Families Change Guide to Separation & Divorce

3.4 - Strategies to Help Parents Cope

3.4 - Strategies to Help Parents Cope

Parents also need to have strategies to help them cope.

  • When you identify your own personal issues, you are better able to assist your children through the separation experience.
  • You need to make a distinction between what you need to do as a former partner versus what you need to do as a parent.
  • This distinction helps you clarify the tasks that relate to your relationship with your former partner and your parenting responsibilities.

Let’s talk about how you can do this.

1. You need to acknowledge the loss.

  • You need to acknowledge feelings related to the loss of your intimate partner, as well as the end of hopes and dreams for your relationship.
  • Lack of acknowledgment of your feelings may lead to a preoccupation with the life of your former partner long after the separation.
  • You need to send clear signals to your former partner that the relationship has ended.

2. You need to reclaim your personal identity.

  • Developing a new sense of identity requires a clear separation from the relationship with your former partner. You need to move from thinking about “we”, to “I”. 
  • Consider the following:
    • Strengths you had before the relationship.
    • Reaching out to trusted friends and family members.
    • Seeking counselling to address residual feelings from the separation and how you feel about yourself.
    • Taking care of your physical and emotional self.

3. You need to resolve anger and resentment issues.

  • Anger and resentment must be resolved in a healthy way to help you move on from the difficult feelings of separation.
  •  If you don’t address these issues, you will experience emotional flashbacks or bitter feelings when you see or hear about your former partner.
  • When anger remains unresolved, the children can be harmed when used as weapons by parents.

If you feel physically threatened by your former partner, you need to address this issue and to ensure your own safety and the safety of your children.

  • Protect your children from witnessing any fighting. Even if the fighting is not directed at them, the effects are damaging.
  • Research shows that children turn their anger on others—or hurt themselves—when they witness violence. When children witness violence, they require professional help.
  • Until a parent understands and resolves their anger, it is likely to escalate. If you or your former partner are having trouble managing your anger, you should seek help from a counsellor.
  • Understand that the feelings you are experiencing during the separation process are more than anger, fear and grief…They are a desire to meet a person’s core needs for: appreciation, inclusion, autonomy, status and acknowledgement of their role.

4. You need to deal with the changes in other relationships.

  • Changes might occur in the way you relate to friends you had as a couple.
  •  You might also experience changes in your relationships with your extended family and the family of your former partner.

5. You need to deal with your finances.

  • Financial counselling helps you deal with changes in financial circumstances following separation.
  • Circumstances might include a drop in income and changes in your long-term financial plan.
  • It is important that you create a new budget to reflect your new financial situation.