By: James R. Venney
Contributor, Los Dads
My original intention in writing this article was to share some lessons learned and observations I have made thus far in my journey as a single father. However, in the wake of the events that unfolded in Connecticut on December 14th this brief article took on a different meaning. If you are a single parent I implore to forego those things that only appear important and embrace your one true charge, your relationships with your children. If your child is growing up in the wake of divorce he or she is at greater risk for a variety of behavioral disorders, feelings of alienation and disconnect than that of children who’s parents remain married, assuming that marriage is a healthy one.
Children of divorce need more love, more care, more attention and more understanding. And you as a parent are charged with ensuring that your child gets the nurturing that they so richly deserve while simultaneously dealing with your own possible feelings of remorse, heartache and regret created by the dissolution of your marriage. It is no easy task, but one that we must be successful at as failure should not be an option.
It has been said that the greatest gift you can give your child is your time. However, I think that is not entirely accurate. In my mind the greatest gift you can give your child is your undivided attention. I cast no stones as I too am guilty of spending time in the presence of my daughter but not actually being “there.” There are so many distractions that we must be vigilant against. We engage in numbing by using our phone to email, send text messages, check Facebook or the scores of the ball game or any endless number of things that don’t allow you to be engaged in the moment. We plant our children in front of televisions or handheld games as digital babysitters so that we can disengage. These actions appear innocuous but I assure you they are not.
So how can we change our behaviors to give our children the greatest chances of successful happy lives? In my mind it’s the small things done consistently that can pay the biggest dividends. For example, I spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings and all day Sunday with my daughter. When I arrive at her home my cell phone is turned off and left in my car. I am with my daughter therefore everything else in the world is secondary so I do not need my phone. My evenings with her are not negotiable. In other words, I do not accept requests for meetings with clients or anyone else that might potentially interfere with our father/daughter time. When I am with her I try to be “with her.” I engage her in conversation; in those activities that she enjoys that build her self-esteem and sense of self worth. I try to be patient but firm. I hold her, kiss her, hug her and tell her I love her. Two minutes spent asking your child about their day and expressing an interest in their wellbeing is better than two days spent in the same room but disengaged.
Of course as hard as I try I am not always engaged with my child but by making small consistent efforts to do better for her each day I can change the trajectory of her life for the better. The next time you are spending time with your child/children, just try turning off your phone or the television and disengage from the outside world. Your reward for doing so will be a stronger bond with the most important person/people in your life.
A native Floridian and 3rd generation Miami area resident, James has a 24-year history in Private Banking and Real Estate related business. James is the proud father of a 5 year-old girl, an avid cyclist and triathlete. James is the Founding Partner of Elements Capital Funding, a multi-investor mortgage lender located in Coral Gables.
As a mother of twin tweens in 2011 and an active Girl Scout Troop leader, Cristy realized there was a need to develop bilingual digital content and foster a community facing the challenges of raising kids after first grade. That year she founded and remains co-Publisher of Los Tweens & Teens, to support multicultural parents and mentors with content related to raising Gen Z- tweens & teens ages 7-18. Through the Los Tweens & Teens LIVE events such as Teens & Me – the growing team aims to provide our community with essential resources from chats with therapists to battle anxiety and bullying, to understanding social media and technology.
A New Jersey native of Cuban decent, Cristy is a board member of Amigos For Kids – a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing child abuse in the South Florida community. She is a teenage cancer survivor and speaks nationally at conferences and volunteers with cancer-awareness organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of South Florida.