Taking Care of You After Divorce

Divorce feels like a crisis. It is a traumatic, crazy and an uncertain time for you and your children. What do most people do when they are in crisis? Well, they survive by living from moment to moment and finding some way to keep going until things get better or at the very least, tolerable.
Until you reach that point where things feel better, one of the most important things you can do for your children is to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

Ever notice when you are on an airplane the flight attendant always says:
“In the event of an emergency an oxygen mask will drop down in front of you. If you are traveling with a child or someone who needs assistance place the oxygen mask on yourself first and then on your child.”

Clearly if you pass out from lack of oxygen,  your kids will be left to take of themselves.  The same is true with divorce. If you exhaust yourself mentally physically, spiritually and emotionally, what will happen to your children?

A word about feelings

Divorce stirs up many different emotions at different times. How you’re feeling has a direct impact on how you react to various situations.

It’s important to remember that your children’s feelings are going to be different than your own. At times you may have strong feelings about your child’s other parent or issues surrounding the divorce.

Don’t make your issues and feelings your children’s problem.

Taking good care of you sends a powerful message to your kids.  When you show them through your words and actions that you have things under control, kids are reassured that life is going to be okay.  In times of crisis, however, it’s easy to overlook how important self care is and you may fall into the trap of putting you last.   As a result, you may have to put some energy into relearning how to pay attention to your needs. To help with the relearning process, you may want to review the pointers regarding self-care listed below.

Helping yourself

Take good care of you
Eat right, sleep, exercise and address your daily physical needs.

Pay attention to how you feel

If you are having a hard time handling your divorce,  talk with a trusted friend, seek out a support group or professional help.

Take time to do things for yourself that are nurturing or positive
Be sure to monitor your level of stress and strive to maintain balance. Make time to take hot baths, read good books, have coffee or dinner with a friend, walk in the park or develop a new hobby. Put energy into activities that promote your confidence and self worth.

Avoid overreacting to your emotions or divorce related situations
If your emotions are overwhelming, give yourself some time to figure out what is going on. Very few situations require an immediate response. For example, imagine your ex calls to tell you his mother’s in town and wants to switch weekends so the children can spend time with her.  Suppose his mother hates  you and never has a nice word to say about you. Instead of flipping out about how awful his mother is you might want to respond by saying “I need some time to think about it, I will call you tomorrow to talk about it.”

Separate your feelings from your kids needs.
This goes hand-in-hand with not reacting. Remember your children’s feelings are going to be different than your own. In order to really support  your children, be sure to give yourself some emotional distance from the issues that stir up strong emotions.
Take the example of your Ex wanting to switch weekends. Let’s suppose you feel hurt and angry about how your Ex mother-in-law has treated you. However, your children totally adore her and don’t see her very often.  While it may be tempting to put some distance between Grandma and the kids, how you feel about Grandma shouldn’t impact  your kids relationship with her.  Although it’s easier said than done, do your best to keep your keep your issues or feelings separate from your kids needs .

Give yourself permission to feel your feelings in a healthy way
You have every right to feel the way you do. What you do with those feelings, however, can make a world of difference in your life and the lives of your children. Avoid destructive expressions such as drinking alcohol, mind games, seeking revenge or engaging in verbal assaults with your ex-spouse. Instead, find safe healthy people to talk with and vent your frustration. Invest your energy into new interests or other growth promoting activities.

Change your expectations
When you were married you had little control, if any, over what your spouse did and said. Now that you are divorced you have even less control. Don’t spend your valuable time and energy trying to change or control issues involving the other parent or the divorce. Rather, focus on being the best parent you can be and maintaining a positive relationship with your children.

Avoid making sudden or rash decisions
Some times when you feel overwhelmed and out of control, you may feel a strong pull to change everything all at once. Don’t make major decisions or life changes without thinking through all possible consequences. Your children and you are already dealing with an overwhelming number of changes. Take time to think things through, get feedback from others and weigh out your options.

Make peace with the past and move forward
Give yourself time to heal from the divorce and process your feelings of grief and loss. Try to gain some insight into how you contributed to the marriage not being successful. Don’t use new relationships as a way to avoid dealing with issues from your previous marriage.

Be creative, don’t get hung up on only one way of doing things
Instead of locking yourself into absolutes, when problems or situations arise try changing your perspective or doing something different.  Stay flexible and remember some times plans will need to be revised or altered to accommodate your children’s needs.
Above all, keep your sense of humor.