01 Oct Coping with separation – should you put yourself first or your kids?
Divorce is the 2nd most traumatic experience after death of a loved one. There are so many ups and downs to cope with that test the strongest of people. If you have children with your ex there is an added dimension to deal with as you ride through the roller coaster of emotions.
There is a genuine dilemma at times as you try to cope with your own emotions and also help your kids through their journey too. I am often asked whether it is right to put yourself first or the kids? I believe it does depend on the situation and there are times for both.
Times to put yourself first:
A happy parent will lead to happier kids. You need to look after yourself so you can in turn look after your children. They will take their lead from you so at times it’s important to put yourself first. There are several key ways to do this:
– You need to ensure you stay healthy so that you can support your children. Ensure you look after yourself by eating a nutritious balanced diet and drinking lots of water. Keep away from sugar and fatty foods as they will lower your energy and you can experience more lows.
– We all find it harder to cope if we are tired. Ensure you get a good night’s rest so that you have the strength to face any challenges your divorce throws at you. If you are struggling to sleep don’t worry. This is totally normal. When we are in bed our minds have less distraction and you can find you start focusing on your problems. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. As long as you rest, even if it’s not a deep sleep you will feel better in the morning. Watch TV or read a book to distract yourself until you are tired enough to sleep. Paul McKenna has a wonderful hypnotic audio programme in his “How to Mend a Broken Heart” book. Download this and listen to it in bed to help you fall asleep.
– Make time to get some exercise, even if it’s a brisk walk around the block. This will boost your energy and help you keep more positive. 20 minutes exercise a day minimum will make a big difference to your ability to cope with your divorce.
– Take time to do the things you enjoy. Even if you are working long hours and juggling kids, it is important to treat yourself to doing the things that make you smile. Make sure you diarise at least once a week to do these things – this way they will actually happen. They can even be small things like watching your favourite TV show, reading a good book or a day out with a friend.
Time to put the kids first:
– If your child wants to talk to you about the divorce then it’s important to let them know you are happy to discuss it with them and make quality time for this. Keep your discussion age appropriate and there is no need to go into details with them. It’s vital that you reassure them that you love them, it is not their fault and that you will always be there for them.
– If you are going through an acrimonious divorce it can be very tempting to bad mouth your ex. It is key that you don’t do this in front of your kids. While it may make you feel better to vent your frustrations it can be very confusing and upsetting for children. However hard it is to do you must avoid drawing them into any battles or arguments. Speak well of your ex when they are around. In the long run your kids will make up their own mind about your ex. They will respect you more for not saying negative things and it will make the Divorce Journey easier for them to cope with.
– Your kids will be happier and more balanced if they are happy to spend time with your ex. You don’t want them to dread it or be unhappy when they are there. Children will take their lead from you and don’t want to see you upset about handing them over. Stay upbeat before they leave try to get them excited about going.
– Develop a civil and friendly relationship with your ex in front of your children. It will have a negative affect on them if they see you arguing or feel tension every time you are together. Let’s face it, you will have to see each other as you have kids together so make it as easy for them as possible. I know this can be extremely hard but you have to put your kids first here. Your personal opinion of your ex may be lower than a snake’s belly but for yours kids you have to put those feelings aside when you are with your ex and kids. Save your opinions for your Divorce Support Team.
– I know from experience that it can be extremely difficult to hand over your children if your ex has a new partner. You will have all sorts of mixed emotions about your child spending time with someone you don’t know. This is never easy and there is no easy solution. You have to put your own emotions aside and put your kids first here. They will be finding it difficult too, so for their sake you have to do your best to make it as easy for them as possible. Whilst it may be too much to ask for you to speak well of the new partner, it’s important that you at least keep your comments neutral. Remember it is better for your kids to be happy when they spend time with your ex so it follows that if they can have a reasonable relationship with the new partner it will be a better experience for them.
Coping with children during your Divorce Journey will be challenging at times. The best way to cope is to establish a balance between putting yourself first and them. You must look after yourself to keep yourself strong. The quicker you heal and move forward with your new life, the better it will be for your kids.