As a divorced parent, the winter holiday season can be one of the most difficult to handle with your ex. Not only can the holidays bring up a lot of emotions about the past and present, but it’s a time when you and your ex may want to spend as much time as you can with your kids and your divorce makes that difficult. Here are some tips for splitting up the holidays with your kids and making the most of the time you have together:
Stick to Your Schedule
When you are co-parenting with your ex spouse, scheduling is everything. Not only is sticking to your schedule most likely part of your custody agreement, but it provides routine and normalcy for your children. Even if your ex has recently remarried and wants to extend his or her holiday time to incorporate his new in-laws, it’s important to stick to the schedule.
If you’re open to flexibility, talk with your child and see what he or she wants to do and don’t try to persuade him or her to make a decision based upon your personal feelings. If changes are made to your schedule, make sure that it’s balanced during another holiday season or another time of the year. Additionally, don’t forget to keep your kid in the loop about any changes that are made.
Practice Gratitude and Positivity
The holidays can be a difficult time of year for everyone, not just divorcees. Although you may have less than pleasant thoughts about your ex and your situation, it’s important to make your children the center of your joy and attention. When you spend time with your kids, practice gratitude and try to be positive. Avoid bad mouthing your ex or getting in an argument over the phone or face-to-face if your kids are present. Remember, you may not love (or even like) your ex anymore, but your child still loves his or her other parent; respect his or her feelings.
Create Your Own Tradition
If you only have your child during part of the holiday season, make the most of your time together. Did you used to have a tradition of decorating the tree or lighting the menorah, as a family? Just because your family size has changed, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue traditions. In fact, many kids get excited knowing that they have special traditions with each parent.
Competition between parents is ugly and can be damaging for your kids. If you are a gift giving family, don’t try to outdo one another. A good idea, if you and your ex are amicable, is to see if you can purchase something big (like a bike or computer), together. Don’t try to be the “better” parent, you are wonderful just as you are.
Take Care of Yourself
When your children are spending holiday time with your ex, don’t forget to take care of yourself. The holidays can feel really lonely, but if you surround yourself with support and spend time with family and friends, you are less likely to feel alone and sad about your situation.
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There is divorce. And then there is divorce. The first preserves as much wealth as possible for the sake of the children: the second can be quite ugly, preserving nothing but bitter memories.
Then there is another kind of divorce. It’s called a Clean Break Order, and it occurs when mediation fails.
But first, what is mediation?
According to the Divorce Conference, mediation is the way to resolve the issues surrounding divorce, which can otherwise be both confusing and overwhelming, leaving participants (and their growing children) emotionally, mentally, physically and financially drained.
Divorce is hard on all of the above, emotions and finances most of all. Those of us who endured the process before mediation took center stage wish we had had someone there to virtually hold our hands during every step of the process.
If you are considering divorce, you can have that support, and having it may mean the difference between permanent alienation between parents and/or partners, and an ongoing relationship in which the primary focus is nurturing the children produced by that relationship.
What mediation can and can’t do
Successful mediation during a divorce can allow parents to achieve an emotionally healthy relationship as they transition to new stages in their lives and, potentially, new partners.
More important, mediation offers a private venue to work out differences, unlike litigation, which is very public and sometimes devastating to one parent or the other – or to the children involved.
However, mediation can’t resolve issues between two people who come to the table, virtually speaking, without knowing exactly what is needed for each to continue on a stable and fruitful path to the future.
Any decision made during mediation that leaves out essential financial or visitation details, or favors one partner as opposed to the other, is likely to be challenged in court as having been arrived at under duress. When this happens, all the time, effort and money spent is lost.
Even where mediation is successful …
Couples should consider the Clean Break Order, which means that each partner’s financial affairs are completely severed from each other.
This is useful in the event that one half of the former partnership becomes inordinately successful and wealthy, as happened with both Nigel Page and Dale Vince.
