Andrew Ford separated from the mother of his youngest daughter when she was only a year old.
During the past 5 years, it has been a challenge to get to see her regularly. He also has a 13-year-old daughter from an earlier marriage.
Although he now has fairly regular access to his youngest, it remains difficult at times.
Andrew is not alone.
National statistics show that Britain has the highest proportion of fatherless families (2 million) of any major European country, and 1 in 3 children – nearly 4 million in total – live without their father. Of those children, 1 in 3 will lose contact with their dads permanently, according to the Centre for Social Justice.
Andrew shares some tips for estranged and divorced dads to help them maintain and improve contact with their children and avoid parental alienation.
How to Avoid Parental Alienation
1. Formalise the contact: Secure a formal contact arrangement with your children by talking to their mother and getting a contact order through the courts. This should cover holidays, weekends and drop-off / collection arrangements. Such a schedule provides a basis for quality time together throughout the year.
2. Plan your year: Buy a calendar to note and plan all the arranged contacts and key dates throughout the year. A methodical approach will make the exercise more manageable, and enjoyable. Also plan early for special dates such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals – I recently needed to do this for my daughters to attend my parents’ – their grandparents’- 50th wedding anniversary.
3. Get online: Modern technology is crucial to maintain contact with your children. E-mail is great for ongoing communication – either directly with an older child, or to confirm arrangements with the child’s mother.
I CC my mother, older daughter, the grandmother of my youngest, and my new partner, Dawn, in on such e-mails, as it’s a good way of reinforcing contact details and dates, which often involve the extended family.
4. Get smart: A good way to stay in touch with your older child on a daily basis is via the free Smart phone apps WhatsApp and Viber, as this is how they’re having conversations with their friends today.
I chat to my older daughter on WhatsApp every day, sharing photos and other updates – such as what’s happening at their other home, when I’m travelling or just popping to do some shopping. It keeps her close and involved even if she’s not in the same location.
5. Store your memories in an online memory bank: My daughters want to see my face, expression and mannerisms not just read a text or listen to my disembodied voice! To feel like I am there, even when I am not there and for that I use an online memory bank which allows me to video record and store all sorts of information for my daughters in a secure digital memory bank. This includes stories about my childhood and family facts and even some advice.
Our time together is limited, this way they can get information when they are away from me, answers to questions they don’t know to ask and which we can chat about when we are together. Lifestorybank is the one I use but you can check online for other online memory banks.
Andrew Ford is a dad of two girls and an independent marketing consultant.