Parenting through Separation and Divorce—5 Ways to Practice Self-Care
Deciding to separate or divorce from your spouse or partner is often one of the most stressful life transitions that we embark on. It can be difficult to take care of yourself while also being a supportive caregiver for your kids—who have their own feelings and opinions in the matter.
Effective parents nurture their own needs along with their child’s. When faced with a major life change our stress levels go up, increasing our risk of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and unhealthy coping strategies, like excessive alcohol or drug use.
It is essential that parents going through this life altering process engage in self-care on a daily basis. Here are some initial guidelines for parents starting the journey of separation and divorce:
Don’t go through it alone—this is not the time to socially isolate.
Most people go through the five stages of grief when coping with the break-up of their relationship—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Make sure to have regular contact with supportive family, friends, support groups, and a personal therapist, if needed. Knowing you are not alone on your journey and having someone to talk to is critical.
Take regular time-outs for rest and relaxation.
Re-engage in leisure activities and enjoyable hobbies. Regular exercise will help you ward off depression (even just a 15-minute walk on your lunch hour) and give you needed energy.
Focus on the hopeful and positive aspects of your family’s situation.
It can be easy to fall into feelings of despair and “poor me” thinking but studies show that keeping a gratitude journal can remind you of the things that are going well and increase your level of emotional well-being. Start by taking five minutes to list three to ten things that you are grateful for every day in your journal. It can be as small as “cold brew coffee” and as important as “my kids.”
Be playful and available for your children.
Don’t forget you are an emotional anchor for your children. Engage them in activities that provide quality one-on-one time. Keep your eyes open for any signs of emotional distress and give them your full attention and compassion.
If you are dating, take it slow.
Your children are also going through an adjustment and they need as much consistency as possible. Be sure not to introduce your dates to your children until it’s a serious, long-term relationship.
Would you like some additional individualized support and strategies? Call Parents Place in San Francisco at 415-359-2443 and set up a private consultation.
The next Guiding Children through Separation and Divorce Workshop is on Wed., August 9, 6:30 – 8:30 pm in San Francisco. Find out more here >
Mechele Pruitt, BA, is the Director of Parents Place in San Francisco.