Are you struggling to communicate with your ex about parenting issues?

By Toni Nieuwhof

It is common for parents to experience difficulties communicating with the other parent about their children, post-separation. Inflamed emotions, shock, denial and grief over the separation may be interfering with your ability to make day-to-day parenting plans involving scheduling, children’s health issues or behavioural concerns.

Here are a couple of strategies that may reduce the tension and allow you to have more peaceful and productive conversations with your ex:

1 – Respond to hostile emails or texts using the “B.I.F.F.” method, recommended by Dr. Bill Eddy, founder of New Ways for Families and the High Conflict Institute.

“B.I.F.F.” stands for:

Brief – make sure your messages are brief, clear and to- the- point. Use brevity to signal that you don’t wish to get into a prolonged back-and- forth argument;

Informative – include all the necessary information about the co-parenting issue, while avoiding negativity and criticism;

Friendly – use a writing tone that treats the other parent the way you would like to be treated. This increases the chances of getting a friendly – or neutral - response;

Firm – while following the guideline of being friendly and doing what you can to promote a good working relationship with the other parent, you will also need to clearly state your position on an issue.  Avoid inviting more discussion or asking for more information unless you are negotiating or need the dialogue to continue. 

For more information about BIFF communications and to read Bill’s article, go to our website which is found at  http://www.galbraithfamilylaw.com/responding-to-hostile-mail-biff/ 

2 – Enroll in the Our Family Wizard web service. This is a communication platform designed to assist parents post-separation. It has many helpful features including a mobile app and special features such as ‘ToneMeter’, which is described as an ‘emotional spell-check’ for your messages. The sign-up fees are reasonable, and may well be worth the investment in more peaceful co-parenting. For more information, visit www.ourfamilywizard.com

Written by Toni Nieuwhof, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Toni's profile. To book a consultation with Toni, please go to our website.

 

Travelling with the kids? Get consent!

By Thea Cameron.

Planning a trip across the Canadian border with the kids this summer without the other parent?  You need a notarized travel consent!

If you are separated, trips without the other parent are the new normal. There is nothing worse than being stopped at the border with your kids in tow because you don’t have the right paper work. Your holiday could end before it starts.

Here’s what to include:

1.      Full names and birth dates of each parent and each child. 

2.      Specific dates for travel and mode of transportation.

3.      The destination address and contact details.

4.      A statement authorizing the travelling parent to make emergency medical decisions while the children are in their care.

5.      The letter should be in the form of a statutory declaration and must be notarized.

 We can help prepare and notarize the letter for you so you can travel worry free.  Bon voyage!

 Written by Thea Cameron, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. To book a consultation with Thea, please go to our website.

Divorce Fears

By Thea Cameron, Lawyer

Separation and Divorce: these words bring up feelings of pain, disappointment, fear, and uncertainty.   Are you worried about the way this will impact your children, and what the financial implications will be - How will my children cope? Can I afford to stay in the home?  This is normal.  You don’t want to be the next casualty of divorce.

I have seen firsthand many families destroyed by a messy divorce. It especially saddens me to see kids caught in the middle.

The good news is that there is a way for couples to “divorce with dignity”.   By using Collaborative Practice you will keep your personal life out of court.  How?  Simply put, everyone involved agrees to negotiate outside of court.  Family counsellors and financial specialists give you the tools to make lasting decisions unique to your family.  In this way, Collaborative Practice enables you to avoid the stress, expense, animosity and unpredictability of court.   The lawyers at Galbraith Family Law are trained in this process and are committed to helping you resolve your issues quickly, effectively and with the least amount of pain possible. We give you the information and support you need to find your way to a resolution.

Written by Thea Cameron, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Thea's profile. To book a consultation with Thea, please go to our website.

 

Reducing Family Conflict

 “We don’t agree on much, but we want to protect the kids”

By Toni Nieuwhof

Does this sound familiar?  Parental conflict in a family may be high whether you’re separating, living separate and apart under the same roof, or working through conflict as a married couple.  And it comes as no surprise to you that the emotional health and well-being of your children is affected by out-of-control conflict under any of the above scenarios. 

