Mornings can be tough around here, especially during the school year. I am a fan of the snooze button. I’m also a master at convincing myself of anything when I’m half- asleep. Guys, I’m telling you, it’s crazy! So needless to say, I am not a morning person and I’ve passed this trait on to my kids. I’ve learned that a routine is absolutely essential if I want to get my school age kids on the bus, my preschooler where he needs to be and myself to work on time. Preferably all in a calm and happy manner.
I never expected that being a parent navigating divorce would be easy. I’ve seen plenty of people experience it and they all did it in different ways so I also understood there wasn’t a one size fits all approach. Ultimately, I knew that my kids always had to be in the forefront of all my decisions and that together we would get through this. I have to admit though that with all the changes and emotions involved, there are times I’ve been left spinning. Thankfully, there are resources at my disposal that I’ve been able to use as guidance.
In the state of Nebraska, if you have children together, a co-parenting course is required as part of the divorce process, which I recently completed. Although some of it covered common sense stuff or things I already do or think about as a parent, I found it beneficial and thought this would be a good place to recap and reflect.
The Kids Need to Know
I’ve already had the divorce conversation with my kids and it went pretty well in my opinion. My kids were receptive and asked questions. That doesn’t mean they didn’t walk away with a million more and a lot of uneasy feelings. It was difficult for me to peg where they all were emotionally so I was very unsure of where to go from there. Thankfully, this is something the course helped address.
Not only did my kids need to know about the divorce, they needed to be reassured that in time, everything was going to be okay and that it was in no way their fault. To address this, I was given the assignment of writing a letter to my kids. I can’t say that I would give it to my kids, at least the current version, but it did help me outline what I wanted to talk to them about. Below are a few examples of sentences that I built upon.
- Our divorce is not because of anything you did…
- No matter what, I will always be here for you…
- If you are ever feeling angry, sad or confused please know you can talk to me. I will listen…
- I want you to be happy…
- We need to be honest with each other…
- My expectations of you are….
Understand the 5 Stages of Grief
Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Knowing that my kids are going through these emotions breaks my heart and I wish I could go through this process for them. Unfortunately, this isn’t a cut and dry, once and done thing. Anyone who is experiencing grief can bounce back and forth between stages multiple times. My kids range in age from 5 to 11 and they are each experiencing all of this differently. Patience, understanding, love and open communication are my most useful tools to help them through.
How Are You Dealing with Your Feelings
Also, how is it affecting my kids? This topic is where the big eye opener lay for me. I’m used to receiving comments about how positive and patient I am with my kids. So it was a big shock when I realized that I had become impatient and started yelling at them. Thankfully not over every little thing but it was happening. Not only did I recognize my actions, my kids had started to model my behavior. How had this happened? When had I started to take my anger out on them? I was ashamed of myself and knew I had to fix this issue immediately.
The first thing I did was gather my thoughts to figure out what in the heck was going on with me. I think I had allowed myself to become too overwhelmed and stressed and I had started to project all of my feelings onto everyone else. Talk about unhealthy! Afterward I sat down with my kids and I apologized. We talked about how we were feeling and came up with a few new rules and expectations together that we all have to follow. Basically, it all came down to showing mutual respect for one another.
I also came up with a couple rules for myself. When I become overly frustrated or angry, I calmly let my kids know that I need a moment alone. Typically, I go to my bedroom, shut the door and decompress. Counting with deep breathes does wonders for me. When I am ready, I go back to my kids, have a discussion and address the issue.
Bond with Your Kids
One-on-one time provides opportunities to talk, open up and have fun. There are so many opportunities for bonding, even with a crazy busy schedule. I don’t have extra money to do the not-so-typical stuff so I find opportunities as they exist in our daily lives. The most common things we do are:
- Read together at bedtime.
- Cook and bake together – duties are of course based on age and experience level.
- Take a walk, unplugged from technology.
- At home movie nights. We love to do this curled up on the couch with a blanket and a snack.
- Go to the park. We have fun and they get some energy out.
- Family game night. I may have to mentally prepare for this but it is a lot of fun!
Never Bash the Other Parent
not necessary and it puts the kids in the middle where they don’t need to be. I also believe that it is important not to talk bad about my ex-husband in ear shot of my kids. Not only would I be painting him in a bad light, I would be doing that to myself as well. Is it hard? Absolutely but it is totally worth the effort. Sometimes I really have to think before I speak. I never want my kids to think they can’t talk about their dad in our house for fear that I will retort with something negative. I also don’t want to further weaken my relationship with him. The damaging and lasting effects for everyone involved are far too great.
Come up with 7 positive statements about your ex
I’ll admit, this was a hard task for me. I could easily come up with seven negative things but I really had to try for positive. It’s not that he doesn’t have positive qualities, he absolutely does. We are just in place that is as far from positive as I can imagine. Below is what I came up with. My list may seem ridiculous but it really did help me put things into perspective.
- Your dad has a great sense of humor.
- Your dad makes some of the best eggs I’ve ever had.
- Your dad has a big heart and will help anyone he can.
- Your dad plays soccer very well.
- Your dad is an excellent painter.
- Your dad has a lot of interesting stories from his childhood.
- Your dad loves you very much.
We are going to have good and bad days as we navigate this part of our lives. I pray that when we make it to the other side of this, we can say that we emerged stronger and better than ever. All by the grace of God and through unconditional love.
Being a parent is my life’s greatest blessing. It is also the most significant and hardest role I will ever have. Are my kids happy and healthy? Am I raising them to be a productive and respectful member of society? Throw in being a single parent and watch that pressure multiply. Is the current state of our lives affecting them now and how does it impact their future? What are they missing out on? Read more
This post may contain affiliate links.
I have a son who did not like to sleep by himself. I allowed him to sleep with me for years. It never bothered me and it helped him and made for an easier bedtime, so why not? Read more