Going through a divorce is one of life’s biggest stressors. Shifting to single parenting adds to the stress. This is a time of transition, loss, change, and lots of new beginnings. You may be facing a change in work or career as you adjust to a new financial situation. Regardless of your feelings about the divorce, you’ll also be experiencing loss.
Not only the loss of the relationship, but the loss of a lifestyle that included two partners, and the loss of the dreams you had for your family’s future. You are coping with a number of life stressors and it can feel overwhelming to maintain your own and your family’s needs. You need to take steps to heal.
Here are 6 strategies to help you navigate the divorce transition.
Remember that before you can move on with your life, you have to move through it. These strategies will help you to heal so that you can move on in a healthy way and embrace the next stage in your life.
1. Reach out for support.
Support from others is the most powerful healing therapy. It can help you feel less isolated, alone, or overwhelmed, alleviate feelings of guilt or shame, and provide resources and comfort. Having a sounding board can help you process your emotions as well as practical issues. Many communities, therapists, Meetups, and churches offer divorce recovery workshops or grief recovery support groups.
You may also find online support divorce groups helpful (try Facebook groups or search divorce recovery group). You can post questions or comments and receive feedback from others in a situation similar to your own. Parents without Partners offers support opportunities for single parents.
You may also need support for the day-to-day tasks. Some women can get into the trap of thinking they “don’t want to be a burden.” Remember, by reaching out to your friends and family for support, you are giving them the opportunity to be helpful, which makes them feel good. Think about the last time someone appreciated the support you provided and how it made you feel.
2. Get support for your child(ren).
Divorce can be a confusing time for children of all ages. Encourage your child to talk about what they are experiencing. Remember that your child(ren) may respond very differently than you. Inform their teachers and let them know you are interested in how they are doing and open to feedback. Read books about divorce and single-parent families together.
Reach out to a child or family therapist for help guiding your child(ren) through this transition. Even if things seem ok, a child may be open to expressing feelings in a therapeutic setting. Sometimes children want to protect their parents or avoid upsetting them so they hold things in.
3. Lower your expectations.
Life as a single-parent will be much easier if you manage expectations of yourself and your ex. Watch out for perfectionism and accept that you may not be able to do as much as you did before. This doesn’t mean that you are failing as a parent or mother. You and your family will adapt and be ok. Focus on the stuff that matters: connection. Set priorities and focus on the most important tasks first. Simplify what you can. Let go of guilt!
4. Keep appropriate boundaries.
Watch out for over-relying on your child(ren) as a source of support. Let your children be children and find other adults to share your thoughts and feelings about the divorce with. Provide opportunities for your child(ren) to express their feelings and concerns and validate them without dumping your emotions. At the same time, you want to continue setting limits on behavior, while acknowledging their thoughts and feelings.
Set boundaries with others as well. Perhaps you need to get comfortable with saying no and reducing your obligations to others. You can’t give away all your energy. Focus on issues you have control over. If something is beyond your control, let it go. It will do nothing but drain your already depleted battery!
5. Remember that you will get through this.
Going through a transition is stressful and overwhelming. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and wonder when you’ll arrive at your “new normal.” Remember that recovery and transition take time. You will get through this intact, no matter how long it takes. You can’t rush the grief and adjustment process.
6. Release your emotions.
When you’re feeling stressed or angry, it can be hard to get in touch with sadness, even though it’s there right under the surface. Rent a sad movie on your own and let yourself cry. Take some time to write out your thoughts, feelings, and goals in a journal. Use your journal to list out and let go of anxious thoughts, particularly those that get in the way of sleep.
At Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, TX we help parents successfully navigate the divorce transition and cope with the challenges and pressures of motherhood and parenting.