Helping Your Family Adjust to A Divorce

Helping Your Family Adjust to A Divorce

Divorce can be a devastating event for an entire family. Yes there is the financial cost of a divorce, but there is also the impact that a divorce has on a family especially the children. Many children that I have worked with feel like their entire world has been turned up side down. Also for children they don’t feel the divorce has ended after it is finalized in court.

For many children the divorce is just beginning. They now have to adjust to their parents living in separate houses, visitation schedules, often parents continue to fight even though the divorce is final and many children feel they need to choose a side. They feel a pull by their parents and extended family to take a stand as who was right and wrong in the divorce.

Another thing is children have to learn how to cope with is seeing their parents with someone else. Often parents start dating soon after a divorce and a child or teenager have to adjust to seeing Dad or Mom dating someone else. They are not use to thinking about their parents having intimate relationships. This concept is very often something very difficult for teenagers to adjust to.

As a result of all of these changes, many teenagers may act out. They may start getting into trouble at school or their grades may significantly drop. They may start arguing with their parents and they may refuse to cooperate with the visitation schedule. Some of the teenagers I have worked with also start to drink, smoke marijuana or use other drugs so they don’t have to think about the divorce. Also some teens may start to be sexually active and make it obvious to their parents so Mom and Dad have to deal with the same strange thoughts and feelings they have to deal with when their parents date.

Yes divorce is not easy and no matter how you approach it, a divorce is upsetting to everyone. However, how Mom and Dad handle the divorce process and the adjustment period after a divorce can make a major impact on how their children and teenagers are affected.

To begin with, during the divorce and after the divorce, parents should not discuss any facts pertaining to the divorce settlement with their children. Also neither parent should be saying negative things about the other parent to the children. You may be divorcing each other, but that is still your child’s Mom or Dad. Furthermore, both parents need to speak to their family and make sure grandparents understand not to put down the other parent or tell the kids details about the divorce.

If you need to talk to your children about the divorce, do so in an age appropriate manner and only tell them what they need to know. For example, if the house needs to be sold obviously the children need to be told. If children are asking questions about things that are inappropriate such as about the finances, let the children know that is an issue just between Mom and Dad. Also reassure them that no matter what happens that Mom and Dad will make sure they are taken care of and you understand the divorce is scary but Mom will still be their Mom and Dad will still be their Dad. Let them know both of you will take care of them and they don’t need to worry.

Obviously after the divorce is an adjustment period and learning period for everyone. This period can be easier if you work together as a team and co-parent. Trying to have similar rules at both houses help. Also backing up each other helps. So if a child is talking disrespectfully about Mom or Dad, the other parent lets their child know that will not be tolerate that they are still their Mom or Dad and they need to respect them.

If they are having issues at school such as poor grades or cutting school again if you work together as a co-parent team, you can help the teen accept the divorce and help resolve the school issue.

If you suspect your teen is drinking, smoking or using other drugs, again the most effective is if you function together as a co-parent team. By doing so you reinforce that you have not stopped being their parents, you have just stopped being married to each other. Also by acting together as a team you have a better chance of your teenager cooperating with treatment. If they can see that the two of you still disagree and argue about most issues, they will use this to their advantage. They will try to play the two of you against each other. And they will play the two of you against each other anytime they want something. The end result is the two of you spend more time arguing than you need to, probably more money on attorney bills and your children do not get the structure from the two of you that they need.

Now, as for the issue of you dating. You are both adults, no longer married so you have a right to see someone if you want. If you have children, just use common sense when you decide to date. The children will be spending time with Mom or Dad during their visitation time. Therefore, when you don’t have the kids that is the perfect time to go out with someone. I would suggest not mentioning to your children or introducing your children to anyone you are seeing until you are sure this is a serious relationship. If you introduce your children to someone you have only been seeing for two weeks and then you end the relationship two weeks later it feels strange and awkward to your children. Remember, most children don’t think or don’t want to think about the fact that their parents have sex.

This brings up the issue of having someone spending the night or spending the night at someone else’s house. As I stated above, the children will be spending time with the other parent during visitation. Therefore, when you do not have the children it is fine to have an overnight guest. Besides the fact children don’t want to know anything about their parents having sex, if you have a teenager, you could be creating a problem. If you are having guests spend the night, what do you do when your 16 year old son announces that his girlfriend is spending the night? You say no, but he argues you do it. Yes you are an adult and its different, but there is no need to take that risk. Also as that parent it is your responsibility to be the role model.

