Co-parenting

Creative Child Care Solutions As A Single Parent

It can be challenging juggling childcare as a single parent. The key is to have Plan B. Seems children get sick when a parent has a mandatory meeting or work project.   Enlist people ahead of time to be available in case of an emergency. Several parents I know have used up all of their stick leave on ill babies and toddlers. They learned the hard way to have someone on speed dial for that eventuality. Talk to a neighbour to see if they are able to be a last-minute fill in if your little one needs to come home from school. Possibly a friend who works from home can plug a childcare gap when you have to be on the job. You can reciprocate the favour another time.

If you have your own office it may be feasible to bring along an older child who is recovering. Pack books, art supplies and snacks. My insurance agent allows his secretary to have her son there after school every day while she does her tasks She has her boy go into the waiting area when a client needs to speak to her. Maybe you can make arrangements to work at home if your child has a stomach bug. Several offices permit older kids to take over the conference room during a bank holiday or short break. This helps the organizations to keep their employees on the job. Some hospitals and companies have nurseries, like the one I attended where my mother was a nurse. Ask co-workers how they are handling their childcare needs.

If you are able to negotiate with your co-parent, perhaps you can split up school holidays. Then neither one of you has to find childcare for the entire period. Some divorced people remain on good terms with former in-laws who are happy to babysit. They enjoy seeing the grandchildren and the single parent on a tight budget gets a break. In one case, a woman’s former mother-in-law watched her daughter and a divorced friend’s one also. The girls had great fun with that gran.

Talk to your friends and see if they are willing to share a nanny. Parents I know hired a caregiver who watches a group of children and rotates houses on a weekly basis. It is cheaper when more parents share a caregiver. I did this with my older son. One’s family can help out too. My mum did some of the school runs after my divorce.

If you and your friends are on flexible or different work schedules, consider watching each other’s kids. This also is helpful when you want a bit of time to yourself or to get errands done quickly. Check into what clubs or activities there are after school. Often, they are free or low cost. Scouts, sports and chess are a few of them. My mother sent me to sleep over or day camp when she wanted to pick up extra shifts as a nurse. Then she had a block of time to be off from the hospital to spend with me.

When married, I ran a medical practice plus was the nurse. Soon after my divorce I changed jobs within my profession that would better suit my childcare needs. I became a school nurse with a work schedule that coincided with my sons’ one. See if you can change jobs or tweak the one you already have. My solicitor that I hired for post-divorce issues, left the law office everyday by 4 pm to be with her young daughter. She returned e-mails or read documents when the girl was doing homework or in bed. Other people have been able to adjust their jobs to work part-time from home.

Your children’s teachers can be a resource for childcare. They are usually up-to-date on what is available in the community and may know individuals who babysit. There are web sites who post caregivers and their credentials. It seems like only a few months ago I was juggling childcare and now I have an Empty Nest.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

Marriage & Divorce Globally- A Statistical Comparison

Divorce

There’s nothing wrong with divorce and it shouldn’t be seen as a dirty word. The fact that it conflicts with various world religions’ teachings and traditions was a reason for prejudice surrounding divorce in the past. Thankfully in progressive society, although it is something never to be taken lightly and family values are still at the forefront in the world of parenting, divorce is an accepted option. No one deserves to be trapped in an unhappy marriage that may be affecting their children negatively as well.

Data from 2014 divulges divorce rates (divorce to marriage ratio) by country in an interesting and easily interpreted diagram here. What we can gather from this data is that the traditional view of religion or conservative religious belief holding marriages together and affecting divorce rates doesn’t always ring true. Chile is a religious country and consequently does have a very low divorce rate. However a predominantly Catholic country like Spain actually appears to have a much higher rate of divorce than the relatively secular Scandinavian counties. How divorce is perceived internationally is often dependent on a country’s societal and cultural attitudes not just religion. The research does have its limitations with information missing for various countries.

Further studies have shown that within the US the Bible belt doesn’t necessarily have lower rates of divorce in comparison with the rest of the country. Although the south-central and south eastern states have long been associated with the promotion of conservative views both politically and socially, the data suggests that divorce rates don’t correlate with the higher rates of religion in these areas.

Marriage

Findings amongst OECD countries show that the number of marriages in recent years is declining. This runs concurrently with the average age of people when they decide to marry increasing. In some countries it is common to marry at a much older age than others, this can be accounted for by the culture of prolonged co-habitation before marriage which is prominent in Scandinavia for example. This indicates that a decline in marriages isn’t automatically a bad thing! People taking further consideration before getting involved in a serious legal and loving engagement can be a sensible course of action.

Something to keep in mind when comparing global divorce and marriage statistics is that there is a big variance in divorce process, length, cost and procedure as well as varying stipulations which all affect the average marriage and divorce length and rates.

Divorce perceptions

Divorce will most likely always have a certain amount of taboo attached to it. A survey in the UK found that half of couples that divorce feel ashamed and a sense of failure, with women twice as likely as men to express these feelings. This can partly be attributed to the added and unequal societal pressure and expectation placed on women in these situations. I’ll go back to what I said earlier, nobody deserves to be unhappy or trapped and it doesn’t have to be somebody’s fault that things didn’t work out. You shouldn’t have to feel judged; frequently divorce is in the best interests of the whole family.

Some people will tell you that parenting only really starts post-divorce and it is certainly true that challenges occur when you begin parenting separately, sharing custody and co-parenting using two different houses. Not to mention when you start to design and agree on a custody schedule. There are plenty of resources available online and on this website to help you become accustomed to this new situation. Whichever country you reside in, if you are separating from your partner, don’t worry. Millions of people are going through the same process, you are not alone!

Krishan Smith, author of this article, is the new senior editor at Custody X Change, a custody software specialist company. He’s originally from the UK but now living in Colombia.

 

Parenting and Co-Parenting: Country Comparisons

Different approaches to child raising

Internationally there are always going to be differences in most aspects of life from culture to food, sport to conduct. Parenting is no exception, with a new culture comes a new perspective. With new perspectives come opportunities for learning and adaptation.

Many countries adopt a group parenting method, where extended family and more often than not close family friends collectively help look after and raise children. This usually occurs in countries where large close families are common but also where family time is of paramount importance. This includes countries such as Spain, Italy, Greece, India, Brazil and Colombia. The fact that internationally children are staying at home until a later age could actually aid this system and improve extended family relations, whilst hopefully instilling some responsibility in the otherwise dependent child!

Japan is interesting in that the idea of spoiling children is relatively foreign to the Japanese, co-sleeping is the norm and a baby’s cries are always responded to without fear of over-spoiling. They hold dear to the mantra of unconditional love whilst simultaneously managing to raise children who are more independent than in the majority of other countries. Children in Japan learn to make journeys and use public transport alone from a very early age!

Parental leave can be incredibly important for developmental bonding between parents and children. Scandinavian countries have long offered a system whereby mothers and fathers can share parental leave, something only recently adopted in the United Kingdom and relatively non-existent in the US (except in California). By contrast in Sweden fathers are said to have up to 480 days of paternity leave!

Single parent trends  

You can find some interesting data and statistics on general households and single parents in OECD countries here. The data sheds light on the position of the US in terms of single parent mother/father households in comparison to other developed nations. Amongst these nations Denmark and the United Kingdom have the highest percentage of single parent households with 29% and 28% respectively; the United States is just behind with 27%.

Single mother households always outnumber single father households; however the US has a relatively high number of single father households, according to the 2016 census 40% of these being due to divorce. Statistics show that sadly many of these single parent families are not receiving support from their ex-spouse. The good news is that these family situations are becoming more acceptable socially and prejudice/societal pressure is not as strong as it once was.

In summary   

There’s no perfect formula but don’t be afraid to seek inspiration globally for any parenting questions or issues you may have. Furthermore don’t overlook the importance of reaching an agreement with your ex-partner in regards to co-parenting. It may seem acceptable to keep this agreement verbal but later down the road you may come to regret this. Opinions change and disputes arise, it can pay to have certain points written down. Attorneys can help you draft these documents or you can use custody software to generate co-parenting agreements/schedules. If you’re divorced and looking to share custody of your child from different countries or areas of the world then mediation can help the situation. You need to reach key agreements, design a specific but flexible parenting plan and keep communication a central theme of your and your child’s relationship. This last point cannot be emphasized enough!

Krishan Smith, author of this article, is the new senior editor at Custody X Change, a custody software specialist company. He’s originally from the UK but now living in Colombia.

 

Teaching Your Kid to Be a Gracious Loser from Time To Time

smooth loserFrom their youngest days, you can see that kids are interested in winning. Whenever they play together, they find games to play involving a clear winner and a clear loser. Since we’ve learned in our adult years that winning is not always possible, it may be wise to help our children cope with losing from time to time. Many of the most successful people in the world overcame extreme difficulties, suffering loss after loss, never giving into the temptation to quit. Competition is a normal part of life. We compete in sports, academically, for jobs and promotions, even for love. We can teach our children to lose graciously so they can move forward in life pursuing their dreams instead of remaining stuck with feelings of failure.

The Role of Parents

Parents play an integral role in the lives of their children. From the moment our children are born, we’re teaching them all that we know about life: how to develop our talents and interests, how to deal with our feelings and emotions, and even everyday things as simple as the act of play. Our children will reflect the examples they are shown at home by their parents. If the parent becomes frustrated when experiencing loss, the child will pick up on the parent’s attitude and learn to reflect this behavior.

One way to set a positive example during situations where you child must deal with loss (either in sport or in life matters such as a parents divorce), open and frequent communication about the current circumstances can really help your child to internalize what is happening. This is admittedly easier when the end of the marriage is amicable. Both parents can model how to be a good sport and show kids that progress can be found even when certain things must come to an end.

The Art of Losing

There will be circumstances when kids will lose while their parent isn’t present. At recess, during play dates, in school, and away from home, children and teens will be presented with opportunities to win or lose. What should they do if perhaps a parent isn’t there to comfort them or guide them down a healthy emotional path? They will need to learn to be fair with each other as well as hold each other and themselves accountable to the rules that have been put in place. If they explode in anger at an unfair call, this could result in no longer being invited to participate. But if they’re generous, fair, and reasonable, other will recognize these traits and enjoy spending time with them in competition.

