Sign Up for
Our Newsletter

Global Guide to Divorce

Jack Jack the Cat


How to Spend Mother’s Day Post-Divorce

When Mother’s Day comes in the midst of divorce proceedings, it can be upsetting if your children are not scheduled to be with you. Some parents have put in their parenting plans that the kids spend Mother’s or Father’s Days with the parent that is being honored. Others do an informal trade for the day.

Post-divorce, my sons and I started new traditions to make the day seem more like it belonged to us. We exorcised the ghosts of Mother’s Day past, and did not do anything like we did when I was still married. We shook up our routine and had a simple meal out followed by an anticipated movie. Celebrate in a new way, whether or not you have the kids with you.  My mother was happy to go along with our changes.

Here are some ideas for embarking on new traditions for this day. Have a brunch at your place and invite other women, whether or not they are mothers. Make it extra festive with some champagne or Bloody Marys.  If you have family nearby, get together with them and the kids will have fun with cousins.

Ask your children for suggestions on how to celebrate this occasion in other ways.  When I was little, I treated my divorced mother at a reasonably priced restaurant in a nearby town. The scenic drive was half  of the fun. Give your kids the chance to do something nice for you.

What to do if you are alone on Mother’s Day? See what your single friends are doing, or be the social director and plan an outing with them.  Distraction is the key when feeling lonely or melancholy. Going to a cinema or watching a boxed set at home can help.  My mother would get a great mystery to read on Mother’s Day when I was not home, or she would work. Sitting around moping makes things worse.  Consider getting away on a vacation. You can be with others on a tour, or check off something from your Bucket List. Then you are not around happy families on this day, when you are alone.  Pamper yourself with some new spa products. Whatever I do on Mother’s Day, high quality chocolate will be part of it.

Unhappy Holidays May Trigger Divorce

Some people have chosen to stay together until after the holidays for a variety of reasons. It may be to give the children one last Christmas together. One agony aunt printed a letter from a woman whose daughter-in-law is filing for divorce at the beginning of the year. She questioned what to buy an exiting in-law for Christmas and how to deal with this charade around her grandchildren (who are not informed of the upcoming parental split).

A couple may be hoping that the holiday season will patch up any holes in their relationship. The magic of Christmas does not extend to fixing a broken marital partnership.

The holidays can shine a spotlight on problems that are bubbling up just under the surface. Busy day to day activities with a packed schedule can mask issues that are not being addressed. When one or both have long job commutes or kids with jammed agendas, this enables a couple to pretend that everything is okay. When interacting with each other (or attempting to avoid it) during holiday time off from work, spouses can feel empty inside.

When holidays are lonelier being married than they ever were when single, this is a warning that something needs to be done. Holidays can be the big wakeup call that you really do not want to be with your partner for the next set of holidays the following December.

After a few excruciating New Year’s Eves with her husband, a woman thought over their relationship. Coming to the realization that she did not ever want to be alone with him, pushed her into ending her marriage. Although now divorced, her solo New Year’s Eves are something she anticipates rather than dreads.

The holidays are over and people are thinking about New Year resolutions or changes that they want to make in their lives. This introspection is one reason that divorce solicitors and mediators are extra busy in January and February. Feeling hollow and that the holidays were lacking something, can point that all is not well with an area in life. If things are going fine at work, with kids and so forth, then look at your marriage. Some spouses do not see that they are avoiding each other by participating in a whirlwind of holiday events.  Please read more…

New Year’s Eve as Newly Single and Divorced

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner and many are thinking of how to avoid this whole holiday. Others are celebrating their newly found freedom and will be partying the night away. Decide if you want to be a hermit or around others and plan accordingly. One way to not be alone, yet be distracted from the holiday, is to work.  On your job, you can treat the holiday as another work day/evening, or join in the staff festivities and potlucks.  When you are serving the public or dealing with projects, your mind will be on the task at hand.

Some newly divorced have shied away from small, intimate gatherings and gone for the big galas instead where conversation can be  more superficial. One aspect of New Year’s Eve is that couples may be together, similar to Valentine’s Day and less apt to invite single friends as they do for Thanksgiving. I felt lonelier when still married, on New Year’s Eve than I ever did post-divorce. I then celebrated with my mother and sons watching the ball drop while eating a luscious treat. I slept in on New Year’s Day, watched a parade, went to the movies and made a simple, but delicious meal. Think about starting different New Year’s Eve/Day rituals like I did with my sons. It may be offering to babysit your niece and having a pizza party. Kids are a great distraction and provide amusement. If they aren’t yours, then their parents will love you for letting them get some couple time away.

