Happy Father’s Day! Dedicated to Dads.

 

What a great ad from Johnson and Johnson!

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The Parenting Consultant Nightmare is Now Available!





Its here.  It’s here!!!  Much later than I had hoped, but it is here!  Editing is a tedious process and I have learned that for future books, but hopefully that makes this title user friendly. 

I am not a lawyer and I am not a psychologist, but this book has tips you need to avoid a Parenting Consultant Nightmare for your family.  If you read it and think that your parenting consultant should read it, do not give it to them personally.  Email me with their info and I will make them aware of the book and encourage them to read it.  You might get in trouble with your pc for implying they do not know what they are doing.  Allow me to take the risk for you!

Also, tell anyone you know who is living in Family Court hell that there is a guide to parenting consultants now available.

Buy it today on Amazon or Create space





No Tricks or Treats For Me




I have been crazy busy lately and neglecting the blog.  I am hoping that certain things have settled down for me enough so that I can get back to some daily posts soon.  In the meantime, here is a Halloween story that I am re-posting from 10/11/11.  Since Halloween is quickly approaching, I wanted to make sure you had some options with the holiday co-parenting situations that cause anxiety, sadness, anger and stress.  Enjoy!

*repost from 10/11/11




I remembered a story that I wanted to share with you to see if it is something you might like to try.  After dealing with my own sad holidays, when the kids were not going to be with me, I started to get a little creative with things.

One of my friends lost custody of her children and was devastated that the children’s father wouldn’t allow her to have the children for part of the evening so they could have a little trick or treating with both Mom and Dad.  I suggested that maybe she celebrate with the children the day before.  At first my friend was reluctant.  How would that work, Halloween is one day?  I reminded her that many people would already have prepared and bought candy.  I also told her that the kids could come to my house and I’d hand out candy a day early.  I also asked my neighbors if they’d help out.  They were willing.  My friend called some of her other friends and made the request of them.  They, too, were willing to oblige.

The day before Halloween came and the Mom had parenting time with her children.  She helped them put on their Halloween costumes and told them that they were going to have a special Halloween.  At first the kids felt embarrassed.  They thought that they would look dumb, out on a day that was not for trick or treating, but after they had made the special neighborhood rounds, they felt really special.  They got more than just the typical candy.  Some of the friends and neighbors had put together a package with books or crayons and stickers, along with the candy.  It was a success. 

The kids felt good and Mom felt good and they got to celebrate the day together.  Those kids will remember how their mom still made Halloween special and they got to trick or treat before any of their friends did.  Not to mention, they went trick or treating the next day with their dad, so it was double the fun.This is a good lesson of how we can get caught up with a date, but it doesn’t have to be on the exact date.  You can make holidays nice and sometimes even extra special even when you have to be without your kids on the actual Holiday date.

Where there is a will, there is a way!  When you are missing your kids and devastated at the holidays, go ahead and get creative.  Enlist the help of others because you will find that they are very much willing to help out when they can.


Image courtesy of Tina Phillips / FreeDigitalPhotos.net





Parenting Time, New Relationships, and CoParenting Communication








One thing that I find astonishing is how some parents will expect the co parent to change parenting time agreements just because they have a new significant other.  In my opinion, when you have made an agreement with someone and it is working for you, you have no business changing that schedule just because you have someone new in your life who would like things to be different.  For example, it does happen where a couple meets and find that their children have opposites parenting schedules.  Maybe it is inconvenient that you cannot get the kids on the same weekend.  Maybe you would like to have all the parenting time on the same weekend so that you get a weekend alone together every other weekend, when the children are visiting the other parent.  I think you need to always honor the original parenting time schedule and anything else should be secondary and worked out gradually.



It can make your ex crazy if they feel that you are going to try to change everything on a whim or every time you meet someone new.  You are going to stir up those old feelings of loss and being cast aside.  Anyone who wants to make the relationship with their ex a good one will put that agreement first.  Those who want to cause pain for their ex or use the children as a weapon are selfish and inconsiderate.