Demonstrating Good Sportsmanship

Kids can show good sportsmanship in the following ways

  • Play fair and do not cheat others or yourself.
  • Work hard during practice.
  • Be polite. Don’t trash talk.
  • Do your best without showing off.
  • Give others the opportunity to play even if you need to sit out.
  • Compliment your opponent after a loss or a win.
  • Follow the advice of your coaches.
  • Listen to officials. Wait until after the game to ask for clarification about a bothersome call.
  • Accept a loss and don’t blame others — including yourself.
  • Encourage your teammates by cheering even if you are losing.

If your child no longer enjoys the sport or starts to take it too seriously, it might be time for a break. Remind him or her you win in life by treating others kindly instead of being a poor sport.

Author of this article, Tyler Jacobson, enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative work. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn

Having Happier, Healthier Post-Divorce Holidays

Weathering the holidays after a divorce can be difficult for a newly-single parent. You’re trying to make sure the season is a fun, festive time for kids whose family photos will likely look a lot different this year than last, while possibly balancing the wants and needs of the other parent.  

But, even with all of those demands, it’s critical to take care of your own physical and mental health, particularly if the despair of divorce left you depressed. Here are some suggestions that could help you and your loved ones have a happier holiday season. 

Share the Season 

Under most circumstances, both divorced parents should share the joys of the season with their children. To make that as painless as possible for everyone involved, it’s important to set a schedule you can agree on and communicate clearly. Rather than visiting one another’s new homes — which may well be decked with holiday decorations you once shared, or sadly under-adorned — consider dropping off and picking up the kids on some neutral ground that’s festively festooned for the season.   

If the kids are staying with your ex for a while, make plans to spend time with others rather than going it alone. You may also consider joining a support group or signing up for volunteer opportunities. Doing for others will help keep you from dwelling on your divorce, according to Divorce Magazine. Studies have also shown that volunteering can lower depression, increase people’s sense of well being, and even lead to a longer life span. Experts say the positive effects could come from the good feelings volunteering creates, the increased social connections, or the simple act of getting off the couch.   

In addition to making time for others, you should devote some days to self-care. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, eating right, and exercising. Burning off some calories justifies some guilt-free holiday indulgences. Finding time during the hectic holiday season to work up a sweat and balancing good nutrition with an occasional slice of pie will also help boost your spirits without having the same effect on your weight.  

Watch the Weather 

If your mood declines with the temperature, don’t discount depression as a run-of-the-mill bout with the winter blues. It might be a case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). For most, symptoms start in the fall, stretch into the winter months, and become more pronounced as the season continues, according to the Mayo Clinic. Although it’s less common, spring and summer bring on seasonal affective disorder for some. In either case, symptoms could include changes in appetite or weight, sleep problems, and difficulty concentrating.   

Specifically, symptoms of fall- and winter-onset seasonal affective disorder could include:  

  • Oversleeping 
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates 
  • Weight gain 
  • Tiredness or low energy   

It’s normal to have some down days, especially after a life-changing event like divorce. But if you feel depressed for extended stretches and can’t get excited and motivated to participate in activities you typically enjoy, it might be time to seek help. This is especially true if your appetite and sleep habits have changed or if you indulge in alcohol to feel comfortable or relaxed. If you have persistent thoughts of death or suicide, it’s critical to call your doctor even if you haven’t experienced other signs of depression.    

After a divorce, you may feel as though you’re doing double duty as a parent during the holidays. But taking care of your own physical and mental well-being when you have so much to do for friends and family isn’t seasonal selfishness. Rather, it’s essential to helping everyone have a happier, healthier holiday season that will bring up warm memories for years to come. 

Author is Paige Johnson      Paige is a self-described fitness “nerd.” She possesses a love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast and avid cyclist.  website learnfit.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dealing with Vindictive Co-Parent

Divorce brings a whole new set of complications to parenting. Having to deal with an unreasonable or vindictive former spouse adds additional stress to the situation. It may not be possible to parent as a team and that is okay. Having a detailed Parenting Plan lessens the need to keep going back and forth on the small stuff. If anticipating that splitting up holidays will be a battle down the road, get that addressed in the Parenting Plan. Ours was very detailed which included the percent each parent paid for various medical, dental and other charges for our sons. My attorney also wrote an incredibly precise divorce decree, which was quickly approved by the other collaborative attorney. These actions enabled post-divorce life to go smoother.

Be careful that the youngsters are not used as tools for revenge. One parent may try to limit or stop visitation from the other one. Having the shared time clearly spelled out in the Parenting Plan may prevent this behavior. If you are on the receiving end of calls stating that the kids are sick and cannot see you, react in a positive way in order to end this game playing. Reply “How kind of you to let me know, so I can be prepared. I’ll have some soup ready and pick them up with barf bags in the car.”

A way to minimize conflict is not to give the other parent any ammunition. Be reliable, on time and bite your tongue if necessary to avoid criticizing them in front of the kids. Be cognizant of Parental Alienation which is when one parent attempts to turn the children against the other one. If you are the target, consider getting legal advice on how to proceed. Go ahead and correct any misconceptions (lies), such as “Mommy says that you had a girlfriend.” Let your offspring know that there was never a girlfriend in the picture when you were married. You are standing up for yourself by correcting the fallacy. You are not putting down the source (your former spouse) but rather clarifying the accusation.

Whether or not to confront your ex if they are using your children to spread tales about you, depends upon your situation. Trying to have a dialogue with a toxic ex may be counterproductive. A third party, such as a mediator, can intervene    Please read more….  www.divorcemag.com/blog/co-parenting-with-a-vindictive-ex-spouse

How To Help Children Struggling With Divorce

At the end of the day, divorce may be the right option, but it is unlikely to be an easy option, particularly when there are children involved. Divorce can have a brutal impact on children’s lives and can scar them into adulthood – unless it is handled the right way.

Put the bitterness aside 

This statement may seem like the world’s biggest case of “easier said than done”, particularly if you have good reason to hold a grievance against your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, but it is essential for your children’s sake. Whatever wrong they have done to you, they are still your children’s parents.

Keep it together as parents

Children need consistency. While it’s fine for each parent to have their own parenting style, perhaps one being a bit more strict and the other a bit more relaxed, any basic ground rules should be respected by both parents and any differences of opinion resolved away from the children. Parents who try to score points against each other via their children, e.g. by saying yes when the other says no, can simply end up making children insecure and can cause behavioural issues as children learn to play one parent off against the other.

Stick to routines

It’s practically inevitable that divorce is going to cause some degree of disruption to your children’s lives but do whatever you can to minimize it. Arrange any necessary meetings outside of the times you need to take your children to their activities and hold to normal mealtimes and bedtimes as much as possible.

Be honest and open

Children are often superb at detecting lies and evasiveness. Even if they’re “little white lies” or it’s a subject you’re uncomfortable discussing, you need to find a way to manage and satisfy their natural curiosity, which may well be driven by fear. Divorce takes children into the unknown and that can be a scary place. If you need thinking time, then park the question and tell your children that you’ll talk about it later, set reasonable expectations about when “later” will be and make good on your promise. If the honest answer to a question is “I don’t know”, then make a point of finding out as soon as possible. Children need to feel that they can count on their parents even at the best of times and a divorce situation is anything but the best of times.

Provide lots of reassurance

Divorce is about parents, it’s never about children. Children need to feel confident that whatever happens between their parents, nothing is going to change the relationship they have with either or both parents. Point out how changes will be managed, for example if one parent moves out, they can still take their turn at reading bedtime stories over the internet. You might also want to provide examples of people successfully managing divorces, either people they know or celebrity couples.

Be alert to your children showing signs of stress

With everything you may have to manage, it may be easy to miss the signs that your children are experiencing real stress (or even depression) rather than just feeling generally miserable about the situation, or you may dismiss your observations as your imagination. Be vigilant about their emotional welfare and get a second opinion if necessary, even if the divorce is going as well as can be expected, they may still benefit from counselling.

Author Bio K J Smith Solicitors are specialists in family law, with an expert team of family law professionals who are experienced in all aspects of family and divorce law.

You Could Be Hindering Your Teen’s Dating

you could be hindering your teen's dating potential     You Could Be Hindering Your Teen’s Dating Potential  

While some parents may be hindering their teen’s dating potential, I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing. I am not advocating for overly strict parenting where you don’t allow your teen to date at all, but there are some important precautions I think all parents should consider when their teen starts dating…
Set Clear Curfews

Not too long ago, my teenage son took a more serious interest in girls. He became interested in spending time with girls outside of school for dating purposes or “hanging out” as he calls it. So he wanted to renegotiate his curfew. His curfew changed when he moved from middle school to high school but hasn’t been updated since. I saw no need to change it, as he could stay out until 9:30 pm Sunday – Thursday and 11:30 pm Friday – Saturday. 

He decided to challenge this when out on a group date and came home at midnight on a Saturday. While he tried to argue he was only a half-hour late, he knew the consequence for breaking curfew was a week of grounding with a week added for each curfew-breaking offense.

Tips for parents who want to curtail bad teen dating habits by setting a curfew:

  • Set clear curfew rules.
  • Set reasonable and relatable consequences for breaking these rules.
  • Follow through with punishment or curfew breaking will be a regular thing.Teen Date Nights and Money

Part of teaching your teen how to date responsibly is teaching your teen how to deal with their personal finances. The sooner your child understands basic savings and financial planning, the better equipped they will be later in life.

My teen son knows I won’t play the money tree, being a backup when his personal funds are running low. When he takes a girl out on a date, he has to think creatively and within a budget. Sometimes that just means a movie night at home with some popcorn, which helps me keep an eye on the dating couple.

I have found this has made my son more responsible overall. If there are activities and dates he would like to go on, he has to plan them in advance and secure the finances to do so. He has felt the sting of not having enough money to take a girl out that he likes and it’s a good reminder for him to manage his finances responsibly to obtain the things he wants. I also like to think that by not offering to pay for his extravagant dates, he thinks of creative, less expensive dates and therefor doesn’t rely on flash or funds as a crutch for getting to know girls.  

Everyone On Same Dating Page   

Not only does your teen need to be on the same page with any rules you set up but so does your parenting partner. This can be tricky for co-parents who are divorced but is possible when working with clear communication.

Author of this article, Tyler Jacobson  enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative designs. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter | LinkedIn

 

 

Parenting Plan for Relocating with Children Post-Divorce

The most obvious aspect of your parenting plan that will need adjustment is the custody and visitation schedule. Chances are that the primary residence will remain the same, but the visitation schedule will not. A parent that may have had time with their child every weekend might now only see their child one weekend a month, but more during summer vacation. You will also need to take the travel time into consideration. Regardless of how your visitation schedule will need to be adjusted, it’s important to get all the details worked out before a move.

