When you find yourself on your own, whether separated, divorced or widowed, it’s always a tremendous shock. Your whole life has changed, especially the future you envisioned. Also the present: now you’re on your own and raising your children alone.
I know, because I’ve been there. I’ve been separated and divorced and I’ve also been widowed. I’ve had to raise four kids for long periods as a single parent. It’s beyond hard, especially at first.
Here are some things that helped me and may help you:
1. Remember that the children are grieving too. They may start to act up, misbehave, be disrespectful etc. They can turn into a real handful if you let them. You need to sit down with them, talk about their feelings of missing their parent, ask if they have questions and simply hold them and let them cry. They may ask “Why?” and you need to be ready for answers that they can cope with, that are at their age level. It’s okay to let them see you cry. And when you pull yourself together, take a deep breath and carry on, you’re setting an example that they can follow.
2. Always speak respectfully of your absent spouse if you’re separated or divorced. Kids need both parents, and the more you can facilitate this in a friendly way, the better it is for them. Don’t put down your ex in front of your kids. Make an effort to help them to respect him or her.
3. Children need both parents in their life. Work out a schedule where the absent parent has as much time with the kids as possible. Kids need a home base, and the court usually assigns one parent with more time than the other. (This depends on the jurisdiction. I’m speaking from my own experience.) You must make this as easy on the kids as possible. They have to travel between homes carrying clothes, school stuff and other precious belongings, sometimes forgetting to bring back the things that are needed every day. If you can, make sure there are two sets of certain items so one set can stay at each home. Also, a visitation schedule is a must and you can post it on the fridge. The children need to know what to expect and where they’ll be staying and when. This provides them with security and a feeling of safety.
4. You must be in charge of the household. This means saying “No” to kids’ unreasonable demands. Don’t give in because you feel guilty over the marriage breakup. They need you to be a fair and consistent leader and teacher. Be sure to give lots of positive attention, recognizing anything they do that is helpful or co-operative.
5. You need a schedule that takes into consideration your work hours, kids’ school time, meal time, homework time, TV and computer time and bedtime. The best thing is to sit with the children to make up the schedule so the whole family has input and feels more valued. Otherwise you can turn into the boss and you’ll encounter resistance and misbehavior. When the schedule is posted it becomes the boss so you don’t have to nag. If changes are necessary, sit together and agree on them.
6. You can only control yourself. You can’t control others, especially your ex and his or her approach to raising the kids. They’ll have their own relationship with their other parent and you must stay out of it. In your home, you’ll do things your way. Inn your ex’s home, things may be done differently. Only if you suspect that your children are in danger, must you interfere.
7. Be sure to save some time for yourself. You need as much rest as possible when you’re first widowed or separated. When you’re tired, things feel much worse. If it means going to bed half an hour after the kids, do it. Plan something to look forward to at least once a week. If the kids are with your ex, plan a movie or dinner out with a friend. Get a sitter if you need one. This will recharge your batteries and remind you that life can be pleasant, even on your own.
8. Seek help if you feel overwhelmed. A few sessions with a therapist can help you understand your situation and how it evolved. Also, you’ll get some useful ideas to help you carry on. If you need help with the kids, parent coaching an be very useful and usually is affordable. You can do it from your own home on the computer or telephone. You’re investing in your sanity and the happiness of your family.
9. It will take time to feel whole again, on your own. Give yourself a pat on the back as often as possible and be your own best friend. This sounds trite, but if you can make that voice in your head say encouraging things and not put-downs, you’ll do much better.
I hope that the above suggestions will help you as you begin raising your children on your own. If you’re interested in some help with parenting, please investigate my parent coaching options here on my website. I’m ready to help you.
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