Al Cole Interviews Shelly on The Importance of Fathers

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Al Cole with “People of Distinction”.

In this interview, I share the importance of fathers and how couples, divorced or together, can work together to support the growth and development of their children. This was a fun, informational, and stimulating conversation about how moms and dads are different, how a father’s involvement supports both mothers and children, and what we can do to help fathers get the support and resources they need to be an active, healthy influence in their child’s life.

Al Cole from CBS Radio is known for his outstanding broadcasting, public speaking, literary and musical achievements. Al is published by the international book line “Chicken Soup for the Soul“. He’s the talk show host of the nationally syndicated “People of Distinction“. His People of Distinction Humanitarian Award honors Unsung Heroes who make the world a better place through their great humanitarian work.

You can learn more about “People of Distinction” at

Happy Parenting!


New On-Line Program for Fathers Experiencing Divorce or Separation

Just as divorce or separation is the furthest thing from a man’s mind on the day he says, “I do.”, being separated from his child is the farthest thing from his mind when he hears, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” Yet, close to 50% of marriages end in divorce, and roughly 80% of mothers receive primary custody. This can leave fathers feeling disconnected from their children.

Children need their father in their life.  In fact, decades of research tells us that no single factor contributes more to the well-being of adult children of divorce than having a relationship with both parents while growing up.  Fathers and children share a special bond with one another, one that is unique from that of mothers.  Regardless of divorce, fathers want to protect, guide, and provide for their children. They have an endless amount love, a selfless kind of love that is unlike any of their other relationships. And, they express wanting lots of strategies for making the most of their time together.

I would like to let you know about a new online program I have developed, as part of my doctoral program in Human Development & Family Studies at the University of Wisconsin -Madison.  I am currently looking for fathers to participate in a free, new online, multi-media program designed to help them adjust and parent after divorce or separation. I would greatly appreciate your help in sharing this program through your available networks, websites and newsletters.

Below are some ways you can share this program:

  • Copy and paste the program information provided below into an email, newsletter, or other forms of communication
  • Post the program information on your blog and social media accounts like Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Tweet:  New Online, multimedia program for fathers to adjust and parent after divorce/separation available at
  • Direct people to the Facebook page:
  • Send people directly to the homepage:
  • Share directly with fathers you know and encourage them to sign up!

Thanks in advance for your willingness to share this program!


Program information: 

Fathers who experience divorce or separation can feel like they are starting over. Many say it is not what they expected, and harder then they thought it would be. They feel alone and miss their kids.

Apart, Not Broken: Learn, Connect, & Create gives fathers a place to:

Learn: Learn from the real experiences of other fathers. Get current information and recommendations for dealing with divorce and parenting after separation.

Connect: Use concrete examples and creative strategies to connect with their child and manage their relationship with their child’s mother.

Create: Create the relationship they want to have with child. Build new traditions and lasting memories.

This program is equipped with: 

  • Videos reflecting the real life experiences of other divorced fathers;
  • A discussion forum for you to connect and share with other fathers;
  • Online tools for sharing photos, comparing calendars, journaling, using a whiteboard, and communicating via chat, video chat, and email;
  • Current and concise information about divorce & parenting after divorce;
  • Recommended activities for you and your child; and
  • Additional resources such as book lists and helpful websites.

This innovative, multi-media program is:

  • Free of charge;
  • Released over a 12-week period, with a minimum time commitment of 30-45 minutes/week;
  • Available 24/7 at any location with an Internet connection;
  • Flexible, allowing you to spend as much time as you would like on various aspects of the program.
  • This program is for fathers who have a child between the ages of 8-16, and have been divorced or separated within the last two years.


Shelly D. Mahon, Program Director
Ph.D Candidate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Practical Tips for Parenting Children of All Ages Through Divorce

Whether you are going through a divorce, or you know someone who is, this information can help you understand what children of divorce need from their parents and other adults in their lives.   You can either use this information yourself, or share it with those who are seeking tips for helping their children through this transition.  Adolescence is already a tumultuous time. It is a time when your children are trying to understand themselves as they experience major growth in all areas of their lives: physically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, and morally. And, parenting teens is already a challenging task. It is a task that requires insight and understanding. It challenges us to put our own “stuff” aside and focus on what is best for the healthy development of our child. Divorce can take these “normal” challenges to a whole new level

Being present to what your child needs in the face of your own heartbreak, grief and/or anger is easier said then done. Regardless of divorce, life keeps parents busy with things like family, work, school, relationships, and health and well-being. Sometimes in the midst of all this, parents are faced with other major life transitions like moving to a new home or switching jobs.  In fact, it is common for divorce to spark multiple transitions as parents attempt to reinvent themselves and reestablish their life.