It’s no question that separation and divorce can be difficult for children. While it might actually create a better environment for them in certain circumstances, they don’t always understand that at the time.  Add in a geographic move of one of the parents into the mix, regardless of whether the child has to relocate as well, just creates another whole level of complexity.   

Create or Amend Your Parenting Plan to Reflect Your Living Situations  

If you are divorced or divorcing with a child or children, you will need or already have a parenting plan. This plan should contain everything about how both parents will cooperate in regards to raising their children, from how time will be shared to how expenses will be handled. If one parent plans to move a significant distance away after a parenting plan has been created and approved by the family court, it will need amended to reflect any changes.  

Here are some of the major points that need to be considered.   

Transportation is Important  

Most parenting plans have details about pick-up and drop-off times and locations. But, that gets much more complicated when long distances are involved. Long distance travel takes time. Anything involving a considerable amount of time needs to be looked at and potentially amended because it affects the time-share between parents.  Additionally, travel expenses can add up fast. Don’t forget to include in your new amended plan which parent will cover what expenses.  

You also need to put in clear text how the child will travel. Will they travel with a parent, and if so, which parent is responsible for that? Of, if their using public transportation, who will be responsible for making the travel arrangements?  

You can never be too detailed with all of this information.  

More Miles Doesn’t Mean Less Communication  

Your original parenting plan should include provisions about parental communication. That doesn’t change if one parent moves.  

You still need provisions and both parents still need to communicate. And, with all of the communication technology available today, that should not be a problem.  In fact, the distance makes communicating according the parenting plan even more important.  What might need amended though is how the child will communicate with the parent they do not live with. One example is that an amendment about video calls might be considered.  

Adjust Your Schedule   

The most obvious aspect of your parenting plan that will need adjustment is the custody and visitation schedule. Chances are that the primary residence will remain the same, but the visitation schedule will not. A parent that may have had time with their child every weekend might now only see their child one weekend a month, but more during summer vacation. You will also need to take the travel time into consideration.  

Regardless of how your visitation schedule will need to be adjusted, it’s important to get all the details worked out before a move.

In Summary

Any time one parent in a co-parenting environment makes a significant change in their living situation, both parents need to revisit their parenting plan and see if adjustments need to be made. These adjustments will need to continue to reflect what is best for all children involved. They will also need to be approved by the family court, so remember to use legal terminology and only edit what absolutely must be changed.

Tim Backes is the author of this article and senior editor for Custody X Change, a co-parenting custody scheduling software solution.

 

Supporting Children Through Divorce

We get caught up in the maelstrom of divorce and can fail to notice that our children are floundering. They appear okay on the surface going through the motions of life, but underneath may be in distress. Although divorce is an adult action, the fallout affects the youngsters.

Allow the children to vent and while you may not agree with everything said, releasing strong emotions is better than having them bottled up inside. Validate their feeling of frustration that through no fault of their own, major changes are occurring in their world. This may involve packing up their stuff for a move and beginning to split time between parents. Emphasize what is constant in their lives – same school, activities and friends. This helps kids to focus on having continuity rather than on what they cannot change.

Put animosity aside and put your kids first. Although this is easier said than done, your youngsters will do so much better in the long run. Try to be on the same page in regards to standard routines. Having consistent meal and bedtimes allows the kids to know what to expect and when. While kids can be surprisingly resilient, they still require some sort of foundation. You may have had general behavioral guidelines with consequences for infractions when you were married. Continuing to Implement these post-divorce is another method to help kids know what to expect. This lessons the chance that kids will test boundaries after divorce when co-parents handle conduct in similar ways.

Reach out to the extended family for help. One is overwhelmed and could use a short pause every now and then from day-to-day responsibilities. Your children will have fun with cousins and a break from the divorce environment. Some parents send their kids to camp or to a relative’s place while sorting out the divorce details. When your sanity is threatening to depart, ask friends to host a sleep over. Having a quiet night at home can do wonders for one’s psyche. When feeling calmer, reciprocate by having their kids sleep over at your house.

There is balance in life which includes making time for recreation.   Please read more   www.divorcemag.com/blog/how-to-support-your-children-during-divorce

What Children of Divorce Revealed to School Nurse

Parents’ divorces and dating lives have spilled over into their children’s schools. It does not matter who is right or who is wrong, when youngsters are drawn into adult matters. When parents are out for revenge, the kids are affected by the divorce drama. Parents seem to assume that their offspring have told classmates of the divorce. Many have not. Kids talk more in terms of activities – “I saw Star Wars with Dad” or “Mum took me ice skating” rather than “this is my week at Mum’s.” Classmates see those parents (sometimes separately) at school have no clue they are not still married. It can be awkward when one parent starts bringing a date when they drop by school.

Public displays of parental affection often are embarrassing to kids. It is more mortifying when Mum smooches her new beau at school and some are not aware she is divorced. Have a sense of decorum around the kid’s friends. One divorced mother happily announced at school that she was picking the kids up early so that they could accompany her and Tony for their weekend away in a nearby city. Her son cringed and looked at his shoes until they departed with his sister.

People will want to give you support during your divorce. They will inquire how things are with you. Either walk them outside of the school building before answering or say something vague. Your child may not be within ear shot, but their classmates are around. Kids are gossips and will tell your youngster what they overheard. Please do not trash talk the other parent in front of your child. This happens at school, but there is no way the staff is going to take sides in that battle. Our job is to be of support to the students.

Good communication between co-parents, school, and children is the key to making life smoother for the kids. Make it clear that you each want a copy of reports and advise the staff of your family situation.  I did a vision test on a young student who was going to need glasses. I gave her a written recommendation for follow up with an eye doctor. She asked which parent was to receive it. I quickly made another copy for her. She then told me that her parents were separating. This uncomfortable moment could have been avoided if the parents had given us an update. Another problem is when each parent assumes that the other one got needed items for a project. I had to call a divorced dad for a crying child who lacked something crucial for the science fair which was starting in one half hour. Do not assume that the co-parent got school supplies or specially needed materials.  Please read more   www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/school-children-of-divorce/

 

Co-Parenting with Divorce

Co-parenting can be easier as time marches on and heals wounds. Remember this is all about the children and not about scoring points or being in a popularity contest. Leave emotions and judgments out of interactions with your ex. If he becomes agitated, suggest resuming the discussion when he is calm. Do not let him trigger your hot buttons. Try to be on the same page with basic routines, such as meals and bedtimes. Children are clever and may try to manipulate you both into getting extra privileges. If you have a united front, than this is less problematic and you can both firmly state the common rules.

Be flexible when the other parent’s request is reasonable, such as having the kids a little extra time when his out-of-town relatives are visiting. Children will appreciate your generosity and could feel hurt if they missed a reunion. Do not say “no” out of vindictiveness, only if it is not in the children’s best interest. If you feel that requests are getting out of hand or there is too much switching going on, then perhaps meeting with a mediator or counsellor may be in order. This is a reality check for you both, so that a better plan can be implemented.

Children want both parents to attend school events and important milestones. If you can sit together for these, then great. If not, keep your emotions in check and remain polite, even if from across the auditorium. There will be important functions such as First Communions or Bar Mitzvahs that you both will want to attend. Even if the other parent brings the person who broke up your marriage, smile when you grit your teeth, because he/she is the kids’ step-parent. They may be very loving and kind to your offspring. You do have class and model this dignity to your children.

Of course, the other parent gave the kids half of their DNA, so never say anything mean about him or her. In my case, I find it better to say nothing whatsoever at all.  Do not make children choose sides. If you can have a few friendly words on the doorstep or occasionally invite him in for coffee, the kids will appreciate this.  Some former spouses get together on holidays with their children, for at least part of the day. You may have had an adversarial marital relationship, but that is now behind you. What lies ahead is being on the same team to ensure the children are safe, happy and thriving.

If co-parenting truly is unmanageable, then a mediator can step in to handle all communication between both of you.  Co-parenting is a skill which is learned by trial and error. Give both of you some slack to make some missteps, especially in the beginning. I have talked to and read about former couples who really like their exes’ new partners, and getting together for birthday parties and other events is enjoyable.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine   thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

Narcissists lack empathy so this makes co-parenting more challenging. They do not have compassion, so only pretend to care for others, including family members. Their children become targets for their manipulation, since they are less likely to stand up to a parent. The world revolves around the narcissistic person and this can include contact schedules and activities.

Children are used as pawns during divorce to get a better financial gain or in retaliation against you. Several eminent psychologists insist that contact between children and a narcissistic parent should be supervised. Dr. Joseph Shannon of Ohio, USA   is an expert on personality disorders and does many conferences on this subject. He was adamant about the need to set up supervised visitation to protect the children. When I also asked if a narcissistic ex-spouse lets go of his ex-wife after divorce, he said “no.”

Throughout the UK, there are Children’s’ Contact Centres where the non-resident parent can spend time with their children in pleasant surroundings. They have trained volunteers who are in the centres to give any assistance, if needed. In one case, when the older son turned eighteen, he stopped visitation and the younger one refused to continue. The younger brother met with the mediator that was appointed in the parenting plan, who then arranged supervised visitation. A child may feel safer when contact is supervised and can begin to develop a better relationship with that parent. Or, like in this case, the supervisor verified the verbal and emotional abuse when reporting back to the mediator. The court terminated parental contact when the son absolutely refused to go.

Contact between children and a narcissistic parent can be more successful if shorter in duration and perhaps no overnights. If the activities are mutually satisfying, such as participating in a sport or engrossing hobby, then the time spent together can be more enjoyable. They may like going to movies and concerts, which require less interactions.

Another strategy for pleasant contact is when visitation takes place at a family member’s or friend’s house.  One narcissistic father with an alcohol problem, visits his young daughter at his own mother’s house. She spends one night a week there, often with cousins, and has dinner with dad. This arrangement is working out great and the narcissist is on his best behavior with his mum standing nearby.

Narcissistic Extension is when a parent tries to mold a child into someone whose achievements directly reflect back onto them. The parent expects to be praised regarding their offspring’s skills. The narcissistic parent sees the child as a part of themselves (extension).  A kid may be pushed into a sport that draws more attention and fame, than one that does not. One boy wanted to play baseball for his school’s team, but his father refused to give permission. Instead, the son was made to continue with martial arts that gave more recognition with publicized tournaments.

