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.
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!
Are you in control of your anger, or is your anger controlling you? During divorce, a certain amount of anger is normal and appropriate. But many people get stuck in their anger and have anger be your baseline emotion on a daily basis. When this happens, you may lose touch with your priorities and make poor judgments. Holding onto anger can feel like being in control but it can actually leave you bitter and result in you acting irrationally. Here are some clues that anger has hijacked your decisions during divorce.
What should you do if your anger has been calling the shots? Letting go of anger in divorce takes work. But identifying that it’s there is a positive first step! Anger usually covers up other emotions like sadness or disappointment. I recommend spending some time trying to get to the root of your anger and letting yourself experience the sadness and other emotions that might be behind the anger. Journaling or therapy are great ways to explore all of your emotions to find out what’s going on behind anger. Also, you can check out my blog - Letting Go of Anger in Divorce - to help you with this process.
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.
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:
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.