Monday, 31 December 2018

9 Rules for Turning Endings into New Beginnings

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

When you can no longer think of a reason to continue, you must think of a reason to start over. There’s a big difference between giving up and starting over in the right direction. And there are three little words that can release you from your past regrets and guide you forward to a positive new beginning. These words are: “From now on…”
So, from now on…

  1. Let the things you can’t control, GO. – Most things are only a part of your life because you keep thinking about them. Positive things happen in your life when you emotionally distance yourself from the negative things. So stop holding on to what hurts, and make room for what feels right. Do not let what is out of your control interfere with all the things you can control. Read The Success Principles.
  2. Accept and embrace reality. – Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. For everything you lose, you gain something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else. You don’t have to like it, but it’s just easier if you do. So pay attention to your outlook on life. You can either regret or rejoice; it’s your choice.
  3. Change your mind. – Change is like breath – it isn’t part of the process, it is the process. In reality the only thing we can count on is change. And the first step toward positive change is to change your outlook. Prepare for the positive. Prepare for the new. Allow the unknown to take you to fresh and unforeseen areas in yourself. Growth is impossible without change. If you cannot change your mind, you cannot change anything in your life. Sometimes all you need to do is look at things from a different perspective.
  4. Hold tight to the good things. – When life’s struggles knock you into a pit so deep you can’t see anything but darkness, don’t waste valuable energy trying to dig your way out. Because if you hastily dig in the dark, you’re likely to head in the wrong direction and only dig the pit deeper. Instead, use what energy you have to reach out and pull something good in with you. For goodness is bright; its radiance will show you which way is up, and illuminate the correct path that will take you there. Read Learned Optimism.
  5. Rest and regroup. – Strength isn’t about bearing a cross of grief or shame. Strength is about choosing your path, living with the consequences, and learning from them. Sometimes you do your best and end up with a mess. When this happens, don’t be discouraged. You tried. That’s really all you can ever do. You have not failed; you just learned what not to do. So rest, regroup, and begin again with what you now know.
  6. Take chances. – Making a big life change or trying something new can be scary. But do you know what’s even scarier? Regret. So realize that most of your fears are much bigger in your mind than they are in reality; you’ll see this for yourself as soon as you face them. Don’t let them stop you. Live your life so that you never have to regret the chances you never took, the love you never let in, and the gifts you never gave out. Read The Magic of Thinking Big.
  7. Keep climbing. – Every person who is at the top of the mountain did not fall there from the sky. Good things come to those who work for them. You gain confidence and grow stronger by every experience in which you truly push yourself to do something you didn’t think you could do. If you are standing in that place of in-between, unable or unwilling to go backwards, but too afraid to move forward, remember that you can’t enjoy the view without being willing to climb.
  8. Appreciate what you have learned. – Nothing is more beautiful and powerful than a smile that has struggled through the tears. Don’t regret your time, even the moments that were filled with hurt. Smile because you learned from it and gained the strength to rise above it. In the end, it’s not what you have been through that defines who you are; it’s how you got through it that has made you the person you are today, and the person you are capable of being tomorrow.
  9. Realize every step is necessary. – Nothing is ever wrong. We learn from every step we take. Whatever you did today was a necessary step to get to tomorrow. So be proud of yourself. Maybe you are not as good as you want to be, or as great as you one day will be; but thanks to all the lessons you’ve learned along the way, you are so much better than you used to be.


Sunday, 30 December 2018

Every Day Can Be A Starting Point: Make a New Beginning

Every day of your life is a new beginning, not just the first day of the year.

You can make Daily Resolutions, not just New Year Resolutions. Any day is suitable for making them.

Regard every day as the beginning of your new, better, and happier life. Start every day of the year with feelings of happiness and with the anticipation that great and wonderful things are going to happen.

Regardless of your circumstances, begin every day of the year with a smile, hope and expectations. You are not cheating yourself, because this attitude, if you persevere with it, would make you a more positive and happy person.

Every day, restate your goals and your decisions for your new, happy and successful life. At the same time, be open to new ideas and opportunities, and for ways to achieve your goals.
If you look at each day as new beginning, you will feel happier, more energetic and more motivated.

Often, people make New Year Resolutions, but either do nothing to carry them out, or start and then quit. This creates feelings of frustration, unhappiness and failure.

You don’t have just one opportunity to carry out a decision or achieve a goal. If you failed to carry them out, you don’t need to wait for the beginning of the next year. You can make a new resolution every day, and you can start again every day, if you failed in your first, second or even third attempt.

There are no limitations on making new decisions and forming new goals, and there are no limitations on when to begin doing new things. Every day is suitable for making a resolution and a new beginning.

Every day is a new beginning and the start of your new life.

The question is whether you carry through what you decided and promised. This is most important. What’s the use of making decisions and promises, but not following them through?

Do you make New Year Resolutions?

If you do, do you try to carry them out?

If you begin to carry them out, do you persevere until you accomplish them?

It is simple and easy to make New Year Resolutions, or any other decision at any other time of the year. Often, they are made in response to some emotion. However, people quite soon, lose the motivation and enthusiasm, and continue living the same kind of life, without doing anything to improve them.

This is why you need to make resolutions and repeat them every day. It is not enough to state them just once, when the New Year begins. It would be a good idea to write them down on a clean sheet of paper, on the screen of your computer, or on your smartphone, so you can see them, read them, and think about them every day.

You need to repeat your resolutions every day, with belief and faith, and be willing to do whatever it needs to accomplish them, not just repeat the words with your lips. You need to keep expecting success, happiness and health, no matter in what circumstances you live.

This attitude would trigger your subconscious mind to help you and to motivate you.

You might wish there was some kind of magic to carry out your decisions, promises and goals. There is, and it is made of motivation, persistence, willpower and self-discipline. These are the powers that would change your life and make them interesting, happy and fulfilling.

“Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance.”
– Oprah Winfrey

“Every day is a new beginning. Treat it that way. Stay away from what might have been, and look at what can be.”
– Marsha Petrie Sue


Saturday, 29 December 2018

6 Simple Steps to Make Happiness Happen

Happiness is a funny old thing. We all want it yet we rarely know how to get it. Many call it their purpose in life and say "life is too short to be unhappy". I agree with both, but I know it's not easy for everyone. It certainly wasn't easy for me—until I changed.

Growing up, I remember many saying "do this" or "do that" or "do whatever makes you happy." I know every single one of those comments were given with the desire to help. But the only thing they did was leave me more confused. What was life really about? What made me happy? What actually is happiness?

Worst of all, there was no option to study "happiness" in school. No one taught me what happiness was all about. No one gave me a lesson on what I should do to become happier. I was a little lost, to say the least.

That's why I was absolutely mesmerized when I discovered the field of positive psychology which is also known as the science of happiness and human fulfillment. I got so into it that I left my corporate job to pursue a Masters of Science in it! Finally, I was going to get the answers to my questions about happiness. Finally, someone was going to tell me what happiness actually is and how you can actually reach it.

Now, having come through to the other, happier side, I want to share my biggest steps to happiness with you. These are the ones that transformed my life and turned me into the trained optimist that I am today. These are the ones I practice and preach religiously as The Happyologist®:

1. Learn what happiness actually is and what it is not.

There are too many myths about happiness out there that do nothing except hold you back from being happy. Familiarize yourself with positive psychology to get scientific backing to your happiness journey. All it takes is a book, an online course, or a conversation with an expert to get some facts straight.

2. Discover your unique happiness.

As with most things, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to happiness. That means you need to get to know yourself to understand what it is that makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Reconnect with your values, your strengths, and your purpose to build a strong foundation for your happiness journey. Then, let them lead you to a life that aligns with them.

3. Shift your perspective to a positive one.

A big chunk of your happiness comes from what goes on in your head and how you choose to perceive the world. That's why fostering a positive perspective is super important. But before you go all Pollyanna on me, let me be clear about one thing: being positive doesn't mean ignoring or shutting out the negative. Instead, it's about acknowledging the problems that you are faced with and believing in your abilities to overcome them. It's about being honest about how you feel and knowing that you will feel better again. Basically, it's about having perspective.

4. Foster your relationships.

As a human being, you need other people not only to survive but to thrive. You are your happiest when you are surrounded by your loved ones. That's why it is critical that you make the time to build and sustain strong, meaningful relationships with the people you love.

5. Use your body.

Too often we get stuck in one place, in one position for too long and before we know it, we haven't moved for three hours (if not longer!). The human body isn't designed to sit at a desk all day so make sure you are getting up, stretching or doing some kind of movements regularly.

Your body affects your mind more than you think and if it's feeling sluggish, lethargic, or low, it's difficult for your mind to feel anything else. That's why moving throughout your day, as well as having dedicated exercise sessions daily, greatly influences your happiness. Also think about clever ways to move your body that will up your mood, like hugging or smiling.

6. Make time to be still.

If your life is a mad dash from one thing to the next, happiness will have a hard time catching up to you. Make sure you're taking the time to slow down, reflect, and to simply be. This is one way you can connect with yourself in a deeper way and perhaps even get clear, intuitive answers to questions you've been pondering for weeks.

In short, there are many things you can do to welcome happiness into your life but none of them have to be difficult. Sure, some things like changing your mindset will take some time, but if you put the right effort in it will turn into a habit that will fuel you for the rest of your life.
In the end, remember that you are a human being, not a human doing. If you slow down long enough, your contentment might just come then and there.


Friday, 28 December 2018

The Reality of Conscious Uncoupling

According to the, “consciously uncoupling” refers to “the act of ending a marriage or relationship, but in a way that is viewed as a very positive step by both parties, who mutually believe their lives will be better for doing so.” The couple makes a serious attempt to remain friends and co-parent if they have children. It is a very respectful way of terminating a long-term relationship.

The expression was thrust into the media in 2014 after being used by actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her spouse, rocker Chris Martin, who announced the breakup of their marriage online while writing that they intended to. The use of such embellished terminology is just a euphemism for an amicable separation or amicable divorce. The term has been viewed critically in the media as typical celebrity-invented nonsense. Its mockery by journalists, however, has brought further attention to it, only popularizing the phrase.

Katherine Woodward Thomas is the one to credit with the term after she penned a self-help book with the same title. Her intentions are, of course, to help couples split up peacefully. Regardless of what people might think of the term, the concept is an ideal that all couples should aim for if they are at such a point in their lives. Science, however, tells us that this rarely happens.

The Reality of Breaking Up
Researcher Diane Vaughan discusses in her book, Uncoupling: Turning Points in Intimate Relationships (1990), how couples really split up. Several conclusions can be drawn from her extensive work with couples ending their relationship. First and foremost, all uncoupling begins with a secret.

One partner (the “initiator”) usually feels unsatisfied with the relationship or believes that it was a mistake. The initiator stays quiet and processes their feelings on their own. Uncoupling most often begins way before someone actually initiates a break-up.
Instead of directly communicating thoughts and feelings with their spouse or partner, initiators engage in these types of behaviours:

  • The initiator makes direct and indirect attempts to "fix" their partner who is frequently clueless about the thoughts the other one is having.
  • The initiator begins to find satisfaction outside the relationship. Energy gets channeled into hobbies, friendships, the kids, or an affair.
  • The initiator makes important changes unilaterally. There is no more discussion and negotiation. There is a shift from “we-ness” to “me-ness.”
  • The initiator starts to re-define their partner and the relationship in negative terms. History gets re-written…good times are forgotten. Attempts are made to justify the thoughts and feelings around wishing to end the relationship.
  • The initiator finds ways to create distance from the partner. This may be in their body language, mood, spending time away, becoming overly critical, complaining or acting passive-aggressive.
  • The initiator operates out of fear and is plagued with uncertainty. He or she confuses known problems vs. unknown problems. It is very difficult to face the truth when making a drastic life decision.
  • The initiator finds a “transitional person.” The initiator begins to confide in someone who will instrumental in bridging the gap between the old life and new life. This may be a lover, friend, divorce lawyer, or a therapist. It may be someone who has gone through the divorce process who can serve as a role-model of sorts.

Daily routine of life makes it easier for the unhappy partner to slowly and gradually slip away, at first only psychologically, and eventually physically. Initiators have the benefit of time to gather the resources necessary to uncouple when they are good and ready. Lack of such resources may create major barriers to separation.

The uncoupling process usually starts in this covert and rather “unconscious” way. Or, at least only consciously to the unhappy partner. The initiator fails to communicate their intense dissatisfaction with the relationship. As a result, when the initiator makes a bold move to end things, it’s frequently too late for the other partner to do anything to change the decision.

The Facts
This is not a condemnation of the initiator or a judgment of the reasons why people choose to leave their marriage or long-term relationship. It is strictly based on the collection of data on how people go about it. Understanding this may help couples take a braver and more open approach and take corrective action sooner rather than later if one or both are unhappy in their relationship. A result of early action and discussion may be that couples actually end up staying together for the long-haul.


Thursday, 27 December 2018

Help! My Spouse Just Asked for a Divorce

Here's how not to blow your chances of getting things back on track

Whether it seems “out of the blue” or you have been sensing it for a long time, it is scary as hell when your spouse wants to leave you. (By the way, it’s never “out of the blue,” but that’s another article). Maybe at this point, you will do anything to save the marriage … even therapy. However, what if it your spouse says “I’m done?”

As the saying goes – it’s not over ‘till it’s over. If you still desire to save your marriage, there are many things you should (and should not) be doing.

