Even if you don’t have joint custody, move close to where your children live. You need to be available when unforeseen circumstances arise.
Talk to your children, either in person or on the telephone every day.
Make sure they understand that it wasn’t their fault that the marriage broke down.
Get to know your children’s school principal and teachers and take the time to attend all parent-teacher meetings.
Introduce your children to the library. Get them cards and read with them.
When you meet your children, in private or in public, greet them with a hug and a kiss and tell them you love them.
If at all possible, take your children’s calls at work. They need to know that they are special and can reach you at any time.
Be aware of your children’s school projects and be prepared to help.
Get involved in their team sports. Be a coach, an assistant or a manager.
Make it a point to spend one-on-one time with each child. You may go to a movie, have a picnic or just go for a walk. They need to know that you love them as individuals not just as ‘one of the children’.
Play trivia with them on car rides or at the dinner table. They get to pick their favourite topic for half the questions.
Secure copies of pictures or documents that mark special events in your children’s lives. Make a copy and have them framed. Give one to your child and keep one for yourself. Set up a wall of fame in your home and fill it with their pictures, awards and diplomas.
Try to arrange a vacation with them at least once a year.
If possible, ensure that you have a room for them in your home. You need to provide them with extra sets of clothes and toiletries.
Get to know your children’s friends. Kids need to feel good about inviting their friends to your home. Make sure to talk to their parents before they come over. They will need to feel a certain comfort level about you. Unfortunately, fathers not living in the family home have a certain stigma attached to them. Also make sure you have a list of your kids’ friends and their telephone numbers.
Display pictures of your children at work. It’s a wonderful reminder for you and it will show them how much they mean to you.
Go shopping with your daughter for graduation or prom dresses. Make sure your son has the appropriate suit and tie for that special occasion.
Remember, you are their father, not their friend. They will have lots of friends in life but only one Dad. Don’t be afraid to give life lessons.
Give your children an allowance above what you pay in support. They need to see it coming from you.
Teach your children how to bowl, sail, ski or golf and play tennis. These are non-team sports that you will enjoy playing together as they get older.
Keep a ‘memory’ file for each child and collect special ‘homemade cards’, tickets from events you have attended together. Keep copies of school projects they did well on. Hand-write the dates on them. When they reach the age of 30 put it in an album. It will make a wonderful collection of memories for them. It will also remind them of the times you shared and, most importantly, how much you love them.