Handling the Holidays after Divorce

Christmas is for children but when Mom and Dad have separated or divorced, it can be a difficult time. I remember how difficult it was my first year after separation. I was devastated. Now, many years later, we schedule our "Christmas" any time between December 22nd and December 28th. The actual date does not matter... it is the joy of spending the day together. 

Here are links to two past blogs I did about the holiday season Part 1 and Part 2

Our guest blogger, Marvin Hoffman from the Houston, Texas law firm Holmes, Diggs and Eames, PLLC offers some very good advice for parents.

The holidays can be a difficult, anxiety-filled, and frustrating time for anyone, regardless of your situation. It’s a time when a lot is expected of you, from buying presents to traveling from place to place, and it seems as if there is less time to get it all done. However, after going through a divorce, the holidays can be even more difficult, particularly when children are involved. Depending on a divorced couple’s custody and/or visitation agreement, the holidays can be an especially complicated time, as parents are trying to juggle who gets the children during which holidays, how long they have them, and what to do about the myriad of other holiday arrangements that need to be made.

Making it through the holidays as a divorced parent doesn’t have to be as difficult as many make it sound, though. With careful planning and taking a few tips into consideration, a divorced parent can more thoroughly enjoy the holidays and make them fun for the kids.

Tips for Divorced Parents

You want to do more than just survive the holidays after a divorce – you want to enjoy them fully. Although being a divorced parent can certainly put more pressure on you, making this a harder task, it’s not impossible. In fact, you may be able to make the holidays much easier to handle by keeping the following tips in mind:

  • Make very detailed and specific plans – whatever you and your family are doing for the holidays, try to make the plans as detailed as possible so arguments and problems do not arise, particularly with your ex-spouse. The more planned you are, from the time you’re leaving for a vacation to exactly which days and times you’ll have the children, the more you’re likely to reduce potential frustration and fighting.

  • Plan well ahead of time – by making plans as far in advance as possible, you can allow your ex-spouse, children, and family to plan better and more accordingly, which also helps prevent more arguments from arising at inopportune times. This way, you can also make arrangements with your ex-spouse and vice versa.

  • Find out what’s most important – decide what holidays, traditions, and arrangements are most important to you. This way you will know what you can compromise on and what you should ask for.

While these tips are not the only ones that can help you through the holidays (and if you are looking for more, consider talking with a Houston divorce lawyer about tips and options), they can dramatically decrease your frustration with the holidays, helping you to enjoy your family and loved ones during this special season.

If you are in the Simcoe County, Muskoka or York Region, you can get good advice from our lawyers. Here is our website and our contact information.  We can help you get it sorted out... so you can just enjoy the holiday season. 

Surviving Holidays Without Your Children

Suchada, also known as Mama Eve, did an excellent blog  about what to do when you don't have your children for the holidays, especially for the first time.

She is honest, insightful and offers hope about how to cope without your children. 

Divorce sucks. You have a choice how you respond to its challenges. You can make it worse or you can take Mama Eve's good advice and make the most out of a difficult situation. 

In time, it gets better. Truly... it does. Hang in there. 

Here is her blog

 Acouple of days ago my children left on their first trip without me.

 

My husband and I separated earlier this year (I will write more about this later, and yes, it’s one of the reasons I didn’t keep up with my blog for a while). While much of this has been difficult, nothing has been harder for either of us than being away from the kids for the holidays. I got them for Thanksgiving, and he took them to see his family in Ohio for Christmas.

It sucks.

However, I try to make the best of even the worst situations, so here goes: my top 5 ways to survive being away from your kids for the holidays.

1. Stay busy

There was no question that when my boys got tickets to Ohio, I was getting a ticket to somewhere. I didn’t want to stay at home by myself and be lonely. So I’m flying to Florida to see my parents, and I’ve packed my schedule full of activities I love to do. If I’m bored I know I will wallow in my loneliness and guilt, so my goal is to not let it happen. And on the positive side, it’s been more than three years since I’ve had time to myself anyway, so I’m going to take full advantage of it with things that aren’t easy to coordinate with two little ones – like scuba diving and sailing and some nighttime fun.

