I never expected that I would be a single mother. Divorce always seemed like something that happened to those “other” people, not something that my daughter and I would ever have to face. However, I found myself newly single when my bright-eyed toddler was approaching two-and-a-half years old. My divorce challenged me in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated, and I had to struggle to keep it from harming my relationship with my daughter. Although I certainly don’t deserve the Mother of the Year award, I believe that several factors helped me to support my toddler during a divorce.
If you are facing a divorce with a toddler, these guidelines may help you to find the strength that you and your child need to overcome this challenging– but temporary– hurtle. Here are the tips that I found beneficial.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Parenting is the most important thing I’ve done with my life, and I believe that parents should hold themselves the a high standard. Although I don’t think any parent should settle for just being “good enough,” it is important to recognize that you have your own flaws and that you’ll make mistakes along the way.
Divorce enabled me to reach a point of self-acceptance that I might have taken years to reach under different circumstances. I forgave myself for not bathing my toddler every single night, for skipping the bedtime story a few evenings, and for letting my daughter take a nap late in the afternoon. During a divorce with a toddler, you– and I– deserve a little self-forgiveness. Accept that you can’t always be super-mom or super-dad, especially when you find yourself doing it without the support of a spouse.
Cut Your Child Some Slack
You aren’t the only one who needs a break. Toddlerhood is a difficult time for your child, and your toddler can’t yet understand the situation or articulate his feelings. Accept– and understand– that your toddler will have a few extra tantrums. She may hit you. She may humiliate you in public. She may completely relapse on potty-training, or refuse to sleep alone for several nights, or insist on throwing her toys in the toilet.
It’s important to consistently discipline your child and remind her that you still have rules and standards. However, it is equally important to understand that your child is coping with your divorce in the only way she can. You may be having a few tantrums of your own right now– so remember that your toddler is also struggling.
Take Time to Bond
During a divorce with a toddler, it is more important than ever that you take time to foster a strong bond with your child. During my divorce, I found strength by reaffirming my love for my daughter. I took her to a petting-zoo, where we witnessed a mother rabbit giving birth and nursing her young. We spent time at playgrounds and kid-friendly restaurants. I sang songs to her, played tag, and engaged her in games of hide-and-seek. This gave me the strength that I needed to feel confident as a single mom, and it also facilitated a strong attachment between me and my toddler.
When life hands you lemons, make lemonade– and add plenty of sugar so your toddler will enjoy it. Your divorce may be one of the most challenging times that you and your toddler will face, and it is more important than ever that you reassure your child of your unconditional love. My toddler and I have a long, challenging road ahead of us. However, I believe that the bonds I foster today will give us the strength to make it through the next sixteen years together.