Suddenly Single with Kids. What Now?
Tips on how to keep it together.
The bags have been packed, the tears have been dried, for now, and the ink is dry on the divorce agreement. What happens now? What about the kids? What about you? How on earth is this going to work? Even though it may seem impossible now, you will find your way, and somehow, it will work. Dealing with your own grief and feelings of loss and raw emotion is not always possible, when suddenly you are dealing with the grief and the shock your children are experiencing, and there is not a moment that you can find time to connect with yourself. Here are some tips in helping you keep it together, while you take the road to becoming whole again.
ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE
For the children and yourself, this is one of the most imperative foundations needed, if any of the other things are going to work. Children need boundaries and routine, it makes them feel secure, and will help them deal with their underlying fears and anxieties they are experiencing. No matter what, they go to bed at the same time every day, they eat at the same time every day, and they have time to do their homework or study at the same time every day. No matter if your child is 5 or 15 a consistent routine will help your kids stabilize.
Having the kids go to bed at the same time every night means you can get some much-needed time for yourself as a parent. Whether you use it to catch up on emails, read a book, or just pass out in an exhausted heap on the couch next to the dog, you need the time to yourself.
A small amount of responsibility goes a long way. Teaching your kids, as part of their routine, to clean up after themselves and take turns clearing or setting the table, will take the pressure off from you doing everything yourself, and will affirm their feelings of being part of a family unit. Again, a 5-year-old can also help, and although much more reluctantly, a 15-year-old doesn't get to get off the hook either.
While everything seems to be some level of raging chaos around you, the structure of a routine will bring a level of calm into your life, that everyone needs at this time.
TALK ABOUT IT
Long gone are the days of clandestine whispering behind red rimmed eyes about the trials and tribulations that a failed marriage brings. Children are much more socially aware and far better informed than we were at their age, and our parents before us.
They demand answers and often sign some very harsh reality cheques that adults are not ready to deal with. No child responds well to propaganda and although for a bitter, hurting parent, it may seem important to get the children in being sympathetic to one or the other ''side'', but one day they will be pointing fingers, and when that day comes, nobody wants to be on the receiving end.
Don't lie to your children, but be careful to answer their questions with age appropriate information. Be careful, and it may be very hard, that you remain impartial in all the conversations. Don't rant and rave about how evil the other person is, your children will lose respect for you, if not now, then later, but they will.
A few sessions with a family therapist will be very important, and if you can not afford one, social workers and aid programs offer family counselling sessions for very little if no money at all. Local Churches run counselling programs, for both the children and the entire family.
Don't ignore your children's accusations, questions or feelings, no matter how much it hurts to acknowledge them. Children and parents together need to understand that they have all experienced a loss, and some family members are going to need more support on some days than others, and that even the smallest allocation of empathy and respect for that, does go a long way.
If you don't have the energy, or it hurts too much, it is quite acceptable to tell your children that you do not feel like talking about it now, or you have not worked through the answer yet yourself. And if you feel that the subject is not age appropriate, set a boundary and make sure the kids understand that certain subjects are adults only subjects and will not be discussed with them. Things like money and what the contents of a divorce settlement are matters that are handled by adults and children don't have to be privy to all aspects of how your married life is separated.
There is nothing quite as suffocating, as the empty feeling gasping for air inside your stomach, when the lights go out and the doors and windows are closed for the night and everyone is asleep. Here you are, all alone, with all your unchaperoned thoughts to keep you company. The intensity and the need to fill that cavernous hole, left behind by your companion, your lover and your friend, is overwhelming.
The best advice is not to allow yourself to fill it with someone, just yet. You need to be able to adjust to your new situation, possibly in a new home, a new suburb, and new and unplanned beginning. Find your feet, find out who you are, now that you are no longer married, and learn to make peace with yourself and the end of your marriage.
You need to be in a position where you are emotionally strong enough to support your children, as they too learn to find their way in a new life. Fill the lonely gaps with good friends and family, at least for the first year. Learn to embrace your new life, and the kids will follow suite. And you may find that in fact, your divorce was not the end, but only the eye-opening beginning.