Sometimes the greatest advice you can get comes from someone who has already walked the road ahead of you. Below we’ve continued our blog post series “From One Parent to Another,” with another guest blog post from a divorced parent.
When I was getting started I remember thinking that the divorce process is confusing and daunting, and I just wanted to make it as easy as possible. I bought books, read online, and asked others for tips, yet it was a lot of information to sort through. I thought a lot about cost too, but most of all I was worried about the kids.
I had hopes that the court would hold people more accountable for completing the paperwork and filing within the designated timeline. And I was disappointed when they didn’t.
If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that it can feel lonely, driving to the courthouse, finding somewhere to park, finding the room and attempting to complete all the paperwork and filing motions when my ex failed to do his part. The severity of the whole situation is even more ‘real’ when you have to go to the courthouse, go through security, and pay strangers to end your marriage.
I found the Center For Out-Of-Court Divorce (COCD) after our initial filing, and they walked us through the process at the pace that our family needed. I didn’t feel forced into decisions and we were allowed the time, and offered the counseling, to make sure everything was understood. Most of all, we needed time to comprehend and make the right decisions for our family, with this new life.
Truthfully, I’m doing well with the three of us, but divorce for us is not over because we completed the papers. Therefore, I’m still not in a great place. I haven’t had follow-through from my ex on everything we put in our agreement. So I don’t have a perfect success story there. But I have learned a few things that are helping me to be the best single parent that I can be.
Give yourself permission and time. It’s overwhelming. You’re going to have emotions come and go. Just when you think you’re doing well you might have something set you back, and that’s ok. Just focus on being healthy for you and moving through those moments as needed.
Make sure your kids have the opportunity to be heard. As a single parent, it gets hard to find that time, and it’s easy to push them aside, but if they want to voice something they need to be heard and to feel valued and important.
Do frequent check-ins with the kids. Even if they seem hesitant to talk, give each child their own time and opportunity to share privately, when they’re ready. I have found that it’s important to make them feel valued as an individual.
Empathize, but don’t criticize your co-parent. My daughter is old enough to have insights into her relationship with her father since the divorce. My son, who is younger just sees dad as the hero. My daughter sometimes voices her own opinions about her father to me, which at times can be critical. I just try to listen and empathize with her rather than contribute to negative feelings. It can be really difficult, but it’s an important line I must draw.
Be honest and real. I keep encouraging my kids throughout this process, but when your relationship with your ex is broken and you feel damaged, and you start to see your children feel that damage, that’s hard as a parent. As hard as it is, you have to stay strong and positive in your relationship with your kids, but still allow them to express their feelings.
Have realistic expectations. Don’t be surprised if the counseling that the kids receive does not generate the outcomes you expected, or hoped for. It’s a process, and it might be too soon for them to process everything. Celebrate the joys when they happen versus expecting everything to be fixed quickly and easily. Let the school know what’s going on too. There could be academic impacts and you should look out for that.
The only other thing I can say about divorce is to prepare yourself for the final hearing. It’s a horrible day. However, that day was actually my favorite aspect of working with COCD. The Center staff made sure we knew what to expect that day, letting us know how the hearing process worked, that there would be microphones and the Judge would be wearing a robe helped me feel more prepared. I liked that the Judge came to COCD allowing us to stay out of a courtroom for the final hearing and he was so kind and caring it put us both at ease. But there is nothing you can do make that day entirely easy. Don’t go back to work. Get lunch with a friend. Have friends on standby for that night too – whether you want to sit on the couch and eat pizza or go out, use your village to support you.
Story submitted by divorced parent and former COCD client.