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Presence Not Presents

Perhaps one of the most stressful things about the holidays is the pressure that the world around us puts on buying gifts. Between the catalogues, TV commercials, billboards, e-mail blasts and Web ads, someone is in your face every thirty seconds offering you 20% off, 50% off, 80% off, buy one get one free, free shipping and every other incentive you can think of to spend your money. And of course it’s all so you can show someone how much you love them. As if money = love.

Let’s get real for a moment shall we?

Don’t feel guilted into buying your kids Christmas. Yes they have wish lists. Yes Christmas morning is a magical moment for them. There’s2014-12-08 21.24.44no question about that. But having been through three or four Christmas’ as a divorced dad I can tell you this. What they’ll remember more than anything are the moments. What they’ll appreciate most, is time together with no arguing, fighting or yelling between adults.
Keep in mind, I’m not saying don’t buy them anything. Just don’t feel like buying them a bunch of stuff because you feel guilty about the divorce is the answer. If you’re like me, you still have to be smart about how much you’re spending. It helps to put boundaries on purchases and to have a plan.

One thing I started doing that helped was I gave myself a budget per kid. What I knew I could afford. Some years it’s been more than others and yes, I typically go over it, but starting with a visual financial guide really helps. I’m fortunate to be able to communicate with my ex regarding the big picture and we establish what the kids are going to get. But even if you’re not that lucky, make a list of what you want to get them and give yourself limits. This will help you avoid all of the extras we typically purchase on a whim when we really have no idea what we want to get them.

But the most valuable things you can give them are laughter, family, fond memories and you. They’re already stressed out about the holidays whether you’re divorced or not. What they need and want most is to know they matter. What they really need is your presence not your presents.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, stress, Talking To Kids

 

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How Boys & Girls Handle Divorce

Each of us living as divorced parents have seen our children cope with the separation in their own unique ways. It should go without saying that no matter how much love and support and reassurance you offer your children, this isn’t going to be easy for them. But each child is going to react differently and I think it’s important to recognize that fact and do your share of reading on the subject to equip yourself as much as you can to help them through the transition and even years into the divorce.

One thing I’ve read in multiple publications is that boys tend to deal with divorce differently than girls. I have found it interesting that my girls were the first to try and set me up on Match.com while my son worked hard to get my ex and me back together. There are all kinds of theories on this subject, but reading comments from different readers I came upon one that really hit me. He said that as males, we tend to612px-Sapioheterosexuality_Symbol.svg_want to fix things. I thought back to my marriage and a flurry of memories of my wife saying, “I’m not asking you to fix anything I just want to tell you about what happened. You don’t need to act, just listen.” When My ex-wife would come to me with problems, my first inclination was to fix the problem she was sharing with me. So when I read this comment I was like, “well of course!”

Even if a young man knows that he was not at all responsible or to blame for a divorce, he’ll very likely feel some sense of failure in not being able to fix it. To him mommy and daddy’s relationship is broken. And his first tendency may be to want to fix it. If you’re working together as co-parents and generally get along in front of your kids this is going to be even more true since to him, it probably won’t take much to get mommy and daddy back on track.

Another great comment I read dealt with how we as parents handle the divorce ourselves. Are we acting as the victim? Or do we acknowledge and move on as strong, healthy adults? What are our children seeing when they see us deal with our ex or being a single parent? What do they see and hear? I think it’s important to recognize that every sight and sound those little eyes and ears are taking in has an impact. They’re paying very close attention and how they handle the divorce and being a child of divorce may very well depend on how you yourself handle it.

It’s easy to play the victim sometimes. It’s easy to shout out a negative. But is that really what our children need? Or do they need us to acknowledge and move on as strong independent adults? Pay close attention to your children. They will provide you all kinds of clues as to what they need from you. It’s simply up to you to tune in and provide them with a sense of security and knowledge that no matter what, both you and their mom will be there for them 100%.

