support and understand your teen

21 Tips to Help You Support And Understand Your Teen During Divorce

support and understand your teen

 

It’s normal if a teenager doesn’t know what to think when their parents get a divorce. It can be very shocking. The thoughts and feelings going through their mind are usually confusing and scary, having very little idea of what might happen to them or their family.

Some questions they might have are …

“Do we have to move?”

“Will I be able to go to college?”

“Is this my fault?”

“Will I see my father?”

“What will my friends think of me?”

“Why me?”

In many instances, teens might feel like they can’t talk with their parents about how they feel. They might be embarrassed or might not know how to express themselves about it.

But, most parents and a lot of other people want to be supportive of a young person as they go through such a challenging time. The hard part is being sensitive when approaching the situation or knowing what to say.

I think sometimes keeping it simple is best. All a parent might need to do is simply tell their teenager … “I’m here for you.” This will give them an open window to talk when they’re ready.

Below are 21 tips to give you more ideas to help you support and understand your teen during divorce.

1. Provide quality and simple support at a time when everything seems chaotic.

2. Be patient with their behavior.

3. Keep both parents involved.

4. Respond with consistent support and set boundaries.

5. Do more listening than talking. Teenagers going through divorce are usually confused and need to be listened to and heard.

6. Keep visible conflict, heated discussions, and legal talk away from your teen.

7. Support their feelings even if you don’t agree.  Emotions aren’t always logical.

8. Acknowledge their emotions and continue to guide them with conversation helping them talk about their present feelings.

9. Teens need to know you care and that they are worth being cared about.

10. Find another person they can talk to such as a mentor, friend, therapist or relative.

11. Keep your teenagers routine as normal as possible.

12. Find them a support group with people their own age who are experiencing something similar.

13. Giving teens the time they need to think and experience divorce is ok. Sometimes it takes a long time for teens to process what they have been through and for healing to take place.

14. Divorce can be a big change, adjustments and living arrangements should be handled gradually.

15. Parents need to understand and be ok with what is comfortable with your teen with living arrangements. It can be tough to decide especially when couples disagree. But also keep in mind that some teens are able to thrive by spending half their time with each parent, others need the stability of having one “home” and visiting with the other parent.

16. Whatever arrangement is chosen, your child’s needs should come first. Avoid getting involved in a tug of war as a way to “win.”

17. When deciding how to handle birthdays, holidays, and vacations, stay focused on what’s best for your teen and what they want.

18. It’s important for parents to resolve issues themselves and not ask your teen to choose.

19. Get help dealing with your own painful feelings about the divorce. If you adjust, your teen will too.

20. Recognize stress. Talk with a child therapist for guidance on how to handle specific problems you’re concerned about.

21. Any type of change can be challenging. Believe everything will be OK.

The post 21 Tips to Help You Support And Understand Your Teen During Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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lessons daughters learn from divorce

12 Lessons Daughters Learn from Their Parents’ Divorce

lessons daughters learn from divorce

 

Women, and especially daughters of divorce, can put undue pressure on themselves to find the right partner, marry, and develop a happy home life. But if they possess this goal, it can present many problems. For the most part, women from divorced homes don’t have a healthy template to follow when it comes to nurturing and sustaining a committed relationship, making it difficult for them to know where to start.

The following lessons were derived from my own experience and conversations with over 300 women I interviewed for my book Daughters of Divorce.

12 Lessons Daughters Learn from Divorce:

1. Revisiting the past as an adult can help you heal. In order to overcome the legacy of your parents’ breakup, it’s essential for you to get a more balanced, realistic view of your parents’ divorce. Many women in my study discovered that a lot of their assumptions about the cause of their parents’ split were false after they examined it from an adult perspective.

As a result of gaining accurate information, many were better able to move forward with their lives (and in some cases forgive one or both of their parents).

2. Reevaluate your view of relationships and adjust your expectations. The reality is that with time people grow and change. This doesn’t mean love has failed. Simply because love doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean there was something wrong with it. If you are hard on yourself or your parents, you may need to adjust your standards.

3. Learning to love yourself is an inner journey that involves examining your past from a fresh perspective. Take the time to investigate any carry-over from past relationships that might impact current ones. As a daughter of divorce, you can be your own saboteur. Write a positive intention to accomplish each day; boost your confidence by setting a goal and achieving it.

4. Self-compassion is a life-long journey. You may believe that you’re being selfish when you take care of yourself, or you may be left feeling you don’t deserve to be loved or have to earn someone’s love. But these feelings are based on low self-esteem and not based in reality. Change negative self-talk into positive statements such as “I am getting stronger every day.” You deserve to be loved and cared for.

