Don't put too much pressure on yourself. There are times when you'll have tons of energy to run around doing things all day and other times when you'll feel like a slug-just like everyone else in the world. Your kids will understand. You and the kids will occasionally have fights, too. If you do fight, don't spend a lot of time worrying about it: they won't stop loving you. Fights are perfectly normal in intact families, and just as normal in broken ones.

 

Be normal. Of course you'll try not to spend your times with your kids working on some project from the office. But sometimes something comes up that you just have to do. Say, for example, this is the only weekend you can take care of those household repairs. Having the kids help out-even if it's only holding one end of the tape measure or handing you nails-is a wonderful way to spend time together and make them feel a part of your life. It'll also help them tone down any unrealistic expectations they might have about you by showing them that you're human and that you have obligations and responsibilities.

 

Your goal as a non-custodial father, even if your time with your children is limited, is to have as normal a relationship with them as possible. There's no need to compete with your ex and you don't need to buy their love. If you genuinely love your children and are interested in being with them, they'll know it. And they'll love you and want to be with you too.

 

 

A nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott is also the author of The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for Dads-to-Be, The New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First Year; A Dad's Guide to the Toddler Years, and Throwaway Dads: The Myths and Barriers That Keep Men from Being the Fathers They Want to Be. He has written on parenting and fatherhood for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of other periodicals. He also hosts "Positive Parenting", a nationally distributed, weekly talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland, California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com.