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The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow.  As adults, it’s easy to forget that these young kids that we are trying to teach simple manners to or have to remind to brush their teeth, will be full-fledged adults, just like us.  It’s therefore only natural that we dismiss how relevant our “authority” and example can play such a significant role in how our littles evolve. Nurture over nature is not anything new, it holds a ton of truth, and regardless of if you’re a single parent or happily married (maybe unfortunately unhappily married even), you still have control of how your kids are shaped.  

Here are 3 Ways Instill or Boost the confidence in your kids (at any age)

  1. Learn to Disagree:  Whether it’s with a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, etc.  You are bound to encounter conflict.   Conflict is normal and it’s part of life, and actually helps us grow.  The best way to teach your kids to overcome conflict is to agree to disagree.  Show them that being narrow-minded gets them nowhere and will only add to their frustration, which can lead to anxiety and depression.  Instead, it’s imperative to teach kids that not everyone thinks, feels or perceives things the same way.  Having this instilled in them will allow them to overcome conflict without it taking over their emotions as they face conflict of their own as adults.  
  2. Remind them How Loved they are:  You can never say “I love you” too much.  And besides the words alone, show them you love them by making 1 on 1 time with them.  Tell them how proud you are of them about a test, a performance, or even something simple, like doing what they are supposed to do on a routine basis.  Over time, this “show and tell” of love will boost their confidence and security within themselves, just by showing them what you naturally feel as their parent.  I have a client who is blessed with four children. She has this beautiful ritual of doing every night a quality night with each child. It makes them feel special and gives them individual time and attention to bond.
  3. Never put your Child in the Middle:  Whether you are married, divorced or separated, it’s important to remember that you’re 1 of 2 of their parents.  Typically children that have both of their parents in their life, love them both the same.  Yes, they may get away with more with mom, vs. dad,  or vice versa, but ultimately, both parents are important.  If you are ever fighting with their other parent, or even if you aren’t fighting, but just feel any kind of animosity towards them, it’s super important to keep your kids out of it.  They are the middle person here, and should never feel like they have to favor sides.  What this will do is make them weaker as an adult when they are faced with choices that they don’t want to make.  Teaching them to allow themselves to be overpowered by someone else’s opinion will affect their confidence greatly!

You no doubt, love your kids.  Whether they are babies or teens, it’s never too late to shape them.  If you start doing these things TODAY, no matter what you did YESTERDAY, you will help instill the confidence your child needs to be a more successful, independent and confident leader of our future.  

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Jingle Bell, Jungle Bell, jingle all around…. ! It’s that time of the year again. How crazy is that? Feels like this year totally flew by. With all the happiness, lights, celebrations and fun that the Holidays bring they also bring stress. The holidays have always been a combination of beautiful and hard, and are even harder for single parents.  Back in the day when I was divorced, I used to dread holidays, they were the hardest time of the year. You just feel so single, so alone, so misplaced and as happy as I was to be single and divorced, the holidays just weren’t an easy time to navigate.  While I know this time of the year is surely challenging for you if you are that single parent, it is very important to also recognize that the season is very hard for your kids as well.  Finances may be tight, the struggle with the balance of time with your kids during the holidays may be limited, and you may even feel like you need to overcompensate in several ways. That sense of pressure can project onto your children and instead of bringing them joy backfire.

Here is what I want you to know and what I have learned the hard way. The most important thing to your children is your time and love. You do NOT need to spend a ton of money on trips, gifts or God knows what to show them that you love them. And if the other parent is in a competition to buy them off with materialistic things, don’t worry, things never compete with love.

Here are some ideas of ways to make the holidays special and memorable without breaking the bank, preserving your sanity and creating a truly happy home!

Tour Holiday Lights: Where we lived when my daughter was little, there was this awesome cool Italian neighborhood. The houses where decorated magically. Literally like a Christmas wonderland. I used to drive around there every year and just enjoy the beauty and creativity of those homes with my little princess and take lots of pictures. So take a walk or hop in the car.  It doesn’t have to be a formal holiday lights tour, you can likely pick a neighborhood and just cruise around in it like I used to do.  If there are some local holiday light tours, consider checking them out, but if they are more than a few bucks or a donation, take the other route and save money where you can.

Make new Traditions: Traditions are created to be repeated and remembered for years to come. If an old family tradition brings back bad memories or sad memories, offer up a spin on the tradition, or create new ones all together.  This doesn’t have to be something extravagant.  It could be something as simple as a family letter time capsule, creating a new holiday cookie recipe, making up a holiday-themed game, or making a craft together. Be creative and make it yours!

Ornament Exchange: I am no history buff on ornaments, but I know enough to note that ornaments can be very meaningful, and they don’t have to be the expensive ones.  Walk into just about any store these days and you will find them.  Each year, you and your kids could draw names and pick out an ornament for the name drawn.  I assure you that in 5, 10, 20 years from now, that ornament will be worth more to your kids (and you) than you could ever dream.

Story Time: Time with your children is always well spent time. Time without interruptions or technology.  Time to sit down, with your children and read a holiday-inspired book.  Of course, this might only hold the attention of those over the age of 3 or under the age of 12, but if you consistently make this a tradition, age won’t matter, and even when they are in their 20’s they will expect the “story time” and join the snuggle. When I ask my daughter what her best childhood memories where, she always says it was when you made those special quality bonding times, they were simple but so meaningful.

