Overwhelm and drama don’t begin to describe the world of divorce. In this time, just about everything is changing all at once – where you live, sometimes your work, time with your child, finances, family and friends. Any one of those changes can be a major stressor. Combined, it’s more than overwhelming.
However, the good news is that you can get through this and do not need to stay in this crazy situation for long. While we offer a full course for Divorced Dads, this article touches on some top points to help you navigate.
Here are five quick ways to minimize the drama and overwhelm.
No matter how busy you are, find part of your day to take time for yourself.
This may include simple breathing and relaxing exercises. You may also want to find healthy ways to release your upset. This can include lifting weights, running, or doing push-ups. While it may sound silly, some of our students have found putting a one pound crushed ice bag in a pillow case, and banging that on the garage floor for 10 minutes can help. Seek out healthy ways to release your upset and anxiety, and get back to a calm, resourceful state.
Focus on your kids, and let go of the guilt complex.
Your kids are also going through trauma, and often will blame themselves. They may be more quiet with you than normal or upset at you. For this time, allow a little extra grace and understanding. Within reason, for a short time, you may want to reduce the demands you have on your kids. Some kids will internalize their stress, and put on a good face to act like everything is fine.
One proven way to support them is to increase your empathy. Slow down and really listen to your kids and paraphrase what they said to make sure you understand. It can be especially helpful to let them know you understand (“It’s got to be hard going from house to house.”). Remember this isn’t sympathy – it’s empathy- you don’t have to agree or even like it – you are just confirming you understand. Brain science shows that this creates calm for both, and helps get kids out of a trauma-like state.
Keep Adult Stuff for Adults.
Remember that your kids are not adult friends.
If you need to vent to someone, talk to an adult friend when your child is not around. Do consider a counselor or coach to help you navigate these strong feelings. However, avoid bad-mouthing the other parent. This creates long-term damage for you and your kids. If you slip and do this once, forgive yourself and get back on track.
Make a One Year Plan.
Many collapse after the stress of a divorce and go on auto-pilot. While they might feel invincible, this can be a dangerous time. Because of all the change and trauma, you are not at your best decision-making point. Without a plan, you can end-up doing crazy things you wouldn’t normally do. Create time to think about where you want to be in a year – your job, where you live, what you do, what you drive – and create milestones every few months to get there. Find a friend or family member to check-in with on these, and put check-ins every week or two on your calendar. Just this act of planning and organization, regardless of the outcome, can ensure your success. We offer this in our LEAP training program.
Get Outside Help.
Divorce is a major life change and not getting some outside help is a recipe for disaster. While counseling may be great for you, also consider things like goal-setting workshops, trying out a new hobby, or meeting up with old or new friends. Remember you have a ton of your life left, and many gifts to share with the world. As much as it sounds like fun, be careful with rebound relationships, Vegas trips and other things of the sort. While you probably don’t want to hear it, your best decision- days are a few months out, and you want to be careful. Absolutely plan some fun in your life, and just give yourself time before taking on anything else big and new.
Using these tips can reduce your post-divorce drama and help you focus on an amazing relationship with your kids.
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Chris has worked in tech for 30 years, and healthcare tech for 8 of those. He's on the advisory board of Harvard-Based Think:Kids, and runs Rad Dad Rules. He is the proud Dad of two awesome kids, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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