5. Establishing a healthy level of trust in a relationship is possible but takes time. When your first reaction is to act out of a place of mistrust, this shows a lack of confidence in yourself and your partner. Trust is a skill that’s built over time by observing consistency between your partner’s words and actions.

Learn to trust your intuition and instincts and extend trust to someone who demonstrates trustworthiness. Consider how much your mistrust is a remnant of the past or as a result of your partner’s present behavior. Listen to his or her side of the story before making accusations or issuing an ultimatum.

6. Practice being vulnerable in small steps. Being vulnerable and expressing your thoughts and feelings to your partner will allow you to build trust and feel more connected to them. Does your fear of intimacy translate into testing a relationship by picking a partner who is wrong for you or picking fights to get your partner to prove their love? Setting a goal of being more vulnerable and accepting of nurturing and support from your partner is crucial to enjoying a happy long-lasting relationship.

7. Emotional dependency isn’t love. If your relationship causes you to feel anxious or to question your sense of self, it may not be the best relationship for you. Ask yourself this question if you’re in a relationship: Is there something about the way my partner treats me that makes me a better person? If the answer is no, you may be settling for less than you deserve due to a fear of abandonment or of being alone. These are the two most common reasons women stay in relationships that aren’t meeting their needs.

8. It’s OK not to rush into a commitment. In fact, getting to know a partner over time is wise and can help you to gain confidence in your judgment. It’s important for you to feel relatively safe and secure before you make a commitment.

9. You expect a lot from your partner but you’re also a giver. Sometimes giving too much can cause you emotional pain but being a giver is something you take pride in. However, it’s key not to morph into someone else when you’re in a relationship with a taker who looks to you as their source of happiness and fun (and may have trouble being alone). If you’re a giver, be careful not to allow a taker to zap you of your time and energy.

10. Counseling, reading, and blogging are helpful supports and can help you cope. As you experiment with new ways of relating to others, giving and receiving feedback is essential to your personal growth.

11. Relationships are your teachers. As a child of divorce, you know the sting of loss and are fine-tuned to the signs of rejection and abandonment. However, whether they last three months or three decades, relationships can provide their participants with the love, understanding, and intimacy they need at the time. Often, the courage to end a relationship that is no longer meeting both partners’ needs shows the greatest strength.

12. Both chemistry and compatibility are essential aspects of a successful long-term relationship and it’s possible to have both. Keep in mind that you can determine what kind of relationship works for you. Love is a leap of faith and there are no guarantees. This is true for all people, whether or not they are a child of divorce.

As a daughter of divorce, intimate relationships and marriage may present many challenges to you, but you must also realize that you are also armed with your own strength to face and embrace them. Truth be told, all relationships end: through breakup, death, or divorce. Why waste time being preoccupied with the fear of your relationship ending?

The concept of a wedding, or even a successful marriage, may seem alien to you but commitment and possibly marriage can be a source of stability in an uncertain world and bring you happiness.

According to researcher Nicholas H. Wolfinger, marriage is still the preferred state for most people. In Understanding The Divorce Cycle, he writes: “Doubtless, many people who remain single throughout their lives are happy to do so, but marriage remains the normative experience for most of us: about 90% of Americans will wed at some point in their lives.”

In closing, the best relationships are ones born out of trust and vulnerability. In positive relationships, each partner approaches one another as an equal. The relationship doesn’t drain its participants; instead, it nourishes. A successful romantic relationship is where you feel at your best.

It is possible to be vulnerable with others without losing parts of yourself. By doing this, you’ll be able to restore your faith in love, trust, and intimacy.

Follow Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com where you can purchase her book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship. Her new book “The Remarriage Manual” will be published in the spring of 2020 by Sounds True Publishers.

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blending families

Lessons Learned While Blending Families

blending families

 

There is no shortage of challenges awaiting those of us who have gone through divorce and still refuse to give up on love. If, like me, you are fortunate enough to find the love of your dreams, an entirely new set of challenges probably awaits you. If you and/or your beloved already have children, you will have to figure out how, when, and perhaps even if you can blend your new partner into your existing family.

Can we Really Expect Love to Conquer All When Blending Families?

When Juli’s and my love was unexpectedly revealed four years ago, we found ourselves in a new world of ease and opportunity. Old assumptions and restrictions were replaced with limitless possibilities that required us to reconsider nearly every aspect of our lives. Our anticipated timetables for entering into new, committed relationships no longer made sense within the context of this love.

