Click to find out more

Well done dads

Even though separation and divorce is common place, it still feels like failure and in some ways we are embarrassed at times because of it.  We get pigeon holed into “single dad” or “separated father” when in fact we are simply a “dad” or a “father”.

There are times when we have to explain our situation. I remember being at a shopping center with my daughter and a photographer had a stand set up and was handing out promotional cards. I took one and he engaged in conversation about getting a portrait done. It looked good and I was happy to discuss it until he asked “where is mummy”?  I said there is no mum that will be in the photo, he said “no problem” we can just take the two of you.  I lost interest and said no thanks! you might be better of finding a mummy and a daddy to take photos of 🙂

Another time was when I went to a cafe for breakfast and the waitress (older woman) handed out the menu’s and said “no mummy”? and tilted her head sideways as if that was the most unfortunate thing she had heard all week?  You can probably imagine I didn’t find anything on the menu I liked. It is unaware and ignorant people that seem to put their foot in their mouth, it took me quiet awhile to accept their ignorance. These days I still refuse to buy anything from a business that appears to have a negative  opinion on separation I guess so many people have an opinion i.e. friends, family, waitresses, photographers etc that you get a bit tired of feeling like you are a second class citizen.  We already feel like we have failed in some ways, we just need to be treated like anyone else and respected for our contribution for positive parenting.

We work harder at parenting our children than when we had two people sharing it in-fact, we should pat ourselves on the back and say well done. 🙂 We have turned what could have been a disaster into a positive environment for our children even if the situation isn’t how we would have preferred.  We have taught our kids some important things and we have modelled good behavior.  We show controlled conflict resolution, provide for them emotionally and financially, we behave in a dignified and mature manner and we always keep our eyes on the main event…our children.

Keep in touch – Skype

You will discover a whole new world of keeping in touch.

There has been some previous posting on the topic of “keeping in touch”, we thought another good way is to use Skype.  Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice or video calls over the Internet for free.  It is as simple as creating a free account with Skype.  You simply log on, select “Get Skype” from the home page and choose the computer system your using from the drop down menu i.e Windows or Mac?.  Follow the prompts, download and Skype runs a video tests and audio tests and then you are set to go.

Its a good idea to include a set of head phones so that you can chat without the worry of interruption.  Its that easy!

If you can, set up your child with their own Skype profile (It just needs a name and email account only)  Don’t be too worried about the profile info, there are ways you can keep their details private i.e. don’t fill out the profile info.  You can take extra precautions and now it might be a good time to discuss Internet safety.  Some other tips on Internet safety are as follows:

  • Parents should monitor their children while they are utilizing Skype.  If necessary, keep the computer in a common area, like the living room, or if the Skype is only for communication between yourself then you should have no concerns. They should turn it on to accept your Skype and off when you have finished.
  • Discuss “stranger danger” with your children, especially how to avoid contact with strangers online and what to do if one tries to communicate with them on the computer.
  • Make sure your child’s account is protected with a unique, long password that includes a combination of letters numbers, and characters.
  • Update your privacy settings for receiving communications. For a PC, open Skype and click “Tools.” Then go to “Options” and “Privacy.” On a Mac, open Skype and click “Preferences” and then “Privacy.”
  • If you want to keep it as private as possible, leave your profile completely blank.
  • If you think your account may have been compromised, change your Skype password immediately.
  • If a questionable incident occurs (like the one described above), contact your local authorities.  Be sure to save all pertinent information for the police, such as the predator’s user-name, time and date of the incident, and any other details about the conversation itself.

The Equipment

If they have complete access to a computer that’s great, if they don’t, you may be in a position to purchase a small laptop for them with internet access and built in camera are usually standard.  Laptops can be relatively inexpensive these days and a WiFi remote Internet cards are pretty cheap.

Lap-tops can be sourced through Officeworks or JB Hi FI for as little at $350. A wireless WiFi card can be as little as $15 a month through Dodo mobile broadband and if it is only used for your Skyping then that should be completely adequate.  You will be able to set up both your own and your child computer, chat and get approval from their mum to use Skype during the week  and if all is agreed to then it’s the next best thing to being there!

Party Sausage Rolls

Grab the kids to help you in the kitchen and make these yummy sausage rolls.
There is nothing better than cooking with kids, its so much fun 🙂

Makes 24

Ingredients
500g sausage mince
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 small brown onion, grated
1 medium carrot, peeled, grated
3 sheets frozen puff pastry, partially thawed
Tomato sauce, to serve

Method
Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Combine mince, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, breadcrumbs, mustard powder, onion and carrot in a bowl.

