Monday, 30 April 2018

Memories Matter — Resist the Urge to Purge After Divorce

My ex-husband and I got engaged on Valentine’s Day. It may be a relationship cliché, but for me it was the perfect opening scene to what I thought would be our fairy tale movie ending.
My family has never done very much in honor of the Hallmark holiday, but his always goes all out. The children in the family receive special gift bags full of items designed to say, “I love you” in a way that is meaningful to a young heart. It’s a tradition, along with many others, that I continue to honor with our children.

One of their favorite stories is about me giving their Dad, a true fishing fanatic, a chocolate bass for Valentine’s Day one year. Unfortunately, by the time he got around to eating it there wasn’t much left but a fin wrapped in foil (Hi. My name is Theresa, and I have a chocolate addiction.)

What they love most about the story I think is it reminds them that their parents did have many wonderful moments that continue to be inside family jokes. Moments from the past woven into our current story remind all of us that the divorce wasn’t an ending — it was the beginning of a new family script.

My children have family pictures in their rooms that assure them they were created out of love. I still hang the personalized ornaments on the Christmas tree that show the four of us as sleigh riding penguins or happy little elves. I feel it’s important to remind them we are always going to be a family ‘til death do us part; we just define it differently now.
After divorce, many feel the urge to purge (or at least hide) objects in the house that serve as reminders of the marriage. Not me.

Happy memories serve as an anchor — they tether us to the past in a positive way. For those who insist that is easier said than done, of course it is. Very little in life worth pursuing is easy. But, at some point, in the healing process, you have to come to terms with the fact it wasn’t all bad or you certainly would have said I don’t instead of I do. We all decide what to remember and what to forget. I choose to remember the good and allow the bad to dissolve.
I surround myself and my children with objects that tell a story. It’s my story. It’s their story. 
At times, it’s a living, breathing Lifetime movie complete with props. Just because some of the characters have moved on to other roles, I’m still here. So are they. I see no need to erase the background and disrupt the set.

I confess that I am a hoarder of past relationship artifacts in general. I still have a valentine someone gave me in the second grade. I save significant emails, texts, cards, trinkets and other material memoirs. I immortalize them in albums or photo boxes. I don’t feel like I need anyone to stage an intervention though.

Perhaps there is a part of me that feels like if the objects disappear, so will the positive memories. Just because you can’t model a live broadcast of a healthy, happy marriage for your child, that doesn’t mean you can’t find creative ways to show them that at some point one existed. That too is a part of the story of us. All of us. They are not just children of a divorce, but also of a love story. A marriage. A family.

I think it’s important to make peace with all of your memories because they will be triggered by a multitude of things — certain songs, places visited, items you purchased together or favorite family movies. Free will means we all have the power to infuse our own meaning into any day.

Each year, if I can find one, I buy a chocolate fish for the kids to give their Dad on Valentine’s Day. It reminds all of us to keep swimming, and that the shore is always in sight. Positive memories, especially for children, function as a lighthouse to guide them home even when they have to navigate two addresses. Memories matter. Choose the ones that make you smile.

Do you share positive or funny stories from your marriage — or is everything you talk about negative? Which objects in your home remind you of a happy time? For Valentine’s Day, celebrate love by challenging yourself to remember at least one moment you treasure and honor that. Share it here-or perhaps privately with your family, friends or children. Maybe write it down. Life is a basically a series of moments. Which ones are you focusing on?


Friday, 27 April 2018

Raising My Son With My Ex-Husband Is the Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

For years, I’ve been waiting for someone to come clean about co-parenting. Celebrities and social media would have us believe it’s easy, even enjoyable, and I’m tired of contributing to that narrative. It’s not true. As a co-parenter and frequent social media over-sharer, I’m guilty of perpetuating the notion that anyone can seamlessly transition from a couple to co-parents with grace, dignity and ease. 

Sure. There have been happy moments in my co-parenting journey where that felt true, but those moments are not the majority of my experience. Shared family vacations and weekly dinner dates didn’t happen without endless negotiations and blurred lines along the way.
So, here we go, I’ll say the thing that no one else wants to say: Co-parenting sucks.

My son was 1 years old when I moved out of the home I shared with my husband and ever since then his father and I have tried multiple ways to co-exist.

We’ve tried mediation and meditation, and seeing each other in moderation. We’ve lived separately, together and have even tried nesting (a name for the cohabitation set-up where the child stays in one home while the parents rotate in and out). We’ve tried cooperative parenting and parallel parenting, going no-contact and going full-contact (a name for the emotional set back where you start sleeping together again against all better judgment).

I could write the Kama Sutra on co-parenting. After five years, the conclusion I’ve come to is that there’s nothing natural about this. Successfully sharing the person who brings you the most joy with the person who brings you the most pain is nothing short of a miracle.

I always laugh — and then scream — when people suggest getting divorced is taking the easy way out. I can’t think of anything more difficult than failing at marriage, and then having to raise a child together without having the necessary time and distance to recover from every micro and macro heartbreak that has occurred. There’s nothing easy about this easy way out. In fact, the only thing that’s easier than leaving a relationship that isn’t working is choosing to stay in it.

I didn’t realize that divorce doesn’t really exist when you have children. If it does, it looks something like this: “I now pronounce you ex-husband and ex-wife, you may keep seeing each other for the rest of your lives.” That’s where I am now, the separate but together forever until death do we part. That vow doesn’t go away even after all of the other vows have been broken.

When I filed for divorce in 2012, I wasn’t yet ready to let go. I still felt so much love for the man I was leaving and I was still gripping onto the idea of a perfect family. What I didn’t understand back then is that the love I have for my son and the love I had for his father would always be tangled up together in knots. I couldn’t admit this to anyone else because I was too busy pretending I knew what I’d gotten myself into, pretending for my son’s sake and for my own sanity that my divorce didn’t faze me.

We tried really hard to be the world’s friendliest exes and in photos it was believable, but in reality we were actually two people desperately clinging onto the fantasy of what we thought our family could look like. A fantasy where there was one Christmas, not two, no separate mommy time and daddy time, no elaborate and colorful calendar to help us keep track of where our child would be sleeping on any given night. It would take years to face the facts of separating. No matter how much my ex-husband and I love each other, how much we’ve forgiven one another and how much we’re willing to work together, divorce means we set fire to the fantasy.

And what’s left in the ashes is harder to accept than I imagined.

Co-parenting means my child will grow up always missing one of his parents. When he says to me in tears, “This isn’t fair,” I tell him that he’s right, there’s nothing fair about this. When he says, “I miss daddy,” I want to cry with him and say, “I miss daddy too.” But I take a deep breath and I tell him what I know is true: “Anything less than always will feel like not enough time together.” There is nothing natural about the fact that my son will grow half his height while I’m not watching or that he’ll tuck half of his baby teeth under the pillow at a different home. He won’t get the little sibling he wants anytime soon, and if he ever does that child won’t share his father’s eyes or my lips and he’ll only spend every other Christmas with him or her.