Basically, while a divorce is difficult on everyone and there is an adjustment period after, if you and your ex-spouse treat each other with respect and work together as a parenting team, you can minimize the stress and anxiety on your children. Remember, the children had no involvement in you deciding to divorce or what happened during the divorce or the decisions that were made. Therefore, as their parents it is your responsibility to help your children adjust to the divorce.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience working with teenagers and working with high conflict divorces. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or on Twitter @RubinoTherapy.

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Children Are Not Messangers

Children Are Not Messangers

As a child psychotherapist, I hear from many parents about their concerns for their child when there is a divorce. A divorce is a stressful event on the entire family including the children. However, there are ways parents can reduce the stress, but they do not. The most common mistake I see is using the child as a messenger.

Many divorces are hostile and neither parent wants to speak to the other one. However, when you have children, you must speak to each other. You need to co-parent which means communicating with the other parent. You do not have to talk about your lives or even be friends. However, you must communicate with the other parent about issues involving your children. You need to provide each other with information about school, your child’s health, if they have an activity coming up, etc. Basically, anything that involves your child.

However, I see many parents choose to use the child as the message carrier. They tell the child do not forget to tell your father to look at your homework or tell your mother to look at the note regarding your school conference. Many of these children are 10 years old so they forget or get the message wrong and then there is a big fight. The child blames themselves because if they did not forget, there would be no fight.

This is a great deal of responsibility to put on any child at any age. When parents use their child as a messenger, at times children feel they have to take sides or protect a parent. They know mom and dad do not get along and they will do anything to decrease the fighting. So if they have a message that might upset dad, they will worry about it and try to solve the issue so they do not have to give dad the message. The children I see in this situation are very anxious and resentful. They are mad that mom and dad got a divorce and now they feel they have to keep the peace between their parents.

When children are older such as 12 or 13 years old, they may start to act out. They may start using marijuana or alcohol as a way to escape. They also may start to make parenting decisions on their own. They feel if I have to carry the information back and forth, I might as well decide for myself. This can really hurt the relationship that a child has with one parent or both.

What is the solution? Parents, you need to communicate with each other directly and not use your child. The two of you divorced not your child. No one asked them and they should not have to take responsibility for any divorce issues. Also you really cannot get mad at the child for make parenting decisions, if you are putting them in the middle. You can go to co-parenting classes or co-parenting therapy to help the two of you with communication issues. You can also use email. Many Court systems have an email service you can subscribe to so you know messages are delivered. In Contra Costa County they call it the family wizard.

The main point is you can stop being married but you cannot stop being parents. It is important to remember this fact and set up a co-parenting plan during the divorce process not after. Trust me your children will thank you for it.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and teenagers and in high conflict divorces. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com.

Ideas to Help Make Visitation Easier On Children

Ideas to Help Make Visitation Easier On Children

After a divorce there are still issues to address. One of the major issues is child custody and visitation, especially exchanges for visitations. The issues usually are addressed in the divorce settlement and the Court Mediation report. However, even though the Mediation Agreement attempts to address these issues, there are usually still issues.

I have parents who are divorced come in very often arguing about issues that occur during visitation exchanges. A majority of times these issues are addressed by the Mediation Agreement. However, many parents are still fighting with each other after their divorce is final. Typically I see this when one or both parents are not ready to let go of each other yet. Arguing over the visitation exchanges is a way to still keep them in contact with each other. However, parents do not pay attention to the price the children are paying. By focusing on visitation exchanges this puts the children in the middle of the divorce.

By focusing on visitation and putting the children in the middle of the divorce, I see children who become depressed and anxious. Often these children start acting out at school and home and their grades start to decline. Also many of these children often start drinking or using marijuana so they can numb themselves out and ignore their parents’ arguments. Most of these children ask me, why can’t they just stop fighting? They are already divorced, what else do they want?