We were sure that we were meant to be together – NOW. We felt certain that, just as we had mysteriously attracted each other, we would call forth the circumstances and conditions necessary to create and share one home for our singular love.

But not so fast… the seemingly limitless power of our love was no match for the on-the-ground realities of what it would take to blend our children and our households into a stable, supportive, and emotionally healthy whole.

While our love created a universe all our own, Juli and I also shared universes with our children, who could not be expected to grasp (let alone welcome) this new love and this new person who had so powerfully and unexpectedly swooped into their parent’s life.

Being apart from each other was unthinkable and at times almost unbearable, but any time we tried to accelerate the process of integration, we only seemed to generate more resentment and resistance. We loved each other and we loved our children, and we could not jam them all together into the cohesive whole we so desperately desired.

Great Beginnings, Happy Endings

Four years later, Juli, her children, and I are sharing a home as a family and enjoy a life filled with laughter and connectivity (my own daughter is still finding her place in our family and in the world). My stepdaughter, who sobbed uncontrollably when Juli told her about me because she didn’t want to share her mother’s love, now bounds into my office as soon as she gets home from school, eager to commune, connect, and commingle our experiences of the day.

My stepson affectionately calls me “Troll,” hounds me daily to take him to play basketball and matches me set for set with weights at the gym. And my beloved wife revels in the family she always wanted — and now has — as we have spread and shared our love beyond ourselves to those we love the most.

Lessons Learned When Blending Families

Love is always accompanied by its share of mysteries, and we can never hope to know all of the factors that contributed to my successful integration into Juli’s family. But we can share and learn from each other’s experiences. To that end, I would offer these three keys to our success that Juli and I have identified:

  • Confidence in our commitment
  • The contagion of our love
  • Unyielding patience

I will be discussing each of these success factors in upcoming blogs beginning with confidence in our commitment. I invite you to share these posts with any of your friends who may be facing this often daunting challenge of bringing new love into existing family structures.  And remember, you are in this situation because you have an “embarrassment of riches,” an abundance of love for both partner and children.  And this love wants nothing more than to express itself in fullness and unity within a single happy household.

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before blending your family

9 Things To Discuss Before Blending Your Family

before blending your family

 

Second marriages that involve children demand more preparation than first marriages. Not only do you want to be happy in your new marriage, but you also want your children to be happy. For those reasons, there are many topics that need to be discussed and issues that have to be agreed on.

Blank Topics The Two Of You Should Talk About Before Blending Your Family:

1. Define what you each bring to the table that will have a positive influence on each other’s children.

There are reasons you fell in love with this person and, if you are a parent, some of those reasons were because you thought, he was a good parent. Encourage each other to use those parenting skills in a way that positively impacts your children.

2. Define how each parent will be able to promote healthy bonding with the children.

This can be done in numerous ways. You may feel it is important that each parent spend alone time with the other’s children in order to promote a strong bond. In the end, it’s about doing things that help your children build trust in this new person in their lives.

3. Define how you will each support the other in your roles as step-parent.

Children, especially our own are great at manipulating. Discuss and come up with solutions for having each other’s backs in front of the children.

4. Define what needs to be done to promote a happy and healthy home environment for the children.

We all know that children flourish in conflict-free homes. Discuss how you will handle arguments or disagreements with each other. And, there is the issue of who the children will be surrounded by in their home. If Uncle Harry is a belligerent drunk, he probably needs to be kept at arm’s length and not allowed past the front door.

Also, being able to provide each child with a space of their own for sleeping, hanging with friends and getting away from the rest of the family when they need a break is imperative.

5. Define steps that need to be taken by both parents that promote a show of respect toward a step-child.

You should love your step-children as an extension of your new spouse. Healthy love means treating the step-children with the same, kindness, concern, consideration and respect you will your new spouse. For children to flourish they need to feel cared about!

6. Define what steps will be taken to resolve conflict in the blended family.

Once you’ve decided on a way to resolve conflict, discuss it with the children. Children can be cruel, especially towards one another. Let them know there are clear boundaries and the repercussions of any unacceptable behaviors.

7. Share expectations you both have as your role of step-parent.

It’s important to discuss this before marriage but, it may take time after the marriage for roles to be firmly established. What role each parent will play in the blended family will depend largely on that parent’s lifestyle. If the step-mom works her role will differ drastically from that of the step-mom who doesn’t work.

