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Blended Families: Celebrating the holidays

How do you celebrate the holidays when blending families? With sensitivity and creativity, you can develop new traditions and routines. Read below to gain perspective and ideas.

Blended families: Celebrating the holidays

Today's ParentBy Dawn Calleja | Today’s Parent

 love Christmas. Yup, I’m one of those people: belting out schlocky tunes in the car, searching for the perfect ceiling-scraper of a tree, bawling my way through It’s a Wonderful Life. But the emotional and logistical strain wrapped up with the holidays at our house – courtesy of my husband’s four kids from two exes, in addition to our own two little ones – can bring out the Scrooge in me.

There was the time my husband’s then-five-year-old son called to tell us excitedly about the Pokémon toy Santa had delivered – the exact same one waiting for him under our tree. Or the year a tipsy ex-number-one called in the middle of our Christmas Eve party to shout that there was no way she was driving downtown to pick up the kids the next day. You get the picture.

Even for the most happily married couples, the holidays can be fraught with conflict and compromise. It can be exponentially more complicated for the approximately 776,000 Canadian parents who are divorced or separated and raising kids without a new partner. Then there are the blended families – almost 13 percent of Canada’s 3.7 million two-parent families are stepfamilies, like mine. Negotiating how to share the kids is never easy, but this is a time of year when it can be hardest to let go. “Christmas is a tough time because there is a lot of tradition and ritual around how the holidays are managed,” says Deborah Moskovitch, author of The Smart Divorce, a book she was inspired to write after her own acrimonious split. “But you have to share it. That’s how you have to look at effective co-parenting.”

Here’s how to ensure your festive season is filled with merriment – not resentment – this year. 

Make a plan

If you haven’t set a holiday schedule by the time you read this, do it now. “You don’t want the kids to have any angst about what they’re going to be doing at Christmas,” says Moskovitch, who also founded a divorce coaching service. Sit down with your ex and bring a calendar (and, if necessary, a neutral third party, like a professional mediator or trusted mutual friend) to figure out exactly how you’re going to divvy up the holiday break, right down to whether the kids are being picked up or dropped off, at what time, and the things they’ll need to pack. “It can be fluid and change, but it gets rid of any miscommunication,” says Moskovitch.

Trevor Pereira and his ex-wife made their Christmas schedule part of the separation agreement they drew up seven years ago. In even years, he has their two kids for Christmas Eve and morning, then hands them off at noon. In odd years, he picks them up from their mom’s house, still in their pyjamas, and takes them home for brunch and more presents. (To help avoid the aforementioned Pokémon scenario, Pereira and his ex go over the kids’ wish lists together each year to decide who’s going to buy what and how much they’ll spend.) “It’s sad either way,” admits Pereira, an IT specialist from Brantford, Ont. “Either you don’t have them in the morning or you don’t have them in the evening. But at least we both still see them on Christmas Day.”

Luckily for Pereira and his ex, they live in the same town. For co-parents who live in different cities, or even different provinces, it’s not so simple. If you have to kiss your kids goodbye for the entire holiday, says Moskovitch, “make sure you can call and talk to them. They’ll want to know you’re OK.”

To read the whole article click here

How did you blend your family…..please share your new traditions, routines and ideas.

Wishing you all the best for the holiday season!


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When nannies get caught in divorce drama

I spoke with Wency Leung at the Globe&Mail about my personal experience with my nanny through divorce.  This article provides insight into many important considerations when a nanny/babysitter is involved.

Baby wrangler or domestic diplomat? When nannies get caught in divorce drama

WENCY LEUNG

As a nanny, 23-year-old Ana was prepared to deal with tears, name-calling and the silent treatment while on the job. She just did not expect to witness it between her employers. When the couple who hired her split up last year, she often felt caught in the middle.

Some days, she struggled to keep both parents happy as she took care of their toddler son in downtown Toronto. Other days, the entire household felt bogged down by a general sense of sadness. And on particularly awkward occasions, one parent would bad-mouth the other in front of her or ask for information about their spouse.

