If you are married and have children, you probably get to see your children on a daily basis. But when a couple divorces, that reality changes and a parenting plan is put in place to designate parenting time (formally referenced as custody or visitation).
Your new reality – one where you see your child part-time – can be difficult to handle. It is important you stay in control of your emotions, though, because children can read them and respond negatively to them. Your unintended sadness can lead to unintended feelings of guilt in your child. Here are a few ways you can make use of your new "freedom" and prevent a downward spiral for both you and your child.
- Actually, do look at days without parental responsibilities as a newfound freedom to engage in activities that make you happy. Maybe since getting married and raising a family, you haven't had the time to read, paint, or take long strolls in the park to smell the flowers. Now is the time to re-engage in activities that truly make you happy and forget about all the stresses of life for a little bit.
- Do enjoy the moments you have with your children. Having less time with your children at home may actually improve the quality and quantity of time you spend with your children. Knowing you have all day Saturday with your children, take the time to do all domestic chores in advance – when your children are away (unless it's chores for which your children are responsible) – and then on Saturday, prepare something fun and memorable.
- Do leave the presence of your children behind, even when they are away. Simply put: fill the feelings of absence with your child's presence. For example, leave that painting your child drew last week on the counter or table so you can see it every day while he or she is at the second home. Having this little bit of "presence" can spark feelings of happiness, connection, and appreciation.
- Do acknowledge your feelings. You can make use of any of these simple ideas on a regular basis and still feel sad about the absence of your children when they are away at your former partner's home. It's ok to feel sad. Acknowledge your feelings, but don't feed into them. Don't make your feelings worse than what they are. As mentioned, acknowledge them, and then get back up and start doing something else to take your mind off of it. Go to a movie. Grab a book. Write a letter. Visit a friend. Call your mother.
You also don't want to forget that your child is coping with your absence as well. So, be sure to acknowledge your child's feelings and be sure to also let your child know you are here for him or her, always. You want to make sure your child knows he or she is loved, but you don't want to sugarcoat the divorce or separation. You also want to encourage your child to communicate, and this also means both parents must be able to communicate with each other.
Getting a divorce or separating when children are involved is always difficult, but there are ways to make it work and – even – make it beneficial to everyone involved.