Breaking up is famously hard to do, but sadly it’s a fact of modern life and in reality it probably really is better than two people sticking in a relationship which has clearly run its course “for the children”.
When there are children involved, the law will put their needs right at the forefront during any divorce proceedings and, hopefully, both parents will do likewise.
It is, however also important to remember that parents need to take care of themselves in order to be able to take care of their children and that this includes their mental health as well as their physical health.
This can be particularly true for dads as they are often the ones who move out of what was the family home and have to deal with the notorious stress of moving home as well as the stress of the divorce and of becoming a “live-out dad”.
With that in mind, here are five tips on how dads can stay positive during divorce (which will also apply to unmarried couples with children who are going through a break up).
Get your employer on your side
You may want to keep it private that you are going through a divorce, but there is a big difference between telling your employer and telling your workmates.
If necessary you can usually bypass your line manager and go direct to HR, although in reality it may be helpful for your line manager to know your situation.
Most employers will be sympathetic and will do what they can to help, especially these days when employers, by and large, are becoming more aware of the importance of being able to balance work with family responsibilities.
Tell the people who need to know on your own terms
It may sound brutal, but in these days of the internet in general and social media in particular, it is probably going to be extremely difficult to keep rumours about your divorce out of general circulation for any length of time, especially not once you actually move out of the family home (in fact from that point on, you should probably take it as impossible).
Beat the internet gossips by telling the people who need to know on your own terms. This will be best for them and you.
Work on your physical fitness
There is a strong link between physical health and mental health so make time to work on your physical wellbeing (or to keep working on it if you are already active).
Even if money is tight, there are many and various affordable ways to exercise regardless of whether you prefer to work out alone or as part of a group, at home or at a gym or outdoors.
If you are already a gym-goer and are thinking of giving up your membership to save cash, then make sure that you are being honest with yourself that this is the real reason (and not that you are making an excuse for losing motivation) and then make an informed decision about what it was you liked about the gym and how you could either take that with you or recreate it in another way.
For example, if you have your gym buddies, you can give them your contact details and keep in touch socially in another way, then use some of the money you saved on your gym membership to join an online gym class while exercising at home.
Keep eating properly
This is really picking up from the above point. Our eating habits can be massively influenced by our emotions, some people comfort eat, others lose their appetite.
Practicalities can play a role too, if you’ve moved out of the family home then your kitchen facilities may not be what they were and if you’re rushing about trying to navigate your way around a new routine, then it can be only too easy to skip meals or turn to junk food.
Compromising your diet can compromise both your physical and mental health so do your level best to eat the way you’d like to see your children eat.
The same comments apply to what you drink, excess alcohol is obviously to be avoided but you also want to steer clear of excess caffeine and of excess fizzing drinks especially of the sort which are advertised as energy drinks.
Consider some form of therapy to help you manage your emotions
Therapy can range from buying downloadable guided meditations (from reputable sources) to visiting online forums, to going to real-world support groups to having one-on-one sessions with a counsellor or therapist.
In fact, you may opt for a combination of any or all of the above depending on your situation, needs and wants. If budget is an issue, then your local GP may be able to help as mental health is now much more of a priority than it used to be.
Keep your eyes on the prize of maintaining a good relationship with your children
You’re breaking up with your ex not with your children. You will always be your children’s dad and nothing can ever change that. Keep this thought front and centre in your every decision and every action.
Hard as it may be, try to focus on what you can do rather than dwelling on what you can’t.
For example, instead of smarting over the fact that you cannot be there in person to read your children a bedtime story and then kiss them goodnight, focus on the fact that you can still read your children a bedtime story over the internet.
Nobody’s pretending that this is as good as being there in person, but it is a whole lot better than nothing and men who have to work away from home (for example members of the armed forces) often maintain good relationships with their children even when they’re at a distance by making sure that they are in regular contact with their children and playing a meaningful role in their lives.
About Karim Assad
Karim Assaad is a partner in the Family Department of Fletcher Day.
Fletcher Day have an experienced team of family solicitors in London who specialise in divorce, civil partnerships, prenuptial agreements and financial settlements.