Go visit somewhere, in place of gifts: Things aren’t as important as time together.  A great way to spend the holidays with your kids, and to make it memorable is to create new memories.  Take a short road trip and go visit someplace new.  Experience new things and discover new adventures.  If you live in a place that isn’t too cold this time of year, a holiday camping trip might be fun!  Other options would be to visit places that are in their “offseason.”  Instead of spreading your budget too thin, invest your holiday budget into making new memories, in new places with your kids.  They will forever remember it and the “gift” will outlast any of the “hottest” toys, hands down.

The holidays were never intended to just be about the number of gifts you give or get.  What sticks with us as humans are experiences.  The experiences you share with your kids are priceless and even if they give you grief about not getting everything they “wanted” on their holiday list, keep reminding them that it’s not about gifts, and give them something that they will cherish forever, even if they don’t realize it right away.  Trust me, when they grow older they will remember those times and hold them very dear to their hearts.

If you want 5 other ideas for single parents to make the holiday’s special, I have more!  Click here to access them!

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Divorce is hard. What am I saying, it’s very hard! Never (or at least that I’ve heard) has someone said to me “well, that was easy!.” No matter whose decision it was, or even if both parties agree(d) to the divorce, it’s one of the hardest experiences you will ever experience. There are always many factors at stake and when emotions run high it’s easy for things to get messy. It is exactly then when things start getting messy that we allow our emotions to get the best of us. Once we allow our emotions to take over and control our decisions it is a self-fulfilling prophecy of disaster. Feelings of hurt, overwhelm and resentment can quickly build up, and all it takes is one jab to escalate things to the next level.

Here are 3 scenarios that you may experience during divorce and things to keep in mind when faced with these experiences.

1. Your Ex is talking badly about you to friends, family, neighbors, or WORSE, your children: Before instantly wanting to stand up for yourself or retaliate back, take a step back. No matter what the other half is preaching to anyone, what is true is true and what isn’t, isn’t. Don’t feed into it. Doing so would make you just as guilty as they are. Instinct may trick you into thinking this is a sign of weakness, but the contrary is true. By NOT feeding into hostility or letting harsh words get a negative reaction out of you, you’ve shown confidence, control and grace. The next time you’re tempted to defend yourself, repeat this mantra: “What my ex thinks about me is none of my business.” Eventually, your ex will learn that their antics don’t work and tire out. It may take some time, but trust me, it works, they will get tired!

2. Your Ex won’t “let go”: Letting go is hard to do, and sometimes an ex has a hard time moving on. In more ways than one, you too could feel hurt, but for different reasons. It is normal at times for people to stay stuck and unable to “let go”. If your ex is struggling and expressing their heart ship with you, remember to try and stay neutral during this time. You are not there to console them and be their emotional safety net, I am sure you are struggling enough with your own emotional challenges. You also don’t want to be mean and ridicule them for their inability to turn off their feelings for you either. Instead, keep a neutral tone and limit conversations that could lead them to feelings of hope that you two will get back together. Time heals and over time things will die down and your ex will eventually move on.

3. Finding out there is someone else: Whether it’s before or after a divorce, sometimes hearing that there is now “someone else” in your ex’s life, can be a shocker. This doesn’t just apply to those that didn’t want a divorce, you may feel this way even if you wanted the divorce. Why is that? Well, it’s somewhat human nature. Deep down you may feel a little jealous. Not in a way that would lead you to wanting your ex back, but in a way that you want a “relationship” back. You start to question why things didn’t work out, what you could have done differently and ultimately, you miss the feeling of being happy and in love. Don’t mistake this tinge of jealousy for anything more than the need for humans to feel complete. This is where mindset comes in. If you are a strong, independent person that loves themselves, you are less likely to feel this form of jealousy or uncertainty. Instead, you may feel more of a relief, or even happy for your ex! If you do find yourself feeling confused about your past decisions, know that it’s false emotions playing tricks on you. Don’t act on these emotions by reaching out to your ex or stalking him/her. If you feel the need to talk about your feelings, speak to a coach, therapist or a close friend. Don’t let those moments of weakness take over and control your actions. Write your feelings down in a journal and figure out the real reason why you are feeling the way you are. Start putting yourself first and doing things for YOU, so that you can fulfill that self-love. Take on a new hobby, go out with friends, meet new people, the options are endless! It’s normal for you to feel confused or emotional knowing that your ex has moved on, but know that your emotions will come down to reality and you will feel better. Stay confident in knowing that everything happens for a reason and that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Love yourself, it will love you back. Remain cool when emotions start to get the best of you and never let others dictate or control your mood, happiness or self-worth! Keep reminding yourself that you are choosing to take the high road during this difficult chapter in your life. One day you will look back and be proud of how strong you have become!

When my daughter hit her teen years I was in for a massive surprise. She was the easiest child growing up and life was just incredibly blissful with her. Then she turned 12…13… and I started seeing changes, I mean massive changes. I knew that adolescence is a time of major transition from being a child to establishing an independent identity, and that this transition was a very difficult and complex one. I just didn’t expect it to happen to my daughter (we never do LOL) since she was such an incredibly good and easy going.  Fortunately for me her teen years started years after my divorce, so I knew that most of this transitional behavior was due to adolescence (at least I hope so). However, many of my clients struggle with helping their teen cope with their divorce. They are not sure if the behavior is due to the transition into adulthood or as a result of their divorce.  Truth be told we can’t be 100% certain either way and unfortunately there is no easy solution to helping your teens cope with your divorce. The good news is that if you had a healthy solid foundation with them prior to the divorce, the relationship will most likely improve with time.

