There are manuals to parenting. There are manuals to divorce. Then there are manuals to parenting through and after divorce. While manuals are practical for those who have time to sit and read them day after day, many of our readers are on-the-go people with kids, pets, and jobs. After sifting through our experiences and the resources available to us, we narrowed parenting after divorce down to 5 quick tips that will improve your outlook on the choices you make as a parent.
1. Have faith that things will work out.
Most blogs might save this one for last - it's that "feel good" phrase that's supposed to get you through each day. But sometimes, your faith will be shaken. This phrase won't work. You won't believe in yourself. The good news is: you don't always have to. Find an outlet for yourself that can restore that faith. Whether that's a church group, a best friend, or simply your favorite soundtrack, it's imperative for you to realize that you're not alone. Use your support network to find the faith that others have in you.
2. Find joy in your life that is not directly related to your child.
While it's likely that your child is your world, it's important to find things that allow you to identify yourself as a person without him or her. If your happiness is tied to your child, it is likely that you'll be unhappy much of the time during and after the divorce process. Sometimes your child will want to be at your ex's house, sometimes your child will have a bad day at school, and sometimes your child will blame you for things that you have no control over. It's important in these times to have a strong sense of self and understand that your worth is not defined by divorce, your ability to "hold it together", or your day-to-day battles of single parenting.
So what can you do? Find a hobby. Pull out your bucket list and start doing some of the things that you dreamed you would do when you were in your twenties. Focus on getting ahead in your career - how long has it been since you earned that promotion you've been working for?
One divorced mom nailed it when she said, "The best gift that I can give my child is showing him what a happy person looks like."
3. Don't fall for traps that your ex (or soon-to-be ex) wants you to fall for.
It's likely that your ex will try to mess with your emotions - and who better to do it? He or she knows every weakness, every strength, and every tendency that you've exhibited through dating, marriage, and raising children. One of the most common traps that divorced parents fall for is the "competition" of getting the children to like one parent more than the other. Your ex might start buying expensive gifts, taking your children on elaborate vacations, or become the "yes man" of your children's lives. This means that sometimes you'll seem like the bad guy when it's time to do the tough parenting that goes with homework, chores, bedtime, and vegetables. You'll start hearing phrases like, "Well Dad lets us stay up until ten o'clock!" or "That's not fair, Mom always takes us out for ice cream after school."
Even though these words will sting, your children will eventually realize the importance of the everyday parenting that makes you seem comparatively cruel and unfeeling. In the meantime, you can combat the "competition game" by competing in healthy things that don't include your children's affection. For example, you can compete to have the best time with your kids. You might not be able to afford the gifts and vacations that your ex can, but you know your children best. What things mean more to them than anything else in the world? Spend time with them to do those things. Another healthy way to cope is to compete to be the kindest person they have contact with. It's possible that your ex will badmouth you in front of your children or behind your back - how you handle those situations is everything. Make sure to set an example that you would want your kiddos to follow.
4. Keep jealousy out of your child's life.
Your ex might start dating again almost immediately. They might buy a boat or a new house or land the career they've been talking about since your wedding day. Things might not be going as well for you (or so it seems) but it's important to remember that while you can feel as jealous as you want, you cannot exhibit this in front of your children. Remember to stay selfless and never put them in the position of taking sides or feeling sorry for you.
5. Forgive yourself and move on from your ex.
No one will benefit from you beating yourself up over "what could have been". You definitely won't get happier by dwelling on how angry you are that she cheated on you. Holding onto the feelings of anger, regret, and hurt that inevitably resulted from the end of your marriage and the divorce process will cause more pain and keep you stuck in a rut. Move on from this, forgive yourself, and let peace into your life.
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photo credit: At the Confluence of the Columbia and Willamette Rivers 05/1973 via photopin (license)
The attorneys of Harden Jackson Law are devoted to servicing clients throughout the Indianapolis area and the state of Indiana in all areas family law, including divorce, custody, child support, property division, paternity, post-divorce modifications, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, simple wills, adoption, surrogacy and other areas of assisted reproductive technology law. For more information, please contact us at 317.569.0770 or www.hardenjacksonlaw.com.
Remember, these blog posts are not meant to be legal advice. You should consult a family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation.