The last couple of weeks in December offer an opportunity for many of us to look back at 2016 and set goals and resolutions for 2017. Losing weight, asking for a raise and eating better are some of the typical examples. However, if this time of year has you going through (or contemplating) divorce, chances are your goals for the year will look quite different. Here are some ideas for resolutions that will help you through this tough time.
1. Spend focused time with your children.
Children go through a rough patch during a divorce. While no approach will un-do the impact and the changes they have to deal with, quality time and meaningful contact with both parents goes a long way towards helping them adjust.
2. Pick your battles.
Interactions with certain family members can be stressful in the best of times. During your divorce, some relatives may overstep the boundaries by meddling, judging, trying to influence the outcomes, or prying into personal matters. My best advice is to pick your battles. Remember that you can choose when to engage and when to let go.
3. Don’t use negotiation time to resolve old fights.
Whether you are going through litigation, a mediated process or a collaborative divorce, time spent in conversation with professionals can be costly. You may be tempted to use the negotiation time as a stage for airing old disappointments and hurts. Resist it. Airing unresolved offenses in this way is ineffective and expensive. Instead, lean on your social support network or work with a trusted therapist or a divorce coach.
4. Set aside some time for yourself.
I know that finding time to relax and unwind can be difficult. However, a divorce is one of the most stressful life events one can go through – on par with death in the family or a devastating illness. Your body and your mind will need time to process the stress and recover. Honor the process, and carve out the time to do things that recharge you.
5. Start an exercise routine
This point is straight from the New Year’s resolution list of people not affected by the divorce process, but it is here for good reason. Physical activity has been shown to have considerable health and mood-boosting benefits. It can also give you a sense of being in control – priceless in a situation when your whole life has been turned upside down. Choose an activity you enjoy, pair up with a friend if necessary, and get moving!
6. Keep your financials top of mind.
Holidays and budgeting don’t always mix well, but now is a good time to get those numbers under control. Some of my clients are comfortable managing their finances, while others have historically relied on their spouse for all money-related questions. No matter what your starting point is, ignoring financial issues will only give them a chance to spiral out of control. Work with the neutral financial planner if you are going through a collaborative process. Otherwise, find a trusted specialist who can guide you around pitfalls and help you start the year with the information and tools you need to thrive.
Above all else, commit to making the divorce your priority until it is done. In my experience, active participation in the process is one key determinant of lower divorce costs and shorter timeframes to completion.