Coping in the early days

8min read

The initial stages of a divorce or separation can be a very painful and a challenging time. Not only are you grieving for the loss of your relationship and coming to terms with this, but you are expected to continue with your day-to-day life, such as work and looking after your children.

Key Points:

  • It is natural to feel isolated or lonely as you experience such a huge change in your life
  • Prioritise the wellbeing of your children by maintaining a routine and calm environment
  • If you can, lean on your friends and family as they can provide support and understanding

In the early days of a separation

The initial stages of a family breakdown can feel like an emotional haze and a bit like being on autopilot. You may feel a mixture of emotions, including shock, anger, hurt or even relief. It is important to accept that this is a very natural part of the process of moving forwards, and it will take time.

As hard as it is, it is a case of taking each day as it comes without setting yourself unrealistic goals or expectations. It is common for your emotions to be up and down, and no two days may be the same for a while. 

You may get tired of hearing that time is a great healer but there is a lot of truth in this even though it is the last thing you may feel when in the middle of such a horrendous time. As time passes, things may start getting a little easier as you start accepting and managing your new normal.

Understanding the impact

Separation can have a significant impact on both parents, both emotionally and practically. A separation can disrupt a parent’s sense of identity as their role and responsibilities may change significantly.

It is natural to feel isolated or lonely as you experience such a huge change in your life. In some situations, it may mean moving home, perhaps leaving behind friends and family, which can add to the stress you are feeling.

The stress of separation can have a negative impact on your overall wellbeing, and you may experience sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, and physical health issues.

Needing to adjust to being a single parent and co-parenting can involve navigating new routines, decision making processes and parenting styles. This can be particularly challenging as it can be a huge transition. It is also common to feel a sense of relief especially if there has been conflicts or sadness in your relationship.

Coping in the early days

If you can, lean on your friends and family as they can provide support and understanding. They may be able to provide a listening ear to help you express how you are feeling, gain perspective and develop coping strategies.

Taking time to heal and adjust to new circumstances can contribute to a healthier and more fulfilling life for both parents and children. Use the separation as an opportunity for personal growth and self-reflection, reflect on lessons learnt from the relationship and explore ways to develop personal strengths, set new goals and build up your resilience.

Prioritise the wellbeing of your children by maintaining a routine and calm environment. Encourage open communication with your co-parent and try to keep to routines and rules as consistent as possible. Putting children’s needs first can help parents stay focused on their responsibilities and minimise conflict.

Managing anger during a divorce or separation

Feeling angry and resentful can be a very natural part of the process of moving forwards. When anger takes hold, you may feel signs such as a quickening heartbeat or a knot in your stomach. If you can recognise these signs before the anger takes hold then you can try to change the way you react.

If you can recognise the symptoms of anger then you can do something about it.  If you feel that things are getting heated removing yourself from a situation will give you some breathing space and allow things to calm down. You can then take a quick breather for a few minutes..

If you feel unable to speak to your ex-partner because things may escalate, think about writing a letter or an email where you have time to think about what you want to say, and how you say it. Keep a diary, as it’s a great way to express how you are feeling, and it will avoid you bottling up your emotions.

Try to avoid “bad mouthing” your ex in front of your children. Think about the effect this could have on them if they overheard what you were saying.  You don’t want your children being placed in a situation where they feel as though they have “divided loyalties” because they know you are so upset. Think about the example you are setting your children. If they see you behave aggressively and angrily they might think this is normal and it could have a knock-on effect later in life.

If you feel that you can no longer manage your anger speak to your GP.  There might be some anger management sessions that you could attend to help you with this.

Why self-care is crucial

In the early days, it is important to be kind to yourself and take each day as it comes. If you want to give your children what they need from you, you need to look after yourself too. You cannot do your best for your children and cope with a separation if you are running on empty or feeling anxious. The first step is to admit to yourself that you actually have feelings and needs of your own and recognising what they are. It may help to write down how you feel in a journal, so you have an outlet to express your feelings.

Prioritise your self-care by taking care of yourself, physically mentally, and emotionally. Resource yourself with some much needed ‘me time’. Try to add self-care into your routine, even if it is just 10 minutes a day. It can be a good book, a box set, an outdoor walk, exercise or perhaps some mindfulness or meditation to help recharge your batteries.

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting.