Many separated parents struggle to transition their family to the new family structure resulting in high conflict creating high anxiety and stress for the whole family.
Separation is a highly emotional time where significant loss creates grief which can ignite feelings of anger, sadness, helplessness, hopelessness, fear, resentment and so on. During this emotional rollercoaster we revert to our instinctual reactions of fight, flight or freeze as our survival instinct as we feel under threat. This threat could be losing our relationship, time with the children, family home and financial security. During this upheaval we can become very overwhelmed, scared, and anxious about our future. This can make us react in a way to try to gain control of our lives in a time when our lives feel so out of control amidst the chaos. This control can manifest into fighting to keep the children or fleeing with the children as we don’t want to lose them as well. We are consumed with fear of an uncertain future which drives our anxious behaviours.
It is important to gain the emotional support to create calm and assurance that you have the help to get through your separation journey. The reason for this is threefold;
1. You can make rational decisions when you are calm to think through the options and impacts
2. Your children look to you as role models to demonstrate how to handle challenging situations
3. Your healing will accelerate instead of spiralling into helpless depression.
In the midst of our grief, we can become self-focused rather than child focused. We focus on what is happening to us, searching for reasons why it happened to us, how we could have prevented it and what we may have done to have caused it. This sends us down a self-destructive path questioning our self-worth, loss of confidence and diminished self-esteem. We cannot change what has happened, we can only change our present and our future. This can be done through focusing on what needs to get done to stabilise our lives short term, then transform our lives long term.
Once you have stabilised your life so that you can function in it, without dwelling on the past, enables you to continue making changes for a better future.
So how do we help our children through this traumatic family event? We look at how the family can shift to the new family structure maintaining meaningful relationships with each parent and extended families. As parents we have an obligation to minimise impact on our children and ensure as their role models that the transition is as seamless as possible. During this distressing time for the children, they need both parents more than ever to reassure them they are still a constant in their lives.
If your child was use to having mum take them shopping on a Friday after school where they went to a café for afternoon tea, this is a comforting routine to maintain beyond separation.
If your child was use to Dad taking them to soccer training every Wednesday night, then this is a comforting routine to maintain beyond separation.
If mum always was the one to take the kids to the dentist, then this is a comforting routine to maintain beyond separation.
If Dad always helped the child build their assignment projects, then this is a comforting routine to maintain beyond separation.
To reflect on pre-separation routines that could be maintained beyond separation can help children feel stability and security that life can go on as usual even when both parents don’t live together.
Parenting schedules can be planned around regular routines to put the children’s needs first.
You know if you are needing help emotionally to refocus on what is needed to maintain your child’s sense of wellbeing, safety, security and continued love from both parents. Seek the help of a Divorce Coach who can help you reduce the panic and the overwhelm so you feel empowered to tackle the challenges ahead to help your family transition through this major change.
Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner & Parenting Coordinator