So many families prepare themselves for the divorce process without creating a gameplan for what happens afterward. Now that you and your ex-spouse are split up for good, it's your kids that will need to deal with the fallout. One of the most important things you can do as a parent is reassure them that you are still a family—even if it doesn't look quite the same way.
Read below to learn how you can create a New Normal for your kids.
Continue Communicating Openly with Your Ex-Spouse
Regardless of how you feel about your ex-spouse—resentful, frustrated, or rejected—it's vital that you continue working together as parents. It's important to remember that bad spouses are not necessarily bad parents. Check in frequently to make sure that you are on the same page about your kids. Attend parent-teacher meetings together, and be as civil as possible during your interactions.
It's important to mention that "communicating openly" doesn't mean you keep planning family outings together. Some blended families spend their holidays together, and that's okay—but it's also okay to have completely separate households. The key is that whatever you do, do it with honesty.
Divorce experts note that children of any age become anxious when they're aware their parents are "faking it." If you're forcing yourself to smile during get-togethers, it might be better not to plan them. Collaborate as parents, but you don't have to pretend things aren't different. They are. Your kids already know it, so it's more honest to build your own home and plan your own holidays rather than try to keep doing joint-family dinners or joint-outings.
Create a Doable Routine
The key to bridging your child's life from one household to two households is creating routine. Routines bring rhythm and stability to daily life, helping your child hang onto something when everything else feels insecure and unstable. Routines also help your child understand that he or she has two homes, not two half-homes. It's also a great way to help them adjust to your home environment after spending time with your ex-spouse.
Some good routines your family might enjoy:
- Have pizza on Fridays
- Watch movies on Sunday nights
- Make breakfast before school
If you have young children, it could be reading a bedtime story, singing a specific song before bed, or any kind of night-time routine. Whatever you choose, make sure that it's pleasant for both of you and that it's an easy part of your daily life. It's no good to pick a routine that interrupts your daily life or is difficult to maintain. Divorce specialists and child counselors recommend that you pick something you already do or would be a natural extension of your current routine.
Continue Living Your Life!
Before you were divorced, it's unlikely that your entire existence rotated around your kids. Now that you're divorced, it would be a mistake to orient yourself around your child's life. For one thing, your child has his or her own life and will need you to have healthy boundaries in a few years (or even now). More importantly, your emotional and mental health is vital to being a good parent.
Develop new hobbies, or continue committing yourself to your old hobbies. Meet with your friends, enjoy life, and (when you're ready) start dating again. You're not doing your child any favors by putting your life on hold. They're watching you and take their cues from you—when you choose to build a normal, healthy life, they'll give themselves permission to do the same.