Depending on the personalities of you and your spouse, and the norms of the families you grew up in, it may be difficult to hold yourselves back from arguments- gone- bad – from mud-slinging, name-calling and other forms of verbal attack.  Both of you may have perfectly rational reasons for the positions you’re defending.  The problem is that as you battle it out, the children at are risk of being saddled with emotional harm that will impact their lives, now and even as adults.

How do you protect the kids when you’re in the middle of conflict with your spouse?  There is no one answer to this question, but you may find the following suggestions helpful;

1.  Make a mutual commitment to behavior change:

To make a commitment means that you both acknowledge the problem as being real.  No more denial or excuses.  You both commit to each other to protect the children.  As a sign of the level of your commitment to your kids, you may want to write out your agreement and your strategies, and date and sign it, to refer back to if and when the going gets tough.

2.  Get professional advice:

Often people resist the idea of having a marriage counsellor or other family professional involved in their personal affairs.  They see it as a sign of weakness or of mental health issues.  Let’s face it – human nature being what it is, and dysfunctional relationships surfacing in virtually every extended family – professionals who are trained to help people overcome emotional struggles and to diagnose unhealthy emotional responses and communication patterns can be extremely helpful.  The ability to seek help from someone who is specially trained, and to be teachable in the sense of applying what that professional teaches, is a life skill and an important strength.

3.  Agree to disagree – then get help:

There are some issues you may honestly disagree on, and in and of itself, having various viewpoints can be helpful.  When conflict leads us to refine a course of action and improve it, the conflict is proven to be positive. But the conflict process, if handled poorly, may be damaging to each other and the kids.  Perhaps you’ve reached an impasse on a financial matter or a behavior issue of a child.  If you cannot agree on the course of action and the conflict deteriorates into a yelling match, then recognize the issue.  It is okay to agree to disagree.  Focus on the ‘attacking’ the problem but not each other.  Seek out a third party whose opinion you both respect, and look for solutions with that person.   If you have to pay for an appointment with an advisor to help the two of you agree on a course of action, look at it as a wise investment.

4.  Physically separate the kids from the conflict:

If you find other measures haven’t worked to contain conflict and an argument is inevitable, at least be mindful of protecting the kids.  Mutually agree that you will keep your voices low (if you can manage this!) and go to another room.  Get a babysitter and take the dispute away from home. Go somewhere they cannot hear you.  Don’t assume kids are asleep when they are in bed.

5.  Continue to support each other in front of your kids

Research shows that children are better off with healthy relationships with, and respect for, both parents.  Anything you say that denigrates the other parent in front of your kids may negatively impact their relationship with that parent.  In extreme cases, it may cause the kids to turn against or reject the other parent. When you hurt the other parent, you are hurting your kids.  You have to ask yourself – do you want that?  If the answer is ‘yes’, then see number 2 above.

6.  Clear space in your life for problem-solving and self-care

People are only designed to carry a day’s worth of problems at a time.  If you can identify several problems needing your attention, then you’ll need to look at your calendar going forward to ensure you have time to deal with them.  Be sure to build in time to care for yourself as well. Take care of the three basics – diet, sleep and exercise.  It’s important to build a little bit of ‘awesome’ into your day, especially when you’re dealing with tough, emotional issues.  Make sure you have a few friends or family members who you can share your experiences with as you work to resolve the conflict.

Written by Toni Nieuwhof, a lawyer at Galbraith Family Law. Here is Toni's profile. To book a consultation with Toni, please go to our website. 

Costly Kids - Worth Every Dime

Below is a fantastic graphic about the cost of kids. I have four of them and can say, without a doubt they are expensive and worth every dime. They truly enrich my life. 

 

Costly Kids
Created by: EarlyChildhoodEducation

Four Steps to Take with Your Child After Divorce

divorced couple with babyHelping your children adjust after your divorce is essential. Heather Smith offers excellent advice on what you should do to help you child after the dust settles.

 

Here is Heather's blog: 

 

 4 Steps to Take with Your Child After Divorce

You have sat your child down and given the dreaded speech that you never thought you would have to make. Mom and Dad are getting a divorce are some of the most difficult words a child will hear from their parents mouth. There are a few things that will help you and your child during this time; here are 4 things to consider doing:

Get them a counselor: Once you have shared the unfortunate news with your child it is important that no matter their age, you get them a counselor to speak with. Weekly sessions are best for them. It gives them one day a week to discuss and work out their thoughts and feelings. Children have a difficulty opening up to parents and need that third party when it comes to dealing with the divorce. It is a life change for them as well and you need to provide them with help.

Keep quiet: No matter what you do, keep your thoughts to yourself. Do not speak negatively about your former spouse in front of the child. Keep your arguments and frustrations away from the child. Do not share details of the divorce. It is so important to keep that out of the child’s life. Children already feel a sense of responsibility of the parents’ divorce and hearing things like this will only push them further into that belief. As hard as it can be to keep your feelings in, just do it.

Remain positive Make the transition easier on them by remaining positive. Most likely parental rights and visit have been established and now come the difficult part for child, spending time in two different homes. When you drop off and pick up, be sure you remain positive. Be interested in their time at the others house and respond with a smile. You want this to be easy and comfortable for the child.

Get them involved and active: If you child isn’t already part of a sports team or involved in a hobby, be sure that you start them in something. There are all sorts of emotions for your child during this time and having a sport or hobby is a great for them to express it without doing harm to themselves or others when they act out. Sports teams are great because they require practices and game days. They are exercising and socializing with peers their age and can act like a child that they are. Hobbies like painting, learning a musical instrument will stimulate the child’s need to share their emotions. Try a few things out and allow your child to make the decision on what makes them the happiest.

Your divorce is what you make it. It may be a difficult and stressful time for you, but remember you aren’t the only one feeling that pain. Remain positive, get your child involved, find them a counselor and always keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Don’t allow your child to feel like it’s their fault, because it is never the child’s fault.

Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nanny service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

Parental Planner: A New Communications Journal for Separated Parents


The Parental Planner is a new way for separated parents to communicate with one another. It is a essentially a communications journal that is passed between parents at the time of exchanging the children.

The advantage to using a communications journal is that it avoids face-to-face confrontations. You can also ensure all the pertinent information is exchanged. It also serves as a record of communications between parents. It helps parents who are separated to try to maintain some consistency in their parenting between homes. I also like that it has plastic folders in it so that documents such as health insurance cards can go back and forth easily. 

It is best to keep it available so that you can jot information into whenever the need arises. 

Although it not intended to be shared with the children, it should be written in such a way that if your children do stumble upon it, you will be proud of what you have written in it. So don't criticize the other parent. Always be respectful of one another in your communications. 

Don't forget to also share positive events in the children's lives such a milestones and achievements. 

If you are angry at the other parent, put the journal down! Let your steam off some other way and then, when cooler heads prevail, you can write in the journal. 

The Parental Planner is simple and yet comprehensive. 

Learn more about it at www.ParentalPlanner.com

And it's Canadian! 

 

Co-parenting Rules and Breathing

 Mark A Nacol - Lawyer HelpParenting is not easy. Parenting when separated is even more difficult. 

Mark A. Nacol, a Texas family law lawyer, in his blog Nacol Law Firm Blog does an excellent job describing the rules for effective co-parenting. 

Mark's list of rules may seem to be "common sense" but when you are the parent trying to work with someone who either has rejected you as a spouse, or whom you have rejected, it is very difficult.  Emotions and egos get in the way. 

A key to responding to the other parent in an effective manner is to take a few minutes, even overnight, to consider your response. Too often knee-jerk immediate responses can cause more problems than they solve. This is especially true when you have first separated. The emotions are so raw that co-parenting is very difficult.

My advice: read Mark's rules and then take a deep breath. Consider your response carefully. Sleep on it. Co-parenting gets easier in time. Be patient. Soon Mark's "rules" will become "common sense". Until then...follow the rules and breaaaattthhhhhh...

Who Drives The Children For Access Exchanges?

When you become a parent, nobody tells you that you will become a personal taxi driver for your children! You will drive them to their sports activities, their music lessons, their friends' homes and, if you have separated from the other parent, you might have to do some driving to and from their other parent's home. 

I enjoy driving my children around to their activities. I view it as an opportunity to talk about everything going on in our lives. Sometimes we talk about something they hear on the radio (news, sports or opinion pieces). Sometimes we talk about the daily events of their lives. Sometimes we just talk about the weather or maybe someone will say "hey, that's a nice looking car". It doesn't matter what we talk about... the point is we are talking. 