Other divorced friends have turned down invitations and enjoyed pampering themselves, such as with a facial mask and a great book. If you don’t want to go out for an expensive feast on New Year’s Day, then meet pals at a coffee shop.

The Washington Post had an article that said 49% of adults over 18 are not married (but some still may be co-habituating or in relationships). This is a large number of people not joined at the hip with a spouse on this holiday. About.Com stated that in 2010 of the 11.7 million single parents living with their kids, 9.9 of them were single mothers. That adds up to many single people deciding what to do on New Year’s Eve/Day.

The UK Guardian stated that in 2011, married and civil partnerships comprised 47% of the adult  population. In the UK, from 2001 to 2011, one person households increased by 1/2 million.  What used to be mainly couples celebrating New Year’s is now many singles. This in turn provides new ways to celebrate these two days and with more unattached friends.

Whatever you decide to do, have a fun New Year’s Eve/Day and remember to take Milk Thistle supplement to support your liver with the extra alcohol consumption.

Christmas Experiences Beat Materialism

Budgets may be stretched to the breaking point after a divorce – so think about concentrating on experiences vs a mountain of presents during the holidays. If you reminisce about your childhood, it is the fun times during the holidays that you remember – not the particular Barbie outfit or model airplane received.

Taking the focus off materialism and on to what is really meaningful, is a life lesson in itself. The children are now getting two sets of presents after divorce. Do not try to compete with your former spouse in the gift arena nor try to make up for their divorce experience with extravagant material goods. Shift traditions from having the opening of gifts as the main event, to more of a short activity before the festive feast, visiting grandma or whatever.

Explain to the children that you have less money to spend on gifts and to let you know one (or several) things that are most important to them. My sons’ favorite present is their stocking bursting with chocolate and small goodies. Decide together what holiday activities would be fun to do. Here are a few suggestions mainly supplied by my sons, to do before Christmas instead of blowing money:

  • Go to a live nativity and especially enjoy the animals who are stealing the show. A nearby church has one every year with hot chocolate, cookies and carols. The sheep, donkeys etc. are just adorable (and ornery).
  • Walk downtown in the evening and enjoy the festive holiday displays. It is like wandering around in a fairyland of lights. We top that off with lattes and a treat afterwards at a coffee shop which is opened late.
  • Check your Chamber of Commerce or another local guide for free holiday events, such as a tree lighting, Santa parade, children’s chorus and so forth.    Please read more:

Banish the Holiday Blues Post-Divorce

It can be difficult facing the holiday season when still recovering from divorce. Reliving the past can make the season be less merry. Your life may seem like the subject of Elvis’s Blue Christmas song:

I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you

I’ll be so blue just thinking about you

Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree

Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

Acknowledge your emotions such as sadness. Burying them does not make them go away, but rather backfires when they surface at inopportune times. Recognize that you are facing a loss and are still grieving when the rest of the world seems caught up in the frivolities of the season. What helped me was watching comedies and reading humorous stories. Laughing a lot lessened any pain. Do what works best for you.

Many have mentioned that taking a break from their surroundings helped speed them along in healing. Not going to where they celebrated Christmas Eve dinner or to other places that they went as a couple, reduced dwelling in the past. Skipping some holiday rituals that were done when married, contributed to being able to move on. You are making a break from your old life this holiday season and embarking on a new adventure. One way is by taking a trip – whether to the heart of Europe or discovering new sights in the UK. There is something mystical about the Highlands for me.

When I was in Australia and New Zealand for two holiday periods with my sons, people did not seem to be depressed. They were busy going to the beach, hiking and enjoying the various outdoor pursuits. The sunshine was a mood lifter during the holidays. The Aussies’ Christmas cheer was contagious during this extended daylight. A divorced friend took a small packaged tour to Asia and had the same experience. She also enjoyed the camaraderie of the other travelers over the holidays along with the sun.

In the Northern Hemisphere our holiday season falls in the height of darkness. The perpetual clouds can add to the gloom one may be experiencing post-divorce. The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association (SADA) charity estimates that 21% of UK residents have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to some degree, which surfaces during the winter months. The symptoms for SAD are: feeling lonely, lethargic, moody, sleep disturbances and finding it harder to be with people. These are also what people can experience after a break-up. It can be extra challenging when someone has the double whammy of having SAD during winters, with a divorce on top or that.

Please read more…

First Christmas Together When In A New Dating Relationship

Your divorce or break up is over and you have moved on. Now you have been seeing someone for only a couple of months and the relationship is quite new. Christmas is looming on the horizon and you are not sure what to get or how much to spend on a present. The holiday season is about celebrating with family and you have not even met your date’s relatives yet. Here are some tips on getting through the holiday season with a recently met love interest.

