There’s a popular statistic that most of us have heard that 50% of marriages end in divorce. This isn’t true. In fact, the divorce rates are decreasing, and have been for the last 20 years. Even then, the stats are never going to be that simple.
Divorce rates vary from state to state, lower-income families are more likely to experience divorce than those that earn more, and younger people are often more likely to divorce than people that have been married for decades. Marriage rates are also decreasing. With fewer people getting married, it’s hardly surprising that fewer are divorcing.
But even with less than clear statistics, divorce is, unfortunately, more common than we’d like it to be. If you have recently found yourself starting a new life as a divorced parent, you are in very good company.
That doesn’t make it any easier. Newly divorced parents have a lot of adjustments to make. They need to build a new relationship as a co-parenting unit with their ex, they need to deal with financial concerns, support their children, and grieve for the marriage that they have lost.
Normally, following a breakup, a couple has the option to move on separately, never communicating again. When you’ve got children, this isn’t an option. You have to move forward in a way that works for your children. It can be a big adjustment. Here are some tips to help you.
Give Yourself Time
The end of a long-term relationship is always hard. Your marriage might not have been in great shape for a long time. You might have been arguing for a while and you might know that you are doing the right thing for your whole family.
But it’s still a loss. At one point you believed that you’d be with that person for the rest of your life.
Divorce is the start of a new life, and you need to grieve for the old one. Let yourself be upset about the life that you have lost. Being sad doesn’t mean that you’ve made the wrong choice, you just need time to get used to it.
Establish a Routine
It’s going to be hard for you, your ex, and your children to adjust to your new life. It can take a while to find your way and make things work, and it can be easy to fall out of your routines and to let standards slide.
This will only make it harder to settle into your new life. Try to establish routines with your ex as soon as you can. Have routines for where your child spends time and who with, but also for finer details like pick-up times and places.
When your child is with you, try your best to stick as close as you can to their regular bedtimes and mealtimes, and any other routines that are put in place. Structure will help everyone and ease the process.
Try Minimal Contact
Having children means that you have to maintain a relationship of some kind. You need to be civil, you need to be able to work things out easily.
Your child shouldn’t ever have to worry that they can’t invite you both to events that are important to them.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of time together. In fact, co-parenting with minimal contact can help you to maintain a positive relationship and make it easier for your children to adjust.
If your children are at school or in childcare, could one of you drop them off and the other pick them up? Or could grandparents help with drop-offs? It’s also a good idea to keep any texts or phone calls to the essentials.
Put Financial Agreements in Place
Money and children are often the things that couples argue about the most when they are going through a divorce. Having a firm agreement in place from the start can make things easier.
But it’s important to remember that when you share children, there will always be financial ties. Things like school trips and uniforms might need to be divided, which can be hard. Especially if divorce communication is a problem.
This blog post from Ensemble has useful tips on managing divorce communication. The Ensemble app can make splitting costs and managing finances much easier. Ensemble is an app to help co-parents track and manage expenses. This can make communication much easier while keeping things fair and avoiding difficult financial conversations.
Consider Your Individual Situation
Read advice, look at guides, learn from what other people have been through, and by all means speak with other divorced and separated parents. But remember that every divorce is different, just like every marriage is different.
There are no rules, and you may find that things that work for other people just don’t suit your family. Don’t be scared to try new things and be flexible when you need to.
Start Building a Different Relationship with Your Children
Your core relationship with your child, the basic blocks of your parent/child relationship won’t change. But how you are with each other day to day might. If things at home haven’t been great, there will have been tension, which your child is sure to have noticed.
Now it’s time to rebuild, on a different footing. Your relationship might be different, and that’s ok. Try to enjoy spending time together while you are getting used to new routines and settings.
Get Used to Time on Your Own
One of the biggest changes is that you’ll suddenly have time on your own. Whether you are splitting time with the kids evenly or not, you will have more time alone than you’ve had for years. It can be very quiet, and very lonely. To start with, you’ll miss your children a lot, and you might feel a little lost.
Get back in touch with friends and family, rediscover old hobbies, try new things, and keep busy as much as you can, at least in the early days while you are getting used to things.
Life as a divorced parent is different. But that certainly doesn’t have to mean that it’s worse. Take your time to grieve, get used to things, and learn more about who you are now, and then you’ll start to enjoy yourself.