8. Make a list of the steps you both need to take that will nurture your relationship and your marriage.

If it wasn’t for the relationship you two have there wouldn’t be a blended family. Nurturing the bond between the two of you promotes a healthier blended family. Stay connected, don’t lose each other in the stress of everyday life and, above all, make time for time alone together.

9. Make strict guidelines when it comes to the discipline of the children and what role each parent will play.

Your home needs to have well thought out boundaries when it comes to what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. And, as a step-parent, you need to be careful to avoid the improper discipline of a step-child. It’s my opinion that the best way to keep down conflict over child discipline is to let each parent be in charge of disciplining their own child.

My mother used to say, wait until your father gets home, young lady.” She was passing the buck to him and letting herself off the hook. Not a good practice when dealing with the family of origin discipline. Probably the best practice when dealing with discipline in a blended family.

What are your next steps? Putting into action the decisions you’ve made!

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mother

How To Celebrate Mother’s Day As A Divorced Mom

mother's day as a divorced mom 

 

When Mother’s Day comes in the midst of divorce proceedings, there is not enough you can do for your divorcing friend. There are treats and cards. If the children are with their father then umpteen invitations will be showered upon the almost single mother. What about the next ten Mother’s Days after divorce? Some parents have put in their parenting plans that the kids spend Mother’s or Father’s Days with the parent that is being honored. Others do a trade for the day without a legal mandate.

My first Mother’s Day happened during a contentious divorce with my husband threatening to pull out of collaborative proceedings for a battle in court. It was very unsettling, and I barely remember that holiday. We did what we usually had done and went to an elaborative Mother’s Day brunch.

My mother made sure that I had a present from each son, so had taken them out shopping earlier in the week. She gave me something nice, too. Two years later we started new traditions to make the day seem more like it belonged to us. We exorcized the ghosts of Mother’s Day past and did not do anything like we did when I was still married. We shook up our routine and had a simple meal out followed by an anticipated movie. This year we will have a celebratory latte and lunch followed by Paul Blart’s film, “Mall Cop 2.” Celebrate in a new way, whether or not you have the kids with you.

How to Celebrate Mother’s Day As a Divorced Mom:

1. Have brunch at your place and invite other women, whether or not they are mothers. Make it extra festive with some champagne or Bloody Marys.

2. Ask your children for suggestions on how to celebrate this occasion in other ways.

3. If you have family nearby, get together with them and the kids will have fun with cousins.

4. When I was little, I treated my divorced mother at a reasonable family restaurant every Mother’s Day in a more rural area. It was a beautiful drive and the cost was within my allowance. Give your kids the chance to do something nice for you.

What do You do if You’re Alone on Mother’s Day? Below are 6 Ideas:

1. Consider taking a mini trip somewhere.

2. Do something to distract you that is interesting.

3. I know two divorced women with grown children who live in distant cities who are off to France this week on a packaged tour. These lucky ones will be celebrating Mother’s Day on the Riviera. There are travel agencies that have trips for singles in wonderful locales. It is nice to have the camaraderie of a group.

4. Some folks choose to give back to others which takes the focus off themselves. Volunteering is a way to feel fulfilled, particularly if the kids are with dad and a new stepmother.

5. My mother worked on this holiday as a nurse, when I had visitation with my father. If you can work on Mother’s Day and take a day off when you’ll be with your children, perfect!

6. Some nail salons are open on Sundays, so a manicure and pedicure can be just the ticket to raise up one’s spirits. Sometimes there are free concerts or craft fairs on this day which are fun to attend.

One thing to a avoid: Giving into the temptation of dulling the ache of loneliness by self-medicating. I know of a circumstance where the father was engaged in parental alienation and the daughter did not contact her mom on Mother’s Day. This woman had an accidental fatal overdose of medications, including combining anti-depressants along with alcohol. Over-imbibing does not get rid of a problem, it merely postpones doing something about it.

Decide if you want to stay busy, or laze around on the couch reading the latest bestseller. Whatever you decide to do, high-quality chocolate will make it even better!

The post How To Celebrate Mother’s Day As A Divorced Mom appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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single mom vacation tips

6 Money Saving Single Mom Vacation Tips

single mom vacation tips

 

For single moms, saving up enough money to take a vacation with their kids can be a challenge when they’re working to support their household on just one income. While it’s important to create memories and escape the daily routine, often times single moms don’t have the extra money to spend on fun and travel. Below are a few tips we put together for single moms on how to provide great memories for their children while remaining on a budget.