In order to help your teens adjust psychologically and emotionally it would be helpful and beneficial for him/her to spend time with both parents. Unlike smaller children it is important to be flexible with their schedule since teens have so much going on in their lives and like to have their freedom. If you are going to be rigid and stick to your agenda, your teen will ultimately come to resent you or feel disappointed and frustrated..  Keep in mind that what is at stake here is your child’s happiness and adjustment, not your agenda.

Here are some things you really want to think about so that you can help your teens with the adjustment:

  • Do not engage or involve your teen in your business: So many parents make the mistake to involve their children in the conflicts they have with their ex-spouses. Avoid having conversations in front of your teens (and children of all age for that matter). Be careful not to have text conversation that would hurt or devastate your teen if they have access to your phone. Be careful what you share with your teens, they don’t want to hear negativity about their other parent. It is their parent and they cannot and should NOT be put in the middle of your issues or conflict. It can cause tremendous conflict within your teen as they want to be loyal to both of you, and lead to unnecessary pain. Last but NOT least, DO NOT question them about the other parent. I have seen this so often where teens tell me, every time I come home from my dad’s week my mother has a million questions. Please don’t!
  • Give them undivided attention: With smartphones being one of the biggest distractions, teens and children today are being terribly shortchanged. During your divorce (and after) your teen needs you more than you can possibly imagine. When you sit and talk with them make sure to remove all distractions including your phone.  The time you give your teenager may be the most healing and therapeutic help you can offer him/her.
  • Look for changes: Is your teenager acting differently? Are they avoiding you? Is their behavior erratic? Be on the lookout for changes like that since many teens who aren’t able to process the divorce trauma may start using alcohol or drugs to numb their emotional pain. Drastic changes in behavior could indicate abusing any of the above as well as prescription medication. Be on the lookout if you notice them wearing long sleeves all of the sudden all the time. It could indicate cutting or track marks, bruising or bullying.  And last but not least, if they start acting out in school, have mood swings or start developing sleep problems or eating disorders, seek professional help.
  • Inform adults in your teens life: Teenagers generally struggle with their self-esteem so having to explain to people that their parents are getting divorced can be extremely challenging and an additional self-esteem blow. It would be helpful if you could inform your teens teachers, principal, nurse or anyone else you think should be informed. It will help your teen as well as give these influential people in their life the opportunity to be there for them during this painful time. It is also important for them to be informed so they can advise you if they notice any worrisome behavioral changes.
  • Have fun with them: I know you are struggling yourself and that you have days where you can barely get yourself together and out of bed. Yet you have to try and make an effort to maintain normalcy and a sense of fun and excitement in your life. If not for yourself then do it for your teen. Take them out on some fun trips, create memories, laugh, eat, and enjoy life. Life doesn’t stop just because you got divorced. For me it was quite the contrary, it was when it started 😊!
  • Your child is not your friend: Be careful not to share too many details with your teen about the divorce. It is something that happens very often between mother and daughter, especially when you have a close relationship. It is normal for you to have the need to talk about your pain and what transpired, but your teen isn’t the right party for that. Teens that hear too much end up carrying this burden into their adult life and often struggle as adults.
  • Keep your sex life private: Teens are very uncomfortable when being exposed to their parents personal lives. During my divorce years ago, I had an acquaintance who would often have guys sleep over at her house. It was very traumatic for her child and really destabilizing. You have a right to your own personal needs, but don’t bring it home and don’t expose your teen to it. They are barely coping with the reality of the divorce.

I know that your teen might be pulling away from you, that is what most teens do. Don’t take it as an indication that they don’t need you. They need you now more than ever, so come up with creative ways of how to connect with them and be there. If they have a new hobby, take an interest in it, read up on it and find common ground for conversations. Make them their favorite dish, give them alone quality time. It is the best investment you will ever make.

 

 

 

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Going through a divorce is hard and painful, to say the least, but going through a divorce with kids takes this challenge to a whole new level.

When I first got separated the hardest challenge for me was how to help my daughter navigate this difficult time.  I had to deal with the damage of my ex moving out without first having a conversation about it. The first few weeks were very hard, especially since I didn’t quite know how to break the news to her and how she would react. After covering up for three weeks that her dad was late from work, I decided it was time to tell her the truth. I explained that Daddy and Mommy are going through some hard times and need time for themselves, and that we love her very very much. She right away asked if she did something wrong, which is what most kids think (they think it is their fault), and I kept on reassuring her that she did nothing wrong and that sometimes adults sometimes go through changes and need time for themselves.  She wasn’t terribly sad, but she did start feeling anxious and was afraid to leave my side. She moved into my bedroom and slept next to me.  She was only five at the time and the sudden separation was hard for her to process. I immediately send her to a therapist who specialized working with small children to help her cope with her feelings of abandonment and started reading and inquiring how to best deal with helping her through this difficult time.

Here are some of the things I learned and adapted during that time which I hope will help you as well.

