Thursday, September 1, 2011

Back to School Tips for Divorced Parents

The school year recently started for most kids. If yours aren’t back to school yet, they’re likely winding down their summer festivities to get back into the mode of waking up early and going to the bus stop and all that stuff you and I did so many years ago. Summer vacation is great and wonderful but in order for our little ones – and not so little ones – to become their best, school is where the training is done.

The years of formal education are so critical to a child’s development. Psychologists will confirm this: 90% of brain development occurs within the first 3 years of life. Then the older kids get, the harder it becomes  to learn concepts that are so easily grasped when they’re young.

As parents, one of our jobs is to create the type of environment that facilitates our kids’ learning. With this post, I’d like to share some tips that I believe will help divorced parents to work together to ensure their kids’ education is a priority.

Statistics tell us that kids from two parent households fare much better than kids of single parents. That’s not to say that kids of single parents cannot become successful; however, when two parents work together to support their kids and facilitate their development, they tend to become well-adjusted and more prepared to take on the challenges that life will present.

In the United States, just over 50% of first marriages end in divorce. Many of these marriages produced children so although the relationships are over, the former spouses are bound together for life because their kids remain. It’s one of those things that come with the territory.

Having been through a divorce, I can tell you firsthand that adjusting to the new life isn’t quite so simple. When children are in the picture, even if the divorce was messy, the former spouses have to find a way to deal with each other. One of the key areas that must be considered is the kids’ education.

Here are some tips that I believe will help divorced parents to work together as it relates to their children’s schooling:

  •           Put the kids first. No matter how difficult the divorce was, remember the kids are the innocent parties and ought to be each parent’s priority. You may not like your former spouse very much but for the kids’ sake, learn to deal with them.
  •          Communicate with your ex. This may be easier said than done but communication is the key. Chances are, the divorce happened due to a lack of communication in the relationship so it might be a tall order to establish this after the marriage. But it’s very necessary. The good thing with technology today is that you can correspond without even speaking. Text messaging and other forms of modern communication can work wonders.
  •            Meet the teachers. It’s always important that parents get to know their kids’ teachers. This is particularly important when there is a divorce. Teachers may not need to know the details of the divorce; however, it’s good to let them know that your child has two homes. In this way, they can be sensitive to the child’s needs. It also helps them to know how best to communicate with each parent. Many teachers are accessible by email so take advantage of this means of keeping up with your kids’ development in the classroom.

  •           Maintain similar routine at each home. Kids learn best in a stable environment. When divorce happens, there is a necessary adjustment period. You can help them to re-establish some stability by maintaining the same guidelines in each home as it relates to their routine. For example, if bedtime is 8:30 PM at mom’s home, it shouldn’t be 10:00 PM at dad’s. If they are not allowed to watch TV on school nights at one home, the same policy should be adhered to at the other home. It may not be so easy but it’s something that should be aimed for. Remember, kids learn best when they have a stable, predictable routine.
  •           Keep educational supplies at each home. This might seem obvious but I’ll share it here anyway. Keep pens, pencils and other educational materials at each home. The kids usually travel with them anyway but remember, they are kids. So if they forget their ruler at dad’s home, they shouldn’t be at a disadvantage as a result. Just keeping some basic supplies might make things a lot easier.
  •           Attend your kids’ school functions. Throughout the school year, your kids may have different school functions to which parents may be invited – functions such as awards banquets, concerts, talent shows, graduations. They love it when they see both of their parents at these events. Perhaps dad and mom don’t get along – they might not even be on speaking terms. But when they show up, kids love it. So you don’t necessarily have to sit next to your ex at the event. Just be there and your kids will appreciate it.

I’m sure that there are many more tips that could be shared on this subject but I’ll leave it at that for now. The point of this post is to help parents understand that they have a key role to play in their kids’ education – even when the family is no longer intact. I wrote in one of my poems,

Parenthood is forever
A spouse may come and go
This bond is broken never
It’s one law nature knows.

So your role as a parent is perpetual – even when there is a divorce. By adopting some basic guidelines and principles, you can help your kids successfully cope with the changes that divorce necessarily brings.

I hope that reading this has been an encouragement to you. Your kids are to be treasured above anything or anyone else. Just do your very best for them and some way, somehow, things will work out.

Enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Upbeat Dad: More Than a Blog, It's a Mission and a Movement

Would you believe that we're closing in on another year since we launched the Upbeat Dad blog? It was the first week of October 2010 that we hit the "air waves.". And what a thrilling ride it's been since then!

