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More Effective Co-Parenting: Working With Your Ex

Even with the best of intentions, it can be difficult to learn to work with your ex. Any problems you had making decisions together while you were married are magnified, especially immediately following the divorce.

As you grow further apart, your lifestyles may change, making it even more difficult to develop effective co-parenting strategies. Whether you’re still drawing up the divorce agreement or have been working on co-parenting with a former spouse for years, there are some things you can do to make it easier to work with your child’s other parent.

Start With Your Child’s Best Interests

The most effective co-parenting relationships start with this one simple principle. Both parents should agree that they are less interested in what’s best for them (or in “sticking it” to the other parent) and more interested in the most positive outcome possible for the child or children involved in the situation. This is an agreement that you need to make with your former spouse as soon as possible in the divorce process. You may have nothing else in common, but you can both agree that you want your child to have the best life possible. Focusing on their needs, not just their wants, can make it easier to decide:

  • How to set child support or who is responsible for paying for unexpected expenses
  • How parenting time will be handled
  • What possessions a child needs to have at both homes and what possessions can travel between the two homes
  • How to set rules together

Wanting what’s best for your child also means that you don’t badmouth the other parent in front of them. Even if you’ve had a huge argument over a late child support check or a commitment that your ex “flaked” on, that’s not something that needs to be shared with your child. Instead, find a close friend or family member to confide in, preferably when the child is out of the house or in bed for the evening.

Maintain Continuity

Every rule doesn’t have to be the same between both houses. You might have different rules about shoes on the furniture, when exactly homework has to be completed, and whether or not dinner can be eaten in front of the television. Other things, however, require continuity between your homes. For example:

Eating habits matter. If your child is allowed to eat junk food at one parent’s house indiscriminately but must eat healthy food at the other, there may be a serious difference between their behavior patterns and overall health, not to mention the way they feel.

Bedtimes should be similar. A child whose bedtime is constantly changing will have a hard time getting good, solid rest. While some allowances can be made for weekends and vacations, it’s important to maintain a similar schedule, no matter where the child is.

Key values need to be discussed. This might include insisting that homework be completed in a timely manner, making sure younger siblings are never bullied, and avoiding materials that you and your former spouse agree are inappropriate for a child. You shouldn’t have to worry that your ex will take your child to see that movie you’ve forbidden in your home.

Punishment sticks from one house to the other. Be fair about your punishments, but realistic. If the child is grounded from texting at one house, that shouldn’t lift just because they’ve traveled to the other parent’s, although exceptions should be made for texting the parent they aren’t with, regardless of the punishment. Work together to come up with punishments that won’t disrupt the other parent’s schedule or household when necessary.

When you focus on the best interests of the child and on a sense of continuity, it’s easier to make co-parenting decisions that will benefit your child, first and foremost. Looking for more tips on learning to survive parenting together after a divorce? Untangle The Knot has lots of helpful information to help you get through your divorce!

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Follow The Yellow Brick Road: What Oz Teaches Us About Divorce

The comfort of black and white…nobody knew it as well as Dorothy. She knew nothing but pecking chickens, garden-digging dogs, and mean old ladies on rickety bicycles. At the time, those problems seemed so big—until Dorothy found that all those tiny problems were nothing compared to what she woke up to face when her house pitched up in the air and landed in Oz. Bright new colors, vivid and scary—something she had never witnessed before. Color? What’s that?! Now, that old lady was a mean old witch, and she found herself desperate to get back home. Sound familiar?

Just as Dorothy felt when she landed in Oz, going through a divorce can feel like you’ve been thrust into a strange and scary new world. But in the hardship and newness of it all, there is much we can learn from Oz. These same lessons can help us to navigate the new normal and find that the very thing that threatens to destroy us will make us into the heroes, the flying-monkey-tamers, and the farm girls (or city girls) with courage that we were always meant to become.