Create a relaxed setting: Many parents make the mistake to have a real formal conversation when talking to their children about the divorce. It is the number one reason why children shut down. If you want to discuss anything that pertains to the divorce make sure to find a place and time that is relaxed and casual, such as driving in the car, grabbing a bite, or during a walk to the park. Find a time where it your child is relaxed and more open to talk.

Allow your child to feel their feelings: One of the hardest things for a parent is to see their child in pain, so we instinctively go to protecting their feelings and by doing so deny them them permission to have any. When a child is hurting and we tell them “everything is going to be OK”, we mean well because we want to take away the pain and hurt they are feeling, yet we don’t realize that by doing so we shut down their feelings and we don’t give them permission to express themselves.  I had  client who told me that her daughter came home in a rage one day and said: “I can’t believe you and dad would do this to me, and ruin my whole life”. Her daughter was clearly in pain and needed her feelings to be validated. My client feeling sorry for her daughter responded :”we did it for your best interest, so you can grow up with two loving parents who just live separately”. Although the response had all the good intentions, the message to her daughter was “you shouldn’t be feeling this way”, which leaves the child thinking that their feelings are wrong and no one truly understands them. The last thing we want to do to our children is shutting them down.  What she could have said instead was something like: “ I am so sorry you are feeling so hurt, this must be so so hard for you” allowing the child to continue to open up and help them deal with their emotions.  See the difference?

Understanding their feelings: We all experience life through different lenses and never exactly know what the other person feels like. Yet when someone gets how you feel, and validates your feelings, you feel totally understood and less alone in your problem or pain. When we as adults are going through the divorce adjustment we are often so overwhelmed with our pain that we struggle to get in touch with what our children really feel. It is important that you put yourself in their shoes, that you go down to their level and try and experience their reality.  If you are able to say something like: “It sounds like you are really sad, and maybe kind of mad that dad isn’t around” or “it sounds like you really miss dad, this must be so hard for you”, you give them permission to have their feelings without making them feel judged.  In turn they will actually open up more and say:” Yah, I do feel that way…”.  The most important thing for your child is to have a safe haven to be able to open up about his or her challenges. You can’t change their new reality, but you can help them adjust to it.

Initiate conversations: I have a parent that came to me a few weeks ago and shared that she is really struggling with her 10 year old.  Her son avoids her and doesn’t seem to come forth and talk to her about any of his feelings. When we explored deeper how she approached the “Divorce topic”, she told me that she told him ”come to me if you want to talk”, hoping this would be invitation enough for him to open up to her. She was afraid to express something that may not be true out of fear that if he isn’t sad or mad, she will actually make him feel that way by bringing it up. You don’t have to worry about making your child feel a certain way. If they don’t feel that way you opening up a dialogue wont necessarily make him feel that way. One of the ways I find very effective in helping children open up is by saying something like: “I know you must be feeling very sad, or mad or … I know I would feel that way”.  Let them know that it is normal for them to have these feelings, and keep talking trying to truly put yourself in their shoes and think of how they might be feeling. Eventually they will open up and start talking.

Embrace tears and emotions:  I think one of the most painful things for me was to see my daughter cry and share her pain with me.  A part of me felt guilty and responsible for causing her this pain, so I was almost looking for ways to escape from it. However the most important thing your child needs in order to heal from this life changing event is your understanding and compassion, so don’t let your feelings of guilt get in the way of creating a safe space for your child to cry and express themselves. Time heals, and love and connection will help your child overcome this challenging chapter in their life.

Seek Guidance: Having had my parenting mentor during that time was a lifesaver for me. I believe that I wouldn’t have been able to manage the challenges as effectively without her. When we are in the problem and struggling with our own pain it is really hard to have clarity and the resources within to know how to handle every situation. That is the beauty of having the gift of outside resources, guidance and support. Find a parenting expert who deals with divorces and will be able to give you clear guidance and advice. I also strongly advise for you to get your child/children professional support such as a therapist, since children sometimes feel they can’t share everything with their parents and it gives them a place to offload safely.

Be aware of potential setbacks: It is normal for children who are going through the initial phases of the divorce, to act out, regress or withdraw.  Notice the behavioral changes and be very supportive and avoid criticism. They need more time to adjust and deal with the their new reality. I know one of my clients children started bed wetting, she was devastated and her reaction made her daughter feel very ashamed and bad about herself. Prepare to deal with some setbacks, and be sure not to make your child feel bad or ashamed. Time will help them heal, and eventually the symptoms will dissipate as they start adapting to the changes.

For more tips and suggestions on how to help your child navigate this difficult time, feel free to reach out to me by setting up a free Breakthrough to clarity session with me. Select a time from my calendar that works for you, if you can’t find a time that work for you feel free to email me @ Pearl@pearlflax.com and we will try to assist you with a more convenient time slot.

 
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Divorce is never easy or simple, but I noticed that around the holidays it gets really complicated. It is interesting to note that although the Holidays are super exciting they can often be complicated even for intact families. There is a lot going on, between prepping for the family dinner, buying gifts, decorating and making decisions for all the nitty gritty details, which adds additional stress to our already busy hectic lives.

When you add divorce in the mix it gets a LOT more complicated. Although the additional stress from the holidays can trigger parents to fight even more it is imperative that they make a bigger effort to be civil to one another for their children’s sake.  Professionals say that the way the Holidays are handled can actually set the tone for the upcoming year.