First thing on many people’s agenda is “what do I get them for Christmas?” Something too cheap appears that you have a slight interest in them. The too personal or expensive gift hints for commitment (or possibly marriage). Avoid fine jewellery that could suggest stronger intentions than you may have. Ethnic jewellery may be okay- however several guys recommended staying away from that too. One man buys vibrantly coloured silk scarves for new girlfriends.

Something in the in the middle is a safer bet, but what? Consider purchasing an item in their field of interest that is unique, but not a big ticket thing. One woman who travelled for business, picked up golf balls and inexpensive logo accessories from esteemed golf courses. This was a major hit. A chef might like cool new gadgets with some exotic ingredients (African spices for example). Foodies may appreciate a custom made gift basket from a gourmet shop. Guys may want to pop into a skin care shop, such as Neal’s Yard Remedies to have an expert staff member select some fabulous serums and lotions. Get natural products with essential oils or organic ingredients which will appeal to more women. One fellow goes to a local store on his travels and picks up regionally made hand cream, lip balm and so forth. This is well received.

The goal is to give a personalized gift without screaming how much it costs. Several smaller items grouped together a as present, makes it less obvious what the monetary value is. One divorced woman  does  searches to see how much was spent on a bracelet, etc. when she is on the fence about a relationship. She uses that as a guideline for selecting gifts for new relationships.

I had started dating a guy who noticed that I could use a small bookcase. That was one of the best presents that I received. If you are handy making something, that is a thoughtful gift. If not the imaginative type, ask some co-workers for a few suggestions.

If you recently started dating, you may not have met each other’s families yet – including children from previous relationships. This is the time of year when you may be meeting almost all family members at once during large holiday gatherings. Yes, you may be judged, but keep a pleasant demeanor and be a good listener. Do not get drawn in to family conflicts, just stay on the side lines. These celebrations can involve a copious amount of alcohol and it may be tempting to overindulge to calm your nerves. Do not give into this temptation. You cannot go back in time to undo embarrassing antics or take back stupid comments said, when you got a little too tipsy. Make sure to drink water to stay hydrated and nibble on food when consuming alcohol at these parties.

It helps to find out ahead of time how dressy or casual an event will be. You do not want to show up in formal attire for a laid back party where people wear their worst holiday sweaters received as gifts. When I start dating someone around the holidays or am invited to a boyfriend’s’ family get-together, I take my signature Italian cookies.  They are different and show that I put care into baking these goodies.

Insert  fun into a new relationship by enjoying holiday festivities. Walk around downtown gazing at the Christmas lights. Go ice skating at an outside rink. Allow the holiday season to bring out your playfulness.





Christmas as a Single Parent – Some Tips

Divorce is a way to weed out holiday rituals that have become stale, from the ones with meaning. Revamp your holiday to-do-list with some fresh traditions to start your new life as a single parent. Since it is only my two sons and I in our city, we go to the cinema on Christmas Day for an exciting blockbuster film. It gives us something fun to anticipate after opening presents and having brunch.

Ask the children for input on what they like best about Christmas Eve/Day and their answers may surprise you. Consuming an elaborate dinner that takes hours to prepare may not even be on their Wish List. Getting a pizza or eating comfort food on Christmas Eve while watching a marathon of holiday movies, may be what they desire. Save yourself loads of work by incorporating new, low key traditions into this frenetic Christmas season. My sons wanted to stop the tedious activity of making and frosting sugar cookies. They substituted assembling a pre-cooked gingerbread house from a German kit. They enjoy creatively decorating the house and it is fun instead of a chore.

It is the uninterrupted time spent with children that matters– rather than frantically flitting from one holiday event to another. This means turn off your devices and be fully present. My sons and I attended a children’s Christmas concert in Germany last December. These angelic voices were heavenly, yet an American woman in the front row was glued to her smart phone. A few of the young soloists looked hurt as they watched her not paying attention to them. When my now adult sons look back upon our Christmases, it is time spend just hanging out together watching “ The Grinch that Stole Christmas” and others, while downing holiday goodies that means the most to them.

If you are negotiating how to split holidays – think about which part is more special to you.  Please read more…

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

Go on a Christmas Cruise Post-Divorce

IMG_1613One way to start new Christmas traditions is to get away from it all and wipe the slate clean after divorce. No more “this was what we did when we were still married last Christmas Eve.” One happily divorced woman who is now my friend, went on a Christmas/New Year’s cruise solo. She chose to surround herself with many people and felt the Christmas spirit. Not needing a date to dance the night away on New Year’s Eve was a bonus.

