Being a separated parent provides many challenges for personal growth and a better understanding of yourself and your personal needs. It also offers many challenges that are not as potentially welcoming. This may include experiencing feelings of loneliness, isolation, stress and anxiety (see our article The Emotional Stages After Separation.
You may also have to deal with limited access to your children and other restrictions on your parenting relationship. While these feelings and emotional experiences are not essentially unique to separated fathers they can, if left to manifest without seeking solution, be the cause of potential emotional meltdown.
Not every separated parent is strong enough to get through the demands of emotional issues on their own. If you are fortunate enough to have some level of emotional support, it is worth considering using this particularly when times get hard. If, however, external emotional support is not as freely available, it is important to acknowledge that finding the best way of coping is a personal matter that should not be rushed. Being gentle with yourself will enable you to take small steps to finding the solution that is right for you.
If you do not have a support network available to you, coping with emotional issues can become stressful. Being able to share your experiences with other fathers experiencing the same issues will help you gain a better understanding of your own circumstances. There are many good parenting resources available (such as this one!) – websites, forums, groups – that encourage fathers to take a more open approach and these may offer useful support in dealing with emotional overload.
How to Avoid Emotional Meltdown
As with most forms of illness, stressful situations or personal challenges prevention is far better than cure. Being able to spot the signs of potential emotional meltdown will enable you to remain in balance more easily, which in turn ensures the scales are not tipped too far into the danger zone. Self-assessment is therefore an important procedure that will help you understand your personal coping skills and strengths as well as identify emotional support options.
Begin by examining your past and how you dealt with difficult emotional problems and situations. Acknowledging your reactions will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses more clearly and will help you find suitable alternative ways of coping. (Read Coping With Life As A Separated Dad on this site.)Understanding that it is OK to express emotional issues will also enable you to understand and define the relationship you have with your dependants. Accepting that your relationship does have restrictions will also help you identify potential ways of increasing Communication With Your Children. For instance, encouraging more telephone communication, if there is limited visitation, will maintain a healthy bond between you and your children.
Focus on you. This means putting your needs first and allowing yourself sufficient time to experience difficult moments as they naturally evolve. Self-healing is a personal journey with no time restrictions.
Identify and Change Patterns
Once you are able to establish an understanding of your emotional vulnerability, you will be able to identify any negative patterns that initiate a negative emotional response. You will be more able to remove yourself from negative people and situations as you will be more confident in your ability to notice the impact these have on your emotional wellbeing.
Be willing to try to make positive changes. Fear of what may happen often restricts an individual in ways that are more harmful than the original negative pattern. By being honest enough to acknowledge emotional difficulty you will be able to explore the new solutions that will present themselves. A willingness to change a pattern, however, has to come from within and without self-awareness and understanding emotional issues cannot be overcome.
Learn From Experience
Emotional meltdown can be an extreme experience. Although the experience may be negative, painful and challenging, it can also provide a positive learning curve that helps you identify personal strengths, qualities and values to greater effect. Focusing on your needs will help you cope with emotional difficulties, make you stronger and more resilient and enable you to cherish your experiences and life. Although you may currently be experiencing emotional difficulties, and restrictions within your relationships, it does not mean that it will always be this way. Learning to share experiences is a positive experience in itself, for all those concerned.
Separated Dads Chat Room & Forum
Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.
I have separated from my Wife of 13 years, due to falling in love with someone else. I have left my wife and been back 3 times due to horrible feeling of guilt and missing my 2 children. Son of 13 and daughter of 11. I am in a horrible mess, where I have left my lover and dangerously in contact with my wife, who has false hope of our relationship. I am here as I am struggling to deal with guilt of leaving the children.
ric7ie - 6-May-16 @ 1:33 PM
@ Larry - I am absolutely appauled by your response and I am a female!!!
There is a lot going on in Steve's relationship and it's not just about access to his son!