Goldberg Jones is a very good divorce attorney who writes articles regarding issues related to divorce and how these issues impact the children and the family. He wrote a very good article regarding visitation exchange issues. I found the suggestions very good and helpful. I would recommend that divorced parents read these ideas and try them. Therefore, I have included them in this article for you to review and try. You have nothing to lose by trying and you could help reduce the stress your children experience with visitation. You may also reduce your stress and frustration and allow yourself to let go of the marriage and move on with your life.

How often visitation issues occur often depends on the custody agreement, parenting plan, and the visitation schedule. Visitation may be a couple of times a week, once a month, or only around major holidays, but it’s likely going to be a repeating event. Also how well the parents work together as co-parents and allow the divorce issues to be past issues plays a major role in determining if visitation goes easily or is a source of ongoing arguments.

In the best of times, even if both parents can be civil, custody exchanges will probably still be a little awkward. In less amicable scenarios, prepare for outward hostility that resembles the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan. Pack a helmet and prepare to duck.

In more combative circumstances, it helps to have a strategy in place to keep things civil. That’s easier on everyone, especially the kids. There are ways to cut down the amount of face time and limit the friction. It may never be easy or ideal, but it helps with stress level and peace of mind, for both the parents and the children—no kid wants to watch mom and dad fight.

1. CUSTODY EXCHANGES AT THE BABYSITTER’S

In contentious situations, the more you see your ex, the more potential there is for friction and conflict. Sometimes it’s simply best not to see each other if you can avoid it. There are practical ways to circumvent this. One common approach is to make custody exchanges at a babysitter’s house or at daycare.

One parent drops the kids off and the other parent picks them up. If you schedule it right, the two of you may almost never come face-to-face. Because there are other people involved, you may encounter scheduling hurdles. Clear communication about who is picking up the kids and when is key. But once you iron out the kinks, this strategy helps limit contact and potential fights.

2. CUSTODY EXCHANGES AT SCHOOL

Similar to using daycare to facilitate custody exchanges, you can use your child’s education to the same end. Again, one parent drops the kids off at school in the morning while the other picks them up after. This has the desired effect of not having to see your ex more than is absolutely necessary. It can be useful in situations where parents are prone to fighting.

Like with the child care, you’ll need to arrange this with school administrators. Schools like to know they’re handing kids over to right people. But if there is clear communication between all the involved parties, it’s possible to make these arrangements work.

3. CUSTODY EXCHANGES IN PUBLIC

Many people want to avoid causing a scene in public. If you and your ex can’t handle custody exchanges without fighting, consider meeting in a public place. Choose a neutral spot where neither parent is likely to start a ruckus. If such a place exists. In some situations, nowhere is off limits, but being exposed often encourages both parties to be on their best behavior.

Where depends a great deal on the people involved. Pick a centrally located park. The mall, a restaurant, or a coffee shop where you know the regulars are all options. Extreme cases may call for supervised visitation centers or even a police station. Then again, if you just kind of rub each other the wrong way from time to time, a supermarket parking lot may work fine.

4. INVITE A THIRD PARTY WITNESS

While people are reluctant to fight in public, they’re also often hesitant to start trouble in front of friends or acquaintances. One strategy that can smooth over problematic custody exchanges is bringing along a third party. A mutual friend or even authority figure can help keep the peace, especially if it’s someone who knows both parents.

If there are individuals both of you maintain a relationship with, that might be the ideal fit. This approach often serves to calm down heated emotions. And if things do escalate, having a witness never hurts.

If you do go this route, it’s important to give some thought to who you bring along. If you have a new spouse or significant other, consider the ramifications of their presence. Is that going to touch on a sore spot and ignite lingering resentment? In some situations, it might be best to ride solo instead of risking a potential fight.

5. COMMUNICATE VIA ALTERNATE MEANS

Visitation, overnights, and custody exchanges often become logistical tangles. With football games, school plays, robot camp, and the many other activities children participate in, scheduling gets complicated. Pulling it off requires regular communication. If there are problems in this area, conflict often arises. When it involved kids, some level of contact must exist. Fortunately, there are alternative means of communication.

You may have mutual friends or family members willing to serve as go-betweens. Though it tends to get expensive fast, enlisting a lawyer or mediator is another potential strategy.

Thanks to modern technology, you have more outlets than ever before. If you can’t talk on the phone or in-person, email, texting, instant messaging, and other online options exist. Websites like Our Family Wizard provide shared scheduling services and online tools for co-parenting. There are even numerous smartphone apps for tracking parenting schedules and children’s activities. 6.