I didn’t know back then, when I was one foot in the fantasy and one foot out, how much I would dread dropping off my son with his father. How do I describe how alone a home feels when a child has left it? Maybe you already know this feeling. Maybe you too have sat, or collapsed, on the living room floor and looked at old photos and videos of your child. Maybe you too have given in to the unexpected and overwhelming feelings of nostalgia and self-pity and regret.

A married friend once told me how much she envied me. “At least you get some time off,” she said. The comment wasn’t malicious, but it was misled. How could I explain to her that there is no such thing as time off when you’re a parent. The minute my son is gone I wonder where he is and what he’s doing. I wonder whether he’s hungry, tired or sad. I fill up my calendar so that every hour we’re apart is accounted for because if I don’t do this there’s a good chance I won’t get out of bed.

It’s in these moments that I wonder what is wrong with me. And I’m not entirely convinced that there is something wrong with me because I don’t know how other co-parents cope. We don’t talk about it. We nod and we smile and we fill our calendars on our “days off,” and for the rest of the world we put our most evolved foot forward. At least, I did. I kept up the act: 
I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re all fine.

But for a long time, I wasn’t fine. And now, I’m done trying to convince myself that I’m part of a secret society of mothers who stay best friends with their exes, travel together with their exes and regularly reunite for a bedtime story or bath time routine. This might be the reality for some divorced parents, but it isn’t mine — not yet, not really and maybe it never will be. Slowly, I’m beginning to accept this fact.

What I know now and desperately needed to hear then is this: Let go of the family you thought you’d be and accept the family that you are. Redefine your reality. It won’t be easy and there will be days when it feels nearly impossible. You will feel guilt, but you are not guilty. You will feel shame, but you did nothing shameful. You will feel regret, but you did the right thing. There is a space that exists between the family that you were and the family that you’ll end up being. You’re not alone in that space. I’m right there with you. And my guess is that we’re not the only ones.


Thursday, 26 April 2018

8 financial tips for men getting a divorce

In TV shows and movies, the typical divorce narrative is to portray women as celebrated victims. Meanwhile, men are depicted as silent sufferers who feel resentment, anger, depression and fear over lingering financial issues, relationship turmoil and worries over breaking up their families.

Off camera, the truth is that men don't always have the tools — or the support — to deal with these very real concerns.

"Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, but it can be especially challenging for men who don't typically express their feelings," says David Blaylock, a LearnVest Planning Services certified financial planner™. "They want to keep their divorces private — and that's not a good policy. You want a support system in place, just like any other major life change."

Sure, the old adage is true: Time heals all wounds. But good advice helps too. The more men know about what to expect when they're dissolving their marriages, the easier the process can be. So we consulted Bari Zell Weinberger, a matrimonial attorney at Weinberger Law Group, as well as Blaylock, for the key dos and don'ts of what men need to know about the financial side of divorce.

1. Do know the numbers
For an average divorce, Weinberger says you should expect to pay about no less than $20,000, which includes lawyers and experts, real estate costs to divvy up shared marital property, finding a second place for you to live, as well as financial advice and therapy for you or your children.

That said, the cost of a divorce can still vary — and widely.

For instance, says Weinberger, the price can increase exponentially if your divorce requires niche experts, like a forensic accountant or a co-parenting counselor. Other pricey scenarios: You need to get your business evaluated (your ex is entitled to equitable distribution if you launched the business during the marriage, and even if you started your business before you were married, a spouse may be entitled to part of the increase in the business's value), you have high net worth and need a best-interest evaluation or you're facing a hotly contested custody battle with your soon-to-be ex. All of these situations could bump the price of your divorce up to the $50,000 to $100,000 range, and in some cases much more, Weinberger estimates.

However, adds Weinberger, if a man comes to her office with a straightforward divorce — where all the terms have already been decided, and communication is open between the partners — then the cost could be as low as $3,500. In fact, if you have a particularly simple situation, with no minor children or unusual financial circumstances, a divorce can run less than $500, with filing fees, Blaylock adds.

According to Weinberger, one other crucial element that men — and women — who are parents should think about if they're embroiled in extreme litigation: The more money you spend on your divorce, the less money you have to give your kids. "You're taking your children's [college] education savings," she says, "and you're kissing one semester goodbye."

2. Don't be too proud to pay alimony…
Alimony offers monetary help to the spouse who was supported financially during the marriage — especially if one parent left the workforce to focus on the family for a long period of time. Spouses usually provide alimony in one of three different ways, depending on state laws: As a lump sum, in regular payments, or in another predetermined arrangement — say, if you cut a check to a third party to pay an ex's mortgage. (It's also important to note that alimony is separate from child support.)

But the impact of alimony isn't just financial — there's also a psychological component. Men may feel that a former spouse doesn't deserve to receive "free" income based on their hard work. Weinberger notes that many of her clients are resistant to paying because no one — man or woman — wants to have to write out a check to an ex.

Weinberger's advice? "While no one wants to pay alimony, if we're working out a global package, then it could make sense from a tax perspective," she explains, adding that alimony is tax-deductible. (Just be sure to file a separate tax return using a 1040 form.)

3. …And don't be too proud to collect alimony
If a woman is making more than her spouse or if the father is a stay-at-home parent while the mother works, then the ex-husband could be entitled to receive alimony. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 56 percent of divorce lawyers have seen an increase in mothers paying child support, and 47 percent have seen more women paying alimony, as well.

But being an alimony recipient can sometimes bring about feelings of insecurity, notes Weinberger. "I have men who say, 'How is the community going to look at me?'" she says. "I tell them that they're entitled. If they're a stay-at-home dad or there is a large discrepancy in income, they should receive it."

4. Do create a post-divorce life budget
When a man going through a divorce comes to David for financial planning advice, he sits him down to talk logistics. "We try to make a budget for his new life," Blaylock says. According to Blaylock, men typically think about the money that they'll have to pay upfront for divorce-related expenses — the actual divorce, child support, alimony — but forget that everyday expenses are going to change once they're newly single.

For example, if you have joint custody, you'll need things like clothes and toys so your kids can live comfortably in your house. Some co-parenting experts say that many kids who split the week between moms and dads actually prefer to have all of the items they need at each house, so they don't lose anything in the transfer.

5. Do divide things equally
A half-half split is easier said than done — just because you're getting divorced doesn't mean that you won't still feel tremendous attachment to your ex. Because of this, says Blaylock, many men (and women) cave to lopsided agreements — and this is often the case with men who are used to taking care of a spouse financially.

"A lot of men want to continue that role, even though they no longer have that obligation," says Blaylock. "I just had a best friend go through this issue. He gave her everything, much to his financial detriment." Dividing your property — furniture, artwork, camping gear, music equipment — should be done in a way so that you don't end up with resentments or regrets. It's O.K. not to let your ex have it all.