2. Be flexible

While I would love to get on the phone and Skype with my little ones during the times it’s convenient for me (when I wake up, before I have dinner, a quick minute between errands), I have to remember they’re busy with their dad and his family. They have their days filled up with relatives who haven’t seen them in years, and grandparents that want to play with them, and sightseeing trips to all kinds of exciting destinations. If I want to talk to them and see them, I need to remember to be ready for when they have a moment, and not count on them to squeeze in regular appointments during a special trip like this.

3. Make memories

Since I know it isn’t easy to coordinate regular phone calls and Skype sessions, I decided to port myself to where they are, on demand. I made video recordings of me reading a stack of their favorite books, and then posted them to YouTube, and also a video just to tell them how much I love them and miss them. It’s not the same as interacting with them, but at least if they get lonely they can see my face and hear my voice reading something familiar anytime, anywhere (thanks to laptops and smartphones). Another benefit is it allows them to keep up part of their bedtime routine in an otherwise unfamiliar environment.

4. Remember it’s not all about you

This was the hardest thing for me as this situation unfolded, but once I accepted it, it’s been the most freeing. My kiddos are having a big adventure with a capable parent, surrounded by a big family that adores them and is thrilled to see them for the holidays. I miss them terribly, and I want to cuddle with them and smother them with kisses, but they don’t need to know how painful this is for me. What’s going on between their dad and me is an adult problem, and my boys don’t need to feel the weight of it. While I would do anything to be with them, I can’t change it, and moping and reminding everyone of how sad I am doesn’t make it a better holiday for anyone (including me).

5. Find joy in what’s around you

While my ideal situation would be to spend the holidays with my boys, I can’t pretend there aren’t a lot of positives to my Christmas plans. I will be with my parents, and my sister and her family, in a beautiful location with many friends. I will be able to go on adventures that aren’t easy to coordinate with two little ones, and I have friends and family who love me, and are thinking of me and praying for me. I know not everyone is so fortunate when they’re away from their children, but I believe something good can be found in even the dreariest circumstances. Even if it’s rock bottom, it means better days are coming.

I hope you all have restful holidays with people that love you, and I will see you again in the new year. Merry Christmas and lots of love!

 

 

Your First Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzza Since Divorce? Ugh.

Santa letterAre you dreading Christmas? Will it be your first  special holiday since your separation?  Are you depressed about not having your children for New Year's Eve, or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or some other special day. Whatever the holiday, you are not alone.

I remember the first Christmas that my three boys were with their mother Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I cried and felt depressed most of the day. The time seemed to creep by so slowly. I felt all alone and like a failure.

I should have taken my 6 year old son's advice.

A few days before Christmas, he knew he would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with his Mom because that's what we agreed. So, he asked me to write a letter to Santa and ask him to come to my house on December 26th instead of the 25th. My son said that Santa comes to Steve's house (Steve is my friend who is divorced with kids too) on the 26th so he was sure he wouldn't mind coming to our house then too!

Of course, Santa did come on December 26th, even without a letter, but I think the message my son unwittingly was giving me was that it does not matter when we celebrate Christmas...lets just make whatever day we have together full of love, gratitude, Santa and fun. He knew Santa (and joy) would arrive whenever we wanted them to arrive. We just had to schedule it.