“It was just very traumatic for everybody – for the kid, for the nanny, for everybody who lived there,” Ana says, noting she tried to stay out of the couple’s personal affairs as much as she could. (Because of the sensitive nature of the issue, she requested that her full name not be published.) “I would just try to keep my opinions to myself.”

As Ana discovered, divorce adds a whole new set of challenges to a nanny’s job. In addition to regular child-minding duties, a break-up requires nannies to adopt the role of domestic diplomat, dodging highly-charged conflicts without taking sides. Yet amid the turmoil, nannies can also become a much-needed source of stability for the children in their care. And navigating the chaos can strengthen the nanny-child bond.

Royal nanny Olga Powell’s reassuring presence through the highly publicized breakup of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is believed to have helped Prince William and Prince Harry cement their relationship with their long-time caregiver. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, pulled out of several official engagements to attend Powell’s funeral this week. According to The Telegraph, Powell, who died last month at the age of 82, started looking after Prince William when he was six months old. She worked for the royal family for 15 years, helping the princes get through their parents’ troubled marriage and eventual divorce.

“In the circumstances of divorce, the nanny is kind of that one stable factor,” says Kellie Geres, a veteran nanny with more than 20 years of experience, based in Washington, D.C., who has served three households through divorce. When their home life is in upheaval, “the children recognize that … there is somebody that they can count on, and I think the parents also recognize that too.”

Ana and her young charge have become close over the past year. “From the beginning, I loved him very much because he was such a lovely kid,” she says, noting the challenge of protecting and caring for him during his parents’ separation may have amplified those feelings. Ana now works exclusively for the parent who moved out with the child, and rarely has contact with the other.

Given that roughly 40 per cent of Canadian marriages end in divorce, dealing with employers’ break-ups is not uncommon for child caregivers. In fact, Martha Scully, founder the online database CanadianNanny.ca, based in Nanaimo, says in recent years she has seen a growing number of divorced and separating couples register on her site together to find a nanny who can provide consistent care in their fractured households.

But even though they may be willing to co-operate during the hiring process, that does not necessarily make it easier for caregivers to avoid strife among exes. Scully says she often hears of parents giving their nannies conflicting directions – a problem that can be compounded when couples remarry, bringing more opinions and expectations into the mix. (Geres says it helps if parents can decide that one of them is the boss, so even though the caregiver may update all the adults with their children’s activities and progress, she needs only answer to one.)

Some nannies also get stuck doing double duty, cleaning and doing chores for two homes instead of one. And since some employers treat their nannies like members of the family, it can be hard for them to resist dishing the dirt on the exes. Defining the boundaries of the nanny-employer relationship can be tricky at the best of times.

Even among couples who are not going through divorce, relying on hired help can bring up parents’ feelings of guilt or concern that their roles are being replaced. Scully often hears mothers worry: “Is the nanny going to start looking like Mom to the baby?” These fears can worsen when parental roles change during divorce; when, for example, a stay-at-home parent is required to find work or a parent spends less time with the children after moving out.

“When parents express that worry to us, I always say you can’t have too many people who love a child,” Scully says. “So let’s say the child really loves a nanny. Is that such a bad thing?”

Deborah Moskovitch, Toronto-based divorce coach and author of The Smart Divorce, says that far from taking over her role, the family nanny gave her more time to spend one-on-one with each of her children when she went through her own divorce.

Click here to read the whole article and valuable advice


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Don’t Divorce Me! Kids’ Rules for Parents on Divorce

Have you watched the new documentary on HBO – Don’t Divorce Me!  If you haven’t already done so, I strongly suggest you do.

This is the most incredible program providing a voice to children of divorce.  They share their do’s and don’ts of what their parents are doing right and wrong throughout the divorce process and beyond.  The important tips they share are:

  1. Don’t use your kids as messengers
  2. Let them know that the divorce isn’t there fault
  3. Don’t fight
  4. Love your children (too much)
  5. They want to spend time with both mom and dad
  6. Keep the kids out of the middle
  7. Try to make sure that your parents get both kids kind of equally
  8. Don’t ask me to spy

These kids are smart are tell parents in such a powerful way what they could be doing better.  Children are the ones that live out the divorce…..so let’s give our children the best chances and listen to their message.

