Children need structure, even as their parents are divorcing. Many parents feel that they can’t discipline their children because they’re dealing with so much emotionally. But by having clear, defined limitations for your children, it will help your children feel safe and secure which they need, particularly when they’re parents are divorcing.
While maintaining clear rules and limits is important, it’s also important for parents to choose their battles. Now is not the time to be extremely strict or add new rules. Start with one or two of your most critical rules and let your children know what they are. Make sure that they’re used to them before adding more. Give your children about 2 weeks to get used to a new rule before adding another one.
It’s also important to involve children in determining what the rules are. Let them make some of the rules themselves and try to come up with some together. You can even add some fun ones like, “Anyone who’s sad gets to choose what’s for dessert.” Post the rules somewhere in your home where everyone can see them. This enables everyone to be on the same page and avoids miscommunication.
Too many parents focus on negativity and punishment. If you recognize appropriate behavior and focus on the positive, your children will respond better. Even if there is only one thing that your child does that’s positive, point that out. Children gain so much more from positive reinforcement than negative attention.
Remember to work with your children’s other parent and not against them. You can have different parenting styles as long as you respect each other’s differences. Children don’t need you to be aligned on everything but they do need you to both message them that tell they must respect the other parent. Children do best when both parents are involved and they have a good working relationship with each other. You don’t have to be best friends with your children’s other parent, you just need to work effectively with each other.
Raising children isn’t easy and when the family is going through divorce, that creates even more complications. However, if you maintain structure for your children, choose your battles, focus on the positive and have a good working relationship with your children’s other parent, you are well on your way to having happy and healthy children.
While the holidays can bring excitement, they can also bring stress, especially when a family is going through divorce. Families struggle around who to spend the holidays with, what traditions to continue and what new traditions to begin.
Here are a few tips on how to not only survive the holidays, but create holiday memories that will be happy and long-lasting, even if your family is going through divorce.
1) Focus on what’s best for your children
Regardless of what each family or divorced parent wants to do, the priority should always be on the children and what’s best for them. This means that if your son or daughter wants to go to your exes’ house to visit grandma, you need to put aside your feelings towards your former partner and be supportive. This can be difficult, as you navigate the sadness, loneliness or other difficult emotions. Take this time to get emotional support from your support system. If you don’t have one, build one by joining a support group, finding a therapist or divorce coach or reaching out to friends and family.
Don’t punish your ex or use your children as bargaining chips. If you won’t allow your children to see their other parent during the holidays, and your children want to, you’re hurting your children. Try to carve out some time – maybe an hour or two – for them to see each other. While this is difficult, it is best for your children. And it will create a better co-parenting relationship for the future when you’ll ask something of your ex.
2) Have a clear plan
Talk to your ex in detail about what the holiday will look like, the schedule you will stick to as well as pick up and drop off times. Remember there will be a lot of compromise needed from both ends. It may help to write it in an email so that you can refer back to it if necessary. Remember, communication is key for this to work.
3) Prepare your children for the changes
The way that you celebrate this holiday will be unfamiliar to your child which can create stress for him or her. It’s important that you talk to your children and tell them what to expect this year. Unlike other years, this holiday will be split between two homes or it might be spent with one person’s family on Christmas eve and another’s on Christmas day. Ask your children questions – how are you feeling about the holiday? What would make it easier for you? What are you most excited about? What are you least excited about? When children are given the chance to openly talk about their feelings, they feel less anxious. Tell them to have fun with the other parent and to enjoy their time and don’t make your child feel guilty about spending time with your former partner or their family. Reassure them that you will be ok when they’re not with you. The main goal of the holidays is to spend time with your loved ones, and that’s exactly what you should be encouraging your children to do.
4) Have patience with the changes and be kind to yourself
The loss of the intact family will be an adjustment hurt for everyone, but it won’t be as difficult as time passes. As you move forward, you’ll choose which traditions to keep and you’ll make new ones. Children are extremely resilient and will look forward to your new traditions and getting to celebrate with both families in different ways.
