Tag Archives: children of divorce

Thanks-parting: Dealing with Divorce on Thanksgiving

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If you’ve been through a divorce recently, you are certainly more than aware of how different (and sometimes difficult) each day can be.  This goes tenfold for the holidays.  

The first Thanksgiving that you spend away from your ex-partner is bound to be a trying time.  A day synonymous with familial joy and “coming together” will naturally seem a little heavy when on your own.  Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to keep the painful memory pangs to a minimum and the glorious gravy enjoyment to a maximum. 

Ring in the new

It’s obvious that this day will inadvertently drudge up memories of previous Thanksgiving celebrations.  Some of these memories may be quite pleasant, others can be the utter opposite.  One way to combat these ghosts is to change things up.  By creating new habits for the day and devising fresh traditions, your mind will be focused on the tasks at hand, rather than languishing in previous experiences.  One potential benefit, right off the bat, is that if you used to spend the day with your ex’s fam, you’re now entirely free of that shackle.  You can visit with your own clan, or a specific group of friends, if you choose.  Forget cooking and go out for dinner.  Even better, really relish in what the holiday is all about; thank your lucky stars that you have what you have and volunteer at a homeless shelter, doling out seasonal food.  Whatever you do, the past customs that you and your ex engaged in will be a faint memory as you create entirely new moments this year. 

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Talk turkey 

Granted, this is a time of thankfulness and grateful reflection, but you’ve been through a rough year and can’t be expected to simply grin through the pain.  It’s actually the perfect time to pull that special relative or comrade aside and let your emotions flow freely.  With the abundance of caring people conveniently assembled, odds are that there will be a trusted someone (or several) that you can talk to.  Not suggesting to turn this whole event in a pity party, but go someplace private and unburden yourself.  You’ll feel some of that emotional weight instantly lifted so you can fully enjoy the rest of the festivities.  Remember, this may be an overwhelmingly hard time for you, but you should be considerate of other people’s feelings too; it’s their day as well.

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The Kid’s Table  

As with many divorce related issues, the hardest aspect can be if children are in the mix.  One thing that can assuage the troublesome topic of how to divide their time (between you and your ex) is to be calm and ready to compromise.  Maybe you have to relinquish them for the actual day, but then get to spend Black Friday with them, shopping with glee.  The point is that arguing with your ex about who goes where and when will only acerbate the situation and make everyone feel tense.  Just be reasonable and think of your kids’ feelings; nobody wants to hear about how mom/dad is ruining the holiday by _______; your ex is still your child’s parent, a pivotal person in their lives forever, and badmouthing them always makes you look bad.  

Give thanks

Whether your family is the type that goes around the table before the turkey is cut and everyone states what they are thankful for, or if it’s just tacitly implied, a large component of this holiday is the expression of gratitude.  Take a few minutes to sit down and write out (or type) what you personally have to be thankful for this year.  Go through everything you can think of, big and small.  This simple exercise will soon have you seeing just how bright the silver lining in this divorce cloud is, as a bevy of wonderful things flows from your mind and on to the page.  By assessing all of the gifts you have in your life, you can crystalize a plan for the future, or just sit back and revel in the positive mindset you’re now in.  

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No matter what anyone says, this may be a particularly hard time for you to get through.  Try to relax and follow the aforementioned steps to the best of your ability.  Just remember that life truly does go on, and once the day is done and everyone has returned to their prospective homes, there still will be the scrumptious leftovers to feast on later.  

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 -Joe Leone 

How to Handle Your Little Monsters

Dealing with Kids of Divorce on Halloween

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The pumpkins are carved, the ghosts are hung and the Disney Princess and Storm Trooper costumes have been purchased.  Everything is all set for creepily jovial, sugar-high fueled fun!  Everything, that is, except the logistics regarding who is taking the kids trick-or-treating; you or your ex.  Uh-oh.  This could be a potentially frightening night, for all the wrong reasons.

Before you end up forever haunted by the memory of this spooky holiday, let’s take a look at what the divorce experts have to say about successfully wrangling the wee ones this year.  We’ve collected information from Diane L. Danois, J.D., bonusfamilies, hermentorcenter.com, brendashoshanna.weebly.com and divorce360.com in an effort to keep the kids grinning widely on this much Hallowed Eve.

Some holidays can be tough for divorced parents; luckily Halloween typically isn’t one of them

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Determining who will have custody of the kids on Christmas/Hanukkah or Thanksgiving can be a truly trying experience.  Expectations from both sides of the families can be huge (“I need to see my beautiful grandchildren on the high holy days!”)  Thankfully, Halloween isn’t really viewed as that important to most parents (the kids don’t even get off from school), so relinquishing control of the tykes usually isn’t that big of a deal.  On the other hand, Halloween is very highly regarded in the kid community as much celebrated and glorious day (they get to dress up AND eat a bag a’ candy), so it’s important to think about their wants more than your own.

Come Together?

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Unlike a lot of other holidays, actually sharing the evening experience with your ex can be decent (granted, depending on how much you would like to see your ex as an actual skeleton, of course).  The kids are obviously adorable in their little Batman and Frozen outfits and the atmosphere is generally light (despite the frolicking devils, witches and demons, naturally).  Pairing up with your ex partner to drive your offspring door to door to beg for cavity inducing morsels can be a relatively harmless experience, all things considered.

