After a divorce or separation, you and your kids can be left feeling lost and emotionally drained. Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences in life, right up there with the death of a loved one.
After my separation a year ago, I was determined to not just survive the grieving period of divorce but to get to a place in my life where my kids and I were thriving.
I did a lot of research, listened to podcasts, learnt everything I could about healing and growth post-divorce. What I learnt helped me–just six months after my separation–to get to a place where I was:
- able to enter a committed, healthy long-term relationship with a wonderful new man
- build up my part-time freelance business and quadruple my income
- gather around me a new group of positive friends
- establish a cooperative coparenting relationship with my ex-husband where communication is mostly positive and child-focused.
All of these things seemed impossible in the early days after my divorce. I had come from a high-conflict relationship, I was unwell from stress, I was broke, and, perhaps the most painful, the majority of my old friends disappeared.
As I researched, though, I came across an idea from Positive Psychology. Posttraumatic stress is a commonly known phenomenon after a traumatic event (like a toxic relationship), but not many people have heard of the other end of the scale: Posttraumatic growth.
Posttraumatic growth is experienced by some people after a stressful event. These people talk about having an area or areas of their lives improved by the experience:
- Better relationships with others
- Discover new possibilities for their life that they didn’t see or have before
- Feel like they are stronger
- Have a deeper faith
- Appreciate life more.
I wanted to aim for this kind of growth and I want you to find it too. It’s not easy at all, but it is possible to heal, it is possible to survive, and it is possible to thrive after divorce.
I asked some of the experts whose podcasts, research and articles helped me move forward to offer their best piece of advice. I’m so excited to share with you what they have kindly sent me! I hope it helps you and your kids as much as it helped me.
Starting with yourself
Emma Johnson | Wealthy Single Mommy.
Your divorce is a great opportunity to start life anew, free from the baggage of your marriage, and ideas about who you could be. Focus not on what you can get out of your ex — money, apologies, acknowledgement — but on what you can earn. Set big, ambitions goals for yourself in career and income — and go for them with abandon! Decide what kind of parent you want to be — and be that person. Establish goals for your health, new romantic life, hobbies, community work, friendships. It is all yours.
Check out Emma’s site Moms for shared parenting here.
Marni Battista | Dating with Dignity
When dating after divorce, kids can feel like another obstacle in the way of being able to reinvent your love life. The number one thing to remember is not to immediately introduce your kids to each new guy you start dating. Even when both of you have the best of intentions, breakups happen–accidentally creating a constant flow of father figures who come and go can ultimately lead to your kids feeling abandoned.
That said, if your relationship seems to be long term and you’ve communicated about your relationship goals, AND he’s ready to meet your kids, it’s a good thing! A low-key introduction to your kids over an outdoor date or family activity is a great way to start. The bottom line is this: gradually increase the time your kids spend with your new partner and make sure you still create one-on-one time with them without your guy being present.
Another key to dating after divorce when you have kids is finding the right balance between your kids and the new guy. It’s important to be open and honest with your kids and let them know that although there’s a new person in your life, he will not be replacing their dad, nor will he be occupying all of your time. Don’t be in a hurry to make your kids warm up to a new person. Recognize that most kids hold onto the thought that eventually their parents will get back together, so acknowledge that this new person is breaking that bubble for them. They may take some time to accept a new partner in their mom’s life.
Check out Marni’s funny, informative and motivating podcast episodes.
Erin Gipford | Gipford Moms
There were many times after my divorce that the dreaded wave of loneliness would wash over me without any warning. I would simply just feel sad and sort of empty every once in a while. I remember consoling with a co-worker over lunch break one afternoon, mid-way through one of my down streaks and she told me something I will never forget. She said, “Whenever I get lonely I snuggle in and sleep with one of the kids. I always feel better the next day!” I had always been one of those strict “no kids in the bed” type of parents but I decided to take her up on her advice that night.
She was absolutely RIGHT. It cured every ounce of loneliness and sadness that I had! I think my daughter enjoyed it too. I’m almost positive, even now, being she is 17, she still wouldn’t turn me down if I said I needed a sleeping buddy! Sometimes we just need to be close to other human beings whom we love.
Check out the inspiring book that Erin and Tina wrote together. https://gipfordmoms.com/book
Parenting and Co-parenting
Nick Wignall | Clinical Psychologist and Author
An under-appreciated part of effective parenting is modelling for our kids that emotional struggles are painful but not bad or dangerous. When we’re sad and tearful, for example, we don’t need to hide it. We can explain that, yes, we do feel sad sometimes; and even though it hurts, it’s okay to feel that way.
No one else is going to teach your children how to have a good relationship with their own emotions, but you can. And the best way to teach them is by modelling it yourself.
You can find more fantastic articles by Nick through his website.
Carl Pickhardt Ph.D | Psychology Today
Here’s a common question a newly divorced single parent will sometimes ask: “Why would I want to treat someone well who I wanted to divorce and am glad I did?” The answer is, you wouldn’t, except if you have children. In this case, you must divorce as partners, but remain married as parents, finding ways to work harmoniously together for the sake of your kids.
So, what is the best way to treat the other parent? Treat your ex-spouse as a valued ally on whom you depend to work toward a common objective – the welfare of the children. To maintain and cultivate this alliance, treat him or her diplomatically by demonstrating acts of consideration that convey the value you place upon this relationship.
(If you are remarried, explain to your new partner how important it is to maintain a working alliance with your ex-spouse. Explain how showing consideration for your ex-spouse is not a matter of romantic caring for him or her. Consideration for your new spouse is a matter of love. Consideration for your ex-spouse is a matter of maintaining a well working alliance for the sake of the children.)
It may sound too old fashioned and trivial to matter, but quality of the divorced parent relationship has a lot to do with courtesy each parent shows the other. “Courtesy” refers to specific acts that signify consideration. Successful alliances are maintained by a meticulous show of consideration, and they quickly deteriorate without it.
Read Carl’s brilliant guidelines: Articles of Consideration in my blog post Dealing with your Ex: How to coparent better and reduce conflict.
Tamara Mason | Empowered Single Moms
Minimize rules and be consistent. I found the two best house rules for me were:
1. Respect the mother
2. Get the grades you are capable of getting.
If you can only handle one rule defer to rule one. Respect the mother covers a lot.
Tamara explains this more in her post https://www.empoweredsinglemoms.com/parenting-first-rule/.
Tamara also has a supportive Facebook group for single moms.
Divorce on Planet Earth Podcast for all things related to divorce
The Art of Charm for dealing with toxic people
Evan Marc Katz for dating and confidence for women
Gottman Institute’s blog and books for learning to do relationships better whether romantic or with your kids.