TIP #1: PLAN HOW YOU WILL TELL OTHERS ABOUT IT
It’s going to come up in conversation. Take the opportunity to create healthy boundaries from the start. Preparing for these conversations can help manage the emotions that might come with it and prepare you for the responses of others. Other’s often have strong opinions about divorce with unsolicited advice to go with it. And it’s not always helpful or positive stuff.
First, decide who needs to know. As life changing an event as it might be, some people (like co-workers) may not need to know. It’s good to ask: who you would like to tell and why?
Second, decide what kind of impression you want to leave with that person you’re going to talk to. It sounds self-centered, but it’s actually fact. It takes 7 seconds to make an impression, so decide what you want that other person to remember. Facts people won’t necessarily remember, but how a person made them feel is something that will stay. Experts recommend saving the personal emotions and intimate details for those closest, a therapist or a journal. It might not matter if it’s a best friend or family member, because they’ve already seen you at your best and your worst. But if, for example, you decide to tell your boss, what do you want him/her to remember, the facts and how well you are handling it, or how upset you were about the whole thing?
Third, ask for you what you need. The process of divorcing can be stressful. It’s an important life change and people often want to help but don’t necessarily know how. Communicate what is needed, whether it’s just hanging out for a change of pace, or getting added support for the children. Don’t be afraid to at least ask.
For more information about creating healthy boundaries, check out this article: This Is What It Really Means To Have Healthy Boundaries by Kelly Coffey on MindBodyGreen.com.
TIP #2: REBUILD SELF-ESTEEM AND CONFIDENCE!
The act of divorce isn’t exactly a positive self-esteem building experience. This process could easily hit hard. It often brings up questions of confidence and how we see ourselves. It can leave someone feeling bad, like they failed at something. Or they might become riddled with guilt, especially when they see how it is impacting their children. But not to worry, divorce is much more common now a days. And kids are very resilient. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or fun, but what is does mean is that the person asking about it probably has either been through it or knows someone who went through something similar. And research shows that the 3 years following a divorce is the most impactful time for children to heal and recover, so don’t give up hope!
Staying in the present moment and looking to the possibilities in the future is a great way move everyone forward and keep the mind clear and emotions out of the drama. Set a goal in the future for yourself. Practice positive self-talk daily, especially positive affirmations. It might be thoughts like “I am taking action and making necessary changes in my life right now to better myself”. Or, “I am managing each situation as it comes up”. Sometimes, it’s “This is stressful and I am handling this really well!” Or it might be “this is tough right now, but it will pass, I am strong and resilient and can get through this!”
Check out the blog post Meditation Made Easy or present, in-the-moment exercises article.
Dr Pamela Blair talks about Recovering Your Self-Esteem in this article about self-esteem building.
And here on ReachOut.com find out more Steps to improve self-esteem.
TIP #3: MANAGE THE ANGER
Traditionally, separation is when there is the highest level of anger and potential violence between partners. Unmanaged anger comes in many shapes and forms including words and actions, or a lack thereof. It usually presents as passive (implied, indirect or insinuated to create or maintain conflict) or aggressive (directly threatening or physically hostile). And it can be VERY destructive. For example, when a parent or partner posts negative comments about their ex on Facebook. Or someone sends out an insult in a group text. Or a parent makes negative comments directly to the kids or another adult in ear shot range of the children. Actions like these reflect poor boundaries. Children pick up on this and it often makes them feel conflicted. Blaming is a common destructive pattern also. It’s good to remember that as intense as those emotions are in that moment, they will pass. And once something is said, it’s out there and can’t be taken back. Ongoing negative comments, blaming and criticism can have long-term negative psychological effects on everyone, especially children. They actually do not rebound as easily from this kind of behavior. Blaming and negative criticism are also polarizing for others who often feel conflicted between their loyalties and what they should do. And then it becomes one more thing that needs to be resolved. The same goes for threats to others or acts of physical violence. They can have far more serious long-term effects. Practicing this from an emotional intelligence perspective means managing the emotions before they take over.
The best way to manage anger is to develop awareness around it and learn specific techniques to help manage the emotions. Steps like:
- Identify the comments or actions of others that lead to feelings of anger or rage. Take note of the person or situations that create strong feelings, like fear or feelings of powerlessness. Notice how angry you get and how you respond. Then take not how long it took to calm down.
- Use strategies to calm yourself down before the anger turns into regretful words or actions. A “trigger” might be discussing a certain topic with an ex-partner or seeing repeated behavior that is perceived as threatening. Once this happens, take action to manage the anger. This could be the act of stopping the conversation in that moment and taking a break for a few minutes to get a handle on the intense feelings.
- Revisit the conversation when everyone is calm and level headed.
- Try an anger Journal: An anger journal is a great way to start creating that awareness. Questions include recording how many times a person gets angry in a day, what happened leading up to a change in emotions, and recording how the person responded when the anger took over.
- Utilize techniques even after the anger hits. Breathing techniques area common way address things immediately. (check out Youtube.com or try an app on your phone). And time-outs are great ways to handle “in-the-moment” emotions. So is exercise. It’s ok to put a stop to what ever is escalating and switch gears for a bit. Meditation and yoga are great practices to incorporate, especially before a stressful meeting. Studies show that people think more logically and make better decisions when their minds and bodies are in a resting state, not a raging state. Breathing exercises are the fastest and easiest way to calm down. Too much anger becomes self-defeating. Avoid mean or threatening language or physical violence. They are psychologically very harmful to children. Practicing positive self-talk, is another tool that helps decrease anger. Learning to stay calm and express emotions in a healthy way is a great way to model emotions for children and decrease unnecessary stress. If it becomes an ongoing problem, talking to a specialist, like a counselor or psychiatrist can be very beneficial.
A note about exercise: a good amount of cardio exercise can change the balance of serotonin, endorphins and other hormones to help balance the mind and body. Like the mind, the body can be changed too. This is one area many people utilize.
References and Resources:
From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life, A Woman’s Journey Through Divorce by Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC.
Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Blog Posts –
How to Tell Others You’re Getting Divorced from PsychologyToday.com
Divorce Etiquette 101: What to Say from WeVorce.com.
Working it out from AJNovickGroup.com.
Types of Anger from LoveToKnow.com.
4 Tips for Effective Communication During Divorce from OutOfCourtSolutions.com.
5 Ways for Better Communication During a Divorce from FamilyLawRights.net.
Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper from MayoClinic.org.