To help make your holidays special, here are ten things you can do:

  1. Ensure your schedule is specific. You and your ex spouse should confirm well in advance when each of you will have the children. If you don't have specific times already agreed, negotiate the days and times as soon as possible. There are too many other sources of stress in December so try to nail down your times with your children now.
  2. Don't fight over which days you have your children. Whenever you have them, make it special. If you really need particular days, offer to trade days with your ex spouse or give your ex spouse those special days next year. Treat your ex they way you would like to be treated, even if it isn't reciprocated.
  3. Do something special for yourself. I make myself some of my favorite food, pour myself some wine, watch some basketball in front of the fireplace and wrap presents all day on December 25th. Actually, I look forward to my day spent all by myself. I am totally relaxed and ready when the boys come over on December 26th.
  4. Support your children having a good time with their other parent. If you need to speak to someone about your sad feelings, talk to a friend or therapist - not your kids.  The children don't need to hear it. They need to hear that it is okay to have fun with their other parent too.
  5. Create new traditions. This is a new beginning for you and your children so don't try to replicate the past. Find new ways to celebrate the event. You can preserve some of the past traditions but find new ways of celebrating too. My parents always put a maraschino cherry on the top of our grapefruits Christmas morning so I continue to do the same now. Change things up too... I started singing Christmas carols after our Christmas dinner.
  6. Get outside. Go for a walk or ski or snowshoe. There is nothing more rejuvenating than being outside with nature and your family. When your kids are with you, take them outside too. A good snowball fight can really build up an appetite.
  7. Give of your heart. If you have just recently separated, money is likely short so don't try to spend like you did in the past. Do something special for the people you love. Maybe you can write a special little poem for each of them or list twenty ways you appreciate them. Gifts often don't have lasting meaning. Can you even list five gifts you received last year or the year before? It is the feelings of love and appreciation that last forever.
  8. Stay sober. If you over-drink,  you run the risk of crumbling into a pile of self-pity and depression. Nobody wants to see that and certainly your kids don't need to see it. Have fun but be careful so you can keep it together emotionally, especially during your first Christmas since your separation.
  9. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. If your family or friends are negative, remind them the season is all about gratitude, love and appreciation. Park you own negativity and search for the positive in everything and everyone, even your ex spouse.
  10. Relax. Know that in time the holidays will become easier to get through and more fun. Just take a deep breath and get through your first set of holidays. Next year, it will be better. Trust me.

There are several wonderful blogs about surviving the holiday season after divorce. 

Now, my youngest son is 12 years old and he says the best thing about Mom and Dad having separated is that he enjoys "two Christmases, two Easters and two Thanksgivings!" He says "if you like that kind of food, it's great!" Let me assure you... he certainly does like "that kind of food!"

So make it a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa or whatever special holiday you are celebrating this year. Joy will come whenever you schedule its arrival. It is up to you.

How to Schedule Summer Access

Summer is fast approaching. Now is the time to begin to work on your summer access schedule. 

Some separated families have the summer schedule set for every summer. Mom will have certain weeks every year and Dad will have other weeks. There is very little negotiation or planing involved. This is a nice arrangement, if you can manage it. The disadvantage is that life is not static. Sometimes the opportunity to negotiate the children's schedule gives you a chance to accommodate the varying schedules and attend special events that arise each summer. 

For most families, there is a lot of negotiation and compromise involved in scheduling the summer schedule.

Here is how to do it. 

Find a clean calendar you can work with to develop a plan. 

First, write down any dates on the calendar  that are carved in stone. For example, if your holidays are determined by your employer and you can't change them, write those dates on the calendar. If your children have any activities that cannot be changed, write those down too. 

Next, write down the preferred dates or activities you would like to have but can live without. Use a different color so it is clear that these are not "carved in stone" dates. 

Then do the same for your ex spouse. If you know of any "carved in stone" dates for your ex, write them on the calendar. If you are aware of any preferred dates for your ex, write those down too. 

Now you just have to start carving up the time. Remember, you are trying to reach an agreement so you have to try to come up with something you think your ex spouse can live with too. You both can't get every favored date. So make some compromises. Share the favored dates. 

Get your ideas for the summer schedule over to your ex spouse as soon as you can. 

I always suggest that you send to your ex spouse a couple of options so they have something to consider. If you send just one choice, it may feel like you are trying to impose your wishes on your ex spouse. Put a short explanation for the dates you have chosen and the compromises you willing to make. You don't need a long narrative. Short, factual and clear is best. 

