gatekeeper mom

4 Reasons To Avoid Being a Gatekeeper Mom Trap During Divorce

gatekeeper mom

 

Do you find yourself having difficulty letting go and relaxing about what your children do while they are with their other parent? Focusing too much on your children’s time or activities at your ex’s house can potentially damage your relationship with them and undermine their connection with both parents. When a parent communicates anxiety and becomes too vigilant about custody exchanges (or parenting time) they may be taking on the role of a gatekeeper.

What is a gatekeeper mom?

According to child custody expert Robert Beilin, P.h.D., a gatekeeper is a term  often used in a negative way to describe how parents (usually a mother) attempts to control their children’s time with the other parent. Since traditionally mothers tend to be gatekeepers, this article will focus on mothers but the term could apply to fathers as well.

According to author Kerri Kettle, the term “gatekeeper” is generally brought up in child custody cases. Kettle, an attorney, advises mothers to beware of being a gatekeeper and to avoid adversarial interactions with their ex. After all, it could lead to additional legal costs and have a negative impact on children. She writes, “If you think you might be acting a little like a gatekeeper, try saying “yes” more often than saying “no” for a while. Start with something small, like giving up a few hours of your custodial time for a special occasion or simply not asking questions about what happened at their dad’s house.” She also advises parents that they will save legal fees by being a cooperative co-parent.

Let’s face it, it’s easy to see how a parent could slip into the gatekeeper role. After my divorce, I had trouble adjusting to our co-parenting schedule and I found myself overly concerned about what my children did when they were with their father and the amount of time they spent with him. It took several years for me to realize that this was my way of trying to gain control over the situation. While I never did anything consciously to sabotage my children’s relationship with their dad, my questions, and concerns about their activities with him didn’t demonstrate confidence in our parenting plan.

Further, children have a way of sensing tension and worry and so a mother’s fear or concerns about time spent away from her may be a red flag that heightens their anxiety. Without awareness, a parent could be bringing undue stress on your children without intending to. My research shows that the two variables that had the most negative impact on children of divorce into adulthood were limiting their access to both parents and experiencing high conflict between their parents post-divorce.

A crucial aspect of healing after divorce is realizing that you can’t control what goes on with your ex and so need to respect the decisions that he makes regarding his time with your children.  You can’t change him and are wise to let go of unrealistic expectations. For instance, you might not approve of him taking your eight-year-old to a movie rated PG 13 – but in the end, it’s not going to make or break their emotional development. So it wouldn’t hurt to simply let it slide sometimes.

On the other hand, if you have legitimate concerns about activities that your kids participate in with their father, it’s a good idea to send him a friendly, business-like e-mail expressing your concerns. Divorce expert Rosalind Seddacca CCT writes, “If you’re intent on creating a child-centered divorce that strives for harmony between you and your ex, you need to initiate the conversation and model win-win solutions. If your ex doesn’t want to cooperate, that’s when your patience will certainly be tested. Look for opportunities to clarify why working together as co-parents as often as possible will create far better outcomes for your children.”

Eileen Coen, an attorney, and trained mediator states that one reason mothers tend to be gatekeepers is that trust is often lost in a marriage. Other reasons cited by Coen are economic and a lack of confidence in their ex’s parenting skills. However, she cautions us that on-going conflict between parents is the primary reason why mothers are gatekeepers – making it virtually impossible to have adequate, healthy parenting time with their children.

Studies show that kids benefit from access to both parents. There is evidence that cooperative co-parenting actually reduces conflict between divorced parents – which has a beneficial impact on children into adulthood. Scheduling appropriate parenting time for both parent’s post-divorce and keeping lines of communication positive can be a challenge but it’s paramount to building resiliency in your children. When a parent takes on the role of gatekeeper, they communicate discomfort and anxiety to their children and diminish their sense of belongingness with both parents.

Joan Kelly, a renowned researcher who has conducted decades-long studies on divorce, found that the more involved fathers are post-split, the better off the outcomes for children. Children benefit from strong relationships with both parents post-divorce. According to Linda Nielsen, author of Between Fathers and Daughters, the child’s relationship with their father is often the one that changes the most after marital dissolution. Sadly, Dr. Nielsen notes that only 15% of fathers and daughters enjoy the benefits of shared parenting.

There are many compelling reasons why mothers are wise to encourage their children to have strong bonds with their father post-divorce. Studies show that these reasons include: Better grades and social skills, healthy emotional development, higher self-esteem, and fewer trust issues. Lowered self-esteem and trust wounds are especially a concern for girls who may be more vulnerable to the breakup of the family home because they are socialized to be nurturers and caretakers. Your kids may also have better access to extended family members and therefore intergenerational support if they spend close to equal time with both parents.

Here are 4 Reasons to avoid the gatekeeper trap:

1. Your children will gain trust in both parents and feel more confident about their relationships with both of you.

2. You will build trust in your ex’s ability to effectively parent your children.

3. There’s a possibility you’ll have the added benefit of more leisure time – when you can relax and worry less about your children’s well-being.

4. You’ll create a new story for your life built on reclaiming your personal power rather than letting your divorce define who you are or the choices you make.