Some narcissistic mothers of youngsters in beauty pageants see their girls as extensions of them. They bask in the admiration that surround these awards. A danger of having a narcissistic parent that controls a child, is that this child may go on to repeat this pattern in future relationships.

Co-parenting with a clinically diagnosed narcissist is doable when one does not get caught in a power struggle. Make sure the kids have support, whether with a therapist, divorce coach or trusted family friend.  Keep monitoring the situation to confirm contact with this parent is going okay.

Originally  published in The Divorce Magazine  www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/

Podcast on narcissists       soundcloud.com/divorcesux/divorcing-a-narcissist-ep009

 

Parental Polarization Post-Divorce

Parental polarization is when children are strongly attached to one parent and have a poor relationship with the other one. This is not about a baby clinging to his mother before spending time with his father. Polarization is when children truly balk at going to visitation and tell their therapist that they only want to be with a certain parent. It goes beyond “dad lets us stay up late and we have so much more fun together than with mum.” This becomes particularly evident during divorce when visitation is being initiated.

Divorce professionals have the task of determining whether the child is exhibiting polarization vs. parental alienation. Parental alienation syndrome has several components to it. The first one is that a parent may block or limit access to the other one. They may feel justified by this action because child support is late or nonexistent. However, this is impeding a child’s relationship with the absent parent and drawing her into a parental battle. A parent may claim that visitation is harming the child or is inconvenient with her schedule. The bottom line is that one parent is portrayed as inferior to the other one.

Another component to parental alienation is that a parent falsely accuses the other one of abuse or at least negligence. This can be intentional or the fact that they have different parenting styles and priorities. Meeting with a divorce coach can help them be on the same page particularly when no malice is intended. I have seen this in the schools where one will say how sick the child is after returning from the co-parent’s house. They are encouraging children to take their side.

A strong indicator of parental alienation is when the child has had good relationships with both parents before the divorce and has great animosity towards one now. A parent is verbally attacking the other one and the children are caught in the cross fire. The youngsters form an alliance with the attacker.

When children are polarized towards one parent, it has nothing to do with what that parent has said or done regarding the other one. The children do not suddenly go from being best buddies with a parent to mortal enemies, as can happen with parental alienation. The crux of the matter is, polarization is totally between a child and a parent without inference from anyone else, including the other parent.

When polarization occurs this is a red flag to investigate this situation. Why does the child not want to see the other parent?    Please read more   www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/parental-polarization-vs-parental-alienation/

Step-Parent Alienation Post-Divorce

Step-parents can be the target of parental alienation too. They can get a double dose of it from either biological parent. Parental Alienation is when a parent makes disparaging remarks about the other one. The attacking parent wants the child to form an allegiance with them and not have a relationship with the absent one. The child is caught in the middle of a parental tug of war.

How does this apply to a step-parent? During a marriage the biological mum may make snide remarks such as, “Thelma is overstepping her bounds” or “Thelma acts and dresses like a teenager.” Comments may be made about the lack of nutritional meals and so forth. The children may be put into a bind where it is said or implied, that if they like Thelma, they are being disloyal to their mum. A biological parent may be in a perceived power struggle with the step-parent. This competition can even be on a subconscious level.

One father resented the close relationship between his daughter and his new wife. This Narcissist did not want to share the limelight with his wife, so he would make subtle putdowns regarding her competence. The father was attempting to alienate his daughter from the step-mother. Eventually they divorced and his daughter maintained a relationship with her step-mother. Post-divorce, the biological mum asked the step-mum, “What took you so long to get a divorce?”

How to lessen the likelihood of step-parent alienation? Some step-parents said they were proactive before marriage telling the kids that they were a family friend, and not a future parent. Be upfront with step-kids that you respect their parents and are not a replacement. Cut the kids some slack, but do not tolerate disrespectful or rude behavior. Talk with your spouse to see if the other parent is trashing you to their kids.  

Step-mums have asked the biological parent out for coffee and clarified the friend role.  Asking about the child’s routine and advice reassures the parent that their parental position is not threatened.  A step-dad might have discussion with the father over a pint at the pub.

The important thing is that the children are not being forced to take sides.  Family mediation may be in order. When I was on a radio show, I had quite a few callers who asked about pre-marital counselling for second marriages when there were children. I think that is a great idea.  In most cases, step-parenting works after some trial and error.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/

 

 

Tips for Easier Co-Parenting Post-Divorce

There are ways to make co-parenting go a little easier for all involved. Remember this is all about your children, so making an extra effort will result in happier kids.

  1. Encourage the Grandparent connection. Grandparents can be the anchor for kids in the turbulence surrounding divorce. They can provide a haven where kids have fun and forget about their parents’ troubles. Your former in-laws may be waiting for you to make the first move or unsure if any bitterness towards their offspring is spilling over onto them. If one is uncomfortable talking to them at first, then send an e-mail or letter letting them know how important they are to your children’s lives.

An elderly couple was sad when their son and daughter-in-law got a divorce. These grandparents loved their young grandchildren’s mum and offered to babysit for her whenever she needed it. When they went out of town, they would give her a name of a family member as backup, who could watch the kids in a pinch. She appreciated this kindness, since her family did not live nearby.

  1. Clarify to the kids that you support their relationship with the other parent. They have overheard angry words and witnessed hostility. Explain that you both are not able to be married anymore, but you respect each other as parents. Reassure kids that there is not a tug-of-war going on with them caught in the middle. This will help them to feel happier and more relaxed about going between homes. When the kids are adjusting well, then co-parenting is easier.

3. Remember to send a present from the child to the other parent, for gift-receiving occasions.  He/she feels more appreciated and knows that you were behind this nice gesture. The kids then do not go empty-handed for birthdays and so forth.

  1. Reach out to the new step-parent, if feasible. They are helping to oversee care, meals and other routines. The shared time goes smoother when all are on the same page. My mum made sure that I invited my step-mother to my synchronized swimming performances. When step-parents feel included, it increases their connection to the children. When my step-grandfather was hospitalized a few times, he made sure my nurse mother was notified that he was a patient. She would pop down on her break to see this jolly fellow and get a big hug.

5. Communication. Communication. Communication. This was contributed by my younger son who has friends with divorced parents.

Please read more   www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/top-5-co-parenting-tips/

Divorce with a Narcissist or Sociopath

Both the Narcissist and Sociopath (anti-social personality disorder) are toxic people who are difficult to deal with during divorce. There are subtle differences between these two types of characters. The main point is a Narcissist craves attention and adoration. She has to be the star, whereas that is not the case with a Sociopath. A Narcissist will specifically seek out publicity and a Sociopath wants power over others. A Narcissist will have a position in a charity organization that is in the spotlight such as managing director. The Sociopath is more likely to be the one embezzling funds. The Narcissist desires being in the news and the Sociopath is flying under the radar avoiding that in order to carry out nefarious deeds.

Sociopaths do not have a conscience and their moral code is “do not get caught.” At a young age a Sociopath is apt to torture animals and torment those weaker than him. This child is charming to adults with exaggerated good manners as a smoke screen to disguise his true nature. They have a sense of entitlement and do not hesitate to trample upon anyone who gets in their way. Some of the financial executives who do inside trading and other illegal acts told the press that they did nothing wrong. In their eyes, this is correct.

Both manipulate others for their gain. They blame others when they make mistakes or life is not going as planned. They can ignore family or belittle spouses. Narcissists especially do not like it if a spouse rises up the career ladder and has a more important position. They do not want to share the spotlight. Sociopaths can have a volatile temper which is unpredictable and is especially scary for children.

Sociopaths may have their children join in their immoral or illegal activities.

. They watch pornography with their sons. Criminal families may bring the kids into the business at a young age. The youngsters participate in a shoplifting or burglary ring. In my area recently, three generations of several families were plying the drug trade together.

Narcissists use their kids as a way to garner more attention to themselves. They play the good parent role and march the children around the office to get praise. They see the kids as an extension of themselves and may insist that their kids follow in their footsteps. A former dancer may demand that her daughter does ballet. These parents want to bask in the admiration that surrounds their child. They want others to comment that the offspring is like their talented, beautiful, etc. parent.

In divorce, both personality disorders are capable of using the kids to get back at their other parent in retaliation. Since the Sociopath feels no remorse, they may be the more dangerous adversary. Be cautious of safety issues especially with a sociopath co-parent. Neither are good at negotiating since they want the whole pie. The Narcissists get through the divorce process better with lots of compliments and letting them feel like they are the star. With a Sociopath, emphasize maintenance and child support formulas to make it more impersonal. More drama and emotions can prolong divorce hearings. Having a divorce coach or therapist at least periodically check in with the children is prudent.

Both Narcissists and Sociopaths may act like they are the victim and you are the villain.  They may charm your family members and end up with a few in their camp post-divorce. They are attempting to hurt you.  My sons and I have said good riddance to the ones who sided with their father. Sociopaths particularly excel in power plays and want to dominate others. Consider avoiding doing battle with these people and stay out of their way if possible.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/

Podcast about narcissists vs sociopaths soundcloud.com/divorcesux/divorcing-a-narcissist-ep009

The Dos and Don’ts of Co-Parenting

Co-parenting is a modern term in the divorce world. When my parents walked out of the divorce court, they never communicated with each other ever again and certainly not about me. Co-parenting implies cooperation and dialogue. The former spouses are no longer partners in marriage but are so in raising their children.

Society today may be more complex with so many choices, or parents like mine did not consider the need to discuss children with each other post-divorce. Custody is usually joint, which means both parents have the right to decide what schools and activities their children will attend.

Cooperative Parenting Tips For Success:

There are ways to make co-parenting easier on the parents and more effective for the kids. Consider having a regularly scheduled meeting, perhaps monthly, to discuss issues or activities of the kids. Have an agenda, just as you would for a conference at work.

If one parent veers off course into blame or other toxic areas, calmly steer them back to the topic being discussed, “We were talking about Jane’s wish to change schools….”  Keep emotion out of the discussion and treat the other parent as you would an excitable co-worker. These meetings do not have to be in person if it is difficult to be in their presence. Using Skype or the phone is fine, even if they only live a few streets away.

Co-parenting is easier when both are on the same page and do not feel left out of anything. There are various online calendars and apps which let each parent view and add activities or events in the youngsters’ lives. It is easy to put in dance recitals, sports tournaments, and school concerts into a schedule. This way one parent cannot blame the other one for not notifying them of something. Remember to keep grandparents up-to-date on the kids’ events so they can attend.