Single Mom Vacation Tips

1. Savings Goals & Realistic Travel:

It has been my experience that when I save for a specific goal, I’m more successful. Instead of saving for a “vacation someday” try saving for a “3 day weekend trip to the beach two months from now.” Your children will most likely want to get away from home at least once this summer, so start looking into affordable vacation spot a few months in advance as prices are cheaper the further in advance you book. This gives you plenty of time to start putting money away for your much needed time away with your children.

2. Take Advantage of Online Deals:

In today’s digital world, getting deals on travel has never been easier. When it comes to places to stay you can take advantage of deals that are published by the multiple online or limited deal sites such as Groupon GetAways or Amazon Local. You can book a place to stay on AirBnB or you could partner up with another single mom to vacation together giving you a way to share the costs and have a little adult interaction while on vacation.

3. Create a Budget:

Figure out how much you will need to save towards taking a vacation, and have the money taken directly out of your paycheck and transferred into a separate savings account. I personally love using Mint.com for this, and the best part is, it’s free!

There are also a bunch of other savings apps that have popped up recently such as Digit that helps you save by taking out money based on your spending. Another free app is my app SupportPay, which helps you track the expenses around your children so you can easily see where your money is going and give you the information you need to reduce spending.

Websites and apps like these allow you to save for your vacation without having to think about it.  Be sure to check in on your accounts every so often though to make sure you are staying on budget so there are no surprises when you want to take your vacation.

4. Start a Change Jar:

Pinterest has some cute ideas to decorate change jars. Some people like to save all of their change, and some prefer to save dollar bills only. Figure out what works best for you, and make it a habit to set aside the extra cash every chance you get. To encourage your kids to get involved, make a game out of collecting extra change by setting goals or rules that cost money when broken. Setting family goals that your children can participate in is a great way to teach them the value of a dollar, and how to save for activities they want to participate in.

5. Give Something Up:

If you want to get really serious about saving for a vacation, giving up something for a month or two can really make your savings account balance grow quickly. You could give up eating out for a month, not going to the movies, not buying new clothes for one month, take a cable TV break, etc. Also, you can take advantage of the sharing economy by renting items you aren’t using or you could rent out your items and make some money on items sitting around the house.

Sell Unused or Unwanted Items:

If you’ve got a little spare time on your hands, spend a couple of hours and take a quick tour of your house, pulling out all the outgrown clothing, toys, electronics, and movies that you no longer need. There have recently been several apps that have launched that make it really easy to sell your items. For example, Letgo, thredUp, and Decluttr are apps that enable you to take a picture and quickly post your item for sale. Of course, you can always have a garage sale, this could make you money and help you meet your neighbors.

Being a single mom isn’t easy but with a little planning and some creative ways to save money or make a little extra, you can give your kids the vacation memories they want with the money you have.

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Why It

Why It’s Important To Put Children First During Divorce

Why It's Important To Put Children First During Divorce

 

I’m not one of those experts who believe that divorce has little significant effect on a child’s life. I’m of the opinion that divorce can set a child up for lifelong emotional struggles. The divorce of a child’s parent leaves them with negative emotions they will deal with throughout their lives in one way or another.

Yes, they learn to adjust to the fact that their parents are divorced but, the sadness caused by the divorce lessens with time but never goes away. On top of the regret, a child feels over a parent’s divorce there can be devastating consequences if the parents do not handle the divorce in a responsible manner.

I bristle when I hear parents say that children are “resilient” and can “handle” their divorce. I’ve talked to adults who were devastated years after their divorce was finalized, yet for some strange reason they believe that their children are more capable of getting over and learning to live with a situation they, themselves are finding hard to accept and move on from.

It is this belief by parents that children resilient that sets children up for disaster when their parents’ divorce. A child’s divorce experience is shaped by whether or not parents continue to put their children’s well-being and security first during the divorce process.

Why it’s Important to Put Children First During Divorce

Divorce means huge changes in the lives of children. It can also mean direct involvement in conflict between parents, changes in where they live, economic hardship, broken bonds with a parent, loss of emotional security and a multitude of emotional stressors.

Divorce means the loss of a child’s family, something that is the center of their universe. If a child is raised in a happy or low conflict family, that family is the base of their security. It is what allows that child to go out into the world and broaden their horizons because they know there is a safe place to return to.

The loss of an intact family is like a death to the child. There will be a period of grieving and a need to replace, with something new the security they had in the intact family.

Divorce increases a child’s risk of psychological, educational and sociological problems. A parent’s divorce touches every aspect of a child’s life. A child’s relationships with friends will change and their ability to focus and concentrate in school will be affected. As a result, there is an increased possibility of problems with anxiety and depression.