One of the most challenging adjustments for a family going through divorce is having two separate places to call home. This abrupt change can be confusing to children as well as stressful. Portraying the new change as exciting as opposed to something upsetting can help the adjustment go a lot smoother – the excitement of a new home, a new bedroom to decorate, a new neighborhood to explore and new friends to make.
Regardless of whether you're setting up a new address or maintaining the present one, there are several things you can do at home to help your children adjust to all of the changes. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Let your child have a say.
If you’re establishing a new home, involve your child in decorating their new bedroom such as picking the color scheme, what sheets they want or posters they want to hang on the walls. If it isn’t possible for each child to have his or her own room, they can have their own space in a room such as their own dresser, shelf space or toys area that is exclusively theirs. They should be allowed to choose what they keep at each house and take items between each as well.
How does this help? It creates a sense of belonging in both homes. Many children enjoy having two homes because they get extra attention, which sometimes means having two birthday parties and two sets of Christmas or Hanukkah gifts.
2. Make the new place feel familiar.
Too many sudden changes can be overwhelming to a child, but they’ll feel a sense of comfort in their new environment with some familiar belongings around them. If there's something special at your former home that you know he or she adores (a special night light, a photo, or a teddy bear), try to purchase it for the new house or make sure it's always in their "go bag" that travels with them from house to house. Even ordinary items like books, clothes and princess decorated plates can make your child feel more at home.
3. Come up with a packing plan.
When your children transition from one house to another, sometimes they’ll forget things. To prevent a melt down, both homes should always have extra toiletries, pajamas, spare clothing, books, and movies on hand. Some schools even provide children who have two homes with two sets of books. Also, help your younger child pack their bags the night before the transition. Overall, the child should be allowed to carry their things back and forth between houses without conflict or tension with parents and parents should cooperate in returning any clothes or toys needed when switching between either home.
While you’re starting the parenting schedule with your children, it’s so important to let your child have a say in their new environment, make the new home feel familiar, have a packing plan and try to be patient. This transition is just as difficult for your child as it is for you and by being patient when they forget things and are getting used to their new schedule, you are strengthening your relationship with them day by day.
Co-parenting effectively is important for your children’s well-being as well as for your own. In many cases co-parenting can be a challenge because going through divorce is one of the toughest experiences in life and both parties may feel overwhelmed and emotional. However, there are ways to co-parent where you can help your children grow and develop into happy and healthy adults.
Lay the groundwork: Letting go of the past and consciously choosing to approach the relationship as co-parents rather than exes can help make co-parenting easier. If you can let go of the past, it will help you put your emotions aside when you’re interacting with your ex. Work on being respectful and kind to your child’s other parent - it will go a long way toward having a productive co-parenting relationship.
Refraining from judgment and standing your ground: Realize that it’s ok for each parent to have a different style of parenting, and you should be respectful of each other’s views. Instead of cutting down each other’s parenting, “She’s too strict,” or “He’s coddling them,” realize that it’s normal for children to have to adapt to different styles even when switching between homes. There’s no one right way to deal with parenting issues. Try to give up your firm view of how to parent and compromise with your co-parent whenever possible. Remember you’re doing this for your children, not your ex.
Collaborating to support your child. Collaborate with your child’s other parent by communicating with them about important things that come up. For example, if your child got hurt during school or didn’t feel well when they were with you, letting the other parent know will help develop trust between you.
See the good in both parents - yourself and your ex. Recognize that each of you have good qualities that are good for your children. One parent may be crafty and do arts and crafts with the children while the other is better at teaching them math. Point out these differences and appreciate them about each other. Talk to your children about being grateful about having parents who have different strengths. Focus on the positives and let go of the negatives.
When you can work as a team with your co-parent for the benefit of your children, it will pay off. Communicate, compromise and focus on the positive and you’ll be able to become an effective co-parent and help your children grow into happy and healthy adults.
Are you dealing with an ex who has a difficult personality? Whether or not your ex has a clinical diagnosis doesn’t really matter - you just know that everything is harder than it needs to be when it comes to interacting with him or her as you go through your divorce. If your ex can be controlling and confident in how they talk to you, you may be concerned that they’re going to get exactly what they want. This can be intimidating!
