Key Six of Mindful Co-Parenting after Divorce: Managing Emotions

No matter where you are on the path to divorce, you’re bound to be dealing with a lot of emotions. Anger, frustration, sadness, relief—we experience them repeatedly in the process of divorce. The path of emotional recovery isn’t necessarily fast or predictable. And managing the emotions you’re feeling may be difficult.

But if you are a parent going through divorce, managing your emotions is critical.

I recently sat down with Dr. Jeremy Gaies to discuss collaborative divorce and its effects on children. Dr. Gaies is a clinical psychologist, family mediator, and author of two books, A Clear and Easy Guide to Collaborative Divorce and the co-author of Mindful Co-Parenting: A Child-Friendly Path through Divorce. He describes the six steps to mindful co-parenting. This month we’ve been examining how to maintain boundaries after divorce. Part of having boundaries is figuring out how to effectively manage emotions.

This is especially true if you have children. We can’t put the kids in the middle by having them hear some of our less-than-friendly thoughts about our ex—no matter how true it may be!It’s critical to your parenting to make the sacrifice of not giving into our feelings. As a recent Psychology Today article points out, “divorce doesn’t harm children, parents fighting harms children.”

The Damage

A recent BBC News story illuminated something we all might have suspected deep down, namely, that “what happens at home really does affect children’s long-term mental health and development”. The constant bickering, loud or violent arguments may, in fact, be part of why a couple is seeking divorce. But it’s also something that can—and should—disappear once the couple is divorced. And if we don’t, we’re risking our children’s wellbeing.

Get Help

If you’re feeling like you cannot control your anger on your own, it’s important to know that help is out there. You can seek counseling, go to support groups and find other outlets to help you manage your emotions.

The Mayo Clinic has identified 10 tips to help keep your temper in check:

  1. Think before you speak. Even if you only take a few minutes, try not to respond too quickly, when you’re most likely to be guided by raw emotion.
  2. Once you’re calm, express your anger. Now, in a divorce situation, you may never get the change—or feel the need—to express this to your ex. But sharing it with friends or a therapist can help.
  3. Get some exercise. Physical activity can reduce stress.
  4. Take a timeout. A quiet moment to breathe can be just the break you need if you feel your blood pressure rising.
  5. Identify possible solutions. Making a list of options can help you feel like you’re proactively working toward resolving a situation.
  6. Stick with “I” statements. Flinging accusations will only turn into a fight.
  7. Don’t hold a grudge. This is much easier said than done, but remember that forgiveness is powerful. And when you are the one bestowing the forgiveness, you have the power.
  8. Use humor to release tension. This can be tough, but, remember, you’re primarily interacting with your kids. Keep it light, not bitter.
  9. Practice relaxation skills. Meditation, deep breathing and yoga can all help keep you centered and provide a sanctuary when you feel your blood pressure rising.
  10. Know when to seek help. You’re not the first person to experience the kind of feelings you’re having. Talk to a counselor or support group when you’re ready for outside help.

Take the Time You Need

Reining in emotions, biting your tongue and staying cheerful can be a tall order. In fact, it may seem nearly impossible. So take whatever time and resources you need to get yourself there. It’s a piece of the puzzle that absolutely can’t be compromised.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.