Google calendar is a free internet service and is an excellent way of sharing a calendar with your ex spouse. You could create one that is only accessible to you and your ex. You could put your suggested schedule for the children over the summer on it and then seek input from your ex. In fact, the Google Calendar is a great way of keeping track of busy kids all year long. You can get alerts when changes are made to it. 

When you get  a proposal for the summer schedule, respond in a timely way. Waiting to hear just causes unnecessary stress for everyone. I know trying to figure out the summer schedule is frustrating but just do it anyway. 

Once you have it nailed down, stick to it. Don't be changing it except in the event of some urgent arising. The idea of setting these dates in advance is to allow both parents to plan in advance. Last minute changes makes planning impossible. 

If you can't resolve it, don't just run off to court immediately. Court is too expensive, slow and you lose control over the outcome. Court will take the fun out of summer. I suggest you work with a mediator or a Family Coach to find a compromise that works for the whole family. 

One last thing... enjoy the summer time. This is when you have a great opportunity to spend some quality time with your kids. But don't forget the suntan lotion! 

How to Make the Most Out of Summer Access

Summer time... and the living is easy....or so the song goes. 

If you are separated, you want to make the most out of your time with the kids. It is tempting to spend lots of money, schedule every minute of the day and do every activity possible with the children. Your time is limited so you want to make the most of it.

I know... because that's my personality too. 

Sometimes it is the mundane time spent together that can be the most memorable. Last summer my 15 year old son had to earn some money to contribute to his expensive mountain bike. Finding work for a 15 year old is nearly impossible so, I had him seal my paved driveway. As you can see by the photos, my 12 year old pitched in too!  

I took the time off work to do the work with him. This clearly was not a good decision economically but it was a great lesson about the value of money to my son.  It was hard work and took forever but over the course of the week, we got it done. Our driveway is now (in our humble opinion) the best sealed driveway in our community! He "paid off" his debt to me for his bike and we had some great time bonding while swishing tar over the driveway in the heat of the summer. 

It wasn't a trip to Disney Land but it stands out as one of the best events of the summer last year. My sons and I were working together. It was great. 

Richard Sharp, a lawyer in England, in his excellent blog called Family Law Collaborative Divorce did a post about summer time access in which he offers good advice for separated parents about summer access. 

My last blog was called "Five Ways to Resolve Summer Access Scheduling". Richard's blog offers complementary advice.  Richard writes:

Do plan early and commit to decisions made - Plan the arrangements for the summer holidays as early as possible. If you commit to doing something make sure it is followed through. Last minute clashes and changes are not easy to resolve. Children need their parents to make decisions and to stick to them

Do support your child’s contact with the other parent – Be positive about your child spending time with their other parent. Let the children know it is OK with you that they are going away and that you will be OK too whilst they are away. It’s best for kids when both parents can be supportive of their activities and share in their excitement.

Do help children maintain contact with the other parent – Provide the other parent with contact information and details as to where the children are going to be and who with. Let the children communicate with the other parent whilst away.
And

Don’t talk through the children - It is tempting to relay information through the children when talking with the ex is difficult. But messaging between households is a burden children shouldn’t have to bear. Make sure you are the one delivering news about trips you are proposing to take and scheduling needs surrounding them.

Don’t ambush the other parent - When making holiday plans, don’t set the other parent up. “I would really love for you to come with me to Spain, but it’s really up to your Mum to say yes” is neither fair on the child nor Mum. Instead, “A trip abroad would be lots of fun but before we can make plans, I need to talk with Mum to see if we can work out the details.”

Don’t make your kids pay the price - If you make a decision to foot the holiday bill or move your schedule around to make a trip work, don’t make your kids pay the price. Whilst a trip abroad may be a wonderful experience for the child, it probably won’t be so wonderful for very long if the child has to listen to what Dad did or didn’t do to help. Children do not want to take sides – don’t make them.