Here’s the secret. They can say anything they want but that’s not reality. Just because he or she says something intimidating - like “I’m not paying alimony.” or “You have to move out of the house now!” - it doesn’t mean you have to listen. I’m going to share some important strategies when trying to come to an agreement with an ex who doesn’t know how to compromise.
Take back your power by implementing boundaries.
When your ex pressures you and tries to exert power over you, take back your power. This doesn’t happen through matching aggression. You can reclaim your power over the situation by setting a boundary.
Say “I can’t talk about this right now. I need a break” and walk away.
Or text: “I’m not going to be available for the next hour.”
Or, you don’t have to respond at all! Giving yourself the time and space to calm yourself down is powerful. This helps you maintain your integrity in the divorce process, no matter what’s thrown at you.
Don’t take it personally and keep it about your end goal.
It is crucial to remove the emotion from negotiating your agreement. It truly doesn’t matter what your ex says or thinks about you. It doesn’t matter what they’ve done in the past. That has no bearing on your future apart from them. What will affect your future is the agreement. No matter how your ex behaves, keep in mind that you don’t need your ex to be nice, but you do need a legal agreement. The legal agreement is your end goal.
Wait it out while conserving money and energy.
Your difficult ex may talk confidently and sound like they’re never going to budge. Once their attorney explains what’s realistic and after they see how much money can be wasted on legal fees, they usually become more reasonable. Even though it’s tempting, don’t feel the pressure to get your agreement done as fast as possible. Be patient. While you’re waiting, you can trust this - people usually get what’s fair according to the courts. After spending money on their attorney and getting frustrated with the process, most people eventually realize that they have to compromise to get through the process. While you’re waiting for this to happen - it can take anywhere from a month to several months - you want to spend the least amount of money and energy. If you don’t rush it, even the most difficult ex will usually come around. Or, the judge will require them to!
Use a mediator
Consider using a mediator to walk you through the process when dealing with a difficult ex. Mediators are trained in interacting with all kinds of people and can be the one to break through to your ex so that they realize that compromise is necessary.
Find strategies to keep yourself calm
Divorce is overwhelming and can be exhausting. You need strategies to be able to remain calm. Anytime your ex or their lawyer comes at you in an aggressive manner, it’s difficult. Recognize when you’re overwhelmed and take a step back. You can take back your power when you learn to avoid reacting and think through how you want to respond.
If you can be patient, keep yourself calm, and think about your long term goals, you’ll reach an agreement with your challenging ex. It may be a difficult journey but it’s worth it in the end!
Divorce can be an adjustment in many ways, especially if you aren’t used to being on your own. One of the top struggles I hear from clients is that they are lonely. Being alone can be a positive as you learn to like yourself. Whether you’re going through divorce or not, learning to like yourself and enjoy your time alone is good for you.
Studies show the ability to enjoy being alone has been linked to increased happiness, better life satisfaction, and improved stress management. People who enjoy alone time experience less depression. Spending time alone also improves concentration and allows your brain to reboot. Instead of feeling lonely, you can embrace the time you get to spend by yourself and recognize the emotional benefits.
One way to spend time alone when you're separated or divorced is to take yourself on dates. Sometimes when you're married and raising children, you forget what made you happy before you were married. It’s so important to get to know yourself again after divorce and remember what you used to like to do. Taking yourself on dates is a great way to do that.
Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing what to do with your time on your own. Try to make sure that your time checks at least one of these boxes:
Do something that makes you laugh! Or feels fun.
Do something that helps you relax, mind and body.
Choose to learn something new and interesting
Do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone
Do something that gives you an adrenaline rush
Reconnecting with yourself is different for each of us. It’s up to you how much you focus on this - you could spend an hour on your solo date once a week or much more than that. The main thing to keep in mind is to do it regularly. Soon it will become something you look forward to and you’ll learn to welcome that time that you get to yourself!
As you go through the complicated and overwhelming divorce process, you start to realize how much time and money you’re spending. This can be extremely frustrating. Many people think hiring an attorney is the best way to protect yourself and your financial well-being. However, understanding how to communicate with your attorney as well as other divorce professionals can actually save you both time and money and decrease your stress.
