With the divorce rate well over fifty percent, it is no wonder that we are beginning to see the break-down of father-child relationships. Research on divorce has increased our understanding of the role of fathers in children’s lives by looking at the complex dynamics of such a life changing experience. Divorce has several effects on the adults and children in a family. If the mother ends up with primary custody then the role of the father will dramatically change. He will now be a part time father with the primary focus on the obligation to pay child support.
After divorce, the child’s time spent with the non-custodial parent (most likely the father) will decrease and the family system will restructure and roles will change. New routines and visitation will have to be established and parent-child relationships will likely change. This can be a very scary experience for everyone involved.
Maintaining a positive relationship with the children after divorce can become a challenging task for a father. There are two important factors that play a part in a father’s role in the well-being of his children. First, the closeness that the father and child have and second, whether or not the father uses authoritative style parenting. This in conjunction with regular child support payments has shown to improve academic success, ability to solve problems and foster a healthy father-child relationship. (Bigner, 2006)
Studies have shown that the relationships between fathers and children worsened when biological parents were in conflict or if the father re-married soon after the divorce and if the father demonstrated little or no involvement.
A father can increase involvement in the child’s life by committing to building a strong relationship with his child and by making a honest effort to communicate with the mother. It is crucial to set aside personal differences for the sake of the children. It will demonstrate to your children that you can rise above conflict and build healthy relationships.
Using authoritative parenting will increase the chances of a healthy outcome and ensure that the father stays involved. Keeping in touch with the child’s teachers and showing an interest in the child’s activities will help the child realize that, even though, things didn’t work out between the parents, it will not destroy the father-child relationship, in fact, it may make it stronger.
J. Bigner (2006). Parent-child relations: An introduction to parenting. (7th ed.) New Jersey. Ohio. Pearson, Merrill, Prentice Hall Publications.