Category Archives: Divorce

There’s No Such Thing as a Part-time Dad (or Mom)

Time sharing may very well mean that you see your children less than you did when you were married. This, however, does not mean that you are now a part-time dad or mom. You are either a parent or you are not. Actually, many divorced parents spend more time with their kids than parents in intact families. But no matter how much time you spend with your children, if you commit to it regularly and responsibly, you are a parent.

Regardless of how much time your agreement or the courts have deemed suitable for you to spend with your children, this time is not and never should be confused with babysitting. There’s no need to constantly take your children on expensive adventures, buy them gifts, or keep them perpetually entertained. Children are happy to simply be with you.

Time away from mom’s house (or dad’s) is and should not be defined as time away from home. Your kids do not “visit” you; they live with you. They have one home with Dad and another with Mom. Even if your new home does not have enough space to provide your child with the same sort of living arrangements he or she has with their other parent; it can be made to feel like their home too. Involve them in making it feel they belong there.

Find things that you and your children enjoy doing together. Your children will know when you too are enjoying yourself; just the way they will know if you are standing on the sidelines of the playground checking your cell phone. Make your time together count.

Studies show that many children cope well after a divorce, especially when there is joint custody. Allow yourself to be the parent you want to be. Think of this as your opportunity to re-connect with your children – this time on your own terms; not the way your ex deemed appropriate.

Statsitics Say Kids are Happier

Years ago I recall talking with a friend who was in a very unhappy marriage. Each time we met she would tell me how many more years, months, weeks she had to endure her marriage until she could finally get out. She was staying for her daughter. Innocently, I asked, “Don’t you think your daughter would rather see her mom happy and divorced than in a marriage that makes her miserable?” She thought about it and the next time we met she told me she was leaving. I had no idea that my question had so much impact.

My friend, like many others, believed her daughter didn’t know that she and her husband were miserable. But, she came to find out, that a child’s perception often overrules our ability to camouflage. It then occurred to her that although her daughter was merely eight years old; she wanted to provide her with the role model of a strong and happy woman and that was no longer possible while married to her husband. I won’t go into the details, but in time they were divorced, learned to parent together from two households and their daughter has acclimated to the situation.

Curious, having read a recent poll claiming that 82% of those aged 14 to 22 who have endured family breakups would prefer their parents to part if they are unhappy, I asked my friend if she ever talked to her daughter about the differences from then to now. At eleven, her daughter clearly articulated that it was so much better this way. “Everyone is happier.”

That same survey revealed that adults and older children of divorced families say that they realized later on that it was for the best. This does not mean, by any means, that divorce is easy on anyone, but it does somehow attest to the long standing notion that staying together for the children is not the answer.

The answer is (drumroll please)…making divorce and co-parenting work…which again is not always an easy feat, but is certainly possible and leaves open much more opportunity for everyone involved.

That First New Year’s Eve Alone

If you are in the midst of a divorce or have finally settled, this may be your first New Year’s Eve alone. I am here to tell you that it will all be ok. Actually this can be looked at as a pivotal moment in your life. New Year’s is generally a time of starting over and making resolutions. Begin again. Allow December 31st to be your stepping stone toward a new kind of happiness.

Perhaps you have been invited to parties. Decide if you are ready to attend a party solo and if you are not, then make other plans. Maybe you want to spend the evening with friends; friends who have been one of your greatest resources during your divorce. Maybe you have your children for New Year’s Eve. What a great opportunity to talk about your new family life and how it will look.

Do something fun with your children to bring in the new year with them. Just spending time with the kids at this time of year is a great chance to bond. Maybe you want to make a special meal together, set the table, put out candles and toast to your new lives. Perhaps you want to have a movie or game marathon in your pajamas. If you and your kids have an artsy side try giving the kids a stack of magazines; let them cut out pictures of things they want to see/be/do in the New Year. Or give them a pre-made “resolution” sheet to decorate and write dreams on. Write yours as well. This is another opportunity to talk positively and bond with your children.

The main thing about New Year’s is remembering that this is your new beginning. Declare that this is going to be a better year; a year of change. Remind yourself that divorce; while painful, has given you the chance for this new beginning – a beginning that can be optimistic and bright. Here’s to 2016 and to you!

