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Divorce – Protecting Your Mental Health

PFA - couple in white roomNo one enters into a marriage expecting it to result in divorce.  That said, greater than twenty % of first marriages end in divorce within five years, and 48 percent of marriages end by the 20-year point.  This is according to 2006-2010 data from the government’s National Survey of Family Growth. Separation and divorce are emotionally difficult events, but it is possible to have a healthy breakup.

Cooperation, communication and mediation

You will like feel a flood of emotions from the end of a marriage.  These include anger, grief, anxiety and fear.  At times, these feelings will surface when you least expect it.  This is normal.  You will notice that the intensity of these feelings will subside. In the meantime, be kind to yourself.  Psychologists have discovered that people who are kind and compassionate to themselves have an easier time managing the day-to-day difficulties of divorce.

Try not to think of the divorce as a battle. Divorce mediation is often a good alternative to courtroom proceedings. Trying to resolve  things can be frustrating and self-defeating as the problems that contributed to your divorce are likely to re-emerge during divorce negotiations. Research shows that mediation can be beneficial for emotional satisfaction, spousal relationships and children’s needs.

Sitting down and speaking with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse may be the last thing you want to do, but cooperation and communication make divorce healthier for everyone involved.  Talking to a psychologist or other type of counselor can help you get your thoughts out in the open, and help you organize your thoughts.

When kids are involved

Divorce can be a traumatic experience for children, but research suggests that most children adjust well within two years following the divorce; on the other hand, children often experience more problems when parents remain in high-conflict marriages instead of splitting up. During a divorce, parents can do a lot to ease the child’s transition. Do your best to keep any conflict away from the kids. Ongoing parental conflict increases kids’ risk of psychological and social problems.

It’s often helpful for divorcing parents to come up with a strategy and present it to their children together. And, keep the lines of communication open. Kids benefit from having honest conversations about the changes their family is experiencing.

In many cases, sudden change can be hard on children. If appropriate, give them a few weeks’ notice before moving them to a new home, or before one spouse moves out.  You may benefit from minimizing changes as much as possible in the months and years following a divorce.

Children do better when they maintain close contact with both parents. Research suggests that kids who have a poor relationship with one or both parents may have a harder time dealing with family upheaval. Parent education programs that focus on improving the relationship between parents and their kids have been shown to help children cope better in the months and years following the divorce.

Taking care of your needs

The changes brought on by separation and divorce can be overwhelming. But now more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourself.  Lean on your support network, turning to family and friends for assistance and comfort. Formal support groups can also help you cope with the many emotions of a marriage ending.

To stay positive as you start a new chapter, try getting involved in activities you used to love but haven’t done in a while. Or try new hobbies and activities. Stay physically healthy by eating right and getting exercise.

How psychologists can help

Divorce is a challenging time for the entire family. Divorcing parents and their children can benefit from speaking to a counselor or psychologist to help them deal with their emotions and adjust to the changes. A psychologist can also help you think carefully about what went wrong in your marriage.  This can help you avoid repeating any negative patterns in your subsequent relationship.

The above appears in writings from the American Psychological Association.

For more, http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/

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