Tips for Divorced and Separated Parents to Find Balance: Home, Work, and Coparenting

Oct 18, 2022 | Parenting

*Note: This article does not consider the complexities of dealing with divorce that is the result of any type of abuse (emotional, financial, physical), nor does it replace the advice of a licensed therapist.

When a family goes through a divorce, it can be one of the most difficult experiences for everyone involved. Along with the emotional stress, there are many logistical challenges that need to be faced. One of the most important things divorced and separated parents can do is find balance in their home life, work life, and with co-parenting. Whether it’s sticking to a routine, developing co-parenting systems, or reaching out for help, it’s important to provide positive support to children during this time.

Divorce is considered one of the 10 ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), and it’s important to prevent toxic stress for the child which could later develop into negative outcomes in adulthood if they are not supported.

Routines build stability

Creating a schedule is one of the best ways to find balance as a divorced or separated parent. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, a routine can make this transitional period easier to adjust.[1] This schedule can change based on the day, but having some structure will help parents feel more in control. The parent can create separate schedules for when they have the kids and when they don’t.

For example, there might be a parenting schedule that includes time for homework, dinner, and baths. And then, a personal schedule, for when the kids are with their other parent. This schedule might include time for working out, catching up with friends, or taking a long bath. Don’t forget to schedule in some self-care. It’s important to make time to recharge and invest in your wellbeing, especially after a divorce.

Making positive memories is essential

It’s also important to create time for fun memories with the kids. Divorce can be one of the biggest events in a child’s and a parent’s life. Make sure you’re making time to let loose and have fun with the kids. This will help them feel loved and supported during a difficult time. Parents can do this by planning regular family outings, game nights, or special traditions. Creating positive memories is one of the best ways to counteract negative memories from the divorce[2] — and it can help you bond with your children.

During this difficult period of transition, your children may be resistant to the activities they used to enjoy. It may be more difficult for them to let loose and have fun.  While prioritizing positive memories, it is important to do it in a way that does not encourage suppressing of feelings or emotions.

Discuss feelings

Children and parents can feel overwhelmed after a divorce or separation. It’s important to talk about these feelings. Naming one’s feelings can be a good place to start. Books, movies, or games[3] can also bring up emotions and conversation. Parents should also discuss their feelings with a trusted friend, a therapist, or through journaling. Managing the feelings that come up will help parents be more consistent and present with their children.

It is also recommended to seek professional help or therapy as kids may not be comfortable sharing their feelings with one or both parents during this time.

Systems can help with co-parenting

One of the biggest challenges of divorce is co-parenting. There are many different ways to co-parent, and it’s important to find a system that works for you and your ex. This might include creating a parenting schedule, dividing finances, or making decisions that affect your child together. There are many apps and online resources  that can help you with co-parenting and avoiding arguments. Children should be protected from conflict whenever possible,[4] and systems can help you with that.

Self-care is essential

According to the American Psychological Association, stress can affect every bodily system.[5] A divorce might be one of the most stressful life events a parent ever experiences. Not every day will be perfectly balanced. Give yourself grace and take some time for yourself. Whether it’s taking a yoga class, going for a walk, reading your favorite book, or becoming active in more activities, finding support will help parents make it through the stress of a divorce.

Reach out for help

As parents navigate divorce, it can feel like they’re trying to do and be everything to their children. This isn’t sustainable. Divorced or separated parents should take the time to identify their own strengths instead of focusing on what they cannot do. It’s helpful to talk about strengths with the co-parent when deciding on activities and responsibilities.

Divorced parents shouldn’t be afraid of finding support[6] and should remember they’re only one person. Neither parent can do everything alone. Look into parenting resources for divorced parents, whether that’s through local government programs. Don’t be afraid to speak with a therapist, too.[7]

Ultimately, the goal is to find a balance that works for one’s family. Every family is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The important thing is that you make time for your children, without sacrificing your work and yourself. With a little effort, you can find the balance you need to thrive as a divorced or separated parent.

References & Sources

[1] Adjusting to divorce. Healthychildren.org powered by the American Adacemy of Pediatrics. 11/21/2015.

[2] Daines, C.L., Hansen, D., Novilla, M.L.B. et al. Effects of positive and negative childhood experiences on adult family health. BMC Public Health21, 651 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10732-w

[3] Lee CM, Bax KA. Children’s reactions to parental separation and divorce. Pediatric Child Health. 2000 May;5

[4] Kelly, J. B. (2005). “Developing beneficial parenting models for children following divorce.” Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

[5] American Psychological Association. (2018, November 1). Stress effects on the body.https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body

[6] Lee CM, Bax KA. Children’s reactions to parental separation and divorce. Pediatric Child Health. 2000 May;5

[7] Adjusting to divorce. Healthychildren.org powered by the American Academy of Pediatrics. 11/21/2015.

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