Raising teens through divorce is one of my main areas of interest and research, specifically having a healthy parent-child relationship after divorce.  This requires understand the impact of divorce and your role in helping them cope with divorce at different ages. With the help of one of my students, Kimberly Baker, the following information is intended to give you information about (1) What they know, (2) How they feel, and (3) What you can do. While this is a blog on teens, the following chart includes infants, toddlers, and early childhood as well.

What They Understand

How They Feel

What You can Do About It

Preteens & Adolescents

Teens understand what divorce means and accept it as final. The older they are, the more they recognize that both parents played a role in the marriage and in the divorce. They may:- Feel abandoned,

– Withdrawal from their friends,

– Act in uncharacteristic ways,

– Challenge their beliefs about love, marriage, and family,

– Feel like they had to grow up too fast. (For example they may take on adult responsibilities or worry about things like money).

– Maintain open lines of communication.- Stay involved in their lives – know their friends, interests, and hobbies.

– Be engaged in their schooling.

– Honor or create family rituals and routines (Sunday dinner, weekend movie night, or cooking together).

– Teach contribution and responsibility through age appropriate chores.

– Do NOT use your teen as a confidant. Talk to other adults instead.

– Be careful introducing new partners to your teen. Make sure to consider their feelings and avoid surprises.


Preschool & Early Childhood

They recognize that their family has changed and that one parent no longer lives in the home. The older they get, the more they can accept that their parents will not get back together. They may:- Blame themselves,

– Worry about the changes they are experiencing in day-to-day life,

– Be sad or even have nightmares,

– Be aggressive toward the parent they blame.

– Hold hopes that their parents will get back together.


– Repeatedly tell them that they are NOT responsible for the divorce.- Reassure them that their needs will be met, regardless of which parent is present.

– Talk about and be accepting of ALL thoughts and feelings.

– Plan time for children to be with both parents if possible. Support the child’s ongoing relationship with the other parent.

– Read books together about children and divorce.

– Gently remind children that divorce is final.



Toddlers recognize that one parent is no longer at home. They may express empathy toward others, such as a parent who is feeling sad. They may:- Have difficulty separating from parents,

– Express anger toward a parent(s),

– Lose some skills (like toilet training),

– Revert to old behaviors (like thumb sucking),

– Experience problems with naptime or daily routines,

– Have nightmares.

– Spend more time with children during times of separation (For example: spend an extra ten minutes at daycare).- Physically and verbally reassure them of your love.

– Be understanding of your child’s distress. Recognize that old behaviors (like thumb sucking) may reappear for a short period of time, but will go away again with love and support.

– Talk with other important adults and caregivers about how they can best support your child.


Infants notice changes in their parent’s energy. Older infants realize one parent no longer lives in the home. They may:- Be more irritable,- Cry or fuss more often,

– Experience changes in sleep patterns,

– Experience changes in other daily routines (naps, eating, etc.).

– Keep the infants schedule as normal as possible.- Use physical and verbal affection to reassure your infant of your continued presence.

– Keep your infant’s favorite toys, blanket, and stuffed animals close by for comfort.

Happy Parenting,


Hope For Divorced Parents

Divorced parents can feel alienated, lost, and scared that the relationship they have with their child may slip away. It is important for parents to know that they are not alone in the range of emotions initiated as the family adjusts to the many changes they experience. Feelings of sadness and fear around losing day-to-day contact with children are coupled with frustrations around finding the adequate support and resources needed to maintain this important and treasured relationship. This may be especially true for the nonresidential father living away from their children. Not only do contemporary fathers express a strong desire to remain active in their children’s lives, research shows this involvement can protect kids from the harmful effects that have been connected to divorce. Safe, secure web communication tools can offer Continue reading “Hope For Divorced Parents”

Miss Your Children? Take Action Using Safe, Secure Web Communication Tools

Divorce is rated as one of the most stressful life experiences people encounter. Dealing with your stress is important to living a productive life and requires paying attention to your emotional needs and letting go of issues that you cannot control. When you are a parent, having less contact with your children can create an emotional void and sometimes you have little control over the amount of one-on-one contact you have with your children.