Top 10 Things You SHOULD NOT Do If Your Spouse Wants to Leave You and You Want to Save Your Marriage:

  1. Do not beg, plead, pursue, or make demands. This will have the opposite effect and turn your spouse off.
  2. Do not make excessive phone calls and texts to your spouse. Do not act desperate or needy.
  3. Do not continually point out all good points in marriage or about you.
  4. Do not try to get him/her to read marriage books, look at your wedding pictures, etc.
  5. Do not trail your spouse around the house like a sad puppy. In fact, do not appear like a sad puppy at all!
  6. Do not ask family or friends to encourage your spouse to stay with you. Discussing such personal matters with these people will upset your spouse and make things worse.
  7. Do not buy gifts, flowers, and cards to make up for what you may have done. You will not be successful at buying back love.
  8. Do not spy on spouse by following in your car, checking emails, cell phone, bills, etc.
  9. Do not say "I Love You." Your spouse is not in the mood to hear it right now, and it will come off as manipulative or "pushy."
  10. Do not go wild. Stay away from drugs, alcohol, the bar scene or having sex with others. If you really want to get your spouse back, these behaviors will not do it!
Here Are the Top 10 Things You SHOULD DO If Your Spouse Wants to Leave You and You Want to Save Your Marriage:
  1. Do bring your “best self” to this crisis. It is not the time to fall apart, go into a rage or get vengeful. Muster up the best attitude you can.
  2. Do keep up with your appearance. Going unshaven, stinking from not showering, looking like a slob or sitting endlessly on the couch watching TV will not be enticing to your spouse at all.
  3. Do behave respectfully toward your spouse and have self-respect as well.
  4. Do act as though you are moving forward with confidence regardless of whether or not your spouse stays with you.
  5. Do keep busy. Continue your day to day activities. And, go out on your own, with friends, with family and the kids. Go to a place of worship, try a new hobby, get some exercise. In other words, get a life for yourself despite what happens with your marriage. You may invite your spouse, but do not react negatively if he or she does not take you up on your suggestion. Do not change your intended plans.
  6. Do give your spouse some space! Do not question your spouse about his/her whereabouts or schedule.
  7. Do let your spouse see you as content regardless of your current feelings. Your moods will be fluctuating. However, you should be someone that your spouse would want to be around because you are pleasant.
  8. Do allow your spouse come to you with any questions or concerns about the marriage, not the other way around. Other than sincerely letting your partner know that you want to save the marriage, be patient about any discussions about you two. If he or she does come to talk, be an active and engaged listener, showing you care about what is being said.
  9. Do not engage in arguments. Do not “take the bait” if your spouse tries to get you to do this. You may even have to walk away. (If your spouse claims that you “always walk away,” just state you would be happy to stay and have a civil conversation...then do it!)
  10. Do get help. Read self-help or self-improvement books or see a counselor (with experience with couples). Divorce Remedy is a good book for your circumstances.
It can be devastating to hear that your spouse wants to leave you. Even spouses that say they want to divorce are actually still somewhat ambivalent about doing so. You want the best opportunity to have things work out in your favor. Many people completely sabotage this by acting desperate, angry, nasty or vengeful. This is the opposite of what you should be doing.

Follow these dos and don’ts and, above all, be consistent with these actions and behaviors. You must demonstrate that you are capable of real change. You need to think deeply about what has gotten you both to this place. What behaviors are you willing to change to get your marriage on track? Think about what your spouse has probably been complaining about for a very long time. What have you been remiss in hearing from your spouse?

It may seem unfair that you have to do all the changing. For now, yes, you most likely do because you are at a disadvantage. You need to essentially change first. If you have an addiction (porn, substance or other) or you had an affair or you are abusive (physical and/or emotional), you must get your own treatment to work on these. You will also have a long road ahead of you to repair the damage you caused.

Making positive changes (whether your marriage works out or not) is always a good idea. Chances are there are some behaviors or traits you have that would be problematic in most relationships. If you can get your spouse back on board with you about working on the marriage, making changes would definitely not have been in vain.


Wednesday, 26 December 2018

When the bottom drops out: How losing my marriage made me more thankful

A broken heart can be a powerful gift.

Several years ago, as a CEO and busy working mom of five children (now ages 18 to 8), I recall devouring the book "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg. I thought I had found my personal Dali Lama, giving me sage wisdom and a comrade in arms who shared stories of breastfeeding babies while simultaneously leading conference calls and managing the other charming and sometimes crazy anecdotes that unite working leaders worldwide.

Bottom line from Sandberg? It’s not always easy, but it’s always possible to achieve whatever the world perceives as “balance” in business and family. What I didn’t know when I developed my girl crush on Sandberg, was that her second book was going to be even more relevant and incredibly important to me. In her best-selling book, "Option B," Sandberg chronicles how the devastating and untimely death of her beloved husband Dave Goldberg changed her profoundly from the inside out. I recall being incredibly saddened to learn of her loss, but became even more familiar with her deep pain when I lost my own husband to very different, but still incredibly painful, circumstances.

In February 2016, I learned that my marriage of nearly 20 years was over in a split second. An accidental unveiling of a single email unraveled a terrible tale of my husband’s secret double life. I had been living with someone that I didn’t know at all. Every element I took to be true — his love, his fidelity, his care of our financial safety — was false. My beautiful family, my entire life plan and the dreams as I knew them were gone. As a very prominent and visible business leader in my hometown of Chicago, I have always been viewed as someone who truly “had it all.” A self-made success story of a young working mom who forged out on her own to build a national, award-winning firm that worked with the biggest and best brands in the world. An adoring wife who was always by her husband’s side at charity events around town. An uber-busy woman who ran swiftly in her Jimmy Choos and was devoted to school functions and fundraising. I was the average, everyday Sheryl Sandberg who related to every bit of advice and insight in "Lean In." And then, all of a sudden, I related to the other Sandberg who spoke so eloquently about loss and the lessons that come from it.

The revelations of my husband’s choices, coupled with the awful ramifications of a costly divorce that included experts and witness testimony, numerous court appearances and countless sleepless nights, took a big toll on me. My heart was totally broken, my mind was blown, I stopped eating and taking care of myself and I physically and psychologically shut down. I even recall a few dark days when I wasn’t sure I could actually go on. I wished the world would swallow me up and I would be released from the indescribable pain I was in, but I knew I had to fight through it because of the five precious children at home who needed their mom to get back up again, be strong and help them survive this catastrophe.

With nearly two years of deep reflection and a lot of good friends, support of family and some therapy thrown in there, too, I have learned that my deep despair and total unraveling of life was a gift. Yes, I said a gift. That is actually the rather shocking part of my tale. I could have never predicted when I took stock of my personal situation, the devastation it caused my children who never saw conflict in our home, the impact my impending divorce took on my successful business and the soul crunching toll my personal loss took on the woman who everyone viewed as having it all figured out. I took away several lessons that have molded me into the happy person I am today.

As someone who always leveraged the vast connections and resources in my world to help others, it was incredibly hard for me to ask for and accept help when my life turned sideways. I learned a valuable lesson from others who had walked before me in divorce and other losses. It’s absolutely okay to be vulnerable and ask for help, something I had rarely ever done before. Others won’t start viewing you as weak. The important people in your life won’t judge. In fact, they will see your strength in acknowledging you need a hand. Part of the big lesson is also having the humility to stop and accept help, be grateful for it and not feel less for it. It took me a while to recognize that while I prefer being on the “giving” side of things, there are times in your life when you need to be on the receiving end. It doesn’t make you a lesser person. It makes you human.

I will admit that for the first several months I was squarely caught in the “Why Me?” mindset. I couldn’t comprehend how my children and I could be in the midst of a family crisis of this magnitude. Then I decided to look at my life from the opposite perspective. I began being thankful. Thankful for everything including waking up in the morning, grateful that I had two parents in their mid-80’s that were still here to provide emotional and spiritual support, honored that I had so many friends and colleagues that loved and were rooting for me, blessed that I had five incredible children simply because of my now-broken marriage. I have decided to stay in a state of gratitude and its kept me going during some pretty tough times.

