Tag Archives: divorce kids

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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Things Only a Divorced Parent Understands

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Amicable or not, getting divorced is never going to be a picnic.

When there are children in the equation, things can be exponentially more challenging/maddening.  Aside from the initial concern of “How is this ordeal affecting my delicate offspring?” there are a variety of other issues sure to pop up.   There’s the time you will have to spend apart from your kids, their newfound perception of you and a host of other mentally taxing dilemmas only a single-parent can comprehend.

Here’s a list of the common conundrums that we’ve identified, and how they ultimately can translate into positive experiences in the end.

  • “You’re no fun!” – nothing can be as infuriating as hearing about how much FUN it is at your ex-spouse’s domicile of debauchery.  “Dad let’s me eat Count Chocula for dinner!” …sorry, guess you’re the über boring one since you care about your child’s health.

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positive spin:  When your children are older/grown, they will recognize they you were the parent who was truly looking out for their welfare, and not just providing easy/popular solutions.

  • It can feel a trifle lonely when your child is at your ex’s, ostensibly having a good time without you.  You used to be instrumental in everything they did – now you may feel like your watching from the sidelines.

positive spin: When your child comes home and tells you how much they missed you.  This will never get old.

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  • You now have to monitor every little word that escapes your mouth, as your spawn gobbles them up and giddily reiterates them to your ex.  Heaven forbid if you should accidentally let a remark specifically about your former spouse slip out…

positive spin: Realize that the exact opposite applies.  If your ex says anything about you, it is instantly recorded by your kids as well – so they need to watch their mouths too.

  • Living in constant fear of whose “side” your shared friends will be on.  Whichever parent these people pledge allegiance to will be perceived by the tykes and this inevitably causes them/you anxiety.

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positive spin:  Once things are settled, you then know who your real friends truly are.

  • Determining which rules will be steadfast and should be observed in both parents’ homes.  Is mom saying the kids can stay up to watch Jimmy Fallon, while you want them tucked in before the early edition news broadcast starts?

positive spin:  No matter how contentious your relationship may be with your ex, there will always be some common ground you can reach regarding your kid’s upbringing.

  • Having to hide the emotional lilt in your voice because you physically can’t give your baby a ‘goodnight kiss’ over the phone.

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positive spin:  Again, when you are reunited with your child, their hugs feel that much more magical.

  • Having to show up “childless” to certain extended family functions/holidays because your kid is enjoying the day with your ex and their bizarro family.

positive spin:  Secretly knowing that they have more fun with you and your (possibly equally crazy) clan.

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  • The stabbing pain of hearing your little one cry out “I need mommy/daddy!” …when that parent isn’t you.  It never was all that great before to listen to how you were unneeded in a situation of tantamount importance to them, but now it holds a truly acrimonious tinge.

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positive spin:  Undoubtedly, there are times when they are with your ex and shriek for you in that “end of the world” tone that only children not getting exactly what they want can attain.

  • When you have to ignore/feign that you don’t see the close-knit, smiley family (with both a Mom AND Dad in attendance) enjoying their Pizza Hut dinner feast, while you and you child somberly eat in solitude.

positive spin:  Having the time to focus all of your attention on your kids when you are with them (without the potential distractions of a partner who always seems to want to argue).

  • Not hearing your child’s laughter in the halls when they are at your ex’s for the night.

positive spin: Having license to engage in passionate, grunt-inducing intercourse with a new lover and not having to worry in the slightest that your kid will hear.

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  • When you finally have a new and possibly serious beau, deciding if and when the right time is to present them to your kids.  Will they instantly resent him/her?  Also, maybe this new partner is not good with kids? (Clearly, a deal-breaker – but truly stinks if you like them otherwise)

positive spin:  Inadvertently, your kids can help you quickly weed out people you may be looking at with rose-colored glasses, who are really not going to be great mates in the long run.

  • Feeling the inverse: does your child like your ex’s new “person” more than you??  Will you be “replaced”?

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positive spin:  When these type of questions unsuspectingly pop up in your brain, it’s a good time to take a moment and truly assess the situation.  When you remind yourself that these fears are completely unfounded and irrational, it gives you real clarity and peace of mind.

