While child custody and deciding on where the children reside majority of the time, or half of the time; just remember there are two sides to the story even when lawyers and courts are involved. Unfortunately, the information gets muddled and somewhere in the mounds of documents, declarations, pieces of evidence, etc. lies the truth. It may be their version of the truth, but not the actual truth. Let’s take a look on how to go about taking care of yourself when dealing with child custody, possibly estrangement from your children and overall the dealings with our court systems brutality.
Research has proven staying out of courts is the best option. Possibly, settling through mediation, arbitration, or another mode other than court. Although preparation for mediation or arbitration can be stressful because this process is preparing parties for court; the process itself provides more control for both parties. This is the best option for most cases and can be resolved using these services mentioned above. However, there are parents that refuse to use alternatives to courts because ‘these parties’ believe they will win ‘only if the Judge/Commissioner’ hears ‘their’ side to the story. So, if alternative methods are not an option, let’s take a look at ways to maintain self care.
While caring for children, working full time, getting children to and from activities, friends, school, appointments, etc. isn’t enough; adding child custody fights brings on a whole new stress level. We all know self-care is important, but how do we take care of ourselves when we have enough day to day stress let along the battles in court?
Since I have been working with these child custody cases for over 20 years now, I have been able to find coping skills to help my clients weather the storm. Here are a few techniques, although they may seem little, that have been proven to reduce some stress and learn how to take care of yourself during these challenging times.
Remember, children are only young for 18 years and then they become adults. If you can close your eyes and visualize your child/children and see them now wherever they are in age and then at 18. Poof…that time is gone quickly. Spending quality time with your children is extremely important; it is not about the quantity. Your children will remember when you were at their little league baseball game in the rain, at their soccer game early in the morning, their band recital when it goes on for three hours after work, when you are there for the good and the bad; helping with homework projects, overall being with them in the present moment. This isn’t easy when you are dealing with the ugliness of family court.
Tips for self care:
1. Take time every day for yourself (even if only 30 minutes). This may include meditation, exercise, journaling, hot bath, deep breathing, drawing, listening to music, etc.
2. Seek out a therapist, coach, pastor to talk about how you are feeling. Talking to professionals can help keep you grounded.
3. Get enough rest and sleep. Yes, sleep is important all the time and especially during stressful times. When our cortisol levels decrease due to stress, we are prone to more illness, physical and emotional pain, and not able to process our feelings as well. Lack of sleep increases our inability to make good decisions, more hyper sensitive, easily startled, and so much more. Sleep is vital all the time. Especially during stressful times.
4. Spend time with friends and family who care about you. Shutting people out makes people feel isolated and alone. It’s always a positive endeavor when you meet with friends/family for dinner, go for a hike, meet for coffee, play games, etc. Stay connected to your loved ones.
5. Laugh…yes, laughing helps with stress. Watch funny movies, read funny memes, articles or books, etc.
6. Self talk; “everything will work out.” “This will come to an end.” Keep positive and know you are doing what you can during this process. Even when the demands are high and there are deadlines to meet, keep talking to yourself with positive affirmations.
Now it is time to put your self-care routine into action!
There are many ways to care for yourself. The six listed above have helped many parents I have worked with in the past and present. Divorce and child custody is not an easy time. Making time for yourself and spending quality time with others will help during this process. Additionally, your children are young for a short duration of their life; try not to waste it on the small stuff.
Written by Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC