By Tracy Achen
Are you dealing with the children and parent separation blues, missing your kids and wondering how you'll ever adapt? Adjusting to post-divorce life as a non-custodial parent can be a challenging experience. Not only are you entering a new stage in your life, but you're doing it without the predictability of taking care of your children on a daily basis.
After all, the familiar routines that revolve around children's lives tend to give a lot of structure to the parent's lives as well. For example, there are the regular meal times, baths, bed-time stories, and tucking them in at night. As the kids get older, you get used to the back packs flung in the corner as they raid the cabinets and fridge, the impromptu chats about what's happening at school, and the blaring video games in the next room.
Not having these predictable activities and the chaos that goes along with having children around all the time can leave you feeling lost and lonely. Suddenly it's too quiet and you don't know what to do with yourself. You're missing your kids and the life you had with them. So what do you do? You can shrivel up in a ball and have a pity party over everything that's changed. Or you can choose to make the best of your current situation.
Staying connected with your kids will help ease the loneliness. When you find yourself missing them, call or send a text just to say hello. Email is another way to keep in touch with your kids and you can keep up with their lives with Facebook (if they accept you as a friend).
If part of your routine before the divorce was reading bedtime stories with your kids, consider using a webcam to keep up the tradition. Maybe even get two copies of your child's favorite books so he or she can read along or look at the pictures while you recite their favorite story.
In between visits with your kids, you can still stay involved by attending their activities, sports, and school functions. It really does make a kid proud to look over and see their parent cheering them on from the side-lines. You can also volunteer to take your kids to and from their various events and practices. Not only are you getting to spend some extra time with your kids, but you're also relieving some of the stress on your ex (which makes life easier on your kids in the long run). If your children are still in elementary school, think about volunteering at the school or in the classroom. This way you can stay involved in their life and keep up with their school progress at the same time.
If you don't live close enough to spend this extra time with your children, consider writing letters to let them know what you're doing and that you miss them. Receiving your letters will make your children feel special because you took the extra time to just focus on them. Hopefully, they will write back in return. If you think there will be a possibility that your kids won't actually receive your letters, make copies of them and store them in a safe place. At some point in time, they will be able to read what you wrote and finally realize that you tried to keep in contact with them.
After spending so much of your life taking care of your kids, you've probably forgotten how to focus on your needs. When the walls start closing in from spending too much time alone, get out of the house and do something. But use your head. This shouldn't be viewed as an opportunity to see what you missed out during your marriage by partying. Turning to drugs or alcohol is not the most productive use of your time (and often leads to depression in the long run). And it may even hurt your chances of regaining custody or spending more time with your kids.
Instead, try taking up a new activity or sport or even pick back up on some of your old hobbies. You can use this as an opportunity to start a new fitness program so you can build your strength and feel good about yourself. If working up a sweat doesn't interest you, maybe consider doing some volunteer work. This way you can get out of the house and be surrounded by other people, diverting your attention away from your loneliness for the time being.
This is also your chance to cook the "grown-up" foods your children refused to eat. If you hate eating alone, call a friend to come sample your gourmet feast. If you don't like to cook, you can always go to your favorite café or restaurant. Or maybe even join a coffee club so you can socialize with other people on a regular basis. Call a friend to see if they will join you for lunch. Until you adjust to the changes, surround yourself with other people.
You will probably always miss your children when they aren't with you, but with time, you will adjust to your new life and routine.
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Below you'll find more tips and ideas on how to deal with issues of children and parent separation, co-parenting, and healing after the divorce.