Divorce causes children emotional pain. Regardless of how hard a parent tries and how well they parent, a child will feel sadness and loss during and after a divorce. Your divorce is going to hurt your children! And please, don’t fall for the nonsense belief that if the “parent is happy, the child will be happy.” I promise you unless your child is witnessing or a party to domestic abuse or high conflict the child could care less if Mom and Dad are happy.

Some parents have a misguided belief that their children are spending time and energy worrying about their happiness. Nothing could be further from the truth, children are concerned with their own happiness and security, as it should be.

So, please, don’t project your need to divorce so you can be “happy” off on to your children. You will do them no favor and it will free you up to ignore their pain due to a skewed belief that is not correct.

What Are The Negative Effects of Divorce For Children?

If you contrast children from intact families to children of divorce, children from divorced families are:

  • Twice as likely to have to see a mental health provider,
  • Twice as likely to exhibit behavioral problems,
  • More than twice as likely to have problems with depression and mood disorders,
  • Twice as likely to drop out of high school before graduating,
  • Twice as likely to divorce themselves as adults,
  • Less socially competent and tend to linger in adolescents before moving into adulthood.

Andrew Cherlin, a family demographer at Johns Hopkins University, said that even those who grow up to be very successful as adults carry “the residual trauma of their parents’ breakup.”

In other words, when we, as adults make the decision to divorce we are going against our natural parental instincts…protecting our children from harm. Some would argue that divorce in and of itself does not cause harm to children. They believe that it is the behavior of the parents during a divorce that determines how a child will fare or what the consequences will be.

I agree that as parents we can lessen the negative effects of divorce on our children. There are obligations that parents have during divorce that can help our children cope. The issue I have though is this, during my career as a therapist who has worked closely with divorcing clients children seem to take a backseat to their parent’s needs during that time.

Parents are more focused on the legal process of divorce and their own emotional needs than their children’s needs. Until I see a change in the way the majority of parents behave during a divorce I will hold onto my belief that children are irreparably harmed by divorce and suffer due to parents who are unable to parent and divorce at the same time.

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We Divorced But Our Family Thrived, Especially Our Children

We Divorced But Our Family Thrived, Especially Our Children

 

We divorced. It felt like I was jumping off a cliff and taking my children with me. I was bad now. I was to blame. I felt ashamed.

At the same time, my brother was also getting divorced, which meant my mother was going through the breakup of both her children’s marriages. This was very tough on her. My mother had raised us by herself with no help from my father. None! At that time, a single woman raising children on her own was practically unheard of. When my mother finally saw both her children marry lovely people and have beautiful children of their own, she felt relieved that things had turned out well.

But with two divorces pending, it was all coming apart. We were all so sad and angry. The children were in the middle of all this strife. My mother had always been my rock, but now she too was slipping off the cliff, we were all struggling.

I slowly pulled myself together and began thinking of my children’s wellbeing. I once heard a woman, who was talking about her very young children after her divorce, say, “If I’m okay, then my children will be okay. If my needs are met, then I can take care of them.” I think she had it backward. In my view, “If my children are okay, then I’ll be okay. If my children’s needs can be met, then I can take care of myself.”  This became my motto.

I had young children at home and they were at the mercy of me and my decisions. I made a lot of mistakes at first. I began my search for better role models and a better way to do this.

We shifted our focus and although divorced, we realized we were going to have to figure out how to be a family and how to develop a new family structure going forward.

My former husband and my mother had a very close relationship. He had become like another son to her, and they really loved each other. He had helped to make our family stronger and more connected

We wanted to keep our family together as much as possible. Most of all our children were looking for stability and reassurance. So we did our best to be together as a family with the children on holidays and at school functions.

We helped each other meet our children’s needs.

We did it for the sake of the children. We did it for the sake of the whole family. I did it for myself too. We weren’t married anymore, but we had children together and so we were still a family and we needed the support of our extended family more than ever.

I remember thinking at some point that when people divorce they leave each other, not the family. But that wasn’t the message I was getting from my divorced friends or in the media. According to them, divorce was supposed to be like a war zone. We didn’t want to live like that, and we didn’t want to subject our children to that either, so we began creating our own set of new rules to live by. It was the silver lining to a very dark cloud.

We had to be pioneers because we weren’t seeing many examples of healthy post-divorce behavior around us.

We really had to create a relationship based on our own sense of what was going to make our family thrive. I personally had to keep turning inward for direction on how to act, what to say, and how to go on from where I was. This self-reflection proved invaluable in the process of being a parent.

