The importance of self-care has never been more evident than it is right now as we all struggle to find our own “new normal” during this COVID-19 crisis. As we look for help from medical professionals who literally stand between life and death, we witness their struggles to stay healthy so they can keep working on the front lines to protect us.
As a divorced parent, there have undoubtedly been many times that you have prioritized your children’s needs -- both physical and emotional -- over your own self-care. You tell yourself it’s what parents do. But as any flight attendant will tell you, you must first make sure your own “mask” is in place before you can help others with theirs.
Here are some steps you can take to become a better co-parent following a divorce:
Conduct a self-assessment.
Make a candid assessment of your own health in three key areas: mental, physical, and financial. Write down what you are doing to address each of these three areas, including things you are NOT doing but should be.
Assess your children’s mental and physical health.
In light of all the changes that have happened to your children because of the coronavirus, it can be helpful to focus them on a more certain future after mandated health measures end. Since children may be reluctant to discuss how they are feeling, you will probably need to be persistent in trying to draw them out. One benefit of having them at home is that you can introduce these topics casually while doing other things -- taking a walk, hanging out in the backyard, or making cookies. It is usually in the quiet spaces of doing other things that we find out the most from our children.
Assess your support system
During your divorce, you hopefully had the support of a small army -- family, friends, your attorney, a financial advisor, a therapist, etc. Now that the divorce is over, you still need a good support system to see you through. Identify any holes in your support system that need filling and seek out solutions.
Prioritize your needs.
Once you have identified your top needs, create a list of specific actions you need to take to meet those needs, including a timeline to keep yourself accountable.
Ask for help.
As parents, we do everything possible to meet our children’s needs but when it comes to meeting our own needs, we often fail to ask for the help we need. If you have a need that is going unmet -- whether it’s help for navigating a career change or simply an extra hand around the house -- make the decision to ask for what you need.
Do something for yourself every week.
Practicing self-care during a pandemic may feel strange, but it is still important to do at least one small thing each week that makes you feel better (or at least in better control). Even something as simple as taking a walk or reconnecting with an old friend can give you what you need to keep on keeping on.