Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dadcando: Top website for single and separated Dads

This is the text of my That's Men for You column in The Irish Times on Tuesday, 11th September, 2007:

Is it too early to talk about Christmas? No, it isn’t, not if you’re a separated Dad who needs to make arrangements to see his kids over the so-called festive season, especially if these arrangements are likely to be complicated.

Negotiating the arrangements early is really important. That’s the advice on an excellent website called which I highly recommend to men living apart from their children. The children’s mothers would benefit from looking at the website too.

What I particularly like about the website is that the author, Chris Barnardo, (above right) a single father of four, displays none of the hostility towards women that infects many websites on men’s issues.

For instance, on the question of holiday arrangements he writes: “Be fair and flexible; remember you and your ex-partner both have holiday needs. If your ex-partner has work commitments try to take some days leave to share out the holiday childcare.”

During the holiday, “Promote contact,” Barnardo advises. “Encourage your child to phone, email or send a postcard to their mother. Help them to do this, especially younger children, but give them their privacy if they want to speak on the phone or write something in private, avoid the temptation to try and overhear what they are saying on the phone, and don’t question them about what was said after they have hung up unless they look distressed after the call.”

Some of his advice is of the “Why didn’t I think of that?” variety. For instance, in the vast majority of cases, the children will live mainly with the mother and the father is the partner who will move out. His new home will also be very important to the children. Involve them in the process, says Barnardo. Bring them with you to view your prospective apartment or house. Let them choose their own duvet covers and pillow cases. Have a set of toothbrushes, hair brushes and other necessities there for them to reduce the amount of stuff they have to bring on visits.

And here are three points which I think all children of separated parents would heartily endorse:

First, “don't ever tell your children that their mother is bad, or make nasty, snide or cynical comments about her to them. They won’t understand the irony of what you are saying and they unconditionally love their mother because she is their mother, just like they unconditionally love you because you are their father.”

Second, “however curious or desperate you are to know what is going on at their other home, with their mother, never ever try to find out information about your ex-partner from your children. Resist the temptation to use them for sending messages to your ex-partner. They didn't ask to be caught up in this and they are very sensitive to the fact that they have to go between their mum and dad and the last thing you want them to feel when they're with you is that is that they have to be on their guard.”

Third, “never discuss contentious issues on the doorstep when you come to pick the children up or drop them off. If a disagreement starts, as it often will when contentious issues are discussed, and this happens more than a couple of times, the children will begin to dread the hand-over, and soon will dread you coming to pick them up, or mummy dropping them off.”

Breakups are messy and people who are hurt can be at their worst for quite some time afterwards. Many separated parents are in emotional pain and I don’t want to suggest that there are easy answers – but Barnardo’s advice offers a way to respect the children’s well-being in the midst of conflict.

The website covers other issues which range from being involved in your children’s schooling, to cooking for them and having fun with them.

I’m not a separated father but this website ( was a breath of fresh air. If you are a separated parent, I urge you to spend some time on it. It could change your life and your children’s lives.

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