6. Do look into alternative child support solutions
Typically, child support covers basic necessities — food, clothing, shelter. Depending on how you arrange your settlement, it may also include uninsured medical expenses, educational fees, child care, transportation, travel, entertainment, college and extracurricular activities. Many arguments can erupt between ex-spouses over managing these costs.

"Children are expensive," says Weinberger. And, unfortunately, all of those expenses may be tough, if not impossible, to itemize. "It's never going to work out that Dad is going to feel secure that the child support is going to be applied directly to the child," she explains. "I have so many dads who want everything identified with invoices, slips and statements. And they're not going to get them."

That's why Weinberger advises her clients to come up with what she calls "hybrid" solutions. For instance, if you can pay a service provider directly, like a child-care provider, then you can avoid fighting over the money. One father I know, Weinberg recalls, even prepaid medical providers, as well as contributed to the mother's share of their 529 plan.

7. Do set up a cellular plan
For children who are old enough, buy them a cell phone that's designated for the sole purpose of contacting you. Call it the "Dad Phone," and ask your ex to leave it in a spot where your child can always find it. Adding an additional line to your plan should be relatively inexpensive, though the cost will vary depending on your provider and whether or not you opt for a pricier smart phone.

8. Don't make impulsive financial decisions
"Divorce is more like death than you can ever imagine," says Blaylock. "It's O.K. to be emotional. It's O.K. to be hurt. It's O.K. to grieve." This is precisely why Blaylock urges men to treat their divorces with a sense of gravity — and not make any major financial decisions for six to 12 months. Don't switch jobs. Don't move to a new city. "Hold status quo in your life," he says, "as you deal with this adjustment."


Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Letting go of memories after divorce

Inspired by Russell Crowe I’ve decided to hold my own Art of Divorce auction. It sounds much more glamorous than a garage sale. A grand event to say goodbye to the pieces of a previous life and start anew.

"Here is my stuff," Crowe wrote in an amiable note at the start of the auction’s printed catalogue.

"Stuff I have worn, stuff I have bought, stuff I have admired, stuff I have loved, stuff that has made me laugh, stuff that I have sweated through."

He said the sale would mark a cathartic end to his amicable divorce proceedings from Danielle Spencer.

And I get that. Memories get caught up in all sorts of stuff. From sturdy leather jockstraps to chariots.

But alas, my catalogue won’t be as extensive as Crowe’s, no leather boots worn in Romper Stomper, nor violins from the 18th century, just the detritus, if that’s not too harsh a word, of a near 30-year relationship.

But where to begin? At the beginning of the end, nay, a few years before, for the beginning of the end is always further back than first seems. The amicable separation of furniture and saucepans and blankets and Tupperware that happens when you agree to set up two homes.

But now my stuff is mine. Stuff I have worn, stuff I have bought, stuff I have admired, stuff I have loved etc, but occasionally you’re reminded that some of that stuff that remains still reminds you of what has gone.

Every now and again I have purged, my minimal living even more pared back. The linen cupboard is as bare as it’s ever been, shelves too stripped clean. A box of cards and letters, many from him, was riffled through. Did I really need to keep anniversary cards from 1990 whose sentiment was no longer relevant? No.

But what about children’s drawings and wedding dresses and photographs of holidays and books once shared?

In her Huffington Post article Memories Matter - Resist the urge to purge after divorce Theresa Stiles found she couldn’t get rid of the stuff, nor the stories of what it all represented.

“My children have family pictures in their rooms that assure them they were created out of love,” she writes. “I still hang the personalised ornaments on the Christmas tree that show the four of us as sleigh riding penguins or happy little elves. I feel it’s important to remind them we are always going to be a family ‘til death do us part; we just define it differently now.”

She says happy memories serve as an anchor, tethering us to the past in a positive way. She admits sometimes that it's easier said than done. And it is.

On my son’s bedside table is a photograph of his father and I, from a wedding, not ours, caught laughing, long ago, that period where all your friends are committing themselves to love, to life. Sometimes I look at it and wonder what happened. More and more I look at it and my first thought is, was I ever that young? I think that’s a good sign.

Yet I remember one moment of acute heartbreak in the packing up process when my ex left behind a photograph he had taken of me atop a mountain in Switzerland somewhere. Our first overseas holiday. The view from that mountain, and of our life to come, stretched out beyond the horizon. That view wasn’t his now. I sometimes wonder if any physical memory of me has a place on a shelf somewhere in his new life.

Yet I’ve long been a believer that women are the keepers of memories. That we’re more likely to store stuff as well as stories, tucked away in corners of our homes and hearts. Part of me feels that the albums filled of photos of newborns and first steps and first days at school belong with me. That I was the one to hang finger paintings on the wall, file away report cards from kindergarten. The one to build our family story.

I know, on the good days, that it’s time for me to start building my own family story, making my own family memories. I know that all four of us will be forever intertwined but I’m at my happiest now when these new chapters are being written.

Holidays, meals, conversations, experiences. It’s different. Lighter in a way. More free. The children are older and that’s changed the core of it. I watch them make their own memories and I know I have to let go. Let go of many things.


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Cash Problems Stress the Kids

Finances: What to Do when Finances after Divorce Stress Your Children

Joi Freemont, a dentist in Atlanta, Georgia understands how tough divorce-related financial problems can be for children. “I frequently see children whose parents are recently divorced. When the breakup happens, the kids are suddenly having their braces removed because neither parent wants to pay for them anymore.”

The statistics for divorced families are grim: 27 percent of children living with their mothers and 12 percent of children living with their fathers are in poverty, according to the 2006 Yale University Press book, Divorce: Causes and Consequences, by Alison Clarke-Stewart.

“Financial changes that result from a divorce can be as emotionally difficult for children as they are for parents. Even when they are babies, children can feel if their parents are stressed,” cautions Sharon Fried, a clinical psychologist and author of Children are People Too. Dr. Fried advises, “Although children do not need to live in a fantasy world, parents who share details of the family’s financial troubles will be placing unnecessary and troubling burdens on their children. These unnecessary burdens can affect their schoolwork, their socialization, and other critical factors while growing up.”

A divorce is often a financial blow to families. Parents discover that two homes mean two of everything: beds, desks, tables, toys, and much more. Younger children who had previously enjoyed weekly trips to the movies might suddenly find themselves confined to the T.V. 
Older children might be shocked to learn that new video games have become a thing of the past. So how are co-parents to best help their children to adjust to these new limitations?
Financial changes need to be explained in an age-appropriate way. Younger children do not have the reasoning abilities of adults and may grossly misinterpret certain statements. Author Linda Leitz of the upcoming book We Need to Talk: Money and Kids After Divorce says, If a mom says to a preschooler, ‘We can’t afford to do what we used to,’ that may sound like ‘We’re going to have to live on the street,’ instead of ‘You need to choose between ballet and soccer.’ So with all kids, it’s good to stress that they’ll be ok even though some changes will be on the horizon.”

One of the most common and jarring changes for a child is moving homes. Children are forced to deal with new bedrooms, neighborhoods, schools and friends. Author Jenn Hollowell morosely remembers that her “room went from being on a sun porch to being in the basement because there wasn’t enough room for me.”

Joshua Forman, matrimonial and family law attorney at the New York firm Chemtob Moss Forman & Talbert LLP says “financial difficulties must be carefully explained and not blaming the other parent will help the child understand the new realities of life.”

Although children should be protected from adult decisions and problems, honesty is sometimes the way to go. Brette Sember, author of The Divorce Organizer & Planner, recommends parents tell children that while there might be fewer funds available, you as a family are going to be creative about how you deal with it and that you will all support each other and focus on the things that are really important, your relationships together.

“Parents who are overwhelmed by financial-related problems stemming from divorce may consider outside or professional help. It is imperative that a parent seeks emotional support during times of high stress and trauma,” says licensed professional counselor Diane Cantrell. “Emotional support can come from family, friends, clergy, the family physician, and mental health professionals. Many agencies offer counseling on a sliding scale and provide divorce recovery groups.”

“In a silver lining mode of thinking,” says Linda Leitz, “there may be positives that come from financial changes. Appreciating the time kids and parents share is so much more important than what the parents buy them. Whether kids spend equal amounts of time with each parent or have a primary and secondary parent relationship, the parents can focus on having their time together meaningful.”

Leitz recommends finding low-cost activities such as reading and cooking family meals together. In the end, parents must do their utmost to ensure a child understands that they are protected, safe, and that money isn’t everything. “During a time of great transition like a divorce,” says Tammy Gold, founder of Gold Parent Coaching, “a good lesson is that no matter what changes in life, Mom and Dad’s love will never change.”


Monday, 23 April 2018

10 Things To Keep In Mind When Telling Your Kids About The Divorce

There are ways to soften the blow.

Telling your kids that you plan to divorce is not a conversation to be taken lightly. It’s one that marks a turning point in all of your lives.

For the sake of your children’s mental health, it’s important to be prepared. Below are some expert tips to help you share the news with your kids in the best way possible considering the circumstances. 

1. Watch your tone.
“Both parents should try to speak in a calm tone, without intense or out-of-control displays of emotion. The goal is to show that the divorce is the best choice for everyone, although it is a sad situation. Crying may be unavoidable, and can even show the child how you take the divorce seriously and understand how hard it will be. However, if a parent gets loud or loses control, it can scare the children and teach them to associate the divorce with fear and trauma.” ― Samantha Rodman, clinical psychologist and author of How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce

2. Let them know that the divorce is not their fault.
“Children of all ages tend to blame themselves when their parents are upset. It’s essential to let them know they are innocent and not to be blamed on any level, even if you’ve been fighting over them.” ― Rosalind Sedacca, Certified Divorce Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce

3. Use clear language.
“Sometimes parents mistakenly think they can soften the blow for kids by not using the words separation or divorce. Instead, they may say something like, ‘we’ve decided we need a break to think things over.’ Other parents try to dodge the bullet by offering an alternate explanation for why things are different, such as, “mom/dad has a big project at work and will be moving out for a while so they can be closer to the office.’ When this happens, kids are often left hanging in limbo. They may also hold fast to the hope that things will eventually go back to the way they were before. To avoid confusion, be sure to talk with your children in a direct way using clear language that is age appropriate.” ― Christina McGhee, divorce coach and author of Parenting Apart

4. Tell all the kids at the same time.
“Make sure that every family member is included in your announcement. Telling older or younger siblings in different ways can make children feel like they must keep a secret until the whole family knows. Gather everyone, sit down and have an honest discussion about your plans.” ― Chelli Pumphrey, therapist and author

5. Give your kids advance notice before a parent moves out.
“I usually suggest that parents give school-age kids about two- to three-weeks notice before a parent moves out. Younger kids don’t have the same sense of time, so a few days is best for pre-schoolers. There is no magic number; the idea is to give children enough time to wrap their minds around the news, but not so much time that they feel they’re living in and endless, anxiety-inducing limbo.” ― Kate Scharff, psychotherapist and divorce mediator

6. Consider timing.
“Avoid birthdays, special days, exams or significant events. Ideally, tell your children when there is time on the back end to process the news. For example, at the start of a long weekend when they and you will be home and present to support them.” ― Deborah Meckinger, mediator and therapist

7. Let them know you’ll both always be there.
“Young children often feel that if their parents divorce each other, this means they could divorce the kids too. They see that their parents don’t love each other anymore and worry that the parents may fall out of love with them too. Be sure to tell the children you will both be there for them and will always be their mom and dad. The fear of abandonment is an important issue to keep in mind even if the children cannot express it openly. They will also have to grieve just as the adults do after a massive life change. How children manage and adjust to divorce is directly related to how the adults are handling it.” ― Karyl McBride, marriage and family therapist

8. Show a unified front.
“Parents should back one another up in this discussion and show a united front for the children. This situation is confusing enough for kids without having to witness a difference of opinion between their parents about key issues. If Mom says, ‘you’ll live with me, mostly’ and Dad says, ‘you’ll split time with us,’ a child feels anxious not only because she doesn’t know what will actually happen, but also because she senses that a big conflict is brewing over this issue.” ― Samantha Rodman 

9. Offer a sense of stability.
“Along with addressing how things will be different, give your children solid ground to stand on by talking about what will stay the same. For example, you might say something like, ‘Although the relationship is changing between Mom and Dad, there are things in your life that will stay the same. You will still have a mom and a dad, we will both still love you very much and you will still go to the same school and have the same friends.’ Whenever possible, do your best to minimize the number of changes kids have to deal with in the early stages of your separation or divorce. Keep in mind that this does not mean that children should maintain one primary home and only have occasional contact with the other parent. When safety is not an issue, children benefit most when they have consistent and regular contact with both parents.” ― Christina McGhee

10. Don’t tell them you still love each other.
“If you’ve ever been told ‘I love you, but I’m not in love with you,’ you know how hard it can be to grasp the distinction. Degrees of love are abstract. They’re confusing to young kids and frustrating to older ones. It’s tough to find the right words. For young children, try saying: ‘No, we don’t love each other anymore, but that only happens with adults. Parents never fall out of love with their kids. Though we’ll be living apart, we’ll still take care of you together.’ For school-age children and teenagers, try: ‘We don’t love each other anymore, but we’ve been together a long time and care deeply about each other. The main thing is that we want to support each other in being the best parents we can be.’” ― Kate Scarf


Sunday, 22 April 2018

How a Couple Can Stay Together Without "Being" Together

Divorce lawyers would love your business, but there's a better way.

Every family law attorney I know dreads going back to work in January, and all for the same reason: They know they will face a barrage of phone calls first thing after the New Year from potential divorce clients. (It’s not that they don’t want the business; it’s just that the volume can be overwhelming.)

According to one attorney, there’s a 30 percent increase in the volume of calls in January (link is external)compared to other times of the year. The first business day in January has actually been dubbed "Divorce Monday," and January overall, "Divorce Month."

