Sickness. Death of a loved one. Marriage. Childbirth. Divorce. These are all examples of defining moments. Psychologists often refer to ‘defining moments’ in a person’s life as those seminal moments that often play an outsized role in defining a person’s character, their view of themselves and their outlook on their life and the world around them.
Divorce is a whirlwind of emotions not shy of drama, with emotions flaring with your ‘soon to be ex’ coupled with the shock and grief of the separation itself. With kids in the mix, it is a tight rope walk every day. You have to get up, pull yourself together and somehow manage to get on with your day. Even though you may be convinced this is the best thing for you and your kids, you are dealing with things you may not have ever expected too, for example, cutting through legal speak to understand custody agreements, wrapping your head around shared family financials that will need to be accounted for and divided, all while tending to the confused and emotional kids.
That said, here are three dimensions of separation to be mindful of:
- The Child’s Point of View.
While their family foundation is being challenged and rocked to its core, you need to be a stable ship in these rocky seas of divorce and separation. Check-in with them often. Listen to them and reassure them as only a loving parent can. Maintain family routines, as much as possible. Be patient with them when they act out. Offer consistent discipline. Make and keep realistic promises to them. Do not include them in the conflict.
- Center on Yourself.
Some may shy away from friends and family when dealing with separation and divorce while others may rally them to their side. With the number of stressors involved with divorce, you should not go it alone. Find a therapist, if need be. As a professional third person trained to help people cope with trauma, conflict and challenging times, a therapist can provide the guidance you need to transition from married life to a healthier and happier place.
If you haven’t already, consider downloading the coParenter app. It may help you communicate with your soon-to-be-ex (S2BX). With unlimited ‘GetHelp’ you can access co-parenting professionals to help you when issues arise.
Whether it is a co-parenting professional, wise friend/family member or a therapist, they will help be a sounding board for your thoughts, fears, and emotions while providing gentle assurances. They will also help you avoid power struggles, help you focus on what is best for the children and reduce the conflict with your co-parent and ultimately realize it is okay to have different feelings.
Aside from dealing with the mental byproducts of stress, emotions and the disruption of divorce do not underestimate the importance of addressing the physical byproducts. You need to blow off steam. Sign up for kickboxing. Go for a run. Take yoga. Find your outlet to blow off steam.
- Strive for indifference.
While the first two items focus on your children and yourself, the final spoke in the wheel is your soon to be ex. Whether or not you want to believe it right now, this person you are uncoupling from is someone very important to your child. In fact, half their DNA is from them. And while you may have (very) mixed emotions about that right now, you will need to strive to redefine your relationship with them so you can find a shared indifferent space where you both tend and care for your child.
This space is made up of both a uniquely independent and interdependent effort by you and your co-parent. This space weaves together a kid-focused effort on both your parts that respects your boundaries and keeps the health and wellbeing of your child at the center of your collective decisions. This is the goal. And like many things in life co-parenting is a process. It’s not a perfect science but perhaps you can begin to see is the newly defined co-parenting space is where you and your co-parent are brief informative friendly and concise (*perhaps the polar opposite of where things are at, right now) and never put your children in the middle of the conflict.
While this may be a defining moment for you and your children, you do have the power to control how it defines you. You do have permission to write your next chapter. You do have the ability to show your child how to face adversity with strength, compassion, and grace.