6. PREPARE FOR CUSTODY EXCHANGES AHEAD OF TIME

Preparation in advance of custody exchanges is key. The more prepared you are, the faster and smoother they’ll go. Before your ex picks up the kids, take the time to gather everything they need for this particular stay. Whether it’s a quick overnight or a two-week vacation, make sure to gather the essentials.

Did you pack all of the regular medications they take? Do they have all the school books they need to get their homework done? That report on the solar system isn’t going to write itself. If your daughter has a baseball game, pack the mitt and cleats. If your son can’t sleep without his special stuffed zebra, it needs to make the trip. Knowing you have everything set reduces the amount of time you have to interact with someone you’d rather not see.

Think about what the kids can’t live without and send it with them. Otherwise, you risk a middle-of-the-night call or visit from your ex. If the goal is to limit the amount of contact, that defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

After a divorce, it may be quite some time before you want to see your ex again, if ever. But when you have kids, that’s not really an option. Custody exchanges can be tough, but it’s something you have to deal with.

For the sake of the kids, for their well-being—as well as your own—it’s important to try to make these encounters as smooth and painless as possible. Have a plan, be efficient, and keep your seething emotions in check for a few minutes. Hopefully, that’s all you’ll need. Taking steps to limit conflict in a custody exchange is healthier for everyone involved.

If you have questions about child custody or parenting plans, feel free to contact Goldberg Jones at his San Diego office.

I think these are all very valid points and important issues to consider and feeling that often occur during and after a divorce. I often recommend the same approach and encourage parents to consider the same issues in regards to their children and themselves. Divorce is a very painful experience even when it is handled well and with respect for each other. However, the truth is most children I see for divorce issues are because their parents are still hurting so they children sense it and take on the family pain trying to solve it. So please try these ideas.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. He is an expert in treating children who are involved in a high conflict divorce. For more information regarding Dr. Michael Rubino or his practice visit his website at www.rcs-ca.com or www.rubinocounseling.com or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Coping with Divorce and the Holidays

Coping with Divorce and the Holidays

The Holiday season is usually a difficult and stressful time for many families. Everyone trying to make plans and trying to see grandparents and other family members. It can be especially difficult for divorce families. After a divorce the issues often become even more stressful.

One thing that parents need to remember is that they decided on the divorce the children did not. I often hear arguments about parents want their time or wanting to continue their family’s holiday traditions. However, they often ignore what the children want to do.

Many times a divorce may be finalized, but the parents are not done fighting with each other. Therefore, the use Christmas as a reason to continue to argue or try to hurt each other. What they forget is they are really hurting their children more than each other.

Based on dealing with families who are divorced, I would make the following recommendations to parents. First, parents need to remember that Christmas is more about the children not them. Next they need to develop a plan together regarding the Holidays. The first step is for the parents to talk together about what the children seem to enjoy the most about Christmas. Also parents should also ask the children what they enjoy most about Christmas.

After you have this information then sit down civilly and see how you can allow the children to do what they enjoy most about Christmas. Another thing to remember is the children should not be forced to choose between Mom and Dad. Come up with a plan where the children have equal time with both parents. Also they should have equal time with grandparents, cousins and other Extended family from Mom and Dad’s side.

The other thing is don’t turn Christmas into a competition. Gifts should not be used to influence the children. You should discuss with each other what your children want and what you plan to get the children. When you were married you discussed what to get them so even after the divorce you can coparent and discuss what is realistic and what is not.

Finally, remember Christmas time is a time to get together as a family and enjoy each other. Therefore, for the sake of your children put your divorce aside and decide how this can be a happy family time for everyone. If you can do things together, that would be the ideal situation. If you can’t then being kind to each other and making the Holiday season fun for the children is the goal for you as parents. Stated another way, the children should still feel like they have one family at Christmas not two. Maybe things are being done a little differently because of the divorce but they still have a mother and father.