If you are not among those motivated to file, you may wonder why anyone would split up in the middle of their kids’ school year. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

If, however, you or someone you know is a petitioner, you or they would likely say that the holidays were more than you could stand in a loveless (and likely sexless) relationship; you may have wanted out months ago but, as fall approached, decided you didn’t want to ruin the kids’ holidays, or have to share the news with your extended family. Now, however, enough is enough. With the turning of the calendar page, many people's first resolution is to move forward with a filing, determined to make this the year to be true to themselves and take charge of living the life they want to lead. Waiting much longer, they’re afraid, might do them in completely.

With one's finger perched on the button that will change the fate of their marriage (and their life), the last thing they want is for someone to come along and talk them out of it, or try to make them feel awful or ashamed about wanting to make a break.

It’s not my intention to make anyone feel bad or wrong. As I tell all my clients, I have no agenda as to whether they stay in or leave their relationship. In fact, I have a saying: “The world doesn’t need more married people. The world needs more authentic and happy people.” I would not try to butt in to anyone's life, were it not for a completely viable but little-known alternative to divorce.

Divorce does not harm kids, per se. There’s ample research out there that divorce isn’t the worst thing that parents can do to kids: Fighting terribly and subjecting them to your vitriolic hatred toward each other is the worst; staying married in such a state is actually worse for kids than if you actually got divorced. I’ve seen many people divorce and, because they handled their emotions well, the children also did well. I’ve also witnessed couples do significant damage to their kids by staying in an unhealthy relationship and trying to “make it work.”

But, because it is also true that a two-parent households typically have some significant advantages over two separate, single-parent homes, it’s worth asking: What if you could stay for the kids and lead your own life—possibly even having outside roma
ntic relationships?

I know what you’re thinking: People do this already; it's called an affair. I’m well aware that romantic affairs go on illicitly, but what I’m suggesting is that this can also happen in an above-board, respectful kind of way. It’s called a Parenting Marriage and more and more couples are turning to this option as a way to “stay for the kids” without staying stuck in a bad relationship. As spouses, you basically change your job description from lover, best friend, and co-parent to co-parent first and foremost, friends maybe, and lovers no longer.

During the past six years, I’ve helped dozens of couples across the U.S. transition from their traditional marriage to this non-traditional variation on the theme. Many find it surprisingly workable. Of course, it’s complicated and the need for having clear agreements in place is paramount, but it can be done if you both want the same things.


Saturday, 21 April 2018

How to Provide for the Kids Post-Divorce

If you think providing for your children after divorce is basically about diapers, dentistry, and diplomas, you're in for a life of surprises.

Whether you’re supporting preschoolers or those who have returned home after college, experts say preparing for any scenario and putting everything in writing is the best way to defuse potentially explosive situations in the future.

Helene Bernstein, a Brooklyn-based divorce attorney with more than 20 years of experience in family law, says even small items can cause big problems.

“Little things that couples argue about and they don’t think of is who pays for the children’s clothing? Does the clothing travel with the child? Who pays for the birthday gifts? They get expensive. When they’re little, they go to a lot of parties,” Bernstein says.

Other considerations such as orthodontia or therapy, should the child need them, are important to take into account. If a child is diagnosed with a medical condition, parents should think about how they would handle treatment and the possibility of unreimbursed medical expenses.

“When a child has attention deficit disorder a lot of people disagree on whether medication should be administered, and that’s a really big thing,” Bernstein adds.

The lawyer and mediator recommends that parents renegotiate their agreements every few years because children’s needs change as they get older. One thing she advises clients do immediately is change their beneficiary information.

Growing Pains
Lili Vasileff, certified financial planner and president of the National Association of Divorce Financial Planners, in Greenwich, Conn., says that while basic child-related expenses are included in a budget intake form that is part of divorce negotiation, many people don’t think to plan beyond their child’s current age.

“If you’ve got a 3-year old, when they’re 16 they’ve got driver’s ed, auto insurance, or the prom,” Vasileff says. “Bar mitzvahs, or let’s go a bit farther, college applications are like $250 a pop, and who’s going to pay for the child traveling to go see those colleges? All the things that are prospective, that occur on an if-and-when basis, are generally left unaddressed. It’s up to the parents to discuss how to address those costs. Leaving it open results in a lot of misunderstanding, miscommunication and acrimony.”

Jeff Landers, founder of Bedrock Divorce Advisors, LLC, agrees. He says if a child has been taking violin lessons or gymnastics and the money is there, most courts will try to maintain the status quo for kids. However, there are plenty of gray areas within those extra-curriculars that can cause trouble.

“You can choose an $8,000 summer camp or go to the Y. If you talk just about the nature of the expense but not the character of it, then you’re setting yourself up for all future arguments which the child realizes that they’re the cause of, and that is very, very difficult,” adds Vasileff. “Unless you’re working with an expert during this process who can really pull the threads on each one of these areas to help you think in the future or at least has enough experience to say, 'these are the things that can come up,' how are you going to address these things head-on when they happen?”

Jodi Paige, a divorced mother of two, says she and her ex-husband agreed on the number of enrichment activities that will be covered and have a contingency plan in place for dividing expenses beyond that number.

“I pay for the first two classes and then anything else that they want to do, my ex pays 50 percent of the cost of that,” says Paige. “The state guidelines are pretty low, so if you live in an area where classes are more expensive, make sure your agreement reflects that.”

The College Years
While big-ticket items such as college tuition may seem fairly straight forward, the devil is in the details, say financial planners who specialize in divorce.

Landers says it’s essential to ask what’s included because if you don’t negotiate it up front, then “good luck trying to get it after the fact.”

“Is room and board included? Is a computer for the child’s use included in that? Does it include traveling back and forth?” Landers says. “You really need to get into the nitty-gritty details, and I’ve seen some agreements that will state, ‘I will pay for a state school but if the kid wants to go to a private school or an Ivy League, not my problem.’ A parent may say I’m not going pay unless the child maintains a 3.0 GPA, since it’s not a legal requirement, it’s very much up to the negotiations between the parties.”

He adds that some agreements may include a “cap,” whereby a parent will be on the hook for no more than the state university charges.

Boomerang Bucks
Paige also recommends including a stipulation that if one parent’s finances significantly improve, the amount contributed toward college be raised accordingly.

“Situations change, and everything needs to be very much spelled out,” she says.

The Boomerang Generation
Vasileff points out that even after paying for college, many parents are still supporting their adult children.

The good news, she says, is under Obama healthcare, coverage continues until age 26. But parents usually don’t think about is who is going to pay for an adult child’s healthcare should he or she be unemployed.

Vasileff says the boomerang generation, the group of adults who return home to live, poses a whole new set of issues for divorced parents.

“When you have adult boomerang children who come back to live with you, how do you set the rules? Are they supposed to pay rent; are you supposed to pay for their groceries?” she asks.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report, the number of men ages 25-34 living with their parents grew from 14 to 19 percent between 2005 and 2011; the number of women rose from 8 to 10 percent. 

