There are a variety of changes you can expect after separation and divorce. One of the changes we want to discuss in today’s post is the change in the amount of time you’ll be spending with your child or children, whether immediately upon separation, or after a final agreement or decision is made regarding your parenting plan.
Adjustment is Tough!
Depending on the situation, this can mean a lot of new free time you’re not used to having. For some, this free time is uncomfortable, if not downright emotionally painful. It is up to you to decide how to make the most of the time when your children are with their other parent.
The transition from full time to part time parenting can bring up a lot of negative feelings, which can lead to making negative choices during your child-free times. Negative choices for how we spend our free time are available to all of us, no matter our situations, so don’t feel guilty if you occasionally make less effective or positive choices—it happens!
Self-Care is Here to Help
We here at the Children’s Law Center counsel our clients to deal with their new reality by focusing on self-care strategies. Self-care is a wonderful thing to do as you are getting used to occupying your time without your children. Whether it’s one day a week or several days or nights each week, focusing on self-care strategies will help you in several valuable ways.
1. Help you become a calmer and more emotionally stable person.
2. Grow your sense of self-worth and confidence.
3. Provide you with activities that will help you adjust to the changes.
4. Allow you to role model effective coping skills and positive choices for your children, who are looking to you for help adjusting to the new parenting plan.
Keep an Open Mind
All four of these benefits are awesome for everyone, but especially for parents who are new to separation from their children. It can be extremely difficult to adjust, but we’ve come up with a simple list of things for you to do that we know have helped us and our clients during this difficult time of transition. If one doesn’t work, try another! The possibilities are endless.
Watch a Movie
Watch a movie you’ve always wanted to watch but maybe wasn’t on everyone else’s list, or was too confusing for younger children to be interested in. Go to the theater, or make some popcorn and kick back at home—the choice is yours.
Start a Hobby
Free time means the ability to pursue or find new passions like knitting, crafting, biking, surfing, hula classes, yoga, night school, drama classes, learning a new language, jogging, and so many more. Think of something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time for. Make the leap!
Practice writing down your feelings and thoughts or other ideas in this new free time. Write without judgement and let yourself work through the emotions. This skill isn’t easy, yet it’s so critical for our mental wellbeing that we feel our emotions. This activity is also valuable for kids to try too.
Call a Friend
Call and ask a friend to hang out, or just to talk. Make sure it’s a safe friend who you can talk to and be honest with, or, chose not to talk about yourself at all and ask them how their day has been. Sometimes we need to focus on others to stop getting so down on ourselves.
Drawing is a fun way to express yourself with the simplest of tools—a pen and paper—because it allows you to let your creativity flow.
Take Yourself on a Date
Go out to dinner or lunch on your own, somewhere special. Make it an important meal by going somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Don’t go crazy, but indulge a little and spend more than you might normally.
Cook and Prepare a Meal
Find a recipe you’ve been wanting to try, get the ingredients, and treat yourself to a fancy night in. If you want others to try your fantastic meal, invite over some friends or family members and make an evening of it.
Find New Games on Your Phone
We know that playing phone games can be distracting and sometimes take over, but playing a silly game for a while is sometimes exactly the kind of activity to help us calm down and take our minds off separation.
Join a Pick-Up Game or Activity
Find a group basketball or soccer team to go and sweat it out with. Make the most of evenings by doing something active and fun that will also release plenty of mood-boosting endorphins.
Plan your Dream Trip
Research a place you’d want to travel. Start writing down the costs, but don’t overwhelm yourself. Set realistic goals and ideas for what this trip would look like, whether it’s a 30-minute drive or 30-hour plane ride away.
Do a Face Mask
Take the evening to do a face mask, get a wax, get a manicure or pedicure, anything that feels good and will help you to relax. Make an evening of it with friends!
Stretch it Out
Sure, yoga and classes are fun, but have you ever just laid on the floor and stretched, exploring where your body was tight and letting your limbs get rejuvenated? Set aside 10 (or 45) minutes for stretching and you’ll be amazed how much more relaxed your body and mind will start to feel.
Write Thank-You Letters
Write a-thank you letter to yourself, a friend, a child, a co-worker or neighbor, or even yourself! Writing thank-you letters is a positive route towards self-care through gratitude and conscious movement towards positivity and validating others. You don’t have to send them, but you certainly can if you want to!
Go for a walk, go on a hike, or simply sit outside in the grass looking at the stars. Take some deep breaths and take in the energy of the earth. Find a great spot to watch the sunset or the moon rise. Being in nature can dramatically improve our moods and minds.
Dance it Out!
Put on your favorite song playlist and dance around in your house or apartment. Get sweaty, stomp your feet, sing along, do an air guitar solo…whatever you want to do is fair game because you’re dancing for you and you alone.
Build a Garden or Green Space
Whether you live in an apartment or have a home with a yard, there are tons of options for creating a green space in your house. Buy some succulents or build a full plot in the backyard. Gardening is soothing and fun. Plus, it’s a great activity to have the kids help with during your parenting time. An even bigger plus? Home-grown veggies!
Write a Letter to Future You
Writing letters to ourselves to open in a month, a year, or 10 years from now that are goal-oriented and empowering. Letters can be a fun way to spend a couple minutes or hours cultivating your positive mindset and outlook for the long-term.
Clean out old clothes, trinkets, junk, and clutter from your closets or storage. Spring cleaning can be any time of the year, and the freshness of an uncluttered home or even just a room can do wonders.
Pick Up a New Book
Start reading books you love, or books about self-care, or cheesy romance novels, or comics, or long-winded autobiographies or dense non-fiction you just haven’t had time for—it doesn’t matter what you read, as long as it’s something you enjoy.
You can start with this list if you like!
You don’t have to spend a bundle to change the look and feel of a space. Hang a piece of art that’s been hiding in the closet, or re-arrange a sofa. Try out new arrangements of your existing space to play around with the vibe and aesthetic of your bedroom, bathroom, or living room.
Do Some Home-Repairs
Do-it-yourself (DIY) repairs and minor renovations like painting walls are all tasks that can help you focus while making actual changes to your environment. You don’t have to remodel your whole house, you’ll be surprised how constructive it feels to make minor repairs. Check out YouTube and learn how to fix a leaky faucet, or repair old grout in a bathtub. Home repair activities are productive and can even be meditative.
There is something so satisfying and healing when you take a break from thinking about the sad feelings associated with separation and divorce to think about the needs of others. Fun runs, clothes drives, mentoring, volunteering at a fundraiser, even donating blood. Giving to others is one of the best ways we know to give our lives a little perspective. Volunteering will help you to feel productive and other-focused, and it may very well give you some change in perspective if you’ve been feeling especially hopeless or downhearted about your situation.
Adjusting is Possible
We hope you’ve been able to find at least one self-care activity in our list that can make this transition easier for you. If you have any ideas of your own, please feel free to share by commenting below.