Both were sued, and successfully, as long as 30 years after their divorce, for a percentage of their fortunes. In Page’s case, the settlement of £2 million was the result of a lottery winning. Vince, who later made his fortune in wind turbines, paid his ex-wife out of his £100 million fortune, so likely was not severely hampered financially, but the back support for an ex-wife and child from that marriage no doubt stung emotionally.
Up until recently, such options as mediation and the Clean Break Order were not available to divorcing couples, who had to make do with parsing out annuities, pensions and retirement funds.
Today, finances can be cleanly separated, meaning under-age children will be supported until their majority, and homemakers provided with alimony, until such time as the children are no longer vulnerable members of society and the wife and mother off on a career of her own.
Sadly, at this point the Clean Break Order law applies only in the United Kingdom, where such orders allow the circumscribing of wealth. Hopefully, the United States will soon see the wisdom of this procedure, and institute similar laws.
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Post-divorce, it is important to be with your children to reassure them that you will be there for them, even if the rest of the world seems to have abandoned them.
Children need stability, and it’s your job to provide it. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be there all the time, 24/7. In fact, doing so may make your offspring feel that life is even more uncertain than it already is. This can result in older offspring (and adults) who are so paralyzed by uncertainty, or separation anxiety, that they can’t even make their own decisions.
Post-Divorce Smother Mother/Helicopter Parenting
One reputable source calls this behavior “Smother Mother”. You could also call it “Hover Mom”, or the more fashionable term “helicopter parent”. By any name, this 24/7 on-call behavior results in the exact opposite of the behaviors divorced parents strive for when practicing the three R’s: routine, ritual and reassurance.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to take care of your kids is take care of yourself, especially post-divorce. This includes finding ways to reverse your own feelings of worthlessness and abandonment in the wake of divorce. Because if you can’t survive the crisis emotionally intact, your kids won’t, either. They need you to become whole in order to do the same.
As an adult, you need the company of other adults to continue to mature and evolve. We see it in the animal world all the time: when the offspring are past a certain vulnerable age, parents rejoin the herd. This is safer both for the children and for their parents, and this is true whether you are an elephant or a human. In fact, we could learn much from animal behavior about healthy offspring, if only we would learn to study it.
For human parents and caregivers, whether male or female, it’s important to get back out in the world: doubly important if you have been a homebody all your married life (with the result that your one-dimensional self may have contributed to the divorce in the first place).
Find a new friend – preferably one completely unlike the ones you have had up to now. Volunteer at a hospital, nursing home, or handicapped care center – anything that will put you back in touch with other adults whose lives are equally complex.
If all else fails, take up a new hobby. Whatever you choose, makes sure that it puts you first for at least a few hours a week. If it adds another dimension to your personality – like the ability to throw a pot, care for a cancer patient, or dialogue with the learning/speech disabled – even better.
Giving Back As Good As You Get
The best part of getting out and interacting with the world again (or at least in new ways) is that – when you are around your children (at mealtimes or helping with homework, or the thousand other interactions that make you a parent), you will really engage them.
Nothing is more boring than talking to good old mom. Ask any newly fledged, 24-year-old entrepreneur with an exciting new job. That phone call, and subsequent conversation, is like trying to negotiate a combined minefield/quicksand pit.
As attorney and freelance writer Christina Pesoli notes, Smother Mother (SM) is boring! A one-dimensional creature whose repertoire of facts covers healthy food, germs, and little else, SM has spent so much of her life wrapped up in being wife and mom that no one wants to be around her. It’s like a conversation with a robomarketer.
Get out. Get going. Get back to the real world. Then see your own strength and fullness filling your children, and giving them memory banks from which to draw when they have tough times later in life.
As Ann Landers (writing the column as “Dear Abby”, and author of “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee”) once said: “It isn’t what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”
And isn’t that the goal?
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Divorce is one of the most difficult experiences anyone could ever go through. It’s learning to embrace a new life on your own after building it with someone else. You were once the other half of someone, and now you’re on your own. In many ways divorce is like mourning a death. You go through all of the stages of grief, anger, and denial. Although divorce is difficult, and even traumatic, it doesn’t have to mean the end of you.
Set a new path for your single self!