If you’re having trouble coping emotionally, understanding the importance of putting your children’s best interest first, healing through the divorce process for a happier, healthier future, then you will definitely want to check out The Smart Divorce ToolKit – a cost-effective and valuable divorce support resource.

I’ve written previous blog posts about The Children’s Best Interests.  Check them out:


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Don’t Let Divorce Destroy Your Relationship with Your Kids

The calendar year starts in September for many families, and along with that comes many adjustments. One of the most serious fall-outs of divorce may be a diminished child-parent relationship.

What happens when you’re a kind, loving, caring parent whose relationship has been downgraded for what seems like no reason at all? How do you maintain a relationship with your children when their priorities change from family to now focusing on school and friends? Here are five ways to maintain a relationship with your kids during the school year.

1. Re-frame your thinking: Don’t measure time spent with your children in quantity — minutes and hours — but in terms of the quality of time you are spending together.

2. Be creative: Keep the relationship going by doing what is in their best interest — driving them to programs, helping them with homework and asking them what they need from you. By doing so, you get to know who their friends are and understand what they are doing at school; it will help promote conversation.

To read the whole article, click on the link below

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-moskovitch/dont-let-divorce-destroy-_b_1853231.html?utm_hp_ref=divorce&ir=Divorce


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Resolve Custody Conflicts in Divorce

New on The Smart Divorce – Resolve Custody Conflicts in Divorce

You can protect your kids through Divorce Without Dishonor, and our guest, Mike Mastracci tells us how to resolve custody conflicts in divorce.  Author and lawyer, Mike Mastracci is a nationally recognized family law attorney and mediator with over 20 years of professional experience. He is the author of STOP Fighting Over the Kids, Resolving Day-to-Day Conflict in Divorce Situations.  (To receive a FREE copy of Mike’s book, send your request to: DivorceSourceRadio@gmail.com and the E-book will be emailed to you.)

Stop fighting over the kidsIn addition to his legal, collaborative and mediation skills, Mastracci brings much more to the table: with an insightful, kind and helpful approach. He shares his personal child custody issues and challenges to better serve you in solving your legal, practical, parental, and situational problems.

Mr. Mastracci through his common sense approach provides insight, strategies and an invaluable understanding of Court, costly custody battles. Mastracci encourages divorcing couples to educate themselves in the Collaborative Divorce method whereby they can demonstrate by their words and actions that they love their children more than they may dislike their ex. Mike will frankly tell you that contested divorce and child custody litigation is more often than not a waste of time, money and emotional wear and tear.
Mastracci is committed to preserving parent-child relationships.

To hear this interview, click on the link http://www.divorcesourceradio.com/resolve-custody-conflicts-divorce/


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It’s All About The Kids, “Stupid” – Parenting During Divorce

One of the most important concerns parents have post divorce is how their time is to be shared between their children.  Is there such a thing about the right parenting plan or how parenting time is shared?  In this episode of The Smart Divorce with Deborah Moskovitch, our guest Dr. Phil Stahl  has some very insightful answers and thoughts on parenting during divorce.

Dr. Stahl is one of the North America’s foremost parenting experts; a practitioner, author, and teacher, specializing in high conflict families of divorce. He has served on numerous committees and task forces designed to improve the quality of work in his field. He teaches judges, attorneys, psychologists and other mental health professionals about issues affecting families and children. His expertise is accepted in courts across the country.

If you are a parent going through a divorce, you will want to learn more about custody evaluations and some of the issues affecting families and children. This show is insightful for grandparents and step-parents…..or anyone who wants a better understanding of the parenting plan and putting the children’s best interests first.

