DEAR MR. DAD: My husband had a hard time coping with the birth of our first child. He left home for long stretches of time, became very depressed and even turned to drugs and alcohol. He was in jail this past year and I was at a loss at how to explain to our 2-year-old daughter where daddy is and why he doesn’t come home. Now that he is out of prison and seeking the help he needs, he is ashamed and very depressed about his relationship with his children. He has a hard time spending time with them and it is breaking my heart. How can I help him be the father I know he can be, and wants to be?

Answer:
Two important things to do: First, talk as much as you feel comfortable about daddy to the kids, about how he’s good at fixing things, etc. At the same time encourage your husband to be as involved as he can be. It’ll take a little while for him to reestablish a relationship with his daughter. She may seem a little frightened or reserved around him. That may frustrate your husband and make him feel that he’s doing a bad job. Try not to let him slip into that trap.

Second, remind him that what the kids really need is time with him – not a lot of fancy gifts or outings (those are nice but in small doses). Reading bedtime stories, giving baths, wrestling on the bed, going out for a nature walk, or making scrambled eggs with them are wonderful. He should try to establish some special things that only he does with the kids – and that you can remind them about whenever daddy isn’t around.



DEAR MR. DAD: How do I get my husband to stop yelling when he is upset with our children? What are some discipline techniques for a 9-year-old and a 2.5-year-old that will limit the shouting?

Answer:
Start by trying to figure out why your husband gets upset. What triggers his anger and why?

This is a long-term project and you’ll probably need to have a number of conversations about this before you can come close to answering the question.

In the short term, take a look at some child-development materials. A lot of parents (dads and moms) have no idea what their children are capable of at any give age and set their expectations far too high, treating the kids like little adults instead of growing children.

Finally, you might want to consider taking a parenting class together. For many men, the feeling of not knowing what they are doing (an incredibly common thing among parents) can be infuriating.

Armin Brott is the author of many best-selling books on fatherhood. Find resources for fathers at www.mrdad.com.


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