Children begin their lives constantly observing and emulating our use of language. A baby watches, listens and models her mother’s face saying “Ohhhh,” moving her own lips to form the shape of that sound. A toddler in his car seat repeats the word his parent blurted out when cut off suddenly in traffic, usually to the great chagrin of the parent. My 5-year-old granddaughter cocks her head seriously and says, “Well, actually, the most interesting thing is…..” just the way her mom does. Knowing they are listening, seeking to understand, and emulating how we talk, adults must be mindful of what we say and how we say it in the presence of children. This may be especially important during the life crisis of a divorce, when children are already feeling vulnerable and anxious. Similar to being cut off suddenly in traffic, negative emotions during a divorce can quickly heighten, along with the risk of blurting out words one will later regret. When under stress, the guard rails filtering words can become wobbly or fall off altogether. It’s not just angry, sarcastic, insulting words that children internalize, it is also the meaning of those words in the context of relationships. Children are deeply hurt and frightened when parents fight with each other, and not infrequently, will beg them to stop. What does it mean to them that the two most important adults in their lives are attacking each other this way? We live in an era when disrespect, insulting and belittling words and verbal abuse are regularly tweeted out in all caps. Sadly, this has the effect of normalizing unfiltered language. This is hard enough to manage as an adult but giving vent to verbal rage will never be anything but damaging to a child. So, what can parents do if they feel triggered? They need to slow it down. Two simple techniques to help create more mental and emotional space under stress are:
  1. Mindful breathing: taking at least four deep, slow belly breaths before responding; and
  2. Softening your eyes: focusing on relaxing the muscles around your eyes so they fall back into their sockets.
Both techniques will relax tension in your body, which helps to clear your head, strengthen your guardrails, and give you time to respond rather than react. If this can create more emotional safety for your children, it is well worth the effort. Author: Deborah Clemmensen, M.Eq., L.P. is a Neutral Child and Family Specialist in Collaborative Practice and Family Law
In Part 1, vortex was defined as: 1) a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it towards its center; 2) a place or situation regarded as drawing into its center all that it surrounds, and hence, being inescapable or destructible.tropical-cyclone-catarina-1167137_1920 The second definition provides a visual for what many think a divorce “looks like.”  While the end of a marriage is emotionally tumultuous and devastating, the actual legal process of uncoupling does not have to be.  But, it is critical that you choose a process that promotes healing.  The Collaborative Process does just that. Collaboration is a holistic approach to divorce.  It can be utilized by couples who are ending either a marriage or significant relationship, or who have a child or children together.  Although some people question whether it is an appropriate process when domestic abuse or mental health/chemical dependency issues are present, many others think it can (and should) at least be attempted.  If you don’t want to be another “divorce horror story,” the Collaborative Process will likely be a great fit. Collaboration focuses on the future (i.e., the relationship of co-parenting in two homes) rather than the past (i.e. the vilification of one spouse); is a win-win for both partners (rather than a court-imposed win-lose); and emphasizes the well-being of the entire family.  You don’t air your dirty laundry in court, and you aren’t (literally) judged.  In fact, you never set foot in a courtroom.  The negotiation model is interest-based/win-win, rather than positional/win-lose.  You pay attorneys to help you solve problems, not argue and keep you stuck in the past.  Every family is unique, so every family deserves a unique solution.  And if you have young children, please keep in mind they need you present and available.  You can’t be present when you are fighting the other parent in court.  In Part 3, we will discuss the various professionals in the Collaborative Process and how their expertise can help you avoid the divortex.
iStock_000077646311_TIdy UpAlthough happiness can sometimes seem elusive, keeping in mind the 5 Simple Rules for Happiness below will help:
  1. Free your mind from hatred
  2. Free your mind from worries
  3. Live simply
  4. Give more
  5. Expect Less
It struck me one day that The Five Simple Rules for Happiness are at the core of virtually every major religion’s doctrine for living – be happy by being good. It is a manifesto for living an exemplary life condensed down to 16 words. While they may be simple to list, we all know they are far from easy to abide by.   So, while they may be called Rules, I suggest looking at them as Goals toward which to aspire. The first step to embracing the Five Simple Rules should be to step back and take a hard look at the habits, attitudes and expectations you have that create roadblocks to happiness. It is easier to create new habits if you fully appreciate the negative consequences of your old habits.   Trying to be a little bit better at all the Rules is a first step. However, embracing #5, Expect Less, may give you the most happiness bang for the buck. Stop expecting that if you buy new stuff it will change your life. Stop expecting that people will consider how their actions will affect you. Stop expecting that one day your life will be perfect. By learning how your subconscious expectations influence your entire life, it makes the rest of the rules more achievable.   There seems to be nothing “simple” about the Five Simple Rules For Happiness. Yet, if we would all try daily to apply them to a small degree, then we would find that the happiness we truly desire will come to us all the easier.