  • Trying to deal with/suppress feelings of supreme GUILT.  Do my kids think the break-up is my fault?  Are their new problems in school/ extra-curricular activities/PlayStation ultimately my doing??

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positive spin:  If you are really worried about these things, it’s always good to open the lines of communication with your child.  As long as you present any issues in a sensitive manner, your child may be forthcoming and tell you their own fears.  Then the two of you can come to a real place of resolution.

  • Fighting to stay awake at work the day after you had to stay up with your baby as they did battle with a scary cold through the entire night.  When it’s “your night,” being a single parent means having all the responsibly squarely on you.

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positive spin:  At least you get to sleep in when it’s “their” turn.

  • Worrying about how screaming matches with your ex may have negatively affected your children.

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positive spin: Finally letting out that built-up, monumental sigh of relief when you realize you can love and raise your child in a home without constant spousal bickering, mistrust and tension.

  • Staying up at night, wondering if you’ve been doing the right thing.

positive spin: When it finally dawns on you that your child will love you, no matter what.

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-Joe Leone 

How to Answer Annoying Questions About Divorce

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When news of your recent divorce hits the streets, people can get a tad bit nosy.  “What went wrong?  Who’s getting the kids?  Can I have the wedding present I gave you back?”  Retaining composure and diplomatically answering these questions can be a real challenge, if you don’t have the appropriate responses cocked and readied.  Read on to thoroughly equip yourself with seamless retorts that will keep the rabid Inquisitors (family, friends, intrusive grocery clerks and DMV workers) at bay, at least for a while.

“What happened?”

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When addressing this initial query, it’s best to keep it simple.  Providing the bare minimum, in terms of what transpired and why, is not just adequate, but will send the signal that this conversation is not going to turn into an episode of “Dr. Phil.”  Also, keep things in an affirmative light; let them know that you are not dwelling on the negative and that you are focused on shaping your future.

“I don’t think this is the right decision.  Why did you do this??”

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Explain that even if they completely disagree with what occurred and why, the best thing for them to do at this juncture is to give you their full support.  The aftermath of the divorce can be even harder to deal with than the event itself, and you truly can use all the positive reinforcement you can get.  Also, if kids are a part of the equation, explain that this can be a traumatic event for them especially.  Anyone involved, even minimally, in the lives of the children in question should be as supportive as humanly possible.

“You should try to get back together.”

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When this gratuitous “advice” is dumped on you, it’s best to clearly elucidate the fact that you recognize your ex-partner’s favorable attributes (you obviously loved them at one point), but now you need to transition out of marriage mode and progress forward with your life.  You’re not getting un-divorced any time soon, so let’s all look at what’s on the ever expansive horizon of life, not what’s fading into the sunset.

“Want to know what I think went wrong?”

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While your comrades, great aunts and assorted mechanics and baristas may all be brimming with theories as to what the real error in your compatibility was, graciously tell them that you appreciate their concern, but you really don’t want to drum all of that up right now.  Yes, there probably are myriad reasons why it didn’t work out in the end, but your goal now is to heal and move on.  Dredging up accusations of your ex’s potential extramarital affairs or secret hatred of your hat collection is not going to help you do that, so please keep your comments to yourself, Uncle Herbie, thank you.

“I’ve been divorced, too.  Here’s how you handle it…”

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Of course it can be nice to commiserate with people who have been in similarly trying situations, but take all such proffered wisdom with a grain of salt.  Let them know that every divorce is unique, like a lovely snowflake of separation, and what may have worked/failed for them may not apply to your uncoupling scenario at all.

At the end of the day, if and how you address questions related to your divorce is totally up to you.  You always have the option to tell people to “mind their beeswax,” and to give them ‘the hand.’ However, dealing with the residual effects of your divorce by confronting them head-on can lead to a quicker healing process.  When chatting with concerned parties, be nice, be polite, but ultimately, be true to yourself.

And yes, Aunt Trudy, you can have your ugly purple candy dish back.

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-Joe Leone