If you achieve this goal, it will make you feel better too. A divorce should not wreck your lives. Obviously, your lives will change after a divorce but you can still be a family.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 20 years working with children/teenagers and families. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

How to Reduce Stress during Thanksgiving and the Holidays

How to Reduce Stress during Thanksgiving and the Holidays

This is an article I have written for past Holidays, but it is still relevant. The Holiday Season is coming up fast. For many people this is a happy time and for others it is a stressful time. The Holidays can bring up family issues that have not been resolved yet or everyone is trying to make the day prefect that it becomes a stressful day not a happy one.

Thanksgiving is coming up first so let’s deal with that day. Thanksgiving with family can mean an increase in chaos and stress. Having a Thanksgiving plan can reduce anxiety, decrease the likelihood of arguments and increase the likelihood that everyone has a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving that they were expecting.

Lori Lite who writes about stress uses the acronym G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L as her Thanksgiving stress guide. It helps her and others get through the day in a peaceful manner. Each letter reminds you of something to do or a way to view the day so you do not get upset.

So here is how to use Gratitude as your Thanksgiving Stress Reliever.

G- Gratitude is the opposite of stress. It is difficult to feel stressed out when we are feeling gratitude.

R- Relax your expectations and let the day unfold. You might be surprised by the outcome.

A- Acceptance is the opposite of judgment. If we accept our family member for who they are and what they are capable of we can relax and enjoy ourselves.

T- Teens can be a part of Thanksgiving. Ask them what they would like to bring to the table. Let them bring it.

E- Empower children and let them help with age appropriate assignments. Putting the nuts out or making the centerpiece. Let them do it their way…not your way.

F– Focus on family for this day. Put all work and worries on the shelf

U– Unplug the electronics for dinner so that everyone can be fully present.

L- Love is often overlooked when we are busy. Cook with love… Speak with love… Show your love and gratitude for your family on this Thanksgiving Day.

This might seem very simple and obvious, but at times the best solutions are rather simple. Also you may want to practice using this in your daily life. It may seem simple, but it may be harder to do than you think because you are accustomed to doing things and viewing life in a certain way. This idea may challenge you to reassess how you approach life in general. Also this acronym may be helpful in your daily life.

Many of us are not use to looking at our lives in terms of what we have to be grateful for. Also many of us have a hard time relaxing and not worrying about work or other things we need to do. I have found that just being in the moment is difficult for most people. Most of us believe we always have to be doing something. This creates stress and disappointment. Finally, since we feel we must always be doing something, disconnecting from cellphones and other electronics can be very difficult for many people. However, think about it? How can you have fun and enjoy the day with your family, if your mind is not fully present? You can’t. Furthermore, this can create tension for others because they feel ignored and for you because you feel they don’t respect how important what you are doing at the moment is to you. As a result, you have stress which can turn into an argument and everyone is upset. A day of happiness becomes a day of anger and disappointment.

Therefore, in order to avoid this possibility trying use the word GRATEFUL and following its guidelines for the day. What do you have to lose?

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in working with children, teenagers and their families. He has over 19 years experience. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or visit his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/drrubino3.

Children Are Not Mailboxes

Children Are Not Mailboxes

As a child psychotherapist, I hear from many parents about their concerns for their child when there is a divorce. A divorce is a stressful event on the entire family including the children. However, there are ways parents can reduce the stress, but they do not. The most common mistake I see is using the child as a messenger.
Many divorces are hostile and neither parent wants to speak to the other one. However, when you have children, you must speak to each other. You need to co-parent which means communicating with the other parent. You do not have to talk about your lives or even be friends. However, you must communicate with the other parent about issues involving your children. You need to provide each other with information about school, your child’s health, if they have an activity coming up, etc. Basically, anything that involves your child.

However, I see many parents choose to use the child as the message carrier. They tell the child do not forget to tell your father to look at your homework or tell your mother to look at the note regarding your school conference. Many of these children are 10 years old so they forget or get the message wrong and then there is a big fight. The child blames themselves because if they did not forget, there would be no fight.

This is a great deal of responsibility to put on any child at any age. When parents use their child as a messenger, at times children feel they have to take sides or protect a parent. They know mom and dad do not get along and they will do anything to decrease the fighting. So if they have a message that might upset dad, they will worry about it and try to solve the issue so they do not have to give dad the message. The children I see in this situation are very anxious and resentful. They are mad that mom and dad got a divorce and now they feel they have to keep the peace between their parents.