And finally …..Conflict is the major cause of unhappiness and poor outcomes for children. Let’s have family fun in the sun this summer by focusing on the needs of children.driveway

Summer holidays are a great opportunity for you to deepen your relationship with your children. Enjoy every moment together. Swish some tar on your driveway together.

Don't forget the old saying: "families that spread tar together, stick together!" .... or something like that....

Five Ways of Resolving Summer Access Scheduling

Golf father and sonScheduling summer access can be a challenge. If you are a planner, you'll want to schedule your holidays with the children well in advance so that you can, of course, make plans. If you are a more spontaneous person, planning in advance may seem really inconvenient and unnecessary. Here are some ways of resolving (or avoiding) this annual challenge:

1) Negotiate an agreement as to when you will each exchange dates for summer. The planner will want it to be well in advance of summer whereas the spontaneous person will be happy with a shorter time-frame. Come to an agreement as to the schedule and then both respect it. For example, "Tiger and Elin agree to determine the sharing of care of the children during the children's summer vacation each year before June 1st with each parent having care of the children equally."

2) You can define each parent's share of the summer in very specific and unambiguous terms such as "Tiger has care of the children every July and Elin has care of the children every August, alternating each year".

3) Some parents will simply continue the normal schedule since both are working during the children's summer vacation. So they may agree "The regular rotation of the children between Tiger and Elin's home will continue during the children's summer vacation except that the drop off and pick up of the children will be at the children's daycare or summer camp." In this case, neither Tiger nor Elin will have care of the children for any special summer vacation time.

4) Other parents will agree to a different rotation of the children from the regular schedule. They may have care for the children on a two week rotation during the summer months only. The issue can sometimes be when the rotation begins each year. A special event such as Labour Weekend can be used as a triggering event. For example: "The children will be with each parent on a rotating two week basis such that the children will be with Elin during the PGA Canadian Open in Toronto each year."

5) Often both parents want some time alone with their children for their "vacation" each year with the  remainder of the summer holidays going according to the regular rotation. For example, "Tiger and Elin may each have the children in their care for 14 consecutive days each summer. Tiger must choose his summer vacation dates by May 1st each year and Elin must choose her dates by June 1st each year in even numbered years with the opposite occurring in odd numbered years. The care of the children for the remainder of the children's summer vacation will be according to the regular parenting schedule except pick up and drop off shall be at Elin's home (instead of at the school)."

Regardless of your efforts to plan the perfect summer vacation with your children, you always need to be flexible should special events arise. A teenage child may have to take summer school thus scuttling your plans to go camping. Your spouse's family reunion may be planned during your time with the children. Your child may be invited to a birthday party on the day you planned to go to Wonderland. You may even be invited to play in a PGA golf tournament when you are scheduled to have the kids.

If last minute changes are necessary, treat your ex spouse the way you would like be treated and remember to always do what is best for the children. Consider the issue from the children's point of view. Remember the clichés: "take the high road", "bite the bullet" and "do the right thing" when faced with a last minute change in the schedule. 

Lastly, if you and your spouse's names are "Tiger" and "Elin", I have some clauses ready for your use. Just give me a call.  

Best Laid Plans

rainHave you ever planned a great day of summer activities and then woke up to rain? It's disappointing and upsetting. 

I remember planning an outdoor birthday party for my son (age 7 at the time). I was all ready to host ten of his energetic friends for about 3 hours doing tons of fun activities outside. And then it rained. We had to be inside and I had nothing planned for inside our small home.

We played charades for about 10 minutes before the kids became bored and started asking "what is there to do?"  I looked at my wife and said "Hmmm.... two hours, fifty minutes to go! Now what?"   Well, we got creative and found lots of indoor things to do but for a few minutes, it was sheer panic.

I wanted to host the best birthday party for my son and made great plans so it would happen. But, as fate would have it, my plans were scuttled.

