Parenting is challenging when there’s two of us. Adding divorce to the mix and becoming a single parent can feel very daunting and scary.
Parenting is challenging as a single mom after divorce. Listen in to today's episode where I help you redefine what it means to be a parent after divorce. I'll also give you two effective single parenting tips that will help you show up as the parent you want to be and allow you to feel more connected to your kids.
If you're tired of feeling like you're drowning as a parent; like everything falls on your shoulders and you're ready to feel empowered as a parent and reconnect to your kids, then you need to schedule your free consult call with me. Click here to schedule.
What you'll learn from this episode:
How to redefine what being a parent means to you.
How to effectively parent without mirroring emotions.
Showing up in abundance with your kids rather than scarcity.
How to reconnect with your kids now and as they get older.
List to the full episode:
Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome back to Becoming You Again. I’m your host Karin Nelson and this is the podcast where I teach you how to how to reconnect with yourself, create emotional resiliency and live a truly independent life, so you can have an even better life than when you were married.
Today I’m talking all about effective single parenting after divorce.
Parenting is challenging when there’s two of us. Right, when there’s two of us in the same household working together on the same team, it’s hard. So adding divorce to the mix and becoming a single parent can feel very daunting and scary at times.
I know for me while I was married I saw myself as a single parent much of the time because I was always the one home with the kids. I made dinner, I was home when they got home from school, I went on the field trips and tucked them in at night. My ex wasn’t home as much and so I had this story that I was already a single parent while I was married that was running through my head. So when I got divorced I didn’t really view my parenting life as much different other than when I had my kids I really tried to be present and not plan anything where I would be a way or where I would be out doing things while they going to be with me, like at my house. But as I have grown I’ve had to learn and grow too as a parent and work on some key areas that have helped strengthen my connection and my relationship with my kids as I parent them.
Today I’m going to address specifically two key areas that can help you when it comes to effective single parenting.
Before I talk about two areas I want to get your mind thinking about what it means to be a parent. Going through a divorce means that you are going through a transition time in your life. Everything that once was is now a little bit different and that includes who you are as a parent and how you want to define it.
Take some time and define what it means to you now to be a parent. If it doesn’t look the way you want it to look, that’s okay. The thing about redefining things in our lives means we get to choose moving forward what it means to us. So what do you want it to look like? Who do you want to be as a parent? How do you want to feel? How you do want to show up for your kids? This is important for you to know. This information is going to help create this story that you tell about yourself as their parent and so it is important for you to know because now that you’re divorced you are, at least for part of the time, the only parent and you probably had a different idea of what being a parent looked like when you are married. What it meant and how you showed up while you were married. Like I said you get to decide what your new definition is and it can look any way you want. So do that work because it is really going to help you define moving forward who you want to be as a parent.
For me, as I mentioned before I often felt like I was already a single parent during my marriage, but I was often a little more strict with the kids then my husband was. I didn’t often let myself have as much fun with them and told myself the story that I have to be the one in charge of the discipline, which is exit kind of funny as a side note because I’m a pretty relaxed kind of person. I’m usually very laid back about most things. I don’t let a lot of things really bother me and so it’s kind of funny that I took on the role. But it wasn’t until I got divorced that I found myself really letting go of trying to control my kids and how that showed up.
Because I realized that the more I tried to control them the more they pulled away from me, which is hilarious, right. We want to be close to our kids and we want to feel connected to our kids and yet we try and control everything about their lives because we are their parents and we think that’s our job and yet it just pushes them away in so many different aspects. So I had to learn to let go of the reins, not completely but a lot more than I was. I gave myself permission to let me kids have experiences that would allow them to learn on their own. I stopped worrying that my son was spending too much time on video games. I stopped trying to control when their homework got done and I just let them make decisions about whether they finished it three weeks before it was due or one hour before it was due. I kind of just left that up to them and knew that things would just kind of work themselves out as they needed to.
I also gave myself permission to have more fun with my kids. During that first year or two after divorce we did a few staycations where I would book a room in a hotel downtown that had a really fun pool and we’d go stay the night, swim, eat out at fun restaurants. Sometimes we’d go to fun shows that we all liked, like seeing Markiplier live or the Impractical Jokers. I decided parenting to me was going to be more fun and more open – more like my personality, and this has really served me and my relationship with my kids since the divorce.
I want to move on to two key areas to focus on after you define what it means to you to be a parent. The first thing I think is going to help you immensely in becoming an effective single parent is to stop mirroring your kids’ emotions.
Let me explain what this means through an example. Let’s you have a 10 year old son and you asked him to take the garbage out and at first he kind of whines and tells you he doesn’t want to. Then he mopes around for 10 minutes while you ask him four more times to take the garbage out. Then he gets angry and yells as he is taking the garbage up, “You always make me take the garbage out. You never do it yourself. Why do I always have to do it. You’re so mean.” And then he huffs and puffs and stomps his feet and slams the door as he takes the garbage out.
