We Are More Present to Our Kids

When We Practice Self-Care

Self-care is important for all individuals, but especially during and after a divorce. Divorce can be really hard for all involved, but it can be especially tough on children.  When you are taking care of yourself, you are more present to your children’s needs, better able to communicate with your ex and create a thriving co-parenting relationship. Here are 3 healthy self-care practices that will help protect your children during and after divorce and lead to healthy co-parenting.

Creating Healthy Boundaries After Divorce Can be Tricky!

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My Divorce Pain Led Me to Self-Care Practice

When I got divorced back in 1998, it was emotionally crippling.   As a result, I wasn’t thinking clearly or rationally, and I made choices that impacted the rest of my and my ex’s lives and our young daughter, Maddie’s, life.  Maddie was the first grandchild for my parents, and the decisions arrived at in the divorce affected how much they were able to see her too. I temporarily lost my way.

Because it was so painful, it caused me to really take a look at myself.  I was perplexed how I could give away custody of my daughter to her dad and not insist upon joint custody.  The situation was the catalyst that got me started doing inner child work and self-care in general.  It put me on the long path of healing from the trauma of divorce by journaling my feelings, reading self-help books, meditating.  I didn’t learn tapping until 2007 but that would have been very helpful.

Over the years, I healed more and more of my childhood wounds.  I was then able to have a wonderful relationship with Maddie.  We spent so much quality time together on our weekends where I was really available to her. It’s really true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

These 3 Self-Care Practices Instill Feelings of Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem and Self-Worth Which Leads to Healthy Co-Parenting 

1) Make Time to Slow Down for More Self-Care

This may seem like an impossible task when you have small children to take care of, but it’s important. Find time each day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes, to do something that makes you happy. Read a book, take a bath, or go for a walk. The key is to make sure you find some time each day to relax and recharge.

The mind will try to convince us that we don’t have time. 
It’s tempting to “live up in our headspace,” analyzing everything and keeping very busy.  And I get it. Life is busy and demands so much of us, especially if we’re trying to make end’s meet.  However, it only takes a small amount of time to jumpstart a new self-care habit. For example, you can do something one minute daily (like jumping jacks or writing in a journal how you feel) to build a new neural pathway or habit, and then increase the time as you go along.
The act of starting has a way of increasing our confidence that we CAN change our life.

Affect On Co-Parenting

We are more present and emotionally available to our kids when we are connected and grounded in whowe  are. In other words, when we connect to our body and emotions (get out of the head and thinking all of the time), people can sense we are there with them. They feel our attention. 
Being grounded in ourselves with more self-confidence improves our  ability to communicate honestly with our ex too.  When we are able to be present with our interactions, we role model healthy relationship skills to our children, and this helps them to feel safe and supported.

2) Respect Yourself and Be Discerning of Who You Get Romantically Involved with after Divorce

Our self-esteem can take a real hit after a divorce, and we may be attracted to some partners who match our “pain body” because it’s currently heightened, but they wouldn’t make good long-term partners.  Some times our “people picker” can be broken.
When we take good care of ourselves, it’s an indicator that we believe we are worth the attention
We believe we deserve good things in life.  This is not a hard and fast rule, but a guideline. I personally didn’t follow it, but I trusted the man I got involved with. I fell in love with my husband, Steve, in part due to what an amazing father he was to his daughter and to my daughter. 

Our People Picker May Need a Pick-me-UP

If we, on a subconscious level, feel guilty and ashamed of ourselves, and we rebound with someone who doesn’t respect us or care about our well-being, we put our children in jeopardy because they can be hurt. On the one hand, we can we bring someone into our home who may not have their best intentions in mind. God forbid, they could sexually or mentally abuse our kids.
On the other hand, we could bring someone home who is pretty awesome but not ready to commit to a serious relationship. The kids get attached and then they leave.  When they experience someone leaving or never sticking around, they can feel abandoned.  And they may already be feeling this way to an extent because they’re not getting to see both of their parents as often as they used to.

