Monday, 3 August 2020

Life’s Crossroads: How To Thrive in Times of Change

Life’s crossroads create opportunity for us to choose between different options, and when we see someone embracing the moment when choices are decided upon, it can be awe-inspiring. A crossroads is about change. Choices must be made — not just when things are not working out as we had planned, but also during positive moments when we must choose to continue the course or veer off into something new. When we experience an ending in a marriage, a change in careers, political upheavals, the end of childrearing, or challenges with our health, the crossroads we find ourselves facing can either inspire us to choose differently, or during these moments of change we can paralyze ourselves with fear.
Making a crossroads a moment of profound and lasting change and learning how to thrive when life’s changes descend upon us can be learned.

The key to weathering life’s crossroads:

1. Do not settle for normal. When our habitual response leads us to what is expected and customary — when we choose ordinary — we can expect the unremarkable.

2. Do not resist. Attempting to control, manipulate or force things to happen is a typical response to the fear that comes with change. Some of us will be so fearful that we refuse to make a change without understanding that even if we choose not to make a decision or take action, this in and of itself is a choice. Our learned way of coping with stress and uncertainty should be reevaluated constantly as we evolve in this world. Move with the changes instead of against them.

3. Trust your deepest feelings for guidance. We all know, deep within ourselves, what we need to do — what we know, how to think, when to trust — during times of crisis. We can learn to access and trust our innate wisdom; it is personal and always available. Through this, we will know how to adjust our course, move toward our personal destiny. When we don’t follow our inner guidance, we feel a loss of power and energy.

4. Dream bigger. Change what you expect from life and then create a plan and work to cultivate the right conditions for your growth and success.

5. Limit distractions and strive to create balance in the midst of chaos. When we let go of our own or other’s agendas and when we push away the demanding concerns of the moment, we are able to hear our own thoughts. Do less at the moments of crossroads and give yourself the gift of time — time to be in the present moment. Respect the value of being here and now. Ask yourself, “What is the one area of my life that needs more balance?”

6. Failure is just another way to start again. When we face a crossroads with fearlessness and the choice turns out to be prosperous, we are hailed as a genius or visionary. When our choice creates failure, then we are judged harshly, ridiculed and diminished, and it has the potential to make being fearless more difficult when we face the next crossroads. We must remember that failing creates not only additional opportunities for success, but fosters courage and determination in those of us who are brave enough to attempt it.

When I’m faced with fear at life’s inevitable crossroads, I have learned to “let it rip“ and charge “no holds barred“ into the abyss — if for no other reason than to see what is there. I have emerged out the other side bloody and battered at times, but I’m stronger for having risked, taken a stand, trusted and believed.


Friday, 31 July 2020

You have the power over your mind... Control what you can and accept what you can't!

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength." 

- Marcus Aurelius

A few thoughts on how to manage the mind and focus on what we can control while accepting the things we cannot. Master the mind, and the rest will follow!

Access further insight, information, encouragement and support for helping you to Thrive after Divorce or separation at:

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Should Step-Relationships Be Maintained After Divorce?

What was once considered a rarity—step-siblings, step-parents, and step-in-laws—has become more common than not. When couples marry, there is a very good chance that one of them brings an extended family that branches by halves and steps. And if that couple winds up divorcing, the tree splinters even further. Because there is no biological bond that obligates a step-family member to stay in contact with other steps, the rules of engagement can be confusing and tense. In a recent article, marriage experts explain how to navigate the rocky road of step-relationships after divorce.

Take, for example, the case of an ex-wife who spent decades raising her step-children. Should she continue the relationship with these nonbiological children, even though she has no legal claim to them? Mary T. Kelly, a marriage therapist from Colorado, notes that often step-children can be a contributing factor to divorce. Many blended-family parents disagree over how to raise his, hers, and their children. Tension that exists between step-children and step-parents seems like normal childhood rebellion, but in many cases may actually run deeper.

Paul Hokemeyer, a New York therapist, says couples and children need to determine if they want those relationships to continue after divorce. Many children may not be permitted to make contact with their ex-step-parents while they are minors, but can make the choice whether to have a relationship with that significant person when they reach adulthood. Even step-grandparents get caught in the mix when step-families divorce. Grandparents who become attached to step-grandchildren, only to have them taken away, may not be willing to invest as much into future step-family members.

One Massachusetts psychologist, Patricia Papemow, recommends that clients try to initiate contact through letters rather than personal visits or phone calls. It is important for step-children to be allowed to have time to process the shift in the relationship on their own terms. Letting them know a step-parent is there through cards and letters is a noninvasive and subtle way to continue contact and keep the door open for future communication. Regardless of how an individual chooses to stay in contact with their step-children, Hokemeyer insists that they review their motives so that all parties will be receptive. “Make sure that you are acting out of genuine love and concern for the other person, and not out of anger and attempts to manipulate,” Hokemeyer says. Following these tips could help step-exes maintain important family ties in a world of ever-changing family dynamics.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

The 18 Best Things You Can Do For Your Kids After Divorce

Raising your kids after divorce isn’t easy. You constantly worry about how the split will affect them in the long run — and let’s face it, interacting with your ex in the name of co-parenting isn’t always a walk in the park.

Still, if you strive to put your kids first, divorce can absolutely be an opportunity to be a better parent than you were before your marriage ended. Last week, we asked our Twitter and Facebook followers to share with us what they believe is the best thing you can do for your kids after divorce.

See 18 of our favorite responses below.

1. “Don’t talk badly about the other parent. Modeling good behavior by getting along with your ex is really critical to the kids’ stability.

2. “Be consistent in everything you do. Be dependable, reliable and make them laugh. Often.”

3. “Remember this: Genetically, your kids are 50 percent your ex. Every negative thing you say about him or her, you’re saying about the kids, too.”

4. “Be honest with your kids in an age-appropriate way.”

5. “This is a good time to be a smotherer. Smother them with love and support and remind them that the divorce has nothing to do with them and that ultimately, it will be for the best.”

6. “Get a therapist for the kids during the divorce, not after. We did so and my kids really benefitted from having someone removed from the situation to talk to about their feelings. She encouraged them to open up and helped us sidestep a lot of serious issues.”

7. “Act like adults.”

8. “Understand that some situations don’t lend themselves to co-parenting. Consider alternatives like parallel parenting. Just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean that your spouse has changed.”

9. “Allow your kids equal time with both parents. They deserve it.”

10. “Don’t blindly follow advice from books on post-divorce parenting. The best way to comfort your kids is to go off what you’re sensing from them, not what some self-help author told you to do.”

11. “Be empathetic about the grief they are experiencing. Encourage them to talk and don’t judge their feelings.”

12. “Put their needs first, even before your own. Everything you do should be done in their best interest and nothing you do should be done without asking how your choices will affect them.”

13. “Try your hardest to co-parent. Be there for your ex so you two can support your kids as a team. It’s no longer about the adults so put any animosity aside and do what is in the best interest of your children.”

14. “Realize how futile it is to trash-talk your ex sooner rather than later. The kids will determine the merits and minuses of each parent on their own.”

15. “If you’re allowing the kids to choose who they live with, don’t make them feel guilty about their choice.”

16. “Keep in mind: They’re the innocent victims in the situation. Treat them accordingly.”

17. “Never use your kids as a weapon, a go-between or a spy against your ex. And never talk negatively about the other parent near them or anywhere they can hear or see it (hint hint: Facebook).”

18. “Love your kids more than you hate your ex.“


Self, Self Reliance and Selfishness

"Self-reliance is the best defence against the pressures of the moment"
-Carl Von Clausewitz

We all bear a right and a responsibility at times to ensure that we put ourselves first; we need to take care of ourselves, serve ourselves and ensure our own needs are met for daily existence and growth if we're going to be able to serve and meet the needs of others.

As we work through times of challenge, it's essential that we ensure that we're being selfish when needed to give ourselves and our lives the oxygen we need both metaphorically and literally. If we can't breathe, we're unable to help others.

Give yourself the support you need, put yourself first occasionally!

Friday, 29 May 2020

How Solo Single Moms Can Raise Confident, Healthy Sons

The notion that any dad is better than no dad is nonsense.

Parenting solo is a tough challenge, no doubt.

However, psychologists agree that boys do not require constant male guidance to grow up confident and healthy. In fact, a dad living at home who is a poor role model typically does more harm than good. If a biological dad is unfailingly neglectful, physically or emotionally abusive or just plain unloving, his son is most likely better off without his dad’s influence.

So what can a single mother raising a boy alone do to ensure her son gets what he needs? For starters, trust that your beliefs and actions will guide you toward success.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind:

Adjust your attitude, if necessary. Strive to resolve your issues about men and relationships, especially if you became a single mom under excruciating circumstances – like if your son’s father left without warning or explanation. When you look at your son and see his biological dad’s face, it’s OK to get a little emotional. After all, if your ex gave you anything of value, you’re looking at him. Tell your son early and often how much you love him no matter how you feel about his biological dad.

