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.


Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Tricky issues with co-parenting after divorce

Co-parenting — or shared parenting — is usually the best way to deal with custody of your children after divorce, but it isn’t always easy. We spoke with a few moms who are actively co-parenting with their ex-husbands to find out where the trouble lies, and how to best deal with it for the sake of your kids.

Shared parenting requires cooperation

Co-parenting — or shared parenting — is usually the best way to deal with custody of your children after divorce, but it isn’t always easy.

Nobody heads down the aisle with the intention of getting a divorce. Yet we constantly hear that about half of all marriages will eventually end in divorce. When a marriage ends, whatever the reason, there are bound to be hurt feelings and bitterness. If you have children, can you work past these feelings and come together for the sake of the kids? We spoke with a few moms who say you can.

Your feelings? Don’t share

Divorce is intended to sever ties between two people who no longer love each other. “Very rarely is a divorce amicable,” shares Dr. Fran Walfish, Psy.D., who is a child and family psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent. “Each partner in the marriage has their own individual complaints about the other including infidelity, control, lack of communication and so forth.” She says that many couples direct their grievances toward battles regarding money and the children, which benefits no one. “My advice to all parents who are co-parenting with joint custody after divorce is to set aside their anger, disappointment, hurt and rage,” she adds. “Those feelings are for you to deal with in a therapy office and with your supportive friends and family.”

Patsy Shelton is a teacher and mother of two boys. “No marriage ends easily,” she says. “There were tears and anger and blame when my marriage ended, but we were both able to see our roles in its ending.” Both Patsy and her ex-husband shared the desire to protect their boys from the pain they felt. “It's not about our history anymore — that's why we got a divorce! We are free to let all of that go. Now we are friends who look to the future and what it holds, not for us, but for our sons,” she adds.

Joint custody means working together

“We've worked hard to make sure our kids see us together, through occasional meals together, birthday parties, sports and school events,” shares Tracy Jensen, writer and mother of two. “It reassures them that although we don't live together, we're still working together to make sure they're OK — and that it's OK for them to love both of their parents.” Changing your relationship to meet the needs of your kids takes patience and a lot of work, on both sides. “It doesn't mean that anger and hurt don't exist,” adds Jensen. “It means that the needs of our kids are more important.”

While you shouldn’t expect your ex to suddenly become the father he never was, you can appreciate the differences that he brings to your children’s lives and roll with them. “Let your ex develop his own parenting style,” advises Jensen. “He's never going to do it the same way that you do, and that's OK. Kids benefit from a different perspective. Take the opportunity to enjoy what your kids learn from him.”

Make it easier

Many divorced parents wind up trying to make things harder for the other parent, whether subconsciously or on purpose. When you choose a difficult path, it only hurts the kids. “Make it easy for your ex to spend time with your kids,” says Jensen. ”I see a number of friends enveloped in this battle, where time with the kids becomes such a weapon. I have always told the kids' dad if he wants extra time with them, to simply ask.”

By having a regular, consistent routine — that also has room for flexibility — your kids will feel that their lives are more stable. “The boys stay three days with me and then three days with their father,” shares Shelton, “but if I need him to keep the boys, he does! And if he needs me to keep them, I do!” The give-and-take is what makes this feel more like a partnership than a battle. “In the best interests of your children, be friendly, kind and respectful to your ex in front of the kids,” shares Dr. Walfish. “Swallow your pride for your children's sake and never fight in front of the kids. That includes no hostile grimaces or remarks, no sarcasm and no unbearable silences you could cut with a knife,” she adds. “You will make your kids' lives easier and they will be more resilient.”

Tips for successful co-parenting after divorce

Dan Clifford is a partner in the family law practice at the law firm Weber Gallagher. He sees firsthand how struggles with divorce affect the children. He offers us five tips for success with co-parenting.

Parents should always keep the lines of communication open for the benefit of the children. I suggest email as the preferred communication device, but remember to keep all messages short, informational and limited to something pertaining to the children’s medical/educational issues, and/or a detail pertaining to an upcoming custody exchange. Remember, every email could be used as a possible exhibit in a future custody dispute.

Avoid long, accusatory, rambling emails that relive past history, point fingers and force the other party to shut down (and remind them of why you are no longer living under the same roof). If the email is more than two or three lines, it’s too long. If you need to vent, send the longer email you’d really like to send to your best friend, instead.

Consider using one of the custody calendar computer programs available to record special family events, school, extracurricular activities and doctor appointments to eliminate the phrases, “You didn’t tell me,” “You didn’t remind me” and “I didn’t know” from the vocabulary of the parent who fails to show up at an important event.

Always provide a united front to the important people in your child’s life — teachers, tutors, coaches and parents of your child’s close friends. It should never be about you proving to that third party that you are the “better” parent.

Consider providing a gift for the child to present to the other parent for important events like birthdays, Christmas, Father’s/Mother’s Day, etc. While you may no longer like the other parent, it’s a simple gesture of kindness that your child will likely remember forever.

By doing your best to work with your former spouse, you are providing your children with a family safety net — and showing them that they really matter to both of you.


Monday, 25 May 2020

Don't let yourself off, keep on going!

As we work towards a goal or through a period of challenge, and when faced with a difficult task, when we feel tired and in need of a rest, or sometimes just when we're controlled by fear, it can be tempting to take a break, to let ourselves off, to be 'kind' to ourselves.
At times like these, it's all the more important to keep on going, to take the difficult decision, confront the unpleasant task and to have the awkward conversation. 
Through continued action, relentlessly committing to the goal and taking step-by-step eventually we'll achieve our goals and get to where we want and deserve to be.
I wish you a happy, fulfilled and successful 2018 as you work through your divorce and forwards to your new and better life. I'm right there with you, pressing ever forwards and onwards!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Divorce may weaken kids' immunity

More and more children come from 'broken homes', and a divorce can raise a child's risk of catching colds in adulthood.

Even though parents do what they can to shield their children against the trauma of divorce, kids often feel as if their world is falling apart.

According to a Health24 article, marital problems can create serious instability in the family and feelings of insecurity in the child.

Adding to the problem of instability in South Africa, fewer people are getting married than 10 years ago, female divorcées are getting older and men are more likely to remarry multiple times.

An unfriendly divorce can raise a child's risk of catching colds in adulthood, a new study suggests.

Poor health and chronic illness

"Early life stressful experiences do something to our physiology and inflammatory processes that increase risk for poorer health and chronic illness," explained researcher Michael Murphy of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This work is a step forward in our understanding of how family stress during childhood may influence a child's susceptibility to disease 20–40 years later," Murphy said in a university news release. He's a psychology postdoctoral research associate.

Common cold virus

The study found that children whose parents separate and don't speak are at increased risk for colds as adults.

Previous research has shown that adults who experience the split of parents during childhood are at increased risk for poorer health. The authors of this new study believe their work may help explain why that's so.

The study included more than 200 healthy adults exposed to a common cold virus. Those whose parents lived apart and didn't talk to each other during the participant's childhood were more than three times more likely to develop a cold than those whose parents remained together.

No cause-and-effect relationship

While the study only found an association and not a cause-and-effect link, one reason suggested by the researchers for the increased risk of a cold was heightened inflammation in response to viral infection.

Meanwhile, the researchers found that adults whose parents separated during childhood but remained in contact were not at increased risk of catching a cold.

"Our results target the immune system as an important carrier of the long-term negative impact of early family conflict," said Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon.

"They also suggest that all divorces are not equal," Cohen said.

Continued communication between parents and support system for the children buffers the harmful effects that separation has on the health of the children, he added.