Making Divorce Easier for Your Family
Divorce isn't a quick, easy decision, and neither is the healing process. Even if the divorce is a mutual decision without conflict, you can expect a range of emotions. The stress of your changing financial situation, new living arrangements and shared custody add to the complexity of divorce. Using coping strategies to handle the stresses of the situation can help you bounce back and thrive.
Focus on Your Needs
It's easy to slip into the sadness you feel over the divorce. You feel like you don't have time for yourself. Or maybe you don't have the energy or motivation to do the little things for yourself. When you stop taking care of yourself, you continue feeling worse instead of dealing with the situation.
Start small by making time for self-care at home. If you're having trouble eating healthy, clean out your cupboards, and fill them with quick yet healthy meals. Look for a local healthy meal prepping business that provides nutritious meals ready for reheating. Start walking or playing outside with the kids to get exercise.
Pull yourself out of bed, take a shower, shave your legs and style your hair each day. Buy yourself a new lipstick, so you feel like primping. Schedule a trip to the salon with a little extra pampering. Every little thing you do for yourself makes you feel a little better until you start feeling more like yourself again.
Create a Support Network
You don't want to burden anyone else, but now is not the time to withdraw or carry all the weight on your own shoulders. Instead of telling everyone you're fine when they ask how they can help, let them know what you need. Maybe it's just someone to listen to you vent. Maybe you need help getting your kids to their weekly activities. Whatever you need, don't be afraid to ask for help.
Reach out to other people who have been in your shoes. It can help hearing that you're not alone or getting answers to the questions you have about divorce. You probably already know other divorced parents in your area. If you're not sure where to start, join a local support group, or find an online community for people who are going through a divorce.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
One minute you feel relieved and free to live your life. The next you're grieving over the loss of your marriage. What's with all these emotions? Acknowledge that you're going to cycle through a range of emotions. It's perfectly normal during a divorce.
Give yourself permission to feel each of those emotions fully. Yes, you're a parent, and your kids need you. But you're also a human being going through one of the biggest changes in your life. Sometimes you need to cry in your tub of ice cream while wondering where you're headed now that you're on your own. Just don't get stuck in your sad emotions. Acknowledge them, but make room for the new, positive experiences waiting for you.
Find Your New Rhythm
Like it or not, you're the boss now. Finding a new rhythm make take some time. This is your chance to define yourself as an individual rather than part of a married couple. What have you always wanted to do? What did you give up by being married to your former partner?
Exploring interests is a way to find out who you are and who you want to be going forward. You may find joy or a sense of purpose in those activities. Volunteer when your kids are with your ex-partner as a way to lessen the sadness of not having them with you. Start a project with your kids. Whatever it is that makes you happy, work it into your new routine.
Help Kids Express Feelings
Ignoring the situation and the feelings it creates doesn't help your kids cope with your divorce. Don't be afraid to talk to your kids about what's happening. Keep the conversations age-appropriate. Your toddler needs a basic explanation of the new living arrangements, while your older child likely has a lot more to say about things.
Let your child know that your love for her is unconditional. Explain that you understand she may have anger, sadness, confusion and other unpleasant emotions and that it's okay for her to share those feelings with you.
Kids sometimes act out when they hold their feelings inside. Instead of punishing your child for talking back, fighting with her brother or ignoring your rules, ask her about her feelings. Help her put her emotions into words. She might need to say, "I'm really sad because I miss our old house and I miss being a family." Kids who don't feel comfortable saying the words out loud may find some comfort in writing a letter to express what they're feeling.
Maintain a Neutral Face
It's tough to stay positive about your ex, especially if the divorce is messy. But letting your anger, frustration and conflicts with your ex-partner filter into your child's life makes the divorce more difficult for him. Kids who see their parents constantly fighting often have a tough time adjusting to the divorce.
Hiding your anger toward your ex is often challenging when you're dropping off your child during custody transitions. Your kids can sense the tension even if you don't use words to express your negative emotions. This can cause your child to feel anxious. Your child may also feel guilty for being excited to spend time with his other parent. As challenging as it may be, let your child know that you want him to enjoy his time in both homes.
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Shelley Frost writes professionally on a full-time basis, specializing in lifestyle, family, parenting and relationship topics. She holds an education degree and has extensive experience working with kids and parents.