Focusing your energy on what’s going on in your home and encouraging your children to have a healthy connection with their father will pay off in the long run. Another important reason to avoid being a gatekeeper is to respect your child’s and ex-spouse’s boundaries. When your children are with your ex, honor their time together and try not to plan activities or partake in excessive communication with the other parent (phone, text, etc.). Since parental conflict is a factor that contributes greatly to negative outcomes for children after divorce, keeping disagreements to a minimum is a key aspect of helping your child become resilient. You owe it to yourself and your children to avoid playing the role of a gatekeeper.

More From Terry:

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter,  Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com

The post 4 Reasons To Avoid Being a Gatekeeper Mom Trap During Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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christmas gift battle

3 Ways to Win the Christmas Gift Giving Battle With Your Ex

christmas gift battle

 

My ex always tries to one-up me when it comes to gift giving. One year, he asked me to let everyone on my side of the family know that my son was not allowed to accept video games as a Christmas gift. He then explained that my son was grounded and unable to play video games until he began to mind his manners at home.

His Christmas wish list was mostly comprised of video games, but we scrambled to find him toys and books that he might like instead in order to respect his father’s wishes.

As I had done in previous years, I tried to coordinate shopping efforts to avoid duplicate presents. Up until Christmas Eve, my ex still claimed that he had not gone Christmas shopping. Later, I found out that he had lied and purchased the video games from the original Christmas wish list by my son.

Does this sound familiar? While I was baffled by his deception, it did not overshadow the wonderful memories we created that Christmas. So, how can you win the Christmas gift giving battle with your ex?

3 Ways to Win the Christmas Gift Giving Battle With Your Ex

1. Keep the spirit of the holiday season.

“Your children need your presence more than your presents” (Jesse Jackson). Gift giving is an essential part of the holidays, but not the most important part. Figure out what makes this holiday special to you. If you were raised in a traditional Christian home, you may have been taught to observe Christmas as the day that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and participate in religious ceremonies. If you are not religious, you may simply dedicate Christmas day to celebrating love, kindness and togetherness amongst friends and family.

Either way, Christmas is a day to create loving memories with your children. Keep the spirit of joy. Do not let anger and resentment about perceived wrongdoing by your ex keep you from enjoying what is most important.

2. Master the art of unique gift giving.

It is not the gift that counts, but the thought behind it. Buying the latest video game is too easy. Think outside the box and locate unexpected gifts by actively listening to your children. Did they marvel at something as simple as a cool pair of house slippers you spotted one day while shopping in Target?

Make them feel special by putting together a gift set with the slippers, a matching robe, nighttime snacks and a pack of hot chocolate for a thoughtful Christmas Eve present. They will know you were listening and that you care enough to put some actual effort into your gift giving. Or, go for individual touches like preparing a Christmas stocking full of age appropriate trinkets you know they’ll appreciate (such as Angry Birds plush toys for young ones, or Apple iTunes gift cards for your older children).

3. Remember that it is not about you.

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). What matters the most is that your children are happy. Focus on making their happiness the priority. Think back to your fondest memories of Christmas. It is impossible to remember every gift you received, but you probably remember the experiences you shared with those around you.

Keep that in mind as you strive to do the best you can for your children, no matter how much money you spend or how elaborate the gifts. Mark this as a time in which petty annoyances by your ex become less consequential and start to establish a pattern of positive thinking that will not only win you the battle but may even win you the war.

The post 3 Ways to Win the Christmas Gift Giving Battle With Your Ex appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Too Young to Understand Divorce

Preschoolers and Divorce: Are They Too Young to Understand Divorce?

Too Young to Understand Divorce

 

About 42 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce and in many cases young children are involved. Divorce is a stressful process and a time of change for all members of the family. Everything that once felt familiar and safe now feels unsafe and uncertain.

For adults, it means letting go of the dream to grow old together. It involves moving, splitting all assets and liabilities, adjusting to a new financial situation, getting used to being single again, changes in your social life, and dealing with all the emotions that accompany all these changes.

Sometimes, as a parent, you need so much energy to cope with the changes at hand, both emotional and material, that you may forget (or not know how) to explain to your children what is going to change for them and how this might make them feel. As a newly divorced parent, you may simply not be able to foresee what is going to change for your child (and yourself) yet.

Many parents have questions about how to approach their child(ren) regarding divorce-related issues. Sometimes parents don’t know how to talk to their young child(ren) about this sensitive topic. Sometimes parents have the belief that their child will not understand if they try to explain what is going on.

But are preschool children too young to understand about divorce?

The answer is NO. Even preschool children can understand more than you think when you talk to them in developmentally appropriate language. Young children can have intense feelings, but they don’t yet possess the words or the mental capacity to express how they feel. Even if children don’t talk yet, they feel something is going on and ‘speak’ through changes in their behavior.

Some children may express their distress and confusion by showing aggressive or noncompliant behavior. Other children may temporarily regress to an earlier stage in their development where they felt safe and sheltered. Parents and caregivers may notice more clinging or ‘baby-like’ behavior, bedwetting or soiling their pants (when a child was previously potty trained). Regressive behavior is a coping mechanism to deal with feeling unsafe or insecure.

Often adults don’t understand or misinterpret the behavior of a child who is going through the turmoil of a divorce. It is important, while parents are going through a divorce, to be aware of the needs of the children.

