The divorce is over, and you’re discovering single parenting can be a challenge. I personally find it much easier than the tag-team approach when having a marital partner. My sons settled into a routine after my divorce and adjusted quite quickly to our new life.
The 8 tips below will make single parenting go a little smoother:
1. Avoid getting into a completion with the other parent. One will have more money, however, it is your attention and enjoyable experiences that is more important than the other parent’s new gadgets. I know of some divorced parents who compete to see who gives the kids more presents at Christmas. When young adults reminisce about their childhoods, it is not about certain X-box games, but rather about the fun times with you.
2. Maintain routines that worked when married, to give some consistency in their lives. Keep bedtime and meals on a specific schedule. As a school nurse, I have students coming into my office when tired or feeling a bit off. This is often due to co-parents having wildly different bedtimes for their children. It is great when co-parents can be on the same page with routines as kids do better when they know what to expect.
3. Take shortcuts that will give you more time with the kids. Pick up a healthy dinner after work so you are not stuck in the kitchen. When cooking, make a large batch and freeze extra meals to save time later on. Is there a neighbor kid who could do some household tasks? I would tell my sons that we would clean (or pick up toys, etc.) for a specified amount of time. We worked at warp speed and then had a leisurely lunch at a café. Think about carpooling or anything else that would free up some time so you can spend it with the kids. Enlist your parents to make some school runs. They may be happy to see their grandkids once a week at their house for dinner. Loosen household standards a bit. Aim for good enough instead of perfection. Get the kids to help out and also learn new skills. My sons learned to cook and now one is a chef at a large downtown hotel.
4. Children and adults require recreation for a balanced life. Post-divorce brings its own issues, such as reduced finances, so a bit of levity is the antidote to feeling glum. It is easy to become too focused on tasks and then goofing off goes out the window. Have fun with the kids in short bursts, if one’s agenda is overcrowded. A romp in the park, hot chocolate on the way home, a street festival are some examples. Schedule pleasurable pursuits into your agenda as a regular occurrence. On snow days or school holidays, we went to a bakery. My boys and I routinely had pizza in front of the TV and watched a DVD. Having fun lowered our stress and felt like a mini vacation.
5. Remember that you are their parent and not their good buddy. Have clear rules with consistent consequences. When there are no behavioral guidelines – kids try to evoke a parental reaction by testing boundaries. Model the behavior that you want your youngsters to emulate. They are quick to pick up on if we just give lip service and are not practicing what we preach. If you want respectful children then do not make disparaging remarks about their other parent. Kids do not want to take sides in your divorce battle.
6. The most important thing I ever did for my sons was to take them on trips and learn about other cultures. Seeing happy people living in small huts, removed the idea of materialism. My sons value experiences over things. They choose to live simply and make do with older electronics. One does not have to travel to far-flung places to bond with the kids, a camping trip is fine. Being away from the distractions of our environment helped us to become closer. One can lose possessions, but not the memories of riding elephants in India, exploring Tunisia, or walking around European Christmas markets. Vacations were the “glue” that held us together. Discover your “glue” which may be something totally different.
7. Accept that there will be raw emotions and acting out. Give the youngsters some space to deal with these fluctuating feelings. They may need additional alone time to sort through issues. Although always demand respect, give kids some leeway when there are outbursts of anger since they need to let off some steam.
8. Nurture yourself. You may burn out if your own needs are not met. Go for lattes with friends or meet for movies. Relax when the kids are on visitation and get caught up with reading. Make sure you have some downtime.
Your children will do okay with single parents. They really do grow up too quickly, so pause and enjoy good times before the children fly the nest. You will get through this, particularly surrounded by friends.