It’s time for back to school!

I can’t help but think of the commercial from years ago where parents are happily whizzing by with shopping carts while “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays in the background.

Whether you love sending the kids back to school or you wished you had more time with them, this time of year can be hectic and full of stress. Even in households where both parents are still together, the back to school itch can take its toll on everyone!

If you’re divorced, there are a few things that can help with this transition and ensure your child has the support they need as they start a new school year.

Here are a few things to consider:

1.     Planning and scheduling
This is the best time to take a look at the calendar and create a plan. Mark down school breaks, teacher workdays, vacations, and weekends. Of course the plans can be fluid and may change, but setting up a calendar now and creating a plan ahead of time saves headaches down the road. As always, when everyone is on the same page, things will go smoother.

2.     Emergency contacts
Discuss with your ex how you’ll be dealing with emergencies. Are you the best contact or is your ex first on the list? What about other family members, friends, or neighbors? Understand how you’ll deal in emergencies if the school needs to call about your child and be sure to inform the school of your plan.

3.     Parent-Teacher communication
Be sure to tell the teacher how you’ll be handling communication from the classroom. Will you both be involved? Is your ex not around or doesn’t like to get involved? Are you going to attend events together or do you need separate meetings? It’s important to set the expectations early on so the teacher knows what’s going on in your child’s home life and he or she can maintain proper communication about your child.

4.     Communication with your ex
This is always a big one and here is no different. Don’t pass messages through your child. If you need your ex to do something, such as sign a consent form, then ask them yourself. Relying on your child to do this communicating puts an unfair burden on them and sends the message that you are putting them in the middle. 

5.     Creating comfort
This time of year can be stressful for children, especially if they are starting at a new school. With all of the to do lists to be done, it’s easy to forget that your child simply wants to feel safe. Look at ways that you can help them be comfortable whether they are in the classroom, at your house, or with your ex. One way is to create a sanctuary for them in their backpack – it’s the only thing that they have with them no matter where they go! Help them create a safe and comfortable space to ease them back into the school year.

As always, this is about focusing on your children. The back to school season creates new schedules, needs, and focuses. Be open and willing to communicate with your ex so you can both do what is necessary to ensure your child has the smoothest transition possible and their best school year yet! 

Divorce – and even marriage for that matter – is riddled with difficult conversations. Typically we think of any interaction that makes us extremely uncomfortable as one that is difficult. It’s the conversations we know we need to have, but avoid because the idea of having them seems so unpleasant.

But the nature of your divorce can be determined by how you show up in these moments and the communication you have with your ex.

Communication is a key skill and getting divorced doesn’t mean your communication issues are over with your ex. If anything, it can increase the need for stronger communication as discussions through mediation can be difficult.

The way you approach these conversations can really set the tone of everything that follows. Here’s how to approach difficult conversations:

Recognize the build up
Notice why you’ve determined the conversation is difficult to begin with. Most of the time, it’s because we guess how the other person is going to react and we expect things to go a particular way. These expectations are precisely what leads us to bracing for impact and feeling as if the conversation will be difficult. It might and it might not. Recognize that this build up is exactly what’s making you reluctant to have the conversation in the first place. We can really build up these conversations in our mind when they might not be as bad as we think.

Let go of control
You may be hoping that your ex responds a particular way during your conversation. It’s fine to wish for the best and smooth interaction, but it’s important to remember that you can’t control their reaction. You only have control over your own words, actions, and reactions. When you enter into a conversation with the goal of getting the other person to see things your way, you are attempting to control the situation. Let it go! You will see much better results if you can let go of control and simply go with the flow of the conversation.

Listen
In order to truly go with the flow of the conversation, two things need to happen. First, you have to come to the table being willing to be open and see where things go. Second, you need to truly listen. Often we can get so entrenched in our way is the best way that we lose sight of the other person. Conversations are a two-way street, a give and take. It’s common that after all of the build up we’ve created in our minds and predicting how the other person is going to react, we may begin the conversation without even listening to what the other is truly saying. Listening is the key to making difficult conversations easier.

 

There are so many factors when it comes to having difficult situations, the biggest of course being the people who are involved. Approaching the process using the steps above will give you a great start to creating the best outcome possible. Remember that communication is a skill you’ll use over and over again throughout the divorce process and the rest of your life. It’s well worth your time to practice!

Father’s Day is right around the corner and this holiday can trigger quite a few issues for those who have been through divorce.

There’s the dad who’s still in the picture, but has shared custody. There’s the dad who perhaps doesn’t get to be with his kids on Father’s Day. Then there are the children without dads and the mom who is charged with helping the kid through a holiday that highlights his absence. And let’s not forget the role that step-parents could play on this day.

A holiday that’s designed to be a celebration can soon become full of heartache and bring up some tough emotions for parents and children alike. Whatever your situation, you can create a plan to help you prepare for this Sunday in June.

* For the dads who won’t get to see their kids…
Know that the day could be emotional for you. Make plans for the day with others or plan to do some of your favorite activities. This doesn’t keep you from feeling the emotions of not having your kids around, but it does help you focus on something fun for yourself and provide a distraction.

If you’re able to communicate with your children, set up a Skype session with your kids. Skype or other video technologies are a great way to interact with your kids more than a quick text or phone call.

