Separating from your partner is especially difficult if it means that you won’t be able to see your children every day. The change in family dynamics can be jarring when you now see your children once a week (or even less) compared to when you saw them daily. Not only is it difficult to get accustomed to the change, but more importantly, it can be difficult to connect with your children and maintain strong relationships.
There are several ways to cope with not seeing your child every day. Once you’ve accepted your feelings, you can cope by finding ways to be happy on your own, keeping yourself busy, having an open line of communication with your child, talking with friends and family, finding a support group, making the most of your time with your child, managing expectations, and talking with a therapist.
How to Cope With Not Seeing Your Child Every Day
Accept Your Feelings
Regardless of what happened with your relationship with your partner, your children will always be in your mind and heart. Thus, being away from them even for a few days can be depressing. One of the first ways you can help yourself cope with not seeing your child every day is by accepting your feelings.
To accept your feelings is to accept your emotions and thoughts without judgment. Research has shown acceptance to be associated with improved mental and psychological health. It is said that acceptance helps keep people from reacting to and thereby exaggerating negative experiences – such as the separation from your children.
There are different ways of dealing with negative experiences, but researchers state that people who are able to accept their situations are able to better respond to stressors compared to those who can’t.
Once you’ve accepted your feelings and your situation, you will be able to take the next steps toward your healing.
It is a common adage that people cannot control what happens around them – but they can control how they react. Although you may be going through difficult times being apart from your children, you will have to make the most of the situation. After accepting your feelings, you must find happiness.
Just like how Henry Ford said, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right,” one of the first steps toward happiness is believing that you’re capable of happiness in your situation. You will have to find the silver lining despite the cloudy situation.
Think of the little things that can give you happiness now that you’re on your own. You have to admit that you have way fewer responsibilities now than you did before. You have no one to fight for when it comes to the bathroom or the TV. You can do anything you set your mind to. This is just one of the many things you can fixate on rather than on the gloom.
Surely, you have more time now than you did before. You can take this time to do something you enjoy. You can take strolls in the park. You can enjoy a hobby. You can go on vacation.
Many of you might think finding happiness can be selfish. On one hand, it is, but on the other, it isn’t. You finding your happiness doesn’t mean that you’re happy with how things turned out. You finding your happiness is just how you can cope with the hand you’re dealt with. You are just making the most of the situation. Plus, it keeps you from wallowing in your own sadness which can then prevent you from spiraling downward.
Another great way to cope with not seeing your child every day is to keep yourself busy. Before, your schedule may have revolved around your children such as preparing their meals, taking them to school, picking them up from school, taking them to sports practice, and so on. However, you now find yourself with a lot of time on your hands – time that does not involve your children. If you are having a difficult time going through this, it is highly recommended you keep yourself busy.
Various studies have shown that adults typically use one of several coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms can include the use of religion, support from friends and family, acceptance, and such. However, one of the highly reported coping mechanisms is keeping busy.
Published in Psychological Science, a 2010 study discusses the role of keeping busy. The study mentions that a primary driver as to why people keep themselves busy is that it is a way to avert idleness. Regardless of the purpose, the study also states that people who keep themselves busy are generally happier than those idling by.
However, you would have to choose your activities well. It was 19th-century philosopher Henry David Thoreau who said: It is not enough to be busy… the question is – What are we busy about? Thoreau states that being busy is easy, as ants often are. You can have tons of tasks on your hands, but you may be left asking yourself at the end of the day what you have accomplished. Thus, you need to keep busy with meaningful work.
Meaningful work can mean different to different people. The important part is that it is work that brings you peace and happiness. You don’t have to keep yourself busy with household chores unless you find doing those tasks therapeutic in some way. Hobbies are great examples of meaningful work for you. Hobbies can take an exorbitant amount of time, but at least you spend the time doing something you enjoy.
Communicate with Your Child
Just because you don’t see your child as much doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch. A great way to lessen the gravity of your situation is by having an open line of communication with your child.
Though you may only see them weekly, you can still pick up your phone and give them a call every now and then. A quick call can often be enough to lift your spirits if it means hearing their voice. You can simply ask them about their day or how they’ve been. You might have to be wary because some children are not too fond of voice calls.
If your child isn’t the talkative kind, you can always be in each other’s lives through texting. This might be a more comfortable way of communication for your child. Though it may be more difficult to have full-length discussions over text, a simple message each day can help ease your mind. You could either greet them at the start of your day or right before you sleep. You can even send them jokes you’ve seen on the internet.
Another simple way to communicate with your child is to share photos with one another. Show your child what you’ve been doing with your time by sending them lots of pictures. Hopefully, they also send you pictures of what they’ve been doing. Even without dialogue, pictures are truly worth a thousand words.
One important note when you’re communicating with your child is that you should never speak badly about your partner. Many parents do this after separation, thinking it can help pull their children toward them. However, this tactic is often met with disappointment from the children. As a parent, you have to be a mature role model your child can look up to – and they can’t do that when you’re backstabbing their other parent.