While most people to some extent address the cost of college, Vasileff says few plan for those kids who take a year off or return home without any plans to leave.

Second-Family Complications
Experts agree that counseling for all parties also bears consideration. Providing the least disruptive environment possible is also important.

We got an apartment and for the first nine months, my ex-husband and I went back and forth and the kids stayed in the house,” explains Paige, who's been divorced since 2006. “It was important for them not to leave their safety zone and we got a feeling for how tiring and crappy that was. It’s a good perspective thing for parents.”

Vasileff also recommends parties discuss what would happen in the event that one or both parents have new families, which she says is something very few people think about unless one party already has a serious new partner.

Paige suggests discussing what will be left to the children after the parents are deceased, especially if children from new marriages enter the picture.

“Don’t leave things vague. Things change, especially when a person gets a new significant other,” Paige says.

While no one can see into the future, anticipating expenses and deciding how to divide them can make things a lot less contentious down the line.


Friday, 20 April 2018

After a divorce, how to talk to the kids about money

No matter how rocky the divorce, if the household has children, both parents usually want to make sure the kids feel as secure as possible. Part of instilling that sense of security is discussing the family’s financial picture.

The finances for both soon-to-be ex-spouses will likely change. And usually not for the better, given that two households will be living on the same income that had been supporting one.

When a divorce hits a family with children, the average income of the household where the kids reside drops an average of 40% to 45% if the primary custodial parent, usually the mother, remains divorced for more than six years, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Moms who divorce or separate also land in poverty almost three times as often as those who stay married, according to a Family Research Council study.

Causes: the monetary value of spending time with children, as well as the lost salary and career impact, usually is not calculated in divorce settlements; and child support often falls short and further falls behind as children age and their needs increase.
How do parents explain this often-grim new economic reality to their children, particularly during such an emotional and vulnerable time?

If the kids are under 10 years old, simple expense-related explanations may be all that’s required if the children are staying in the same schools and home. “We’ll have to drop the karate classes for awhile, guys. But hey, let’s replace that time with some extra trips out to the park with friends.”

If schools are changing, perhaps because private tuition is no longer affordable, the conversation may need to be a little more creative. Such a move, like that to a new house or neighborhood, also will likely be a disappointment. Still, focus on the positive. “The school has a great gymnastics team. Our new house is a 10-minute drive to the beach.”

Teenagers might need to know specifics. If splitting up will change your financial picture radically — as it often does — the view in your kid’s mind may differ from reality, based on what he or she has seen provided to older siblings or peers in your neighborhood or school. Discuss how you will or will not be able to help pay their college tuition. Warn that a car might not be a birthday present this year, if that is an expectation among peers.

Creating a household budget that shows the sources of income and the expenses, both mandatory and optional, that all family members understand and take part in may be a worthwhile exercise. Perhaps provide the children, if they are old enough, with a budget in a spreadsheet. Going through the budget is also an opportunity to teach some valuable life lessons regarding financial responsibility and choices.

Mention that a part-time job could replace an allowance, and remember that earning money can be a tremendous source of confidence for your teen. Work with their growing need for independence, and help them figure out ways to get the things that they need or want that are not in the family budget.

Sometimes, a child may have to improvise to obtain something once thought to be a given. Encourage this. I know a child, a high school freshman, in advanced placement math, who felt she needed some tutoring, but money was tight after a divorce. So, the enterprising young woman started tutoring 6th- and 7th-grade students to pay for her own tutor.

Parents sometimes also may have to come up with alternative solutions. Consider the phenomenon of “nesting” children after a divorce. This term means that the kids get to live in the house, and the parents move in and out, as the custodial and visitation schedules allow. No more uprooting the children to see Dad, or Mom, at an apartment cross-town for the weekend or the summer. Dad comes back home for the weekend or longer. Mom moves out for the weekend or longer.

Maximum stability for children is the goal with nesting. It might also, however, lessen the possibility of one parent out-spoiling the other parent, an activity often referred to as Disney Dad syndrome in which non-custodial Dads take the kids on a vacation to Disney World while Mom takes them camping.

Adult-age children, meanwhile, might need to understand how an estate plan works, particularly if you have established trusts, or simply what’s in the will and its location.
They will need to know they are being taken care of, that the proper investment and banking vehicles are in place, and the arrangements treat everyone fairly.

Adult children also may need to be reassured, just like younger offspring, that the financial changes affecting one or both of their parents may be difficult, but manageable.

This communication will be important to establish now; if remarriage comes along, estate plans can get even trickier, and will likely need to be amended. Attitudes among the adult children at this time can become suspicious.

When the children are this age, particularly in wealthy families, a financial adviser might be present when the parents discuss these issues with the children. An adviser, projecting authority and confidence, can explain the particulars and provide assurances.

A practical issue that may not occur to parents to discuss with their children is the need for the parents to acquire life insurance. A parent’s obligation to support his or her minor children does not end with that parent’s death. Therefore, courts often require the parents to insure their ability to continue to meet their children’s financial obligations, in the event of that parent’s premature death. One could argue that talking about a parent’s possible demise does not lead to instilling security in a child, but when that child is old enough, it may be a conversation worth having.

Talk to your children about money in an age-appropriate manner, without papering over the truth. Be sensitive but not overly opaque. Parents probably already know that their kids, unless they are in their 20s or older, do not yet reason like an adult and tend to misinterpret, exaggerating both fears and hopes.

Although divorce can often feel like a financial blow to both parents, it needn’t feel that way to their kids if communication with them is empathetic but also honest and if the children feel safe, secure, and loved.

Think of this time, too, as a perfect opportunity to teach your kids that although money is important as a tool, it isn’t everything. It’s quality time together, not the material stuff, that you and your children will remember.


Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Emotional Fallout of Divorce and the 5 Stages of Relationship Grief

Andrew Lawes knows how you can hit bottom after a divorce. But he’s here to tell you how to survive.

I remember when I found out my marriage was over. It sent me into a downward spiral; a drink-and-drug-fueled period of bad memories and even worse situations. I didn’t care—the pain inside me was too raw, too visceral to cope with. Blacking out and forgetting was better than dealing with the crushing reality that the woman I loved no longer shared the same emotions.

Maybe you are experiencing this situation right now. Maybe you are also struggling to cope with the fallout of divorce, and are engaging in some questionable activities. Maybe, like me, your days have become about existing, rather than living. You don’t know when the pain will end. All you want is for it to go away.

There is no timescale for how long it takes a broken heart to heal. Sometimes it can take days; other break-ups can take months or even years to overcome. There is no secret cure; all you can do is continue living.

As a man, my mentality is the same as most other men: there’s a problem; how can I fix it? How can I save this relationship? The truth is that, most likely, you can’t. Nobody walks away from a marriage without an awful lot of thought. When the conclusion they have come to is that it is over, there is very little you can do.

