Well, the term is actually Disney Land Daddy but being from Central Florida I felt the need to change it to Disney World. Many of you may have never heard of this term, in fact, I had only heard it for the first time recently myself. A Disney World Daddy is a single father who does not have full custody of his children and tends to spoil them when he has visitation. Some might say, well whats the problem with this, he has to pack all the fun stuff in a short amount of time since he doesn’t seem them as often. The problem, however, is that it does not create the type of relationship the father and children really need.
A single father who does not have custody or shared custody of his children is really in a tough position. (Please note that I am going to be making assumptions here for ease of writing this article but these assumptions do not apply to all single fathers.) Historically fathers were not very involved in their children’s lives and although this is increasingly changing, it can be very difficult to keep up a high level of involvement when you are not living in the same household (although it is possible). Not being privvy to many of the children’s day to day activities can cause a loss of bonding for some fathers and children. Disney World Daddies are those that realize that this happens and try to make up for it (or are trying to mask their own uncomfortableness) by keeping the children busy with all types of fun activities such as movies, shopping trips, sporting events, and yes, theme parks. The problem is that always being engaged in these activities does not promote the chance for fathers to actually bond with their children since their is limited time for talking and the children’s view of dad changes from parent to entertainer. Now, don’t get me wrong, these activities do have a place in the parent/child relationship, but they should not be going on all day- every day during visitation.
If being a Disney World Daddy is not getting you the effects you want with your children, then what is it that they really need? Single (or even re-married) dad’s need to keep the role of dad that they fulfilled previously (which is hopefully a positive role) but also take on the role of mom as well in order to really develop or keep their meaningful bond with their children. This means that the child is treated like they are a part of the household with reasonable rules and responsibilities instead of like a visitor being waited on. Children need boundaries and respond well when they are given them (although it may be a difficult transition if they have not had any for a while). This is positive in not only teaching them about the way the world works but also in helping decrease the likelihood that they will feel like an outsider in your home and in your new family if you are remarried.
So what should you do to fill up the time you have your children? Talk to them. Ask about how school is going and any other interests they might have. Talk about their friends if they are willing and let them know you are there for them when you need them. You can play games such as board games and card games or even go to the park. Do things outdoors such as riding bikes and going for walks. Teach them new skills and how to interact with the world. And every now and then you can even treat them with the fun activities such as Disney World!
If you are a Disney World Daddy or are in a family with one, please feel free to call. I am periodically running a stepfamily group, Smart Steps, that may be of interest in helping you to get your stepfamily life back on track. If you would rather, I can also see stepfamilies/stepfamily members on an individual basis. You can call the office for more information at 631-5538.