While I understand that you do not want to live your entire life with opposing parenting time schedules, especially if the relationship is serious, I think you have to go about changing it with caution and compassion.



First, make sure you know this new person well and are fairly confident it will last.  If you have only known someone for a couple of months, it is ridiculous to expect your ex to make changes for what may be a fleeting affair.  Believe me when I tell you that I have seen many cases where one or even both parties have several new significant others over the years of raising children.  If this new relationship is “the one” then that person will be understanding of your obligations as a parent.  Remember that your children are getting older every day and that will change things over time.  Just as you need to allow the children to adjust to the new relationship, you have to consider the feelings of the other parent about your new relationship.  If you press an issue too fast, such as trying to change the entire schedule, it will cause you a great deal of grief.  Wait for a reasonable amount of time before approaching your ex for anything.  If you are not confident that you want to share your life with this new person, do not make any changes to parenting time until you can be sure.



If, in time, you are ready to commit to the new relationship, gently approach your ex.  Do not put it all out there and do not make them feel that you are doing it for your new love interest.  Make it about you and the children.  Test the waters first by requesting a change for a weekend.  For example, you and your new partner would like to have all the kids together to get to know each other.  Do not make a first attempt on a holiday.  There will be more holidays ahead.  Try it on a non important weekend.  This will give your kids time to adjust and your ex will most likely not have reason to deny it.  Think about it, holidays are very important to us because of our extended family.  You are slighting your ex when you try to change holidays and make them feel that your new partner’s family is more important.  They are not.  Your ex’s family are relatives to the children and should be treated as such.  Over time, these relationships may change as the children’s views change, and they may feel more connected to your new partner’s family as they spend more time with them.  You do not have to push the relationships.  If you allow them to form on their own, you have a much better chance that they will be good relationships.  When people feel forced into them, things do not go well.



Finally, be very careful how you approach this with your ex.  Here is an example of what NOT to do.  Dad approaches Mom so that he can have the children on the same weekend his ex does.



Dad: “Hi, Molly.  Say, I want to change my schedule with the kids.  Sandy and I never have a weekend that we do not have kids.  We would really like some alone time, if you know what I mean.”



This approach is going to be met with anger and disgust.  Why?  Because it shows that dad is only thinking about what he and his new partner want.  It has nothing to do with the children and nothing to do with the ex.  You have given mom reason to get upset and say no.  She does NOT care what you and your girlfriend want, especially if your divorce was bitter.



A better way to do it would be to say something like this:



Dad: “I would like to talk to you about changing the parenting time schedule with the kids.  Does it matter to you what weekends you have parenting time?”



I often tell people that less is more.  You do not have to go into great detail about why you want something.  It is usually better when you do not.  Giving the co-parent a reason why you want something, often creates a reason why they do not want to accommodate you.  This is actually why men fare better in court and with parenting consultants than women do.  Men usually give short answers and do not talk about their feelings.  Women often say too much and come across as vindictive or jealous.  That is typically not how they are feeling, but that is how it comes across.  More on that in another post.



Suppose that mom says, “Well, I guess it doesn’t matter, but I don’t see why you need to change it.  There is nothing wrong with the way it is now.”



Dad can then say, “I am finding that the schedule is not working for me as I hoped it would.  I would like to swap the weekends.  I would really appreciate it if we could try it, even just as a test.  I’d be willing to let you have two weekends in a row as the starting point.”



This puts a positive spin on things.  You are being accommodating to mom and not giving her a reason to say no.  This tells her that it is about what you want and only you.  She doesn’t need to know if you and your new love want it.  You are also not pushing it down her throat.  You should never say to her or the children that you want this because of your new relationship.  That will bring the greatest resistance and personally, I think when people do that, you are doing it to hurt the other parent.  If that is your main goal, you will end up with fighting and bitterness.  If, on the other hand, you want to create a new life with your children, doing so with patience and compassion is the best way to get there.  It may not always work, but it helps much more than it hurts to try to do things with compassion.