Banish any “man of the house” notions about your son.
Your goal is to guide your son toward manhood. Right now, however, your son cannot assume responsibility for things adult men are supposed to do. Your son is not your confidant, knight in shining armor or rescuer. Correct privately and quickly any adult who asks your son if he’s taking good care of Mommy or wrongly confers “man of the house” responsibilities on him.

Your son’s only job right now is to be a kid.

Set limits early. Sons of single moms are not at greater risk for getting into serious trouble as adults. Don’t believe the dire predictions you may hear. Believe in yourself as a strong and confident parent.

Focus on your son and his needs. As parents, our only realistic option is to control our own behavior.

Boys do act differently than girls.
Dealing effectively with bursts of typical boy behavior, such as pushing and shoving on the playground, are simply a part of your everyday parenting responsibilities.

Teach your son your values. But let him express these values uniquely. Point out positive qualities in men you see on a day-to-day basis. Emphasize the importance of treating others with kindness, as well as being helpful and considerate. Discuss examples of bullying in age-appropriate ways. Point out why such behaviors are contrary to your family values and simply wrong.

Make it clear what’s appropriate behavior in your home. Of course, hitting, punching and kicking are against family rules. Discuss alternatives to unwanted behavior so that your son can make more appropriate choices next time. These will not be one-time conversations.

Spanking may work for the moment, but it sends the powerful message that acting out your feelings is acceptable, if you’re the one in charge.

Stress using words rather than actions to convey feelings. Model this behavior by using words to describe your own feelings, rather than slamming the car door or stomping angrily around the house. Make sure your son understands that it’s not OK to shut people out. Let your son cry openly with no discouragement or judgment.

Keep talking.
As your son grows older, challenges increase because adolescent boys fear revealing their confusion and vulnerability. Our culture still admires “real men” who fear weakness and strive to solve problems on their own. This is why solo single moms – who don’t have another parent to partner with in raising kids – are often advised to leave their sons alone or let them shoot some hoops. We’re assured that he’ll be fine and urged not to hover.

Resist the impulse to shrug your shoulders and walk away. This is exactly the time to let your son know that you’re always available for conversation. Talking openly – sharing kid-friendly details - about what goes on in your own life makes your son more inclined to say what’s on his mind rather than silently sulk.


Thursday, 28 May 2020

What Is Divorce Etiquette And How Can It Help?

You don’t often hear the words ‘divorce’ and ‘etiquette’ used together. When I hear the word ‘etiquette,’ I think manners, politeness, courtesies – again not things we usually associate with ending a marriage. And perhaps that’s exactly why so many people struggle to achieve a good divorce. So what is divorce etiquette and how can it help?

I’m not a fan of rule books but I do think being conscious about how you conduct yourself during divorce could help you better cope with the end of your marriage so you’ll feel less conscious, less awkward and avoid saying or doing things that you’ll regret later. If we did have more generally accepted guidelines on coping with divorce, then the breakups could be less disruptive not just for spouses but also for children, extended families, friends and coworkers. Who wouldn’t want that?

This episode of Conversations About Divorce is all about Divorce Etiquette and joining me for this fabulous conversation are Suzanne Riss and Jill Sockwell, authors of The Optimist’s Guide To Divorce: How To Get Through Your Breakup and Create A New Life You Love.

What Is Divorce Etiquette?

When someone is going through a hard time, it’s part of our human nature to want to help. We often want to do something to let that person know we care. We want to do something to let that person know we’re sorry they’re in pain. But just like other difficult situations, we don’t want to say anything that will make the person feel worse.

Riss says, “When we are talking about divorce etiquette, we’re talking about making a difficult situation better rather than rubbing salt in the wound.”

It really comes down to acting with kindness and compassion in any situation. Setting that intention at the beginning of the process will guide you through the many points along the way when you have a choice. Riss says, “Make it your personal mission to treat them as you would like to be treated.”

Who Is Divorce Etiquette For?

Divorce etiquette applies to everyone whether that’s friends, family, children and especially your STBX. Both partners set the tone for the divorce and how you divorce, can be quite independent of your marriage. This means that you don’t have to carry over the level of disagreement and arguing from your marriage to your break up.