It is hard to want to be kind and civil to someone who has hurt you deeply, and someone you are walking away from.  It is even harder to keep your cool, when you have added stress. But it is very important that you remember that the CHILDREN are your priority and for their sake you have to learn how to become partners in parenting them.  It will help them adjust easier if you can make this a smooth process.

Here are some suggestions that might help you ease into the Holidays a little easier:

Grieving

If this is your first Holiday after the divorce it will most probably be the hardest one to get through.  A lot of parenting issues might not have fallen into place yet, and you are still feeling the wounds deeply.  It is the first year when you and your children will realize things will not be the same anymore.  It is a time where you will feel a lot pain and go through a roller-coaster of emotions, don’t suffocate your feelings. Allow yourself to feel them and start accepting this new reality.  Remember though that however hard it is for you it is a lot harder for your children to adjust to this new normal, because our culture is very focused on traditional holiday celebration and your children will feel different from everyone else. They might feel displaced and lost. Talk to your children about their feelings. Allow them to express themselves and let them know that you love and your ex spouse love them dearly.  Most of all be sure to keep the tension between you and your ex or soon to be ex at an all-time low and stay civil.  One of the things I always tell my clients to help them control their anger and pain is: “think of what you want your children to remember you as. Is this really YOUR best self? Is this who you want to be in their eyes”.  Kids are a blessing and one of the many amazing things they bring into our lives is the ability to grow and evolve into better people. As long as you have your children’s emotional health and best interest in mind you will be able to overcome your challenging emotions and do what is best for them.

Gifts

Please don’t kill the messenger here, but it is important that you learn to have open communication channels with your ex. Especially when it comes to gift giving. Some parents have different financial situations and it can often get in the way, where one parent will try to outdo the other. Trying to outdo your ex will only work against you in the long run.  Children need balance and discipline and if they see that one of the parents will outdo the other, they will take that cue and use it down the road to get their way.  In addition you don’t want your child to get a duplicate gift from both parents.  As hard as it is, perhaps the holidays are the best time for parents to learn how to communicate effectively.  Don’t forget there will be way more issues coming your way that you will have to discuss with your ex, such as vacations, medical decisions, school decisions, and more, so now is actually the best time to start figuring out how to make it work.

Planning

If you don’t yet have an ironed out parenting plan agreement, it is very important that you plan and communicate clearly who the kids will be spending which part of the holiday with.  It is very stressful for children to have to choose who they want to spend time with, and often induces a sense of guilt in them. It also gives your child more power than it is appropriate. Your child does not decide whether or not he or she wants to go to school.  Divorced families often fall into the trap of giving children more power than is appropriate.  You want to help your child develop a healthy self-esteem and confidence by instilling the appropriate responsibilities in them, but not by imposing decisions that are too much for them to handle. One of the most difficult aspects of single parenting is not having another adult in the house to offer support and validation. That is why it is so important to have a support system that you can turn to for advice and encouragement. So to be sure to avoid putting your children under pressure, arrange appropriate plans for them with your ex. I strongly advise that once you have a proper game plan you should have it in writing (legally binding agreement) in order to avoid confrontation down the road.

Get into the spirit of the season

You are strolling along in the city and see families shopping for the Holidays with smiles on their faces and loaded shopping bags. Your heart breaks realizing that you will not have that sense of belonging and unity with your family this year. Perhaps things are tight financially and you don’t even know where you will scrape some money together to get your child/ren a gift for Christmas this year. I know it’s hard… I know the pain, I know the fear! But do know that you have the ability and the power to create a NEW sense of holiday tradition, that can be filled with just as much love and fun.  Think creatively of way you can bring the holiday spirit into your home, make it warm and cozy and safe.  Maybe go to the dollar store and see what they have that you COULD afford.  Decorate your home, and bake something that fills the house with that warm homey smell. Don’t just resign because it isn’t the way you wanted it to be.  I did it for 12 years alone and my daughter tells me that she has the best memories of those years.  You can do it, if you want some ideas feel free to email me and I will help you figure out a plan that will work just right for you.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and get a PRIVATE (and free) consultation session with me.

Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Telling your children about your pending divorce will probably be one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have with them. Even if the announcement is not a surprise (your children kind of saw it coming or can’t stand the constant tension and fighting), it is natural for children to want their parents and their family to stay together. This conversation will break their hearts and dreams and it will be one they will NEVER forget.

There is no perfect or easy way to have this conversation with them, but the following tips can make it a little easier.

1 – Present a united front. You and your soon-to-be-ex should sit down with your children together and explain the situation. Even if the divorce isn’t a joint decision, it’s best to present it as such and to incorporate the word “we” as much as possible when explaining the decisions that has been made.  Your children need to feel confident and reassured that you and your soon to be ex will be able to work together and guide them as parents.  As challenging as it is to do this together I can’t stress the importance of this enough.  This is really ONLY about your children. It is not about you so do whatever it takes and refrain from accusations and bitterness towards one another. Make sure you have your emotions in check when you deliver the news.

