Divorcing parents have a lot to juggle, between emotional turmoil, financial stress, and significant physical changes such as a move.
When children are in the picture, it becomes even more challenging to navigate the shifting relational scene. While it is unrealistic to hope children will emerge completely unscathed from a divorce, considerate parents should want to spare their children as much heartache, confusion, and guilt as possible.
It Is Not Selfish to Think of Self During a Divorce
If you are a parent going through a divorce, one of the best things you can do for your child(ren) is to take care of yourself. If your kids are young, they need you to stay strong and balanced so you can continue meeting their needs. If they are older, they need you to preserve your own health so they do not feel pressured to take care of you. Kids need the freedom to be kids and think about their own lives, rather than worrying about their mother or father or blaming themselves for the divorce (yes, children do that!).
It is not always selfish to think about yourself. Consider what advice airline flight attendants give in the case of an emergency: place your own mask on first so that you can breathe. Only then will you be equipped to take care of your children and those around you.
Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful events in your life. Find out what you need to do in order to “breathe”, whether that means getting professional help such as seeing a therapist, or tending to your health in other ways.
Spare the Spousal Venting
It can be tempting to vent to your child(ren) about your soon-to-be ex-spouse, but remember – first and foremost, that person is also your child’s parent. Words can be extremely toxic. A steady stream of vitriol not only damages your own health (yes, negative emotions directly impact your body), but also makes it more difficult for your child(ren) to process their own emotions. They should not have to be in the position of taking sides or defending one parent to the other. Contribute to your family’s overall health by doing your part to keep negative thoughts about your partner to yourself. Vent with friends or a therapist if you need to get the emotions out, but do not use your child(ren) as a sounding board.
Stay Healthy Emotionally, Mentally, and Physically
Everybody is different when it comes to what relaxes or rejuvenates them. If you are the type of person who loves to go out with friends, take advantage of your strong support network. Make room in your schedule for social events that take your mind off the stress in your personal life. If you find that exercising blows off steam and gives you a healthier perspective, carve out time for regular workouts.
Take up new hobbies. Be constructive in your activities; start making or growing things. Go to a day spa and get a mani/pedi. Spend a little or spend a lot. The important thing? Do whatever it takes to keep yourself in the best possible shape emotionally, mentally, and physically. Your children will thank you.