Has this ever happened to you? Perhaps you planned an activity with your children when your plans were "rained on". Perhaps your teenage child decided to go to a friend's home or your ex spouse called at the last minute to change weekends. Maybe you had to spend "your weekend" helping your son or daughter complete a school project or study for exams when you had planned some special event with them. It's frustrating. When you are divorced, time with the kids is very special and you always want to make the most of it. Right?

Thinking back to that birthday party, I had a choice. I could have become angry and frustrated making the party a disaster or I could have chosen to make the most out of the situation. On that occasion, I chose wisely and made the most out of the day. In the end, it was a great birthday party. Everyone had fun.

I haven't always chosen wisely. Sometimes I listen to the other voice in my head: the negative voice. I seek to find blame, become angry and get very upset. I make the day a disaster by my own attitude.

When you are divorced, it is especially tempting to get all riled up when yourCanoing family of five ex spouse scuttles your plans. I try to remember that when plans get changed that I have a choice: make the most of it or make things worse.

Wouldn't it be great if every time our best laid plans go awry, we choose wisely and just made the most of it?

Tomorrow, we are planning on spending the day canoeing with the kids. I hope it doesn't rain. But if it does...I won't be "ready" but I hope I make the most of it.

New Year's Resolutions and Divorce

2010Did you make a resolution this year to stop smoking, lose weight, reduce your debt? Or maybe you resolved that this is the year to get a divorce.

The origins of New Year's resolutions, according to Gordon North in his ezine article goes back to ancient Babylon and Roman times about 2000 BC. For just as long a time, people have been breaking their New Year's resolutions.

Anja Pujic in her blog at Suite 101 has good advice about how best to keep your resolutions. She  offers the following: 

When setting your New Year's goals, use these guidelines to start you off on the right track:

1. Don’t be afraid of failure. The trick is not to put so much pressure on yourself that you start doubting your ability to achieve your goal. Tell yourself that this is something you would like to achieve one day. Doing so will make it seem less like a chore and more like a hobby.
2. Don’t put a time limit on your resolution. If it takes one year, that’s great; if it takes longer, then it’s no big deal. By giving yourself a little bit of breathing room, you reduce pressure and stress and make your resolution easier to achieve and more enjoyable.
3. Don’t make your resolution too ambitious. Set and stick to realistic goals because you are more likely to achieve them and less likely to be disappointed in yourself.
4. Practice discipline in every aspect of your life. This will make it easier to discipline yourself to follow through with your resolution. When you feel tempted to procrastinate, remember that the sooner you start working on your resolution, the faster and easier it will be to attain.
5. Take baby steps. You cannot reach your New Year’s resolution overnight so don’t expect to. If you do, you are more likely to become disappointed in yourself, lose motivation and, in the end, fail.
6. Tell someone about your resolution so that it feels real. Even better, find someone with the same resolution and support each other along the way. Talking to someone who is going through the same thing as you are can be a great source of relief, encouragement and support during moments of weakness. It can also help build and develop great lifelong relationships between people.

We normally see a surge in clients in the New Year, seeking a divorce for the same reasons people make resolutions at New Year.  The New Year brings with it a new resolve to make things better in our lives. Clients struggle through the holiday period, doing their best to "hold it together". Nobody wants to be accused of being Scrooge by seeking a divorce at Christmas. So, in January, clients come to our office in droves, wanting to improve their lives through divorce.

Constance Ahrons in her book The Good Divorce says that her research indicates that most divorced people don't regret getting a divorce but wish they had started the process sooner and not "held out".