The truth is that in a marriage you can sometimes invest a lot of yourself to the point of losing your identity and sense of self. Many couples find that after experiencing the pain, loss and grief of divorce they begin to explore new things. Divorce for some is an opportunity for a fresh start in life. Like any fresh start, you want to make sure that you approach the new season of your life smoothly. Divorce is a tough transition.
Stay away from triggers
Watching a romantic movie involving other couples loving on each other in public can be difficult as you’re now navigating a life on your own. Finding yourself laying on an empty bed you once shared with the person you loved deeply can be emotionally devastating. Invest in your well-being and be kind to yourself as you move forward in life. Make new goals for yourself.
Some practical tips to make the single transition smoother
Divorce is already a difficult thing to deal with. You want to approach your new life by eliminating anything that will trigger pain and negative emotions. Consider releasing some things and adding newness to your life.
Get rid of any memorabilia. Having pictures of your ex around will not help you heal and move forward.
Care for yourself as a single person. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself and your needs. A broken heart and relationship can lead to health issues. Avoid thinking too deeply about the relationship. Consider seeking therapy to help you heal and release the past.
Explore new hobbies. Being single again can open the door to self-exploration. Are there things that you gave up during your marriage? Perhaps there were parts of you that were placed on a shelf. Don’t be afraid to go revisit some of the things and places you once enjoyed. You may even want to start new hobbies. Embrace your new life as an adventure and not a tragedy.
Avoid Dating Right Away Rebound relationships are never the answer after you have undergone a divorce. Take the time you need to heal and mend. Get to know yourself in this new season. Instead of focusing on romantic relationships and going back to the dating scene, why not invest in your friendships.
Journal your thoughts. If you’ve never journaled before you may want to begin now. Writing down what you feel can be very cathartic and provide a platform for healing. Write a letter to your ex explaining everything you feel. Write a letter to yourself. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel during that time and learn to release the emotions later.
Seek out a healthy future
If you’re experiencing depression after your divorce you want to seek out counseling to deal with the grief and anger that you are feeling. Divorce is like a death, and you’ll have a time of mourning. It’s the end of a dream you once had. It’s saying goodbye to plans that you once had and rearranging a life that only includes you and perhaps children.
One of the greatest things that you can do for yourself after a divorce is to forgive yourself. Remember that the relationship you were in involved two people. If there are areas that you feel that need mending, or you’re experiencing guilt, grief and depression, seek out help to navigate those emotions. Make being healthy and whole if your goal.
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Whether you and your spouse recently divorced over the summer or you’re just trying to adjust to a new school year after a summer with your children, going back to school can be a difficult and stressful transition for both you and your kids. Despite the feelings you have for your ex or how the two of you get along, healthy co-parenting should be one of your number priorities. Here are some tips for adjusting to a new school year:
Meeting the Teacher
If you have a younger child, grade school aged in particular, it’s a good idea to meet with his or her teacher prior to the start of the school year. Whether you have a parent teacher conference or request a short meet and greet, take the opportunity to speak with your child’s teacher about your situation (divorced and/or shared custody). Even if you’ve been divorced for a few years, your child may still be adjusting to the change and as a result may “act out” or have some emotional challenges. There’s no need to give specific details about the divorce or use it as an opportunity to trash talk your ex, just talk to your child’s teacher about details that are pertinent to your child.
If you want to be in the know about important school events and information from the teacher, you are responsible for sharing your contact information with the school and teacher. When you meet with your child’s teacher, make it clear that you would like to receive information and be included on any e-mails, etc. that are sent out to the other parent. Do not rely on or expect that your ex will speak on your behalf. Additionally, avoid putting your child in the middle (and responsible for playing messenger) between you and your ex or with his or her teacher.
Work on Transitions and Routines
Divorce can be difficult on everyone, but it’s important to think about your child and how he or she may be feeling, especially when a new schedule change occurs such as embarking on a new school year. Whether you share custody with your ex during the week or on the weekend, always make sure that your child knows the schedule. If your child is involved with extracurricular activities and your ex shares carpooling duties with you, make sure your child knows who will be picking him or her up. Give your child information that will make him or her feel in control and what to expect.