No one, and I mean no one, wants to go through a life-altering event. Whether it’s a death, divorce, cancer or the loss of a job, life is going to throw you some pretty serious curveballs. Before my divorce, I thought that life was a long stretch of ‘good’ times with a few bad incidents thrown in there for good measure. Now, I firmly believe that life is generally a rocky, ever-changing, no-guarantees ride and you better have a strong anchor in place to get you through the high and low tides. I have strong faith in God and that has served me well. But for others, it might be meditation, yoga or journaling that help you process your life’s rockier moments. I know it might sound trite, but the only thing you can count on in life is that change is inevitable. So, embrace it and identify ways to cope.

We often think that when our old life ends, it’s never going to be as sweet again. That is simply not true. I’ve found that it has offered me a rare chance to take stock of the people in my life, the causes I support and the time that I traditionally spend on things that don’t bring me as much joy and I’ve been able to release them. You truly find out who the people in your life are that deeply care about you when you are faced with tragedy. They are the ones that ask you “how are you, today?” and keep a consistent thread of contact with you. I have found that some people I invested in while married sadly weren’t as invested in the “single” me. I have learned its okay to say ‘no’ to things I used to regularly commit to. People that matter understand and they just want you to be happy and fulfilled. Edit out those that don’t have your best interest in mind.

Someone told me that it won’t rain forever. And while I’ve been living in a pretty tumultuous life climate for nearly two years, I have seen many sunny days and a few rainbows, too. Sometimes, when you’re right in the middle of a tough situation, it feels like there is absolutely no way out of it. And I’m living proof that no matter the size or scope of the storm, you will get to enjoy your life again. In the meantime, grab a good umbrella and boots and be prepared.

One of the greatest gifts that came from me losing nearly everything, is a clearer picture of what I actually needed in life. Long gone are the days where a day at the mall or a fancy new handbag defines my joy or provides me with a reminder of just how far I’ve made it from building my company out of my suburban basement. I have come to realize that I am very much happy with what I currently have. I value, much more, the company of and precious time with my quickly-growing children and I like the new me that’s risen out of the ashes of my former life. I am not going to say this process has been easy (or even over), but I am still here, standing tall and definitely more grateful for what my life has given me and what lies ahead in the future.

When faced with a devastating loss or your life plan completely goes off the grid, know that it doesn’t mean you’re cursed or that life is never going to be as good as it once was. I’m learning that it really is about appreciating the bumps and bruises (and scars) you get along this journey called life. It’s what you do with those lessons that allow you to stand stronger and hopefully share your story with others to stand stronger, too.


Tuesday, 25 December 2018

7 Ways to Get Through the Holidays During Hard Times

While others are baking Christmas cookies and scaling their roofs to hang up sparkling lights, you might not be feeling as sweet and sparkly about the holidays. All of the cheer and merriment of the holidays can shine a bright light on whatever issue you might be facing—a loss of a loved one, the loss of a pet, a year that didn’t go as planned, a relationship ending, or a personal challenge—and you’d rather stay under the covers and wake up when it’s January. It’s tough to be down in the dumps or going through a tough time when everything around you is turning into a Hallmark card and everyone is so darn happy. Going into hibernation til January isn’t practical (or healthy), so I put together a game plan for you to help you through December. And maybe, just maybe, you might enjoy it a little bit too.

1.Pay tribute.

If you are experiencing a loss that has you feeling empty and sad, use your emotions to pay tribute. If you lost a family member this year, you can do this by working on a photo album, writing a personal tribute you can share with other family members, or sharing stories and memories of the person you lost. If your loss is a relationship ending (divorce or a break-up) try to switch the focus and pay tribute to your own life. In what ways have you been neglecting yourself? What are some things you could do for just you that would restore your spirit? If it’s a beloved family pet that you lost, pay tribute and donate some of your time to the local animal shelter or create a positive memory by framing a picture of your cherished pet. Rather than dwelling in a place of loss, take some small steps that create a feeling of comfort in you.

2. There you are again gratitude.

Whether times are great or times are tough, gratitude is the number one instant mood lifter. Take the time out to notice what’s going right. Even if you are going through a difficult personal challenge, there is always something to be grateful for in your life. Think of three things when you wake up in the morning or make a list of all the things you are grateful for when your day ends. You will be reminding yourself to pay attention to and spend some time with the positive.

3. Scan for the things you like.

Maybe you aren’t going through a loss or a specific problem right now, you just don’t like the holidays because you don’t like where your life is at right now. You aren’t quite ready to put a big Christmas bow around your life yet. Remember, your life doesn’t have to be perfect for you to enjoy it. If you feel like your life is a work in progress, put yourself on a mission to scan for what you do like about the holidays. You don’t have to put your happiness on hold just because you have some personal goals still in progress.

4. Invest in your relationships.

When you are faced with an obstacle, it’s your support system that matters most. Lean on family and friends. Reach out. Talk to them. Our relationships make us feel like we are all in this together. Your relationships contribute greatly to your overall well-being. Don’t go solo, let others lift you up. Even better? Grab a friend and take a walk or go to a group fitness class. Moving your body and connecting with friends are two ways to greatly enhance your overall well-being.

5. Do something kind for someone else.

The best way to get out of your own head—especially when it’s a painful or sorrowful place to be—is to redirect your focus to someone else. Giving back to someone else is not only kind, it’s the best way to feel better about yourself.

6. Be open to new traditions.

If people or circumstances in your life have changed to where you can’t have the same holiday that you like to have, simply start new traditions. It might be hard to do things differently if you liked how things used to be, but you have the power to create new traditions for your family to cherish. Start with these questions: 1. What do you want your holiday to be like this year? 2. How can you make that happen?

7. Flood your brain with funny.

Don’t you just love the feeling of laughing so hard you get tears in your eyes? Tune in to the latest episode of Jimmy Kimmel, sit down with your super hilarious friend, or dig out Chevy Chase’s Christmas vacation from the movie archives. Whatever makes you laugh, immerse yourself in it for a little levity and an escape from what’s weighing you down. Laughter really is the best medicine.

December might be painful for you because of what you are going through, but you can make it better with lots of self-compassion and kindness. Even during hard times, you have a choice about what you think and what you feel I hope you even discover some magical moments of joy this holiday season.


Monday, 24 December 2018

Happier Holidays During and After Divorce

If you’re newly separated or divorced, you may be dreading holidays. But with planning, creativity, and courage you can cope with – and even enjoy – holidays throughout the year. Here are 7 strategies to help you recapture some of the joy you experienced as a child during the holidays.

If you’re going through a divorce or separation, you probably haven’t even thought about the holidays. But experts stress that it’s important for people who are in transition to develop coping strategies well in advance of the major calendar events. Holidays like Thanksgiving, Passover, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve can intensify feelings of sadness, loss, and failure. For newly separated and divorced people, the holidays can really emphasize how much their lives have changed.

If you’ve spent every significant holiday with your children, being apart from them for the first time can be devastating. Ted, a Chicago-based architect, remembers his first Thanksgiving away from the kids. “I went to see a movie alone and all I could think of was my kids around the table without me,” he says. “It was pretty well the lowest point in my life.”

