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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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The Shared Custody Experience

On this episode of The Smart Divorce with Deborah Moskovitch, our guest is Denise Whitehead, a lawyer with a Ph.D. in Family Relations & Human Development.  She combines her legal and social science backgrounds and shares her important research on socio-legal practice and policy issues related to separation and divorce that affect all members of the family system – mothers, fathers and children.

Denise Whitehead

Dr. Whitehead discusses her dissertation research that involved in-depth interviews with young adults who spent time in shared custody as children and examined their perspectives on transitions, relationships and fairness.  The information is helpful on so many levels – but most importantly looks at what children really want, the outcomes and impact.

Topics in this program include:

  • How shared custody is influencing parent child relationships
  • Fairness in decision making
  • What children want in a custody arrangement
  • The importance of quality time with children
  • Who “owns the time”
  • ‘Managing-up:’ Young adult children who experienced shared custody reflect on their efforts to make family relations work
  • Custodial decision-making and fairness: Young adults who lived in shared custody give their ‘expert’ opinions
  • And so much more…….

This is a must listen show if you are thinking of, working through or implementing your parenting plan.  Dr. Whitehead provides practical and creative thinking about parenting and the relationship with your children.

To listen click here

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Divorcing Santa – Coparenting Through the Holidays Post-Divorce

My colleague Traci Whitney, founder of  Two Happy Homes has kindly submitted this article.

Please share your thoughts….how do you celebrate the holidays?

Wishing all my readers happy holidays and all the very best……Deborah

By Traci Whitney

Divorce is tough through any time of the year, but getting through the holidays post-divorce can be particularly rough.
This a time of year when you no doubt have a lot of mixed emotions about your ex, and maybe even some holiday memories, but whether they bring fond or sour feelings, this is the time when it’s necessary best to put the children first. Even though you may feel like steering clear of your ex right now, there is a lot going on with the kids, so you may have no choice but to work through some seasonal logistics. Being an excellent co-parent through the holidays may take a little extra effort, but it will make this time of year more peaceful for the whole family, including yourself.
Here are a few tips for peaceful coparenting through the holiday season…
1. Plan the parenting schedule ahead of time. Now is the time to be talking about who gets the kids when over the holidays. Chances are, you already have these days figured out in your parenting plan. But if you don’t, then get this discussion out of the way now so that you both know what to expect when the holidays are upon us. This way you can let any other loved ones know what the schedule is, and everyone can plan accordingly. Getting the parenting schedule out of the way now allows you to enjoy the holidays later.
2. Make two lists, check them twice. If your kids make wish lists for presents – have them make two separate lists – one for each house. If there is one “master” list, then it can create stress between parents… Who saw it first? Who gets to pick out the kids top choices for gifts? Is there enough gifts on the list for two homes to split? What if you buy duplicates and the kids get upset about that?… it can get downright crazy. Have the kids make two lists, or if everyone is agreeable to one parent splitting the list between homes then that is fine too. Tell the kids ahead of time that if they get the same gift at both houses then that’s ok, sometimes just a little heads up can diffuse the situation ahead of time.
3. Communicate with your coparent about gifts for the kids. If your teen really wants to get concert tickets, and you’re considering shelling out a significant amount of money to buy them for her, then it’s best to make sure that your ex doesn’t have the same plan in mind. Keeping in touch now can make sure you avoid possible conflicts during the holidays, and we want to kids to enjoy them as much as possible.
4. Consider splitting the costs for big ticket items, but only if that item is easily shared between the two homes. Don’t agree to pitch in to buy a child a bike or a pet if it can really only stay at one house, this may lead to resentment later on between parents. A doll, electronic toy, or books can entertain kids at either house.
5. Don’t stress about spending money. There are a lot of resources out there for cutting costs over the holidays. One of my favorite places for finding new ideas is Pinterest. Check out blogs for tips on how to save money on gifts. This is an area that you have control of, in a post-divorce world that is not always easy to control, so take advantage of it and do some research and planning early. That way you can enjoy the holidays instead of dreading them!
6. Don’t put the kids in the middle. This is a special time of year for kids, and if you and your coparent are arguing about schedules or gifts, then the magic can be sucked right out of the holiday pretty quickly. Make sure to keep any discussions private so that your kids can enjoy the holidays stress-free.
7. ‘Tis the season to be jolly. This is my favorite time of year, and I’ll admit that being divorced, dealing with family schedules, blended family issues, etc., etc.,  can be quite stressful. Take some time to do the things you love around the holidays, even if that means springing for a babysitter for a few hours so you can have some time to yourself. For me, this means wrapping presents with some eggnog and watching It’s a Wonderful Life – simple, but this is something that I have made my own tradition post-divorce, just for me. I also take time to create traditions for just me and the kids, so they have the joy (and stability) of memories created year after year.

 


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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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The Smart Divorce Audio Series Now Available

Get through your divorce as you save time, money – and your sanity! One low price gives you the complete Smart Divorce ToolKit –audios and Smart Guides – a cost-effective way to reduce stress as you help clients and manage the divorce process.

Endorsed by judges, lawyers and mental health professionals, The Smart Divorce ToolKit provides guidance and information from leading family law lawyers, mental health professionals, and parenting experts, well versed on the needs of those in the divorce process. This one smart package makes it uncomplicated and effortless to understand.