That First Holiday after the Divorce

It is possible that this will be your first holiday without your children. Most likely this is what you agreed to in the parenting plan part of your divorce, but that may not make that impending day(s) any easier. Regardless of financial or marital status we all experience stress around the holidays. Depending on how good the relationship between you and your ex is, children of divorce approach the holidays with feelings ranging from mild uncertainty to absolute dread. As parents, we must learn to focus on the children’s needs and try to put our own sadness aside. Of course, this does not mean denying or ignoring one’s own feelings, but rather learning to deal with them in a way that does not make things more difficult for the children.

The divorced or separated family is generally aware of the pain it has suffered and the holidays may magnify this pain. Reminiscing might be part of the holiday tradition, but instead make it about creating new traditions. Try not to show the children how sad you may be that they will not be at your table this year by assuring them that you have some place to go and that they will have a great time with their mother/father. It will be difficult for them to enjoy themselves if they are envisioning the absent parent alone and sad. The ability of the children to adjust not just to the holiday visitation schedule, but to the divorce in general, is directly affected by how well the parents have learned to adjust to their new roles as co-parents and ex-spouses.

Some families avoid splitting the holidays by alternating times for family meals and traditions. This may be what you and your ex have decided will work best for your family, but most likely alternating major holidays yearly is the plan, therefore it is important to prepare yourself and your children for how the holiday will play out. Perhaps, having a second celebration when your child returns or before she/he leaves will work for you. Remember holidays are about families and good feelings not the day the calendar dictates.

For young children, the decision of where and when to go should be decided by the parents. Having to choose to spend time with one parent, over the other is a tremendous burden for the child, which may result in the child feeling guilty. It also gives the child more power than is appropriate. Remember too that older children are not immune to the stress. Adult children who live on their own may still find it difficult to choose. Young adults returning home for the holidays have the additional stress of wanting to spend time with their friends. Try to make it easier for them by alternating holidays or creating new traditions. Once again, assure them that you will be fine.

Holidays, while fun and festive, can also be stressful. Adding a new divorce or separation to the season can further complicate things; dialing up emotions and ambivalence. Do your best to create and stick to the plan that you and your spouse have created. If there is difficulty in devising a plan, that will make it easier on all involved, particularly the children; consult a parenting coach, who can help you work through things and make the future for your family easier and brighter. None of this is meant to diminish how difficult it may be celebrating those first few holidays without your children, but finding ways to make it palatable and even joyful for yourself, is one that should not involve the children. Keeping busy and spending time with compassionate friends and other family members often helps.

Adjusting to Shared Custody

Adjusting to shared custody during or after a divorce can be one of the most difficult parts of starting a new life. The periods of separation can be tough and even challenging, particularly when the wounds of divorce are still fresh. Letting go of trying to be a part of the children’s every moment is probably one of the most arduous parts, but for the sake of both the parents and the children; it is beneficial.

Children, who may be used to spending more time with one parent or another can also experience some form of separation anxiety. Try to find positive and creative ways to communicate with your children while they are visiting your former spouse without stepping on the toes of the other parent. It is important to allow him or her to parent; which is why co-parenting and communication is so important.

Rather than waiting for your children to call you whenever they feel like it, which may make kids worry about making the other parent feel betrayed or jealous, you can initiate a call. Arrange to ring at regular times, so you both can look forward to catching up, and your ex can arrange for them to be available when you call.

Do keep the calls brief though. Do not take a lot of their time away from the other parent and certainly keep your conversation positive. Although you may miss them terribly and feel sad; do not tell them as this may make them feel badly for the absent parent; sparking feelings of guilt. Tell them a funny story. Smile, even if it is forced.

Do not use your children as messengers. Keep adult business between you and your ex. Also, do not interrogate them about what your ex-partner does. You will have to learn to trust that he or she loves them as much as you do and therefore is doing his/her best to parent them.

When the children are away for longer periods of time; sending a letter or card can be a great way to stay in touch. Tell them all about your daily activities and plans for when you see them again. Emails work too and may allow them to write back, but don’t be offended if they don’t. Text messages are also a great way to keep in touch with older kids.

Skyping or Facetime is always a great option. You can chat with your children about daily activities or just blow them a kiss over the webcam. This is where that forced smile may come into play, but it will come more naturally with time. Once again, do not monopolize their time.

Children often sound distant or feel shy when they are with the other parent; as they may believe they are betraying the other parent. Don’t be offended. Rather, explain to them when they are with you that it’s okay to love both parents.

Remember, if your kids are immersed in activities with their other parent, that’s a good thing. It means they’re having too much fun to miss you. Let them be carefree and happy; they’ll still have plenty of love for you when they come back.