Post-divorce mental health: How to manage parenting stress

When you decided to divorce, you knew it would greatly affect your children's lives. You also logically assumed your own life would change quite a bit. One of the biggest changes that divorce often prompts has to do with parenting. You're now going to be a single parent; however, you will still have to interact with your co-parent, which can make life stressful at times.

While you're doing your best to provide encouragement and support for your kids as you all adapt to a new lifestyle, don't neglect your own mental health and emotional needs. Especially if you're a custodial parent, you may encounter numerous challenges that cause friction in your parent/child relationships. Every family, even those with marriages still intact, go through stress. As a divorced parent, you may struggle with certain issues that are not typical in a two-parent household.

Divorce is emotional

It typically isn't easy to end a marriage, especially if it lasted 10 years or more. The following list provides practical tips to help you address the emotional aspect of divorce

  • There is no right or wrong way to feel, and that goes for adults as well as children.
  • Allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel on a given day is a healthy way to cope. You might experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness, anger, frustration, worry, loneliness or fear.
  • You might also feel glad and hopeful, and that is okay, too.
  • Letting your children know they can share their emotions with you, no matter what those feelings happen to be, is a step in the right direction for coming to terms with the situation.

On the contrary, if you never talk about feelings or your kids think you'll get upset if they tell you how they really feel, emotions can bottle up inside, which can lead to physical stress and adverse health conditions. Taking one day at a time and one emotion at a time is a proactive, productive way to cope.

Interacting with your ex in an amicable fashion

If you and your co-parent don't get along well, it can be quite challenging to develop a working relationship that keeps your children's best interests in mind. The tips included in the next list can help keep co-parent stress to a minimum: 

  • If you tend to argue when you see each other in person, try to communicate through other means instead. You can agree to text or email if conversations typically erupt into conflicts. 
  • Try not to take the bait if you have an ex who tries to get you to argue all the time. Explain that you are ending the conversation or text messages until he or she is able to peacefully discuss whatever the topic happens to be. 
  • While you must adhere to court orders and discuss issues pertinent to your children, you by no means have to defend yourself or listen to degrading comments about your personality or parenting style.

There is a difference between personal vendetta and actual legal issues. If it's the latter, you must deal with it. The former, you can disregard. If you feel ill-equipped to handle a particular legal matter, you can seek experienced guidance and support.

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