Planning Parenting Time, Presents and Parties During the Holidays After Divorce
Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.
1. Family Law Fact or Fiction
In this week’s episode, Wendy dispels common family law urban myths by playing a game – “Family Law Fact or Fiction.” Your job is to listen to each of the 3 following statements and decide whether they are fact…or fiction.
By being the first one to file for divorce, you place yourself at a legal advantage in your case.
Fiction. There is no advantage to filing first. The only thing that matters is the facts of your case, and those depend on you.
Arizona is a mother’s rights state.
Fiction. Arizona is neither a mother’s rights state, nor a father’s rights state. Arizona is a children’s rights state. A judge is going to make decisions about custody, legal decision-making and parenting time based upon the best interests of your children.
If a vehicle was purchased during marriage, but it was financed in only one person’s name, both parties are financially responsible at the time of divorce.
Fact. In Arizona, the general rule of law is that both parties are equally responsible for debt acquired during the marriage even if it is only in one person’s name.
2. Planning Parenting Time, Presents and Parties During the Holidays After Divorce
Dr. Judy Rabinor, author of “Befriending Your Ex After Divorce,” is back with us again to talk about common issues that arise between divorced and separated parents during the holidays. In case you missed it, Dr. Judy was a prior guest on The Family Law Insider Podcast in which she talked about “Befriending Your Ex.” Click here to listen to that episode!
Divorce is a pressure cooker. So are the holidays (even for non-divorced families). Together, these things are a perfect storm, especially when parties are initially separated.
There Are Always Differences in Co-Parenting – Divorced or Not Divorced
The thing Judy wants to stress about divorce is that even when people are married, there are always differences in co-parenting. For example, one parent might think its really important to get the right gift for everyone. The other parent might think that quality down time is more important. So, regardless of whether your family is intact or not, there are always these issues to negotiate in a parenting relationship.
The difference is, however, when people are married, they defend one another’s position (for the most part). When people are divorced, they aren’t always so respectful of each other.
What Is Mentionable Is Manageable. (According to Mr. Rogers) (Tweet this!)
For many families, this might be the first holiday season without the family being intact. This could be really confusing for the kids. Judy has suggestions for helping the kids cope.
First and most importantly, Judy wants to quote the great Fred Rogers (aka “Mr. Rogers”), who used to teach that “what is mentionable is manageable.” Those words sum it up. Kids need to be able to talk about their feelings. Many parents don’t want to hear this, and they don’t want to encourage their children to articulate and verbalize the fact that they feel sad.
Children really do best when they have two parents who communicate and allow the children to love the other parent. It is difficult for parents to have their children feel sad and angry. However, this is really how the children feel.
Parents need to encourage children to say their negative feelings. The holidays are about family and love, and when there has been a divorce, there are some touchy and tender issues.
Wendy asks Judy how a parent can balance addressing the things they THINK their child is feeling against letting the child process (silently). This is called the “art of being attuned,” according to Judy. Parents can’t push things on a child, but sometimes parents need to mention a concept, term or word to give the child permission to say what they may feel that that parent doesn’t want to hear.
Hatred, bitterness and distance are very damaging. The adults holding onto these emotions get damaged. Most importantly though, the children who are trapped in the middle get damaged.
If you are on a “fishing expedition” with your child, trying to find out how s/he is feeling, if s/he says “I don’t want to talk about it,” respect the closed door policy. So… remember…whatever it is your child is telling you, respect it, whether it is “yes, I want to talk about this” or “no, I don’t want to talk about this” or “no, I don’t want to talk about this…yet.” Just the parent acknowledging that the child may have feelings of missing their other parent gives the child the message that “that’s OK.”
The Best Gifts to Give Children of Divorce
The biggest present a parent can give their child during the holidays is some peace in their heart through all of this (according to Wendy). A big part of this peace comes from reducing the amount of conflict between the parents. Another present a parent can give their child is their “presence” – meaning their undivided attention.
Many divorced people try to talk about the types of gifts to give their children because they don’t want their kids to be spoiled. It is easy to get caught up in a competition. This happens especially in cases where one parent is (was) the superior wage earner.
In situations where one parent can’t give as much (materially) as they have in the past (or as much as the other parent can give), Judy suggests that parties talk to each other (if they can). The parent who has more needs to remember that the material “stuff” is not what kids remember as adults. What kids remember are the meals, their family members, decorations, etc. Parents (whether divorced or married) should move into living the spirit of the holidays, which is about love and generosity.
Holidays are a time of ritual. Holidays are an opportunity to think about the rituals you like from your former life. Can you continue them? Can you create some new rituals?
Giving from the heart is what it is about.
What if Your Parenting Time Doesn’t Allow You to See Your Kids This Holiday?
With respect to special holiday days, there are some parents who get really upset if they can’t see their children on the actual holiday. Judy recommends learning from the Buddhist tradition which says suffering is wanting things to be different than they are. If you are divorced, that is how things are (not seeing your children for every holiday every year). Try to create a new ritual for the “off” years. Not only that, but say
“This is hard, but I have to face it.”
There is so much of life that isn’t the way we want. There will be divorce, sickness, aging parents, etc. This is how it is, but a lot of stuff is just in our minds that things have to be a certain way. Create a new ritual/reality for yourself.
The important thing here is to have a good relationship with your ex. If you are flexible and kind, someday there will be a payoff. If you are an ex who has your children this holiday, one of the most generous things you could do is call your ex and say “I have the kids on Christmas this year. Maybe you’d like to Skype, Facetime or have a Google Hangout with them. Maybe you’d like to stop by my house and see them.”
NOW is a time to stretch and think
“What is the most generous thing I could do?”
Extended Family Visitation During the Holidays
As far as extended family is concerned (in terms of seeing the children during the holidays), each situation is different. However, remember to “take the high road” if your ex’s extended family wants to see the kids. One of the sad things about divorce is that many of the adults really miss the members of the extended family they used to associate with on a regular basis.
When there is a divorce, the pie has to be divided up and that means everyone is going to have less. There is less parenting time, less money, etc.
Joy Shared, Twice the Gain. Sorrow Shared, Half the Pain. (From the Bible) (Click to Tweet this!)
For someone who is recently divorced or separated, during the holidays s/he may not be feeling particularly festive. Wendy asks how that person balances his/her feelings of depression against needing to get into the spirit. It is OK to admit sadness, but encourage the children to have fun, see the other parent, etc. Normalize the sadness. Tell the truth.
If someone is in a major depression, it is a good time to see a mental health counselor. There is so much pressure to be happy, but it may not be a happy moment for you. You need to know if that is normal.
Also consider joining a support group. Share your point of view with other people.
Remember this: “Joy shared, twice the gain. Sorrow shared, half the pain.” (From the Bible.) This sums up a lot. It is really important to be able to share your pain with someone. (But NOT your 9 year old!)
Reach out and create new rituals. Push yourself to make contact with old friends. People who are divorced can feel alone and ashamed even though divorce is very prevalent. Surrounding yourself with people who love you is one thing that Judy really recommends.
Regardless of whatever you are going through, it is temporary. Try to establish new connections.
You can find Judy Rabinor at judithruskayrabinorphd.com.
3. Thoughts From the Life Coach
This week James talks about the freedom that comes with forgiveness. Don’t be a hoarder and dump that emotional junk!
Wendy takes off on the topic and dishes on clearing out your emotional clutter as we end out 2013 so we can make room for fantastic things in 2014. For more on clearing the clutter, read “How to Get What You Want In Your Life.”