One of the first important things we did as parents of two children was to make it abundantly clear that just because one parent left their spouse, they did not leave the family. It is the grown-ups who are no longer able to live together. It is so important to reassure the children that the love they feel for each parent is still reciprocated and the relationship between them and each parent is therefore strong and protected. I learned that it’s so important to remember to help your children feel loved by both parents even if you are not feeling that way yourself.

As part of a blended family myself, I’ve learned it is best to take a conscious approach to life in a tribe. I’ve encountered all kinds of things that keep me growing and inspire me to turn inward in an effort to be more self-reflective. It is not always easy, but over the years, I’ve realized that in our blended family, I’m but one leg of the table. I’m very important, but the other three legs are just as important for the table to be strong enough to hold all of us. I try to let everyone deal with what they are bringing to the table while I keep my focus on what I can bring. I’ve adopted a meditation of sorts.

These thoughts help keep me focused. It works for me.

If I can remember that I’m not always in control…

If I can give others grace when I feel trespassed upon…

If I can forgive and allow myself to have healthy boundaries…

If I can forgive and allow other family members to have healthy boundaries…

If I can speak up when I need to speak up…

If I can listen to others when I need to listen…

If I can avoid rushing in and pushing my agenda…

Then the family will find its own balance.

One of the things we chose to do differently from most of the family examples we were seeing was to gather as a family for holidays or special school events as well as birthday celebrations.

As long as our children were young and living at home with us, we chose to include all of us. We didn’t trade off years or make the children choose where to go or whom to invite for a special occasion.

And my motto in those circumstances, if there is any discomfort, which there was, became:

 “If anyone is going to be uncomfortable in the room let it be me, not my children or other family members”

 It is my divorce and I must take the initiative and bear the changes with mindfulness so that my family and my children can all be together for these times.

When the going gets tough, we help each other. Maybe it was out of necessity at first, but it soon became normal for us as we became a blended family. Instead of waging war, we have created and provided resources for each other and for our children. In this family, I continue to find grace, love, and understanding.

The post We Divorced But Our Family Thrived, Especially Our Children appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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mastering relationships

The Secret To Mastering Relationships

mastering relationships

 

Our lives are an ongoing chain of relationships. From our life partners, children, friends, co-workers, companions, neighbors, bosses, and employees.

Some are warm and wonderful while others can cause a constant rub. The key to mastering all our relationships is to see them as a mirror reflection of our issues.

Let’s take a look at some relationship dynamics:

My boss doesn’t appreciate me

My partner doesn’t trust me

My child is disobedient and disrespectful

My co-worker is hurtful, bordering on abusive

My adult son is distant and judgmental

My neighbor is obnoxious and inconsiderate

My colleague is unprofessional and rude

How can any of these be a reflection of me? How can looking at my part in them help to change my relationships?

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” Gandhi

Mastering Relationships

The most powerful thing we can do in each of our relationships is to see our reflection in the problems that arise.  In doing so, we can expose our thoughts, patterns, and tender buttons, those things that we are responsible for.  Instead of focusing on the other person’s shortcomings, we can begin to work on our own.

Here is the logic:

I cannot change another person

Nothing changes until something changes

I choose to be the change I wish to see in the world.

The result: 

Sometimes the relationship will grow stronger and healthier.  Other times it will end, and I will have grown wiser and become more authentic.

The Abusive Partner

A young man was so angry with his abusive spouse.  His focus was entirely on how hurtful and nasty her behavior was (and it was terrible).  Upon looking at his actions, he began to see that he chose to accept her unacceptable behavior and then get mad at her for acting that way. If she truly loved him, she should change!

He seemed to have no power to make that happen.  He began to slowly set healthier boundaries and overcome his fears of what might happen if he took care of himself.  He could walk away, leave the situation, and choose not to accept such behavior.

She may or may not decide to change, but his experience transformed as he was able to remove himself from the abuse.  Knowing whether the relationship lasted or not, he had found his way to a healthier way of being. He noticed he had similar patterns at work as well. His new perspective and consequent behavior had a significantly positive effect on him and all his relationships.

The Disrespectful Adult Son

Raised by a somewhat controlling mother who often judged everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, Julie never saw herself as being judgmental. Upon struggling with her relationship with her adult son, who was distant and disrespectful, she tried to figure out how to change him.

Once she realized that the bond was weakened by her choice to focus only on those traits she disliked in Robert; she was able to see the role her judgment played in their struggles. Instead of strengthening the relationship by acknowledging Robert’s strengths, her perspective of him pushed him away.