Cut each pastry sheet in half. Shape 1/2 cup mince mixture into a sausage shape. Place along 1 long side of 1 pastry half.
Roll up pastry to enclose filling.
Using fingertips, pinch pastry to seal.
Cut into quarters. Place, seam side down, on 1 prepared tray, 5mm apart. Repeat with remaining mince mixture and pastry.

Bake for 35 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Serve with tomato sauce.

Enjoy!

Cyber Bullying

“Adults use the Internet, but children ‘live’ it”
John Bertrand, Chairman of
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

Young people see digital technology – including the Internet, social networking services and mobile phones – as a normal part of their social life and connecting with their friends, as well as sourcing information and for education purposes.

I remember a friend who told me that the primary school where their daughter attended set up an email account for all the students – remember they are primary school aged children!  When the children received their own personal email address they (as young people do) shared passwords! Friends logged into each others email account and sent emails out to their friends saying things like “I hate you” “you are ugly” “I don’t want to be your friend anymore” etc.

How could that school think for a minute that children could handle the responsibility associated with email and understand the consequences of actions like that is beyond me? You have probably guessed that the email accounts were shut down within a week.  Ask your school if they are registering for the program, I certainly will be! If not, what measures are they taking to educate and protect children within their school from Cyber Bullying?

This News update is to let you all know that The Alannah and Madeline Foundation in conjunction with  The Victorian and Queensland State Governments are rolling out a Cyber Bullying education program called “eSmart” for schools.  The uptake of the program has been huge with over 1000 schools signing up within weeks of it being launched.

A little about The Alannah and Madelaine Foundation,  The Centre Against Bullying and eSmart.

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation is a national charity protecting children from violence and its devastating effects.

They care for children who have experienced or witnessed violence and run programs which prevent violence in the lives of children. They play an advocacy role and are a voice against childhood violence.

The National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) is a peak body working to advise and inform the Australian community on the issue of childhood bullying and the creation of safe schools and communities, including the issue of cybersafety.

NCAB is made up of a number of experts and works closely with school communities, governments and industry. It plays an important role in speaking out for children and advocating for their right to be free from bullying and other forms of violence.

About eSmart

eSmart equips everyone in the school community with the skills and knowledge they need for smart, safe and responsible use of technology.

eSmart helps schools to embed a culture of positive technology use, create policies and procedures, gain access to evidence-informed resources and track their progress in becoming eSmart.  Follow this link to more  information for Parents on eSmart and here for more Information for Schools

“As a parent, I would know that when I enrol my child in an eSmart school, it is a school where cybersafety and bullying are dealt with effectively. The teachers will know how to deal with incidents, children will look out for each other and can safely report bullying. As a parent I would know who to go to if my child was involved in anything risky online.” Dr Judith Slocombe, CEO, The Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
For more information on what Cyber bullying might look like follow this link.

Windy road ahead but keep going

There is at least one common thread amongst us, we are all trying to raise our children and be the best Dad that we can be.  There’s no need to go it alone or feel that it is hopeless or you are a second rate carer compared to their mum.  We know, mums have been paving the way in child care for generations and most of them doing a great job. There is absolutely no reason why we cannot be as competent in all aspects of child care as mums.  I found, you just have to want to!

When thinking about how we can overcome some challenges whilst we take on the most important job that we could ever do – raising children to be good adults.

Is…

Remember to look after your health both mentally and physically as we know too well parenting requires both physical and mental effort.

Don’t be the stereotypical male and attempt to go it alone, it’s too hard, there are people you can ask for help, other dads, friends, family and today there is so much information provided online there is no excuse for not knowing – you just have to “Google your questions” may I even suggest to ask your question here, I am sure you will get hundreds of good people wanting to help.

Be kind to yourself and interact with other adults, we all need adult conversation. I remember going on holidays with the kids and by the end of the holiday as much as I loved it, really enjoyed hanging out with some adults when I got home.

If you have lost friends through separation as we all know we do, get involved with a hobby club, walking club, sporting club or some “people” interaction activity, it’s great to just chat.

There is one area that I feel is always a challenge and will post more on this later.  But for now it is “discipline” When we separate we feel we have put our kids through enough change and are reluctant to argue with them or to enforce rules.  The best way forward would be to agree on a basic set of rules with their mother that are enforced in both homes and then stick to them.  They soon get use to them and unhappiness is replaced by routine and happiness returns.  The short term struggle is worth the effort as you are teaching them values, respect and discipline to enable them to step into adulthood knowing what is right and wrong.

Because all our situations are different and there are degrees (more or less) of the above, one thing is for sure, if we are consistently trying to improve our life and our children’s – you will succeed.