Some parents have a notebook that goes back and forth between homes, which is particularly helpful with young children. This is good when a child has asthma or a food allergy so both know when an inhaler or Epi-pen was administered. This also is useful for medical conditions like seizures.  If there are incidents at school or other information that needs to be relayed, the notebook is another method of communication.  Please read more … divorcedmoms.com/articles/coparenting-it-doesnt-have-to-be-difficult

 

Blended Families at Christmastime

It is challenging blending families together and merging holiday traditions. Some families have Christmas Eve as the main celebration and for others it is the following day. The holidays turn into a juggling act – spending a chunk of it on the road going between houses. When two sets of children and four biological parents are involved, having step-siblings spend some holiday time together gets complicated. Both parents may have remarried and have blended families. Step-siblings may desire opening presents together so previous arrangements may have to be altered to accomplish this.

The Parenting Plan meticulously sets in place how the holidays are to be divided up, which worked well in the past. When one or both parents get remarried, having kids be with step-siblings over holidays can be a logistical feat. Some parents have gotten around this by having large gatherings for all. Step-parents get to meet the other step-parents with grandparents and relatives thrown into the mix. The kids get to be with everyone.

Some children go to the other parent’s house every other week or weekend. Parents can opt to spend whatever holiday falls during their time entirely with the kids. No switching back and forth. My parents did this. When Christmas or whatever occurred when I was with one, I stayed there and celebrated it with that parent.

Feel free to mix up traditions. Memories can be attached to certain ones and shaking them up a bit ensures a merrier time. If you always went out for a big Christmas Eve dinner when previously married, turn that around into an elegant Christmas brunch or pub lunch. Do fun activities you enjoy with the kids, but in a different order. That gets rid of the ghosts from Christmas past in order to enjoy the present.

Consider starting totally new holiday rituals. Or have family members state one or two holiday traditions that are important to them. See how they can be incorporated into your new family life. It may be tempting to do too much. Yes going to The Nutcracker, pantomimes, parties galore are fun, however downtime is important. Watching “Elf” on TV while munching on pizza is hanging out together and strengthening the family bond.

If things seem strained with step-sibling interactions, consider allowing their friends over or inviting your nieces and nephews to join in the holiday fun.  On occasion, having extra kids around can help diffuse tension and calm the atmosphere. Do activities with new step-children. Some step-mothers baked Christmas cookies or taught culinary skills to their young family members. Step-dads have done sports with step-sons when their mums were in the kitchen for long cooking sessions near the holidays.

Although Blended Families represent a new chapter – they are formed as a result of losses.  A couple is brought together due to a death or breakup with a former partner. It is okay for youngsters to display mixed emotions. They can still love a new step-parent while mourning the loss of their former life. Bonds take time to strengthen. The first Christmas as a blended family may be more volatile with the following ones peaceful and delightful.  Hang in there, your patience will be greatly rewarded.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine   twitter.com/thedivorcemag

Step-Parents’ Guide on Blended Families

Step-parents and children can thrive in blended families with a little understanding of the process. Merging begins with the Courting Phase, just as with dating. People are on their best behaviour, showing their good side and hiding their less stellar points. They may be more giving than usual, saying “I’ll take your glass to the sink, just sit there darling.”

Then comes the Honeymoon Phase. The newly blended family is having extra fun, going to amusement parks and keeping occupied with other enjoyable pursuits. Life is one big holiday and individuals are getting along so well. Then day to day reality sets in. Not only is the sink pointed out to the child, but so is the mop and dust cloth. Chores materialize and the honeymoon is over. Disenchantment can set in on both sides. The children may become sulky when life is no longer all fun and games. The step-parent wonders what happened to the sweet kids and who are these opinionated brats?

How to make blending go smoother? Be your authentic self at all times. Be warm and kind, but not bending over backwards to fulfil the children’s every whim. From day one, let them know that there is no maid service, so everyone takes their glasses to the sink. You are not their best friend and let them warm up to you on their own time schedule. Do not attempt to bribe them with presents to win them over. Even if they never come around completely, insist upon respect and good manners, not love. Let them know you are there for them, whenever they want help.

Realize that people are on their best behaviour during the Courting Phase, so do not be blindsided when reality sets in. Children can be great, but have to let off steam. Do not take it personally when it happens. Some of my friends have talked about their own step-mothers to their new step-children. They emphasize what great family friends they are and how they fill a special supportive role.

As a biological parent, consider having regular family meetings to air concerns and set up a rota for chores. My step-mother gave me chores to do when I came over on the weekends and this helped me to feel a part of her family. I felt like I did my share and was not a guest. Give expected behaviour guidelines, such as treating everyone with respect. Ask kids what special treats and fun they would like, but be clear that you are not getting a bank loan to do expensive activities every weekend. It was the little things that I enjoyed most with my step-mum, such as making paper dolls or baking brownies. One step-dad was great at helping his step-son maintain his clunker of a car. It is the experiences that are so meaningful to step-kids.

Expect bumps in the road. Life may be going smoothly, then there is chaos. This can be a result of children turning into teens or other issues. The key is communication. Attempt to discuss what is going on. If things become more difficult, consider a session or two with a divorce coach to get everyone back on track. One may discover that there are issues with the other parent or difficulties at school.

With time, blended families grow to love, or at least like each other. It was wonderful for me to gain an instant extended family, since I am an only child. It helps when the biological parent is supportive of the new step-parent, as my mother was of my step-mum.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine       www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/

Single Parenting Post-Divorce

It may come as a big surprise to discover that you are a better parent post-divorce. Being in a toxic marriage sucks the energy right out of you – so there is less available for the children. Youngsters are smart, so may act up to get your limited attention when you are still wed. After my divorce was finalized, I truly could then focus on my sons. Even my cats seem to appreciate the extra time we spend together post-divorce. I did not realize that being in survival mode meant trying to avoid conflict rather than being spontaneous. Now my sons and I can be vagabonds traipsing around the planet – budget and time permitting.

Single parenting brings a flexibility which allows going to the cinema on the spur of the moment or indulging in an impromptu picnic. I do not have to check with the other parent or plan events far in advance. Instead of viewing life as an obstacle course, it is an adventure with serendipitous moments post-divorce. My sons give this feedback about single parenthood. They claim I listen to them intently now which in turn enables them to feel more valued. We discuss our lives in depth instead of merely skimming the surface as was done pre-divorce. As a stressed out married mum, I was more of a dictator echoing my German grandfather’s “and that’s that,” instead of hearing what the boys had to say. Although I set boundaries and make the rules – I am more willing to get the lads’ points of view in this new chapter of our lives.

Single parents told me that they became more patient in the post-divorce period and do not get angry over every little thing. Being in a toxic marriage was like having road rage. One is angry in general and perceived infractions can put one over the edge leading to explosions. Anger builds walls around people and understanding with compassion tears them down.

Another adjective used after a break up was “relaxed.” Parents said they felt relaxed since no longer doing verbal combat with a spouse in a war zone.  Reduced tension in the home helps the kids to be relaxed too. Relaxed people are easier to be around which encourages more family time in this pleasanter atmosphere. Tension has the opposite effect and scatters family members to their own places of safety.

Post-divorce there was more fun and laughter in our lives. We could even giggle at our mistakes and not take ourselves so seriously.  Instead of hiding our screw ups as we did in the past, they were a source of hilarity. After being a single parent, my sons and I became more open and could admit when we goofed and ask for help and advice from each other. This increased our enjoyment of being together.

As I developed into a stronger, more reliant person, this had the ripple effect on my sons. They became more independent and self-reliant. On this journey of becoming a single parent, my boys were right at my side and we were a source of support to each other. If I had stayed in that bad marriage, I never would have gotten to really know my sons.

If I knew divorce would be such a positive thing for my sons and me, it would have happened much earlier. In the post-divorce period, notice the improved aspects of your relationship with your kids and the positives in this transition.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine       www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/

How to Parent Your Way After a Divorce

You may feel that you have ruined your child’s life following a divorce but do not fret because you haven’t. Yes, a divorce can play a large part in the life of a child but ultimately, how they develop, is down to both parents.

There will be times where you may come across situations that are common following a divorce but how you deal with them is important, ensuring that your child does not get affected.

It is important to understand that after a divorce you are going to find it difficult. You are likely to feel a whole range of emotions and so will your child but in reality you have every right to fall apart. Remember that you do not have to hide all of your feelings but do not tell them too much as it puts them in the position of an adult. Instead, explain that you are having a difficult time but it will become easier.

Understanding that your child is also going through many different emotions is important but do not let guilt get the better of you so that you become more lenient. If they break rules then ensure that you enforce the same punishment as you would have previously. However, find out why they are behaving like this and see what they have to say.

It is important that your child remains a child as many can often feel that they have to fill the void left by the other parent. If this happens then let your child know that they have to live their own life and not worry about how you care for yourself.

Some children act out after a divorce for reasons such as unwanted changes, sad emotions and they may even feel that the divorce is their fault. Trying to understand this behaviour is the way to tackle it and letting your child know that you need them to work with you and not against you is the way to move forward.

When parents split they often parent in different ways but remember that when you have your children with you, you are in charge. So make rules and enforce them and expect your child to follow them when they are with you. However, if possible, work with your ex-partner because suggestions can be made and concerns can be aired.

Of course, many relationships end because of constant disagreements which means your ex may disagree with your parenting methods. If this is the case then tell them that you are satisfied with the way in which you are doing things and that is all they need to know.

Children should not get caught in the middle, where they feel like they have to take sides. Do not talk negatively about your ex and if your child repeats the negative thoughts of your ex then answer in a non-defensive way so that it does not look like a battle.

Some children play one parent off the other but do not allow that to happen. Explain to your child that they will have to abide by your rules when they are with you. There is one way to deal with this and that is to talk to the other parent to find out if they have changed the rules or even if you can negotiate with each other but do not give messages to your child to relay back to the other parent.

Moving between houses can be difficult for children and they may begin to act out which could be their way of expressing their anger. Understand these behaviours and what is causing them by asking them why they may seem angry or sad. If the behaviour continues, ignore it until they have calmed down and then respond but makes sure that positive behaviour is acknowledged.

Author Bio K J Smith Solicitors are specialists in family law, with an expert team of family law professionals who are experienced in all aspects of family and divorce law.