If parents fail to give children an explanation they can understand, children may fill in the ‘blanks’ by themselves. Young children often think it is their fault (because they were behaving badly) that their parents are separated.

Here are some tips to help talk to your preschooler about divorce:

  • It is important to let children know what is going to happen (For example: “Daddy is moving to another house but you will still see him”).
  • Even if you don’t have a clear idea about the parenting plan yet, the child needs to be reassured that the other parent is not leaving him or her.
  • Reassure your child that the divorce is not his or her fault.
  • Explain that separation is your choice. You and the other parent didn’t get along, and both parents think this is better for all of you.
  • Young children don’t need to know details about the reason for divorce.
  • They do need to know that, even if parents don’t live together, they never stop being Mommy and Daddy. They keep caring for and loving him or her.
  • Don’t punish children for regressive behavior and give them extra attention and reassurance.

For more information, check out Nina Has Two Houses. This illustrated children’s book helps young children and their parents, who are going through a divorce, adjust to the new situation. The book can help explain to the child what he or she may be going through. It can open up the topic of divorce while it gives parents the necessary tools to talk with their children about the situation and accompanying emotions. Many helpful hints for parents and caregivers are included in the book to help parents deal with important co-parenting issues.

Children’s book Nina Has Two Houses is available on Amazon.com in English and Spanish (Nina Tiene Dos Hogares). Like the book on Facebook and find helpful tips for parents on www.facebook.com/NinaHasTwoHouses

Follow Danielle Jacobs, LMHC on Twitter @75748135 for tips on divorce, parenting, and relationships.

The post Preschoolers and Divorce: Are They Too Young to Understand Divorce? appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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toxic people

Want To Feel Better? Then Stop Hanging Around Toxic People

toxic people

 

When you’re working to get your confidence back and build boundaries after divorce, there is one “hiding in plain sight” barrier that will keep you from reaching your goals.

And that’s surrounding yourself with toxic people.

You know *exactly* who these toxic people are…

  • The pushy one with unsolicited advice that makes you doubt your decisions
  • The catty one with snide comments and back-handed compliments
  • The one who blames you and makes herself the victim when you call her out on her BS.

Sound like anyone you know? 

Is this a sister? Your mother? Your adult daughter? That “friend” who says she’s “only trying to help you?”

Literally every woman deals with these jerks on the daily. And his/her comments are so hurtful because they know which button of yours to push. They’ve known you for a long-ass time, and know your sore spots, triggers, and vulnerabilities.

That’s why one of their comments can leave you devastated for days.

The secret about toxic people in your life…

100% of that criticism has nothing to do with you. She is projecting her own insecurities onto you she’s not taking responsibility for her own issues.

Remember the time your sister said, “that dress looks a little snug on you, don’t you think?” although she knew you were counting calories and going to yoga three times a week?

She’s guaranteed stepped on the scale that morning and was 12 pounds heavier after that cruise.

Remember that time you got that promotion at work and instead of congratulating you, your mother said, “Oh, so I guess that means you’ll be spending even less time with your kids.”

Like, WTF?!

She guaranteed is feeling resentful that she stepped down from her job to stay full-time with her children and didn’t go back into the workplace.

What to do About Toxic People

So, what do you want to do about her? 

Continue to let them walk all over you, saying “that’s just her.” This option is risky because you put yourself at risk of continued frustration and hurt feelings.

Stand up for yourself. This doesn’t have to look like a Jerry Springer fight. But it takes courage.

“Hey (insert person’s name), it really hurts my feelings when you do/say (insert harmful action here). I would ask that you keep those comments to yourself.

“Hey (insert person’s name). I notice that you’re always commenting or giving me unsolicited advice on my divorce/looks/weight/recovery/insert whatever they’re always commenting on. I would ask that you don’t do that anymore, at least until I specifically ask for your advice.”

So, a quick heads-up when you stand up for yourself. If the person has any amount of emotional intelligence, they may take a step back and say, “Oh, wow.. Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad,” or something along the lines of that. 

Or…they may get defensive and turn it on you. They may say, “I’m only trying to help you. If you don’t want my honest opinion, then fine.” And then they might stomp away or hang up the phone or stonewall you or some other 5-year-old-at-the-playground nonsense.

If that reaction occurs, that is a HUGE RED FLAG that maybe this relationship is unhealthy. This ain’t the end of the world–it’s just an opportunity to set up healthy boundaries.

Oh, and I get you may not just be able to walk away from that person so easily. She might be a relative or close friend.

But remember–being related to someone DOES NOT give them carte blanche to treat you like poorly.

It takes a herculean effort to be confident enough to speak up and stand your ground when they push back. But until then, remember:

  1. Be aware that some of the most toxic people may be the ones closest to you
  2. Their smack-talking has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with their own insecurities
  3. You have the power to speak up for yourself
  4. Family members and close friends *do not* get to throw shade just because they’re in your life.

The post Want To Feel Better? Then Stop Hanging Around Toxic People appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Questions Kids Have About Divorce

Mother May I? 10 Questions Your Kids Want To Ask About Divorce But Don’t

Questions Kids Have About Divorce

As a mother, you inevitably feel a grave sense of concern about how divorce will affect your children.

