Divorce Apps: "There's an app for that!"

Yes, there are apps to help make divorce go more smoothly. Edward Weinstein's most recent blog introduces some new ones that can help make divorce less stressful and more functional. In addition, I encourage you to use Skype or Google Hangout. These are great ways of doing video conferencing with your children when you can't see them easily. 

Communication with your ex is often a challenge. I like emails because you have a written record of your communications and if you get a nasty one, you can take a day to ponder your response. Here is an article by Bill Eddy that he allowed me to put on my website regarding how to respond to hostile emails. It is a good place to start. The advantage to email is that you avoid knee-jerk reactions and can use strategies like Bill is suggesting in his article when you eventually respond. 

Other apps to organize the schedule are Our Family Wizard and Google Calendar. Here is an article about maintaining your schedule for the children after divorce that describes these apps. 

At Galbraith Family Law, our team of lawyers can help you minimize the the stress of divorce.  

 

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...

Stay Connected With Your Children After Divorce With Facebook

Communication with teenagers can be difficult at the best of times. When you are separated, it can be even more difficult. 

I am always looking for ways to be part of my teenagers' lives. I enjoy Facebook and am friends with my three teenage boys on it. It gives me some insight into their lives without having to ask awkward questions. The key to staying their friend is to not make comments on anything they post. If you do, you will quickly embarrass them and will soon be de-friended. (One son blocked me from reading his wall. Yikes - that hurts! ) 

I have also taken the bold step to invite my sons' friends and even girlfriends (past and present) to be my friend on Facebook and, surprisingly, I have never been turned down. This gives me even more insight into the lives of my children and teenagers in general. 

I think the boys are a bit more careful about what they post knowing I am their friend which, frankly, is a good thing. It prevents them from posting something that could bite them in the butt down the road when they apply for a job. 

The New York Times has a great article about how Facebook can be used as an excellent conduit for communication with your teenagers. An interesting comment about the article is found at  www.allfacebook.com. They have some great stories from other people's experiences. 

I text with my boys. I email them. I speak to them on the phone. I Skype with them. And I spend as much time with them as possible. It's great being a dad in the 21st century. There are so many ways to stay connected with my kids. 

Ooops.. Gotta go. My Blackberry is buzzing and vibrating... now just to figure out how it works so I can respond!! 

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! 

How Do We Tell Our Children We Are Divorcing?

Are you dreading the idea of having to tell your children that their parents are divorcing? Do you want to minimize the pain and confusion for your children?

I remember the day when my ex and I told our children we were getting a divorce. It was a sad day indeed. We got some good advice from some experts before we did it so we did it right. Suzy Yehl Marta is an expert and has some great ideas.

Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three boys, gave up the security of her three jobs to do something she knew in her heart had to be done for our youth who were grieving a life-changing loss.  She established Rainbows, now the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated solely to helping families cope with loss. Over the last 27 years, Rainbows has served nearly 2.5 million youth throughout Canada, the United States and 17 countries. Suzy has conducted 100+ media interviews and her book, Healing the Hurt, Restoring the Hope, was published to help guide youth through times of divorce, death or crisis. To learn more, please visit 

the Canadian website at www.rainbows.ca or the website for the head office at www.rainbows.org  or join Rainbows on Facebook and Twitter at www.facebook.com/rainbowsforkids and www.twitter.com/rainbowsforkids

I fully support Rainbows and recently was asked 

to serve on its Board of Directors for Rainbows Canada. The head office for Rainbows Canada is 

in Barrie so it was a perfect fit. I was happy to accept the invitation.

Suzy answers some questions about how best to tell your children about your divorce. 

1.      What is the best way to inform a child about divorce? How do you explain the situation to them; and should this differ according to age? How much information should you actually give, and what should you perhaps leave out?

