How to Deal with Single Parenting over the Holidays

Divorce is difficult enough to deal with on its own—add the holidays into the mix and you have the makings of a perfect storm. Divorce proceedings can cause an emotional and financial toll. And in states where one must file for divorce under specific at-fault grounds, it’s important to know your rights. But even when the divorce is amicable, you will need to allow time for your life to adjust.

If your breakup happened before the holiday season, or if this is the first year that you are facing the holidays as a single parent, what will help you cope? Here are some steps you can take that will lighten your load.

Chill on the gift exchange.

Where your household may have been pulling in two incomes, you’re now down to just your own. And even with child support payments, it can be hard to readjust to living on a smaller budget. The holidays are a time when Americans typically overspend on gifts, some to the tune of $929 on average. About 56 percent of those surveyed said they’ll likely go into debt doing so.

Aside from being a source of stress, gift exchanges can be a drain on your wallet that you should avoid. Announce your intentions of easing back on Christmas gifts this year to your family and friends. Instead, offer homemade gifts or coupons for simple activities that can be enjoyed together. Or give to a cause. You may be glad to hear you won’t be the only one trying to cut back either. Others are opting out too.

Plan the holidays in advance with your ex-spouse.

Scheduling conflicts that used to be difficult to manage, even when you were both on the same team, now have the potential to cause greater upset. Consider taking the following actions:

  • If you are not on speaking terms with your ex, ask a good friend or sibling to be the go-between in working out who does what pick up, etc.
  • Pick your battles and learn to compromise. Focus on what will make the holidays the most fun for your kid and avoid looking at it as who is scoring the most points.
  • Plan as far ahead as you can, but also have a back-up plan. Where there used to be you and your partner to handle the unexpected—now there’s just you. This is particularly true if your ex is flakey or has work that can’t be dropped to help handle your emergency.
  • Have a couple family members and close friends who know your situation on speed dial. Look for a trustworthy babysitter. Join a single parent support group. Or find a parenting circle where you can exchange favors. These people will be your support group on those days when you’re stuck in traffic or can’t be at a certain place at a certain time.

Take care of yourself.

While you focus on making the holidays a great time for your kids, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eating right, getting in 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and staying physically fit are not only health guidelines for kids, but for adults as well. Your emotional, mental, and physical needs should be considered as important as your child’s. Their needs are dependent on you seeing to yours. Some quick ideas to keep you sane during the holidays:

  • Arrange for a sleepover where your kids stay the night with your parents or a sibling. Put on a movie and just enjoy the peace of not having to be anywhere or do anything.
  • Call a sitter and sign up a fitness class or other activity that takes you away from the house. If you’re still at home, you are fair game to all the demands that come with being in it.
  • If family members insist on getting you a Christmas gift, ask for babysitting coupons and cash them in immediately.

Yes, single parenting is not for the faint of heart. It requires you to do the job of two but on less sleep, less time, and less money. But it’s during times like these that family and friends get to prove their worth, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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How to Talk to Your Child About Custody Arrangements

Going through a divorce can be very stressful for all parties involved, including the children. Many times parents forget that this process is just as hard, if not harder, on their children then it is them. Child custody is often the hardest part of your divorce because it involves the wellbeing and happiness of your children, who usually don’t understand the complexity of divorce, and are more deeply affected by the breaking apart of their family.

One of the things that is important for parents who are going through a divorce is to sit down and talk to their children. Even if this conversation is difficult, it is necessarty. If the children are old enough, you should also consider seeking their opinions on where they are going to live and how they will spend time with the other parent. Since your child is going to be going through some pretty significant changes in their life as a result of divorce, they need to be adequately prepared for them.

Steps to Talk to Your Child About Child Custody

Step 1 – Know How to Talk to Your Child

Remember to speak to your child with appropriate language that they can understand. Your child might not even know what the word “custody” means, so you may need to use different phrases to explain this in terms they understand. You also should avoid sharing more information than they need. Instead, just give them the basic facts that are going to directly affect them.

Step 2 – Avoid Saying Bad Things About the Other Parent

One of the biggest mistakes (and one that is one of the hardest to avoid) parents make in the divorce process is to say bad things about the other parent. Whether the things are true or not, hearing bad things about their mother or father may cause the child to think poorly of the other parent. Saying bad things about your ex to your child can also backfire and ruin your own relationship with your child.

Step 3 – Point Out the Things That Stay the Same

Another thing that you should do is take the time that you need to point out things that are the same, even after the divorce is final. This will help your children to feel secure. They will need this feeling of security so that they are better equipped to handle all of the intense emotions and feelings that they might not be able to understand.

Step 4 – Validate Their Feelings and Emotions

Even if you do not agree with the way that your child feels, you should validate the feelings that they have. Your children could be hurt, scared, sad, angry, or any other mix of emotions. Being able to understand why they feel these things, and knowing how to assure your child that you will be there for them is very important in cases of divorce. This will give your child confidence and allow them to know that their feelings matter.

Step 5 – Allow Questions

The big rule of thumb with allowing your child to ask questions is to have guidelines for what is appropriate. You should never share information about what happened in your marriage to make the two of you separate. Instead, you should only answer questions that are important for your child to know. Let them know that you love them and that the divorce is in no way their fault.

Going through a divorce is hard for everyone involved. Far too often parents forget about how their decision is affecting their children. By talking with your children, you allow them to express their emotions and feel validated which is a healthy process of being able to let go and move on.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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Want Better Relations with Your Ex? Ask “What Can I Do To Help Make Things Easier For Us?”

