What to Expect, and How to Survive, A Divorce With Kids
Going Through a Divorce With Kids
Dear April Masini,
My husband just decided to leave me out of the blue, and I'm a wreck! Not only am I trying to deal with my own emotions about the situation, but I have three small children. I'm trying to keep their daily lives normal and usual while trying to explain to them where their dad is. Do you have any advice for how I can get through this tough time and keep my kids happy?"
Suddenly Single Mom
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Suddenly Single Mom,
Going through a separation can be difficult enough, but when you're suddenly left caring for your children by yourself, life can get extremely overwhelming. There are, however, some things you can do to retain some of your sanity when going through this tough time.
Five Tips For SUDDENLY Single Parents Who Need Help:
-- Take care of yourself. If a plane goes down, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you can help your children. While being a single parent is not exactly like going down in a plane, the point is if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your kids.
-- Consider frozen food. Don’t worry about a home cooked meal every night. Consider frozen food, take out food and don’t feel guilty. Discover salad in a bag and rotisserie chickens pre-cooked in the market.
-- Make friends with other suddenly single or single parents. They understand what you’re going through and can offer help, support while they and their children are great friends for you and your children.
-- Hug your child more than ever. Your child needs to know that you’re there for them during this transition. They need more love and affection than ever.
-- Never bad-mouth the other parent in front of your children. It's really easy to lose your temper because of the situation and get mad at him or her, but while it's understandable, it's bad practice.
You're getting divorced -- what to expect:
* There will be anger. The marriage failed, and no matter how amicable you intend the divorce to be, seeing your ex dating someone who will become the step-parent to your children, is going to stir up fear -- and loathing. Even parents who initiated the divorce, surprise others, as well as themselves, by being the most angry when they see the ex that they rejected vehemently, suddenly dating and happy.
* Anger is a secondary emotion that derives from fear. So, while divorce courts appear to be filled with venom, look more closely and you'll see that underneath that venom is fear. There is fear that a divorced parent will never marry again; or fear that the person has damaged a family beyond repair, or fear of being able to have a home and financially recover. And that's just for starters.
* Sadness is the emotion that underlies anger and fear. The marriage failed. People don't talk about divorce as failed marriage as much as they should. They sometimes wear the divorce like a badge of freedom, but freedom doesn't come without spoils, and those spoils are people you once loved -- your ex -- and those you still do -- your kids. It's important to feel sad and not to brush it under the rug. This emotion is the finish line in sight. If you skip this step, you're going to see it in various derivative ways in your dating as a single parent experiences. It takes a process to work through this sadness, but it's important not to skip this step.
How to deal with it:
* Anger -- Find some friends and a support system, which can be an established group or a group of single parents that you form because you have this in common, to vent with. Do not vent to your attorney. You can't afford it. And if you think you can, you'll realize, a couple of huge bills later, that you can't. Don't use your kids as "friends" you vent to. They've got their own journey that is not yours. And don't vent to their babysitter or your ex's friends and family -- things change in a divorce and you need to find a new support system.
* Fear -- Get practical. You can't afford what you did in the marriage, so the sooner you accept this (and this is a hard and bitter pill for many to swallow), the sooner your fear will dissipate. Downsize. Let go of the shame, and teach the kids that it's okay to be disappointed, but it's not okay to stick your head in the sand when there's a problem on the horizon. The best thing you can do is face your fear and problem solve. You'll be an amazing role model if you do this.
* Sadness -- Accept it and embrace it but don't wallow in it. Be sad. Cry. But don't rely on substances like alcohol or pills to get you through. Find a healthy outlet like art, exercise or a new sport, and friends who have been through this and will reassure you that it's a phase and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Custody -- The big misconception is that once you have a custody order, you're set. Not so fast. Custody is in play until the child reaches majority. Any time there is a change in circumstances, there is the opportunity for a custody change -- and that change in circumstances is usually the subject of litigation if you're not able to settle outside of court. Custody battles are the biggest problems in divorce and I can answer lots of questions for you fro the relationship side of the legal arena.
Visitation and support -- Many men who are traditional breadwinners become hostages in visitation and support calculations because the more custody a parent has, the less support they are personally responsible for, which is why custody battles loom large -- it's not just about the kids, it's about the cash. Children catch wind of this no matter how you try to protect them from it, and they often become pawns in battles over visitation and custody which are important for support.