You can begin by praying the “Serenity Prayer”:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
The application to your situation should be obvious. On the one hand, you’re determined to have a continuing influence in the lives of your children. You want to do this despite the breakup of your family. That requires courage. It means finding the strength and fortitude to seize and maximize every opportunity that comes your way. Meanwhile, you have no choice but to accept your limitations and make the most of your circumstances. You can’t fight the court. Arguing with your ex-wife probably won’t help, especially if her mind is made up. To a certain extent life has given you lemons. Your assignment is to turn them into lemonade.
Look at it this way. You haven’t been deprived of seeing your kids altogether, and that’s something to be thankful for. When you do have a chance to be with them, stay conscious of the preciousness of that time. Make an intentional effort to put it to the best use. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a “Disneyland Dad.” Far from it. In fact, it’s advisable to make your days and hours with the kids as “normal” (and as upbeat) as possible.
How do you do this? Here are a few suggestions. Resist the temptation to badmouth your ex-spouse or complain about the “system.” Don’t play the “blame game.” Don’t try to compensate for the pain, loss, and confusion of divorce by acting like Superman. All the exciting, expensive, and exotic outings in the world can never take the place of a loving dad who is simply “there” for his children when they need him. So “be there,” whether that means sitting and talking with them, helping them with their homework, or taking them out for ice cream. Whatever you do, make sure it’s all about them, and not about yourself. It can be as simple or as creative as you want it to be.
In the meantime, work on getting yourself healthy. Do whatever it takes to stay that way. In your role as a parent, your kids need you to be as solid and well-adjusted as you can possibly be. That won’t happen if you’re wallowing in guilt or beating yourself up over the mistakes and “failures” of the past.
If you’re caught up in a destructive pattern of self-incrimination, here are some simple ways you can fight back: 1) Learn to discern the difference between true and false guilt. 2) Leave the false guilt behind. 3) Find out what you can do (if anything) to deal with the true guilt. Only then will you be able to build bridges and move ahead with your life in a positive fashion.
If you need help working your way through this process, we’d strongly recommend that you investigate the option of joining a DivorceCare support group. For information about locating a group in your area, see the DivorceCare website. Many local churches also offer divorce recovery programs. In addition, you should feel free to call and speak with a member of the Focus on the Family staff. Our counselors would be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. They can also provide you with a list of referrals to qualified Christian therapists practicing in your area. Contact our Counseling department for a free consultation.
Long-Distance Dads: Roland Warren talks to long-distance dads about ways they can maintain loving relationships with their children.
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Divorce and Infidelity