Taking Care of Yourself After the Divorce
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist, I have worked
with children and adults of all ages for over twenty years.
Usually parents drag their kids into my office complaining of
a litany of bad behaviors, ranging from not cleaning up their
rooms, to getting bad grades, hitting their siblings, or worse,
stealing, fighting or doing drugs. These behaviors intensify
after a divorce, causing parents to pay much more attention to
the children, often to the detriment of their own well being.
A very neglected area of concern is that parents, following
a divorce, sometimes do not take good care of themselves.
One of the things I notice about the recently divorced is how
much weight they lose. Divorce is a huge stress, causing adults
to usually eat less, sleep less and generally not take good care
of themselves. Losing weight this way is one of the few touted
physical benefits of separation, but I do not recommend the
"divorce diet plan." It is one of the most severe ways to lose
And, the opposite is sometimes true. A few recently divorced
adults gain weight, because food has become their "new friend."
Go see a therapist for this one, too. Instead, as a recently
divorced parent, try the following "top ten" common sense
1) Avoid isolating yourself from people. Help your children and
yourself reconnect with aunts/uncles, grandparents, friends or church.
2) Build your support group. Support groups in which adults can talk
with those experiencing similar feelings may be especially helpful in
easing this pain. A number of such groups operate online.
3) Take care of your health and your children's health.
4) Eat a healthy balanced diet.
6) Take some time off.
7) Do not prematurely start another relationship. "Rebound"
relationships are those that people jump into after their previous
one ended through separation, divorce or death. Usually parents
are not recovered from the previous loss, so they are emotionally
out of balance. From this emotional space, parents make decisions
about their new partner. Such relationships are not forged on the
anvil of objectivity nor emotional stability; hence, the new partner
is more likely going to be used to help the parent heal, or worse,
mask the pain. These relationships often are not very functional
beyond that. This is why post-divorce promiscuity is so common.
While the sex may be fun and while the relationships in which it
occurs may be stimulating, rebound relationships in general rarely
"go the distance." They just happen too soon after the previous one.
The longer the parent takes to heal and the more "centered" the
parent is, the more likely he or she will exercise good judgment,
psychologically mitigate previous losses and lastly, more wisely
choose the next partner.
8) Keep a journal or get some counseling.
9) Establish new traditions. Remember, it is not only young children
who may feel a sense of loss around holidays and special times.
Many adult children become angry and confused about losing family
rituals (even if they once groused about them). Be flexible in
establishing new traditions, especially around holidays and
celebrations of special events, such as birthdays. However, be
sensitive about incorporating new individuals into family groupings.
Look for fun activities to help relieve stress and encourage building
or rebuilding relationships.
10) Be vigilant. Divorce is stressful for kids of any age. Even if
your child has generally had a positive spin on things, keep an eye
ut for rough patches. Arrange for counseling or encourage your
children to seek help if you see serious signs of emotional fragility.