A semi-regular column that addresses your questions about single motherhood. Got a question about which you'd like my opinion? Ask in the comments or email me at email@example.com.
*****Today's question is brought to you by Kay of Kay's Little Corner who posed this idea when I originally mentioned I was thinking about doing this series.
"...Coping mechanisms at the time of the divorce. I understand that proceedings can get ugly and how does a single parent try to help kids go through all that?"
Boy Howdy Kay, you have no idea! I thought my ex and I would remain civil throughout it all. We said we would and even agreed to remain in counseling so we'd have a completely separate and neutral place to work through conflicts. Our intentions were good, alas by the time it was all said and done I'd had his visitation temporarily restricted when he confessed his mental health was at stake. ~ I suspect he was actually faking it, which is a whole 'nother mental health issue and post, but I wasn't willing to take the chance!
Anywho, coping is easier said than done, but when you have children you just do, because you need to keep things stable for them. That, I think is key. The first step in helping the children through it is keeping yourself as calm and stable as possible. You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of the children!
Here are some things I did:
Counseling: I went by myself for 2 years from the time my ex and I stopped until I moved Below the Mason Dixon Line. I truly believe my counselor helped me cope and make informed and not rash emotional decisions about how I was going to move forward.
At the time, I did not get counseling for my children because they were so young, but they did go for a year when they were 5 and 6. I STRONGLY recommend it for children as well. Give them a safe space where they can be honest and not worry about hurting the feelings of the two people they love most in the world.
Circle Your Wagons: Rely on your friends. You will find out quickly who you "real" friends are. Some will take sides and some will not be able to cope with your situation and will flee, but there will be more than a few on whom you can depend. Do it. Unload... you will be able to pay it forward in years to come.
Family Support: My family has also been instrumental in supporting me and my children. At the time of my divorce, my parents lived and hour away. More than once, they dropped everything and came to my house at 11 o'clock at night because my ex and I had words after he came to put the children to bed ~ They were really little so in the beginning when he did 'dinner visits' he stayed at the house with them and did bedtime and I went out...usually just to the neighbors or a friends house, but sometimes I'd use the time to run errands or grocery shop without two toddlers!~ and I was a wreck. They babysat for my children and then we even moved in with them for a year... all in the name of keeping things stable. The bond my children have with my parents because of this is so special.
Focus on the Children: I was a young, SAHM, with two toddlers at the time of my divorce. My children were too little to understand what was happening. In fact, at 17 months, The Girl would forget her father in between visits if he went more than a few days without seeing them. I can truly say that during this time, I was probably the most patient mother I'd ever been. My son got a little clingy and whiny because he DID miss Daddy. I made it a point to focus on them. It's how I got through the day. We did crafts, played outside, went on play dates... anything to keep busy, keep my mind off things, and keep the focus on them. I figured that they were losing everything they knew... their dad, their home, their town and familiar surroundings, that darn sure weren't going to lose Mamma too! Thus far, that has paid off. My children are thriving.
Try Not to Fight our Bad Mouth in Front of the Children: Easier said than done. My children have overheard stuff by now, but at the time, all discussions were done when they were in bed or out of the house. ~ Actually, one time when my ex came here to pick the children up, we had a misunderstanding, which turned out to be totally my fault, and he had his wife go buckle the children in the car, came back into my house, shut the door and yelled at me. He was totally out of line, but at least the children had no clue what was going on! *grins*~ The children shouldn't have to pick sides, even when there is an obvious side to pick. The children's counselor told me that they will eventually figure it out on their own and it's the other parent's job to help them through it when they do, not point it out to them before they are ready.
I'm no expert and all situations are different, but this is what worked for me, so far so good. One of my children's teachers once told me that my children are so well adjusted, they don't seem like they come from a "broken home," which, okay, was maybe mildly insulting, but I understood what she meant and chose to see it as a compliment!