Kids of all ages are deeply impacted by divorce simply because they feel the same sense of disillusionment that you do around the loss of an intact nuclear family.

Your instinct will be to protect your children from pain, and you may feel that they are better off not knowing too many details about what’s happening.

Talking to your children about divorce is delicate and needs to be age appropriate in nature, but they definitely need a forum and safe opportunity to express their experience and ask questions.

Their instinct will be to mind their own business, and to feel unsure about what’s permissible to bring up or discuss.

They look to you as the gatekeeper of what is allowed.

Protection can often come across as guarded or defensive to your kids so you need to be mindful and cautious about your non-verbal communications, and what kind of message you’re sending.

You obviously don’t want to expose them to toxic interactions, and you never want to use them as therapists.

What you do want to create is the space for them to feel comfortable asking you pretty much anything.

Getting your children to open up in a healthy way shouldn’t be hard. The one trick you’ll want to use is what I call “going first.” You basically ask them directive questions about their feelings and experience to send a message that questions are helpful and welcome.

Avoid general inquiries like “Are you ok?” or “I’m here if you need to talk.” Be specific with questions like “Are you sad about what’s happening?” or “Do you feel scared with what’s going on?”

Even if you don’t get answers your children will still know that you’re interested, and that curiosity is a good thing.

You can also explicitly tell them that you invite their questions, and that you’ll answer as well as you can. Your goal is to build trust so they are eager to share with you.

Questions Kids Have About Divorce But Don’t

1. Is this divorce my fault?

Children are quick to blame themselves for divorce. It’s too scary for them to blame you because they depend on you and need you for their survival.

You can be sure that they are wondering if they are to blame for the divorce so it will be important to address these feelings.

2. Am I allowed to tell my friends about your divorce?

When and how to tell friends about the divorce is tricky for everyone in the family. This is a good question and you will have to answer it based on your own family values.

Whatever you decide make it the same rule for everyone if possible so there is no hypocrisy or misunderstandings.

3. Do I need to pick a side?

Many divorces are riddled with parental alienation and blame. Children get caught in the middle and wonder if they need to protect or take the side of one parent.

They are very perceptive and observant so if you don’t address this they will just automatically pick one parent because they feel they need to even though they should never have to.

4. Does this mean I won’t see one of you?

Fear of loss and the reality of less time with each parent is upsetting for kids. They want to know that they will be minimally affected by the divorce so it’s natural for them to wonder whether they will lose time with one or both of their parents.

Even if your custody is not yet determined they need to know that the goal is equal time with both parents (barring any unusual circumstances).

5. Will we have to move?

Another loss for children is connected to their home. Worrying about being displaced and feeling anxious about change is prominent for children going through a divorce.

You may not have the answer, but what they are really wondering is if they will feel safe. You can always assure them that you will make sure they do.

6. Will you stop fighting now?

Some couples remain in a very toxic marriage for years before getting divorced and kids witness this.

There may be a sense of relief in knowing that there will be a peaceful household, but they may also feel guilty for the sense of relief they feel.

7. Will I be able to live with my brother/sister?

Siblings are the saving grace for children going through divorce. It makes sense that they would think each child might go with one parent.

Assuring them that they will stay together will ease their anxiety and bring them closer together as allies.

8. Should I be mad at one of you?

In line with the idea of taking sides your children might feel they need to pick one of you to hate. Someone has to be to blame because their limited cognitive ability makes it hard for them to imagine anything else.

9. Will you still love me as much?

The loss of an intact family can easily be grouped with a loss of love for a child. Anything split in half means less of something for them so they will wonder if they will get the same attention and love they always did.

Kids don’t like to share and they don’t have a sense of abundance.

10. Can I be angry and upset about your divorce?

Your children will be very confused about their feelings. They may believe that they are supposed to just accept the situation because they have no power over whether it happens or not. Even though they are innocent victims they still need to have and feel the power of emotional expression.

Most importantly you want your children to know that they are loved, safe and protected. You want them to express their feelings, talk to you about everything inside of them, and to feel like they are part of the process without feeling like the problem.

You have the power to help them heal, but only if you know how they’re suffering.

The post Mother May I? 10 Questions Your Kids Want To Ask About Divorce But Don’t appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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children

How To Deal With Children’s Difficult Questions About Divorce

children's difficult questions about divorce

 

“Can you and daddy get married again?”

“Why can’t I stay with you”?

“Do you and mommy still love each other?”

“Whose decision was it to get a divorce?”

 

Children in divorce often have questions; they can come at the least expected moment.

For parents struggling to adjust to the challenges of single parenting in a two-home family, such questions can strike at the heart of their own emotional vulnerabilities and trigger uncertainties regarding their relationship with the other parent, their own parenting, and the wellbeing of their children.

However, such questions, if responded to thoughtfully, can be valuable opportunities to help children adjust to real changes and instill hope and confidence in both parent’s continued commitment to listen, guide, and give comfort.