Often times, once a custody agreement is put into place there’s little room for flexibility or change, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a little flexible. If your child, for example, had a tough day at school and wants to take to the other parent, allow him or her to do so or even suggest a Skype call. Encourage your child to have open communication with you about anything and if necessary, consider having your child attend a support group specifically designed for children of divorce or help him or her find someone he or she can talk to about the divorce (if it’s not you).
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Once upon a time, when a couple no longer wanted to live as man and wife, they would file for divorce, quibble over who gets the Beemer or the season tickets, and eventually reach a compromise. Or not. In which case everyone suffered, especially the children, because divorce is expensive – litigation even more expensive – and the primary caregiver (the wife and mother) often came out second best. However this may be true, there is also mediation.
According to a recent study, these hardships were not only financial, but emotional, mental, and social as well. After a divorce, two thirds of children typically found themselves in the bottom half of the family income scale, or worse. The impact of this sudden poverty was immeasurable. As adults, these children of divorce were only half as likely to find work, or to have the qualifications needed for skilled, good-paying positions.
Today, divorcing couples can hire a divorce mediator. This person, typically trained in law, mental health, or conflict resolution, will help achieve a settlement – with or without a lawyer.
The concept is fairly new, but also a long time coming. Most lawyers can arrange an equitable legal settlement, but few are trained in crisis counseling, and that is what a divorce represents. In fact, in some instances of bad feeling, it may resemble a hostage negotiation.
Most important, litigation is costly. For couples trying to preserve as many assets as possible for starting a new life or raising children, saving the cost of a lawyer – or two – can mean the difference between a successful separation and one doomed to failure.
What Makes a Good Mediator?
Choosing a mediator can be complicated and time-consuming, but the effort is worth it. Failure to reach an agreement means divorcing couples have to start over from square one, including all the costs associated with that fiasco.
Before choosing a mediator, ask:
For educational background in law, mental health, or conflict resolution
For familiarity with your state’s divorce laws
For ongoing education/training in the field, or associated fields
For length of experience, and the number of mediations during that period
For the cost per hour or per session
For a sliding scale payment plan, or a free introductory consultation
For an explanation of his/her mediation style
What Can a Good Mediator Accomplish?
A good mediator doesn’t take sides, offer advice, or act as a lawyer. A good mediator does keep the negotiations on track by reducing bickering and point out the ultimate objective to each party. This may be as simple as an amicable settlement, or as complex as wealth preservation for the sake of the children, often through lowering a potential tax liability.
Moreover, mediation is voluntary, whereas legal divorce is adversarial. Either spouse can withdraw from mediation at any time, and this helps reduce the pressure to resolve issues. A mediator can also withdraw, but most will persist unless the couple simply cannot agree.
The main advantage of mediation is that it keeps you and your spouse in control of your own divorce. That can make all the difference in your recovering from your divorce and moving on with your life. Mediation allows the two of you to get through your divorce with less conflict than you would experience in an adversarial divorce.
Everything that divorce entails can bring on intense levels of stress. It’s a break up at its most extreme. Not only are you in the middle of emotional turmoil – sometimes it can be forgotten how in love you once were with the person you’re divorcing – but you have to deal with the legalities of the split. Coming to the decision with your partner that separating is the best thing for each of you can be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll face. The entire process can be physically and emotionally exhausting, so how do you stay sane? Here are 5 tips for keeping your cool and staying as relaxed as possible throughout the process.
Anticipate and understand that this period of your life will be a major transition. It can be scary to think about, but if you’re ready for it and prepared to take it on it won’t seem quite so terrifying. Look at this time in your life as an opportunity for change and growth, as well as the chance to create a new life that works for you.
Exercise & Eat Right
This is the perfect time for you to really hone in on what it is that you need. Create a lot of time and space so you can exercise and stay active. Do what you enjoy – run, practice yoga or go to the gym. Focus on what makes you happy. Eat lots of fruits & veggies – try to eat less heavy foods that can weigh you down. Let yourself feel light and free!
