Being in a family unit with a partner and children is a life full of company, conversation, activity .. and the feeling that you barely get a minute to yourself. For this reason, when you separate and become a co-parent or sole-parent, your world will change dramatically in many ways. One emotion which many single parents experience, often unexpectedly, is loneliness.
Even if life has gone up a gear and you are busier post-separation, not having the company of another adult can be hard. Someone to share the load, bounce ideas off, have an adult conversation with, are all things we may take for granted, until they are gone.
Loneliness is a difficult state of mind which affects people differently. It can cause you to feel alone, empty, unwanted, even depressed. You will feel the need for connection with other people, yet knowing how to find these connections as a single parent can be hard.
We have compiled a list of suggestions on how to combat loneliness when you first become a single parent.
DEALING WITH ISOLATION AS A SINGLE MUM OR DAD
The transition of friendship groups
When you first separate it is likely that your friendship groups will change. Unfortunately, some people feel the need to ‘take sides’, especially if your divorce was a complex one. This may leave you a few friends down straight-away. Then there is the fact that you are no longer part of a couple. Bizarrely, you could find yourself not invited to social gatherings you would have been welcomed at with your safe ‘married’ status. Our advice here is to accept it and understand it happens to the best of us! Instead of mourning the shallowness of the friends who have turned their backs on you, look to the future and prepare to allow different people to enter your life. It may take time, but like-minded people gravitate towards one another. Be open to new friendships and remember there are lots of other newly-single parents who are in the same position as you.
Identify your lonely times
As you settle into your new routine as a single parent, you will start to notice different emotions hitting you at different times in the day. For many single parents, loneliness takes hold in the evening, when the children are in bed. Or as a co-parent, when the children have gone to the other parent. Pinpoint your lonely times and find a solution before they take hold. Something as simple as a good book or favourite movie can see you through the evenings, or phone a friend or family member. To combat longer feelings of loneliness you could join a gym, go for walks or visit your favourite café where you’ll be surrounded by familiar sounds, smells and faces. Don’t wait for that regular lonely time, forward think and do something to prevent it.
This is not forever
As a newly-divorced single parent, life won’t have been easy. Your whole world has changed, emotions have been running riot and the practicalities of your new life can mean making a huge adjustment. This is a transitional stage and it won’t last forever. It is very normal to experience feelings of loneliness. You may miss your ex-partner, even if you were the one who finished the relationship. You are used to being part of a partnership and that has now gone. Do not accept that the ‘here and now’ is the way it will be forever. As life moves on you will create new friendships, hobbies and connections that will alleviate your loneliness. When and how this happens is up to you and the actions you take to rebuild your new life.
Restyle your life
Rather than worrying about being lonely, which will ultimately manifest the feeling and make it worse, use those lonely moments to do something amazing. As a newly-single parent, you are on a brand-new path in life, and you are in control of it. How exciting is that? Maybe you would like to retrain for a new career, find a new job or set-up a business. All these things not only take your focus off loneliness, but by their nature you will meet new people and build new friendships, as well as new skill sets. Plus, you will massively improve your life, and that of your children. Just one small move to restyle your life may take you on an adventure where loneliness is a thing of the past.
Get a sense of belonging
Being lonely can come in the form of feeling like you don’t belong. Being in a partnership can make you feel as if you belong to something, once that is gone you may feel adrift. You certainly don’t need to re-partner to find a connection again. A good way to overcome this is to seek out people in the same situation as you. Whether it’s online or in real life, there are plenty of groups for single parents. Once you start communicating with other single parents, you will feel part of something, and often it can be something quite special. Or, if you have a particular hobby or interest find a space (again, online or in real life) which you can join. Local community boards, libraries and Facebook are packed with groups you can join, from the normal to the ‘really, there is a group for that?!’.
Work on your friendships
When you are married or in a partnership, it can be quite normal to let some friendships fall by the wayside. Perhaps now is the time to reach out and reconnect with old friends. Don’t feel embarrassed about how long it has been since you last contacted them. If they are a good friend, they will love to hear from you. Also, nurture friendships with the people around that you feel drawn to. There may be another parent at the school drop-off that you always enjoy chatting to, why not ask if they fancy meeting for a coffee sometime? You will likely make their day and it could be the beginning of a beautiful life-long friendship. It can be hard to put yourself out there but is well-worth it for a life surrounded by good people.
Use your kids!
One of the best things about being a parent, single or otherwise, is that we can always connect with other adults through our children! School and extra-curricular activities are brilliant for this. Nearly every school or club is looking for helpers in some form. Even if it feels slightly out of your comfort zone, put your name forward. Not only will you be received with open-arms, you will have a sense of purpose and are doing something rewarding. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet other parents, many of whom may have joined for the same reason as you. As a super-busy single parent, you may feel the school PTA is too hard, but simply explain you’d like to help but only have limited time. They welcome all the help they can get and will consider you part of their team.
Have moments of mindfulness
It was Buddha who said ‘We are what we think’, and he was spot on. If you constantly think about being lonely it can make you feel lonelier and can develop into feelings of anxiousness or depression. Instead, take control of your feelings by practicing mindfulness throughout the day. To do this, recognise when the feeling of loneliness comes to mind, acknowledge it and intentionally let it go. Instead focus on what you are doing, be it as simple as making a sandwich. If you feel lonely in the evenings try a simple guided meditation. There are apps such as Headspace and Calm which make it super-easy. Learning to control your thoughts through mindfulness will not only help with loneliness, they can help to ease anxiety and stress, boost your mood and help you feel calmer and in-control.