The stress associated with separation and divorce, however amicable, is one of life's major challenges and comes with an unhealthy dose of stress. Emotions can range from anger and anxiety to feeling insecure and incompetent. If you have children, you may also feel that you've failed them or see yourself as a worthless parent. Know that these emotions are a natural part of going through a split.
But you can put positive steps into place to help deal with the stress involved — both your own and that felt by your kids.
- Don't go it alone. We all need emotional support to combat feelings of isolation and even depression. Along with legal help, enlist the help of trusted family members or friends — not your children — for much-needed release of anger and frustration. You could also join a support group in your community to learn from the experiences of others. Search “single” (for single parent groups) or “stress” in Find Support.
- Help your children heal. Your kids need to feel love and acceptance — especially now. Reassure them through verbal communication (such as explaining to them that even though the family is changing, they still have two parents who love and support them) and non-verbal actions (spending time with them, and being extra affectionate when they need it). Also, remember that kids use their parents as a guide, so watch your words, expressions and actions when they're around.
- Prioritize decisions. Some decisions will need to be made sooner rather than later — like finding a new place to live or possibly a job. However, other decisions can be put off "until the dust settles," including going through a career change or starting to date again. Know which decisions are pressing; but give yourself time for those that can wait.
- As much as possible, stick to your routine. Try to keep to your normal routine in order to create a feeling of stability for yourself and your children. For example, if you swim on Wednesday nights, continue to do so. For kids, order and continuity will help ease their worries and they'll find comfort in knowing what's on the schedule for tomorrow or the weekend.
- Stay healthy. Sometimes a change in family life triggers a change in eating, exercising or sleeping regularly. To keep your physical and mental energy up, remember to eat right, make time for fitness, and get good quality sleep.
- Take steps to ease the signs of stress. While you may not be able to avoid stressors, you can give your body and mind a break. Try this stress-busting exercise, take a few minutes to practice deep breathing, or find a meditation exercise that suits you.
- Focus on the future. When the time is right, imagine your future. Think about where you want to be and then figure out what you need to do to make it happen. For example, if you dream of living in another city, research jobs and housing in that community and start laying the groundwork to make your dream a reality.
- Stay positive. Don't think of yourself as a failure. While your marriage may have ended, use it as a learning experience. Concentrate on your positive qualities and how much you've grown as a person. By staying positive, the future will look brighter and you'll be able to move toward it more quickly.