By Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life
There may come a time in your marriage where you realize that your partner’s negative behavior is becoming detrimental to both you and your children. What do you do in a situation like this? What if your partner won’t accept getting divorced? What if you are not working or are afraid to work longer hours because you’ll lose quality time with your kids? How do you prevent emotional damage to yourself and your children?
Here are some practical guidelines to navigating this very difficult and stressful situation…
Our law allows one person in the marriage to insist on a divorce
I’m not a lawyer, but I do know that you can go ahead with a divorce proceeding from your side whether your partner wants it or not, particularly if you can show that you have real grounds for wanting this – if your partner had an affair, if you have a report from a psychologist regarding any abuse etc. It might help to get some professional advice and there are companies like The Family Law Clinics who offer free legal advice.
Kids process their worlds through play and creativity
Please be aware that it is absolutely normal for children to act up in situations like this. They will tend to play out the aggression and negativity they experience at home or that is repressed in the home. Think of their behaviour as a barometer for the emotional environment that they come from.
Allow your child the space to feel the intensity of their emotions and once calm discuss different ways to express themselves that won’t hurt others. There is a saying that goes “for the good feelings to come in, the bad feelings first have to come out”.
Sometimes, as the parent, we are not the best person for them to chat to
It can be very helpful to have somebody else involved in their lives that they can trust, but who is removed from the situation. Ideally, this would be in a play therapy environment, where they are taught that it is safe to express whatever they are feeling and develop coping techniques that they can use throughout their lives.
If money is a problem you can contact an organisation like FAMSA who offer reduced rate or free therapy for kids depending on your situation.
The next thing to look at is the kids’ routine
If you’re having to start a new job or work longer hours you may need to make arrangements for your kids like aftercare or lift schemes. Try to ensure that some of their homework, bathing etc is done before you get home. Perhaps even chat to the teacher about helping with this during school time to alleviate some of the pressure on you.
I wouldn’t worry about playtime with the kids in the evening. It is more important for them to have a good routine and sleep is essential for anyone trying to deal with stress. This helps kids particularly in times of change to feel that the whole world is not falling apart.
Quality time during the day
Keep in mind that quality time doesn’t need to be a lot of time. It can be five minutes of connecting at bedtime, it can be the conversation you have over dinner, or the wet hug as they get out of the bath. You can also make sure that on the weekends you do fun things together.
Just be careful of alleviating any guilt you may have by keeping them up later so that you can spend time with them. That evening time may actually add additional stress, in which case they would be better off with a bit more sleep.
Manage your own stress levels
Focus on deep breathing, make sure you connect with people and find experiences that support and nurture you. Get enough sleep and be patient and kind to yourself. You are in a very intense situation. Give yourself credit for where you are handling things well. Look at relatives and friends you could stay with, or even the possibility of moving out before the divorce is finalised.
And please, please, get some support for yourself and your kids. We all need an objective outside person who can help us to process what we’re going through and give a different perspective on things. As they say, “a problem shared is a problem halved”!
Take time for reflection
Firstly, consider the “good” that has come out of this relationship
Look at how you have grown or what you have learned from being in this situation. Have you become stronger; learned to put boundaries in place; got on top of your finances; connected with other people; found your independence; defined your goals? Keep brainstorming anything positive that has come out of the negativity and all the things your partner has done. How has it helped you and your kids?
Secondly, go and look at all the negatives of having a purely positive life
Look at how challenges help us to grow and what growth you would have missed out on if things had just been easy going. Look at how little you would appreciate the good if that was all there was.
I understand that this is not an easy exercise to do, but if you are able to do it it will help to change your perspective on what is good and bad, and help you not to seek only positivity and fear negativity. In the long run this will actually help to give you a more balanced and realistic life for yourself and your children.