It’s easy for a divorce to become all-consuming. While it’s happening, and in the time period shortly after it’s over, it’s probably the biggest thing that is happening in your life. It’s almost certainly the most drastic and dramatic thing happening in your life. But does it have to take over all aspects of your life? Your relationship with your children? Your work? Your health? It may not be possible to keep divorce completely separate from all other aspects of your life, but you don’t have to let it devastate other aspects of your life. Take a look at what you can do to prevent your divorce from adversely impacting the other important areas of your life.
Realistically, you can’t stop a divorce from affecting your children. It involves them too. But you can mitigate the negative effects that divorce can have on your children and preserve your own relationship with them through the process.
Divorce can be rough for children, but they’re more resilient than many adults give them credit for. What your children need is to feel safe and secure – when they have that kind of stability, they’ll have what they need to adapt to the new situation in a healthy manner, given enough time. So reassure your children that while your family is changing, they’ll still be taken care of. They’ll have a roof over their heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, etc. Try to avoid changing things if you don’t have to – for example, don’t move right away if you don’t have to. If you have to move, try to at least stay in the same area so your kids can attend the same school, or in the same city so that your kids can still see their friends, participate in the same activities, and so on. Sometimes big changes in living arrangements or locations are unavoidable, but try to avoid throwing too many big changes at your children at one time if you can help it.
To the best of your ability, help your children maintain their relationship with their other parent. If the other parent can’t visit with the kids in person, allow phone calls or Skype sessions as much as you’re able to. When you talk to the kids about their other parent, don’t speak badly of them. If that’s difficult for you, keep your comments to a minimum to avoid crossing that line. Remember that your children don’t see your ex the way that you do – they see their other parent. And their feelings are valid too. Avoid overwhelming your children with details about why the divorce is happening – they don’t need to hear about things like infidelity or disagreements over money. Reassure them that the divorce isn’t their fault, that it has nothing to do with them, and that both parents still love them.
Make an effort to carve out time to spend with your children – not just time that’s spent doing chores or homework, but time doing fun things together. Institute family movie night or make a weekly trip to the beach. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, just make sure that your kids are getting the extra attention and time with you that they need right now.
Divorce can affect your concentration at work and the quality of the work you perform if you let it. But you don’t have to let it.
Try taking a few days off in the beginning. This may seem counter-intuitive – isn’t missing days of work going to affect your work? But it’s really for the best. You need some time to process your feelings of grief and loss, just the way you would after a death in the family. In a way, a divorce is a kind of death – it’s the death of the relationship you had with your partner, the death of the life that you thought you’d have with your partner, maybe the death of your perception of the partner you thought you knew and understood. You would take bereavement leave for the death of a family member, and you shouldn’t feel bad about taking it for the death of your marriage. You’ll be better able to focus on being an effective employee when you return.
When you return to work, practice good self-care. Be conscientious, but don’t overdo it. Don’t run yourself ragged at work just to prove that you can or to make up for missing work or being distracted before. Instead, see if you can channel your emotions into your work in a positive way. Periods of change and struggle can be difficult, but they can also inspire you to think differently and more creatively than you did during calmer periods.
Divorce is stressful, and stress is bad for your health. It may affect your health in ways that surprise you – for example, your immune system might be lower and you might catch more colds. It’s important to take care of yourself and protect your health as you go through this difficult period.
Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking alcohol, or using other drugs. Go to therapy, lean on your friends, lean on your family, but don’t use substances to cope. Establish some healthy habits, like daily exercise. Eat healthy meals, even when you don’t feel like eating. Sleep is a very important aspect of health, and insomnia is common after a divorce. Practice good sleep hygiene (turn off lights, including screens, keep your thermostat set at a sleep-friendly temperature, etc.) Don’t rely on sleep medications – they’re fine for a night or two, but on a regular basis, they can do more harm than good.
If you’re really struggling, go see your doctor. As a matter of fact, during or shortly after a divorce is a good time to see a doctor anyway. Get a thorough checkup and talk to your doctor about what’s going on in your life and what you’re struggling with. They can help you address potential stress-related health problems early so that they don’t have to have an ongoing impact on your life.
Remember that divorce isn’t only an ending – it’s also a new beginning. Keep that in mind as you manage other aspects of your life.