If you have decided this is the year for you to get a divorce, apply Anja's principles to the process:

  1. Don't be afraid of failure. You are not alone. About 50% of marriages end in divorce and they manage to get through it. So will you.
  2. Don’t put a time limit on your resolution. Divorce takes time and is a painful process at best. Just take one day at a time. Remember the process goes as fast as the slowest person. If you are the one initiating the divorce, your spouse is probably not there yet emotionally and will need some time to catch up. Be patient. 
  3. Don’t make your resolution too ambitious. Divorce is a monumental change in your life. Set reasonable, smaller, achievable goals to keep yourself moving forward to your new life.
  4. Practice discipline in every aspect of your life. Find healthy ways of coping with your divorce. Use discipline to avoid falling into unhealthy coping techniques such as over drinking or drug use. Get exercise, eat properly and get adequate sleep. Find a Divorce Coach who will help you stay the course.
  5. Take baby steps. Make a list of the things that have to be done, and then break down each item into the smaller steps. Take one step at a time and then celebrate your daily successes. Start with finding the right lawyer (a Collaboratively trained divorce lawyer) who will help you work through the issues. Also find a good Divorce Coach to help you through the emotional journey. That's a good start.
  6. Tell someone about your resolution so that it feels real. Most people start by telling their family (brothers, sisters, parents) about their decision to get a divorce. Seek out positive, supportive people in your life who will comfort you when you need it.

I don't advocate that you get a divorce if you have a fulfilling, loving marriage. You are one of the lucky few. But, if you feel that a divorce is inevitable, now is as good a time as any. Take a deep breath, find your resolve and move forward toward your new and better life. It's a New Year!

Scheduling Events When Divorced

CalendarHave you been unaware of an upcoming school event (like the Christmas concert) or an extracurricular event because your spouse forgot to tell you? Isn't it frustrating? And disappointing? It's also embarrassing when you drop the ball and forget to pass on important information.

Scheduling events, holidays and other activities for children can be difficult for any family, but the challenge is even greater for divorced parents. Often parents who have separated or divorced have difficulty communicating with each other at the best of times. Living in separate homes can make it even worse.  But you know that already if you're divorced. So what's the answer?

You need a system.

For many years, I have encouraged clients whose separation is fresh and raw to use a communication book. One of the parents purchases a blank book which is used to discuss any proposed changes to the access schedule, illnesses of the children, milestones, accomplishments, discipline problems and upcoming events in the children's lives. I encourage the parents to decorate the book with photos of the children on the outside of the book (to remind the parents to stay focused on their children's best interests) and to plan on giving the book to their children when they are adults (to encourage the parents to treat each other respectfully and politely in the book since their children will read it one day).

A high tech modern version of the communication book is Our Family Wizard. This is an on-line  calendar and communication tool available through the Internet. It is amazing. You can communicate upcoming changes to the schedule, health concerns, financial issues and any other issues related to your children through your own private website set up for this purpose. Older children can even be given access to the site as can any other third parties agreed to by you and your spouse (mediator, parenting coach, lawyers, grand parents). The cost is $99.00 per parent per year. They even have "scholarships" to reduce or eliminate the costs for deserving families. Third party access is free. Check out Our Family Wizard.

A free option is Google Calendar. It does not have all the bells and whistles of "Our Family Wizard" because it isn't designed for separated families, but it is free. A calendar is set up over the Internet with access restricted to you and your spouse or third parties agreeable to the parents. It's private and available wherever you can access the Internet. You can post upcoming events on the calendar such as the next hockey tournament or dance recital so everyone knows about it in advance.

Ideally, its best if you can communicate openly with one another via meetings, telephone calls or emails but often this is impossible especially immediately after the separation. The emotions are too hot for direct communication. So, try some other system.

Of course, a system works only if you work the system. Even if your spouse doesn't keep you informed or is unreliable, just take the high road, and do it anyway. Some of us are planners and some of us aren't planners. Such is life. Do it anyway.  

Whether you use the old fashioned communication book, Our Family Wizard, Google Calendar, emails, meetings or phone calls, find a way to communicate respectfully and in a timely manner. If you don't make an effort, your children will suffer. Your children deserve parents who will put aside their own personal feelings toward each other and find a way to communicate with each other, for the children's sake... and you don't want to miss another Christmas concert!