When you are a father and have been unable to see your children in a long time, the first moment you get together can be uncomfortable for one reason or another. The children may be angry that you have not visited them even if it wasn't your choice, or they might be battling the mixed emotions of happiness and confusion.
The tips below should help.
1. Try to get the other parent on board
Many reasons could have caused you to disconnect from your children. Perhaps it was largely or entirely the other parent's fault, via alienation. Maybe one parent relocated to a new city or state, a judge issued a temporary order for protection or one parent was angry about a divorce or the underlying reason that the two of you to parted ways.
Whatever the case, the process of reconnecting goes more smoothly when the other parent is on board. As long as alienation or abuse was not the cause, get in touch with your ex, explain what is going on and ask for suggestions on how you and the kids can reconnect with each other.
By using this approach, the reconnection also comes as less of a surprise to the kids, as your ex can lay the groundwork for a visit.
2. Don't set unrealistic expectations
If the time apart was extensive, your kids have changed. So have you. The sweet 5-year-old who followed all of your rules may now be a confused, stubborn 6-year-old. It is probably unrealistic to expect your child to follow blindly everything you ask him or her to do. Make your first few meetings as pressure-free as possible.
For example, a dinner with extended family would likely be fraught with tension. On the other hand, arranging an encounter at a local park where you might play basketball or softball with the kids gives them space to work on reconnecting under their terms.
Usually, it is best not to act as if nothing has happened. It can be a good idea to apologize for your absence and to explain what you can about the situation. Something such as, "I missed you guys a lot. I had a lot to work through and I knew your mom would take care of you. I'm here now," can help immensely.
Life after a split or divorce can be a stressful time for parents and children. A lawyer can help you navigate the process and find a resolution that benefits the children.