Here are the roles of some of the key players that can be part of your divorce support team:
An Attorney takes care of the legal aspect of divorce. But they aren’t trained to handle the emotional piece. And divorce is extremely emotional. So if you vent to your attorney about your ex or talk to them about your children, they’re going to charge you a lot for the conversation (more than a Divorce Coach or Therapist) and they probably won’t help you very much. You should talk to your attorney about: questions about the law, how to get through the legal process and what you should expect to receive financially and regarding custody given your individual situation.
A Divorce Coach can help you decide who you need on your team and how to use each person effectively. They can also help you navigate the emotional piece of divorce so that you can start to think clearly and develop a plan for your future life. You should talk to your Divorce Coach about: questions you have about the overall process, strategies for communicating with your ex, or advice for helping the kids. A divorce coach is the one to turn to for expert advice about how the whole process works and helps you know what to consider for the future.
A Therapist can help you process the emotional aspect of divorce - the grief, anger, sadness, loneliness and stress. what emotions the divorce You should talk to your Therapist about: what emotions the divorce brings up, how your past impacts what you're feeling now and how to build your confidence and self-esteem.
A Financial Advisor or Certified Divorce Financial Analyst helps you think through decisions today that will affect your financial future and also helps you make a plan to achieve your financial goals. You should talk to your Financial Advisor about: your assets, your debts, your income, retirement plans and how to create financial stability.
A Divorce Mediator works with you and your ex and helps you come to an agreement. This can save massive amounts of money as you eliminate the need to communicate through attorneys and helps the process to be less adversarial than using lawyers. Much, if not all, of what you need to accomplish legally can be handled by a skilled mediator. You should talk to your Divorce Mediator about: who gets what, parenting plans, what really matters to you, what seems fair to you and where you are willing to compromise.
With support from a team of divorce professionals, you can be confident that you are going to lay a solid groundwork for your future without wasting unnecessary time and money. Divorce is stressful, but it can be manageable when you effectively utilize the expertise of each person on your team.
Divorce is painful. But the grief is compounded when you aren’t the one choosing it. Being in any situation you didn’t sign up for can make you feel out of control, angry and stuck. There are things you can do to move yourself to acceptance. As you work to accept a divorce you didn’t choose, you will be able find peace.
Here are specific things you can do to help get you through divorce and make it much easier on yourself:
Surround yourself with support. Seek out people who have been through divorce as they will be able to understand you best during this time. There are a number of support groups, both online or in person in most areas. You can also find a divorce coach or therapist who can help you focus on healing and moving on.
Don’t avoid your feelings. While it’s important to intentionally pursue fun and enjoyable things to take your mind off the divorce, you still have to make room for those painful feelings to surface. Unexpected divorce provokes many powerful feelings like rejection and shame. You’ll need to set aside some time to process them.
Build your self-esteem. When you feel shame or rejection from a divorce you didn’t choose, it’s important to build your confidence back up.. You can do this by recognizing what you say to yourself - your “self-talk”. You can change your self-talk, listing and reminding yourself of your strengths, reciting affirmations daily until you believe them!
Choose to learn and grow. There are always opportunities to learn and grow in life. What can you learn from this experience? Identify things that you did or mistakes that you made. Then, work to forgive yourself and work on changing your behavior.
Don’t try to punish your ex. If you have children, this strategy will hurt them and yourself.! While it’s tempting, you’ll gain peace and stay true to your integrity if you don’t give in to the desire to act and speak out of anger to get back at your ex.
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Work to feel and express your anger and then let it go. Journal, talk to a friend, divorce coach, therapist or join a divorce support group.
Divorce that you never wanted can be devastating, but know that you are strong enough to get through it. Each day you get through proves that you’re stronger than you realize. Take it one day at a time. You can do this!
Living with your STBX (soon-to-be-ex) is really hard! If you have children together, that makes it even more difficult because you're going to have to learn to communicate and work together. The good news is you won't be living together forever and I’m here to give you some solid help on how to live together during divorce more effectively.