Deal With Children’s Difficult Questions About Divorce

Be prepared before questions arise. Understand that:

  • Children often ask questions when and with whom they feel safe and consider it as a sign of the strength of your relationship with your child.
  • Children’s questions can be about needing actual information, but they can also be about a need for deeper understanding or simply a bid for a parent’s reassurance.
  • Younger children often ask questions that have to do with changes and anxieties about their daily lives. They often need simple, brief responses that reassure their fears regarding the change.
  • Older children may ask direct questions about their parent’s relationships but are actually seeking reassurance for themselves. They may need reassurance that they can continue being children and do not have to care for parents, take sides and can continue their focus on independent goals.
  • Older children may also ask questions about their parent’s relationships in order to form their own concepts and expectations of their future romantic relationships and their concepts of love and family.
  • Don’t confuse intellectual understanding with emotional understanding in children. Intellectual maturity comes well before emotional maturity. Don’t give children inappropriate adult information.

When questions arise:

 Center:

Take a deep breath and calm yourself before responding.

  • Resist the attempt to avoid the question due to fear or sadness regarding your child’s pain- Children are not immune from grief and sadness.
  • Recognize your emotional reaction regarding the divorce, yet put it aside- you can process any feelings later with your own support.

 Listen:

  • For younger children get on eye level and pay full attention
  • For older children give signals that you are listening but know that a little less direct approach or a little activity may make older children them more comfortable- you be the judge.
  • Ask open-ended, neutral questions to get a fuller understanding of their experience before offering a response:

“You sound worried/sad/mad is that right or is it something else?”

“That’s an important question, tell me more”

Understand:

Ask yourself what they are really expressing/wanting/needing.

  • Are they primarily expressing emotion-do they need comfort/reassurance?
  • Are they asking for basic information that they have a need to know?
  • Are they asking information to gain a deeper understanding?

Respond with care and follow with comfort:

  • If the message is an emotional bid for comfort/reassurance, answer the question with a brief, direct response:

No I will not leave, both daddy and I will always for you even if we live in different houses”

  • If they are asking for information that is helpful and not hurtful to them or their relationship with either parent, give an honest, simple and neutral (not blaming to either parent) answer:

“No mom and I are not going to get married again, but we both love you and will always be here to take care of you- we will always be your parents”

  • If they are seeking a deeper understanding and the answer is not harmful, first help clarify their deeper question and give honest, brief and neutral information:

“I think you’re asking if you were made from love- you were. Even if dad and I care for each other differently than when we were married- our love for you will never change”

  • If the answer to their question is possibly harmful or “adult business”, reassure them that it’s okay to ask but that their job is to be a kid- not be involved in adult issues:

“It sounds like you are asking if anyone is to blame. I know you want to understand, but marriage and divorce is adult stuff and we are okay.  Know that we love you and you don’t need to worry or take care of either of us”

  • If the question is “adult business” but for the older child, really about their own future, first clarify the question and provide an answer to that rather than giving inappropriate adult information:

“I wonder if you are really asking if because we got a divorce that you question if love lasts. Every relationship is different and you will get the chance to make your own choices about love and who you marry”.

Children’s ability to navigate the shifts of daily life and make sense out of the bigger questions are essential parts of healing in divorce.  With each question, children begin to build a framework of understanding and learn what divorce changes and what it does not change.

They develop a more flexible, durable, concept of family and love. Children’s questions can be hard, but listening and responding with care and gentle guidance is one of the most loving acts a parent can provide.

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Happy 4th Of July! 10 Hilarious Someecards To Help You Celebrate

Happy 4th Of July! 10 Hilarious Someecards To Help You Celebrate

Some of us will be out, some of us will be in. However you choose to celebrate the 4th of July, don’t forget to laugh at life, yourself and just in general. Have a great holiday! And, if you are celebrating your 1st post-divorce “independence” on the 4th we wish you an especially fabulous day.

1. We all need a break from that!

4th of july1.jpg

2. And that he doesn’t ruin the traditional 4th of July celebration

in Washington by making it all about himself!

Happy 4th Of July! 10 Hilarious Someecards To Help You Celebrate 1

3. The 4th of December? Nah!

4th of july3.jpg

4. Some people go crazy in the streets, some go crazy online!

4th of july4.jpg

5. Meet trimmings, fat, sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite. Nom Nom!

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6. Be careful out there folks! It’s a new America.

4th of july6.png

7. You know you are codependent when you starve at the 4th of July

picnic because your boyfriend can’t find anything to eat. 

4th of july7.png

8. It’s the American way!

4th of july 9.png

9. The party starts at 10! BYOB!

4th of july 10.png

10. Any woman who can’t celebrate her independence needs

therapy, not chocolate.

4th of july 11.jpg

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child-centered summer activities

Single Mom Budget: 10 Fun & Inexpensive Child-Centered Summer Activities

child-centered summer activities

 

Growing up in a family of six children, raised by a single mother, vacations were few and far between. I cherish those moments and remember many inexpensive things done near home.

Airplane tickets were out of the question and with six kids, even a small vacation was expensive. My mom was often so busy, angry and exhausted that having a break, just to relax and enjoy time together wasn’t at the front of her mind but I wish it had been.

I want to create fun memories for Hidalgo, broaden his mind, help him become a well-rounded individual. This also means broadening experiences and getting out into the real world. I can’t afford to take him to multiple exotic summer homes but I can do lots of little things.

