When divorcing couples are asked what they consider to be their greatest gift from their marriage, the answer is almost always unanimously “my children”. Additionally, most divorcing parents will tell you that their children are their greatest concern, and their number one priority.
A recent research study on what makes a good parent uncovered the essential parenting skills for bringing up healthy, happy, well-adapted children. The most obvious was to shower children with love and affection. Two other skills that don’t get mentioned as often were managing stress, and having a good relationship with one’s partner. These are two parenting skills that are most greatly challenged with divorce. The rate of stress skyrockets with divorce, and maintaining an amicable, civil relationship with an ex spouse can be tricky to say the least.
One of the gravest mistakes a divorcing parent can make is to live by the assumption that everything should be sacrificed for the sake of the children. While there are natural sacrifices that get made when you become a parent, taking care of yourself actually helps your children.
Here are some tips to keep in mind to maintain “good parenting” status during divorce:
Remember that you are a role model for your children at all times. They are looking to you and learning from your words, actions and behaviors. Become aware of what you want them to take in and absorb as they grow. Whatever you teach them will influence how they treat and relate to outside of the home.
Process your feelings in an appropriate forum, not with your Ex. The more you can express your negative emotions and experiences with a professional, the more likely you are to interact with your Ex in a more productive way. It’s hard to remain in control if you suppress your feelings.
Do things for yourself that relieve stress. The build up of stress in the body can go unnoticed leading to chronic symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, depression, and irritability. Do things that you love, that calm and nurture your mind and body. Taking time to nourish yourself also models for your children an important aspect of maintaining optimal well-being.
Put yourself first. The oxygen mask theory is not just a theory, its very real. You cannot parent or nurture your children effectively if you are not taking care of yourself. Children benefit from seeing parents caring for themselves, they like to know that you are well and happy. It makes them feel safe.