2 – Avoid sharing inappropriate information with children. Please don’t discuss adult details with your children. They either won’t understand what you’re talking about or will resent you for a number of reasons: You are overburdening and overwhelming them with information that their young minds can’t process, you’re bad mouthing the other parent, and you are influencing them indirectly to take sides (your side). Only share with them what they need to know in an honest way and make sure you keep it focused on them. Explain to them what the plan is for them, like if they would be moving to a new house and how often they would get to see each parent.  Remember this is going to change their whole world and you want to give them a sense of reassurance that you will do whatever it takes to keep it as balanced and as normal as possible.

3 – The kids didn’t cause this. Make sure they know that. Your best bet is to give the kids the reason for the separation but make it external to both of you and something that they can live with. “We grew apart” is a good one. “Your mom/dad is a great mom/dad but we just don’t get along as a couple” is good as well. The reality (in your mind) and what you actually tell the kids, really do not have to match. It’s not their fault, it’s an external reason that is not the fault of any of you: you, your spouse or your kids. And for their own well-being, that’s all they need to know.

4 – Plan what you are going to say: This is not the kind of conversation you want to do off the cuff. Be sure to prepare what you want your children to hear. If you are doing it together with your soon to be ex you could each take turns covering the important points you want to share with your children:

  • “You know that Mom and Dad have been having problems. We’ve tried to fix this, but things aren’t working out.”
  • “We both love you very much. Nothing will ever change that love or the fact that we will always be here for you.”
  • “We will always be your mom and dad. But we aren’t going to be husband and wife any more. Your dad [or mom] and I are getting a divorce.”
  • “You are great kids. It is our fault that this is happening — not yours.”
  • “Even though things are going to change, we will always be a family.”

If you noticed the above points each have an important message:

  1. You are explaining to them that there is an issue between the two of you without getting into the details.
  2. You are reassuring them and letting them know that you will always love them.
  3. You are giving a clear message that this is NOT their fault and has nothing to do with them.
  4. You are clarifying that although things will change it doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative change.

It is best that you repeat the reassuring statements above as often as possible. You should let your children know that you love them and that they are not at fault for this at all.  Children sadly internalize divorce to be their doing and need to hear this time and time again.

 5- It’s not over until it’s over. Do not tell your children that you are divorcing unless you and your spouse are ABSOLUTELY certain that the decision is final. I usually advise my clients to do this when one of you is ready to move out or they at least have a preliminary divorce agreement and plan in place. However sometimes this may not be possible.  In such an event, be sure that you discuss it with your soon to be ex so you can both plan when the appropriate time to break the news should be. Do not tell the kids without telling your ex, it is not fair towards your ex and not fair towards your kids.

 6 – Timing is everything. Pick a time where you and your ex are emotionally ready to support the kids, in whichever way they end up reacting. Many couples don’t realize the importance of this and fail to respond to their children’s reaction effectively. If you haven’t yet come to terms with it yourself and are not strong enough for yourself, you might want to wait till you are in a better and stronger place. Be sure you have the support and guidance you need for yourself before you break the news to your children. You will have to carry both your pain and theirs. It would be great if you can arrange a support system for your children, it could be family members and professionals. Be sure to inform their teacher and guidance counselor. They will handle them accordingly and provide them with the support they need.  Do not do this to them right before graduation or an important exam. Choose your timing carefully. Very carefully.

 7 – Expect mixed reactions: No child will react to this news the same way, so it is impossible to predict how your children will respond. That being said, you should expect the worst and hope for the best. Your child/ren might start yelling or crying, perhaps they will storm off to their rooms and slam the doors, or start blaming and throwing accusations.  Please do not take anything your child/ren is saying now personally. They are deeply upset and frightened and need time to digest the news.  Depending on your child’s personality give them what they need. Some will need space and time to think, some will need hugs and reassurance.  Be sure to tune into your child/ren needs and be there for them.

 8 – Encourage questions: Your child/ren might need time to process the news and figure out how they feel. Therefore, you should expect to have many more conversations with them as things start unfolding. The first conversation is really just a door opener for ongoing dialogue between parents and children. Both you and your soon to be ex should be open to answering your children’s questions, and respond to their emotional needs. Don’t ever shut them down, or make them feel bad for asking questions that make you feel uncomfortable. Find ways to answer them in a way that is age appropriate but satisfactory without shaming or blaming your soon to be ex.

9 –  Consistency is key — to the best of your ability. I know right now things might be up in the air and you yourself don’t quite know where life will take you. However, it is extremely important that you give your children clarity to the best of your ability.  Let them know what they can expect. What school they will be attending and where they will live.  If things aren’t 100% finalized or clear yet be sure to explain to them that you are working out the details and should have more information for them in a couple of weeks. Buy yourself more time than you anticipate to avoid unnecessary stress.  Do not make promises that you cannot keep. Knowing what to expect and then seeing that it actually happens, will alleviate a lot of their anxieties.

10 – Stay calm. Your kids are watching and feeling you ALL THE TIME. If you breast fed your children, you may remember how they used to get cranky when you were tense or stressed. Children FEEL EVERYTHING.  If you are anxious, they will be anxious. If you are out of control, they will be out of control as well. It is perfectly normal for you to grieve and you should, all of you, it is normal.  That being said, it is absolutely NOT OK as a parent to be out of control in front of the kids, badmouth the other parent or neglect the kids’ routines. Breath, deeply, and be there for your kids. They need you.