The biggest key to navigating living together during divorce is to make some ground rules! Rules can protect each of you and provide boundaries during a time when things could get heated really quickly. Here are some ground rules that work well for other couples living together during the divorce process:
I hope these ideas help you navigate this tough time period that you’re in the same house with your STBX. These suggestions will help make this time less painful for you, your kids and your soon-to-be-ex.
Every parent wants their kids to turn out happy and emotionally well. In fact, many people delay divorce because they’re worried about how it will affect their children. But believe it or not, studies have shown that divorce is not what hurts kids. What hurts kids is high conflict between their parents, which they tend to internalize.
For years, research has shown that the quality of interaction between separated and divorced parents is a strong predictor of the mental health and psychological well-being of children. Although it may be difficult to get along with your ex, the more that you can minimize conflict, the better your children will be. Kids can actually thrive through divorce. Here are 2 BIG ways to help them.
Co-parent respectfully in front of your children. Never fight or argue in front of your children. Fighting in front of children can be extremely damaging. I know this may feel impossible, but you can do this. Take deep abdominal breaths every time you’re triggered by your ex. Think through how you’ll respond. Call your friend or family member to talk about how to respond in a respectful way. Ask yourself if you have to respond at all. Keep your children front of mind. No matter how angry or emotional you are, you can protect your children by changing how you interact with your ex.
Think of your ex as if he or she were a colleague or coworker. What does this mean exactly? Don’t think about the relationship when you were married because you have a different relationship now. You’re co-parents, not husband and wife. Try to relate to each other in a businesslike fashion without emotion. Put on your professional hat and know that how you feel about your ex is less important than how you act toward him or her. If one of the parties is not being respectful, the other can say, “Let’s take a break and speak about this later.” Keep in mind three rules:
If your ex doesn’t abide by these guidelines, keep at it and eventually your ex should begin to follow your lead. It may take a little longer for your ex to get on board. Keep reminding him or her, “For the good of our children, we need to be respectful and work together.”
You can do this! Your kids are worth the effort.
Want more tips to help you not only survive but thrive during separation and divorce? Take a look at my free webinar, 3 Critical Strategies to Save Time, Money and Heartache in Divorce.
What is the number 1 KEY to coming out stronger through divorce? Support! We all know, intellectually, that we need support. It seems like a good idea. Following are specific reasons why support is the key to thriving through divorce.
Loneliness- Divorce is often a lonely road, but it doesn’t have to be. Divorce can be so isolating- many people feel like they are the only one experiencing it. While your family and friends can be great, if they didn't experience divorce, they may not truly understand what you’re going through. When you connect with others who have experienced divorce, there’s a connection that’s hard to explain. They don’t judge you. They get it. Find a support system that includes others going through divorce. You’ll see what a difference it makes - you won’t feel so alone and isolated.
Shame- Divorce can be so difficult because many people are ashamed of the fact that they’re going through divorce. They feel like they’ve failed and that everyone is judging them. There’s a tidal wave of negative thoughts and feelings that pop up out of nowhere. Thoughts like:
“Everyone's looking at me differently.”
“They think I’m a failure.”
“I’m not good enough to make the marriage work.”
“There’s something wrong with me.”
These thoughts are common in divorce unless you're around others who’ve experienced divorce. They help you see that you're not the only one going through it. Hearing others experiences lifts the burden of shame so that we can put our energy toward moving through divorce and coming out stronger.
Hope- It's normal to feel overwhelmed, sad and that life is never going to be good again. You've never been through this before and you don't know what the other side will look like. Hearing from a divorce coach or other people who have made it through divorce and are now thriving is a huge help to give you hope for the future.
I find these song lyrics by Sara Groves about friendship articulate clearly the heart of why everyone who’s experiencing divorce needs support more than anything else.
“Every burden I have carried,
Every joy--it's understood.
Life with you is half as hard,
And twice as good.”
Take the time to reach out for support. I know life is busy and you may feel you’re just surviving. But if you put yourself as a priority and work on making connections, everything else will be so much easier. There’s so much support available out there for you when you just seek it out.