Adjusting to the holidays as a single person without children can be just as stressful. After her divorce, Anne spent the first few Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with her parents at their home in upstate New York. The 37-year-old legal secretary felt like she had regressed into a second childhood. “I love my parents,” says Anne, “but the whole me, Mom, and Dad thing was just too much.” Roberta, a separated PR consultant from San Diego, tried to escape her loneliness and depression with shopping trips to local department stores. “I couldn’t believe my credit-card bill in January,” she says. “But the worst part was that I kept seeing happy families everywhere. I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘why can’t that be me?’”

Even if your life isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be right now, the good news is that we all have choices about how and where we spend our holidays. Look at it as an opportunity: by being proactive and exercising these choices, you can create new and meaningful traditions for you and your family. Here are seven strategies and tips for enjoying – rather than avoiding – the upcoming holiday season.

1. Take a Positive Approach
No More Holiday Blues by the late Dr. Wayne Dyer is an inspirational little book that offers positive suggestions in a quick-read format. He maintains that as adults, “we’ve come to believe that the holiday season is really only for children… thus only children can enjoy the holidays; adults must suffer through them.” To illustrate his point, Dyer has included a chart that compares childlike attitudes (“I can’t believe it’s over already, it seems like it just started”) to “neurotic” adult attitudes (“Thank God it’s over. If it lasted one more day I’d have a nervous breakdown”). Sound familiar? This year, try to recapture some of the joy you experienced as a child during the holidays.

2. Start Planning Now
Don’t wait until the week before the holiday to decide who gets the kids or to blow the dust off your address book. If you have children, it’s important to get some sort of communication happening with your former spouse well in advance; if they’re old enough, get the kids involved in the decision-making process as well. Be fair in deciding where the children will spend their time, and remember that generosity breeds generosity.

There are many non-confrontational strategies you can use to navigate scheduling issues for the holidays. You can avoid stress by planning well in advance and being flexible: you can plan a fun Christmas celebration with your kids a day before or after December 25 if they’ll be with your ex on the actual day.

It will be very difficult at first not to have your children on a particular day, so you should plan ways to avoid falling into a blue funk. If your ex has the kids on a particular day, you can feel lonely or seize the opportunity to have lunch with an old friend, book a day at the spa, or lounge in a bubblebath with a glass of wine – whatever makes you feel happy.

If you don’t have children, or if your ex has them for this holiday, gather up your courage and reach out to your friends and family. Let them know that you’re going to be on your own. You can’t always count on them to approach you first. People can be intimidated by divorce. 
They may not know how to deal with your situation, or they may be afraid to take sides. You’ll be surprised how receptive they’ll be once you break the ice.

Even though you may be apart, there are so many ways to communicate with your children and other loved ones over the holidays. Get technology on your side: send a warm text or email, call, or arrange to Skype with them. Be mindful of not infringing too much on their other parent’s holiday time with the kids – especially if you’ll be seeing them soon. Also, make sure your text message, emails, tweets, videos, Facebook posts etc. reinforce your reputation as a great co-parent. This means no criticizing the other parent, and no pictures of you doing tequila shots at a swim-up bar! (For more information about this, read “Managing your Reputation during Divorce”)

3. Change your Expectations
Give yourself permission to enjoy this holiday any way that you choose. You don’t have to be lonely, even if you happen to be alone. “Loneliness is an attitude that can be changed, and aloneness is nothing more than a temporary absence of other people,” says Dr. Dyer. “If you allow yourself to indulge in self-pity or fantasies of how your holidays ought to (or used to) be and then permit yourself to become depressed, you’ll be defeating yourself and bringing on the holiday letdown.” If you think you’re going to be alone over the holidays, seize the opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do.

4. Create New Traditions
The holiday season is steeped in sentiment and tradition, which is why people who are in transition sometimes choose to ignore the holidays altogether. “I just couldn’t face unpacking the ornaments from our first Christmas together, from our fifth anniversary, or from our trip to Germany,” says Roberta. “I may never be able to bring them out again.” Fortunately, there’s no rule that says you have to keep any of the trappings or traditions from the past. Decide what works for you and what doesn’t – and edit accordingly.

Jamie, a divorced mother of two from Toronto, suggests that families of divorce be adventurous and design new rituals and traditions for their families. She turned to her Celtic heritage and developed an elaborate holiday ritual centered around the “cloutie dumpling,” a traditional Scottish cake that she used to make with her ex-husband’s great-grandmother. “Jean and I used to get together and make this dumpling in November,” remembers Jamie. “We’d sit up until two in the morning and she’d tell me stories of Scotland.” Your cultural background is a good place to start when creating new traditions. “Nothing fascinates kids more than stories of your background,” says Jamie. “Through your heritage, children experience a sense of continuity, a sense of who they are as human beings.”

There are many opportunities for newly-single people without children, or parents without custodial access, to create their own traditions. Just remember that it’s important to know your limits. If you can’t bring yourself to join a dinner party where you know the other guests will be couples, invite your friends and family to celebrate with you at your home. You can also create a new “constellation” of family or friends for the holidays. Judy, a mother of three from Chicago, created a “friend family” by making Christmas dinner at her house for five of her closest friends.

If you belong to a support group, get to know one another socially. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re going to be alone over the holidays, you can get together with people who understand what you’re going through, even if it’s just for a walk or a cup of coffee.

5. Make Gift-Giving more Pleasurable
Gifts are an integral part of the holiday season. Unfortunately, the gift-giving experience is too often accompanied by high prices, commercialism, and heavy crowds – factors that can cause great stress for separated or divorced people.

Try giving gifts from the heart rather than the mall: for instance, consider giving a family heirloom to your child as a gift this year. Write a card or note about the heirloom, explaining that it has been in the family for several generations, and what it means to you. A gift of a personal belonging can have great significance, too. Bob, an artist who lives in New York City, gave his daughter his leather backpack, a worn and cherished possession that she had admired for many years; she was thrilled with the gift.

You might also consider supporting your favorite charities and arts organizations, or ordering gifts from mail-order or museum catalogues. Visit local merchants, buy gift certificates from a favorite restaurant or from a greenhouse, rent an indoor skating rink for an afternoon, give concert or theater tickets – the options are limitless, so just use your imagination!

One of the best non-monetary gifts you can give your children is the gift of good will towards your former spouse. Agree to a ceasefire, at least during the holidays.

If you must venture into the shopping mall this holiday season, try to enjoy the experience of being out in the world – the decorations, the lights, the music.

6. Relieve Stress with Diet and Exercise
In her book Anxiety and Stress, Dr. Susan Clark suggests that individuals who are under major life stress gradually eliminate (or at least limit) foods that intensify anxiety symptoms. These foods include caffeine, sugar, alcohol, food additives, dairy products, red meat and poultry, and wheat and gluten-containing grains. Foods that are believed to have a calming effect include vegetables, fruits, starches, legumes, whole grains, seeds and nuts, and fish. (For more about nutrition to help you think more clearly and be calmer during divorce, see “Nourishing your Stressed-Out Brain”.) Be realistic about your diet during the holiday season. Face the fact that you’re going to have that eggnog, but try to exercise regularly; it really helps with your emotional state.