Considerations for an Only Child in Divorce

Being an only child has special considerations in the divorce period. They are not living with another ally who totally gets their unique situation. While parents, a therapist, and close buddies are sympathetic, no one else completely understands what that child is going through with divorce and shared care as a sibling does. Have heard siblings state, “it’s us against the world,” and variations of this theme, and as an only child, I felt that this situation was harder for me. Only children may not express loneliness or feelings of isolation, so it is imperative to monitor how they are adjusting. Consider having them check in periodically with a divorce coach or therapist to ensure concerns or problems are being addressed. Children may seem okay, but are not wanting to burden you about transitions or other custody issues which are stressful. At least have a neutral third party, such as a god parent, have a heart–to-heart with an only child.

Children like to have fun with other kids, so consider encouraging the only child to invite a friend along on some expeditions. Going on thrill-seeking rides at an amusement park can be more fun when sharing this experience with a buddy rather than with an adult. A parent gets to enjoy the company of their kid while they also have a blast with a pal. Mainly being in the company of grown-ups (parents who justifiably want to make the most of their shared time) can get old. Kids enjoy being with others their same age, just as we adults want time with our peers. Getting kids together with cousins is a way to be with them and increase the family bond. When I had visitation with my father, my stepmother wisely sensed I wanted to be with another kid and often invited her niece (my age) to join in our fun. – See more at: www.divorcemag.com/blog/divorce-and-the-only-child#sthash.7alg50ue.dpuf

Co-Parenting with a Sociopath

Sociopath is also called antisocial personality disorder and is one of the most difficult people to have as a co-parent. New research has indicated that there can be a genetic link to having antisocial personality disorder and it sometimes runs in families. Sociopaths are highly represented in the prison populations. People with antisocial personality disorder can be impulsive and reckless. Many are highly intelligent and choose occupations where they have power, such as politicians, police, clergy, trial attorneys, and surgeons.

Sociopaths lack empathy and compassion for others, yet seem (pretending) to care about them. Their good works are for show and glory only. They blame others and do not see the need to change themselves, so are not prone to seek therapy. People with antisocial personality disorder manipulate more vulnerable people, such as their children. They have a sense of entitlement and use others to obtain what they feel is due to them out of life.

They blame others and are prime candidates for committing parental alienation. Sociopaths can explode with rage which frightens kids, or the youngsters shut down to avoid being a trigger for this fury. Life is not stable when a parent’s moods are so labile. This is emotional abuse. Sociopaths can be charming and may have swayed the court into granting ample shared time. Document everything, including what the children say, and your e-mail interactions. Their charisma may influence people in your children’s lives, such as teachers, who may support this enchanting parent.

They have no scruples and will try to corrupt their kids into doing dangerous or illegal activities.   One sociopath showed hardcore internet pornography to his young sons, acting as if this is normal. He threatened them not to tell their mother, or it would be their fault if the mum then broke up the family. The younger son accidently let slip what their father had recently shown them. The mum called the father who denied it, but she said that she was starting a formal investigation. He left her a day later. Her divorce solicitor asked why he couldn’t have done “another hobby, like bowling with the kids.”

Sociopaths do not have respect for life and may mistreat or torture animals. They may expose children to this atrocity. The key is clear communication with your children about what behaviour and ethics are acceptable and what is not. If they do not want to confide in you, have someone else available, if they are not in therapy.

Never let the sociopath into your home for any reason. If you are in the marital house, make sure all locks, alarm and garage codes have been changed. Do not give out any personal information about yourself to this other parent. Make it clear to the children that anything at all about you or your shared life with them, is off limits to your ex. They can discuss their school, friends and activities, but not you.

Give your children at least daily hugs and praise. Inform them how much you appreciate them and their achievements because they may not be hearing this from the other parent. I made a big point of volunteering and having my sons do so as well to offset negatives from their father. They learned from an early age to have compassion and give back to animals and the community.

If you are told that your child is not respecting other children and is extremely cruel, this is a red flag. Since there is a genetic component to antisocial personality disorder, have him evaluated by an experienced   psychiatrist or psychologist in this area. A youngster may be diagnosed with “conduct disorder” and can be helped with therapy. This condition can be a precursor for antisocial personality disorder and early intervention can prevent it from becoming full blown. In therapy, specific parameters for behaviour are set with certain consequences. Conduct disorder is often diagnosed with juvenile delinquents and is not the same as a little acting out that comes with divorce.

If you or the children are in danger, seek help immediately. Talk to your solicitor, the police or local abuse shelter. Do not talk to your ex directly, but rather send business-like e-mails. Better to use a third party intermediary for communication, such as a mediator. Visitation can take place at a Contact Centre and if not supervised, have the drop off and pick up away from your home. The main points with co-parenting with sociopaths is to limit your contact and monitor the children’s well-being.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Perks of Single Parenting Post-Divorce

Being in a toxic marriage sucks the energy right out of you – so there is less available for the children. Youngsters are smart, so may act up to get your limited attention when you are still wed.

After my divorce was finalized, I truly could then focus on my sons. Even my cats seem to appreciate the extra time we spend together post-divorce. I did not realize that being in survival mode meant trying to avoid conflict rather than being spontaneous. Now my sons and I can be vagabonds traipsing around the planet – budget and time permitting.

Single parenting brings a flexibility which allows going to the cinema on the spur of the moment or indulging in an impromptu picnic. I do not have to check with the other parent or plan events far in advance. Instead of viewing life as an obstacle course, it is an adventure with serendipitous moments post-divorce.

My sons give this feedback about single parenthood. They claim I listen to them intently now which in turn enables them to feel more valued. We discuss our lives in depth instead of merely skimming the surface as was done pre-divorce. As a stressed out married mum, I was more of a dictator echoing my German grandfather’s “and that’s that,” instead of hearing what the boys had to say. Although I set boundaries and make the rules – I am more willing to get the lads’ points of view in this new chapter of our lives.

Single parents told me that they became more patient in the post-divorce period and do not get angry over every little thing. Being in a toxic marriage was like having road rage. One is angry in general and perceived infractions can put one over the edge leading to explosions. Anger builds walls around people and understanding with compassion tears them down.

Please read more… www.thedivorcemagazine.co.uk/single-parenting/

Tips for the Single Dad

There are ways to have a workable relationship with your ex and to make co-parenting go smoother. Remember, the kids are not a prize and the situation is not winner take all. Thirty-year-old Charlie is a plumber in his family’s business and has a lot of tips for other single fathers:

1.  Show that you are dependable. That eases the mind of the other parent who then may be willing to compromise. Charlie is punctual, and is reliable getting his son to school and activities. The mother knows her son is in good hands when he is with dad.

2. Be low-key in negotiations and leave your ego at home. Charlie claimed by being “submissive” during negotiations, he was able to get his son five nights a week for the last three years. Being aggressive is off-putting to the co-parent, who may balk at demands. By showing he was willing to talk things through and to listen gave him more time with his son. They were going to court to have a judge make a ruling for a point that could not be agreed upon. Standing on the court steps, this former couple looked at each other and said it was “nuts.” They went inside, cancelled the court hearing and talked things over at a nearby coffee house. Charlie advises to give a little more in negotiations so that they do not hit a road block.

3. Be willing to try something on a trial basis. The other parent may go along with your wishes if they do not feel locked into a new plan. – See more at: www.divorcemag.com/blog/a-guide-for-the-single-dad#sthash.7RR3reMf.xQgBye9C.dpuf

– See more at: www.divorcemag.com/blog/a-guide-for-the-single-dad#sthash.7RR3reMf.dpuf

A Parent’s Guide to Step-Parents

Parents often do not realize what a step-parent’s role is and cast them into other unwanted ones. Two step-parents resented their assigned positions of negotiator and grief counsellor. Some step-parents said that they are a family friend to the children and not a go-between for the parents.

Trevor married a woman with children, who had gone through a contentious divorce. Dealing with her ex was challenging and she admitted to being impatient and losing her cool. Her mild-mannered second husband was drafted to be the intermediary between these two warring parents. Trevor was the unofficial negotiator trying to find a middle ground for co-parenting. When I saw him, Trevor was suffering from low back pain as a result of this stressful circumstance. He had heard that emotional issues could also affect the back, with not feeling supported correlating with low back pain. Using that as a wakeup call, we devised strategies on how Trevor would inform his wife and her ex that he was vacating the position of negotiator. His role was husband – to be supportive of his wife and to enjoy his step-kids without managing their co-parents. Trevor convinced the former couple to work with a mediator and this was an effective solution to an unhappy situation. No matter how well your new spouse gets along with your former one – allow them to be friends and not enlist your new partner as a messenger. Find a professional for the negotiator role.

Angus and Katharine, both divorced, met at a conference and the attraction was powerful. They got married and both had children who did well in this blended family, although only Katharine’s daughter Kim lived with them. Katharine tried to be on good terms with her ex and he was invited over on holidays and family events. Angus and Edward became good friends and had similar interests. Kim would say how lucky she was to have two such great dads. Later when Kim turned twenty-three, she was killed in an auto accident. Understandably, Katharine and Edward had breakdowns and kept thanking Angus for his support and called him a rock. Angus was crying when he asked me why they do not get that he had a ball of hurt inside and is grieving too. We discussed having Angus explain his grief to the parents and suggest that they meet with a grief counsellor since he could not continue this role. Parents, please understand that a step-parent loves a child and is broken up by her catastrophic illness or death. They have to deal with their own grief and cannot be forced to take on other people’s as well.

Step-parents are great for lowering tension when an angry teen is annoyed at both parents. At times mine seemed like aliens and my step-mum shared stories from her youth. Seems like her mum and dad did crazy things like mine did. A step-parent is a loving, but more neutral party for receiving confidences. Step-parents may love their new children with an intensity that surprises even them. In several cases both dads walked the young women down the aisle in their marriage ceremonies. If things are spiralling out of control, a life or divorce coach can help people get their lives back on track.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

Action to Take When Denied Visitation

It is maddening, not to mention illegal when one parent prevents the other one from seeing their children. Studies indicate that children do better academically and with their behaviour when both parents are in the picture. The key is to remedy this situation and reconnect with the kids as soon as possible. Hindering visitation is violating the parenting plan and has legal ramifications. Being behind in child support is not a reason to be banned from contact with the little ones.

Document. Document. Document. This is crucial in building a case, particularly when taking legal action. Save all texts, voice and e-mails and jot down the times and dates of conversations. Keep records of any contact with your ex. Some parents have a calendar which they write on when they have visitation and when they have been blocked from it.