We’ve all had an experience similar to this in some way. His emotions during this exchange probably went from frustrated to angry. And this is where the mirroring comes in. You’ll know that you’re mirroring your child’s emotions when you have an exchange of words like this like I just went through, and you begin to feel the same types of emotions they are feeling.
So in this example it would look like you ask your son and he complains and then gets upset and during the exchange when he starts complaining you also start complaining that he’s complaining. You say things like, “Why can’t you just do it the first time I ask you to?” “Why do you have to complain about taking the garbage out.” “You could have been done with this ten minutes ago if you’d just done it when I first asked.” Do you see how that’s like basically doing exactly what he was doing? It’s just coming from you, right?
It's these thoughts that you’re having that are creating your frustration but because you saw it in his reaction first, you mirrored his emotions. Your frustration then escalates to feeling angry just as his did because you’re mirroring his emotions by not managing your mind.
It can be really easy to fall into this cycle of mirroring. I think the majority of parents do this without even realizing that it’s happening. But it’s truly not necessary. The first step to stopping the cycle of mirroring emotions is to take responsibility for your own emotions. Most of the time we think, “Well I’m only frustrated because my kid is complaining and if he would just take the garbage out without complaining the first time I ask him, then I wouldn’t have to feel frustrated.”
But I hate to break it to you, this is a lie. This is a lie you’re telling yourself. When you believe this story, it means that you are giving all of the control of your own emotional life over to your 10 year old. Is that what you want? Do you want your 10 year old to be in control of your emotions? No. Your 10-year-old, or your kids, don’t even know how to control their own emotions, why would you give them the control over yours. You’re in charge of your own emotions by what you’re thinking.
This story that your child SHOULD like to take the garbage out and do it on the first try is what’s causing you to feel frustrated. Because here’s what’s happening. Kids don’t like to take the garbage out. Kids do not like to be asked to do things. Have you noticed this? Kids have to be asked 10 times to do things. That’s the reality of this situation when it comes to our kids. An when we can accept that – not that we have to like. I’m saying you have to love when your kids throw tantrums and are upset. I’m just saying accepting that this is what it is. This is the reality of the situation, that’s when you’ll be able drop the frustration. It is possible for you to be a parent who asks their child to do something and you don’t have to feel frustrated or have it escalate to anger. Will your child still get frustrated and angry? Probably. Most likely yes. But YOU DON’T HAVE TO. This is the key. You get to decide what kind of a parent you want to be and if you’re tired of continually mirroring your child’s emotions then you can choose to stop at any time.
One thing that has really helped me get good at not mirroring my kids emotions is I’ve decided not to take anything they do or say personally. This is something that I’ve worked on a lot since my divorce. I remind myself that they are feeling and doing things because of what is happening in their brain – not because of me or what I’m asking them to do. Their behavior doesn’t have anything to do with me. It doesn’t mean I’m a good parent. It doesn’t mean I’m a bad parent. It doesn’t mean I’m a failure. It doesn’t mean they hate me. It doesn’t mean any of those things. It means that whatever they’re thinking about is creating their feelings and their actions.
Since I’ve been able to adopt this kind of thinking I’m much more calm when I’m parenting my kids. I allow them to have their emotions and I don’t need them to change how they’re feeling so that I can feel good. So that I can feel better. I just get to feel good if I choose to which I think for me personally I’m a pretty happy, easy going person most of the time and I like when I feel that way and so if I can avoid mirroring their emotions and avoid bringing those negative emotions and piling them on myself because of what I am thinking and feeling, then I’m going to do any chance I get. I just get to feel good if I choose to and then they can be upset if they want. They can be upset about taking the garbage out. It’s really not a problem.
This is also really important when it comes to growing into emotional maturity for you and for them. When we allow our kids to feel whatever they’re feeling without needing them to change it or get rid of it quick so that we can feel better – that teaches them that emotions are ok. There’s nothing wrong with them and it’s okay to feel them. It’s okay to have them.
My son is 16 and he’s a junior in high school and he often will come home from school upset or annoyed. And so I’ll go in and say, “Hey, how was your day?” and he’ll shrug or go lay on the couch and mutter something like, “Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk.” I used to get really upset and annoyed too, because I wanted him to talk to me right. I want him to tell me what’s wrong. I want to try to help him to feel better or fix what was going on. But since I’ve learned to give him space to feel what he’s feeling and to not mirror his emotions I can just say something like, “Okay, I love you. I’m in my office if you need me.” He gets to feel what he’s feeling. He gets to have the space to be able to work through that emotion however he needs to and I get to continue on with my day feeling whatever I’m feeling. I’m giving him space to know that it’s okay for him to be feeling what he’s feeling and I know it doesn’t have anything to do with me. There is so much freedom in this way of parenting and when you can master it your parenting life will become so much more enriched and you will be so much more connected to your kids.