Know That You’ll Have Conflicting Emotions
Realize that it’s totally normal to have a lot of emotions about what’s going you. It’s okay to feel angry or frustrated or sad. You might feel anxious about what’s going to come of the future. Know that giving yourself time to heal is the best medicine. These negative emotions will lessen over time.
Share Your Feelings
Don’t go through this alone! Talk to your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to communicate with them about how you feel. Find a friend who you trust and who listens well. Share your thoughts, worries and fears. Talking things out and hearing what trusted friends and family have to say can really put things into perspective.
Explore Your Interests
This period of time is all about you! Think about life before your spouse – what did you enjoy doing? What are some things you really loved, but when you entered your relationship you didn’t seem to have as much time for them any more? Really think about what your hobbies and interests are, and devote some time to them. Reclaim your life and who you are!
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Divorce can sometimes be a messy business. When two people have interwoven their lives so deeply, it can be difficult to untangle everything if the time comes. Knowing how to separate the strands that make up each person’s individual life can be tricky. For some, court litigation is hands down the way to go – perhaps due to a history of domestic violence or a fear that it may go down that path. For others interested in an alternative to litigation, mediation may be a good option. So if you’re not interested in court litigation, how can mediation help?
It Provides You With A Neutral Party
Finding a mediator that works for you and your spouse or domestic partner means finding a neutral party. It can be helpful simply to have someone present to help you work through your differences as far as ideas about property division or custody of your children. Mediators can provide a listening ear and guide the conversation down a path that’s productive. Having that buffer there means you may be able to talk through issues and come to an agreement more easily.
It Opens The Pathway For Communication
Similarly, using a mediator to help work through your differences as opposed to going in front of a judge provides a great place for you and your partner to communicate openly. The mediator will not force either party into making any specific decision; he or she is just present to help you work through issues in a way where everyone can come to an agreement. Communication is key, and you often don’t get that in a courtroom.
It Keeps Things Private, Not Public
Just because the two of you have been unable to come to an agreement on certain issues until this point, does not mean you have to take your problems in front of a judge. Sometimes this can make the situation even more frustrating and hostile than it may already be, leading to even more unproductive conversation.
It Can Minimize The Overall Negative Impact
If you have children, this point can be especially crucial. Tying in with the idea that mediation opens the pathway for communication, it can greatly minimize the negative impact that it might have on your children as well as your relationship with your spouse. Keeping things amicable is important, especially if kids are in the picture. You know you’ll have to communicate with this personal regularly if this is the case, so why not try to keep it civil? The more emotional trauma you or your kids take away from this situation, the more the situation has an upper hand on you and your life. Don’t let divorce win!
If you think a mediator may be a good fit for you and partner, stay open and honest and you can come out of this even healthier emotionally than you were when you began the process.
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Divorce is a process that often stirs up a variety of bittersweet emotions. For couples without children, once the divorce is finalized there’s rarely a need to stay in contact and it’s easier to move forward in life. However, a divorcing couple with children often face the challenge of how to co-parent without letting their personal feelings and issues interfere with raising their children with their ex. If you are struggling to have a healthy co-parenting relationship with your ex, here are some tips to ensure that your child’s well-being remains a priority:
The Benefits of Healthy Co-Parenting
Parents make their children one of their top priorities and while most parents are well-intentioned, the unfortunate reality behind divorce is that some children end up feeling tossed around, split in two, and are forced to act as a mediator between feuding parents. While the moments during and shortly after a divorce can be rocky, it’s important to think about how healthy co-parenting can benefit children. If you and your ex have both been given shared custody of your children, keep in mind some of the benefits of co-parenting:
- Children develop feelings of stability and are less likely to feel abandoned.
- Children are allowed to be children, rather than a social and emotional companion for their parents.
- Children can continue to have a good relationship with both of their parents and parents are able to focus on strengthening and improving their relationship with their children.
