Australian Landmark Forum Graduate Brings Kids Together with Divorced Dads

12camp0.jpgWhen Australian Landmark Forum graduate Brad Mander looked to find a project for his Self-Expression and Leadership Program, he didn’t have to look far from home. As a divorced father, he experienced a sense of loss when he realized he would be spending less time with his kids. He had this realization on Father’s Day, and it was the inspiration for his project: A camp for Divorced fathers and their children, held over Father’s Day weekend, where children got real quality time with their dads. by Liz Minchin

On that first Father’s Day, Brand Mander spent most of the day without his children. He and his wife had separated in 2001, and he only had a few hours with his children during lunchtime. “It was a great afternoon. I took them to Hungry Jack’s and then to a play center, but when it was time to take them home it hit me again how much things had changed,” recalls Mander.

He met many other separated and divorced men and he realized how common his experience was. So many fathers were struggling to be an important part of their children’s lives. For instance, according to the statistics from the Federal Child Support Agency, there were over 330,000 non-residential parents in Australia, and more than 90 per cent of them aer men. Unlike most people, however, Brad Mander decided to do something about it. 

Mander started the Australian Camp Connect Association with assistance from the YMCA and organized the first Dads and Kids camp at Mount Evelyn.

Mr. Mander noticed that “It’s very easy to spend money to try and make your kids happy, especially when you’ve only got a limited time with them – rather than doing the basics.  Our idea is to get fathers communicating with their kids and listening to them and getting away from being a “good time dad”. We want to give non-residential fathers the message that they still have a vital role in their kids’ upbringing, even though they’re fathering from a distance.”

Depending on the effectiveness of this camp, Mr Mander hopes to run at least six more for non-residential fathers over the next year and possibly expand the program further after that.

Mander has noticed that his relationships with his children, Jillie, 8, and Lachlan, 5, improved greatly since he gained regular contact visits and moved to be closer to them. For Brad Mander, two years of living apart from his children made him appreciate “all the little things, like reading them bedtime stories or kissing them goodnight.”

“There’s so much of their lives that you miss, including all the firsts like when they lose their first tooth, and you only hear about it afterwards,” he said. “For a lot of fathers it’s a real wake up call. The whole significance of these things really hits you once that daily contact is gone.”

 The story was originally written for the Australian web site the age.

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