“If we just keep walking, we’ll get to someplace sometime.” —Dorothy

There is a lot of wisdom in that line. You wake up one day, and the comfort of your black and white has suddenly changed to these new and foreign colors your eyes have never seen. You have no idea where you are going or where this path leads you; you only know that sometimes you just want to stop walking. You just want to give up. You want to lay down in the poppies and sleep forever.

But Dorothy was so wise when she said that, if we only keep walking, then we will get there—someplace at some time. Where that is and when that will be, well, that is still a mystery. But, if history tells us anything, things turned out pretty well for a certain Kansas girl who got everything she ever wanted, plus a little adventure in between.

“Are you a good witch or a bad witch?” —Glinda the Good Witch

“I’m no witch at all!”

That was Dorothy’s response to Glinda’s question, and a great response it was. It was, however, easy to see why Glinda thought she had powers; she just dropped an entire house on a mean old witch!

It goes without saying that each day brings new emotions, and some days, we feel like the kind and sweet person who could take on the world with a smile. Other days, we want to drop a house on someone, on the situation, and on the whole mess in general. Recognizing that you are somewhere in the middle of these emotions will set you free.

It is okay to have emotions that change with the tide. It is going to happen, and it is normal. However, remembering who you want to be will help you be who you want to be. Stay positive. Be the bigger person. Control your emotions. You have the power to overcome any ugly, green, melted-puddle-of-an-emotion—all within you. The effort, even if only 15 minutes at a time, is well worth it and so good for your soul.

“Hearts won’t be practical until they can be made unbreakable.” —The Wizard of Oz

The man behind the curtain said it all, and at the time, it was the perfect thing to say. We all long for that once-in-a-lifetime love, that unconditional I’ll-always-be-here, but sometimes, that just isn’t how things work. It’s sad. It makes you wish you never, ever gave your heart away in the first place.

What good is love if it is so impractical? It can be so tempting to think that you have wasted your time here, but the truth is that you’ve always been right where you needed to be. Your marriage helped to shape your character and ready you for the path ahead.

Hearts will never be practical, and that is simply because hearts weren’t made to be. It is these difficult times that reminds us we are our own anchor, our own home, and that we are more than our circumstances. We weren’t put here for comfort, but to grow up through the hard dirt and blossom. When you are tempted to regret your choices, remember that, without those choices, you wouldn’t be the same amazing, wonderful, well-rounded you. And that you is pretty great!

“You’ve had the power all along.” —Glinda

Dorothy spent so much time trying to find her voice. Little did she know, she had the power all along. You do too!

Comfort returns. Black and white comes back. You are left with only the memories of that scary time that will also, ironically, be one of your favorite memories as time goes on. You will meet new friends. You will conquer things you never dreamed of. You will learn that you are a powerful, little something that no witch dare stand up against, and you will do all of this with the same grace, kindness, and courage you always have. The power is right there inside you. You’ve always had it. I’m a firm believer that we are born with everything we need to face whatever comes our way. We just have to learn to dig it up and make it shine.

When you find yourself spinning in a house, with bicycles flying by the window frame, take heart. You are not alone. You have so many people in your life that love you—whether you realize it or not. Even down to the person who pours your morning coffee at the local diner, people care. Open your eyes. Walk the yellow brick road. You’ll get to someplace at some time. If you need a little help navigating, we are always here for you.

Contact us today to discover ways to grow, change, and embrace this new journey. We know you can do it. You’ve had the power all along.

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6 Tips for Parenting During and After Divorce

Parenting after a divorce can feel like walking through a minefield. Not only does a divorce result in changes in family structure that can complicate kids’ lives, but it can also cause kids to experience intense feelings of anxiety and anger. Furthermore, a loss of support and their own feelings of anger toward their ex can make it difficult for many parents to navigate the challenges of parenting during and after a divorce.

Here are some tips to help you as you adapt.

1. Keep negative remarks about the other parent to yourself.

One of the best ways to help kids cope with divorce is to help them maintain positive relationships with both parents. Conversely, “bad-mouthing” the other parent in front of a kid is extremely damaging to a kid’s well-being. No matter how angry you may be with your ex, talking badly about him or her in front of your children will ultimately cause harm.