Affect On Co-Parenting

It can be very triggering to one parent when the other parent invites someone new into their children’s lives.  By taking care of ourselves and believing we deserve to be loved and respected, we are more likely to pick potential partners who are good to us and our kids.  This will effect the quality of our co-parenting as our ex will feel better about our partner choices (at least they will in the long run).

3) Set Firm, Healthy Boundaries

When we have healthy self-worth, we are more likely to advocate for our needs and wants, in other words, to set firm boundaries. We need to be firm about what we will and will not tolerate from the ex-spouse and their new partner, regarding what is and isn’t appropriate behavior around our children. This includes everything from discussing the divorce with them to taking them on joint outings.

It is also important to set boundaries with our own family and friends. They may not understand what we are going through and may inadvertently cross boundaries.  How we do one thing, we tend to do many.  If we’re having issues with crossing others’ boundaries and letting others cross ours, chances are we’ll do it with our ex too.
Self-Care Leads to Healthy Co-Parenting

No One Likes Boundaries Because We Misunderstand Them

Many people get turned off by boundaries, because it feels like we are either being rude and trying to control another person’s behaviors or someone is trying to control ours.  And at first glance, this may seem true. But we need to look at the hidden motivation behind boundaries.

Good Boundaries Don’t Restrict, Rather They Expand, Our Lives

The intention of a healthy boundary, regardless of who’s setting it, isn’t to restrict our lives, but to expand our lives and preserve relationships. Think about it. When inviting a friend to dinner who doesn’t really feel like going, would you rather she tell you, “Yah, I’ll go,” and then the whole night she looks frazzled and grumpy and the conversation lags along.
Or would you prefer she say, “No, I think I’ll pass. I’m tired and just don’t feel like it. Maybe next time?” Though the latter may feel like rejection, wouldn’t you prefer someone be upfront with how they truly feel to keep them from becoming resentful?
Honest communication is one of the best boundaries we can have, and can you see how it preserves a relationship in this example? Over time, if we have a people-pleasing friend who tells us what we want to hear, that friendship will likely disintegrate over time.

Affect On Co-Parenting

By being able to set healthy boundaries with our ex, which is a form of self-respect and respect for them, it preserves the co-parenting relationship, which exists only because of our children.  How well we are able to navigate this relationship has a huge impact on the quality of our children’s lives.  So by being willing to set and keep boundaries, we are helping everyone impacted by the divorce.

Good Boundaries Breed Self-Forgiveness

In order to have confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, at the physical, emotional and mental layers of our existence, we must first practice some sort of self-care, which eventually leads us to feeling more self-compassion, self-understanding, self-trust, self-respect, self-acceptance, self-love, and ultimately self-forgiveness.  The last, self-forgiveness is sometimes the last to arrive because we don’t even realize we’ve been withholding it from ourselves for the divorce, for past choices, not feeling good enough, etc.

Recap: Excellent Self-Care Includes:

  • Taking quality time to slow down and connect with our body, recharging and relaxing so that we can be really grounded and present to ourselves and our kids’ needs. 
  • Respecting ourselves enough that we approach our next romantic partner with great discernment and wisdom, thereby protecting our children from potentially abusive or non-commital partners.
  • Setting firm, healthy boundaries of clear communication about what we will and won’t tolerate to preserve our most important relationships, the ones with ourselves and our children.
By doing these three things, we can stack the odds in your favor of creating a mature, co-parenting relationship for the sake of our kids.  Caveat: we don’t control our ex and their habits, patterns and addictions. All we can do is OUR best. Let that be enough.  That’s why I said we “stack the odds in your favor,” but nothing is a guarantee.
The good news is that if we do our best to imperfectly implement the above suggestions, we‘ll be happy in spite of what our ex does or says.

Would you like support along this journey?  I am teaching The Heal Your Heart Online Retreat that will help you to feel more confidence, self-esteem and self-worth so that you’ll have more desire to practice these self-care steps and create a fulfilling, happy life. You are your kids aren’t worth it, right?


Much Love,
Angie Monko,
Holistic Divorce/Loss Coach