The Kübler-Ross model of the Five Stages of Grief can be applied to the end of a relationship. Although nobody has passed away, you still need to grieve. The death of a relationship; the ending of a future you had planned out; in many ways, it is harder to handle than death. At least there is finality to death. With heartbreak, there is no finality. There is no clean break. You can’t help but wonder “what if…?”

The five stages of the Kübler-Ross model are: Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance. Each of them apply to the end of a relationship equally as much as the grieving process:

Denial – “This isn’t happening” “Don’t be silly, it’s just a row. You’ll feel different in the morning”

Anger – “Why are you doing this to us?” “What have I ever done that’s so bad?”

Bargaining – “I can change” “Please, let’s work through this”

Depression – “It’s all my fault” “I don’t blame them for leaving”

Acceptance – “It was over; it has been for a while, I just couldn’t see it”

All of the above are phrases I’ve used during the period after a break-up, and I suspect I am not alone in that. I have used them to highlight how the Kübler-Ross model of grief relates to the end of a relationship too. Now, it isn’t as clean-cut as I’ve perhaps made it appear. You may get to the Bargaining stage and then slip back to Denial. Depression and Anger often overlap; especially in men, who generally display signs of depression differently to women. Indeed, the first four stages can be a nightmare to work through, and there will be times when you feel you will never get past it.

You will.

When you reach the stage of Acceptance, that is the moment you will start to live again. The thing is, you can’t wait around for the acceptance of the situation to come—that isn’t how it works. Acceptance isn’t a moment when you suddenly become fine with what’s happened, and waiting for that moment makes it much more unlikely to come.

What you need to do is focus on yourself. Look at the aspects of your own life that you are unhappy with. Maybe you feel like you have let yourself go physically. Maybe you feel like your life has become mundane and routine. These are all things that you have the power to change, so do it! Sign up to a gym; take up jogging, work on your physique. If your life has become boring, make more time for the things you enjoy, and take up new hobbies. Become the man you’ve always wanted to be, and you’ll find that acceptance of the divorce comes so much quicker.

It is important to reflect on why the marriage ended. In the immediate aftermath, people always tend to blame the other party, but there is always fault on both sides. If you can begin to understand why the relationship failed, then it will leave you in good stead for the future. Hard as it may be to believe right now, one day, you will love again. When that day comes, be the man you’ve always wanted to be. Learn from the mistakes of relationships past.

You may think you can’t get through this time, but you will. Sometimes, good things have to fall apart so better things can fall into place. Focus on yourself, and improving your life, and I promise you will be happy again.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

After parents divorce, regular overnight stays with Dad are best for most young children

110 mental health experts from 15 countries endorse report that recommends overnight care children from both parents after separation. 

The days are past when experts advised divorced dads to make a clean break from the family and remain, at best, visitors in their children’s lives. Growing awareness that children do best with two parents, whether parents are living together or separated, has led to a trend toward shared parenting. Yet some holdouts believe that shared parenting, appropriate for older children, is ill- suited to meet the needs of young children.

Our society maintains a curious double standard when it comes to encouraging hands-on shared parenting. For instance, we want dads involved with their infants and toddlers—diapering, feeding, bathing, putting to bed, soothing in the middle of the night, cuddling in the morning. But when parents separate, some people mistakenly think that it is best for young children to spend every night in one home, usually with mom, even when this means losing the care their father has been giving them. Despite all strides in cracking gender barriers, many of us still think that it is mom’s exclusive role to care for infants and toddlers, and that we jeopardize young children’s wellbeing if we trust fathers to do the job.

The result is the common custody plan where infants and toddlers whose parents separate only get to see their dads two hours at a time, two days a week. Hurriedly loading and unloading the child in the car and driving to and from dad’s home at the end of a work day hardly lays a good foundation for a comforting and secure relationship with dad.

Fortunately, science offers clear guidance on these issues. I spent two years reviewing the relevant scientific literature and vetting my analyses with an international group of experts in the fields of early child development and divorce. The results appear in Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report, recently published in the American Psychological Association’s prestigious journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. The report is endorsed by 110 of the world’s leading researchers and practitioners. The endorsement by these scholars reflects a groundswell of concern among experts that misinformation about research evidence is impoverishing custody decisions and public policy.

Our first goal was to provide a balanced and accurate overview of settled, accepted research of the past 45 years relevant to parenting plans for children under the age of four whose parents have separated. Our second goal was to provide empirically supported guidelines for policy makers and for people who make custody decisions.

We found no support for the idea that children under four (some say under six) need to spend nearly all their time living with only one parent, when their other parent is also loving and attentive. Warnings against infants and toddlers spending overnight time with each parent are inconsistent with what we know about the development of strong positive parent-child relationships. Babies and toddlers need parents who respond consistently, affectionately, and sensitively to their needs. They do not need, and most do not have, one parent’s full-time, round-the-clock presence.

Many married mothers work night shifts that keep them away from their infants and toddlers at night. Like these married mothers, most single mothers do not need to worry about leaving their children in the care of their fathers. To maximize infants’ chances of having a secure lifelong bond with both parents, public policy should encourage both parents to actively participate in daytime and overnight care of their young children. Scholars who study the benefits of children’s relationships with both parents find no empirical support for the belief that mothers are more necessary or play a more important role than do fathers in their infants’ and toddlers’ lives. In short, after their separation, both parents should maximize the time they spend with their young children, including the sharing of overnight parenting time.

How did public policy and the direction of custody decisions go so wrong? It seems related to the legacy of the “motherhood mystique,” the idea that mothers are innately better suited to care for young children. This was reinforced initially by John Bowlby, the father of attachment theory. Bowlby put forward the notion that infants form enduring affectional ties with just one person, normally the mother, before all other relationships and that this relationship is both ranks higher than and serves as a template for other relationships.

A number of studies have examined this hypothesis to see if it reflects infant experience. The research shows that children develop multiple relationships at around the same time. They form relationships with more than one care giver that are independent in the sense that the relationship with mom is not a template for that with dad. Even John Bowlby came to recognize later in his career that infants would form attachments with more than one caregiver. We cannot rank these relationships.

So it is clear that we should encourage relationships with both parents. Doing so doubles the infant’s chances of having at least one high-quality relationship. Also, moms and dads make different contributions to their children’s development.

Of course, shared parenting is not for all families. Regardless of their children’s ages, parents should consider a number of factors when creating the best parenting plan. What works for one child in one family may not be best for another child in another family. Our recommendations apply to most families. Some parents are negligent, abusive, or grossly deficient in their parenting, and their children would need protection from them even in intact families, But that fact should not be used to deprive the majority of children who were being raised by two loving parents from continuing to have that care after their parents separate.

It is time to resolve our ambivalence and contradictory ideas about fathers’ and mothers’ roles in their children’s lives. If we value Dad reading Goodnight Moon to his toddler and soothing his fretful baby at 3am while the parents are living together, why withdraw our support and deprive the child of these expressions of fatherly love just because the parents no longer live together, or just because the sun has gone down?