With divorce, remember that your relationship with your soon-to-be ex is not ending; it is changing. You will need to continue to work together to be supportive co-parents to your children all the way into adulthood. Demonstrating respect and care for the other parent sends your children the message that you also respect and care for them.

Although divorce is very difficult and breaking the news to your children is painful and overwhelming,  difficult, you and your children can come away from the experience emotionally stronger and with a deeper bond between you if the focus remains on the children and their needs.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and get a PRIVATE (and free) consultation session with me.

Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com

 

 

When you’re in the process of divorcing, the primary focus may be on you and your soon to be ex, rather than on your kids, particularly if you are both working with divorce attorneys. You may feel that you are both being encouraged to constantly strategize your next steps in order to gain the coveted upper hand. In what may feel like an extended chess game, kids may find themselves on the losing end. Because of this, it’s important to set forth and adhere to guidelines for ensuring the innocent victims of divorce are protected, and emerge feeling safe and loved.

Your son or daughter: they are not…
1. Your child is not your marriage therapist. While that may seem intuitive, parents may look to their children as a sounding board or confident, even seeking advice. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, shelter your kids as much as possible from the details of your divorce while also reassuring them of your love and support for them.

2. Your child is not a carrier pigeon. Using your child as a go between to give messages or payments to your spouse is strongly discouraged. Your child is not your messenger service. Speak to your spouse directly and avoid creating situations in which your child finds himself / herself stuck in the middle.

3. Your child is not your private detective. If you’re curious about who was over at your house when your child was there, or what might have been said about you, don’t ask your child. This again crosses the line. Your son our daughter should never feel like they’ve been put in a position of a double agent.

Your son or daughter: what they are more likely to be…
1. Insecure at times. It’s important to reassure your child that both mom and dad love them and will always is there for them. Although you and your spouse may not be on the best of terms, your child needs to feel that both of you still love and care deeply for them. Also, make an extra effort to catch your kids doing something good – and acknowledge it.

2. Surprisingly accurate in their recall. While they may have imperfect memories about their homework, they will remember every promise their parents made. It is so easy to promise it all to your child, but know that your child is keeping mental notes. He or she has recorded every promise kept and broken. The broken promises will add to the hurt and confusion he or she is already feeling. If you make a promise, keep it.

3. Excellent time keepers. There is a building uneasiness for a child when a parent keeps them waiting. Treat a meeting with your child with the same importance as a meeting with the president of a company (although your child is much more important!). If you’ve arranged for a 2pm meeting, that’s when you need to arrive. Your child will keenly recall negative feelings and what caused them during this emotional period. Don’t manufacture more stress. Be on time.

4. Assessors of consistency. Have an established and consistent set rules in both households. Hang them on the fridge in both homes. Don’t create room for kids to argue that “Dad lets me do this” or “Mom let’s me do that.” Instead, just introduce a consistent approach in both households with rules that are followed by all. If your child understands that expectations are the same, you will not only alleviate the divide and conquer approach that kids tend to test out, but also there will be a much greater atmosphere of stability.

5. Conflict averse. Never fight in front of the kids. Fighting in front of the kids is scary. Kids tend to feel that they are at the center of the friction and the source of your unhappiness. If there is a lead-up to an argument, stop and take a breath, and either defer the discussion or take it away from the kids so that they don’t hear or feel it. Always make them feel safe and secure

These are just some of the do’s and don’ts. Feel free to send me any questions you might have related to this topic and I will be happy to respond directly to you.

Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com

If you’re looking for support, sign up for a PRIVATE (and free) consultation to talk about your journey and we’ll discuss if coaching is the right step for you

 

As previously mentioned in one of my blog articles, GUILT is a terrible feeling and motivator.

YES, I said motivator. I see many of my clients trying to compensate for their guilt by buying their children. These parents really have good intentions and think that they are compensating for their children’s distress and pain over the separation or divorce. The truth however, is that they are trying to alleviate their own guilt.  I have to admit that I myself was guilty of doing so way back in the day at the early stages of the divorce. I didn’t have the understanding and clarity as to how this could impact my daughter at the time.

While these children surely enjoy the special attention, gifts and new found liberties, it only instills a sense of self-righteousness and entitlement in them, making them think and feel that rules no longer apply to them.  Yes, your children are going through a hard time, and the separation and divorce is having an impact on them, but it can and will be overcome with the right help and support. Changing rules and overcompensating will only lead to selfish, self-centered children who will get out of control and develop issues that can last a lifetime.

My advice is for you to continue parenting “AS IF” you are still married or in a committed relationship with your partner/spouse.  Children thrive and perform best when they have a routine and are disciplined. Continue to parent the same way you used to.  Same rules, routines, limits, chores, responsibilities and expectations. Don’t start giving them extra toys and favors. If you want to get them something think to yourself “is this (toy – treat) something I am getting because I want to make myself feel better about how guilty I feel over the divorce, or because my child truly deserves this treat now and I would have done this if I would be married as well”.  If you see your child upset about the divorce or separation, take the time to sit down and talk with them. Listen to them, acknowledge their pain and empathize with them. Tell them how much you both love them and that sometimes adults need to part ways, but that it doesn’t change the love you BOTH have for them.  Help them open up and express their pain and distress over the divorce. Teaching your children to express their emotions is the best gift you can give them.