When parents separate, the question often arises: who should do the driving when the children move from one parent's home to the other?

If you and the other parent cannot work out an agreement on your own, here are the general principles used by most judges in Ontario: 

  1. If the children reside primarily with one parent, the other parent should do the pick up and drop off of the children. The reason for this is that it is assumed that the primary parent does more driving of the children to their activities since they are with them more often.
  2. If the parents share about equal time with the children, they should share about equal driving responsibilities.
  3. If one parent, moves far away from the other parent, the moving parent will usually have to do most of the driving for access exchanges.

Often clients argue about who has to do the driving. Neither wants to do it. At the high price of gasoline these days, I can understand their desire to minimize the amount of driving. On the other hand, the opportunity to spend time with your children, without the distraction of the television and the computer, is precious. I say "Don't argue too hard."

Take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with your children. Soon they will be leaving home and you will long for hours spent together going somewhere.... anywhere..... together. 

 

Keeping Healthy Boundaries While Co-Parenting

Co-parenting after divorce is not easy. It's like walking a tight rope at first. 

You want to be cooperative and communicate well but on the other hand how close is too close with your ex spouse?

Karen Buscemi wrote a great blog in the Huffington Post about keeping boundaries with your ex spouse. Karen says there are five things you should not do:

1. Don't give your spouse that sexy look.

2. Don't hug your ex spouse.

3. Don't give your spouse too much attention at social events.

4. Don't stay too chummy with your ex spouse's family.

5. Don't use your ex spouse's friends.

There are two sides of the coin. I fully agree with Karen but would add the following:

1. Don't give your ex spouse that dirty look like you are disgusted by them. How would you feel if you saw one of your parents give the other parent that kind of look?

2. Don't push your ex spouse away. If you need a hand, ask for help. If your ex needs a hand, help out. Treat your ex like a good neighbour.

3. Don't pretend that your ex spouse does not even exist when at social events. Occasional eye contact is polite. Maybe you could even say "hi" .  It wouldn't kill you.

4. You don't have to be enemies with your ex spouse's family. You can still be friends. There are a lifetime of events you will share so reach out and try to break the ice. It is awkward but worth some effort to make things comfortable for everyone, especially your children.

5. Your friends can be your ex spouse's friends. It isn't fair to ask them to keep secrets so remember that what you say or do may get back to your ex spouse. If you have something to hide, be careful. But, hey, who has something to hide?

Striking the right balance is a real challenge. Working with a Family Coach or Divorce Coach (both are therapists with special training to help clients move through the emotional stages of divorce) really helps. 

Walking on a tight rope is challenging at first. You might fall from time to time. Your spouse might fall too. Be patient. Put in supports to catch you when you fall such as a Family Coach. Raising kids is like being in a circus. Co-parenting is just another act! You can do it... one step at a time! 

Joint Parenting - A Blog by Two Parents

I just stumbled upon a wonderful new blog jointly authored by two parents sharing joint custody of their children. It is honest, heartfelt, insightful and engaging. The authors are New Yorkers Magda Pecsenye and Douglas French. 

Their blog is called "When the Flame Goes Up" . 

Here is an excerpt from a blog posting by the father, Doug French, talking about the state his relationship with his now ex-wife and co-parent (and co-author) Magda Pecsenye. 

... I’m not in love with her anymore, and that ship has sunk.

I don’t say that lightly, because not being in love with the mother of my kids is a drag. Ever since I was a young adult, I had visualized a specific event in my head. It was to attend my youngest kid’s college graduation, look over at my wife, my life partner, plant a big kiss on her and say, “We did it.” We stayed together, we weathered the storms, and we did all we could to raise emotionally stable kids who can function in the adult world.

I spent a long time mourning what I perceived was the loss of that, but when you think about it, it’s still sort of partially possible. All that’s really missing is the kiss, the most expendable pigment in the painting.

Doug and Magda were interviewed by the Globe and Mail about their experience blogging together. It is worth a glance too. The comments are negative. I like the blog. I think it is helpful for someone who is trying to establish their own shared custody regime just to get a sense of the struggle; the ups and downs of co-parenting. 

I think the bottom line message from this couple is that when you go through a divorce and you have children, it's never completely over. You still have to parent together, so you might as well get on with it as best you can. I like it.