flowerAs many know, because Minnesota is a no fault divorce state, one spouse not being ready does not need to stop the process from moving forward. The ready spouse can file for divorce and the process moves on in court with little control of the reluctant spouse. A potential client recently came in for a consult and, as often is the case, her husband was struggling to move forward in the process. They were at very different points on the divorce readiness scale – she was ready, he was not. This is quite typical. The other spouse is sometimes called “reluctant” or “in denial.” When one spouse is looking for a non-adversarial, out-of-court alternative (like mediation or collaborative divorce), there is more of a need to bring that other spouse along. The reluctant spouse really can delay the process and interfere with the non-reluctant spouse’s desire to divorce. This potential client said something very interesting to me. She said, “I know I am committed to collaborative divorce, but I am learning that this does not have to be a collaborative decision.” This realization was profound. She realized that she could control the process (with her husband’s agreement), even if her husband never agrees with the decision to divorce. It is common during the divorce process to have spouses be at different comfort levels with the decision to divorce. These levels of readiness can change throughout the process and even vary greatly from one meeting to another. The challenge often lies with helping the reluctant spouse commit to a collaborative process, while acknowledging his or her disagreement with the process. A good collaborative attorney can strategize ways to bring the reluctant spouse into the process and help move things forward. Ways to teach him or her about the divorce options and lay out the pros and cons of different processes for divorce.  To learn more, contact Kimberly Miller.  
flowerIn the early days of separation and divorce you may find the idea of growing from your divorce difficult to believe. You may be in a state of depression or denial wondering how your life will carry on, much less that you will grow from this life change. It may be difficult to find the silver lining, yet the simple truth is that you can (and will) grow from this. You may or may not have had much of a choice in whether or not you are getting a divorce, but you DO have a choice whether to grow up or grow down through this process. In a bad or difficult marriage it is easy to see how a person might grow from getting a divorce, but all divorces bring the opportunity for growth. Your divorce will likely change the way you view the world. Your life may be functioning completely different than before. Maybe you are having to look for a new career or add a part time job to make ends meet, or maybe you’ve been out of the workforce for years and your divorce is forcing you back in. Maybe you’ve had to move to an apartment or back in with your parents or a friend. Maybe your kids are at a new school as a result of your divorce. Maybe your entire social circle has now changed. It’s how you view these changes and react to your new normal, that promotes growth. Growth from your divorce can appear in a number of ways. Emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc. Even something as simple as learning a new skill that your spouse had always managed like trimming the shrubs, or online bill pay. Spiritually your faith might deepen or may struggle as you get through some trying times. Emotional growth may take a bit longer. There may be some dark and difficult days before you start to grow emotionally, but slowly it will happen. Your priorities will change and grow. If you have shared custody with your children you will likely start to value your time together all that much more. Some things that were priorities during your marriage may no longer hold a significance to you. Growth after divorce becomes a way to cope. Growth after divorce becomes a way to survive. Growth after divorce becomes empowerment. Growth after divorce becomes a new, better you.
PicIt may feel like it should still be the middle of June and that school just let out, but the harsh reality is that back-to-school season is upon us. Co-parenting is hard enough during the summer when schedules are flexible are a bit more relaxed, but adding in the back-to-school madness creates another level of co-parenting stress. Who will shop for school supplies and clothes, who will volunteer for the field trips this year, who will fill out all the school forms, who will sign the kids up for their sports and activities? Historically these tasks all fall on the mother 99% of the time. It’s likely that your ex-husband never even realized these tasks needed to be done because it’s such an ingrained part of the “mom routine” that moms just do them without even thinking twice! Throwing in the divide of a divorce though and these everyday tasks suddenly can (and should) be divided. We can’t stress enough how vital a well laid out parenting plan is, but the simple everyday responsibilities like filling out paperwork are often missed when writing these plans. Overwhelmed and not sure where to even begin with tackling back-to-school tasks? – We blogged some very helpful back-to-school co-parenting tips here! Here’s to another great school year! It’s possible that you’re looking forward to getting back into the routine that the school year offers, yet it still brings on a sadness of another year/summer having passed. As caught up as we can get in the emotions of not wanting to see an ex at a school event or activity, it is important to remember to enjoy and embrace your children at the ages they are. Soak up every moment, and if your parenting plan allows for it try to get to as many of your children’s events as possible, as we all know the time passes entirely too quickly. As they say, “The days are long but the years are short.” How do you divide up these tasks with your ex? We’d love to hear in the comment section below.