Would love to hear your take on this subject.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2014 in Divorce, Talking To Kids

 

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Holiday Stress on Kids

Anyone with kids will tell you that children go through a remarkable metamorphosis around the holidays. Their attention spans go out the window, their ability to listen – gone, their energy grows exponentially, their attention spans go out the win… whoops, already said that one. And underneath it all, sometimes quite well hidden, their stress levels are through the roof! My guess is this can be especially true if their parents are divorced.

Holidays are about families and this time of year is a stark reminder for all of us, our kids included, that things are diff2014-12-02 22.17.48erent. I’m sure conversations with their friends bring added focus to the differences between different households. Traditions between your house and their mom’s will likely shift a bit. There’s trying to figure out travel schedules to visit with different families. Then the travel and visiting with different families, which let’s face it, stresses me out, just imagine the kids. Oh and there’s always worrying how Santa will know which house they’re at. All of it adds up quickly. Then to top it off, we’re often so buried in our own piles of stress that we miss a lot of the clues of what our kids are going through assuming the kids are having fun because, hell, it’s the holidays!

More than once I’ve had to stop myself and recognize the reasons for things like stomach aches that appear out of nowhere, sudden outbursts of anger (even more so than usual), forgetfulness and an inability to sleep. (And I’m talking about the kids here btw.) Sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to simplify and just let it all happen. Lighten the calendar load where you can. Try not to pack too much into one day. Let them know the plan ahead of time so they can wrap their heads around it. Focus on the fun and do everything we can to give them our time and attention if for no other reason than to provide them a sense of calm and serenity during what can otherwise be a crazy time of year for both them and us.

The holidays have become a time of turning our worlds completely around. Because of this, we’re all moving at warp speed during these weeks. Sometimes it’s best to put it all in park, relax and share our Christmas wish lists over a cup of cocoa.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in Divorce, holidays, Talking To Kids

 

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Holiday Survival Kit

Take a deep breathe.

Acknowledge that the holidays are coming. For ‘any’ family that raises the stress quotient by no less than 27%. Being divorced adds another 15-20% regardless of the state of the relationship with your ex. Why? Well, there are numerous factors that come into play.

1. School: Depending on where you live, kids may be out the entire week while you may have two days off.
2. Christmas: Long before Thanksgiving the kids begin eyeing that glorious morning. Catalogues start arriving and items are getting circled well in advance of the carving of the t-day bird. Each child’s energy subsequently increases exponentially as their already short attention spans suffer serious drop offs andfd429767a2ccdf1658f9889d081c65c5 their ability to listen flies out the window.
3. Finances: Holidays = $$$. Not trying to be a scrooge by any means. It’s just a reality. Between holiday meals, decorations (lights, trees, etc), presents, travel, vacation time, child care needs, aspirin, therapy … it adds up.
4. Family: Look, the truth is, that for most humans the idea of getting together with family brings thoughts of both warm fuzzies AND which alcohol to consume first. It’s just natural. We all have parents and siblings. Bottom line: it’s always fun to parent when you yourself have regressed to the age of seven.
5. Weather: Days are shorter. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s dreary. Kids are inside more (see number 2). I’m depressing myself just thinking about it.
6. There’s a good chance you won’t be with your kids as much as you’d like and will have moments without them that will understandably bum you out.
7. Thanks to brilliant advertising agencies, the perception is that everyone’s head is full of sugarplum fairies during the holidays. The reality is for a lot of people the holidays are one of the most depressing times of the year. For some it’s grieving loved ones lost through the year. For others the holidays bring back painful memories. Regardless, if you’re down I guarantee you you’re not alone.

My advice? Sit back and let it happen. You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to control it all or understand why you continually find yourself in the fetal position while your parents attempt to comprehend what divorce means in the twenty-first century. Remember that you’ve done well. Your life may not be perfect, but you’ve overcome a lot to get to this point and have a great deal to celebrate.

