and community to move forward as a full-time, single dad.

Also, through a great community of support, I discovered my failures aren’t much different than those others have experienced.  No two stories are alike, but the similarities are shocking if you risk having the conversation.


Photo Credit: pasukaru76 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: pasukaru76 via Compfight cc


I do not have sole custody of my son, but I do have residential custody during the school year.  As a professional, I have joined the ranks of countless women and men who have juggled work and home without the consistent aid of any partner.  And in many respects I have it easy – I just have one son…not two or three or more.  Plus, when he goes to visit my ex-wife on several occasions during the year, including an eight-week stint during the summer, I have the opportunity to catch my breath even though I miss him dearly.

To a certain extent, the name of this blog doesn’t even reflect my reality.  I’m not really a “full-time” single dad by strict definition.  But I’ve discovered most circumstances vary wildly with no two of my friends having the same situation in their full-time or part-time single parenting.

So, what do I hope to accomplish with this blog?

  • I want to help dads, like me, who weren’t sure where to turn when life hit them square in the face.
  • I want to provide helpful content to dads who have become the primary parent to their kid(s).
  • I want to share lessons I’ve learned and mistakes I’ve made.
  • I want to connect us with others who have expertise to share from their own experience or their professional life.
  • I want to be surprised by what could happen next.

One of the heroes of my faith is C.S. Lewis.  He said “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’”

The fact is we’re all is this together and have so much to learn from each other.  I look forward to the journey, friend, and can’t wait to see where it leads us.