The next thing that will be really helpful as you work to become an effective single parent is to stop thinking about your kids with a scarcity mindset. This idea was introduced to me by my mentor and it made so much sense to me that I was like I have to share this with my listeners because it is so true especially for divorced women. So what does it mean to think about your kids with a scarcity mindset? What I mean by that is by thinking that now that you’re divorced you think that you don’t get to see them enough. There’s not enough time. You’re going to miss out on them being with them all the time. You are going to miss out. It is like this fear of missing out on something with your children. You’re going to have to share them with your ex and that’s so frustrating and annoying and it would be so much easier if they were with you all the time. All of those thoughts are coming from scarcity. Are coming from lack or not enough.
This whole idea of ‘not enough’ time or attention with your kids is creating a feeling of scarcity in you. And here’s the thing, when you feel scarcity you will show up as a not great version of yourself when you’re with your kids and when you’re not with them, even. You’ll become really needy when they’re with you. You need to be with them every moment. You need to have their attention. You’re needing them to take away that feeling of scarcity while they’re with you so you don’t leave them alone. You become clingy and weird and you turn into someone you’re not.
And then when they’re away from you the scarcity thinking takes over again. It’s just not enough time. You constantly want to be with them and you’re constantly focused on not being able to see them or not being able to be with them. You’re creating these feelings of loss, regret, guilt and shame that are so unnecessary when they’re away from you. You focus all of your thoughts and energy on what you could be missing from their lives while they’re with their dad when in reality what’s happening si you’re missing out on living your own life. You’re missing out on allowing yourself to discover who you are. On allowing yourself to do things that fulfill you. You’re missing out on feeling abundant and rich in your life right now. Being willing to drop the scarcity and thinking you don’t get enough time with the kids will actually open you up to being able to enjoy the time you do have with them. It’s going to be more meaningful for you and you’ll feel real and connected to them when they’re with you and when they’re gone. You’ll create a richer, more deep connection with yourself which will allow you to be a more effective parent overall.
So for example, my ex takes my kids on lots of really fun, amazing vacations. This last Christmas their Christmas gift was a trip to Spain which was something that my ex and I had always talked about doing when we were married. It was kind of one of the things that we always wanted to do was travel to Spain. He had lived there for two years before we were married and it was something that we always wanted to do as a family was travel to Spain. So they got to go for 10 days and have this amazing experience in Spain. I have been to Spain and it is an amazing, a beautiful place. I was so excited for them. Here’s the thing, I could have shown up with a scarcity mindset of “Why do they get to go?” We always wanted to do this together.” “I’m so jealous.” “I can’t believe he’s doing this without me. What a terrible person.” “I can’t believe they’re going to have fun without me.” Like I could have had all of these thoughts of judgment and jealousy and guilt over not staying married and not getting to experience this with my kids. But I didn’t want to. I don’t like that feeling of jealousy and guilt and anger toward my ex. It doesn’t feel good to me and I just don’t find it necessary in my life. And, of course, I didn’t want my kids to feel like they shouldn’t be going on this trip, like there’s something wrong and maybe they should feel bad about going. I wanted them to go experience this beautiful country and the people and culture and all of the things that I knew they were going to experience. I wanted them to have that. And so I was excited for them. I was thrilled that my ex was able to provide this opportunity for my kids to experience this and to go have fun with their dad and see all of these things that they haven’t been able to see or experience yet.
That is a feeling and thoughts of abundance. Of this is going to enrich their life. This is going to enrich their connection with their dad and this is going to enrich my life and my connection with them because I just get to love them and be so excited and happy for them as they experience this.
Did you know that you can choose to just be happy and excited for your kids and for the things that they get to experience when they are away from you? It is okay for you to choose that. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It doesn’t mean that something’s gone wrong. It doesn’t mean that you are not showing up in love for them. It actually means that you are showing up with more love and acceptance and openness for who they are becoming and letting them know that it’t okay for them to have experiences without you. Because ultimately that is what is going to happen, right? They are going to grow up. They are going to move on. They are going to move out of your house and they are going to have experiences without you and letting them know that it’s okay for that to happen because you are showing up with abundance and love and openness is going to connect them to you in a way that will serve you for the rest of your life and for the rest of their life. The more you try and cling to them and show them that it’s not good for them to have experiences without you and that you need to be with them and at every moment with them is just not enough, it’s going to push them away and you will disconnect from them and it’s going to create the exact opposite of what you actually want. So go about your single parenting in a way that is open, that is full of love and full of abundance because I promise you that when you can do that your connection with your kids will strengthen.
If you like what you heard on today’s podcast and you want to know more about working 1:1 with me, you can go to www.karinnelsoncoaching.com and schedule your free consult to find out more. That’s www dot Karin nelson coaching dot com.
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