7. Be ProactiveIf your family or friends are not around this holiday season, you might want to consider helping out with the festivities at your church, synagogue, or community organization. Reaching out to a neighbor, a shut-in, or someone less fortunate than yourself this holiday season will take courage, but it can give you back your sense of place in the world.

Remember that there is nothing inherently depressing about the holidays. “If you anticipate that things will be depressing, you will rarely disappoint yourself,” says Dr. Dyer. “You must look within yourself and resolve to have a positive attitude, regardless of the tasks that lie ahead of you, or the fullness of your holiday schedule.” This year, look beyond the ghost of Christmas Past. Live in the present and plan for the future, and you’re sure to discover the true meaning of the holiday season.


Saturday, 22 December 2018

How To Take The “Ba-Humbug” Out Of Your First Post-Divorce Christmas

My ex and I separated in January which left me the entire year to worry about what the Christmas season would mean for our children and me. I’m a lover of all things Christmas, the decorating, the food and getting together with family and friends. The holidays had always been a time of celebration and family in our home.

What the hell would that first Christmas be like as a divorced, single mom who was feeling anything but the holiday “spirit?”

If you are divorced Christmas may be a corner you aren’t looking forward to turning. Most people happily anticipate the holiday season but for some it is a period of loneliness, isolation, depression, conflict over visitation schedules and more time thinking about an ex you don’t want to think about.

And, that is OK; it is alright to have all the feelings above and then some. I promise, you are not alone, there are many out there dreading Thanksgiving, Christmas and all that comes along with it. Don’t get me wrong though, just because it is OK to feel sad is no reason to wallow in the sadness.

If there is ever a time of year to put aside life’s stress it is during the holiday season. How do you get yourself out of your funk? One thing that has always worked for me is to let go of the guilt I feel over feeling less than festive.

It has been my experience that feeling bad about feeling bad only made me feel worse. It was like piling one more negative emotion to deal with on top of everything else. If you are divorced and feeling alone and funked you are experiencing normal feelings. Accept that it is fine to feel how you’re feeling…berating yourself over valid feelings doesn’t do anything except make you feel worse.

You need to also give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday season regardless of what kind of adversity you have or, are experiencing. Feeling lonely and isolated doesn’t have to become a foregone conclusion. Just because you aren’t feeling the holiday season is no reason to immerse yourself in maudlin activities while others are out and about enjoy the holidays.

Here are a few suggestions that will hopefully help alleviate some stress and help you feel a bit more of the holiday spirit.

4 Tips To Help You Survive Your First Post-Divorce Christmas:

1. Don’t wait until the last minute to set up the holiday visitation schedule with your ex.
Get all those plans made by the end of October. Set them in stone! Know when, where and who your children will be with for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then put that stress aside. Get it taken care of then let it go.

2. Don’t participate in any holiday activities you feel obligated to participate in. If you aren’t in the mood to be around nosy relatives, then make a different choice. Listening to Grandma’s complaints or having to answer your cousin’s questions about your divorce can be nerve wracking. Be kind to your nerves and yourself!

3. Friends who supported you through your divorce, who know what you’ve been through will also get you through the holiday season.
Spend time with people who are invested in helping your get the most out of life…who better than close friends who don’t expect too much from you.

4. If you find yourself alone, remind yourself that you have a right to a good time. I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day alone one year. I wasn’t looking forward to it but now that I look back I realize that, although alone it was one darn good time.

Being alone for the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t hang some ornaments on a tree. Or decorate the mantle. You don’t have to go all out and deck every hall but bringing out reminders of the fact that it is a “time to be jolly” will be doing yourself a favour.

I purchased scented candles and the holiday scents waffled through the house. I baked Snicker Doodles, took a bubble bath while listening to Emmylou Harris’s “Light of the Stable.” I then watched chick flicks from a bed with clean, crisp sheets and a plate of cookies and a glass of eggnog on the night stand. I missed my children but I took the opportunity to give myself the gift of relaxation and pampering instead of ruminating over the fact I was alone and not doing exactly what I wanted to do.

Stress and negative feelings during the holidays can be difficult, but they don’t have to be debilitating. Making time to relax and do the things you enjoy is essential to keeping a balance. When the holidays finally arrive, remind yourself that you have as much right to a good time as anyone else, and relax and enjoy the occasion to the best of your ability. And whether you feel like it or not, you do have the ability to enjoy the holidays regardless of your situation.


Friday, 21 December 2018

8 Tips to Help You Deal With Mixed Emotions After Divorce

After the divorce, you may find you have mixed emotions about your ex-spouse. While you may know that the divorce was for the best, you may find that some days you hate your ex-spouse, and, surprisingly, other days you miss him/her.

You may wonder why you feel any fondness for someone you are divorcing. It is perfectly normal, and most divorced people report these mixed emotions. So how do you cope with these changing emotions?

Here are 8 Ways to Deal With Mixed Emotions About Your Ex After Divorce:

1. Emotions are not good or bad. They just ARE. When a couple divorces, the bad times they shared may be a recent memory, but there are times when each person feels vulnerable, lonely, or scared of the changes taking place. At these times, you may think of the good times. (Hopefully, they were not all bad!) Allow yourself these trips down memory lane. Don’t try to push down your emotions, but allow yourself to feel all the emotional stages of divorce. Expect that you will have your ups and downs.

2. Divorce means change. Realize that every divorce brings about such change, and change is not always easy. There are times we are tempted to look back because it is easier than facing the fact that you now have to rebuild your life. Trust yourself that you can handle anything that comes along and that you have made the right decision to divorce.

Don’t let fear overtake your judgment.

3. Make lists. It helps to make a list of the reasons you divorced, and the differences you had. Also, make a list of the good parts of your former relationship. Many newly divorced people are so focused on the bad that they grow resentful and hold such a grudge against their ex - spouse, it is hard to move on with their lives.

Everyone has some good traits and some bad.

4. Don’t blame. It’s easy to make your ex the villain, but in order to be successful in your own life and future relationships, you need to take time to look at your part in the failure of the relationship. Only one person does not hold most marriages together, and they don’t end because of one person either. So, deal with the anger you feel in a constructive way.

5. Get support. Sometimes you may need a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on. Don’t shy away from seeking support and validation from friends and relatives. If you feel the need, get into therapy to help you sort through your shifting emotions and the resulting stress.

6. Take care of yourself. Riding this roller coaster of emotions is taxing, so make sure you develop good self – care habits during this time. Get plenty of rest, avoid stress as much as possible, put non-essential things on the back burner for now, and eat a healthy diet. Self-care during and after a divorce is a requirement if you want to maintain your health.

7. Spend time doing things you enjoy. Most people say when they went through a divorce, it was on their mind every waking moment of their day. Take some time to do something you enjoy, something that will “recharge your batteries.” This could include spending time with friends or spending quiet time alone with a good book.

Let your mind concentrate on something other than the divorce when you are feeling overwhelmed.

8. Tell the truth. Be honest with yourself about your feelings. Journaling is very helpful for most people undergoing a major life change. If journaling is not for you, then maybe you need a counselor to help you deal with your emotions. It is helpful to have a professional you can share your innermost feelings with, and never have to see again when therapy is completed.