Be Available to Your Child
A divorce can leave you struggling with some intense emotions and while it’s important to work through some of your issues, make sure that you are always available to your child. Although it’s likely that you and your ex already sat down and explained the divorce to your child, don’t assume that all of his or her questions are answered and even though you may want to move forward, understand that your child may need more time. When talking with your child about the divorce, keep it neutral, don’t trash talk your ex, and focus on how you can help your child with his or her feelings.
The Importance of Communicating
While the last thing you may want to do is keep in contact with your ex on a regular basis, communication is key in regards to your child. Don’t make major decisions for or about your child (such as education, religion, extracurricular activities) without talking with your ex first. Failure to communicate can be toxic for your co-parenting relationship and will ultimately affect the wellbeing of your child. Keep your conversations with your ex professional, stay on task, focus on your child, and avoid using language that sounds accusatory.
Be on the Same Page
You and your ex may disagree on many things, but in order to have a healthy co-parenting relationship, the two of you need to agree on things related to your child. Even if you disagree with what your ex is saying, hear him or her out before arguing. While it’s likely that you won’t agree on everything, try to find a middle ground and be consistent. Many divorced couples end up competing with one another and try to be a “good” or “fun” parent. Keep in mind that children do better with a routine and if your child is sharing time between you and your ex, a healthy co-parenting relationship will benefit your child as he or she work through and adjusts to his or her new life transition.
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Valentine’s Day is a loved and loathed holiday. It’s over commercialized, there’s pressure to buy expensive gifts, flowers, chocolates, and finding the perfect card that expresses exactly what you feel. Some couples get into Valentine’s Day and see it as the perfect way to reiterate their expressions of love, while many single people would rather ignore the day all together.
If you are newly divorced, your first Valentine’s Day as an unmarried person may stir up a lot of emotions. You may feel free, you may feel relieved, or you might feel totally bummed out. If you’re dreading Valentine’s Day, there are numerous ways to get through it and you may even end up enjoying the day:
Don’t Dwell On the Past This Valentine’s Day
Were the Valentine’s Days of your past horrible or were they fairytale material? Regardless of how Valentine’s Day used to be, it’s important to focus on the present. This is your time to change the way you feel about Valentine’s Day. While there’s an overwhelming pressure to celebrate your love for a significant other or even finding your soulmate, people often overlook the general celebration of love. Valentine’s Day should be a day where you celebrate the love you have for family members, your children, friends, and even yourself. You are in control about how you choose to view Valentine’s Day, make the best of it.
Celebrate Love & Treat Yourself
Don’t wait and wish for someone to buy you flowers or other tokens of love and appreciation. This is a day to treat yourself and celebrate self-love. Buy yourself your favorite chocolates, a bouquet of flowers, or the latest tech gadget you’ve had your eye on. Don’t feel guilty or feel undeserving, everyone deserves a little something and you are no different.
Have Kids? Have a Special Date with Them
If you are feeling emotionally raw this Valentine’s Day, don’t forget about how your children might be feeling. Kids will often hide their emotions, particularly if they sense that their parents are bummed out. Consider putting aside your own feelings and focus on making the day extra special with your children. Whether you make homemade Valentines for family and friends or go out to eat and see a movie, forget about all the negative feelings you have about your divorce and focus on the love you have for your children.
Spend the Day with Friends
You may be tempted to spend the day at home, alone, but unless you plan on doing something productive you’re likely to feel lonely and upset. Rather than having a pity party for one, call up your friends and go out to dinner or host a gathering at your house. Remember, you don’t need to be in a relationship to appreciate and love others. Tell your friends how much you appreciate them and show your gratitude for the support they have given you during a difficult transition.
Pay it Forward
Even if it feels like you are the loneliest person on the planet, you aren’t. Sometimes one of the best ways to get out of a “I hate this day” funk is to perform random acts of kindness. Buy a big bouquet of flowers and hand a flower out to each person you pass on the street. Buy bags of chocolates or other treats and give them to a nursing home facility or a food shelter. Your small token may brighten someone else’s Valentine’s Day.
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