The truth is, you are starting a new life and a new relationship with the other parent.  You want to make it more of a business like relationship.  In business, you would not go into a great deal of detail, you would stick to the basics.  For example, you want to take a day off to go to the doctor.  Most people ask the boss if they can have the time off.  Some go further and say that it is for a doctor appointment.  Very few are going to say, “well, I have to go to the doctor because I have hypertension and need a refill on the meds for that and my depression issues.  I have also been having some digestion problems.  I better see what the doctor can do about that”.  Does going that far do anything to help the situ
ation?  No.  It might actually harm you at work now that you have told your boss you have depression.



It is about self disclosure.  There are appropriate levels of self disclosure in all relationships.  Most people know how to be professional at work and keep personal matters for their friends and family.  The problem with divorce is that you are going to start bringing that relationship to a different level.  It is going to go backward.  In life, we rarely have to take relationships backward.  Most of the time when we decide we do not wish to continue a relationship, we just dismantle it completely.  It is over and done.  You are not going to see that person anymore and you do not have to change the way you relate.  Of course your ex knew you very intimately, but that is no longer appropriate.  They knew you intimately then, but you do not need or want them to know you intimately now.  If you do, then you have issues and are not ready to enter into a new relationship. 



You have to play it carefully to avoid ex spouse headaches.  If you do not want them interfering in your new relationship then do not invite them in.  When you start making requests of an ex, by telling them that you and your new partner want something, you are in essence inviting them into your new relationship and allowing them decision making power over the needs of the new relationship.  Do not make this mistake.  Also, do not allow your new partner to make any requests of your ex.  They are not the co-parents.  While they may develop a relationship in time, allowing it to happen on its own is the best way to do it.  I am going to caution you that it is better for the new relationship if the old one is not allowed in.  You will save yourself many a headache!



Take things slowly and be careful to allow changes to the old relationship and the new relationship happen gradually.  It is a delicate situation and you will have to be patient.



If you struggle with these issues, consider giving coaching a try.  I can role play with you to see how your approach may go over.  I can help you figure out the best way to create change with co-parenting relationships and allow you to practice what you are going to say to the other parent.

Image courtesy of mrpuen / FreeDigitalPhotos.net





Oh, Those Darn Holiday Disputes!



The holidays can be such a hard time.  Co-parenting is often wrought with disputes.  The tough part is that this is also the time when there is not much help out there.  Either the issue is so time sensitive there is no way to get it resolved in time or if you need an attorney, parenting time expediter or parenting consultant, they are swamped.  I know a parenting consultant who has 60 active cases.  Now that seems like a lot, and it is, but they are usually manageable throughout the year.  She may not hear from either party in a year or two, sometimes never again, but even if half of those cases are having holiday disputes, it becomes unmanageable.  Imagine the emails!

It is normal for those who are in the throws of hostile co-parenting situations to want to avoid the other parent, but if possible you should plan the holidays in advance.  If you live in fear from early November to the beginning of January, you are probably causing yourself a great deal more stress than you need.  Rather than hiding from your ex and avoiding your ex, hit the issue head on.  Call your ex well in advance of the holidays that usually create a dispute and ask your ex if they were considering making any changes to the parenting time schedule for the holidays.  You may just end up with a workable plan and not have to spend the holidays angry, stressed out or living with uncertainty.

As a coach, I can help you figure out the best approach.  I can also help you consider what you might be willing to change and how to not to show your hand before you find out what your ex wants.

Facing your fears head on is always better than avoiding them.






Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net





Kids on Time




One of my most popular posts has been a post I wrote about Our Family Wizard.  I did not plan it that way, but that is far and above the most read post from my blog.  When I was court ordered to use it, I thought that it was wrong that one company gets all the business around the country.  When I divorced, that was the only program out there and I found much of it to be somewhat archaic.  I haven’t been on Our Family Wizard for a while to view anything other than emails, so I do not know if there have been improvements, but the icons drove me nuts.  They were very child like.  I do not know about you, but my kids were not the ones using the program.  My ex and I were.  I wanted a more grown up program.