Fathers are better able to contribute to the well-being of their children when they have ongoing and consistent access to them. Since mothers are awarded primary custody of the children roughly 85% of the Continue reading “Miss Your Children? Take Action Using Safe, Secure Web Communication Tools”

Dealing With Grief and Loss After Divorce

Divorce represents the loss of a relationship and the hopes and dreams of a future together. When one experiences loss, life as it was is changed forever. While recognizing and dealing with feelings of grief and loss can be difficult and painful, experts suggest that the best way to move forward is to move through it. Researcher, Alan Wolfelt said, “We must journey all through it, sometimes meandering the side roads, sometimes plowing directly into its raw center.”

There is an important distinction between grieving and mourning. While grieving is what you feel on the inside, mourning is what you express outward to others. Dealing with the loss experienced from divorce involves outwardly mourning through your grief. How this happens is likely to be different for the two adults Continue reading “Dealing With Grief and Loss After Divorce”

Children of Different Ages Handle Divorce Differently

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Divorce signifies both an end to the marital relationship and a change in the parent-child relationship. In additional to dealing with their own feelings around the divorce, parents develop new concerns and fears about how their children are handling the divorce. While children’s response to divorce can vary widely, researchers have uncovered some common threads that highlight the needs of children at different ages. Regardless of age, don’t expect children to deal with the divorce overnight. The effects of divorce can last more than a couple years, but improve more quickly when parents continually reinforce that they love them and when they do their best to keep children out of parental conflict.

One of the most important factors influencing how young children, 0-3 adjust to divorce is parents ability to take care of themselves. When parents’ needs are met, they are better able to recognize and attend to the Continue reading “Children of Different Ages Handle Divorce Differently”

Technology Use by Divorced Families is Virtually Inevitable

Increased availability of computers, cell phones, and other multi-media devices has created an environment where technology can be a catalyst for maintaining closer family relationships. In today’s world, the use of technology can assist families to stay connected with one another and feel informed about day-to-day activities. A recent report from the PEW Internet and American Life Project indicated married couples with children used cell phones and the Internet to say hello, chat, “check-in” with family members, coordinate schedules, and stay connected on a day-to-day basis. This report reminds us that in today’s world, the use of technology is virtually inevitable.

  • 93% of married with children households reported having a desktop or laptop computer
  • 58% reported having two or more computers
  • 37% of those with one computer had an Internet connection
  • 63% of those with two or more computers had Internet
  • 76% of adults and 84% of children 7 to 17 years of age reported using the Internet.
  • 52% of users went online with someone else at least once a week
  • 34% engaged in occasional “shared screen moments” with another family member. Shared screen moments consisted mostly of entertainment or “Hey, look at this!” experiences.
  • 53% of participants reported that the use of new technologies resulted in higher quality of communications with family members who did not live in the same household.

The good news is that parents in this study reported that using the Internet to connect to one another allowed them to be as close, or closer, with their family today as they were with their family growing Continue reading “Technology Use by Divorced Families is Virtually Inevitable”

Thoughts on Custody & Parenting Time

Divorce is a complicated series of events that can take days, months, or even years to bring to fruition and progress beyond.  For couples who have children, questions of what the marital breakdown will look like are coupled with discussions around how to share the children between two households. Many times, parents are confronted with making thoughtful and logical decisions about the custody, parenting time, and the well-being of their children in the midst of coping with personal feelings of uncertainty, pain, and loss.

While the trend is changing, mothers still obtain primary custody more than ¾ of the time.  This statistic begs the question, why aren’t fathers awarded more parenting time? There is no single answer to this question. Of course, custody should be limited or removed completely if the parent’s actions compromise the Continue reading “Thoughts on Custody & Parenting Time”