by Cam Caudle
Besides the very basics like changing diapers, general discipline when they need it, and making macaroni and cheese, here are the seven things I think every divorced dad absolutely has to know and do in order to get on the road to proving to his ex-wife and everyone else that he’s not a complete incompetent idiot.
1. Know your kids’ shoe sizes:
Nothing says “I have no idea what I’m doing” more than not knowing your kids’ show sizes and sending them to school in shoes two sizes too small. It’s easy to figure out. Either take a look a the size your ex puts them in, or the next time you’re in the mall just swing into any shoe store where they’ll be happy to help you.
2. Don’t be afraid to play dress up (and wear the freakin’ crown!):
I know this is a hard one to swallow for a lot of guys. Personally, I’m a former Army Ranger and I grew up with all boys, so playing Cinderella with my daughter doesn’t exactly come naturally. But her beautiful smile and laugh when I’ve got that silly crown on my head tell me I’m doing the right thing.
3. Know how to put your kids to bed:
I don’t mean just “putting them to bed.” I’m talking about the whole routine. It’s important for you to know how to brush their teeth, what books they like to read, what bedtime stories they love…everything. When my daughter was younger, every night I had to look for monsters in very nook and cranny of her room before she would go to sleep. Sure, it’s a pain in the neck sometimes. But it’s important for our kids to have a consistent routine wherever they happen to sleep at night.
4. Be sensible and discreet with dating:
Don’t be one of those knucklehead dads who introduces his kids to every woman who comes along. The kids are confused enough…don’t make it worse just because you’re insecure. Six months of dating is a good rule of thumb before you get the kids and the new girlfriend together.
5. Schedule your activities:
Boredom breeds misbehavior when it comes to kids. You’ll be doing everyone a favor if you already have activities planned out before the kids get to your house. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. The park, bike rides, family games, crafts…all those things are simple and inexpensive but go a long way in keeping the kids busy and strengthening your bond with them.
6. Make real meals:
I have a confession to make. I was not good at this when I was first divorced. It was always easier to just toss some Easy Mac in the microwave, boil a few hot dogs, follow that up with some Scooby fruit snacks and call it a night. Not a good idea. And selfish too. There are plenty of ways to crack the code on this even if your kid is a picky eater. It’s really important for us divorced dads to make a real effort to feed our kids things that are good for them.
7. Recognize when something isn’t right:
Despite what your ex-wife would have you believe, you also have strong instincts when it comes to what’s going on with your kids. Trust your instincts and you’ll make the right decision almost every time. Although being a divorced dad can be very challenging, learning just a few key things about taking care of your kids can make the transition easier for them and for you. When I was newly separated and divorced, it seemed almost unfathomable that anyone would compliment me on what a great job I was doing with the kids. Now that happens all the time. If I can do it, so can you.
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Cam Caudle is a proud divorced Dad. You can read more of his thoughts at www.DivorcedDadSurvivalGuide.com.