No matter what your legal status is on paper, separated parents are no longer stigmatized as they were in the past. Although parental separation has become more common, it is still an emotional time for all involved. From feelings of anger and frustration to sadness and guilt, parents go through a range of emotions when they decide to separate. Although the loving relationship between two people may have come to an end, both parties must work together to ensure their child grows up happy and healthy.
Sharing parental responsibilities can be difficult, especially if emotions are fraught and there is still animosity in the air. However, with an effective parenting plan and the right mindset, you can raise your child to become a well-adjusted person. Here are seven common challenges that separated parents face and how to tackle them successfully.
Adjusting to the New Normal
Whether you have already separated from your ex or you are in the process of it, the prospect of life without someone who was so prominent in your life can be difficult. Although you don’t want them to be in your life as a romantic figure, as a co-parent, you will still have to cope with them being around your children. After separation, some people may feel isolated and lonely. Some parents may even feel ostracized and guilty for their decision and find it difficult to move on with their new reality. At this point, it is important to try to adjust to new changes and create a new routine to help you settle down in your new way of life.
Setting Your Feelings for Your Ex Aside
Speaking openly about your disdain for your ex might be healthy when you’re talking to a therapist (or ranting to a close friend every now and then), but it can be the worst thing you can do to a child. Putting down the other parent can invoke feelings of confusion in your child. It might also make your child feel as though you have negative feelings towards them personally as well. Not to mention, it creates a negative environment for your child, which may make them feel anxious and could lower their self-esteem. If you have an issue with your ex, speak to them directly. It is important to keep your kids out of disputes.
Getting Used to the Single Parent Lifestyle
Getting used to being single after being in a serious relationship is difficult enough, but separated parents also need to get used to the idea of being a single parent. No matter what your circumstances are concerning childcare responsibilities, the way you parent your child will change. Whether you have sole custody or are working on childcare arrangements that allow both of you to spend a fair amount of time with your child, you need to adjust how you approach parenthood.
Letting Go of Control
People who decide to co-parent need to get used to relinquishing control and trusting their ex with their child. This can be difficult for some parents, but you can make the process easier by communicating with your ex and creating an effective parenting plan. Co-parenting as a single parent isn’t easy, and you may feel overwhelmed at some points in your life. Make sure you have a network of close family and friends to turn to when you need support. Seeking professional advice from a specialist can also help you cope with being a single parent.
Professional support, in the form of therapy and counseling, can make a huge difference to your well-being, and the well-being of your child too. Dr. Erica Ellis is a licensed psychologist from Two Healthy Homes. She is a leading expert in co-parenting and child-centered divorce and can help you develop the tools you need to become a successful co-parent. Through co-parenting classes and the Co-Parenting Academy, you will learn how to create an effective parenting plan, how to set aside your differences, and how to overcome obstacles in your personal relationship with your ex. In turn, you can help protect your child’s future and ensure they grow up in a healthy home environment.
Development of Negative Behavioral and Social Problems in Your Child
Parental separation can have varying effects on children. These effects can differ depending on how old your child is. For instance, very young children and toddlers may sense tension and become more clingy. These may even experience developmental delays and some forms of regression. Prepubescents may feel confused over why their parents don’t love each other anymore and may develop feelings of guilt. They may act out in school or become more withdrawn. Teenagers with separated parents may experience a rollercoaster of emotions. They feel more angry and stressed, and they may even suffer from bouts of depression. They may have difficulty when learning and under-achieve in school. Unfortunately, at this age, they are also more susceptible to developing bad habits, such as substance and alcohol abuse.
How to Support Your Children
No matter how your child reacts to the separation of your relationship, make sure you offer them the support they need. Pay attention to changes in their mood and actions, and don’t automatically get mad if they lash out. Young children need consistency in their life to feel safe and secure. Make sure you create a routine that caters to their specific needs. If your child is old enough to voice their emotions, make sure they feel heard. Encourage them to speak about their feelings and let them know you are there for them. Don’t be afraid to get them professional help if you feel out of your depth.
Maintaining Family Ties
Breaking up with your ex might mean that your relationship with your ex’s family will change too. However, you shouldn’t let this affect your child’s relationship with them. After all, why should your child suffer from more loss during a parental separation? Try to be civil to one another and encourage your ex and their family to keep their emotions aside. As mentioned earlier, it is important to set aside your differences and keep your child out of arguments and disputes between family members.