Your divorce is imminent. There is no turning back now. There is a new meaning to ‘normal’ for life as things are about to change for you and your kid(s).
Through all the change, parenting must remain a priority. Parenting must remain a priority for this simple fact: Parents, that means you, have the biggest influence on how children react and get through the divorce! So, let’s start with you.
First and foremost is taking care of yourself!
Create uninterrupted “anti-stress” zones in your day. Times to sit quietly, read, take the ‘phone off the hook’, and just hang out. Start a journal to express your thoughts, feelings and questions to help you process all that is going on. We encourage the kid in divorce (k.i.d.) to talk to a parent, relative, friend or professional counselor when they are ready and you too need to find someone to talk to. There are two ‘groups’ you can turn to for this and we suggest you use both. First are friends, family and peer support groups who can provide emotional support and give you someone who will lend you their ear. The second group is professional counselors who can provide techniques and perspectives which will help you immensely. Again, we recommend you use both.
Another part of taking care of 'you' is not getting into a serious relationship too soon.
Going out with your friends for a night can be a very relaxing time and casual dating can give you someone to talk to but getting into a serious relationship right away can cause more problems than you think. There are all sorts of reasons why this new person may be better than the ex but guess what happens. Within six months the new person isn’t around anymore, you still haven’t dealt with what happened with your marriage and your kid is now dealing with another adult influence leaving their life. Give yourself time to process everything before moving into something serious. If you are spending time on yourself, nine months to a year after your divorce is final is a good amount of time before letting yourself get serious with someone else.
Never assume your child knows how much they mean to you!
Take the time to look your child straight in the eyes and say “I love you!!” and “I believe in you!!” Hug them more and longer. Write little love notes and place them randomly throughout the house or in their school books. They really do grow up fast and divorce seems to speed up that process because we get ‘busy’ and they are pushed into dealing with the ‘things’ that divorce brings on.
Time: Quality vs. Quantity.
Making the best of 5, 10 or 15 minute windows pays off much more in quality and quantity than waiting for the ‘perfect moment’. If you keep telling your child, “Not now, maybe later”, you will find that ‘later’ either doesn’t come or it is too late when it does. A few things you can do together are reading, baking, learning an instrument, taking a walk, trying different hobbies and sports. By providing quality and quantity time you are giving your k.i.d. more value because you are showing consistent and continuous love and appreciation.
Provide a way for your k.i.d. to express themselves.
Every k.i.d. that goes through divorce is full of feelings, fears and questions that need to be expressed. Some k.i.d.’s express themselves by talking so make sure you really listen when they are ready to talk. Some k.i.d.’s express themselves easier by writing and drawing and....... a journal like our My Journey My Journal which you can get at www.familyindivorce.com.
Don’t start giving your k.i.d. stuff to help ease the pain of divorce! I was ten when my parents divorced and for the first six months I was overwhelmed with stuff and toys from both parents. I started thinking that this divorce thing isn’t so bad if I’m going to keep getting treated like this! If you feel that your k.i.d. deserves a little something for having to go through divorce then give them your time and attention and take them out for an ice cream or dinner now and then instead of a new video game. I encourage you to use things like new video games as a reward for good grades or completing chores.
Keep expectations high and don’t make excuses!
If your k.i.d. starts to fall behind in school or maybe loses interest in a sport or hobby they really enjoy, keep encouraging them to stay with it and don’t give up. Let them know you understand how they feel but not doing their best is not acceptable. During this time is when they really need to hear your words of acceptance and belief in them. They may be frustrated now but when they stick with it and complete what they have started they will have a huge feeling of accomplishment and gain self-confidence.
Work with your ex to establish structure and consistency.
Establish similar rules and expectations so your k.i.d. will know what to expect when they switch back and forth between homes. You may not be able to have the exact same rules but you should be able to come up with similar ones. Examples are bed time, chores and homework. Also, discuss what the schedule will be for holidays so there are no surprises. Doing this will make life a lot easier for everyone.
Hold your tongue!
If you feel you must verbally degrade your ex than do so when your child is not around! A child’s self-image comes from how he/she sees both of the parents. And although you may not see your ex as god-like, your child does and talking badly about the ex in front of them does absolutely no good.
Yes, change is here but your parenting will provide a path that will be easy for your k.i.d.'s to follow. You can do this!