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Why the Pain of Divorce Is Hard to Get Over

Your pain is almost unbearable but, you will get over it.

To understand the emotional pain experienced during a divorce, it might help to discuss the two types of emotional pain, according to some psychologists. There is “clean pain” and “dirty pain.”

Clean pain, is the pain that comes with living life in general. The loss of a loved one, having a serious illness, being in an abusive relationship and so forth. We all, at some time or another experience this kind of pain.

Dirty pain, is pathological pain and comes from what we tell ourselves about situations we find ourselves in. For example, negative thinking about oneself or, harsh judgments from others and a negative view of the world and experiences will cause us to experience “dirty pain.”

Both clean and dirty pain are experienced during a divorce, which is one reason the pain of divorce is hard to move past. It is common during a divorce to feel the pain of loss and the pain of pathological thinking about that loss. In other words, we experience both necessary pain and unnecessary pain during a divorce.

Regardless of whether you are the one who wanted a divorce or, the one who was left behind, there is emotional pain and healing to be expected. Perhaps if we look at where the feelings of sadness and negative emotions come from it will be easier to understand why the healing process can take longer than expected for some who divorce.

Where Does The Pain of Divorce Come From?

1. You’ve lost someone you once loved or maybe still love.
There is a grieving process much like one would experience if they lost a loved one to death. It isn’t unusual to blame yourself for the end of the marriage or, blame your ex-spouse.
For those who didn’t want a divorce, there will be periods of anger at everything and everyone.

You may withdraw from friends and support and isolate yourself in an attempt for self-protection. Your ex is someone you were once intimately attached to; give yourself time to adjust to that loss.

2. You’ve lost dreams for the future. In a marriage, we live in the present and the future. There are constant thoughts of where we, as a couple will be 5, 10 or 20 years down the road. With divorce, any future the two of you had planned is gone; you have to start from scratch and learn to build a future for one after a divorce.

It is easy for newly divorced individuals to get stuck in the present or the past, ruminating over what went wrong and how they are feeling, “right now” instead of looking forward. Is it any wonder that some find it hard to get past the pain of having to let go of the future and start over again?

3. You’ve lost an intact family. If we have children we all work hard at having the “perfect” family. A lot of time and emotional energy goes into maintaining a great intact family. A lot of emotional pain goes into letting go of the idea that we didn’t have a “perfect” family.
When a family falls apart we are made more aware of the work and energy that will go into building a new and different family with a new partner.

We have to not only take into consideration our own pain and fears we have to focus on doing what is in the best interest of our children who’ve suffered the greatest loss of all.

4. You feel as if you have failed. Most of us don’t live in constant denial and are able to take responsibility for the role we played in the demise of our marriage. Admitting to ourselves that we made mistakes can leave us feeling vulnerable and riddled with guilt.
Even as commonplace as divorce is in today’s society there is still a certain amount of shame and embarrassment attached to the idea that we were not able to keep our marriage together. Facing others in our social circle, church or family can bring up negative emotions that also take time to heal. It is a matter of adjusting, going from being part of a couple to single again after a divorce.

And, that being OK within and without.

The above is a short list. It, by no means, covers all the bases. Pain is relative and each divorce situation is unique. You will suffer losses that are exclusive to your marriage and your recovery. The secret to recovering and moving on after divorce is to become self-aware and honest with yourself.

Divorce may mean freedom but with that freedom comes loss, and there must be a willingness to take the necessary time to heal.


Monday, 16 April 2018

How to Raise Kids in a Separated Home

Whether you and your partner have recently split up, separated long ago, or even if you were never really in the same home to begin with, raising children in a separated home is always a challenge. Kids can respond to parental separation in a variety of ways depending on factors like their ages, personalities and the severity of the stress caused by the split. As a mom, the best you can do is try to understand what your child is going through and provide as much stability as possible, ideally with the help of your ex.

Understanding Babies
Infants can't cognitively grasp what's going on when their parents separate, but they can sense emotional turmoil and reflect it in their behavior. "However the caregivers are responding to the situation is how the baby is going to respond to the situation" in children under age 2, according to Dakesa Piña, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "If it's a really difficult time for the caregiver, then there may be more crying, irritability and that type of thing." If you have an infant or young toddler, do your best to take care of yourself and avoid taking out your emotions on her.

Understanding Toddlers and Preschoolers
Children approximately ages 2 to 5 tend to take the blame for their parents' separation. "They think that maybe because they didn't eat their spaghetti correctly, or they didn't go to the potty when they were supposed to...for some reason they've caused the separation," says Piña. Behaviorally, they can exhibit regression when under stress from the separation -- like wetting the bed or using more baby talk. This stage may take a lot of patience and understanding on your end.

Understanding Pre-Adolescent Kids
Kids from about the ages of 5 to 12 have the ability to understand what's going on when their parents live in separate households. However, "they don't necessarily know how to manage their emotions," says Piña. How they respond commonly depends on gender. "Girls internalize those emotions; they might isolate themselves from other people, be tearful." Boys, on the other hand, "usually externalize their emotions, so they might become more aggressive." How to effectively respond to this behavior depends on your child's personality, but it's essential that you begin teaching him to communicate and handle his emotions in a healthy way.

Understanding Teenagers
Kids are complex once they hit puberty; so is the way they might respond to parental separation. According to Piña, their emotions and behaviors "look more like what an adult exhibit. They might isolate themselves; they might start doing poorly in school [...] Sometimes they'll 'parentify' themselves; they'll feel like they need to start taking some responsibility for the family. They will possibly mature quickly." Two-way communication with your teen and respect for her complex emotions and behaviors are keys to her development at this stage.

Communicating with Your Ex
Whether you like it or not, if Dad is willing to be, and capable of being, involved, you're on a team when it comes to raising your kids. "I encourage caregivers to communicate with their ex-partners as if it's a business relationship," says Piña. "Usually when you're having a business conversation, you don't involve emotion." If you approach each other with a professional tone, you'll be more productive when making joint parenting decisions.

Aiming for Consistency
As you're working with your ex, remember that children need structure and consistency to thrive, especially after going through the trauma of a separation. "Change equals stress," says Piña. Stress is the underlying cause of many emotional and behavioral difficulties in children of separation. "Hopefully as things become more structured, kids learn the rules of the separation and how they play a role in that," she notes. After time has passed following the separation and life is more consistent, "usually the behaviors become more normal." As much as possible, keep routine. Don't move to a new residence if you can avoid it in the wake of the separation. Maintain consistent schedules, rules and behavioral expectations in both households.

Negotiating When Necessary

You are bound to encounter parenting situations that you and your ex disagree about. Navigating these waters can be one of the most difficult aspects of raising kids in separate households -- for both you and the kids. "Think about the well-being of the child," stresses Piña. This isn't the outlet for power plays: "Negotiate how you're going to keep the rules in your home consistent," she advises. In the end, even if the agreed-upon rules aren't your first choice, negotiation is better for your kids and will likely result in better behaviour.