Divorce brings about changes, and you may feel like it’s hard to feel centered. By following these tips, you can cope with these changes in a positive way and be better able to make a new life for yourself.


Thursday, 20 December 2018

How I survived my first Christmas after a divorce

Divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag explains how she coped during her first Christmas alone

A few months ago I stumbled upon an old home video. It was from Christmas 1999, the era of fear over millennium bugs, of not talking about Fight Club and, as per my favourtie Cher song at the time, asking whether I believed in life after love.

Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews were singing But Baby It’s Cold Outsideand in the video I was dancing in my pyjamas with my two little boys, then four and two, around our Christmas tree, laughing, unwrapping presents, looking the picture of happiness.

But the reality was, it was one of the most sorrowful times of my life because I was in the middle of a divorce.

We’d had months of hideous to-ing and fro-ing of abortive reconciliation. We’d both got involved in other relationships to escape from the pain of breaking up with the person we had thought five years before was the love of our lives.

I’d messed my new thing up royally but perhaps even more distressingly for me, my ex’s new romance was going along nicely. We’d had an excruciating last family trip to the bleaks of Norfolk and a thoroughly weird attempt at making up involving a tryst in a nudist Lido in Moscow, which was pretty unexpected.

But that Christmas, our marriage was truly over. The lawyers were flexing their muscles, and I didn’t even know if the kids and I could stay in our home.

I used to sit in the dark in the garden after my little boys had gone to bed, chain-smoking, drowning my sorrows in red wine and crying whenever I heard Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Power of Love. I was so miserable and scared about the future that I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Every morning I woke up with a gut-wrenching horror as the sense of loss flooded back in. Loss not only of the apparently great love that had turned, in ways I couldn’t fathom, so cold, angry and lonely, but also of all my dreams of a 'normal' family.

As the only child of a divorced single mother, I had desperately longed for a stable, conventional home. When my husband and I met we fell so madly in love that we got engaged five weeks from our first date. It was a dream come true. He was handsome and clever and funny, we were successful together and we had two beautiful sons.

But it didn't work out and I was so stuck on my desire to live out that dream of a lifelong love, of a two-parent family, that I hung onto it all long after I should have let it go. Hence I found myself in the garden, alone, surrounded by fag ends, singing along to My Heart Will Go On from Titanic.

Christmas puts all that under a microscope. There’s so much pressure to make it merry, fun and happy, especially for children. It meant that facing it that first year after my divorce, from my pit of despair, with an empty place at the table, was terrifying. How could I make a Christmas for the boys, when our family had collapsed around our ears?

My mother, away in the country, wanted us to come to her. It was so tempting. She offered warm Anglo-Scottish hospitality, great food and a whole infrastructure of Christmas cheer. The pull of going back to Oxfordshire, where I’d grown up, to familiarity and support, was so strong that I even thought of moving back there all together, London behind me. The whole package looked great.

But there was a little voice that told me I had to resist all that. Not only should I avoid the seduction of going back to live near my mother, which would feel for me, perhaps irrationally, like a regressive step - instead I should stick my neck out and make that first Christmas work completely on my own.

I’d toddle the boys up the road to help me drag back a tree, I’d go out and buy us traditional food and cook it, we’d curl up on the sofa and watch the Teletubbies and Some Like it Hot. I would prove to the boys and to myself that we were a family, the three of us; that we could have fun and be happy together even without anyone else.

Somehow, that push to make our first post-break-up Christmas great for the boys got me out of my damp chain-smoking hell of self-pity and back in the game. Even if you feel destroyed, even if you want to cry all the time, I challenge you to dance around your sitting room with two toddlers eating chocolate money and singing your heart out to Fairytale of New York without feeling instantly better. Looking at that video, we were all smiling, we were giggling, we were just so happy together.

That was the watershed for me – that was when I knew I was going to make it through the dark times. Just doing Christmas myself, making it work, made me feel so much stronger and so much less afraid of being alone. Forcing yourself out for those who love you and depend on you – and if it’s not children it’s whatever family you’ve made among your friends or community – making Christmas for them and not feeling you need to run away and hide; accepting that the family you have, even if it’s just you and a couple of babies or beloved friends, can be a fantastic family all on its own, that’s the key to survival.

I’m not going to tell you how to do it, if you’re going it alone for the first time. It might be a morning in the pub with friends, cocktails on a beach or hiking through the rainforest. You find the things that will work for you and yours. What matters is to grab that first Christmas on your own, don’t just get through it - really make it something you feel proud of.

I remember talking to the boys around the time they were first going to school, and telling them that yes, my heart had broken when I split up with their Dad, but that they, and they alone, had mended it with their love. They've always remembered that and have sometimes quoted it back to me, and, Polyanna-ish as it may be, it feels so, so true. And that Christmas morning was when it started.

Now, I’m getting ready for the bumper giant Christmas that, nearly 15 years on, my lovely (new) husband and I have planned for his two children and my three (having added a daughter in the meantime). We’re all enjoying the big, solid, family life edifice with which I've somehow been blessed.

But I still look back on that old video, where I was alone with my babies on Christmas day in the midst of devastation, and I remember it as a golden moment. One of my life’s most important moments. Because it was the day I realised that I was enough. Just me.

And that I could make new dreams, for myself and my loved ones. Just knowing that changed everything.


Wednesday, 19 December 2018

A happy Christmas with separated parents

Christmas is a special time for children and therefore for their parents too. This holiday, which traditionally involves the family unit, can be difficult for separated parents, especially when their children are not with them for Christmas. We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions by co-parents during the run-up to December 24 and solutions to some of them in order to revive the magic of Christmas for them in their own way.

Who will have custody of the children this year?

Divorced parents are often very fussy about compliance with childcare during the holiday season. To avoid a family crisis that would disturb children, it is better to update your custody calendar several months in advance. Sandrine says: ” My children will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with me and my family this year. It alternates every year with my ex-husband and I think it is very suitable for everyone because nobody feels cheated “. In all cases, do not ask children to choose which parent they want to spend Christmas with as this would undermine their sense of loyalty towards the excluded parent.

What gift will I give to my daughter or my son?

After a separation, you may feel guilty towards your children, or jealous towards the former spouse. Subsequently in some families, there is a competition for who can give the most expensive gift for Christmas. The relationship with the co-parent is not a competition and the child can quickly understand the mechanism and take advantage of this weakness to get what he or she wants. David explains: “My ex-wife does not have the same financial means as me, which creates some tension with the approach of Christmas or birthdays. After a few unfortunate episodes, we made an effort to consult each other before the holidays to prevent our daughter from being a witness to our differences. Sometimes we offer a bigger, common gift.”

Should I invite my ex to the party for the benefit of my children?

Why not, if you still share some affection . But it should not raise false hopes. A child can lose his bearings when his separated parents meet and give the impression of a family unit. Be careful too about the organizational nightmare that this can create with in step families: what about new family members and their children?

