Ways to manage a difficult divorce when you’re a parent

By Susan Leigh

So your forever dream relationship has ended painfully. You want to cry, scream, hurt your ex, especially if you see him or her living it large and enjoying life.

But what about when there are children to consider? It’s one thing to share your grief and try to shame your ex when it affects just the two of you, but when children are involved there needs to be a rather different approach and some level of restraint.

Let’s look at ways for a parent to manage a difficult divorce.

Accept that it takes time to heal. Be gentle with yourself as you work through those very real emotions of loss, disbelief, anger. Allow yourself time to grieve before you move on.

Avoid regaling family and friends with your dirty laundry, having it the main focus of every conversation, bringing a spiral of ongoing negativity. Why fuel other people’s hatred of your ex; it’s your situation, not theirs.

Learn to not react to your ex’s behaviour. They may try to win your children’s affections with gifts, holidays and treats. Children may take the bribes but also recognise that you’re the parent who does the everyday supportive things like laundry, meals, school runs, parents’ evenings.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself why you’re so annoyed; are you reacting because you suspect you’re being deliberately baited? Interestingly, when you stop reacting the behaviour often changes and becomes more reasonable.

Would therapy help you heal those raw emotions? It’s important to learn from negative experiences, even when they’ve occurred because we’ve allowed ‘bad’ behaviour to continue unchecked.

Would an intermediary help improve communications? Maybe a mediator, relationship counsellor, priest, trusted family member or friend could facilitate meet-ups so that issues like holidays, money, new partners are discussed before they become too inflammatory.

Young children need stability, routine and reassurance. Grandparents may help to provide support if a child is struggling to adjust.

Talk to others in the same position as yourself. Share advice. There may be scope to occasionally alternate childcare, giving you some valuable free time to go for lunch, attend a class or maybe work.

Equally, grown-up children can be distressed when their parents divorce. Their vision of family life has been rocked. Avoid explaining too much to them; it’s your divorce not theirs!

Post-divorce is about you too, so find something of interest to you, remove the ‘victim’ mentality and start to feel like you again.

Susan Leigh, Altrincham Counsellor & Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net