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Wait! I’ve Got a Coupon!

Quick tip for those of you grappling with finances and looking for ways to stretch every dollar as you figure out how to afford life as a divorced dad. I’ve written before about the need to write out a monthly budget and the power of just knowing what it’s costing you to live.copon One thing I’ve learned is there are little secrets here and there that can save you a buck or two which can really add up month to month. It may be buying sporting gear for little league, buying shoes or even something as innate as buying eyeglasses on-line. Well recently, I became aware of an amazing tool for shoppers; on-line coupons and coupon apps.

Example: One day my kids and I walked into Michael’s (an arts/crafts chain). We spent around twenty minutes looking around and after each kid picked out their project of choice, we headed for the check out. My eldest tapped me on the shoulder and handed me her phone. “What?” I asked her. She just said, “Here.” Again, trying to focus on the transaction I asked, “What, can’t it wait?” She pointed out that on her phone was a coupon. Being in the midst of herding cats I was a little indifferent and responded with a quick, “whatever” and moved on. So she handed her phone to the cashier who proceeded to scan her phone. “DING.” The total for child number one’s project suddenly went down by 50%. Sure enough. There on her phone was a coupon for 50% off one item at check out. Amazing.

After proclaiming her my new favorite I asked her  what other coupons she had on her phone. I quickly learned from my daughter, as well as searching on-line, that a lot of stores have apps that allow you to collect instant savings at checkout. Who knew? Target for example has their Cartwheel. This one’s great for those of you with tween or teen daughters who continually find that “one” sweater they don’t have. 30% off adds up over time and all it takes is a quick look before you check out to see if an item has a coupon.

“What about you? Do you have a favorite app generated means of saving money at checkout? Here’s the place to share it!

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2015 in budgets, coupons, Divorce, Shopping

 

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Find The Good

During any school break, let alone anything over ten days, you get to know your kids on a WHOLE new level. During this recent time together I had noticed that my kids had fallen into the trap of finding everything wrong with each other along with everything around them. Just a constant bemoaning about every little detail. This then became combined with chronic bickering back and forth about every minute detail about every moment of their day. Eventually each became focused on what they disliked about the others. This then started to seep into their daily lives and I started to hear negativity regarding all kinds of things ranging from clothes to friends to the weather. “It’s blue!” “NO it’s GREEN!” “You’re dumb!” “You’re stupid!”

When you go through a divorce, it’s very easy to focus on the negative. It takes a lot of energy to retrain your brain to focus on thefindthegoodladdpositives and to recognize that the world isn’t in fact out to get you despite all evidence to the contrary. Once you do, negativity begins to take on the same attributes of fingernails on a chalk board and you begin to take steps to avoid it at all costs. So when I became surrounded by this never ending centrifuge of hostility toward the cosmos, I did what any calm, rational, reasonable father would do; I yelled and sent everyone to their rooms.

As I sat in the kitchen contemplating a month long grounding with all three kids subject to nothing but bread and water twice a day and no contact with the outside world until they came to their senses, I noticed the big black chalk wall we’d created this past summer. We had just cleared all of the Christmas messages and imagery that had been created over the past couple of months and it was staring at me like a giant blank canvas. I walked over toward it and picked up a piece of chalk and began to write:

“FIND THE GOOD!”

A simple and direct objective. Find the good. It exists in every person, place, situation, event, environment and circumstance. Sometimes we need to look a little harder to see it, but it’s always there to build on. And it’s up to us to train our brain to seek it out. I am by no means a master at this, but I saw this as an opportunity to offer the kids one simple task and see if I couldn’t get them to recognize that it’s their choice to focus on the positive. Throughout the day, simply find the good. Hone in on it. And then build on it.

We’ll see how it works. But it’s there in big bold letters for all (including myself) to see throughout the day. “FIND THE GOOD.” A gentle reminder that positive is so much more productive and fun than negative. I’ll likely start putting up a new task every week or every month. But for now all I want is for the kids to help each other find the good in their day, in their family, and in their world. Because despite what the world tells us sometimes, there’s a lot of it to be found if we’ll simply look a little harder.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2015 in Divorce, kids, negative

 

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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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