The most significant part of the experience for me has been connecting with you, our readers. This is because, despite all that I write about, without you, the matters that I share wouldn't be quite the same. I treasure the privilege of sharing thoughts that make a difference in the lives of others. That's what this whole thing is about.

As we close in on another year since our launch, it has become increasingly clear to me that our vision is expanding daily. As time goes on, new components to the vision become evident and that's a thrill to know. In my view, our kids are the ultimate beneficiaries of the work that we're doing so to me, it's the job of a lifetime.

Anyone who's close to me can tell you that since the mid '90s I've had a vision to make a difference in the world through the mediums of speaking and writing. When divorce hit my home in 2001, for a while I thought my dream was over. It was just too much to deal with. 

Little did I know that the very difficult period of adjusting to life after that marriage was my audition for the job I have now - particularly as it relates to my role as a dad. To me, recovering from the divorce was a lesson in survival. But the lesson was well learned and I've recovered just fine.

As I began sharing our message through the blog, I quickly knew we were on to something. The need for this message is evidenced in so many ways. Here in the United States, there's a crisis in the home - our fathers are missing. And as a consequence, children become vulnerable in innumerable ways. Statistics show us that these kids are at a significant disadvantage compared to kids who have loving, involved dads present in their lives.

On this blog, I've shared different posts that are geared towards helping dads of all types to learn how to become upbeat dads. And I think that this medium is quite effective. At the same time, I've also come to realize that the Upbeat Dad is not a blog but rather a movement.

The message is clear - kids need their dads. So how do we share the message? The answer to that question is the journey of my life.

I've heard it said that the reward for hard work is more hard work. And believe me, hard work is what we're doing. It's quite fulfilling; so in a sense, it's not work to me. But it's very involved - more than I could really say here. Suffice it to say, it consumes me - and I love every minute of it!

Here's what we've accomplished thus far. We've successfully launched the blog. As I write this, we're over 60,000 hits. Readers all over the globe are engaged in what we're sharing. On social media - Facebook and Twitter, we've made a number of connections as we share the message. Interacting with others through these mediums is something that I thoroughly enjoy. I've connected with many of you through these innovative tools.

Then we successfully launched the Upbeat Dad Community Forum. We've had 2 such events thus far. And there's much more to come in this area. Bringing together experts such as family attorneys and family therapists with members of the general public to address matters on fatherhood is very much needed and quite effective.

As we carry out these tasks, other windows of opportunity are opening up. I've had a number of radio interviews thus far - including on BBC radio. And I've had a number of speaking engagements, particularly as of late. I recently spoke at a conference in Miami to close to 300 county officials and employees on the subject: The Importance of a Father's Influence on a Child's Life. I anticipate doing more such engagements as time goes on.

Now here's the highlight of this post: Behind the scenes, we have assembled a team of highly skilled professionals to take our vision to the next level. We've invested much time, money and effort to ensure that we continually "package" the message to share through different mediums.

And it's not just about sharing the message - it's about actively being a part of the solution to the fatherhood crisis. I learned early in my career as an accountant that whenever I identify a problem, instead of running to my boss to tell of the problem, I should think of a solution even before uttering a word. So now, I try to think of solutions instead of just talking about the problems. In my view, this is key as we carry out our vision.

In the coming weeks and months you'll hear more about what we're now doing behind the scenes. So stay tuned because, believe me, it's all about making a difference in a significant way.

And let me add this here: I'm based in the United States but the more I get into this work, the more I recognize the global nature of what we're doing. A friend of mine from the UK was here visiting this weekend and he shared with me that one of the root causes of what we saw with the recent riots and fires was partly due to the fact that many of the kids who were involved in the chaos do not have fathers or father figures. So for some, they display their frustration with issues they encounter in life in counterproductive ways. And one of those ways is disregard for authority and the potential consequences for their actions.

In my view, this is another opportunity to share the message and become a part of the solution. That's what our work is all about - even in unpleasant circumstances.

The platform that I have to share this message is something I'll never take for granted. The lives of many are impacted by what we do and that, to me, is an awesome responsibility. I'm all for doing what needs to be done to ensure that others benefit. And when I think of the innocent kids whose lives are affected by the different issues that we identify, I'm driven even more to do something meaningful on their behalf.

Thanks for tuning in and for sharing our work with others. We're doing meaningful work together and believe me when I say that our labor is not in vain. Stay tuned for more - we're going somewhere good with this.

All the very best to you and yours.

The Upbeat Dad