Like most parents after a split, you are doing the best you can in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Suddenly, you are on your own… managing life, finances, child raising and everything in between. You may feel lonely, frustrated, stressed or angry with your circumstances. (Heck, you may be feeling ALL of those things).
It can be overwhelming at times, dealing with all of these feelings at once while juggling work, your kids’ needs and your own needs.
But sometimes, all the stress of getting a divorce and managing life as a single parent can really get the best of you.
In fact, many parents going through the challenges of divorce and co-parenting tend to make one or more common mistakes that add to their children to feeling anxious, uncertain or misunderstood.
As a parent going through an enormously difficult time, and it’s only natural that you won’t always get things right.
In fact, some of the mistakes co-parents make can be subtle, and may SEEM like no big deal.
They may not even seem like mistakes at all. I sometimes refer to these as “pitfalls”— unintentional mistakes that often slip by without us even realizing the impact they might have on our kids.
Without the right guidance, it’s pretty easy to get blindsided by these.
But don’t worry, there’s good news: Knowing what to look for, paired with an idea of what you can do, not only helps you sidestep these pitfalls but helps you be a better parent from this moment forward.
The information in this article will help you pinpoint 3 major pitfalls to avoid and what to do instead, so you can be sure you’re doing everything you can to provide a safe, happy home for your kids.
3 of the Biggest Parenting Pitfalls After a Split
In the aftermath of a separation or divorce, it’s easy to make mistakes and lose sight of what your kids need. You may be heartbroken by the split, as well as exhausted and overwhelmed by all the things you’re handling on your own.
With all this going on in the background, it’s easy to overlook or misread how YOUR stress is affecting your kids, or what effect your words and actions are having on them.
To make sure you’re not caught off guard, take a look at some of the most common parenting pitfalls that crop up after a split:
Divorce is a crisis in the life of a family. AND when you are in crisis you may be tempted to ignore how you feel. You might try to numb your feelings by having a couple of drinks at the end of the day or rely on over the counter meds to help you sleep.
You may dive into starting a new relationship, use food to comfort yourself or zone out in front of the TV and surf Netflix until all hours of the night just so you can avoid thinking about the divorce.
On the flip side, when feelings go unaddressed, you can also get caught in the trap of overindulging certain feelings such as anger or depression. Although it may feel good in the moment, when you manage these feelings by venting, bashing or complaining about your Ex to your friends and family, it takes a toll. Not just on the people around you but also on your own mental and emotional well-being.
While these ways of coping may offer you some temporary relief, none of them will be helpful to you or your children long-term.
Divorce, much like a death, can leave families feeling lost and isolated. If former friends and family have taken sides or disappeared, it may leave you feeling as if you’re all on your own.
Avoid falling into the trap of allowing your kids to fill the void by becoming confidantes or your new best friends. Your children still need you to be their parent.
Don’t forget that kids often worry when they see a parent struggling or having a difficult time adjusting. They naturally feel a strong pull to do what they can to help or take care of Mom or Dad. While it may feel comforting to have the support of your children, avoid putting your children in the position of feeling emotionally responsible for you.
How can they believe that they will get through this okay, if you’re not okay?
All too often after the split, parents make the mistake of thinking that their children feel the same way they do about the divorce.
I have frequently heard parents say things like, “We feel really angry about what happened”
or “She left us and broke up our family.”
When parents talk in these ways it may be an indication that they’re having trouble separating their own thoughts and feelings about divorce from their children’s experience.
While you’re all going through the process of divorce at the same time, keep in mind that our children will probably have very different feelings and perceptions about how the family is changing. AND those feelings need to be recognized, heard and understood. Therefore, it is much more helpful to kids if you avoid assuming you know how they feel or that they feel the same way you do.
Now that you’re aware of some of the common pitfalls associated with separation and divorce, a bigger question pops up. How can you make changes that will help your children adjust and feel more relaxed about their “new normal”?
One of the first steps involves paying attention to your feelings. Consider journaling or tracking how you feel daily as a way to increase your level of emotional awareness. Talk to a friend or family member (not your kids) about your feelings. Although it may feel awkward at first, if you stick with it, you may find the results surprisingly valuable.
Second, create a supportive network for both you and your children.
While you may be an incredibly supportive and loving parent, your children may still not feel comfortable talking to you about certain issues or concerns. As I mentioned before, kids often worry about their parents. And if they think sharing how they feel will make things worse for Mom or Dad, they may opt to keep quiet.
To make sure both you and your kids needs are being met, make sure your children have others to talk to besides you.
It’s also wise to create a supportive community for yourself. Find friends or extended family members you can talk to when you need a compassionate ear.
Maintaining friendships (yours and your children’s) is vital for both of you after the split.
As much as possible, minimize the number of changes your kids have to deal with in the beginning stages. Divorce upends life on nearly every level for families. During this time, your kids will need things in their lives that feel safe and familiar to help them feel grounded as the family changes.
Do what you can to maintain your children’s routine as much as possible in the early stages. For example, keep them in the same school, make sure they continue to have regular contact with friends and important family members, arrange for them to stay involved in after school activities they enjoy (ie. ballet class, soccer, or boy/girl scouts). The goal is to allow your children to be children, and to make sure you’re minimizing the number of changes they have to deal with at one time.
Keep in mind, minimizing change is not a reason to keep children from spending time with the other parent. While the family is changing, it’s critical for kids to have both regular and consistent contact with each parent.
Last, practice actively listening to your children. When children raise concerns, seem upset or ask questions, avoid jumping to conclusions and assuming you know how they are feeling.
Instead, ask open-ended questions and listen, so you can gain a better understanding of what’s going on for them.
Although it’s hard to watch your kids struggle, resist the temptation to “fix” their problems or offer advice. What your children need most is for you to just listen and validate their feelings.
I know it isn’t always as easy to pay attention to your feelings or be an attentive listener with your children when things are hectic.
If you’re like most parents you probably wish you had the tools and resources to make these changes and life less overwhelming and more consistent.
The good news is you don’t have to go through this alone.
In my video program, Co-Parenting With Purpose: How to Raise Happy, Secure and Resilient Kids After You’ve Split Up, I offer simple, practical advice on how to take the important steps that have the greatest positive impact on your children.Small Changes That Have a Big Impact
You’ll get tips and strategies for dealing with your feelings constructively and managing stress, so you’re not turning to temporary fixes or taking your anger and overwhelm out on your kids.
You’ll learn how to talk to your kids and what to ask, especially if you’re used to hearing, “Fine!” when you try to ask how they’re doing.
You’ll gain skills that will help you know what to do or say when your child is feeling angry, uncertain, sad or afraid. In this program, you’ll discover ways to help them manage their feelings and get them the support they need.
Together we’ll explore how you can ensure that your children enjoy their childhood despite the necessary changes that happen after parents part, including:
You can start watching in a matter of minutes:Avoid the Common Pitfalls
It doesn’t take a tremendous effort to make sure your kids are getting what they need. In the middle of handling all the nitty-gritty of post-divorce life, I can show you how small changes can take the stress off of you and your kids.
Things can be better, and I’m here to support you every step of the way.
Wishing you and your children the very best,
P.S. Life after a divorce or separation can be stressful for everyone. You may wonder how you can support yourself and care for your needs when everything feels so crazy.
In my video program, Co-Parenting With Purpose: How to Raise Happy, Secure and Resilient Kids After You’ve Split Up, you’ll learn how to reduce stress and maintain balance with small, sustainable habits that promote your confidence and self-worth in just 20 minutes a day. If you’re struggling to find time for you, tired of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, let me show you how to turn things around.Start Here