There are many challenges facing single dads in today’s world. If you have full custody, you’re inundated with time management issues like keeping up with your kids’ activities while managing to keep your career on track and still have some form of a social life. If you have part-time custody, you deal with a whole different set of issues regarding scheduling with the mother, being able to agree on parenting decisions (no matter how strained your relationship may be), and worst of all, something that is rarely talked about: the heartbreak of missing your kids during the time you don’t have them. If this isn’t handled well from the beginning, it leads to what is known as “Disneyland Dad” syndrome.
Many dads, especially ones who are only granted visitation every other weekend with their kids, want to win their kids’ affection and simply lose the ability to say no. Anything goes on these weekends: cake for breakfast, shopping sprees, climbing on the furniture at restaurants, being rude to other adults, having free reign on the computer…and it’s all tolerated by dad. It’s understandable to want to avoid conflict when you have such little time together, but this is not only bad for children who are trying to form personalities and opinions from input they get from their fathers, it’s also dangerous.
You may have intentions of being your kids’ best friend, but like it or not, your first job is to be their father. You need to protect them from themselves. You have to establish at the beginning that no means no and there are limits on what can happen on Dad Weekend. It’s a world that’s full of bullies and online predators and it’s important to take precautions against them, even if your child pouts about it. Get to know your kids’ friends and their parents. Keep up with how they are doing in school. Attend their recitals and sporting events. And, most importantly, monitor their computer use at your house. Put the computer in the living area in plain sight. Install blocking software and filters appropriate for their age. Learn about cookies and browser history and other ways to monitor their browsing activity. Find out what chat rooms they may go to and who they’re chatting with. Don’t let Dad Weekends be the time they are more susceptible to online predators. Talk to them about not giving out personal information to strangers, no matter how nice they may seem, and block contact with anyone who seems sketchy to you. No matter how mad your kid may get, say no. Be a dad.