Topics include:

  • Communication blunders, and apologizing to our children for our mistakes
  • Wise advice from Dr. Stahl’s book – Parenting After Divorce
  • What makes a good parenting plan
  • Parenting plan ideas
  • Parenting through conflict
  • How to share your child – your child is not a percentage

For more on Dr. Stahl, visit: http://www.parentingafterdivorce.com/index.html

To hear this insightful interview chock full of great advice tune in at http://www.divorcesourceradio.com/its-all-about-the-kids-stupid-parenting-during-divorce/


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How to Tell Your Kids You’re Getting Divorced

Published in The Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-moskovitch/how-to-tell-your-kids-you_b_1320140.html?ref=divorce

By Deborah Moskovitch

Research indicates that too few parents sit down and explain to their children that their marriage is ending. They also don’t encourage their children to ask questions. Parents often say nothing, leaving their children confused. When parents do not explain what’s happening, the children feel anxious, upset and lonely and find it much harder to cope. Children don’t need to know the reasons behind the divorce, but what you can tell them is what it means to them and their lives.

Providing age-appropriate information will help your children and adolescents cope with the many changes in their lives initiated by the separation and divorce. It will make them feel less anxious. And it establishes a healthy pattern of communication with your children.

Preparing for conversation: Children and adolescents are much smarter then we often give them credit for. There is information they will want to know and appropriate to share, such as:

    • The parenting plan. If you can, try to work out an interim agreement about what your living arrangements will be before you talk with your children. Although this plan might change later, your children will feel more confident if they know you’ve put some thought into the separation and how it might impact them.
    • Reassurance. Let your children know that they are equally important to both of you, and you both want to be with them. Assure your children that the divorce is between mom and dad, and not your children — you will always be their parents.
  • Answers to their questions: Try to think of the questions that your children might ask and be ready with answers. For example, they will want to know if they will be able to attend the same school or see their friends and extended family and where each of you will be living.

Talk about it together: It is helpful for both parents to talk with the children together. This gives them a consistent message and shows them that you both love them and that you can and will work together and parent cooperatively, even though you are divorcing. When it is not possible to talk to children together, do the best that you can to coordinate what you are saying to them and be sure not to put down your co-parent or be negative about them.

Provide the right message: When parents talk to their children about the separation or divorce, they are some very important things that you most likely will want your children to hear:

    • That it was a mutual decision to separate; avoid laying blame on one parent.
    • You, their parents, love them very much and that the divorce is not their fault
  • Tell them what their lives will look like in concrete terms. For example: what will stay the same and what may change. Try to provide your children with security and routine.

Allow for grieving: Don’t rush your children; allow them time to react. Children need their space to grieve and adjust to this new reality too. Allow your children to express any and all feelings; let them know that is OK to do so. Also, help your children articulate different feelings and let them know that they can ask you anything.

Help your child understand the new reality: What will your children’s new reality look like? Hang a family calendar in a prominent place or in your children’s rooms. Show your children that you care; help them keep track of when they will be in each home. Since they will be adjusting to life in two separate homes, you want them to feel comfortable in this new routine.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to tell your children that you, the parents, may not have all the answers, but you are working toward goals together.

I also discuss this topic with Marilyn Denis on The Marilyn Denis show.  To watch the interview click on the link

http://m.marilyn.ca/mobile/segment.aspx?segid=17929

For more tips and strategies about the conversation with your children, I interviewed Joan Kelly, an internationally recognized psychologist whose work focuses on the impact of divorce on children, on The Smart Divorce on Divorce Source Radio

http://www.divorcesourceradio.com/what-should-we-tell-the-children-about-our-separation-or-divorce/

More helpful tips may be found in The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice from 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors, and Other Experts (Chicago Review Press, 2007). Or through The Smart Divorce ToolKit. You may also wish to visit The Smart Divorce website for more information about information tools, resources and divorce coaching.  