It’s important to think about this early, preferably before there’s even been a discussion about separating because it’s in that very first conversation that the tone of the break up starts to get set. There’ll be many points along the way where you’ll have the opportunity to reset the tone or reinforce it.

“We believe you can apply some rules for common decency with your partner as you go through the difficult process of separating,” said Riss.

Of course, treating your partner with respect doesn’t mean you’ll get the same back. Rockwell reminds us that you can’t control anyone else. However, “no matter how hard you are trying to be kind, understanding, compassionate, doesn’t mean that on that day, that argument, you’ll be getting that treatment back but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth maintaining that intention.”

You have to switch gears – once the marriage is over, you now have to work to transition your relationship with your STBX from a romantic partner to a business partner. That might be for the short term while you figure out the division of assets or it could be for a much longer period if you have children together.

Meeting Your STBX In Public

Meeting your STBX in public may be awkward, even embarrassing but there’s a high probability it’s going to happen. Knowing that means you can prepare.

“You have a choice at every step,” says Riss. “You can choose positive or negative.”

The example we talked about was what if both you and your STBX turn up at school to pick up your kids. Obviously, there’s been a miscommunication so what should you do?

“It’s best to try to work it out without embarrassing your kids,” says Riss. “If someone needs to be the bigger person, take on that role.” If that means you letting your STBX pick up the kids even though you’re convinced it’s your turn, so be it. Better that than having a brawl in the parking lot.

Another situation is when you arrive at your child’s event, maybe it’s a concert, maybe it’s a baseball game. Your STBX sees you and waves at you indicating they have a seat for you. Sitting next to them isn’t what you had in mind so what should you do?

Sockwell says how you handle this depends on whether your STBX is trying to control you. If it doesn’t feel safe for you to sit next to or near your STBX, then don’t. But otherwise, consider that your STBX maybe doing this with your child’s perspective in mind.

“If I were a child, I can’t think of anything I’d want more than to look out from the swimming pool, the stage or wherever I was performing, and see my parents together because they’re there not because they are in a relationship together but they’re there for me,” says Sockwell.

Friends Take Their Cues From You

Soon after my ex and I split up, one of our couple friends was hosting a cookout at their home. She called me and invited me and told me that they’d also invited my ex. She said that she and her husband liked us both, were friends with both of us and they didn’t want to choose who to invite so they were inviting both of us and leaving it up to us to figure out what we wanted to do.

This is a great model to follow but isn’t what typically happens.

Riss says the key word here is comfort. “People take their cues from you. If you’re comfortable, then the person asking you will feel relieved that you’re OK.”

Letting people know that you’re doing OK will make them feel comfortable inviting you to a social occasion.

There will be friends from whom you don’t hear. Sockwell’s straight-forward advice here is that if you’re missing a friend, then you reach out to them.

“Don’t assume they’re not reaching out to you because of what’s going on with you. They may have their own stressors or own health problems or their own separation. You never know,” says Sockwell.

Divorce is a difficult and uncomfortable topic and your friend not contacting you may be because they don’t know what to say. You taking the lead, can put your friend at ease and breakdown the barrier that threatens your friendship.

On the flip side, Riss recommends that if you know someone who is going through divorce, be proactive and let them know you’re there to support them.

Be Sensitive At Work

The workplace is a different environment. There, if you notice someone is not wearing their wedding ring, it may not be appropriate to comment in an open meeting. Sockwell says, “If they haven’t said anything, I’m not going to say anything because they’re probably doing what they can to hold it together.”

If they bring it up, then feel free to invite them to get together after work. If they don’t bring it up, then perhaps you can approach them in a private space to offer support.

If you’re going to need time off or flexibility for appointments, it’s a good idea to let your supervisor know what’s going on but Riss, recommends doing so once you can do it without breaking down in a flood of tears.

You may also want to consult with your HR department for guidance on how to handle changes to your benefit enrollments and also on company policy around name changes, if that’s going to apply to you.

Beware of Social Media

Both Riss and Sockwell agree that it’s very easy to post something to social media that you may regret later. Riss says, “Don’t react out of anger.” Social media is not the place to air your grievances. If you’re upset about something, call a friend and work through your anger another way.

Similarly, Sockwell recommends against posting updates that are calling for pity. She suggests keeping a journal and using that to work through your emotions.

Even though you may have blocked your STBX from seeing your posts, if you have friends in common then your STBX may still be able to see your posts through their feeds and that could end up hurting you.