Here are two opportunities to get the support you need:
This past year has been tough and a lot of people have lost hope for a better future. But that can change by recognizing that we’re somewhat in control of our thoughts. Did you know that we have about 6,000 thoughts per day? And about 80% of them are negative! That means that we have a huge amount of negative self-talk. We spend a lot of time telling ourselves that we’re not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough or not as good as someone else. When we do this often, it becomes a habit. We can start feeling bad about ourselves and lose hope.
The great news is that we can change these negative habits and train our minds to interpret our experiences in a more positive way. Sure, life can be HARD, but our patterns of thinking and the way we perceive the world can make it much harder than necessary.
In the words of Greek Philosopher Epictetus, “We are disturbed not by things, but by what we think about things.” Therefore, if we can change the way we think, we can change the way we feel!
Have you ever expected, even visualized disaster? Have you noticed or heard about a problem and started asking, “What if?” What if tragedy strikes? What if it happens to you? That way of thinking is called “catastrophizing” where we catastrophize a problem and make it worse by escalating our negative thoughts.
With catastrophizing, we worry that the worst possible outcome will happen. We exaggerate the problem. When you realize you might be catastrophizing, stop and ask yourself the question, “What story am I telling myself?” It might take a moment, but get specific. For example, maybe you are telling yourself that you are ruining your kids and that you are a terrible parent and that none of you are ever going to be happy again. Whatever it is, when you force yourself outside the thoughts and examine them, it becomes apparent how dramatic your story has become.
After identifying the story you’re telling yourself, ask yourself, “What other story could be true?” This is where you use your logical brain and reference facts. An example of this would be, “Patty went through a divorce and it was so hard, but her children are all doing well and she moved on with her life and is thriving. That can happen for me, too.”
When you identify the negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones, you’ll feel better. If you think you are a good person who deserves to be happy, you’ll create a happy life. You’ll see possibilities for the future and have hope. While using these techniques takes mindfulness and work, it’s worth it as it can give you a tool to start the new year off in a great place.
I don’t know anyone who is not worn out by this crazy year. Friends, be kind to yourselves this holiday season. When you’re going through divorce, holidays can be tough. But when you’re going through divorce, there’s a pandemic and you’ve had the year we’ve all had, that just makes it so much more difficult. The following tips can be implemented when you’re alone, or they can be great habits to practice with your children. Some ideas here are probably familiar to you. But sometimes when we are worn out, we just need someone to remind us how to take care of ourselves again.
Zoom Out - Imagine you are using a zoom lens on your camera and zoom all the way in. It’s human nature to zoom in on the negative and have negative thoughts completely fill our “viewfinder.” When we zoom in on something negative - the pain of divorce, Covid, a misbehaving child - it literally doesn’t leave room to see anything else.
This holiday season, I encourage you to zoom out and see what else is in the big picture. When you zoom out, those painful things don’t disappear, they are simply put into perspective among all the other things in your life. And when they aren’t taking up your whole viewfinder, they leave room for you to look around and see the positive things you might have missed.
Gratitude - After you zoom out and you can see those beautiful things that are in your life, take a moment and notice them, savor them, even write them down or say thank you for them. Gratitude is not a denial of the things we are grieving, but a way to acknowledge that life is simply always a mixed bag and there are good things, even if it’s the holidays post-divorce and Covid has changed things.
Get Cozy - It is easy to get stuck in our mind or emotions and forget about our bodies. This becomes a particular struggle when we’re grieving. This year, be intentional about coziness and kindness to yourself. Make your space and your body comfortable and cozy. Light a candle or turn on the twinkle lights, snuggle in a blanket, have a cup of tea, find your PJ pants and slippers or read a novel. Other great ideas would be a bath or stretching to calming music. Do these things frequently!
Get Moving! - We all know it, but doing it is another matter. Going for a walk can do wonders for your mindset and it can help loosen up tense muscles, too. If you don’t have energy for a high impact workout, don’t worry. Just move your body somehow. In some places it may be cold, but remember, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing! If you don’t want to go out, dance in your kitchen.
I encourage you to write reminders on your calendar for appointments with yourself to make time for movement, coziness and gratitude, and stick to it. We make sure to show up for everyone else, this season show up for yourself so you can make the holidays special and enjoy the time with your family.
