Parenting During Divorce: The Therapist’s Perspective
By Evelyn Smith of Divorce Lifeline
Evelyn Smith has worked with the Divorce Lifeline program for both children and adults, for 26 years. She is also in private practice in Bellevue where she works with adults, children, couples, and families. Divorce Lifeline can be contacted at: 206/624-2959. Evelyn’s private practice can be contacted at: 425/453-1243.
What can you do to manage successful parenting when your family is going through a divorce. I think there are a number of things you can do. The first thing is to remember to take some time for yourself. No matter how much is going on you as a person need to have some time to yourself. You cannot always be working, taking care of the kids, doing all the chores around the house. You need some time to be supportive and nurture yourself. Another thing you can do is learn to ask for help. If you have family in the area or maybe people who have been friends for a long time that's wonderful. I think people are often hesitant to ask for help but you need to think of receiving and giving help as a life time process you may have helped someone last year who needed it and maybe this year they can help you. Maybe next year you can help.
Another thing you can do learn to be easy on yourself. Parents tend to be very difficult on themselves especially going through divorce and to see many problems their kids have as being due to the divorce. This may or may not be true. Remember kids go through their own developmental stages and their own problems in life and not all of them are related to a parents divorce. So try to figure out what is related to the divorce and what isn't and give yourself slack to deal with things. Try to make life simple and really put the emphasis on the things that are most important and try to skip the details as much as you can. Next is having a realistic expectation of yourself and your children. Don't think that you can keep the house in the kind of shape it used to be in when your now working full-time and your taking care of the kids by yourself at times. Have realistic expectations of the children too both in terms of what they can do as far as chores and school work and so forth. Also realize they need to love you, they need to love the other parent and its important that they are allowed to do that so that you don't put them in a position of feeling like your going to be upset if they are with Mom or Dad.
Another thing that helps going through divorce is to develop a sense of humor. Sometimes you can look at a situation and think you know if this were in a movie I would be laughing at this. It can feel un-funny right now but someday this might feel funny. See humor wherever you can. This helps a great deal in dealing with kids. Learn to appreciate your role as a parent and realize how important your role is and how much you have a chance to teach your children and to experience with your children and do things to have fun with them. Its much more important to take a Saturday morning and take a bike ride or plan something together that you will all enjoy. I think it's really important when going through a divorce to develop a support network because divorce is a very isolated experience. So learn to reach out to your neighbors, your friends, your family, people at work, church, etc... Realize that divorce is only one short period in your lifetime and you'll learn lessons from this that you can take through your lifetime. It teaches you how to handle loss and how to make that a part ourselves. Good luck