He has obviously taken on the role of another mans child and loves the little girl but wants to spend time with his own son.He does not say that he doesn't want to play with the little girl, he is saying that based on the 1 HOUR slot his ex had allocated him, he wanted to spend it with his son and then take the little girl out afterwards... what is wrong with that???I think it's fair!
The fact that his ex's mother is involved means that there is a 3rd voice (unwanted on his part) in the relationship when it should only be him and the mother of his child!! could the mothers interference be part of the reason for the split??You cannot judge someone until you have walked in their shoes!
The accusation against him must be heartbreaking, but an investigation must be conducted before access can be determined.... until then... he is not allowed to see his child....
I do not think for one second that he should be grateful to her just because she is the mother of his child!!she is the female who could destroy his life if she is found to by lying to prevent him from seeing his child!!!
shocked - 21-Jun-12 @ 11:29 AM
CAFCAS wouldn't stop you seeing your son based on an accusation, there must be something a bit more severe as they always believe a father should have contact with their children!if you both had an agreement on when you were going round to see your son why would you expect that to be changed because you couldn't make your original time, you should have thought yourself lucky been able to see him every day, as with me and many other fathers out there were only allowed to see our children on a weekend for one day,from my experience when me and my mrs were together she breast fed our children and blimey they never seemed to be away from her, that lasted for around 5-6 months and she couldn't express any milk either......in my honest opinion if you were this father figure you certainly wouldn't complain about having to play with her little girl whilst you were visiting your son, i know for a fact i would have never complained nor would i have left my mrs whilst pregnant, so in actual fact your making this lass to sound like she's a horrible person, but she carried your son for 9 months, breast fed him for how ever long and has provided and cared for him alone all this time, mate you should be really grateful to her, at the end of the day she is still the mother of your child!!!
larry - 10-May-12 @ 7:41 PM
I split up with my girlfriend 14 months ago while she was pregnant, I left cos she had been stealing off me, I would work for up to 80 hours a week then come home and she would say I didn't do enough housework "DIY didn't count" she didn't work although she was a full time mum but would spend at least 4 hours a day every day gossiping round at her mums. Arguments were becoming more and more regular. We had been together and I had been a farther figure to her daughter for 18 months. I thought it would be better for us to split when we did then we could concentrate on being good parents. I carried on supporting her after we split, helping her with gardening, taking her shopping and for days out, I payed for her daughters Birthday party.
When I moved out she helped me pick the flat to make sure it was siutible for children the flat was only 1/4 mile away from her house and her daughter came and stayed with me in her own double room every other weekend.
I noticed a change after I payed for the Birthday Party I had just been made redundant so wasn't working when her 4 year old daughter had an assembly at school where she was in a play and all parents were invited, my ex didn't tell me about it and the first I knew was seeing a comet about it on her Facebook wall. Thenext thing was a fathers day card, In the past we had always encouraged her to right out or at least sign cards herself but this one was only wrote out and signed bye her mum I don't think her daughter had even seen it.
When my son was born I was aloud at the birth but was called at the last minuet, my ex's mum had always been in the picture and they both insisted I needed to go out and get my son a coat to take him home in, I believe this was just to get me out the way. When the baby came home I was aloud to spend about 1 hour a day round at the house but in that time I was expected to play with the little girl as well I couldn't take her out sepratly afterwords, if my son was asleep I wasn't aloud to disturb him I wasn't aloud to spend much time with him at all. One day I had a job interview at the time I was due to go round and I told his mum in advance and asked if I would be able to see him in the evening instead she said "no cos I've got a friend coming round" I said I thought it was unfair I couldn't see my son just cos she had a friend coming round. Her reply was I was being too controlling and she wasn't going to let me see any of the kids again until we had sorted things threw the solicitors. That was when he was 2 weeks old and he is now 9 months. She refused mediation, said I couldn't see him in a contact centre cos she was exclusively breast feeding and couldn't express milk that was up until he was 6 months old. She then accused me of indecently touching her daughter, CAFCAS have said I can't have contact until I've had a phycological assessment because of what she's accusing me of and cos of problems and mistakes I'd made in my childhood. Now I'm sti