Our kids are the main event

I was never allowed to participate in parenting, If I dressed my kids they would be too cold or hot, if I prepared a meal it was too spicy, when I cleaned their room it wasn’t done correctly? Maybe she was right? But that all changed when we separated.

It became my time to engage in parenting and to perform fatherly duties without the aggravation and arguments that came from a bad marriage.  I was able to dedicate time to getting better at all the things supposedly I was doing wrong?

Today I get no criticisms from the kids around how clean the house is (it is clean), what the meals taste like and my overall parenting skills…OMG maybe I got better! I dedicated a lot of time to practicing being a good parent and learning all the skills of being a great dad.   There is a good book called “Wednesday evenings and every other weekend” it has a story around dedicating time to the task of being a good parent.

The story talks about being a responsive parent and to clear your schedule and your mind of everything except your child, I think about this in way of being 100% present when ever you are with them.  It takes practice and even then I am guilty of not achieving 100% all the time.  The book has a good analogy: The circus understands this principle.  There might be three rings, but when the star appeared there was only one center ring – the only part of the big tent that was lit.

Our kids are the main event, the top of the bill, the one you have come to see.  Have you paid for a ticket to the big top?  Absolutely! You have spent thousands to be able to spend time with your child, to say nothing of your emotional investment.  Now sit back and fully enjoy that which you have given so much to see.  This is the V.I.P performance. At this moment you are the only ticket holder. You can find this book at Amazon:  “Wednesday evenings and every other weekend”  a second hand book can cost .12 cents with only $4 shipping, definitely worth a read.

It was my opportunity to parent, I loved showing the world that I was good at it and that dads are as capable and competent as mums.  I didn’t feel like I was missing out anymore,  I loved planning our weekends and including downtime on the couch just hanging out.  I worked hard at putting all the disappointment behind me and concentrated on our main event.

We know that divorce smacks the smile of your face and we feel run over by a semi trailer – No a B double! 🙂 But finding the quickest way to get over it and finding your smile will be the best thing for you and your kids.  If you feel that you are hardly ever present when your kids are with you, it might be worthwhile seeing a physiologist to help you get to a better place so that when the kids are with you they are the main event.  I did a couple of times, it helped me sort out crap and to be more fun with my kids.  There is a good health directory for practitioners in your area if you feel it could help.

Parenting Plan (happy plan)

Many children worry about what will happen to them when their parents split up, and it can be a big relief to them if the arrangements become clear and predictable early on.  Working out a parenting plan as early and as quickly as possible serves many purposes such as it gets your children into a regular routine, you can have certainty around access, holidays, do we share in the buying of gifts and presents, do we share clothes etc.

Being as flexible as possible is a key factor in working out a fair and reasonable plan.  Whatever your parenting plan looks like it doesn’t have to be written down, but if you do write it down calling it a parenting plan is a good way to do it.  I called mine our “Happy Plan”, I wrote out a nice well written check list of the things and considerations I believed would be fair and reasonable for both of us.

After my ex had time to read and consider the plan, she then wrote one of her own (with some minor tweaks) and provided me with her version to consider.  It was pretty close to what I was asking for and we agreed we would use that as our agreed plan.  Everyone’s circumstances are very different and it can play a huge part in what the plan might look like, for example your work commitments, distance to travel, financial, accommodation and health etc.

Some things to consider and help you with ideas that could go into your plan:

  • What time your children will spend with each of you
  • What time your children will spend with other people, such as grandparents , siblings, step-parents or other people that are important to your children
  • What activities each of you will do with your children (e.g sports, homework, music) and whether both of you can agree to attend some important events with your children
  • How you will share parental responsibility and decision making about the big things (e.g what school your children will go to, decisions about healthcare )
  • How you will talk about and come to agreement on the important, long-term issues as your children grow, their needs change or either of the parent’s circumstances change.
  • How your children will keep in touch with the other parent and other people important to your children when they are with you i.e they have access at all times to use your mobile phone and can phone the other parent every night before bedtime
  • What arrangements need to be made for special occasions such as birthdays, religious or cultural events, holidays, school concerts, parent teacher interviews
  • Financial arrangements for the children. This may include some investigation on what payments you need to make and what is deemed fair, you can calculate this by visiting the Child Support Agency estimator.  These payments do not need to go through CSA and they can be paid to either party by private arrangements.
  • What process will be followed to change the plan or resolve any problems, if either parents circumstances change?

There are some example template checklists on the internet and one that covers some good areas is at Relationships Australia checklist.

How is your plan going, share you experiences and ideas below.