When children are older such as 12 or 13 years old, they may start to act out. They may start using marijuana or alcohol as a way to escape. They also may start to make parenting decisions on their own. They feel if I have to carry the information back and forth, I might as well decide for myself. This can really hurt the relationship that a child has with one parent or both.

What is the solution? Parents, you need to communicate with each other directly and not use your child. The two of you divorced not your child. No one asked them and they should not have to take responsibility for any divorce issues. Also you really cannot get mad at the child for make parenting decisions, if you are putting them in the middle. You can go to co-parenting classes or co-parenting therapy to help the two of you with communication issues. You can also use email. Many Court systems have an email service you can subscribe to so you know messages are delivered. In Contra Costa County they call it the family wizard.

The main point is you can stop being married but you cannot stop being parents. It is important to remember this fact and set up a co-parenting plan during the divorce process not after. Trust me your children will thank you for it.

Dr. Michael Rubino specializes in treating children and teenagers and in high conflict divorces. He has over 20 years experience. For more information about Dr. Rubino’s work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com. 

Christmas After Divorce 

Christmas After Divorce 

Wevorce is a mediation company who tries to make divorce affordable and tries to minimize the negative impact of divorce on children.  It is a great company and I am happy to be affiliated with them.

They ran the following blog about Christmas after a divorce and I think it can be helpful to many people.

It’s not unusual for the holidays to sneak up, catching us unprepared and, worse yet, without the spirit. We all know what dates to prepare for; we feel the changes in the weather. But, suddenly, we are at the store and there it is: aisle after aisle of Christmas decorations while Jingle Bells plays in the background.
For many of us, we’re never ready for the hustle and bustle nor the spending and trending that comes with the season. And if you’re going through a divorce, or are adjusting as a newbie co-parent, the approach of the happiest time of the year can be anything but.

Perhaps you consider yourself a traditionalist and believe in the old-fashioned ideal of family consisting of two married parents in their first marriage “’til death do us part.” Well, in today’s world, the typical family structure has become more complicated than that. But less traditional does not mean your family is less in any way. Merely different. So, for the children’s sake, we believe in embracing those differences.

Stress and the Holidays

This time of the year can be stressful for separated or divorced adults. So imagine what it might be like for kids of divorced parents. It’s often difficult to empathize with others when we are experiencing our own pain, but it is crucial for parents to focus on their children’s wellbeing during challenging transitions. Typical signs your child may be having trouble emotionally are:

long periods of sadness or depression

uncharacteristic outbursts and getting into trouble frequently

spending more time alone in their room

missing classes and grades suffering

lack of interest in extracurricular activities

pretending to be sick

If you see any prolonged changes in your children’s behavior, arrange for them to see a counselor. Assure them it’s OK to talk about the divorce and their feelings, whether it’s with you, your co-parent, or a trusted adult.

The Comfort of Traditions

The observing of traditions feels much like wrapping your favorite blanket about the soul. They can soothe anxiety and stress as happy memories rush in to produce a Zen-like calm inside us. Perhaps it’s decorating and lighting the Christmas tree, complete with holiday music, cookies, and plenty of laughter, with the finale being the placing of the Angel — lovingly passed down for four generations — in her honored spot atop the tree to watch over everyone during this special time of the year.

Sometimes the simplest of habits become rituals important beyond measure, acts that bind us and provide continuity to our lives. But what if you can no longer duplicate a beautiful memory? What if your family dynamic has changed and it is no longer a possibility? It happens, especially in two household families. Maybe now you alternate holidays as co-parents or split the days of celebration between you? Or, perhaps it’s simply the absence of one parent that changes the picture dramatically.

But all is not lost. Just as life isn’t black and white, your family’s important traditions don’t need to be, either.. Here are some practical ways to rethink your family traditions.

Always Keep Your Children’s Happiness in Mind

As we’ve have mentioned many times to divorced parents: always consider the best interest of the children. In a weLife article, Divorced Parents: Kids And The Holidays, we talk about this very topic.

“If ever there was a time to think about peace on earth and good will toward men (and women), it’s the holiday season. Yes, that applies to the ex as well. If possible, keep the important traditions going. You may have to tweak them a bit or reinvent them altogether. This is a great time to start new traditions with your children, but don’t be too quick to abandon the old ones just because it may not be the same for you. Remember, it’s about how your children feel. It’s not about you or the ex.”