Most relationships in your life are challenging at one time or another.  One of the relationships that can be the most challenging is that with an ex.  Let’s face it, an ex is an ex for a reason and if your relationship was not already challenged enough, then they probably would not be an ex.  There are many things that you can do so that you can work towards having a healthy relationship with your ex, especially if there are children involved and you have a joint or physical custody arrangement.

 

One of the first things that you can do with your ex is to ask them a simple question:  “What can I do to help make things easier for us?”  Being open and honest that you want a good relationship with them is the first step in being able to openly admit to faults and really work on getting along well together. This is especially important if your Ex is not following the parenting plan.

 

Getting along with your ex  and doing your best to get a healthy divorce is really going to help your children to have the most stable life possible which is what the main goal should be for parents who are no longer together.  Of course, having a successful relationship with your ex is definitely more easily said than done.  It is going to require self-discipline, effort, and restraint in order to make this relationship happen.  The thing to remember along the way is that all of the hard work is going to be worth it.

 

Learning What You Want

 

The first thing that you should be able to do before you can have a healthy relationship with your ex, is voice what you want out of the relationship.  You need to have clear boundaries and things need to keep a business-like tone.  If you are allowing emotion to come into play, then you can send mixed messages to your ex or become very angry when things do not go the way that you wish.  You will also need to express to your ex that he needs to allow you to understand his needs of your relationship.  If you do not know what he needs, then the relationship is going to be one sided.

 

Consider Mediation

 

When you do not agree on something with your ex, the first step that you should take is mediation.  Mediation is a process where you sit down with an attorney and discuss issues at hand.  You will discuss what each person wants and will try to come up with an agreement that is fair to both of you.  Many times mediators are able to address all issues and concerns and can help you come up with an outcome that you are both pleased with.

 

Consider Your Intentions

 

You have to have pure intentions when you are trying to work out a relationship with your ex.  Your intentions should never be to hurt your ex or cause them pain.  Instead they should be about working together to have a relationship where both of you put the needs of your child(ren) first so that you are both working to make their life as good as it can be.  If you have negative attitudes or negative intentions, they are going to be discovered and you will not end up with the type of relationship that you might have been hoping for.

 

Forgive Them

 

Even if your ex did horrible things to you, in order to move on for your child’s sake, you are going to have to forgive them.  This does not mean that you are a door post or that you are going to let them treat you unfairly again.  It means that you are going to be able to move on and go forward with your relationship and leave the things from the past in the past.  Forgiving someone who has hurt you can be a very challenging process.  The reason that so many divorced couples end up bitter and angry with one another is that they do not have the ability to truly forgive one another.

 

Being able to have a healthy relationship with your ex is possible.  It can be a great thing for your child and can even help you to have successful future relationships.

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The Difference Between Joint and Physical Custody

If you are a parent and you are going through a divorce then one of the things that is going to be discussed immediately is the custody of the children. There are two main types of custody when it comes to the kids, joint and physical. If you are going through any type of custody battle or situation then it is important to understand the difference between these two.

Joint Custody

When someone is awarded joint custody, the custody of the child is shared 50/50. This means that the child is going to spend 50% of their time with you and 50% of their time with their other parent. In some cases the percentages can not be exact but they should be close. In today’s divorce courts joint custody, which can also be called shared or equal custody, is becoming the most common ruling. The reason behind this is that studies have shown that children benefit greatly when co-parenting is involved and both parents take an active role in their life.

In addition it seems that more fathers are asking to have equal parenting as they are going through a divorce. In most situations this is the best choice for the child. However, it does require the two parents to live in close proximity to one another. It also requires that the parents be able to get along and that they can make decisions together when it comes to the interest of the child.

Of course if the parents can not get along or if the parents do not live close to one another this is not going to work out for them or the child involved. So if that is the case another type of custody should be considered.

Physical Custody

When one parent of a child is awarded physical custody of that child, then the child is going to live with them. There will be a set visitation schedule for the other parent to get to see the child on a regular and consistent basis. The divorce papers will either call this physical custody or sole physical custody. This type of custody awards the parent with certain rights and responsibilities that are shared between the parents with joint custody.

In most cases the child spends the majority of their time with one parent. The child usually has a week night visit and a visit every other weekend with the parent who does not have custody of the child. The holidays and special events in the child’s life are also shared between the two parents or set schedule is made. Depending on the courts in the area where you live, these visitation schedules can be quite liberal. If you are the parent who has not been awarded physical custody, it is your right to ask that you have liberal visitation times with your child.

The biggest mistake that is made is that the non-custodial parent does not get the court to define a set visitation schedule, liberal or otherwise. For instance with the standard schedule mentioned above, make sure that there is one week night stated in the paperwork if the parents can not agree. This way you are getting your child that one set night regardless. If you leave it open ended you could end up fighting all of the time about what night is best for both you and the child. The custodial parent could have the child in activities that would interfere with your choice of nights and could leave you unable to follow through with the visitation because of work and other things.

Additionally it is very important that pick up and drop off times be stated clearly for all dates of visitation. This should be included for holidays, week night visits, weekends, and vacation periods. If you are awarded the most common type of visitation schedule you can expect that you will have your child one week night, every other weekend, every other holiday (rotating each year so that you have the child on the opposite holidays during the other years), and for two weeks of vacation during the summer. This is pretty much the standard set minimum for visitation.

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