Another important part of communicating with your child is letting them know they can always reach you when needed. While you may be feeling down due to not seeing them every day, you should also remember to try and imagine what your child is going through.
During these confusing times, you should be there for your child and reassure them that you will always be there for them no matter what. If they have feelings and emotions they want to let out, tell them you’re always ready to lend an ear.
Talk with Your Loved Ones
You shouldn’t think that you have to go through this all on your own. Chances are that your loved ones are already aware of what’s happening in your life and that they are more than willing to be there for you. All you have to do is let them in your life and let them support you.
Many people turn to their friends first. Friends, especially close ones, often act as found families – friends that you practically treat as family. These are friends that you may have grown up with, met in high school, met in college, or workmates. Regardless of how you’ve happened to come across them, these are among the most important people in your life. If you let them, they will help take care of you.
There are a couple of ways talking with your friends can help you. Firstly, talking about your problems to friends allows them to help you. No one can help you if they don’t know what’s going on. A simple chat about your feelings and emotions can let them know how you are. This can also lead them to offer other ways to help. For example, they can help you cope by keeping you busy. Instead of keeping yourself busy, you can spend that time keeping busy with someone else.
Another way that talking with your friends can help is due to the nature of talking about your problems itself. Talking about your feelings can often provide a feeling of catharsis – a sense of relief that only comes by opening the lid and letting your emotions go. Just the mere fact of talking about how you’re feeling can help lighten your burden as you verbalize your pain.
Aside from your friends, you can always turn to your real family as well. Many people turn to their immediate families such as parents and siblings. These are people who have been with you since you were born, thus it makes sense that they will help you go through your hardships now.
While talking with your friends and family can be significantly helpful, there are times that you will need to hear from people who have gone through the same thing. Words can have a heavier weight when they come from people who have felt what you are feeling. Fortunately, finding this type of support can be quite easy.
One of the best things about the digital age is that it can be extremely easy to find a support group. No matter what you’re going through, the internet can bridge you with other people who are going through the same thing. Searching online might bring you to online discussion boards where people can write what they’re going through and hear from similar people. You might also want to join groups on social media platforms for support.
Make the Most with Your Child
Though you may be distance parenting, there will come times when you are reunited with your child. No matter how infrequent it may be, you have to make the most of your time with your child.
When your child is with you, you will have to be present – this does not just mean physically. Parents can physically be there for their children but still be absent at the same time. Thus, you must focus on your child during your time with them. This means spending quality time with them during meals, downtime, and even playtime. You can’t be stuck in your head worrying about work when your child is literally in front of you.
It is important for you to make the most of your time because when your child goes back to your partner, you should feel that you’ve made real contact with them.
One tip many parents recommend is to make new traditions with your child. You may have parented your child one way, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay the same. You can have a new parenting style and make new traditions with your child. These traditions can be simple activities that can hold great meaning to you and your child.
For example, an easy tradition would be to have pizza for dinner. If you want to spend more time with each other, you can cook dinner together as your own tradition. These traditions can be anything, as long as it is a repeated task you can do with your child. When your child grows up, they will look back on these traditions fondly.
You and your partner will be trying out a new way to parent your child, one that probably involves having your child live with one parent and visiting the other regularly. Since this is new territory for everyone involved, there will be some getting used to it. One way to help cope with not seeing your child every day is to manage your expectations.
Take this scenario: you’ve been waiting all week to hang out with your child. However, something comes up that ends up with your child not visiting you this weekend. Instead, they will visit you next weekend. It can be easy to become angry, but these are typically things you don’t have control over.
Thus, an important skill to learn is to be flexible when it comes to scheduling with your partner. There may be times that they will need you to look after your child outside of your regular schedule and there might even be times that you won’t be available.
Another aspect of managing expectations is how you spend time with your child. Even if you’ve been looking forward to being with them for a long time, that does not necessarily mean they feel the same way. While you’re enthusiastic and excited, your child can be dismissive and uninterested. You cannot blame your child if that’s how they feel. You’ll have to remember that family breakups can be hard on children.
Talk with a Therapist
The last way to cope with not seeing your child every day is the same way to cope with any other psychological issue: talk with a therapist.
Talking with friends, family, and even support groups can be a tremendous help. However, it could also be incredibly helpful to talk to professional counsel. Therapists are specifically trained to help people through tough times by talking with them. Unlike your friends and family, therapists are trained to heal you through words with techniques that let you explore your own mind.
As mentioned above, talking by itself is a therapeutic act. However, talking about the right topics is key and therapists are able to walk you through those topics.
There are various reasons why people can be apprehensive of therapy. Perhaps they don’t believe in therapy. Perhaps they fear being judged. Perhaps they don’t like opening up. Perhaps they don’t even want to confront the issue. Regardless, these reasons just hold them back from the true progress that a therapist can provide.
If you are new to therapy, you’ll have to remember that you don’t have to settle on the first therapist you speak with. As it is important for you to be able to comfortably speak, you have to meet with a therapist you feel comfortable speaking to. Once you’ve found an effective therapist, they should be able to give you insight and techniques to help you cope and deal with what you’re going through.