2. Remember that your kids are not your confidants.

Losing an adult from the household causes a shift in family dynamics, which often puts kids in the difficult position of taking on more adult responsibility than they should. This frequently manifests when parents begin to confide in their kids, instead of talking to other adults. However, remember that your problems aren’t your kid’s responsibility. If you find yourself tempted to share your frustrations with your kids, then take a step back and call a friend or a therapist instead.

3. Do your best to keep your kids’ lives consistent.

If you have joint custody with your child’s other parent, then your kids will probably be spending time in two different households that have two different sets of rules. In order to keep your kid’s lives as consistent as possible, do your best to come to an agreement with your ex about which important rules to enforce and how to maintain consistent discipline in both homes.

4. Give kids space to adjust when they first get to your house.

Transitioning from one house to another can be emotionally draining for kids. One way to help your children cope with the divorce is to give them time to adjust when they first get to your home. Instead of expecting them to immediately jump into the household routine, consider scheduling quiet craft time or giving them time to read a book or listen to music.

5. Avoid bringing kids into the middle of the conflict.

Children of divorced parents should have no role in their parents’ disagreements. In order to keep your kids away from the conflict, make sure not to use them as a weapon or means of controlling the other parent. Similarly, don’t use your kids as a messenger, even if the message is neutral.

6. Address your kids’ anger and anxiety about the divorce.

During a divorce, kids are experiencing enormous changes that they have no control over. This often results in high levels of anger and anxiety, which kids may not know how to handle. Furthermore, if you yourself are dealing with strong feelings of anger or anxiety, it can be difficult to find the wherewithal to support kids’ emotions without feeling overwhelmed. If this is the case, consider finding a therapist for your child. Speaking to a therapist will give your child an outlet for expressing the difficult emotions that he or she is feeling.

If you find yourself struggling to cope with the challenges of parenting during or after a divorce, don’t hesitate to seek professional help for yourself. A licensed therapist will be able to provide you with emotional support, as well as personalized suggestions for how to best help your kids cope with the effects of divorce.

At Untangle The Knot, we know how complicated and challenging divorce can be, and parenting is just one aspect of that. Whether you’re in the process of going through a divorce or you’re struggling to adapt to life after marriage, we have the resources and tools to help you reach the other side in one piece. Contact us to learn more about how we can support you with parenting and all of the other challenges throughout your divorce journey.

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Understanding the Real Benefit of Forgiveness After Divorce

Forgiving an ex can be one of the toughest things to do, especially when there can be so many reasons to be angry. Even though you may be justified in your anger, you can still benefit greatly from letting it go.

There is a saying that goes, “Acid does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the surface on which it is poured.” This statement is even truer when it comes to harboring anger or resentment. When you carry those negative feelings around with you, they can impact your other relationships, even though you may think you are dealing with the anger just fine. The next thing you know, you have an open door that allows that negativity to seep into every other aspect of your life. It can grow to the point where aren’t able to compartmentalize it anymore. This can leave you feeling constantly angry and helpless to find peace from your pain.

When you hang on to hurt and anger, that harshness and bitterness can bleed over into all the wonderful new experiences you may have. Let’s say you take your children to the zoo. They’ve been looking forward to this trip for quite some time, but once you get there, you find that every little thing is getting under your skin. The kids are running around, full of excitement, talking 100 miles per hour, and you feel like your nerves are not going to be able to handle any more excited activity. The anger and frustration that have been gnawing at you have just cost you precious time with your children that you can never get back.

There is healing in forgiveness. When you are able to come to the realization that forgiving does not equate to condoning a behavior (nor does it say the other person is deserving of your forgiveness), you are the one who will truly benefit. Everyone comes to this realization at their own pace, so don’t feel like you have to reach it overnight; it may take time and work, but you can reach it.