Here are 10 inexpensive Child-Centered Summer Activities

1.  Tent Camping:

If your only experience of camping is on a crowded campsite with dodgy plumbing this sounds horrible. There is a better kind of camping, in nature. Check the regulations at your nearest state/national forest, borrow or rent some basic equipment if you’re not convinced and try it with your kids. With a car, a map and some basic equipment, you can head to the hills.  Be surrounded by silence, tell stories and roast marshmallows over a campfire, take walks and explore in nature. Kids love it. I love it. Maybe you love it?

2.  Rent a cabin:

I’m a huge fan of state and national parks and forests. The low-cost resources available at them are second to none. Europe does not have the extensive land or preservation system of the U.S. and these are resources that can become a lifetime of vacation memories. If the thought of sleeping on the ground really creeps you out, cabins are very affordable. The rustic nature plus convenience of indoor plumbing get you out of your surroundings and into nature without going fully feral.

3.  Fishing:

Again, this one involves equipment (borrow at first), nature and a car. Don’t forget to the fishing license from your local bait shop (kids are free). I’m a bit of a tomboy and really like the thrill of catching my meal.  My love of it came from those tight money times when my mother crammed us into the car and drove us to the nearest lake to spend the afternoon angling for the big one. To this day, I have no idea if we needed that fish to supplement our meager rations or it was really a vacation. We just liked being outside, all together, focused on the wiggle of the pole and eating the spoils.

4.  Canoeing:

As you see, there is a theme building in terms of nature activities which involve equipment. I lived a few years in the Western part of the U.S. just after graduation when I had the least money but the most energy. I’ve tried many outdoor pursuits…kayaking, rock climbing, backpacking, hiking, fishing because they were cheap and fun. Many state parks and local outfitters rent equipment at reasonable prices. Who knows? You might love it so much you buy your own equipment and find a great new hobby. There are tons of things to do in nature.  Inspire your kids, Inspire yourself.

5.  Amusements:

Amusement parks, zoos, science centers, water parks, aquariums, and natural history museums are all fun and inexpensive activities. I don’t love them all but the little one thinks they are great. The ones in your town or near your town are probably good. Drive an hour and maybe the large city nearby has great options. I find it odd that people will spend lots of money to come all the way to France to see museums and exhibits but have never been to their local attractions. Check your city’s visitor guide. I bet there is stuff you haven’t seen or done yet.

6.  Ride the rails, Ride the ferries:

Depending on where you live, this is either very easy or near impossible. Public transportation is of poor quality in the states compared to Europe but there are places the trains go and if you buy early, they can be economical. Many large bodies of water are traversed by public and private ferry service. Think of a novel form of transport that gets you somewhere new. Kids like new experiences…riding a training even if it’s just a few towns over for a burger might be new to both of you.

7.  Build a fort:

When I was a kid, we were allowed to roam the neighborhood at all hours and discover the edges of our little world. We built kid camps just on the borders where the houses stopped and the ravines and wild places began.  Sadly, many kids don’t have this kind of freedom anymore. But a fort can be built over summer with found objects in your own back yard. Help as necessary for safety but let them do as much as they can on their own. If you’re lucky, they’ll sleep in it and give you some much needed quiet.

8. Join a local recreation center:

Join a local recreational center, like the YMCA, which offers affordable memberships and plenty of programs. My summer days were spent at the local city pool run by the recreation center. A pass purchased for a city-run activity is quite inexpensive.

9. Thank local heroes:

Take a tour of your police or fire station. Since most locations don’t have set visiting hours, call ahead to arrange an appointment. What better lesson for kids to learn than showing respect for and thanking their local heroes.

10. Build an obstacle course:

Build a backyard obstacle course with hula hoops, jump ropes, even a hose, then time the kids. The building and running the course, will teach them creativity and keep them occupied with a fun activity.

Having fun does not have to cost lots of money. I grew up poor but didn’t really know I was until the later years. Times were hard but my mother did the best she could with what she had. We had fun, we did stuff during the summers as a family and we enjoyed it. That’s how I want Hidalgo to remember his childhood.

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summer child care options

12 Summer Child Care Options for the Divorced Mom

summer child care options

 

Once I was divorced and did not have the financial resources I’d previously had to send my children to enriching or fun day camps and away camps, or hang out at a local pool with them all day long I had to sew together a patchwork quilt of summer child care options to get us through the summer while I worked.

It was always a near miss in which I was thinking, “Oh no, what will I do for this week or that week?” But, somehow, by using every single one of the options below plus some I may have forgotten, we made it through, mostly in one piece.

12 Options for Summer Child Care Options:

1. Counselor in Training: If your kids are 13 or 14, they may qualify for some counselor-in-training programs. I got my 14-year-old into one and it has served her well ever since (even though she opted not to continue that program the following summer). Most of these DO cost something. Swallow your pride and resolve to sit down with the financial aid application for these programs. We got an excellent deal. I did pay some of it, but my ex also chipped in seeing as he couldn’t babysit either.

2. Camps Offer Financial Aid: Even if you don’t think you qualify for summer camp financial aid, you might. I did not think I would, but I did qualify. No matter what the child’s age, there are camps all over the place and the issue is deciding which ones work for your kids and for your situation. Most of them offer scholarships and financial aid. Again, try to jump over the pride hurdle. And do your best to jump over the “I don’t have time to fill out the paperwork” hurdle. I say this in a loving way, of course. I had to give myself pep talks over and over again. I never liked asking for help, but, lo and behold, I needed help and so did my children. I did what I had to do.