If you can’t be with your kids; surround yourself with supportive friends, family, neighbors etc. If you’re single, don’t just sit in the house alone. I promise you there are people in your life who would love nothing more than to open their homes and hearts to you this holiday season. If you and your ex are fortunate enough to be on speaking terms, take advantage of opportunities to be together with the kids. The kids know you’re divorced. They get it. But it does wonders for them to be able to spend a peaceful hour or two with both their mom and dad at the same time and not have to choose.

First and foremost, resolve to live by the creed of “If the kids are happy, I’m happy.” Make it fun for them. Encourage them to enjoy every single moment of it whether they’re with you or their mom. Give them that. It’s a gift they’ll hold with them their entire lives. Always remember, regardless of your situation, you’re creating their memories, right now. You owe it to them to do your best to make their recollections of the holidays something that will always make them smile. In doing so, you’ll likely enjoy them a great deal yourself.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Trust Me

Do you remember when you believed everything people told you? Or knew in your heart that your “bestie” that week was going to be your “bestie” for life? Unfortunately, eventually we catch our parents leaving a dollar under our pillow or our best friend sits with someone else at lunch and our view of the world is forever changed. Watching my children get hurt through what is normal every day interaction with human beings is tough. You can’t protect them from it. It just happens as we all know. The world is not there to serve them which is a hard lesson to learn sometimes. Sometimes people hurt you, even if it’s unintentional. All you can do is prepare them and then be there to catch them if they fall and reassure them that it’s just a part of life. Some of us can shrug it off relatively easily, others, not so much.

But let’s face it. When you’re an adult and have been hurt enough times, it’s hard enough yourself to trust, let alone teach someone else to trust. Despite being fortunate enough to have had terrific mentors and loving family members; like you, throughout my life I’ve had my share of backstabbing friends, self serving bosses, lying girlfriends, and haphazard thieves who helped themselves to guitars out of the trunk of my car. And then there’s life’s ability to sucker punch you, like when my best friend died at the age of twenty two. And, of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance the one relationship1390267987623884429306.15044 you knew you could count on for eternity simply went Ker-Plunk for what could be a multitude of reasons.

So there you sit; all wounded and banged up, when your kid walks in crying because their best friend lied to them or said something mean behind their back. Based on the type of day you’re having, in your head you may be thinking, “People suck honey, best you realize that now.” But you and I both know that’s not the answer nor is it a true sense of the big picture. Yes, some people suck. And sometimes people hurt you inadvertently or unknowingly simply because of childhood wounds that leave you vulnerable to certain actions by those around you. Sometimes you simply assume the worst or misread someone’s actions. Or perhaps their own world may be a train wreck and you simply happen to be standing on the tracks at the wrong time.

Regardless, the truth is life is complicated and humans are a crapshoot. My mentor in college once told me, “Every day we each have the potential to be the asshole. So look in the mirror each morning and ask yourself, will I let it be me today?”

Staying positive and remaining a trusting soul takes effort and character. I’ve done a relatively good job of being able to focus on the positive or overcome the adversity of negativity throughout my life; but trust is a whole other ball of wax. That one has always been a struggle for me and every knock down only makes it harder.

As I watch my kids grow, evolve, learn and progress, I realize there are certain lessons I need to teach them that I myself need to learn as well. Not giving up on humanity, my world or those around me is one of them. Becoming a more giving and open individual is another one; even if it means leaving myself open to pain. Finding that balance between being smart, cautious and streetwise while being trusting, open and vulnerable is one of life’s greatest challenges. But to close ourselves off completely due to hurt, anger, disappointment or perceived judgement is a dangerous path to take. We may need to hole up for a bit to lick our wounds, but eventually we need to let people back in and give them an opportunity to gain our trust.

My children will hurt. That’s a given. I can’t help that fact. They’re human as are those around them. But despite having experienced my share of hurt and disappointment, I can teach them to continue trusting and believing in people, life, their world and the cosmos. To be trustworthy in their own right. To appreciate and understand human nature. To be self reliant and strong. To be vulnerable but self assured. To be giving as well as FORgiving.

And above all, I can give them the greatest gift; and that is to always trust themselves.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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