* For the dads who get some time with their kids…
Having your children around on Father’s Day is a great way to celebrate! It can also be hard to have limited time with them. Simply knowing you’re on a time schedule can trigger resentment about the situation. Keeping the focus on the time you do have will help keep things in perspective and maximize your time.

Make a plan with your kids that’s different than what you would normally do. Give yourself a special present by making the day full of fun activities and a great chance to bond with your kids.

* For the children who don’t have a dad on Father’s Day…
Whatever the situation, your child’s father may be absent on Father’s Day. As other children and dads celebrate the day, it’s possible your child will feel left out and the weight of not having a dad around will be difficult. Recognize that emotions such as disappointment, resentment, or general sadness may be present.

Find ways to celebrate Father’s Day with a new meaning. Celebrate other male role models in your child’s life, have them do research on famous men they find inspiring, have conversations with your son about what kind of father he would like to be, discuss what a good partner would be like with your daughter, or celebrate how well your family is doing even without the presence of a father in the home.

* For the step-dads on Father’s Day….
The role of stepparent can vary widely from house to house. Perhaps you’re more of an everyday dad than a biological father, perhaps you see the kids rarely, or perhaps you’re still trying to establish a relationship with your spouse’s children. Regardless of the situation, recognize that you are the dad that has stepped into a child’s life knowingly and willingly.

Depending on the relationship and family dynamics, you could be the guy with most of the attention on Father’s Day or you could be the one who steps aside a bit to allow the kids the chance to connect with their biological father. Whatever your role on this day, you can help your stepchildren celebrate the day by fostering the relationship you have with them.

* For the mom on Father’s Day….
Regardless of your feelings towards your ex, it’s important that you help your children celebrate their relationship with their dad. Remember that this holiday, along with Mother’s Day, carries significance for your kids. It’s key not to skip celebrating the day or to let your own distractions get in the way of the purpose of the day.

Help your child celebrate the day in a way that’s best for his or her situation. This could mean helping them make cards or presents for their dad, taking them to purchase a gift, or simply giving them the opportunity to express what they enjoy about their dad or other male role models in their life.

 

One thing’s for sure – when family dynamics and children’s feeling are at play, it pays to be sensitive to the situation. Regardless, Father’s Day is a reason to celebrate the role dad’s play in our lives.

Enjoy Father’s Day!

As a divorce mediator, one of the things I see a lot are couples who have prolonged the break up as long as possible, to the point where they show up at my door angry and completely over it. Often they’ll be so tired of dealing with their spouse and trying to work things out that it’s difficult to continue any kind of communication with each other.

This really isn’t the best space to help them through this difficult process, yet I understand how they got here. And often it’s hard to know when it’s really time to let the relationship go, so we remain loyal and committed, even if it pushes it past our breaking point.

But how can you really know when it’s time to say goodbye? 

I love the questions that this article poses to individuals who might be contemplating when it’s time to proceed towards divorce.  

Know that this isn’t an act like throwing your hands in the air one day and exclaiming you’re done, it’s a conscious decision you can come to so that you can actually feel good about moving forward on the path to divorce.

What are my excuses?
If I were to ask you why you’re not getting divorced, how would you answer? Take a look at what you would say and determine if those are simply excuses that you’re creating to avoid a difficult situation or if they are really true for you.

We often excuse our partner’s behavior or create excuses for staying together that actually don’t serve us in the end. When we know the path ahead could be difficult, it’s easy to have excuses as to why we should stay, even when we know that’s not what’s best for us. Get real with yourself and look at the reasons you’re choosing to stay. 

Breaking up is never easy and when a divorce is the path ahead, it can be too easy for us to fall into excuses, complacency or fear, just to avoid the process.

Ensure you are making conscious decisions before your entire relationship erodes and answer the following questions to help determine if it’s time to get divorced. 

Are you currently ambivalent?
If you’re currently sitting in ambivalence, consider what it’s costing you. You’re not really committed to the relationship, but you’re also not leaving it either. It’s a space of indecision, which drains your energy and is confusing to yourself and those around you.

Did you get married to have an average life where you don’t care if you’re happy? Probably not. If you’re in this space, figure out if you are committing to going all in or you’re ready to part ways. Staying on the fence is never a good choice. 

What are you afraid of?
I love this question because it really gets to the heart of the matter. Often, we don’t want to move in the direction we know we should because we’re simply afraid. Divorce can feel scary and dealing with the uncertainty of it all can feel overwhelming.

Figure out what exactly is the piece that you are afraid of and then determine what you can do to move through that. If it’s related to specific things in the divorce process then educate yourself. If it’s related more to pieces of uncertainty, then look at what those items are specifically and bring in more clarity around them or work on getting more comfortable not knowing what the future holds. 

It’s much easier to go through mediation and a divorce when you still have some respect for each other, rather than when all of that respect has eroded.  Break ups and divorces are never easy and shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it is important to keep in mind that sometimes it is truly the best choice. Don’t wait until your situation becomes desperate. Make conscious decisions you can feel good about, so that even through something as trying as divorce, you can be as positive as possible.

And of course, California Mediation Solutions is here to help you ease this difficult process as much as possible. It’s our job to help you navigate divorce in a way that best fits your family.