This is my first Christmas divorced with kids

Unconsciously or not, many separated parents are hit by nostalgia which can invade Christmas. Jean-Fran├žois has become habituated to inviting his two teenagers to a restaurant with his new girlfriend: ” I found myself alone, desperate to organize a perfect Eve. It quickly turned into a culinary fiasco. Since then, I reserve a good restaurant, and on Christmas Eve we go out”. Martine has made a clean sweep of her former life: “It reminded me too much of old memories. I decided to change all the dishes, table decoration and especially the menu. Finish the game, and flash garlands”. Separation, it changes people. It is normal for family traditions to evolve to better match the new life of each. And if you feel better as well, the children will be the ones to benefit.

This is my first Christmas divorced without my children

Separated parents agree that this is a difficult moment to go through. “After a few years, one tends to become experienced” says Sandra, who found tricks to not spend Christmas alone. ” I made new friends who are mostly like me. We take the opportunity to meet on Christmas Eve and have a good time without getting depressed. I know my children are with their father so I do not let myself worry about them “. You have to reassure yourself: there will be other Christmases you’ll spend with the children and we have the whole year to spend with them. This is the moment to take care of yourself.


Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Holiday survival guide for divorced parents

David Murphy hasn't started shopping for his two boys yet, and he knows he had better get started. The divorced father of two boys, ages 11 and 14, has custody for a full week around Christmas Day this year and needs to get a tree and start buying presents.

Every other year, Murphy (who didn't want his real name used to protect his children's privacy) doesn't have Christmas custody. So, he tries to do something completely different. Divorced for four years, he has traveled with his mother to visit England, where she was born. He has joined his father and stepmother on a trip to Carmel, California.

He hasn't crashed his ex-wife's Christmas Day plans, even though she lives only three miles away from his home in suburban Virginia.

"We try not to mess with the schedule when we don't have to because it's easier on both parties," said Murphy. "As each party has moved on, it happened to work that way. We try not to interfere with each other."

With the U.S. Census Bureau counting nearly 4 million divorced parents in this country, many parents are facing the challenges of negotiating holiday custody schedules, battles over presents, new significant others and simply the pain of being apart.
Whether you have the children for Christmas or not this year, going through a separation or divorce means giving up the dream of a perfect Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa. With the fantasy of the perfect nuclear family obviously over, it can be lonely even with the kids -- but much worse without them. Facing the first holiday since the split, how do people ever survive this holiday season? And eventually even thrive?

Many like Murphy -- who credits his ex-wife with keeping the focus on their sons' well-being during the divorce -- have found a new way of parenting beyond divorce. Here are some things that work:

Keep it focused on the kids

You may not expect to have a happy holiday but wouldn't you like your kids to have a reasonably nice time? Even if you're right, do you want them remembering you put them in the middle of your battles? And no child wants to feel pressure to choose you over the other parent, whom she loves as much as she loves you.

Parents learn about the payoff later, when their grown children make their own choices about where they spend their holidays. In her book "We're Still Family," about adult children of divorce, psychologist Constance Ahrons learned that some adult children refused to visit either parent if the bickering continued. "The children were happiest where parents at least communicated," said Ahrons, also the author of "The Good Divorce." "They didn't want to get caught in the middle, and they wanted to be with both parents."

Sort out details in advance

Nail down the specifics about who gets which days around the winter holidays, including pickup times and locations. Sometimes the details are in your custody agreement, sometimes not. Put it all on e-mail or in writing and stick to the deal -- at least until it becomes routine. If you're a more casual, less detail-oriented parent, know that you'll score points with your more time-obsessed ex if you're on time at drop-off and pick-up. If you're the detail-oriented parent, plan for your always-late ex to be late as usual and you'll be less stressed. Do not fight about time or anything else with the children present.

"Put aside the warfare that so often accompanies divorce," said Steven Grissom, president of DivorceCare, a Christian-based divorce ministry with chapters around the world. "If that carries into a special time in the eyes of child, it makes the holiday experience excruciating."

Don't out-Santa each other

If you can speak civilly with your ex, talk about a general budget for presents, the number of presents and what Santa is getting your children. Santa knows which address to deliver the bike or the castle or the Wii, so don't screw up his planning by having one at each house (unless you both want one at each house). Don't outdo each other. Remember the spirit of the holidays and avoid trying to buy the children off with fabulous presents. And don't buy that violent video game for the specific purpose of angering your ex. The same goes for grandparents and new significant others. If they're interfering in your co-parenting plan, remind them they are not helping your child. At the same time, accept that parents may have different standards about what are acceptable gifts. If you are opposed to electronic games, you may need to accept they will exist at your ex's house.

Keep some traditions, within reason

Children love routine and ritual, so keep a few family traditions if you can. If you baked dozens of different types of cookies for everyone in your life, reduce the number and type of cookies during your annual baking party but keep your daughter's favorite snickerdoodles. If your family liked to take a trip into the woods in your ex's truck to cut down a tree, you may have to explain that your smaller car can't haul such a tree. "To the extent you can, talk with your children ahead of time and find out what is really important to them," Grissom said. "If that won't be possible, maybe you can create a new tradition."

Don't push too much togetherness

While some ex-spouses can sing carols around the Christmas tree or light the Hanukkah candles together with the kids and both sets of grandparents, that's not the reality for everyone. Some do not want to spend time with people who left them or whom they chose to leave. Some people fight every time they see each other. Do not force more togetherness than either of you can handle, and don't feel guilty about it. (That said, if you haven't broken up yet, wait until January. Don't be the Divorcing Grinch Who Stole Christmas.)

Don't lobby for your sweetheart

Bringing a new significant other to the family festivities can really throw the holidays off-balance for the family, Ahrons said. "One parent will say, 'Are you really going to bring her to this table?' or 'You can come without her.' Avoid if it's going to cause trouble, even if the new girlfriend is serious." Remember, it's about your kids, not you.

The exception to the rule

If your ex is currently a danger to himself or herself -- and/or others -- the safety of your children is more important than cooperating during the holidays. In fact, you're probably trying to break the pattern of your ex ruining holiday celebrations. Elizabeth Jones, who didn't want her real name used to protect her child, isn't letting her ex spend the holidays with their daughter for the first time in years. He only recently contacted Jones a couple of weeks ago after disappearing for months. Whenever he sobers up, she first lets him have supervised phone calls for a few weeks, eventually visits with her and their daughter at a neutral location such as a park, followed by visits at her California home. "If my kid weren't so thrilled every time she got to see him, I would be handling this differently," said Jones, who has sole custody. "It's a lot of emotional work for me to put aside my own feelings."

He's a jerk

If you're a saint and your ex is a sinner and won't take any of your thoughtful recommendations to heart, consider this notion: Safety aside, it's better for your child for you to let your ex "win" sometimes, even if you're right. Christmas can sometimes fall on December 27 or even January 6 (the Feast of the Three Kings). Hanukkah is eight nights of fun, so you don't need to control alleight nights. That doesn't mean you're a doormat. It means you're a good parent.

Your adult child will know you tried to make her life better by trying to compromise with your difficult ex (and yes, children know who was difficult).

"How you react to your ex-spouse is how you are teaching your child to handle conflict, stress and anger," said Alan Kazdin, a Yale University psychology professor and director of Yale's Parenting Center. "Giving up a Christmas here or there means you'll have your child long-term. You want your child to have an ally in you later in life. It's not only more rewarding; it's more worthwhile long term."