Just Separate? What Now?
This might seem logical, after all we need oxygen to survive, but sometimes we can get so caught up in the emotion and the stress, that just taking a moment to breathe in deeply, hold it for a couple of seconds with your eyes closed, and breathing out, can make a difference.
Everyone knows about the ‘fight or flight’ response our body undergoes when it’s placed under high stress or imminent threat. So how do we alter this state if our everyday life is causing us HUGE amounts of stress, emotional heartache or worry?
Yep, that’s right, breathe.
Taking a deep breath in, holding it and exhaling has an effect on our body because it gives us a burst of oxygen. This causes our heart to beat slower, with less effort. More oxygen into our lungs and bloodstream interrupt’s the ‘fight or flight’ response and triggers our body to relax. Our brain then sends signals to different hormone producing organs which in turn means less stress hormones are released. Our liver and kidneys regain their normal function of controlling stress hormones and that ‘fight or flight’ response decreases and then stops.
2. Remember your children have a legal right to a relationship with BOTH their parents
This isn’t about you or your ex-partner. This is absolutely about your children. Regardless of their age, your children need both of you in their life. Losing your dreams for the future is devastating. Sharing time with your children might be the most difficult thing you ever do. It won’t come down to how much you love your kids, or how much their other parent loves your kids. It will totally depend on how well you can focus on the fact that in order to ‘be okay’, your children need to know it’s okay to love you AND their other parent.
This means not telling them about who is at fault for the separation or how awful the new girlfriend is or what a total cow their mother is for all the things she’s done to you. It’s about doing the exact opposite. It’s not driving off and bad mouthing their Dad because he kept them up late and now YOU have to deal with their exhaustion; or how their Mum seems to have a new piece of jewellery every single time you see her so you know exactly where the child support is going.
This is about saving those thoughts for your mates. If you need to organise to call a friend as soon as the kids are home so you have someone to unload on – do it! Just keep the call private and out of earshot of your children. They love you both. Even if one of you isn’t the best parent, your children still love you both.
You might know your kids better than him,
or you might do more with them than she does, but they love you both.
Make it okay for them to keep loving you both and do all you can to make sure they have enough time with both of you, to be able to learn how to rely on you, trust you, and know their needs will be met in both homes.
3. Get GOOD advice.
Don’t rely on what happened to your friends. Don’t listen to your mother or your cousin. Everybody’s situation is different. Call Centrelink for information about single parent benefits including Family Tax Benefit and Child Care Rebate. Call the Child Support Agency for advice regarding child support you might receive or have to pay. The Citizen Advice Bureau have legal information sessions and some lawyers offer free initial consultations. Consult with Legal Aid in your state.
If you’re going to listen to advice – ask friends, family and acquaintances which lawyer they used and if they would recommend them. The Family Court website has LOTS of information. There is information everywhere if you know where to look. You might even decide to start here and stay away from lawyers! Family Relationship Centre’s offer free or very low cost mediation – but you may have to wait up to 3 months to commence the process. Co-Parenting for Your Kids offer 4 hour fixed fee mediation for $895pp including pre-mediation education with very short wait times. Listen to the professionals as in MOST cases, they know what they’re talking about!
4. Listen to your body
If you’re tired and you need to sleep – do it. Drink lots of water and eating healthily is always a clever choice.
As much as you can, steer clear of alcohol and other less productive ways of occupying your time or covering up your feelings.
It’s okay to be sad, or angry, frustrated, exasperated! It’s not okay to excessively drink, gamble or become physical with others. It’s not okay to hurt your ex just because you’re hurting. Set your phone to silent and activate Do Not Disturb so your evenings are quiet.
Remember – you want to be the best you can for your children – they’re taking their cues from you right now. If you’re angry and vengeful, they’ll learn how to be angry and vengeful.
Look after yourself so you can show up for your kids as the best possible parent you can be!
And if you’re sinking below the line, reach out! Lifeline is available, Beyond Blue, Veterans Counselling Service and Mensline are all here for YOU – not just that other fella who isn’t as strong as you, or that woman who needed a refuge.
Get the support you need because your children need the best YOU.
5. Then, when you’re ready …
When you’re ready to formally finalise the end of your relationship, don’t struggle through alone. Whether you need to decide who gets the house and how you’re dividing other assets or just need to agree on how the children will spend time with each of you – if you can’t agree, don’t ignore the problems, don’t argue and fight about it.
Start the mediation process sooner, rather than later.
If you’ve got unresolved issues, don’t let them fester until you can’t stand the sight of each other.
You want to be able to sit together at school graduations, you want both your names on the invitation to their wedding (John and Jill along with Maxine and Max, happily invite you to attend the wedding of … ) you want your kids to see the good in people and trust others enough to WANT to commit their life to someone else!
Keep your children out of your conflict by getting it sorted before it becomes a war. Mediation is your first step. Co-Parenting for Your Kids can support you right through the mediation process and afterwards as well. Pick up the phone and make the call.