Children will often pick up the cues and start taking advantage and act up during stressful times. Do not let them get away with it. Discipline them like you would if you would be married. If your ex-spouse doesn’t cooperate and becomes lenient don’t follow the same path. It’s better to have one parent that disciples that none at all. Kids need at least one parent who will teach them right from wrong, set limits, and won’t spoil them with gifts and treats.

If your child starts using the manipulation card by making you feel guilty saying “but, Daddy lets me do this?”, or “Daddy just bought me this and you never get me anything”, the last thing you want to do is fall for it. You also don’t want to attack the other parent for spoiling your child, but rather focus on yourself and utilize appropriate parenting skills.

Think back to when you were married, I am sure your children here and there tried to pit you against the other parent. It is what kids do when they want to get their way. Now that you are separated or divorced, don’t fall prey to these tricks. Remember to stand your ground. Eventually your child will learn that each parent has their own set of rules and adapt.  It is important that you remain firm so that they will learn that you cannot be swayed. In time you will see a great deal of improvement in their behavior. Over time, your child will also learn to respect the parent that implements rules, routines, limits and expectations as this provides for a more stable and predictable environment that encourages healthy development.

From time to time it is natural and normal for your child to object. Don’t let that intimidate you or make you doubt your parenting style. Just because your child protests, it doesn’t mean that their demand is right, reasonable or acceptable. Think of it this way. If it’s something you wouldn’t have allowed when your family was one unit, you shouldn’t allow it now either.  You have to accept that you can only control what you do and what goes on in your home while your child/ren is with you. You have no control over what the other parent does or doesn’t do. Focus on your parenting style and yours ONLY!

Sometimes you will feel that maybe your child is acting up and test the limits because they are hurting. Try and remind yourself how often they did it when you were still married. Children love to test their boundaries and will do so as long as you allow them to. If you can communicate with the other parent and think he/she will cooperate, then set mutually acceptable rules, routines, limits and expectations to manage misbehavior. If the other parent cannot agree, then you must treat the behavior as an issue for your house and in your house only. Remember you can only control what you do.

Please note there are exceptions and if your child is acting out in unusual ways that concern you please do reach out to a professional.

After a while your child/ren will get used to the rules and adjust. It is best you focus on your household only, and avoid questioning the child about what goes on in the other parent’s home.  Focus on enjoying your time with your children and your parenting.

Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com

If you’re looking for support, sign up for a PRIVATE (and free) consultation to talk about your journey and we’ll discuss if coaching is the right step for you

This is a topic that is very close and dear to my heart.

Why do children feel guilty when parents’ divorce? I asked myself this question a million times while I was going through my divorce and kept or reassuring my daughter that it is not her fault, or anything she ever did, and that we both love her dearly.

So why is it that children take on this role of responsibility and guilt? Children are born into this world not knowing any rules about life at all. They learn everything about life from the adults that surround them and from the feedback, or consequences that follow their actions or inactions.

Early on in childhood children learned that if they did something wrong it was their fault, that is why they automatically assume that when their parents are having issues or are getting divorced it must be due to something they did wrong. For many children it is very difficult to change their feeling of guilt because it has become their default position when problems occur in their family. It is difficult for the child to blame their parents because the parent is their source of correct behavior. After all, wasn’t it the parent who taught the child how to follow the correct rules? The child reasons at their developmental level, “How can my parent be at fault? I must have done something to cause this.”

So what can you as divorcing parents do to help your children cope with their misinterpreted guilt?

The first objective I have with my clients is to get both parents to understand that the welfare and emotional wellbeing of their child is paramount. Parents are adults and they have to work through their feelings of anger, hurt and resentment without expressing it or letting it out in front of the kids. If they can’t handle it alone they should reach out to someone for help, so they can be the role models they have always dreamed of being to their children.

The next step is for both parents to have an age appropriate talk with their child/children to help them make sense of the divorce. It doesn’t have to be complicated or detailed. The simpler the better. For example : “Mom and Dad cannot live together anymore, but we both love you very much, always will and will continue to take care of you.”

The framework statement of course will be much different for a 6-year-old than a 16-year-old child. Be sure to explain to your child/children that it is your choice and NOT their fault. As with my daughter you will need to have this conversation many times over and over, to assure that they actually process and hear it.

After having explained the situation to the child/children make sure to ask them to tell you in their own words why they think their parents are getting divorced. This will allow you to see how well your explanation has been absorbed. The 5-year-old child will understand divorce and responsibility with the mind of a 5-year-old. However, when they are 6 and their understanding of the world and causality has changed some, they will need to hear again why their parents are divorced and that they had no part to play and therefore no room for guilt. This process may have to be repeated and modified for the child well into high school.

Guilt over something you have no control over is a tremendously heavy burden. If they have a framework that makes sense to them and if they are told in different ways over the years, “It was not your fault, it had nothing to do with you, we both loved you then and we love you now”, their natural guilt will usually diminish.

I wanted to share this emotional video from Tony Robbins with you to give you a better understanding of how children process martial issues.

Here is a bonus gift for you, don’t forget to download your free guide on how to avoid the top 10 mistakes you want to avoid during your divorce. http://Divorcehelp1.gr8.com

If you’re looking for support, sign up for a PRIVATE (and free) consultation to talk about your journey and we’ll discuss if coaching is the right step for you

CREDITS TO TONY ROBBINS