Going through a divorce is extremely difficult, but once the dust has settled and the divorce is finalized, your hard work isn’t quite over. If you have children with your ex-spouse, you now have to navigate the treacherous waters of co-parenting.
While some couples seem to handle this flawlessly (at least from the outside), it’s much more common for parents to have difficulties with this stage of divorce, especially in the beginning.
If you’re feeling depressed due to the strains of co-parenting, there are ways to cope. Depression doesn’t just affect parents, but children, too – it can make kids withdraw socially and even impact their immune system. For the sake of your own health, the health and well-being of your child, and your future as an untraditional family unit, find ways to communicate with and support one another so everyone can feel better sooner rather than later.
Ways to Cope With Co-Parenting and Depression
Coordinate on House Rules
It’s extremely difficult for a parent when their child comes home after a few days with their other parent and completely forgets how to behave. When house rules are different in the two households, it’s difficult for children to constantly adapt to the current expectations, which can cause a lot of stress for the parent. In order to make the transitions smoother for everyone, parents should be on the same page about house rules and expectations.
Communicate Online as Much as Possible
For many ex-spouses, communicating in person or on the phone can quickly lead to a fight. When co-parenting, you have to speak to one another, though – and it’s daunting to think that even a simple phone call about your son’s soccer game is going to end in a screaming match. To help conversations stay civil and calm, consider speaking as much as possible online, through email or text messaging. It’s easier for both of you to think about what you’ll say before responding when you have to write it all out.
Focus on What You Have, Not What You Don’t
It’s extremely difficult when one person moves on quicker than the other person post-divorce. Since you have to continue to co-parent, though, you’re faced with these changes all the time. You may hear your child talking about your ex’s new girlfriend or boyfriend, or you may have to seem them during drop-off. It’s easy to get swept up in thinking about everything you lost out on, and that sort of dissatisfaction can quickly lead to depression. Instead, focus on everything you still have and that you can have thanks to your divorce. What doors opened up for you that were closed before? What can you do with your brand new life that you couldn’t do in the past?
Learn How to Cope with Depression (and How Not To)
While there’s plenty of professional help out there for people with depression, you may not have the time or energy for weekly sessions with a therapist. There are ways to treat depression on your own – while the problem may not disappear completely, you could find that these techniques help you feel better, make you a more responsible parent and bond with your child.
- Ask for support. You can tell one trusted friend or family member what you’ve been dealing with so that you have someone to go to when you need to talk. You may even want to let your ex know how you’ve been feeling – he or she may be more willing to work with you on co-parenting issues after learning you’ve been struggling.
- Even if you’ve lost interest in your favorite pastimes, make a point to do them, particularly the ones you and your child did together pre-divorce. Go for a walk in the woods, take your little one to a funny movie, or pull your child out of school for the day to go to the water park.
- Exercise can do wonders for your mood, and it’s so easy to get your child involved in exercise. Sign up for a parent-and-child yoga class, go for a bike ride, or try a new sport together, like running or volleyball.
- This is an extremely stressful time, and stress can have all sorts of external side effects, such as skin flare-ups. Treating the physical signs of depression can help improve your mood, as you won’t have the symptoms glaring back at you every time you look in the mirror.
Whatever you do, steer clear of alcohol. Alcohol can make depression much worse. If you’re unsure if you have an alcohol problem, think about how often you binge drink. Binge drinking is a common sign of alcohol abuse, and it may require professional help to combat.
It’s important to accept that there are many stages of divorce and that signing the papers and being officially divorced does not signal the end of trouble. For many parents, things get harder once the divorce has gone through because this is the phase where they have to work out the details of co-parenting. Depression impacts so many physical functions, from your own well-being and ability to have a new, meaningful relationship to your child’s happiness and social life. The good news is that it will likely get better with time, especially as you and your ex find your footing as co-parents.