Parents undergoing divorce are typically consumed by myriad emotions as they transition out of their marriage and into single parenthood. During this time, they must accept that their marriage has come to an end and they may have to share the children with their ex. It can be overwhelming, anxiety- and stress-inducing, confusing, and heartbreaking. But, you can and you will get through it. It’s your time to thrive as a single parent.
1. Find a Support System & Use It
The upheaval can feel lonely and isolating. Surround yourself with people who care about you and your children to ensure you feel supported and connected to others. Your support system should consist of several types of people: family, friends, professionals, and others in the same situation as you.
Family and friends can be great for helping with the kids or listening during vent sessions. But if you’re looking to carefully parse through your feelings, find a licensed professional such as a divorce counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Such divorce specialists possess the necessary expertise and experience to guide you through tumultuous times.
It’s also important to join divorce support groups, which include individuals going through divorce. Members are experiencing what you’re going through. Exchange ideas and advice, hear different perspectives, and learn from them. There are also single parent support groups available. Those can be found on Facebook, Meetup.com, and Singleandparenting.org.
It’s imperative you not only find your support system, but that you use it—often. It’s easy to feel as though you’re burdening others with your problems, but you’re not. Everyone deserves to get feelings or thoughts off their chests—especially single parents. Identify individuals and professionals who make you feel heard and understood.
2. Let Go of the Past
Before you jump headfirst into your new life, let go of the past. If you keep resentment or other negative feelings bottled up, they can come back to haunt you. Although you may push those thoughts to the side now, you may struggle with them later in life. It’s best to get this out of the way by feeling everything and working through it all with a professional. They can help you learn from your past experiences, conquer negative feelings toward your ex, and move forward with your life. Making peace with your past readies you for potential opportunities, relationships, and friendships ahead.
3. Set Life & Family Goals
It’s also time to set goals for yourself and family. To work on your body and mind, establish fitness, reading, travel, education, or career goals. These can include training for a 5K run, reading 20 books in a year, taking a Caribbean vacation, obtaining a promotion, earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree, or learning a new skill. Each target gives you something to work toward, and guarantees a ton of endorphins once achieved.
For family goals, start small. Try to have one meal as a family each day, or start a new hobby together. You can build up to that family vacation you’ve always dreamed of.
4. Carve Out You Time
Although it’s crucial you spend time with your children, you must carve out some for yourself. If you share custody with your ex, use the days you don’t have your kids to indulge. Read a book, take a long, relaxing bath, go out with friends, explore a nearby town, go on a weekend trip, spend time with coworkers, visit your therapist, or just binge a show on Netflix. Work on your goals, meet with members of your support system, and unwind. Filling the days without your children with new adventures can also take your mind off your children spending time with your ex. It can distract you from the negative emotions that come with children being away.
For single parents with full custody of their children, finding breaks can be difficult. After your kids go to bed or before they wake up are great moments to grab several minutes of alone time. In addition to those small moments, plan large sections of time for yourself. Hire a babysitter or ask your eldest child (if they’re of age) to babysit the younger children once per week or month. Go to dinner with friends or romantic interests, join a local sports team, or work toward your personal goals.
5. Budget & Financially Plan
Because finances drastically change during divorce—whether you’re going from a two-income to one-income household or can no longer depend on your spouse’s income—it’s integral you take proactive steps to set yourself up for financial success. First, assess your financial health by organizing your financial portfolio and meeting with a professional. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst can help you navigate your finances, create weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets, and set short- and long-term financial goals. In addition, they’ll analyze pension and retirement plans, insurance and real estate needs, and provide other necessary financial planning services. Creating a financial plan can prepare you and your children or success now and in the future. It will ensure a roof over your heads, food on the table, and potentially money in your kids’ college funds.
6. Stay Organized, But Flexible
When you’re a single parent, organization is key. Whether co-parenting or juggling the responsibility on your own, there are finances, activities, work, and schedules to coordinate. One of the easiest ways to remain prepared is to download scheduling apps. Try family organizer apps such as Cozi, TimeTree, Flayk, OurHome, or Family Matters. For financial planning, enlist a professional or download personal finance and budgeting applications such as Mint, YNAB, PocketGuard, or GoodBudget.
Although staying organized is important, remember things don’t always go to plan. Sometimes your ex will drop the kids off 10 minutes late, you’ll need to switch days with the children, or your babysitter will cancel. As a single parent, it’s best to have a plan B for nearly every situation. Discuss contingency plans with your ex and employer. Connect with family, friends, and other caregivers to take over babysitting duties when necessary. Communication is key to maintaining a flexible life.
7. Spend Time With Your Children
If you’re sharing custody with your ex, you have a limited amount of time to spend with your children. When you do get a day or two with your kids, make the most of it. Make it true, high- quality time. What does that look like? It’s not just about physical presence, but communication and interaction. Eat a meal with your children, do an activity together, or spend time talking and actively listening to one another. Don’t just watch television together or sit near one another as you type on your smartphones. Go to a playground, visit a museum, try a sport, learn a new skill, work on art projects, cook, bake, or try other interactive activities. Ensure you set work and chores aside, so you’re fully present.
If you’re a single parent interested in support, guidance, or advice, reach out to an expert near you through DivorceForce. A professional can help you thrive as a single parent.
Gregory C. Frank is the CEO and Founder of DivorceForce.