Informing the Child:

As soon as the decision to separate or divorce is made, both parents need to sit down with their children to discuss how the family will be changing. Having both parents present 

makes a statement that while mom and dad will be living separately, t

hey are still your parents and family issues are being handled together. This may not be true initially, but this can offer comfort to the children. If one parent refuses to participate, then the other must be emotionally strong in front of the children, not accusatory of their estranged spouse, and able to answer the questions an

d respond to concerns. I recommend parents to begin the discussion in a familiar setting that is free from distractions.

While this is 

a painful conversation to have with children, keeping the situation from them instills fear of the unknown and makes them believe that the two people they trust the most in the world are not truthful with them.

When talking with children, parents should consider their ages. Younger children require fewer details. I recommend parents stress again and again that the divorce is not their fault, it is a grown up problem. Over time weave into conversations as it will take hearing this more than once for the children to really “hear” it in their minds and hearts.

As parents talk through the changes, they should ask if the kids have questions or concerns. If there are questions that cannot be answered at the time, tell them so. Most children and teens want to know the logistics of where everyone will be living, how their lives will change, and how holidays and other celebrations will be handled.   In most cases, those decisions will not be known at this time. As the divorce process continues, it is wise to ask the kids for their thoughts or wishes. This allows them to feel included.

Does age matter?

With any significant event, age might not always be able to define the emotional maturity of the child. It also depends on the family’s ability to communicate and the event itself. No matter the age, the two people they love most in world do not love each other anymore and are ending their couple relationship. It is critical to assure children that mom and dad will always be their parents.  

Here are a couple examples on how different age groups usually are affected by divorce:

Birth to age 5: It is difficult for this age group to understand what divorce is and how it will affect their future and family. If there are other families they know who are divorced and handling it well, it is OK to use them as an example. Since this age group cannot grasp the concreteness of the divorce, they will seemingly recover quickly. As they mature though, the questions and concerns will surface and need to be addressed.

6 to 12 years old:  Children in this age group can easily be caught in the middle and struggle with loyalty conflicts. They also fear abandonment because they realize they cannot take care of themselves.  

13 to 18 years old: At this point in a teenager’s life, they are trying to separate from their family, but at the same time need the security and stability that family structure provides. Their reaction becomes complex and remains right below the surface. Parents need to be aware that they must never use their children as their sounding board, companion or confidant.                                                                                 

 

2. What questions should parents be ready to answer when talking to their child about divorce?

There are three important questions that children usually have that often are unasked.

·         “Did I cause this?”

o   Even though the child is often times reassured that they did not cause the divorce, they still get that sense of guilt, especially when the arguments of divorced parents often revolve around the children. Children like to believe that their parents are perfect and any mistakes or failures that parents make are canceled out and children quickly blame themselves for the divorce.

·         “Who will keep me safe?”

o   A huge fear that children have is that everything that they depend on will crumple. From an early age, children have the idea that security comes from two people taking care of them. This fundamental anxiety affects all children, especially adolescents.

·         “Is this going to happen to me too?”

o   Children worry that history will repeat itself when they grow up and marry. It is really important that parents let their kids know that everyone at one point in their life will stumble, but it’s so important to just try again. Turning the conversation into a positive discussion about marriage is critical, especially for teenagers.

Thanks so much to Suzy for her insight and advice. I agree with everything Suzy has said and would add to it that it is important to let your children know it is okay to love both mommy and daddy and that they will have time with both parents.

Experts tell me that you should not blame the other parent for the divorce or explain the details of why the divorce is happening. If asked, just say “This is not something I am willing to share with you. Just know it was not your fault.” I understand telling your children the details could cause some serious emotional damage to your children.

Lastly, repeat, repeat, repeat. Your children might be overwhelmed at first so let it sink in initially and then repeat your message until they really get it. I remember my boys saying “Enough Dad. We get it. It’s not our fault, its okay to love both you and mom and we are going spend lots of time with each of you. Okay?”

So… at that point I realized they had received the message loud and clear… and I went back to nagging them about doing their homework, cleaning up after themselves and “watch your language young man!” …. the normal stuff.

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!