This is the third blog in our short series about the challenges of divorce when you are a parent. In this post Kathy shares some of her top tips for coping with children post-divorce.
I always write their Dad’s next contact time on the Calendar, to help the children count down to it and you try and make it the same time and frequency, to help them as well. Mine need to see their Dad often. It helps them and brings them peace and I am happy for them to talk to him on the phone whenever they need to. I also communicate by text and e-mail all important School dates or events, or even their achievements, so he feels involved. It is important to have good boundaries though and each situation will be different, what has worked for me, may not for others. If your partner was abusive, or is very confrontational post separation, you would have to do things differently. Women’s Aid can be very helpful for advice in these circumstances. I also found as I healed and moved on, I could relax my boundaries more with my ex-husband.
We still do family things together; at Christmas we went to the Panto as a family, it was great. They loved it. But it’s 3 years on now and we have reached a place of forgiveness and good co-parenting. He has also broken up with the other woman he left me for, although he is in a new relationship now but that changed the dynamics a lot. I certainly hope we can always do family things from time to time and if I meet someone, that they will treat my ex kindly as well. So that we foster a good atmosphere for the children.
I read some great Children’s story books with them like ‘It’s not your fault Koko bear’, ‘Mum and Dad Glue’ and ‘Two Homes’ These helped the children to make sense of what had happened and open up conversations.
I also read for me ‘What About the Children’. Amazing book, all parents who are separating should read it.
HTB has a great ministry for lone parents, where they meet up for lunch on Sundays. So you’re surrounded by other Mums/ Dads in the same situation, great food and company. You need to try and get involved in events like that if you can.
I sometimes think I put on such a façade of being strong and independent and coping, that I feel even more isolated. You have to try and arrange coffees with other Mums, to get involved in events, and ask for help. But in the early days you’re so exhausted emotionally, it is easy to not get out much and to see very few people. So you have to force yourself to arrange things. Or if you do not know many Mums, a Children’s Sure Start Centre is a great place to meet Mums, to let your kids have fun with messy play, or music activities, or craft and they also run parenting courses. Being Government funded it’s free and there is a lot of support available there as a lone parent. So I would thoroughly recommend it.
My ex-husband never has the children over night, but my friends who do have child free weekends, try and book them up, to help them to miss the children less. It’s painful to begin with. But there comes a time where you actually look forward to the free time. Although that’s hard to imagine in those early days.
Find a good friend who will listen a lot, talk a little and you can call any time you need to. Find people who are willing to babysit and don’t be afraid to ask them; as a lone parent, getting a break and time away is so so crucial, so do not be afraid to ask for help.
In fact, I distinctly remember going to Ikea, as they had a free children’s crèche, just so I could book my eldest in and have a cuppa with only one child to watch. It was a sanity saver at times. I also could have a little mooch and treat myself.
Speak to the GP if you need to. I was on anti-depressants for a year, it was an absolute godsend in the early days. I also had some counselling, it was hugely helpful to have a safe place to talk to someone and helped me to make peace with my situation ultimately.
It may seem so hard right now but it does get better, it really does. One step at a time, look after yourself and try not to do too much in the early days; a bit more television for the kids and convenience foods is ok for a while. I found it hard to even want to get dressed to begin with, let alone cook anything. But it gets better, it really does.
Read more posts from Kathy here