Reassuring, informative and easy to listen to, The Smart Divorce  Smart Audios offer more than 2.5 hours of presentations, full of insightful tips and strategies to help you navigate this difficult time.

Deborah Moskovitch educates listeners about the divorce process and provides practical information on getting through it with focus, hope and confidence. She teams with psychologist Dr. Robert Simon , an expert on divorce, relationships and families – with a special focus on children of divorce and custody conflicts.

Audio 1 – The Emotional Divorce

Understand that every divorce has two sides: legal and emotional. The Smart Divorce Audio 1 gives you strategies and tips for coping in healthy ways with your emotions, so you can make clear-headed decisions for your children and yourself. (37.24 minutes)

Audio 2 – The Legal Divorce

Empower yourself by knowing what’s ahead. The Smart Divorce Audio 2 helps you understand how to organize, prepare and work towards a realistic, favorable outcome for you and your family. From selecting the right legal advocate to exploring other divorce options, The Legal Divorce helps you manage the practicalities and take charge of the process. (45.24 minutes)

Audio 3 – Smart Co-Parenting: Putting Your Children’s Best Interests First

Help your kids think of themselves as regular kids, not the children of divorce. The Smart Divorce Audio 3 helps you understand what they are going through, and talk to your children about the divorce. Learn the challenges and issues of co-parenting, and how to make it work. Move forward, maintaining positive connections with your children. (40.61 minutes)

Audio 4 – Rebuilding Your Life Post Divorce

Divorce is a hugely emotional time. But it’s also an opportunity to reevaluate your life and make it better than it was before your divorce. The Smart Divorce Audio 4 helps you embrace an uncertain future, and move forward with focus, hope and confidence. It gives you coping strategies for dealing with your former partner, and ways to develop your most important and lasting relationship: with yourself. (33.66 minutes)

For more information and to buy these informative videos click on the link:

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/DeborahMoskovitchAndRobertASim

If you would like to learn more about this unique and innovative program, and how it may help you, please contact Deborah Moskovitch at The Smart Divorce by emailing info@thesmartdivorce.com, or call 905.695.0270.


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How to Be Smart About Mediation

Understanding what mediation is as a process, and finding the right mediator, are critical elements to developing  smart and long lasting parenting and financial agreements that are predicated on informed, thoughtful decision making.  A good mediator will discuss what your goals are for the process, what is important to each of you and will help you to craft a plan that addresses those goals and intentions.  This is important to understand, as all mediators are not created equal!

Our guest, Cara Raich, (http://www.srmediators.com/mediators/cara-raich-esq/)  (http://mediatetrix.wordpress.com/) explores the specifics of mediation in this episode of The Smart Divorce, with Deborah Moskovitch and Steve Peck.   Cara is a mediator and attorney who specializes in helping people find non-adversarial resolutions to conflict. She mediates a wide range of cases including divorce, family conflicts, and organizational and civil disputes.

Cara is dedicated to helping her clients avoid the challenges and acrimony that frequently accompany adversarial proceedings. She does this by enabling her clients to come to realistic and informed agreements that work for them and their families. Cara believes that separation and divorce are family matters with a legal element, not a lawsuit that happens to be about a family.

To understand how these goals are accomplished in a fair and reasonable manner – and gain perspectives on alternative ways to view mediation and settlement we discuss:

  • What does neutrality really mean?
  • What are the process choices that people have when contemplating divorce?
  • How do we as a society view divorce?
  • What is a successful divorce?
  • What is the role the law will play in your divorce? Is the law relevant, determinative or something in between?

This interview will surely help you understand the many aspects of mediation.

To listen, click on the link http://www.divorcesourceradio.com/be-smart-about-mediation/ 


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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 Become the Most Awesome Dad

Becoming the Most Awesome Single Dad

Becoming the most awesome single dad is our new episode of The Smart Divorce with Deborah Moskovitch. Dads often get under played in society and the media…..Disney dads, born again fathers, dads that disappear from their children’s lives…..and then there’s our guest Joel Schwartzberg.

Joel is an award-winning humorist, personal essayist and screenwriter whose work has appeared in NewsweekThe New York Times MagazineNew Jersey Monthly, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, The Star Ledger, Babble.com, and in the flimsy pages of regional parenting magazines around the country.  He’s the author of The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad, a unique and award-winning collection of funny and personal essays that examine how divorce reinvents relationships with kids and one’s own sense of Dadhood.

Joel offers great tips and insights on being a part-time Dad in a full-time life — a meaningful interview for any parent, particularly the millions who’ve gone through divorce with their senses of humor intact.

Topics include:

  • Putting a spin a heart wrenching situation and finding the humor in life
  • “Lazy Dadurday” offer a glimpse into those special moments and new routines with dad after a split
  • Top Ten Things Divorced Dads Need to Realize
  • What Remarried Dads Owe Their Stepmom Wives
  • And so much more….

More about Joel’s book, The 40 Year-Old Version can be found at: BookForDad.com

To hear this most awesome interview, click on the link  http://www.divorcesourceradio.com/becoming-the-most-awesome-single-dad/


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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