Going through a divorce takes up a great deal of time and energy that you’d much rather be spending on your kids.
Knowing your children aren’t getting the kind of attention that you’d like to give them can be crushing—but there are ways to make sure your kids aren’t worse for wear, and to ease the mom guilt that you might feel.
5 Ways to Reduce Mom Guilt During A Divorce
1. A Little More Screen Time Right Now is Okay
It won’t hurt your child to have a little more screen time during this difficult time. The American Heart Association recommends that kids have no more than two hours daily – in reality, most kids are actually getting an average of about seven hours of screen time each day.
If you think your kids are on their devices too much as it is, but you don’t have a lot of capacity to direct their attention elsewhere, redirecting your child to educational (and still entertaining) types of media can make a difference. Tablets, laptops, and phones can evolve from a time-wasting distraction to important tools to help kids find new interests or explore favorite topics more in-depth.
Take heart in knowing there are great options for more productive screen time. Put on a curated playlist of nature documentaries, for example, or download some favorite educational apps on your device. Duolingo is a great way for children of reading age to start learning another language, and math games are not only fun but great for learning, too, which eases that Mama Guilt big time.
The Bedtime Math app offers fun stories for younger children to encourage and normalize the presence of math in everyday life. Code.org offers learning activities for all ages, including story videos and programming activities – no guilt in prepping your kids to be future cyber security experts!
2. Plan Time Just for You and Your Child
Even if your daily time with your kids is suffering as you navigate your divorce, you can still set aside special time with them. Creating date night with your kids ensures you’re reserving time where it’s all about the child – no divorce paperwork, no phone calls, no drama. Decide together or take turns picking an activity. It can be a movie night at the theater or at home, a fun picnic in the park, a community activity, or a few games of bowling. It can be anything, really.
It’s a great way to begin to reinforce stability and establish new traditions, and it’s a way for kids to look forward to a time and place where they know they’ll have your full attention. You can’t avoid having your kids notice that things are different now—but creating a kid date night can show them that it’s okay to still have fun, to learn how to experience joy despite the sadness, and to teach the skill of resiliency (and you thought bowling was about knocking down pins).
3. Get Your Bodies Moving
The power of endorphins can’t be overstated. It’s always tough to find time to exercise, but taking care of your health is a must for ensuring your kids are healthy, too. Sign yourself up for a yoga class or a dance class – do it on your lunch hour if you need to.
Making sure your kids get exercise can help them to feel better, too. Use your kid date nights for a mom-and-kid activity that incorporates exercise, like walking to the park to play Frisbee, or going to a snowshoe trail together. Walk the dog together each night. Exercising can help ease your kids’ stress, allow them to sleep better and to give them the extra immunity boost that they’ll need to navigate a difficult time.
4. Don’t Go It Alone
You’re not the only one to go through a divorce with kids—there are lots of other moms out there dealing with the same guilt and challenges as you. You can check our professional directory for resources like divorce coaches or counselors, and check other online resources for divorced moms. Find support groups in your local community and take the time to reach out to other moms you know who can lend you an ear when you need it.
It’s tempting to confide in your children, especially older ones who might understand more about what’s going on. They want to see you happy and may be interested in listening to you—but emotional support is best left to other adults who have been through what you’re going through. You may feel like an island as if no one outside of your family really gets it. But redirecting this stress away from the kids will avoid making them feel like they need to be the strong ones.
Make sure your kids have their own sources of support, too. While you encourage them to talk to you about what’s happening, they may have feelings or thoughts they’re reluctant to share with you. Friends who have been through the same thing or a support group for children of divorced parents can be a great help.
5. Remember That It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
Kids need to see that their parents can experience difficult emotions and still get through them. You can’t be everything to everyone all the time, and showing your kids resilience through vulnerability gives them the tools and confidence to manage the bumps they may experience in their own lives going forward.