To place an order or for more information email info@thesmartdivorce.com



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This Family Day, Don’t Play Games with Your Children

As published in The Huffington Post

Living in the province of Ontario, I am fortunate to have the day off on February 20 because of the statutory holiday “Family Day”. This holiday was created because the provincial government felt that “there is nothing more valuable to families than time together. And yet it seems tougher than ever to find, with so many of us living such busy lives.”

Single parent households, blended families, same-sex families, cohabiting families. There so many more configurations that I haven’t even mentioned. But when you’re divorced and single, the expression “family day” suddenly takes on a very new meaning.

What if you’re divorced with no children, and have no extended family? Does that mean you can’t celebrate Family Day? No. I suggest that you reach out to your friends who have become your extended family. Let them know how special they are to you. Start building important bonds and relationships that you hope can be long lasting.

If you have become estranged or alienated from your family and children, use this time to reflect and try to understand what went wrong. Perhaps this can be the day when you start mending those broken bonds. The ending of a relationship between a parent and a child is probably one of the most painful experiences that can happen.

To be estranged is a breakdown of the bond between a parent and the child; a distance between the two is created. For whatever reason, there was something that caused the loving relationship to turn into one of apathy or hostility. If you ask me, parent alienation is a form of mental abuse.

I’m in my book, The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice from 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors and Other Experts, I argue that:

“The most heinous situation in child custody disputes is called pathological alienation or parent alienation syndrome (PAS). In this scenario, one parent becomes obsessed with destroying a child’s relationship with the other parent when there is no good reason to do so. Alienation can be mild, moderate, or severe… The children’s will and choice are removed from them through a form of brainwashing. This is a serious form of child abuse, because if it isn’t stopped, the children are headed for psychiatric disturbances, failed relationships, and dysfunctional lives in which they will pass this behavior on to their own children.”

So what can you do to overcome these devastating scenarios?

In an interview I conducted with Dr. Robert A. Simon, a clinical and forensic psychologist in California, the doctor offers a slightly different perspective on the issue:

“I have concerns about the use of the term ‘Parental Alienation Syndrome’ because I think this oversimplifies the phenomenon and searches for its cause within an individual. In reality, there is a lack of quality, objective and empirical research to validate the notion that there is an identifiable syndrome that corresponds to the problem. Instead, this is a multi-faceted problem. The issue of children becoming alienated or estranged from a parent is a very real phenomenon and a huge problem.However, I am concerned that raising this issue during the course of child custody litigation has become rather “trendy” these days. And when children resist contact with a parent, this is rarely the result of a malevolent parent setting out to destroy the child’s relationship with the other parent. It is far more complex.

To see the full article in The Huffington Post, click on the link

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/deborah-moskovitch/the-meaning-of-family_b_1277833.html


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Telling Your Children You’re Getting Divorced

I was interviewed on The Marily Denis Show discussing: How Do I Tell My Kids I’m Getting a Divorce

Click on the link to hear the full interview, and outlined below are the tips we discussed http://www.marilyn.ca/parenting/segments.aspx/Daily/October2011/10_18_2011/DivorceGuide

Divorce expert Deborah Moskovitch shares tips on how to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce.