On cruises, there are often get-togethers for the single passengers of all ages. Beats moping around one’s flat when friends are occupied with their own holiday plans. Both my sons and I did two holiday cruises on Cunard’s QE2 with my husband and mother. Then just the three of us did two post- divorce ones on Holland America.

What are holiday cruises like?

The anticipation starts months ahead of time when selecting the destinations. The cruises are a nice mix of exploring other cultures during the day and consuming scrumptious meals on board while possibly being serenaded by a string quartet. It was a unique experience hearing a steel band in the Caribbean playing carols and seeing Gibraltar decked out in Christmas decorations. There are different types of entertainment – concerts, musicals, comedians, magic shows, plus much more. Other activities are lectures, cooking demonstrations, computer classes, quizzes, and bridge, just to mention a few. One can be sociable or chill out reading in a quiet corner. The kids are kept busy and the single parents get some alone time or to interact with other adults. The staff puts on a show and sings carols. The QE2 had a traditional British Christmas which included a hilarious pantomime. Holland America embraced its Dutch heritage with their special foods and celebrations.

I packed my sons’ Christmas stockings with several small gifts. I picked up something on the trip, a local t-shirt or souvenir, since the cruise is their present. Having just a few stocking stuffers to open gets the focus off material goods and puts the emphasis on shared experiences. At home we never attended so many holiday programs or ate such feasts as we did on board.

The ships were decorated exquisitely and not having to take down the tree and so forth is a gift in itself. The time we did not spend getting tasks done in the frenetic holiday season meant we could bond in a stress-free environment. A few singles told me that they tucked away presents from their families and looked forward to opening them on Christmas Day. If you enjoy a surprise, consider going to a shop with items you like (skin serum for me) and pay them to wrap up something you can have on Christmas day.

The adults seemed to enjoy Father Christmas’s appearance on Christmas almost as much as the children.

He and the elves gave out presents while the adults sipped their spiked egg nog. My twenty-two year old was excited that Father Christmas remembered the college kids on board too.

A priest conducted lovely Christmas Eve and Day masses (actually every day). Classic holiday movies are shown in the cinema and being on this type of cruise is truly magical.

Book early since the holiday ones sell out.

I bring two non-religious holiday cards and put a little cash in them. One is a present for our cabin steward and the other for the waiter and the assistant at our table.  The money I do not spend on gifts, decorating, entertainment and food pays a chunk of the cruise price. It is possible to get cruise ships out of Southampton and other UK ports which saves on transportation costs.

As a single mother it is easier to budget for a cruise holiday, since I know the costs up front. We drink water and do not have added fees, such as a beverage or alcohol package. We eat in the main dining room which is included, and forgo the pricey specialty restaurants which are not. Some cruise lines include shore excursions in their price and others alcohol with meals. Look carefully at what is included and do some comparison shopping.

I asked various singles if they felt lonely on a cruise over the holidays and their answers were a big “no.” On the various holiday and regular cruises, quite a few passengers are travelling on their own.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine

Ways to Reduce Stress during Christmastime

Holidays stressing you out? Divorce is a time to start anew and a good excuse to notify others that one is simplifying their life. Divorce can be the catalyst to spend more holiday time with your children and less on making the party rounds or stressing out about getting through your holiday “to do” list.

Below are 7 tips for reducing stress during the holidays:

1. Change your focus from a to-do-list to a let’s-have- fun-list. We check off some holiday activities as if they were chores. Scrap the list, start over,  and decide what you and the children really want to do. Making seven kinds of cookies is deleted and baking loads of one kind, like gingerbread, makes the new list. Next year bake a different type or enlist family members to each make their favorite cookies and then share.

2. Decorating for Christmas is fun. Sipping hot cocoa while watching “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and hanging ornaments on the tree is relaxing. The Christmas wonderland in your house is lovely, but contemplating putting away all of those baubles post-holiday, is not. Avoid that stress by this method. In January, have a fun place for lunch selected or a movie for a certain time. Enlist your little elves to gather the holiday decorations from around the house and put them in one place. Remove the tree decorations and box up everything for storage. It is almost a game at my house and we can get everything down, put away, and the naked tree outside, in one half hour. Then we go to our fun activity. No fuss or nagging.

3. Reduce holiday stress by telling people that since you are divorced, you are making some changes in your life. You are no longer buying presents for the extended family and a long list of acquaintances. You may hear sighs of relief when others tell you they had been feeling the same way. Suggest a simplified plan, perhaps just the cousins get small gifts or one for the whole family. My friends buy a game for the families on their list. We were at the John Lewis store in London, where a salesman plays board games with the customers. The new ones were so enjoyable, that my friends got most of their Christmas shopping done right then and there in September.

