At 15, I was the product of a divorce household. I understood that my parents' marriage had ended and the result was going to be them not being together anymore and his household was moving across the country. My siblings and I visited our Dad often and he came to see us, but our dwelling mainly stayed under Mom's rooftop.
Dealing with divorce as a young adult was extremely painful. However, I always felt truly blessed and very fortunate to have two amazing parents who loved us unconditionally. I couldn't imagine not having a relationship with either parent. Nor could I imagine them not wanting to be an important part in our lives.
The theme of absent parents kept reoccurring after I lost my dad. In May 2011, at his public memorial service in New York, I embraced and spoke with many of his former doctoral students. One woman hugged me for quite some time and told me that my dad was the father that she never had. Her father was still alive, but he had not been a part of her life since she was a little girl.
One gentleman told me that my speech encouraged him to be a better father. I thanked him and was glad that I was able to touch him in a way that propelled him to become better in his parenting.
Flying back with my family from New York to Atlanta, I kept thinking about parents who are absent in their children's lives. Another message that remained in my mind and heart was that, "You only have one life to live." I no longer had my dad present with me on Earth, but I have 31 years of wonderful memories to cherish and hold on to for the rest of my life.
Researchers on divorce have shown that a father figure is important in a child's life in order for them to develop emotionally, mentally, and even physically. Nina Chen, Ph.D., Human Development Specialist advises parents, "If you have not been involved much in your child's life, start now to spend quality time with your child. For a divorced and non-residential father, it is very important to keep regular contacts and spend quality time with children. Mothers also need to provide support and encouragement to help build the bond between a child and a father."
I completely understand in some cases parent involvement can do more harm for the child than good. In the cases where both parents are equally capable of taking care of their children, then why harm your children by not co-parenting. Why do some parents decide to not be a part of their children's lives? Is it because they are upset with their exes? Or maybe it's because they have a grudge because they have to pay child support?
I think absent parents need to stop using the excuse that they no longer want to be a part of their ex's life and therefore they cannot be involved with their children's lives. Stop using these excuses because it's never too late to get involved with your children.
My mom says, "Children don't ask to be born." I've often thought about this and firmly believe that it's true. If you decide to have a child, then it's your and your partner's responsibility to take care of your child.
How do absent parents get involved and play an active role in their child's life?
Author Jennifer Wolf states,
"Much of what is required is actually simple -- things like planning ahead for visits, being there when you say you will, and not allowing your commitment to your kids to fall into an 'out of sight, out of mind' abyss. Once parents who initially thought they couldn't or wouldn't be involved in their children's lives begin to see their own ability to have a positive impact, their motivation to maintain their involvement can develop."
When I lost my dad I realized even more so that life is not forever. I also am more aware of spending quality time with our children and making a positive impact in their lives, the same way that our parents made in ours. "Divorce is never easy for any family, but it does not have to destroy children's lives or lead to family breakdown," states author and sociologist Constance Ahrons. Life is too short and uncertain to not be involved with your children's lives.