She could not be the supportive parent she wanted to be until she let go of her judgment (forgave him for his shortcomings), providing a stronger foundation for him to trust her and for their relationship to grow.

Where are you struggling in your relationships? 

How can you see that person as a reflection, revealing an attitude, perspective or behavior in you that would benefit from your love and attention? Our reality is limited by the way we choose to perceive our world.  Often by changing our perception, we can change our reality.

Is someone pushing your buttons? 

If so, consider that you are being given a gift.  They are putting a spotlight on your tender underbelly…that which upsets you.  It may be touching on abuse, insecurity, unforgiveness, judgment or fear.

Whatever it is, the gift is for you to see your reflection, the part of you that would benefit from refinement.  Then put your attention there rather than on them.  The benefits you experience will be dramatic.

By keeping the focus on yourself, the relationships you choose to sustain and grow will fulfill both you and them.  The ones you let go of will make way for new healthier relationships.  Those (family) that you cannot completely let go of will give you an opportunity to set healthy boundaries that serve your needs and desires.

How we do something is how we do everything.

How you choose to be in your relationships will determine if they fill your life with vitality and love or stress and upset.  What choices are you making?

The post The Secret To Mastering Relationships appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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love and support during divorce

Take Advantage Of Grandparents Who Want to Share Their Love And Support During Divorce

love and support during divorce

 

One of your biggest assets during and after divorce can be your children’s grandparents – on both sides of the family. Don’t let these grandparents get caught in the drama between you and your former spouse because it’s usually the children that suffer the loss.

In most cases, grandparents love their grandchildren. While they want to help in any way they can, many grandparents are afraid to get involved. They don’t know how to ease the hurt, confusion and other emotions affecting the grandkids as well as their own adult children.

Since every divorce is unique there are no cookie-cutter solutions or steps for grandparents to follow.

But here are some guidelines to help you reach out to the grandparents who want to share their love and support during divorce.

If the grandparents haven’t been close to the kids before your divorce, post-divorce is a difficult time to develop a relationship. But if grandma and grandpa already have that bond established, it’s important to keep the love connection at this time when the children are facing so many unknowns.

When communication and trust are strong between grandparents and grandchildren it’s easier to bring up challenging issues for a chat. Children who are comfortable in their relationship with their grandparents are more likely to confide their frustrations, fears, and insecurities in them. Of course, it’s always more effective for grandparents to offer advice once the kids ask or bring the subject up. Then the elders can share their love and wisdom in an age-appropriate manner. But G-ma and G-pa can also ask questions and initiate conversations if they’re mindful of how the kids are feeling and responding.

One important word of caution: If grandparents want to discuss issues regarding divorce or other life challenges, it is essential that they discuss this subject first with you and your former spouse to get permission in advance!

It’s never a grandparent’s place to interfere if they are not welcome — tempting as it may be. So bring up the topic you want them to talk about with the grandkids first. Explain your concern on behalf of the children, and what message you’d like the grandparents to share with them. If G-ma and G-pa understand and respect your values, then encourage them to give it their best shot.

Should a child be resistant to the conversation, grandparents should not push the issue. They are better off retreating into safer territory. If the children do confide in their grandparents, advise the elders not to make judgments about either parent to the kids. Instead, have them listen, offering comforting support and embraces. Then encourage the grandparents to talk with you and your ex about ways they believe they can provide healing, reassurance, and support to your children during this difficult time.

If the subjects that come up are complex, advise the grandparents you will be bringing in professional counselors to handle the situation with all involved. Therapists and divorce coaches are trained to handle heavy emotional and psychological issues. So leave it in their hands. You want grandparents to be loved as the caring family they are – not as a therapist or judge!

If the grandparents are unaware of the emotional turmoil the divorce or other challenges is taking on their grandchildren, schedule time to talk with them. You can bring articles, websites and other valuable resources about how children can be adversely affected by family drama and share that during your conversation. Have some positive and concrete suggestions regarding how they can help, if possible. Don’t criticize or blame your ex. Focus on their love for the kids. Don’t accuse, judge, dismiss or demean their grandparenting style. Remind them your family is not unique and that most families coping with divorce face similar issues.

Remind the grandparents how much their support means to you so they don’t overlook their relationship with the kids following the divorce, especially if relocation or other major changes are in the works. Children need, want and value the safety and reassurance of their grandparents’ love. Let G-ma and G-pa be there for their grandchildren as a positive asset in the children’s adjustment to divorce and other challenges now and for a long time to come.

The post Take Advantage Of Grandparents Who Want to Share Their Love And Support During Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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