3. Neighborhood Teens: Babysitters in my area make more than some of the divorced moms I know. However, one thing I have learned in business is that you can negotiate anything. ANYTHING! You just have to ask for what you need and tell people what you can and cannot afford.

4. Craigslist: Post for a sitter on Craigslist. I tried posting on college campuses but the youth in my area responded to the Craiglist posts. I had some excellent candidates. Of course, I couldn’t pay top dollar but they were still willing to work with me. Somehow, someway, you can find a sitter who will work within your parameters. This doesn’t come challenge-free, but you can find a solution—even if it is a stop-gap measure. One day I will write about the fiasco of hiring a sitter to pick up my 12-year-old child who refused to answer her phone and refused to be where she was supposed to be for pickup. That was one frustrated and unhappy babysitter. But, it worked for a little while.

5. Tweens can be Mother’s Helpers for Others: Line up mother’s helper gigs for tweens and younger teens. This worked for one summer with my middle child and has served her well.

6. Get a Job: I strongly suggested to my son that he get certified as a lifeguard. I had to make it all happen, but this has provided income for him ever since. Even now in college, he lifeguards on the side.

7. Swim Team: Swim team is a mixed bag. On one hand, your child gets good daily exercise and something to do. On the other hand, you’ve got those five-hour-long meets. And our teams wanted all parents to work the meets. Eventually, we had to bow out of that commitment. But for some of you, it might work out.

8. Grandma Camp!: First I had to package the idea of my kids coming to visit as “fun.” Then I had to package going to their grandparents’ house as a “vacation.” Somehow, when we could manage it, it all seemed to work.

9. Friends! I never would have thought of this one myself. However, I had several friends offer to have my kids come to stay for a week with them over the summer. Thank goodness for friends, is all I can say.

10. Vacation Time: Save your paid vacation time for summer as much as you can. It’s great to go away for holidays and all that but the summer is more pressing. You will probably be providing your own childcare for some of this time.

11. Dad Camp!: Don’t withhold time that the kids can spend with their dad. Use it! Let HIM do some of the work. You need a break. Also as a child of divorce, I can say that even though my dad was/is a piece of work and not the greatest dad, I still relished the time I spent with him. Parents can be jerks, but we still need them. Your kids will like extra time with dad as long as he isn’t truly neglectful (legal definition) or truly abusive.

12. Vacation Bible School: Hear me out on this one if you are not particularly religious. Most of the VBS’s I have observed operate much like any other preschool or daycare program. They color, they sing, the eat watermelon. It isn’t usually a bigtime dose of religion. And if you are desperate, churches are good for things like desperation. This is actually where they excel. They can be a safety net.

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divorcing with adult children

Divorcing With Adult Children: It Isn’t Easier

divorcing with adult children

 

There are tons of resources and advice on getting divorced with minor children but adult children tend to be forgotten. What’s important to understand about divorce with adult children is that it is still painful for them.

Divorcing with adult children isn’t easier or harder but it is different and that means you can’t take anything for granted.

You need to be every bit as mindful and intentional about your divorce as you would have been if your children were still minors.

How to handle divorcing with adult children.

Telling Your Children

How your children hear about your divorce matters. With minor children living at home, the best approach is for both parents to tell all the children together so they all hear the same message. Divorce attorney-turned adviser and coach, Karen Covy says that’s still the best approach for adult children.

“However you can orchestrate getting everyone together whether it’s physically or virtually, at the same time, in the same place, gives you the most control over what’s communicated and how it’s communicated,” said Covy.

The danger in telling each child individually is that before you even finished having the conversation with the first child, they’re already passing on the news to their sibling(s) via text, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or whatever other technology they use.

Adult Children Feel Responsible

Adult children do take on the responsibility for their parents’ divorce, just as minor children do but they do it in a different way.

“They might not feel that they’re necessarily responsible for the breakup of the marriage,” said Covy. “They feel responsible for their parents’ unhappiness for all the years that they stayed together just for the kids.”

That translates often into a huge amount of guilt and it’s something that most parents don’t think about especially if they’re struggling with their own guilt. With that burden of guilt, your child may be advocating against the divorce or encouraging marriage counseling. They may be well-meaning but this is not their decision.

With long term marriages, the kids may be wondering if you’ve managed to make the marriage work for 30. 35, 40 years, why not just keep doing do what you’ve been doing.

“Just because you’ve handled it for 40 years doesn’t mean that you want to continue handing it for whatever time is left,” said Covy. “The problem is no children ever want to see their parents get divorced but it’s your decision, not theirs.”

It’s Harder When They Don’t See It Coming

Children who think their parents have a perfect marriage and don’t see the divorce coming have a harder time coping and especially when a child has a close relationship with a parent. Covy references research by Professor Tamara Afifi. She has a TEDx talk on the impact of divorce on children – see minute 11:56 for when she talks about children who don’t see the divorce coming.

I think children don’t see divorce coming when one party has decided the marriage needs to end but has made a decision to wait until the children are in college before acting. That parent starts to withdraw from the marriage, detaches and so they don’t engage in conflict and are able to construct this facade of a happy marriage. That enables the parent to stay in the marriage, to do family events and celebrations, have family vacations.