Telling Your Children About Your Divorce

Research indicates that too few parents sit down and explain to their children that their marriage is ending, and they don’t encourage their children to ask questions. Parents that say nothing, leaving their children confused. When parents do not explain what’s happening to their children, the children feel anxious, upset and lonely and find it much harder to cope.  Children don’t need to know the reasons behind the divorce, but what you can tell them is what it means to them and their lives.
Providing age-appropriate information will help your children and adolescents cope with the many changes in their lives initiated by the separation and divorce. It will make them feel less anxious. And it establishes a healthy pattern of communication with your children.
Preparing for conversation
Children and Adolescents are much smarter then we often give them credit for.   There is information they will want to know and appropriate to share such as:
The Parenting Plan.  If you can, try to work out an interim agreement about what your living arrangements will be before you talk with your children. Although this plan might change later, your children will have more of a sense of confidence if they know you’ve put some thought into the separation and how it might impact them.
Provide Reassurance.  Let your children know that they are equally important to both of you, and you both want to be with them. Assure your children that the divorce is between mom and dad, and not your children – we will always be your parents.
Be prepared with answers.  Try to think of the questions that your children might ask, and be ready with an answer – for example, they will want to know if they will be able to attend the same school, or see their friends and extended family and where each of you will be living.
Talk about it together
It is helpful for both parents to talk with the children together.  This gives them a consistent message and shows them that you both love them that you can and will work together and parent cooperatively even though you are divorcing. When it is not possible to talk to children together, do the best you can to coordinate what you are saying to them and be sure not to put down your co-parent or be negative about them.
Provide the right message 
When parents talk to their children about the separation or divorce they are some very important suggestions that you most likely will want your children to hear:
  • That it was a mutual decision to separate; avoid laying blame on one parent.
  • You, their parents, love them very much and that the divorce is not their fault
  • What their lives will look like in concrete terms.  For example: what will stay the same and what may change. Try to provide your children with security and routine.
Allow for grieving 
Don’t rush your children, allow them time to react. Children need their space to grieve and adjust to this new reality too.  Allow your children to express any and all feelings, let them know that is ok to do so. Also, help your children articulate different feelings, and let them know that they can asking you anything.
Help your child understand the new reality 
What will your children’s new reality look like?  Give your children a sense of what will be remaining the same, and what will be changing. Have a family calendar hanging in a prominent place or in your children’s rooms.  Show your children you care, help them keep track of when they will be in each home. Since they will be adjusting to life in two separate homes, you want them to feel comfortable in this new routine.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to tell your children that we, your parents may not have all the answers, but we are working towards goals together.
More helpful tips may be found in The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice from 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors, and Other Experts (Chicago Review Press, 2007).  Or through The Smart Divorce Resource ToolKit.

To place an order or for more information email info@thesmartdivorce.com

 

 

 

 

 


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What September means for divorce

Deborah Moskovitch offers helpful tips for assisting your children through divorce while starting the new school year.

Hello September, so long spouse

ZOSIA BIELSKI

From Friday’s Globe and Mail

September is the cruellest month for students, but not for divorce lawyers, as the dusky end of summer brings a swell of clients to their offices each year.

“Fall is back to business time,” said Julia Cornish, senior family lawyer of Sealy Cornish Coulthard. The Halifax firm sees two spikes a year – September and January, New Year’s resolution time.

“Because we all spent so many years in school, it’s a point in our lives when we’ve been conditioned that this is when we do something new,” Ms. Cornish said.

Her office sees double and sometimes triple the normal number of calls in September. These are from new clients, as well as those who had initiated the separation process in spring but let it languish over the summer months.

“People want to get moving,” said Greg Walen, family lawyer with Scharfstein Gibbings Walen Fisher in Saskatoon.

“They’re back to work, they’re back from summer holidays and they’re back in town from the lake.”

According to Statistics Canada, the country saw 70,226 divorces in 2008, a number that’s held fairly steady since 2001. While there’s no official exit poll in September, Canadian divorce lawyers seem to agree: the calls come thick and fast this month.

Dinyar Marzban, senior family lawyer with Jenkins Marzban Logan in Vancouver, said empty nests motivate the September divorce spike.

“Fall comes around and children go to school. The category of people who rightly or wrongly hung in there for the children, maybe the last one’s gone away to university in September. There’s a fair amount of that, people waiting till the last kid’s out of the house.”

He points out that this brand of waiting game is usually reserved for couples who experience a “general dissatisfaction” in their marriages, not the cutthroat betrayals that prompt high conflict, low patience splits.

Many couples will have stewed for months or years before making the September phone call: “I don’t think people’s marriages break down then. It’s just that they start phoning lawyers then,” Mr. Marzban said.

For people waiting it out through a summer of family-filled days, “the dialogue they have with themselves is, ‘Can I hang in, should I hang in?’ ” Ms. Cornish said.

