5 ways to look after yourself and your family during a separation or divorce

Some people have said that separating is “worse than if a partner dies - they are always there in your face reminding you of a failure”. For others, it is an enormous relief, and the peace of mind that follows can hardly be described.

Whether you fall into the former or the latter category, or somewhere in between, you need to cope with the event in the best way possible.

Separation and divorce are always painful, and it takes quite a time for people to heal. Give yourself at least 18 months, but don’t be surprised if it takes longer.

As a parent, it is important that you take care of yourself at this time so that you are able to be there for your children when they need you.

There are a number of things you can do to help yourself through this tough time:

1. Don’t get stuck

Unsticking yourself is a must! You always know when you’re stuck because you will feel:

• out of control

• helpless

• hopeless

You may also find yourself blaming the other person for your predicament. When this happens, you have given control of your life to someone else. So, begin to think about how you can take control of YOU.

2. Work out a plan

It’s not wise to try to make someone else do what you want - so, what are your options?

Make a list - then talk about these with a friend, look at the consequences should you follow through with each one, and finally make a decision.

Make sure they are decisions which will be helping you in the long run. Choosing well will help you to rebuild your life and feel confident, motivated and more positive.

3. Consider your emotions

Most people separating will feel angry, and anger can be useful if it is used positively. How you respond is your responsibility; if you respond normally with anger which is designed to hurt or frighten others, this won’t give you what you want.

It may be useful to talk with someone who can help - like a counsellor at Relationships Australia.

In the long run, it is far better to behave in respectful ways towards your ex-partner, even if you feel you are the aggrieved party. When you change angry, destructive behaviour and avoid having your “angry buttons” pressed, you’re in control of you, and this can have a calming effect on everyone, including - and especially - your children.

If you think you are not behaving in a reasonable, rational way, check it out with someone who will give you an honest appraisal. (Don’t use your best friend, who may tell you what s/he thinks you’ll want to hear!)

4. Stay healthy

Sleeping can be difficult for some people, too; this is a normal part of the process of separating, but if it becomes a problem and you can’t manage your daily life, see your doctor or healthcare professional.

Don’t forget to eat properly. If you aren’t much of a cook, eat fruit and vegetables, which don’t need cooking.

5. Talk

Talk to friends and family. Don’t use the children as a support or sounding board. As their parent, you have to be there to support them, not have them support you.

Find support from others, socialise, even when it’s difficult. This is an important way of working through the grief.

And a final thought is to find other ways to help yourself - listen to music, go for walks, take long baths, have fun with your children.

For more information on how to support your children during a divorce or separation, download our free e-book "What about the Children?"

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