Getting tired of hearing about how all single dads are angry? If you’re like me, you don’t even read the “deadbeat dad” articles anymore. It’s enough to make you mad. The real danger of not overcoming anger is it easily can cloud your thinking and distract you from one of your most valued priorities: your kids. What’s really best for you and them? Do you really get that much satisfaction out of hating your former wife? Who’s really being hurt here? If there’s a constant pain in your stomach, it isn’t her that’s bleeding; it’s you—and the kids.
Hate is a choice. It may seem like an uncontrollable reaction, but in not overcoming anger, you have chosen to hate. I’m not asking you to love the kids’ mom again; that’s a choice, too. But there’s a middle ground. Finding it is a necessary step in bringing healing to your family. I’ll be borrowing from Ken Canfield’s book The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers, specifically, secret number five: loving their mother. It may be hard even to think about right now, but force yourself, for you and for the kids. Here’s how to do it.
Distrust your kids’ mom? Your kids will, too.
No one’s perfect. We all do things that hurt others. With that in mind, let go of all the distrust you can, especially if it’s based on old memories. If you choose to relive that distrust over and over in your mind, it will give you an ulcer.
But, even worse, your children will pick up on your distrust the same way they’d notice the smell of burgers on the grill. Your attitude won’t haunt her, but it will haunt your kids. If you reinforce that she can’t be trusted or doesn’t keep promises, you’ll only create a basic fear in your kids’ lives. They may not trust any women. Your son could grow up to have a string of failed relationships; your daughter may develop negative views of womanhood or motherhood. They’ll learn to distrust you for it too, and that could undermine everything you’re trying to do as a dad.
No matter how much satisfaction you may get out of spite, don’t do that to your kids. Now that the relationship is over, why not be forgiving?
Can’t bring yourself to talk to their mom?
I remember during one of his grade school programs, my son John sang his heart out about Frosty the Snowman. His mom and I sat in the front row, talking. What did we talk about? Our son, of course. No need to be angry about the past or present. No need to hate anyone. We have a great reason to communicate: our mutual love and hopes for the life of this great little guy.
Afterward, when we were standing around with all the other proud parents, a woman approached me and said, “I was talking to your wife, and she said …” Oh boy. My wife! Then I stopped and realized: It was an easy mistake. But I also took it as a compliment, because it reflected that my ex and I took a potentially tense situation and chose to make the best of it. We both hugged John and went our separate ways. No ulcers, no atmosphere of distrust, no lack of communication, no anger. Who benefited? My son, myself, and maybe even his mom. We all won and it felt great. You can win, too.
Think about the future now. Imagine overcoming anger and aiming no hate or distrust at your children’s mother. You’re there, and there is laughter, affirmation, even love. Your kids see their potential, love their mom for who she is, and give you credit for being the dad all their friends would like to have.
Sound off: What do you think children in the midst of divorce need most?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you do when you are angry at someone?”