For newly separated or divorced parents, the start of a new year can offer the opportunity to forge new patterns and develop new habits centered around healing, co-parenting, and the future. Here are five potential New Year’s resolutions newly separated parents can make to promote personal growth, a healthy mindset, and a wonderful 2022 for yourself and your family.
Divorce is an emotional rollercoaster, often taking months or years to finalize. But once you are on the other side of the process, it’s time to refocus the energy that was once exhausted by divorce or separation discussions onto yourself and your healing.
Self-care looks different for every person. For some, it comes in the form of picking up new or forgotten hobbies. To others, it’s counseling or therapy to process emotions. Long baths with candles, hitting the driving range, watching old movies, or listening to a good playlist while running or hiking — all are healthy self-care rituals.
It’s important to remember that, while divorce was likely the best option for you and your entire family, your kids did not have a say in the matter and might be feeling powerless or grieving the loss of the family dynamic they once knew. To circumvent unhealthy coping mechanisms, confusion, and more hurt, make a resolution to allow both parents to spend as much time with the children as possible. This can help with adjustment, grief, and transitioning to the new family structure.
Another part of being a divorced parent is ensuring your children don’t feel like they’re placed in the middle of arguments or conflict and forced to choose sides. According to Psychology Today, children can play one of four roles in a divorce:
- A spy will convey information secretly back and forth from one parent to another. Some examples include a mother asking the child if a father has a new girlfriend, or a father asking the child to tell them who their mother talks to on the phone.
- A messenger is somewhat like a spy, but communicates openly. Messengers are often given tasks like: “Tell your mother to pay her phone bill” or “Tell your father I need to talk to him.”
- The role of confidante puts the child in a position where a parent discloses “secret” information that may or may not be true. A confidante may be told why X, Y, or Z happened, or that there’s something the other parent did to cause the relationship to fail.
- An ally places the child uncomfortably in the middle of parents in more ways than one. Not only does the child hear what side they’re “supposed” to take, but they are also expected to act in a way that meets both parents’ emotional needs rather than reflect and respond to their own.
Despite these common roles children of separated parents often find themselves in, the only role a child should play in this situation is that of a child. By not using your child as a means of back-and-forth communication with your ex, you can help them better cope with the separation and focus on their own emotions, not yours.
Acting with kindness and understanding whenever possible not only brings about a calmer state of mind but enables each person involved in the separation or divorce to be heard. Showing outward kindness to your ex, especially in front of your children, perpetuates a healthy co-parent relationship and demonstrates emotional maturity.
One of the most important resolutions in the new year is to focus on growing. Setting long-term goals in 2022 — whether they are emotional, physical, spiritual, or professional — can help guide your actions in the present and bring about a fuller, more complete growth pattern in the year to come.
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