Try to communicate and work with your former partner on why visitation is being disrupted. Let them know that you are willing to listen to their concerns. Could there be any validity to their accusations – that you are chronically late returning the youngsters or sometimes cancel at the last minute? See if it is possible to negotiate a new visitation agreement that meets the kids’ needs in a better way. Remember the goal of shared care time is what is in the best interests of the children – not the parents.

If you are told that the kids do not want to see you, remind the co-parent that visitation is to take place unless legally stopped. Parental alienation may be happening with the other parent lying or telling the kids that you stopped contact. Parental alienation’s goal is to turn the children away from the absent parent and get him/her to go away. Go to the Cafcass officer or to your mediator/solicitor to take legal action and have visitation enforced. Petition the court to have the kids see a therapist or divorce coach for possible parental alienation and to discuss their concerns in this divorce situation. Talking to a neutral third party is beneficial for the kids especially when they have been told lies which damaged their relationship with you.

Are there mutual friends that can intervene or let the children know that both parents love them? Are you on good terms with any former in-laws who may be able to knock some sense into the other parent’s head? Consider if the other parent is a flight risk, especially if they are from a country outside of the EU. It may be prudent to discuss this with passport control and a solicitor to prevent the other parent from kidnapping the kids and going into hiding.

Make sure to take care of yourself and your health. It may be helpful to discuss your frustration with a divorce coach. Maintain your social network to provide support for you during this trying time. Exercise is a great way to release anxiety. Nurture yourself so you have the energy to pursue action and reunite with your children.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

 

Children Need Contact with Both Parents

It may be tempting to keep your children away from your ex when you are angry with her, or he is behind with child support. Are your thwarting time with the other parent for the children’s sake, or for yours? Be clear on the motivation behind your actions. A parent may think that they have good reasons to stop visitation, however youngsters need both parents in their lives. One may be angry at what a jerk a former partner is, however they still have the right to maintain a parent-child relationship. There are even programs to help inmates maintain a positive relationship with their kids while they are incarcerated.

Kids are shrewd and will get it at some point that one parent is hampering contact with the absent one. One young women completely cut off ties with her father after realizing the wall he built between her and her mum was due to his lies and manipulations. A child did not feel close to her mother because of her frequent putdowns of her father and bursts of anger. Interfering with a child’s relationship with the other parent can come back and bite you on the bum. Instead, model generosity in sharing them with their other parent and being flexible if plans need to be tweaked for special occasions.

Various studies have shown that kids who have both parents in their lives do better on cognitive tests and have less behavioural issues. The US Department of Health said children who have contact with both parents have stronger academic skills and more emotional control. A Swedish study found that stress caused headaches, stomach aches and insomnia in kids. In two parent homes when children had close contact with both mum and dad, these health issues were reduced. I have also seen kids with these aches in my school nurse’s office when co-parenting was confrontational or the other parent was not in the picture.

There are legal consequences to be faced when obstructing court mandated shared care. The other parent can haul you before a judge in contempt of court for violating the parenting plan and divorce decree. A court order (amount of shared care) is a binding legal decree and not a suggestion. A parent may lose custody or have a decrease in shared care time by hindering visitation. Parental alienation is when one parent is trash talking the other one and persuading the child to turn against the absent parent. Slander is a serious charge and is when a person makes false allegations against someone else. This can end up as a law suit.

If there are legitimate concerns of abuse, neglect, or child endangerment, follow an appropriate course of action and not take the law into your own hands. In an urgent situation, call the police. Otherwise, share concerns with the Cafcass officer, your solicitor/mediator, or domestic violence shelter. Document any perceived abuse. Inquire about setting up supervised visitation or having it at a Children’s Contact Centre. These are ways to keep your child safe, ease your anxiety, and foster a relationship with the co-parent. People that make the news are not the parents that follow the directive of shared care, but the ones who do a runner with a kid or throw a spanner into the works of visitation.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

 

 

Divorcing and Co-parenting with a Passive-Aggressive Person

Divorce with a passive-aggressive partner can be particularly aggravating. They seeming are going along with the whole process, yet are sabotaging it. They agree to check on their pension plan or to bring paperwork to the divorce sessions, but “forget.” The use of the word “forget” may be frequent as a way of avoiding responsibilities or tasks that they do not wish to perform. Passive-aggressive people can prolong divorce hearings by purposely not following through with something as a way to get back at you. This retaliation bumps up legal costs.

They avoid confrontations and do not directly express intense emotions. They have a calm demeanour which hides the hostility lurking beneath the surface. Actions are ruled by anger since they do not voice it out loud. They may refuse to sign the divorce papers or at the last minute disagree with how assets are divided, instead of stating objections earlier. It is difficult to know what they are thinking and if they are amenable to negotiations, since the silent treatment is their specialty. Ask what is wrong and a curt “nothing” may be the reply. They do not communicate well, so give and take is difficult. They are not expressing opinions which complicates divorce arrangements.

Co-parenting with a passive-aggressive ex is challenging. They play the blame game and may hold you as the villain, who ruined their life. The divorce was caused 100% by you and now you will be punished, indirectly of course. You might receive maintenance on time, but in the wrong amount. It is wise to have maintenance and child support sent directly from his bank account to yours, to leave him out of the loop. Then one does not have GFY (Go F*** Yourself) written in the check memos as one woman did.

He may “forget” about a visitation, or pick up the kids late when you have a date. Having the pickup and drop off at a neutral location is prudent. One former couple has theirs at the paternal grandparents’ house, so his being late or forgetting is not an issue. The children have fun and the mother is not stressed.

Have a detailed Parenting Plan to lessen complications post-divorce when the passive-aggressive parent may try to get back at you through the children. Have shared time clearly stated and clarify holiday arrangements. The passive-aggressive person sees themselves as the victim in life and you want to avoid this drama. There are various online calendar sites where parents can mark activities and events so the kids’ schedules are available to both parents. This reduces accusations that the other parent was not informed of happenings in their youngsters’ lives.

When communicating with the passive-aggressive parent avoid emotions, particularly anger. Ignore their subtle putdowns and just state the facts. Keep e-mails business like and to the point. Passive-aggressive people often have low self-esteem and may attempt to build themselves up by tearing you down. Have someone available for the kids to talk with, because the other parent may be making mean “jokes” or offhand comments about you. The least interactions that you can have with this difficult ex-spouse, the better.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ways to Negotiate Child Support

States have a formula to determine the amount of child support, but this is not an arbitrary figure. Negotiations can increase this amount. Parents have the right to come to their own agreement on child support and not rely on their state’s guideline. Submit the agreement to the court in order to make it official, in case there is difficulty in collecting it at a later date.

  1. Child support is non-modifiable (no changes allowed) or modifiable (may be changed at a later date). I chose non-modifiable because I did not want to deal with any divorce issues again. If it looks like your spouse might be in for a big promotion, or his artwork is starting to sell, then modifiable may be the right choice. Then you can go to court when this happens to ask for an increase. If your husband has a good job and you think that might change, then you may choose non-modifiable so the rate does not dip. The judge looks at the potential earning ability of both parents as part of determining child support.
  2. If the state’s guideline for child support seems too low, consider working with your spouse on this issue. If you are having a court divorce, it is hard to know how the judge will rule on it. Perhaps a spouse would take a few more household items and artwork in exchange for a slightly higher child support amount. Go online to your state’s “calculator” to get an idea of what to expect before the negotiation. Wish I had done that.
  3. Get documentation and financial records pertaining to your children together for negotiations. Figure out your expenses including your rent (the kid’s shelter), food, clothes and activities to show why you would require a higher rate for support. Offer proof with receipts paid for lessons, activities, and other expenditures relating to the children.  Please read more…. divorcedmoms.com/articles/10-things-to-consider-when-negotiating-child-support

Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex After Divorce

In many of cases, former spouses are able to co-parent peacefully together for the good of their children. They put aside any animosity for the well-being of their kids and set about the task of moving on in their own lives. Yes, there are some bumps in the road, but learning how to negotiate goes a long way in smoothing out these situations. In rare circumstances, one parent has a personality disorder in which their conscience or morality is faulty.

There are ways to counterbalance the influence of a toxic parent after divorce. My older son said that the most important measure which helped him was volunteering. Volunteering offset the message that people are not important, and I in particular. My sons heard so many negatives that helping needy people and animals took the focus off them and onto how they could make the world a better place. We took supplies to hospitals in Asia and feline medications to a cat clinic in the Cook Islands. At home my sons volunteered with animals, at a homeless shelter, and tutoring youngsters in chess. Helping others is very rewarding and they enjoy doing so. Volunteering connects your children to others and connection is what a parent with a personality disorder lacks.   As an added bonus, being of service to others fosters a work ethic for future jobs. It also teaches kids to get along with people of different cultures, ages, and classes, which is necessary in this global economy.

Another aspect to help children not follow in a parent’s self-centeredness is by traveling and meeting folks from different cultures. They see others with their eyes and form their own impressions. This reduces prejudice, even if the other parent spouts vile opinions of others not in her ethnic group. We went to a Muslim country soon after 9/11 and the warmth and kindness my boys received made a lasting impression. Children are less likely to be judgmental when they have enjoyed the hospitality of people in different lands, no matter what others may be saying about them.

Helping children connect to their spiritual side diminishes the effects of antagonistic remarks made by the other parent. Whether this is going to church or appreciating the beauty of nature, the children then have something outside of themselves. My son enjoys singing in the choir and my friend delights in gazing at the ocean. Whatever feels right to you is fine.

Remember to give your kids extra cuddles. A toxic parent may not be affectionate, but rather more aloof. Reassure your kids that you will always be there for them. A dysfunctional parent may play mind games, make empty promises, and attempt to use the kids in a tug of war. Do not get involved in these battles and get a third party to intervene if necessary.

The important thing is to be a constant presence in your kids’ lives and give unconditional love. Have clear boundaries, expectations, and consequences when these are violated. The kids know where they stand with you. Consider having the kids check in with a children’s divorce coach to ensure that they are thriving and not just surviving.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

How to Co-Parent with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Co-parenting is a challenge with a difficult ex from an acrimonious divorce, however there are ways to make this task easier. The main point is to fly under his/her radar. These people are looking for ammunition to get back at you for leaving, so do not give any opportunity for an attack. This includes not mentioning them or divorce details on social media. The less direct contact one has with this type of ex, makes co-parenting smoother.