Then, when the end of the marriage happens the child is surprised because their parents never argued so of course, they had no idea the marriage was troubled.

“It rocks their whole world,” said Covy. “They start doubting whether what they saw was real. It’s not at all what it seemed.”

That starts a process rewriting their history and trying to make sense of family vacations and holidays. They struggle to find the truth in these events and it’s hard for them to accept the concept of multiple realities.

Adult children of divorce also start to look at their own relationships. That their parents did such a good job of covering up their problems, makes the child wonder about what’s real or solid in their own relationship.

The Kids Usually Know Something Is Not Right

While some kids don’t see the end of their parents’ marriage coming, many do. They’ve heard the arguments, or they’ve seen the behaviors that have made the marriage crumble or that made staying together really difficult.

Even if they don’t know the full extent, once you remove the protective shield of keeping up the facade, and the children start to renegotiate their relationship with each parent, their awareness will increase.

The Kids Don’t Need To Know Everything

While adult children struggle to rewrite their truth, it can be tempting to try to explain your own reality. There’s a fine line.

“For parents, the smartest thing is they’ve got to walk the line,” said Covy. “They want to share enough information to reassure them that no those weren’t fake. Those happy memories really were happy memories but perhaps there were other memories that the children weren’t privy to.”

Parents usually keep those circumstances from the children out of love and wanting to protect the children and that doesn’t make the other memories fake. And just because the parents have made the decision to end their marriage doesn’t mean that it is now time to share everything that has been going on.

Covy says the key here is to listen to your child and to let them vent. They may be angry. They may be frustrated and they’re going to have an opinion but don’t play into it and don’t get defensive.

Avoid Oversharing

This is related to children not needing to know everything but it’s so important it needs to be emphasized. A common mistake that many people make is to overshare with their adult children because they think they’re adults and they can handle it. That’s not necessarily true.

Avoiding oversharing becomes trickier with adult children because they are going to ask the questions that younger children don’t. For example, your adult child may come right out and ask if you or their other parent was having an affair. If an affair was involved you might feel like telling your child because it justifies the divorce, it helps to explain everything.

“We all value honesty in our close relationships so that gives parents the impetus to overshare,” said Covy. “But then what? Nobody wants to know their parent was having a 10-year affair and all the gory details of who it was and what they did and where it happened. Nobody wants to know that about their parent. And to think that won’t damage a relationship with a parent is crazy.”

While you are not responsible for covering up or keeping your STBX’s secrets Covy says that your North Star for deciding what to share is asking if sharing the information will hurt your child’s relationship with their other parent and whether not sharing it will hurt your child’s relationship with you.

Related to over-sharing is getting your child over-involved. A classic example of this is when one parent needs to move out of the marital home and asks their child if they can move in with them. Finances may be very limited and finding somewhere inexpensive to live for at least a few months may be a priority but if there are other options take them. And, if the real reason to move in with your child is for emotional support, then all the more reason to look for somewhere else to live. Your child is not your social support system or your therapist.

Don’t Ask Or Expect Your Child To Take A Side

Based on my experience, I think it is more common for adult children to take sides in their parents’ divorce because they do know or think they know more about the circumstances. This isn’t healthy and it’s not what we want. In the short term, taking sides will certainly hurt the child’s relationship with the parent they’re opposing. In the long run, it may even hurt their relationship with the parent with whom they’re allied. The other real danger is that it will damage a child’s relationship with their sibling(s) because it pits them against each other.

This is easier said than done especially in situations where one parent is oversharing. For example, if you end up keeping the marital home as a result of the divorce negotiations, your child might say that they don’t think it’s fair that their other parent gave you the home. The word ‘gave’ is a red flag that your STBX has been oversharing and painting you in a negative light.

To not respond or defend yourself would likely damage your relationship with your child which may already be strained. At the same time, you want to avoid oversharing because the details of the divorce are not your child’s business. Even if your STBX is oversharing, taking the high road is the right choice.

In this case, responding with an acknowledgment that yes you did get the home, that your STBX didn’t “give” you the home, and then stating that your ex got other assets that are worth as much as the house would be appropriate. You could also explain that the legal process does call for an equitable division of the assets and that is supervised by the court.

It’s Takes Time To Rebuild

While your adult child is wondering what was real about the family vacations and Holiday get-togethers may be an opportunity for you to reassure them that’s how you can all still be a family even after divorce, Covy stresses that it still takes time to rebuild.

It’s simply not realistic to think that because you and your STBX have managed these events civilly, even amicably in the past that you can carry on doing so as if the divorce didn’t change anything. It’s a great ideal but it does take most families time and commitment to achieve this.

“I see so many people put pressure on themselves and say, ‘I want to be best friends with my ex’ and I say, ‘Yeah, but you haven’t even divorced him, yet’” said Covy. “If you’re not friends immediately that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to ever be friends or be on good terms them.”

Give yourself the time to get through the legal process first and to let the dust settle. Sometimes continuing family dinners while you’re navigating your separation is just too painful and doesn’t help the children either because it exposes to them to on-going conflict and makes feel caught in the middle.

This article was originally published on Since My Divorce.

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