You meet some spectacular people when you attend a conference whose sole purpose is to bring together individuals who want to pay it forward. We were fortunate to be on the program of the "Every Thing for Dads" event in Sarasota, Fla., where passionate people came together to talk about the family and fatherhood.
Tommy Maloney is a dad with one son and two "bonus" daughters. That's what he calls his two girls, whom he joyfully acquired through a second marriage. His first wife asked him for a divorce when his son, Connor, was 5 years old. Coincidentally, Tommy was 5 when his own parents divorced.
After years of unhappiness and anxiety due to strained family relationships and one moment in particular when Tommy thought the only way to end his misery was to end his life, Connor, whom he calls "my heart and soul," inspired him to turn his life around and make a positive and lasting imprint on the plight of broken families in our society.
On average, 1 million children are affected by divorce in this country, Maloney says. "I want to help divorced dads stay connected with their kids so that they can continue to forge a positive bond in each other's lives."
Today, Maloney operates his own speaking and coaching business. In 2011, he published a compact but powerful booklet titled "25 Tips for Divorced Dads: How to Create Special Memories and Grow Bonds with Your Children." We want to share a few of Tommy's tips with single dads who may be struggling with how to stay connected with their children whom they see only occasionally.
• Talk to your kids every day. Even if it's just a short phone call, kids need to hear their dad's voice to reassure them that there is a connection.
• Tell your kids every day that you love them. No explanation needed.
• Create traditions together. Think of things that make your time together special.
• Respect the rules. Teach them that there are rules at your house just like at mom's house.
• Fast food is too easy. Cook at home together. It's less expensive and healthier.
• Be a positive role model. We have often said that there may be times when your kids won't look at you-but they never stop looking up to you.
• Volunteer at your kids' school. Maloney says he visits Connor's school often, where he talks to children and participates in activities.
Like father, like son. Connor is a busy fellow, too. He and his bonus sister, Becca, have published a coloring book titled "Ten Tips on How to Survive Your Parents' Divorce." We encourage single dads (and moms) to visit Tommy at tommymaloneyinternational.com.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.