Johns Hopkins has done research into the physical benefits of forgiveness, and the results may surprise you. They start by stating that forgiveness is a conscious action, a choice, that you must make in order to really move on. By choosing to hang on to anger, hurt, or bitterness, you can compromise your immune system, elevate your blood pressure, and increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. By choosing to forgive, you can enjoy a more stress-free life with less likelihood of depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress.

But how do you start to forgive? Well, the article suggests either talking with the person that hurt you or writing about forgiving them. If talking with that individual is not going to be possible or healthy (and it can be very understandable why you wouldn’t want to go that route), then keep a journal where you write about what they did to hurt you, how you feel about it, and how you’re going to start forgiving them for that pain. Write a letter to them about your anger, and then write one to them about why you are forgiving them. You need not send either of these letters, just getting the thoughts written down can help start you on the path to forgiveness.

Forgiveness is generally thought of as a privilege or a gift that someone should ask for—or earn—before receiving. But the truth is, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. Holding on to the anger and pain brought on by your divorce is completely normal, but it will not serve you.

If you’re struggling in the painful wake of your divorce, Untangle the Knot is here to help you through the healing process. Your ex may never come to you with an apology, they may never admit they did anything wrong, and they may never show remorse for their actions, but you can still forgive them. Not for their peace of mind, but for your own.

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Conquering Fear Through Divorce: You’ll Get Through This!

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now, we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Fear is one of the most paralyzing emotions that accompanies divorce. Fear of being alone, fear of making a mistake, fear of raising your children as a single parent, fear of making ends meet…the list goes on and on.

Unshakable fear is oftentimes a result of facing the unknown. Divorce is full of unknowns which is one of the reasons it is so terrifying. Everything in your life that has been your foundation is suddenly on shaky ground. You don’t know what to do next and you don’t know where your life is going.

How will things be when you are just you again? Will you like who you are? Will you be able to take care of yourself and your family? Will you ever be happy again? Each of these questions just led to more, and before you know it, you’re under the covers again, crying into your pillow, and wondering when things are going to get better. That’s the bad news. The good news is it won’t last forever.

Looking on the Bright Side

Although it does not seem like it right now, there are so many good things going for you. You are alive. You are breathing. You have eyes to see and ears to hear. You have hands to reach out for help when you need it, and there are a million other qualities that are so unique to you that you won’t find the exact characteristics in anyone else in the world.

Your unique talents, your kindness, your way of picking yourself up and dusting yourself off—these are all powerful reminders, telling you, “You are ok. Right in this moment. Right in this circumstance. You are achieving the impossible. You are living. You are alright, and you will be alright tomorrow.” By constantly reminding yourself of the positive forces in your life, you’ll be able to slowly shift your perspective to see the brighter side of things.

Moment By Moment, Day by Day

Overcoming fear happens by moments. By recognizing that you are okay right this second, you can reassure yourself that you’ll probably be OK the next too. Before long, those seconds turn to minutes. Minutes turn to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years, until one day you wake up and realize you did it. You aren’t afraid. You made things happen. You did all those things you said you couldn’t do, and you are better for it. You are stronger for it. You are.

When You Cannot Stop the Inner Voices

If you are playing that inner monologue right now, wondering, “Am I enough? Am I going to be alright? Am I ever going to be happy again? Am I still just as wonderful inside and out as the day we got married?” then let me tell you the truth. YOU ARE. You are going to get through this. YOU ARE—because that’s just what you do, and being here, looking for help, and reaching for it with both hands, that says something. It says that you are vulnerable yet brave, and it says that you have the drive it takes to keep moving forward, to keep journeying on, and to discover that you are not ever, ever alone in this.

Giving you a lifeline to help you through your fear is one of the reasons I created Untangle The Knot — To provide you the guidance and support you need to move through this most difficult time and into your next chapter. You are going to be okay!

I hope you will take a moment to see what I can offer you for support. I truly want you to live the life that you imagined –even if that story looks a little different than it did before. Together we can overcome fear and move ever closer to the happiness that is just around the corner!

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