Pick your Poison

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If you fall into the ‘I can’t even be in the same room as my ex without taking a machete to them’ camp, then taking the kids out together is not really an option.  So, you need to decide who will mind them.  The easiest solution?  Whoever enjoys the holiday more themselves should take them.  Meaning, if you revel in all the ghoulish elements yourself, the result is that your children will have more fun with you.  The whole point of this day is for your babes to have a good time, so obviously put their interests first (C’mon, you’re a parent; you should be beyond used to this).  Another factor that can help you and your ex decide who should have them this eerie eve is if your kids have a group of like-minded goblins they want to troll a particular neighborhood for Reese’s with.  If they have a set cadre of trick/treating chums, let whichever parent is more conveniently situated, geographically, have them.  It just makes the most sense and won’t confuse the kids at all.

You’re the (Boogey) Boss

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All of the professionals in the child psychology field unanimously seem to agree that this should be your decision (who takes whom), not your kids.  Putting them in the middle is not a good idea (clearly there are few, if any, circumstances where this is advocated).  You and your ex should determine who’s taking them beforehand and then that’s it, end of discussion.  The final nail in the coffin…

Play Nice

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As with all holidays in general, the kinder you can be (or at least appear) to your ex in front of your kids, the better for their overall well-being.  Nobody wants to see Mummy and Dad-ula arguing about petty things on a day that’s supposed to be full of creepy cheer.  Slap a grin on your face and get through the day; you’ll have the rapidly approaching Thanksgiving to grumble about soon enough.

Keep your Solo Spirits Up!

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Finally, if you hand the kids off to your ex and will be spending the night by your lonesome, don’t let the little ones think you are sad about it.  Wish them luck in scaring the other kids so bad that they wet their pants, kiss their clown-make-up laden cheeks, check to see if they’re wearing those annoying reflectors you got them and send them on their merry way.  Even if you’ll be Netflixing a scary movie all alone, make sure the kids think you are genuinely happy about it.  Nobody wants to treat-or-treat while thinking about how sad their left behind parent is (womp womp).

Follow these scarily simple tips and a good night will be had by all.  Then, you will have truly earned the right to ransack their sugary loot and gorge yourself silly on mini-Snickers.

-Joe Leone 

How to Avoid Bad-Mouthing Your Ex

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After a divorce or break-up, you are going to be angry. When people are angry, they often want to express their negative emotions, but that is not always a great idea. In fact, giving in to the temptation to bad-mouth your ex will probably work against you, and, what’s worse, against your children.

Therapist Ashley Davis Bush advises that you strive to remember that your children are one-half your ex, which means negative talk about him or her is negative talk about them. Whether or not it is immediately apparent, they are genetically predisposed to be like the person you firmly dislike, so they can be directly hurt by the things you say.

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Another, less easy to digest piece of advice is to remember that you once loved, or at least thought you loved, this person. Have respect for the time in your life when things were different, and try to learn to accept and respect the choices you made in the past. Saying negative things about that individual will only make you internalize the idea that your time with him or her was a mistake.

Avoiding derogatory talk about the other person may be fairly easy at first, but what happens when they start saying bad things about you? Resisting the urge to retaliate or defend oneself is extremely difficult and often goes against human nature. However, the other person’s behavior should not influence your own when it comes to what’s best for your kids. Their inability to control themselves means they are hurting, and while you may not be able to lend a helping hand or an understanding ear, you can at least be the bigger person and give your kids an opportunity to talk about what they hear without having to also hear your rebuttal.

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One way to approach this is to stop thinking of that person as your “ex” and instead think of him or her as your child’s other parent. This will reinforce the responsible role both of you should be playing in your child’s life and take the emphasis away from your relationship that went sour. Use the time you interact with your ex to create positive experiences that teach them how to get along with others, and if that’s not possible because of your ex or because you are simply too upset, then re-focus your energy on doing something fun with your children instead of dwelling on the insult and anger you feel.

Regardless of your situation and the personality of your ex, it is advisable to have a thick skin and avoid letting negativity from the other side get you down or lower your resolve. Your primary goal should be to show your child love and compassion, both for them and the situation. Bad-mouthing ultimately brings you down and can create a risk of being alienated from your child. Even if your ex is saying mean things to your child, such as, “You are not smart because your mother doesn’t push you hard enough to do well in school,” resist the urge to respond directly by saying something about him or her. Try instead to create an open environment in which your children can talk to you about the painful things they are hearing.

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Even if you do find yourself slipping and resort to saying negative things about your child’s other parent, you can stop. Ashley Davis Bush also advises creating a habit of saying, “Cancel that,” even mid-sentence, and beginning again. You can substitute negativity for more neutral words, such as, “My child’s other parent and I regularly disagree,” rather than saying something along the lines of, “My ex does things in a stupid way.” The key to not bad-mouthing your ex is keeping an eye on the future, not the past. Move forward into the future with strength and determination, not vengeance.

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