“It’s the same thing as trying to get through Christmas: Let’s get through this. Unless something catastrophic happens, nobody decides on Christmas Eve, ‘Some time today I need to go see a divorce lawyer.’ What they say is, ‘I’m thinking this probably can’t go on much longer. I’m going to get through Christmas and then come January, it’s time to make a change.’ ”

Of course, there are regional differences. Wendy Best, family lawyer with Dunphy Best Blocksom in Calgary, says that while city lawyers do see a jump in September, the real surge comes after July’s Stampede.

“We think it’s because everyone’s out Stampeding having a grand old time drinking non-stop starting at 7 in the morning. There’s all these stupid, ridiculous sayings like, ‘It ain’t cheating, it’s Stampeding.’ And the other person’s going, ‘Thanks, I’m done with you.’ ”

Stampede aside, several factors make summer an unpopular time for initiating a divorce.

“It’s not a lot of fun spending a beautiful summer day in your lawyer’s office,” Ms. Cornish points out.

Mr. Marzban sees it as seasonal lethargy: “People tend not to do anything in the summer. Summer, everybody powers down a bit.”

Another more tangible reason would be that all-inclusive getaway you splurged on together.

“Do you want to spring that on your partner before you go on the two-week holiday you’ve planned and saved for?” Ms. Cornish posits.

She adds that for those itching to split, summer also offers little in the way of momentum.

“It’s frustrating if you are trying to get things done, only to hear that your spouse is on vacation for the next two weeks, and then their lawyer’s on vacation for the next couple of weeks and then your lawyer’s on vacation. Typically courts have a much quieter schedule in the summer as well.”

At the same time, Ms. Cornish suggests summer can be the only time left in the year for reflection, a pause that can then spark the September phone call.

“It’s an opportunity to step back from the daily grind, figure out what’s working and what’s not in your life.”

How to help kids cope

The Smart Divorce author Deborah Moskovitch offers some basic back-to-school help for parents who have decided to separate in September.

Get thee to the principal’s office

To avoid awkward moments between your child and a teacher unaware of the new family dynamics, try to eke out a moment with a principal or vice-principal, who can relay the news. “They know how to handle it with their teachers,” said Ms. Moskovitch, adding that this is crucial if pick-ups are being handled by a parent unfamiliar to staff. “Parents often change the guard at school, rather than going to the other parent’s home to pick up the children. This way, the teachers are aware of what’s happening if they see another parent they’re not used to seeing.”

Get on the school list

If you weren’t the parent manning the school e-mail list, get your own account now, Ms. Moskovitch said. “Make sure that you get report cards mailed to you – register your second address. If there are field trips, you can put your name on the list to be one of the parenting guides. It shows the kids that you care and want to be involved.”

Homework for all

Moving out doesn’t exempt a parent from helping the kids with their homework, especially if they’re particularly strong in a subject. “If you were married, the kids would come home from school, have snacks and maybe some playtime and then they would do their homework.” Recreate that discipline at your place.

Pass notes

“A lot of parents use a journal that goes into the kids’ backpack as a tool to communicate with each other. It goes back and forth and they send notes about doctors’ appointments and assignments at school,” Ms. Moskovitch said.

Be flexible with visits

Between mountains of homework and extracurricular events, your children’s dance cards will fill up fast. Wednesday night pizza may not always be an option; try a lunch on the weekend or during the week if the school allows children leaving the grounds. “The parent can’t take it as a negative if the kids are busy with their friends doing school projects or hockey. They have to be creative in how they spend time with their kids, whether that’s driving [them] to the activities or having a quick dinner.”

Have the talk – most parents don’t

Ms. Moskovitch urges parents to speak with their children about the separation and anticipate their questions: Where they will live and go to school? “You need to give them a sense of security. If they’re already going to start the school year with a heavy heart because they don’t know what’s going on, at least you can try to minimize the confusion by having that conversation.”

To read this article in The Globe and Mail, and other articles by Zosia Bielski click on the link below:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/love/divorce/hello-september-so-long-spouse/article2150593/page1/