4. Go with the flow. When we have too much scheduled, it is stressful and we are not focusing on the activity at hand. Mentally we are planning the logistics for the next several events, instead of being fully present in the moment. Do less and enjoy what you are currently doing, more. Have a flexible schedule with plenty of space, to allow impromptu fun to happen.   Please read more…

Single on Valentine’s Day – How to Have Fun

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and one can feel like an outcast from Noah’s Ark – where everyone is half of a pair. It is difficult to be alone when it is the first time in a decade or so on this romantic holiday. Here are some suggestions on how to get through this difficult period. A valentine does not have to be a partner, but rather anyone! My four cats are my valentines and we will all devour some treats, me chocolate and them, tuna. If you have children at home, cooking a nice meal together including a decadent dessert will keep you occupied. Babysitting the neighbor’s kids or your nieces and nephews will be engaging and a bit of fun. Children and pets are entertaining and a diversion from any gloom.

Get out of town and have an adventure! Last year I had a business trip to a large city and arrived early afternoon on February 14th. It was one of my best Valentine’s Days and I was alone. My centrally located hotel was near a lovely bookstore and I purchased a British mystery. I ended up at a department store where I had a facial and bought chocolates. Reading late in a teahouse was heavenly. Sometimes being away from your familiar environment is the antidote to sadness on this particular night. There are plenty of packaged tours that will send you to a glorious place in the sun or to an exotic locale where the holiday may not be a big deal at all.

Surviving this holiday involves distraction. Shake up your usual routine and do something different. Go to an ethnic restaurant or a place with a communal table. My son will be working at a Japanese restaurant on this night and I will enjoy some shrimp and salad. I will have great service from a charming young man and be among other diners. I have a Scandinavian mystery tucked away for after dinner. Have your treat during the day at a fabulous bakery with a latte, if going out solo in the evening seems depressing. It is when you have nothing to do but mope and reminisce that this is evening seems long and morose.

Facing New Year’s Eve Post-Divorce

IMG_1403Divorce is particularly challenging during the holiday season. One is used to having a date for New Year’s Eve and now for the first time in several decades, one is alone. Take stock of your situation and decide if you want to be with others or hole up at home. It is nice when family members are nearby and would enjoy your company watching global festivities on the telly (as I did with my mum the first two New Year’s Eves post-divorce). Get in your sister’s good graces by offering to watch your little nephews on that evening. Get the word out among friends and co-workers that you are available to babysit. Plan something fun to do with those extra pounds earned, maybe a spa treatment or two.

Near the end of my unhappy marriage, I did taxes one New Year’s Eve.  After my divorce, I knew any New Year’s Eves would top some of the ones I had while still married. Putting my life in perspective helped me to move on and enjoy the holiday. If you want to spend New Year’s Eve home alone, you can say that you already have plans, if asked. Otherwise, well-meaning friends may want to drag you along to some gatherings with their social circle. Save an exciting new novel for that evening.

Post-divorce, I was on a cruise ship for two New Year’s Eves with my sons. There were extravagant decorations, much fanfare, not to mention the scrumptious nearly midnight buffet. The dance floor was so crowded, that a partner was not required. The festivities included a show, concerts, and a raffle on the second cruise. I won the grand prize of a cruise for two, so my evening was ever so exciting.

Consider going away, as several other divorced friends have done. One went on a group tour to India, and she enjoyed the camaraderie of the other travellers.  Another women took her kids to Sri Lanka and the hotel was decorated beautifully and her kids learned how New Year’s is celebrated elsewhere. Closer to home are lovely country hotels with holiday packages and festivities.

My divorced mother used to work on New Year’s Eve as a nurse. She was around other people and the employees had a potluck party. The patients’ families remembered the staff with more goodies. Perhaps working is an option and then you can avoid this holiday when it is painful.

If New Year’s Eve is depressing consider doing your celebrating on New Year’s Day as we do. My sons will be out and about on the Eve, and I will be with my cats. We spend New Year’s Day together. My sons and I watch the telly during brunch, then get a latte out before seeing a film. We come home and have a delicious, but easy meal. People are not paired up on New Year’s Day, as they are on the Eve, so this could be the time to celebrate with friends. If holidays seem unbearable, consider seeing a divorce coach to get you back on track. Distraction is a good method to get through this holiday when feeling lonely.

Originally published in The Divorce Magazine