Well, technology is catching up to the coparenting world and I have been connected to another coparenting tool by way of Twitter.  I wanted to pass it along as an alternative to Our Family Wizard.   It is called Kids on Time.  Check it out and let me know what you think of it.



Susan



Christmas Co Parenting Conflict




*The following is a re-post from 12-14-11



The holidays can be hell for the parent embroiled in the high conflict divorce situation. This is a truly unpleasant time for many single parents. Your ex is a jerk and his/her gift to you is constant badgering and torment. What can you do?

This advice is not very popular with parenting consultants, but I don’t care. My advice is that if your ex is always trying to upset you, at this time of year, you should be a scrooge. You need to be strict with your parenting time.

For the ex who is trying to cause chaos, when they ask for special visitation (because it’s Christmas!), your best bet is to say, “No.” Why? Well, what often happens when someone asks for a special request for the holidays is that the parent who has parenting time for Christmas decides that they could part with the children for a couple of hours. They say okay. It sounds like a good idea, then when you get down to the details it goes the same way everything else goes, it’s a battle. You say two hours, the other parent says, no, I want 4 hours, or you offer the time when your family is not celebrating and the other parent just so happens to want the kids at the same exact time as you do. Maybe you have agreed to the times, but now the other parent expects you to provide all the transportation for the children that day, but you figure, well, he/she wants the kids, he/she can do the driving. The next thing you know it completely breaks down and you renege on the change. Worse yet, your ex has involved the parenting consultant. The parenting consultant is going to give your ex the holiday because you had agreed to give up some parenting time and then reneged. Now, you have lost the entire holiday! Sound crazy? Well, it happens A LOT!

All I am suggesting is that if you are in a highly contentious co parenting situation, this is the time to be protective of your parenting time. It is your parenting time and you have the right to say no without apology or explanation. Some would suggest, oh, that is so mean, the children will be upset! Well, children ARE upset when their parents have divorced. They have already had to accept that they are with Mom sometimes and with Dad sometimes. They will adjust if you tell them that this is the arrangement for Christmas and that you and the other parent had agreed to this (or that this is what the court decided). If you and your ex have fought over everything up to this point, it is highly unlikely that the emotionally charged holidays are the time when you are going to suddenly make nice. It is my opinion that things don’t settle down in these kind of relationships for several years, if at all. What does seem to be the most helpful way to get the co parenting rolling for the high conflict parents is a break. Freedom from courts, lawyers and parenting consultants goes a long way to allow everyone, including the children, to settle into their new lives. For at least the first few years, I recommend that you use the parenting time you have and the other parent use the parenting time that they have. No changes. No reasons to have to iron out little details of a change. It will almost always go bad. It will almost always backfire on you. You would not be so conflicted if you were both accepting of your new lives and new parenting relationship.

Giving people time to adjust is helpful. you may never get along well, but you may be able to learn to navigate once you are both past the hurt. Once new lives are established, you start to get back some confidence. If you are trying to solve all of your problems through a parenting consultant, even if it is only one of you who is always initiating that contact with the parenting consultant, then you are far from healed. You don’t have to figure out everything right away. Hopefully it will come with time, but it won’t come if you continue to battle about everything and never get a break from it. Remember, I am talking about high conflict co parenting relationships. If your is an amicable divorce do what is best for everyone, but if yours is a cooperative co parenting situation, what are you reading this blog for?

If your ex asks for a special holiday request, say no, unless you have no holiday plans or have to work and it doesn’t matter if they are with you or not. You don’t need to add a reason why you are saying no. This is your parenting time, not the other parent’s. If your ex threatens to call the parenting consultant, let them. The parenting consultant is supposed to follow your parenting time listed in the court order. Most of the time they won’t change that without a good reason. Whatever you do, if you give your ex some of your parenting time, do not renege. If you do, that will cause a lot of unpleasantness for you and probably your kids, too.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net