A way to make co-parenting with a high conflict individual easier is to make sure you are nurtured. Get a massage. Go out and vent to buddies. Join a support group who can give you understanding and strategies on getting through this ordeal. Do activities that bring you joy and may have been buried during marriage. Get yourself in the best place possible, mentally, physically, and spiritually to be able to deal calmly with a co-parent who does not want to cooperate.

Whatever you can do to empower yourself and become stronger – weakens the hold of these contentious co-parents. Take a class which could lead to a new career path. Do a charity bike ride in a far flung place. Trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro for a life changing experience, as one divorce pal did. These physical challenges have awakened a new sense of power and increased self-esteem in many people. Sometimes one’s self-esteem and self-worth took a battering in a toxic marriage and requires this boost.

Connect with others through volunteering. When you have other interests, a social network, and new areas of expertise – you are less able to be manipulated or controlled. Approach interactions with your ex, without emotion as if it were business ones. Redirect communication to stay focused, so the high conflict parent does not go off on tangents. The goal of co-parenting is well-adjusted children who feel safe with both parents. If the co-parenting experience is not going well then discuss this with your attorney. Perhaps meeting with a mediator or your child’s therapist (if there is one) may help everyone to be on the same page

Co-Parenting with a Difficult Ex-Spouse

Tips on How to Have Fun When the Kids are away on Visitation

The first several visitations post-divorce can be particularly difficult. I cried during the second one and realized that making an effort to do fun things was a logical solution to this situation. What worked was polling some divorced pals on what they did during visitations. The key to surviving visitations is distraction. Discover diversions and amusements to keep you occupied and the time can fly by.

1. Play tourist in your own city. Have you avoided your local art museum because it did not make your children’s top twenty list? Rediscover interesting and quirky places that might not appeal to the kids. Do you live near a winery that could be a leisurely day trip? Grey Line Tours and your local ones go to interesting sites around and beyond your locale. I sent my son and a house guest to a nearby tourist town and they had a great time. They enjoyed the others on this day tour as much as they did the itinerary.

2. Go to an amusement park, circus, or similar fun place. Post-divorce I took my sons to Disneyland for a long weekend and had a 45 minute chat in line with the lady behind me. Apparently her kids were at visitation and she “needed” to have a bit of fun. She was laughing and discussing the other rides that she had been on earlier. I had never thought about going to an amusement area by myself before, but this is something to think about for your situation.

3. Check out upcoming festivals in your town. There are crowds and I usually run into people I know. Quite a lot of singles are enjoying these fun events, so I don’t feel like I stick out in a crowd. In two places where I have lived, there is an annual Greek Festival, with music, dancing and of course fantastic food. There are other international events which feel like a vacation by just attending. See if there is music in a park or craft fair by the river. Your local Chamber Of Commerce or a hotel concierge are good starting points.

divorcedmoms.com/articles/10-fun-things-to-do-while-the-kids-are-with-dad

Tips on Making Transitions Easier for Visitation

       Transitions between parents can be challenging, especially for younger children. They start to feel settled and then it is time to move back again to the other parent’s place. One’s attitude sets the tone for these exchanges. If you cannot manage to be upbeat, then aim for neutral, without any putdowns or snide remarks. Do not emulate some mums at my sons’ preschool who appeared to be on the verge of tears when parting. Very young children are already struggling with separation anxiety, so be especially positive. A neutral drop off place is ideal if it was an acrimonious divorce. A day care or preschool can be a good choice with toddlers and is easier when both parents have car seats. These exchanges are more upsetting when kids see tense, angry parents trying to interact.

     Children do better with set routines such as having consistent bedtimes at both locations. Even better is when mealtimes are in sync too. The routine starts with packing and getting ready for the transfer. This helps with the mindset that he is leaving one place for the other. There may be a special story told or a goodbye song sung while getting ready to leave. The child might draw a picture to give mum or dad upon seeing them. My sons had a ritual of saying goodbye to our cats. Children do not want to feel like visitors, so have them unpack right away. No one cares to live out of a suitcase, so give them their own space. In tight quarters, an empty drawer that only belongs to them is fine.

                Some parents come up with a new welcome back ritual when their children return from visitation. This gives them something to anticipate immediately. It may be that after dad gets the youngsters, they go to Gran’s for supper. My stepmother had pizza and we watched fun shows on the television. I looked forward to this Friday night transition. Mum might have homemade cookies when the kids get back. The children then transition into a fun, anticipated activity or treat. Upon return, other kids just want to chill out and regroup. They may require their space before starting with an activity or interaction. Give them time and do not bombard them with questions. Respect privacy and do not ask about the visitation.

School children told me that one of the most difficult parts of visitation is the transitions. They wanted to see both parents, just not the going back and forth. Transitions are easier if your child is calm. Bach’s Flower Rescue Remedy is a fast acting stress reliever that is perfect to give children before visitation to ease the transition. It comes in drops or pastilles form. I gave a tin of pastilles to my younger son to take with him before visitation. He was responsible enough to take the recommended dose and could discreetly pop one in his mouth as needed. You could also put a few drops in your child’s mouth before leaving. A cup of chamomile tea is relaxing and so is a squirt of lavender facial mist. My son also likes a shoulder or neck message when he is tense.

If transitions are a big problem then consider seeing a divorce coach. She can determine if longer visitation time with each parent is more beneficial or explore other options. She will interview the child and parents to see if a better plan can be made. One possibility is that the child is at one parent’s house for a longer time with the other parent picking up the child for part of a day or evening, in between visitations. Often as children get used to switching houses, they become more accustomed to transitions. The children enjoy their special time with each parent.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine  thedivorcemagazine.co.uk

 

 

 

Children of Divorce at Christmas and Holiday Visitation

IMG_2946It is a frenetic time with all we have to do at Christmas. We have our own stress level to deal with and children can get a bit lost in all of this. They may be more quiet or acting out for your attention, but there are ways for all of us to thrive during this busy time. If your kids are bouncing off the walls, then do a physical activity together, possibly taking a walk around the neighborhood.

The key to this is distraction. Find some fun or relaxing distractions for you to partake in during the holidays. It may be reading a best-seller or being curled up with some special British magazines. The important idea is to have something concrete to do.

Then let your children know what this specific distraction is. Whether it is reading with your cat nearby or going out for lattes with a friend at the only coffee shop open on Christmas.  If your children know you are doing a certain activity, then they can be more relaxed and enjoy their time with the other parent.  Mine were more reluctant to leave me until I showed them my pile of magazines.  My cat just had emergency surgery early in the morning on  Christmas Eve, so I said we’d hang out together in front of the tree.

It also helps if you have a special holiday ritual to do when they return. The kids have something to look forward to do with you and be a part of your Christmas celebration, even if late in the evening.

If you take care and nurture yourself, then your tank won’t be so empty that you can’t give to others. If friends ask what you’d like for Christmas, then hint that pampering spa products would be appreciated.

Take deep breathes and bring out your bakery made quiche and desserts.  You may even enjoy a bit of pampering or me time for  when your kids are on visitation.

Visitation When There Has Been Previous Abuse Pre-divorce

During the divorce process, there are two attorneys and possibly an interim child psychologist looking over the parents’ shoulders during visitation. They are checking to make sure that a parent is not trying to alienate the other one and that the children are having smooth transitions. In the majority of cases visitation goes well with children benefiting with the presence of both parents in their lives. When there has been some past abuse or the children feel threatened, or unsafe, then measures can be taken. These tips help children feel more comfortable.

Get a track phone for your child with an x amount of prepaid minutes. Some of these phones will let you program a few important numbers in them. I taped that track phone’s number and my son’s therapist one on the back for any emergency. Just carrying the phone discreetly in a pocket can help a youngster feel more secure. Bach Flower Rescue Remedy comes in a dose for children This is for an acute, stressful situation, if one should arise. I would only send this with an older child who understands how to correctly take this stress remedy.

Another helpful hint is letting the child take a small object that helps her feel more powerful. It may be a saint’s medal or a special natural stone with certain perceived protective properties. My younger son got a Chinese character with a specific meaning from a compassionate shopkeeper. He still wears it around his neck for ongoing protection. My older son also included a smooth gemstone in his pocket that he fingered when upset. Maybe a small toy would be comforting for a young child.

If the older child drops out of visitation when she turns 18 and the younger one refuses to go alone, then supervised visitation is an option. The length of visitation or the type of activity might have to be adjusted. Your divorce attorney or child’s therapist can help with setting up supervised visitation. The age where a child can petition the court for modifying or ceasing visitation varies by state.

Do not ask how visitation went or what your child and the other parent did. If you suspect that any abuse is reoccurring , document any physical signs (photos of bruises) and discuss this with your lawyer. Children’s Protective Services may have to be notified. Again, most visitations go well with children feeling loved and cherished by both parents.

Joint, Physical, Sole and Legal Custody

Joint, Physical, Sole and Legal Custody have distinct differences and it is important to understand these during divorce negotiations.

Sole Custody can be granted to one parent when the other or the partner is abusive or impared.  The courts across the country are moving away from granting this type of custody and are giving Legal Custody to both parents. In sole custody, the  one parent has complete say in the child’s decisions and does not have to consult the other one.  If one parent is completely out of the picture, then this is when sole custody is more likely to be awarded.

Legal Custody is usually granted to both parents and this allows them to make decisions regarding the child’s medical, educational, religious and schooling even if one parent is in jail.  The incarcerated parent can still have imput on the child’s upbringing. When a parent has alcohol or drug abuse, then visitation may be supervised, but legal custody can still be awarded.  If a parent makes important changes, such as a school, the other parent can take that parent to court if he was not consulted in this decision.  Although my children had visitation, I was reprimanded for not informing my son’s father that our child had gotten a job during our divorce. If the other parent is abusive, Legal Custody can still be awarded, with a court mediator being appointed.  Then all communication between parents would go through this person.

Physical Custody is granted to the parent where the child completely or mainly resides. This may be that the child lives with his mother during the week and stays at his father’s house on the weekends.  It also is awarded to a parent when there is no overnight visits or in cases where visitation is supervised.

Joint Custody is when the child spends part of the week at each parent’s house or alternates every other week.  It is close to 50/50 and often the parents live nearby to make it easier for the child schooling.

Instances of where  family members, other than parents, are awarded custody are becoming more common.  This is particularly  the case when both parents are impaired or incarcerated.  Then grandparents, aunts or uncles may be granted custody. I personally am seeing this more and more in the public schools. I am having to call a grandparent to pick up a sick child or  ask an aunt to obtain permission to give a medication.