You may need to keep this thought in mind when it comes time to help your kids buy presents. In another weLife article, Help my Child Buy My Ex Gifts?, we offer some helpful hints to ensure even this simple act is done with kindness.

“It should be a goal to make every divorce an amicable one. It is with this spirit we answer this question: yes, yes, yes. Want to give a lump of coal to the ex for Christmas? Don’t. Take the high ground. It’s about your children and their love for the other parent, it’s not about you and your ex’s relationship.”

Terry Gaspard talks about the post-divorce family and the holidays in an article, 7 Ways to Create New Traditions For Your Family Post-Divorce. “Most children of divorce experience loyalty conflicts during the holidays and this can last into adulthood. The holiday season can remind them that their family is now divided and they may feel they are pulled in every direction and will ultimately disappoint both of their parents. As a result, you need to do everything in your power not to intensify your children’s feelings of being stuck in the middle between their parents’ two worlds during the holidays.”

Gaspard goes on to say, “Modeling responsible behavior toward your former spouse is key to having a successful holiday. Children pick up on both verbal and non-verbal signs of anger, so do your best to keep these feelings in check. Never badmouth your ex and model respectful communication in front of your children. Studies show that children adjust better to divorce if their parents minimize conflict and are cooperative with each other.”

Look at the Holidays From Your Kids’ Perspective

As outlined in our previously mentioned article, Divorced Parents: Kids And The Holidays, here are some thoughts and common-sense practices to consider to make this time of year easier for your children.

Plan ahead. Be very specific with dates and times; even go as far as writing down what is going to happen step-by-step. Kids like knowing exactly what’s happening. Yet, you must also be willing to change carefully laid plans at the last moment. Kids, especially the littlest ones, can be unpredictable. Be flexible and be patient.

Be flexible but firm. Kids like to be included in making plans, but don’t go overboard. Listen to their ideas and consider their input, but in the end, it is your decision as the adult. Don’t let them take advantage of you because of divorce guilt.

Respect traditions but be willing to make new ones as well. The first holiday without both parents will be the hardest for the kids. Be sure they know it’s okay to share their feelings and that you understand. Listen, then validate … that may help ease their sadness. In general, kids don’t mind the idea of celebrating everything twice. But keep the drama out of it. If old traditions aren’t working or cause pain, create new ones — make it a fun process for the family.

Remember, what goes on in the other household is no longer your business. No grilling the kids for information. And if the children do talk about the other parent’s home, keep your adult emotions under control. Don’t overreact; your child’s comments are their version of the truth, which can be unreliable. But under-reacting is not healthy either; you need to let them know that it’s okay for them to talk about their time with the other parent. After all, they love you both.

Pool resources, if possible. Again, don’t leave room for surprises at this time of the year; leave big changes for another time. But speaking of big, it’s a great time for co-parents to consider going in on the bigger gifts together. Getting a gift from Mom and Dad shows the kids that even if you are no longer together, you will both always be their parents, united in your love for them. This is a terrific thought to reinforce in their minds and hearts.

If you are facing being alone for the holidays and anticipate missing your children, there are ways to prepare yourself. The article continues: “Do something different, unexpected, avoid letting it be a sad and terrible time for you … your kids will know and feel guilty if you are all alone. The goal is to never expect them to choose one parent over the other. They love you both.”

Keep as Much of the Old, but Usher in the New

Even after you’ve transitioned into a two-household family, it can be good to maintain some of the old family traditions if possible. But when it’s not, it may be time to change them — sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Don’t be afraid to explore new ones and create something uniquely yours and the kids’. Let them look forward to and enjoy separate celebrations in each household so they will be filled with cherished memories to pass on to their own families one day.

After all, it’s all about instilling belief in our children’s hearts by keeping the holiday spirit alive. Don’t forget the laughter; there is no better way to spread the joy of the season. Practice hope and faith in a time we so often lose sight of what is truly important in our lives. Instill a sense of goodwill toward men by giving and doing for others less fortunate. And, as co-parents, teach them that peace on earth begins within family.

– See more at: https://www.wevorce.com/blog/articles/rekindling-joy-creating-new-family-traditions-for-happier-holidays#sthash.Jtap55bV.dpuf