The beginning of the new year brings an opportunity for change — and for newly separated or divorced parents, that can mean developing new patterns and habits centered around healing, getting a healthier mindset, navigating co-parenting, and building a better future for both yourself and your child(ren).
To get 2023 started off right, here are eight potential New Year’s resolutions that newly separated parents can follow to get on track toward personal growth and development in the new year.
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 talking things out with their support system 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 conflicts and forced to choose sides. According to Psychology Today, children can play any of these four unhealthy 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.
While social media offers a great way for people to stay in touch, without restriction, it can also lead to unhealthy behavior. Keep your mental health in check by taking a social media detox. By doing so, your brain can take the necessary time to separate and heal without feeling a need to compare your new life to that of your ex.
When cutting social media out completely isn’t an option, consider blocking your ex on all platforms to avoid old memories — or your ex’s current life — from popping up in your feeds. Even if your split was amicable, removing your ex allows you to heal from the relationship without the constant reminders and updates about your former partner.
If you and your ex are on good terms and you’re worried about the reaction they may have to being blocked, warn them in advance to let them know your intentions are good and for your own benefit, not to spite them.
Especially for newly-separated parents, taking care of your mental health is extremely important and beneficial — not only for yourself but for the entire family. Separation in a family causes a lot of stress and requires adjustment, grieving, and coming to terms with the end of a relationship — all of which can be a lot to handle on your own. However, therapy can help you come to terms with and work through these new challenges in a healthier way by talking it through with a third party.
In addition to therapy for yourself, consider exploring family therapy with your child(ren) if they were particularly impacted by the separation or divorce. While they may not express it, children often deal with the negative effects of divorce, including anxiety, depression, attachment issues, and taking on negative coping strategies.
Other worthwhile mental health practices include taking care of your body by eating healthy, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and getting adequate rest. Additionally, you can try taking up a relaxation practice such as yoga or meditation, setting time aside to read or do a puzzle, or regularly spending time in nature.
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 2023 — 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. Goals may include transitioning to a new career, going back to school to get a degree, focusing on being a stronger parental figure for your child, or improving your mental or physical health.
Consider what goals you would like to achieve in the new year, and come up with a step-by-step plan on how to accomplish them. The plan should include a timeline, any potential obstacles, and smaller goals/milestones you can achieve along the way.
If you’re going through a DIY divorce after a separation period, you don’t have to do it alone. Hiring a legal coach is a great option that can help to forge a path towards a better outcome while providing an easier healing process for the whole family.
A legal coach can answer all your questions — including questions about how and where to file for divorce and what living arrangements constitute being “separated” — and help you navigate divorce as painlessly as possible. Browse this martial settlement guide to learn more about DIY divorces and the familial, financial, and emotional decisions that must be made during the process.
Looking for help navigating a DIY divorce? My Legal Case Coach can provide a number of helpful solutions for Virginia residents, including easy-to-use legal case form packets and ongoing virtual coaching services. Schedule your no-strings-attached consultation to learn how you can get one (1) free hour of 1:1 coaching from a licensed Virginia attorney with your purchase of a packet.