Co-Parenting and Anxiety
Anxiety often becomes a more recurrent or intense problem in stress-inducing situations. Parenting isn’t easy at the best of times and handling a completely new parenting set up (e.g. the transition to co-parenting) can bring on bouts of anxiety that you need to be ready for. It’s important to be able to manage it for you and your children’s sake in order to minimize the chance of them suffering anxiety once you begin your new co-parenting structure and routine.
Parenting Anxiety & Separation Anxiety
Parenting anxiety can often occur during developmental milestones for your children. While becoming a co-parent isn’t technically a developmental milestone, it is a landmark and a big change nonetheless. Disruptions to order and routine are key triggers for anxiety; spending time away from your children will of course at first be a wholly new and uncomfortable experience. Feeling anxiety while separated is completely natural; however, there are benefits to parenting separately. Your time with your children now really is your own. It’s your opportunity to parent how you see fit, experience new travels, activities and hobbies you may have always wanted to share with your children, and create meaningful rituals as a family. Simultaneously you will have more time to yourself to pursue your own interests, which is healthy and necessary.
Throughout parenthood, you will likely identify a number of changes in your children’s behavior. Some of this will be normal development; hormonal mood swings and occasionally just your overprotectiveness making you overreact. This is normal. However behavioral change in children also occurs in conjunction with changes of circumstance and environment. This once again highlights the need for post-divorce stability and the importance of implementing a custody schedule. It’s okay to have something temporary while you get adjusted, but you should aim for minimal disruption to school life, maximum time with both parents, and a structured routine in the long term. You need to aim to create a sense of safety and familiarity in both households so your children will always feel at home. Retain a sense of normalcy for them and they will learn to trust and become accustomed to the new schedule.
What You Can Do
If you think you’re noticing changes in your child and it’s making you anxious and they won’t speak to you about it, then don’t be afraid to speak to the school or your fellow co-parent. They can offer their perspective and share if they’ve also noticed behavioral changes. It could help you, your peace of mind, and your child to consider therapy or counseling so they have someone impartial to speak to. It helps for you to speak to other parents too; many will have had similar experiences and may be going through a comparable situation to you.
For the first painful goodbye when your child is going to spend some time with your co-parent, it can really help to have someone with you. A friend or relative on hand for support is invaluable. Be prepared, that’s half the challenge. Try not to project your anxiety or negative emotions on to your children. Managing your anxiety effectively will provide a model to your children in how to manage their own discomforts and anxieties. Remember to look after yourself. Your children need you as available and resourced as possible. Eat well, exercise, meditate, sleep enough and seek professional help if necessary. All these factors really will affect your mental wellbeing. The amount of people worldwide that now experience anxiety and suffer from anxiety related problems is so significant that it really shouldn’t be taboo to accept that you need help and support. There’s always someone to talk to.
Maybe most essential to keep in mind is that there’s no one magic formula or correct answer for raising children. The best you can do is to raise your children in a loving household, teach them values and make their safety and happiness your priority.
This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans and schedules whilst additionally providing free co-parenting resources and a scholarship program for single parents.