Parenting is full of ups and downs. Previously, you shared those ups and downs with a partner, but parenting can become even more complex once your spouse is no longer in the picture. After the dissolution of your marriage, you’ll no longer be able to rely on a spouse for day-to-day assistance as you might’ve before the divorce. The first year is the most challenging because it’s the first time you’ll have full responsibility on your own. Single parenting can be rewarding, but it also requires a different approach.
Being the primary custodial parent requires developing certain skills and applying them for the benefit of yourself and your children. These tips will help you navigate your first year of parenting solo:
- Ask for help. After a divorce proceeding, you’ll have a newfound sense of independence. While it may seem liberating, it can also be lonely. Don’t let your new arrangement prevent you from reaching out for help when you need it. Family and friends will want a way to help you – when you ask for help, it’s a gift to you and them.
- Find your support system. Your friends and family may make up your main support system, but don’t be afraid to expand your network. Find a group of like-minded single parents who can relate to your everyday struggles. Single parents will be able to provide advice and perspective that your other friends cannot.
- Take “you” time. Single parents often feel overworked trying to make ends meet and tending to their children’s daily needs. Every parent needs a break from parenting once in a while. Whether it’s taking in an exercise class or going for a walk solo, take time to clear your head occasionally. Once you have other single-parent friends, take turn babysitting to give you each some time alone without the expense of a sitter.
- Explore your passions. In the years following a divorce, you might experience a dip in your self-esteem. You’ll likely wonder if you’re doing the best by your children and if you’re managing everything well. Getting in touch with your passions and exploring new hobbies will instill courage, self-confidence, and will help you through this trying time.
- Talk to a neutral third party. Relying on friends and family is essential, but some people benefit from talking through their emotions with a neutral third party like a therapist. In the months following your divorce, you’ll likely be riding a roller coaster of emotions. Don’t bottle them up – deal with them in a healthy way by exploring them with someone else.
- Accept your mistakes with grace. In the first year of single parenting, making mistakes is inevitable. Don’t be too hard on yourself or think you’re a failure as a parent. Surround yourself with family and friends who can provide guidance and support when you need it the most, but be prepared to forgive yourself, too.
- Don’t get into arguments with your spouse. If you’re co-parenting with your ex-spouse, then you’re likely to have disagreements about raising your children. Patience, compromise, and hard work will go a long way into making a co-parenting arrangement that’s healthy for you and your children alike. Even for divorces without children, logistical issues can create tensions. While it’s natural to be annoyed at times, learn when to let things go.
You may not have realized before how much co-parenting happened when you were still married, and life as a single-parent might come as a surprise. Single parenting is difficult, and your first year might be your biggest challenge. Give yourself plenty of slack and continue to rely on the support of friends, family, and like-minded individuals.