Divorce and separation are challenging no matter what, but when you have a difficult ex, the challenge increases exponentially. However, it can be managed, with the right perspective and some proactive strategies.
Your ex may have made you feel bad about yourself during your marriage/relationship so your self-esteem is low. You may be exhausted from years of dealing with your ex’s difficult behavior and you can get triggered by this. How do you co-parent when it’s so hard to control your emotions? Follow these 5 guidelines to make co-parenting with a difficult ex more effective:
1. Build your self-esteem and be patient with yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Be patient with yourself – if you mess up, recognize that you’re learning how to deal with a very difficult situation. Change your self-talk from “I can’t believe I let her get to me.” to “I’m doing the best I can and it’s ok.”
2. Don’t get triggered by your ex’s provocative remarks. This is easier said than done. If you can take a pause before you respond, you’ll give yourself the time to think through how you’d like to handle the situation. A pause enables you to respond rather than react. Take a few deep breaths, meditate, call a friend – anything that helps you calm down.
3. Seek a parenting coordinator through the courts. Courts can appoint a parenting coordinator to coordinate scheduling and communication issues between the parents. It’s helpful to have a professional who is trained to deal with high conflict divorce handle these issues.
4. Develop your divorce strategy. What are your priorities? What kind of life do you want in 6 months or 1 year? Without a strategy, you can get derailed by your ex’s behavior. Remind yourself why you’re leaving the marriage and what kind of life you want going forward. This will give you perspective beyond the current struggle.
5. Don’t make your child the middleman. Don’t use your child to send messages to the other parent, don’t vent to your child about the other parent and don’t ask your child for information about the other parent. Let your children know that it’s not ok to do those things and if either parent tries to do any of those behaviors, they will know that it’s not ok. They can learn to set boundaries with their other parent.
The life you want is waiting for you. Ignore the noise that’s coming from your ex and celebrate that it can’t control you anymore. Focus on the present moment, breathe deeply, notice nature, appreciate freedom. Once you recognize that finding your peace has nothing to do with anyone else, you’ll have the life that you’ve been dreaming of.
Too many times we let our anger get the best of us and we get stuck. We can’t move on in our lives because we feel that what happened was unfair. Or there’s so much resentment built up over so long that you feel like you’re constantly struggling in your day to day life. Or you’re so used to getting approval from your ex that you desperately want that approval in order to move on.
Moving forward in your life requires work. You have to get used to your new life as a single person and re-discover who you are without being part of a couple. You must surrender to the process of grieving the life that you lost and recognize that you still can have a great life. You have to be ready to move – ask yourself, “Do I want to move on in my life?”
Moving on doesn’t just happen without doing the work (I’m not talking about moving on to another relationship…that’s separate from addressing the issues that have you stuck). So what’s the work that needs to be done? The work is assessing what your emotions are and why you’re having them. The work also involves processing those emotions.
How do you process your emotions? The first step is to acknowledge what feelings you have without judging yourself. If you feel anger, shame, sadness or envy, accept that it’s ok to have any and all of the feelings you have. Don’t deny or judge your feelings. Moving on is about overcoming them. Write down all the feelings you’re having and why you’re having them.
The next step is to stay with your feelings no matter how uncomfortable that is. Take deep breaths and say to yourself, “I can tolerate this feeling.” While you’re tolerating the feeling, you can cry, laugh, write, draw, exercise or anything else that allows you to stay with the feeling for a certain amount of time.
The final step is to be curious about why you’re having the feeling. Are some of your needs not being met? Is there a boundary that’s being violated? Is a childhood memory being triggered? Are you falling into old behavior patterns? Is this feeling due to distorted thinking? You may need help with this step by talking to a trusted friend, divorce coach or therapist.
Once you go through this process, you should be able to get unstuck and move forward. Don’t hesitate to get help with this and to give yourself time to go through these steps. Even if the work is difficult, it’s definitely worth it. Because at the end, you’ll feel so much more in control of your emotions and empowered to move forward in your life.
Jill Barnett Kaufman is a Divorce Coach, Therapist, Parent Educator and Divorce Mediator. She is an experienced professional who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges when considering divorce, starting the process of divorce or are already divorced.