Facebook AppMaking online connections is easier than ever with modern social media apps. It is not necessary to know someone at all, let alone to know them well, in order to see their profiles and get an idea of who they are and what kind of life they lead. In times before this technology, community life and networking were very different. Getting to know someone happened face to face, and gossip was spread by word of mouth. With everyone having technology in their pockets these days, deciding who is relevant to your life seems like an easy task. The everyday interactions we have with people while out and about are often with perfect strangers, and not many of us put much effort into these encounters. Treating any person you meet with respect and dignity is a basic human courtesy, but in the midst of our busy schedules, we often forget this. In All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarden, author Robert Fulghum sums up relationships in communities like this:
“Without realizing it, we fill important places in each other’s lives. It’s that way with the guy at the corner grocery, the mechanic at the local garage, the family doctor, teachers, neighbors, coworkers. Good people who are always “there,” who can be relied upon in small, important ways…. And, of course, we fill that role ourselves. There are those who depend on us, watch us, learn from us, take from us. And we never know.”
If you assume your neighbor is not relevant to you, you may never realize who they actually are. Paying attention to the real people that live down the street is just as important – more important – as curating an impressive list of LinkedIn connections or Facebook friends. Consider making a connection with the person behind the online profile.
Those married, and especially with children, might dream of having a quiet Saturday night to themselves, but for many divorcees, especially those newly divorced this new “free time” can be especially lonely. You might not be ready or wanting to jump into dating, but being home alone frequently can be rather lonely during those early days of divorce, whether the kid’s are at your ex’s house, grown, or you don’t have any. We put together a list of ideas to get you started to help pass the time.
  • Exercise – Whether you prefer to exercise solo, or would like to make it a social activity by joining a gym or a running/swim/etc. there is no better time to get fit than on these lonely days. The endorphins will instantly boost your mood and you’ll gain extra side effects like weight loss, strength, and confidence!
  • Reading – If you don’t already love to read, keep trying – surely there is something out there that will peak your interest to keep reading! Join a book club if you want to make it a social activity. Not sure where to find one look online or start one – ask friends and neighbors with similar interests if they would like to join. You can rotate the meeting space/host each month to keep it fun and interesting!
  • Explore your town – play tourist in your own town, get lost in a bookstore, see when museums and arboretums have free admission days. Check into free classes and groups at your local library, many offer events like adult coloring night, crafts, and cooking. In addition to children’s activities, Community Education through the school districts also offer adult activities.
  • Cook – try new recipes, or maybe just save them on Pinterest for another day. If cooking for one person doesn’t interest you, perhaps make a monthly standing date with a parent/friend/sibling where you have them over for dinner and conversation. If baking is more your style, but you don’t want all of the sweet temptations around, take the treats to a nursing home, shelter, police precinct, etc.
  • Start a new hobby – maybe you haven’t picked up a paintbrush since high school art class, or dusted off that old sewing machine great Aunt Edna passed down to you years ago, but find something that peaks your interest. All the better if you’ve never done it before. Now days you can find a video tutorial for just about anything on the internet, which even makes home projects that you may have never considered DIYing possible. Hobbies like painting or sewing are difficult to start and stop when the kids are around, so those perfect projects for these lonely days.
  • Part time job – if you could use the extra cash there is no shame in getting a part-time gig. Even if you don’t necessarily need the money and are just looking to fill the time, find something you enjoy doing and set the money aside for a vacation! Even direct sales can provide a fun, no pressure, no schedule way to earn some extra cash and socialization too!
  • Volunteer – The options for volunteering are endless so find something that you are passionate about and look into how you can help.
Like the idea of being more social and meeting new friends, but not sure where to start? Websites like MeetUp.com are a great way to find local interest groups. Do you have activities that have helped you through your newly found free time? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!
market volatilityThere’s no question that periods of increased market volatility, like we have seen recently, can be unsettling. However, deciding to move to the sidelines versus staying the course can have long-lasting implications. In fact, making emotionally-based decisions in regard to short-term market events is one of the fastest ways to derail your long-term investment strategy. This is because it’s impossible to accurately time the financial markets. Studies have shown that investors reacting to market events tend to opt out at the worst time – when markets have fallen considerably. They then buy back in when they are certain the markets are back on track, but that ends up being a higher price than when they sold. On the other hand, staying the course and remaining invested and focused on long-term investment goals has proven helpful in creating long-term growth. This is achieved by buying at lower prices when the markets are down and selling only to rebalance your portfolio or fund financial goals. A time-tested approach to managing investments through periods of uncertainty is to focus on asset allocation. An asset allocation that is aligned with your financial goals and tolerance for risk allows you to concentrate on your long-term objectives instead of getting sidetracked by short-term market fluctuations. While asset allocation cannot guarantee a profit or protect from a loss, the proper asset allocation can help eliminate the potential for emotional decision-making that could have an adverse impact on your long-term investment strategy. Following a divorce, consider checking in with your financial advisor to make sure your portfolio’s asset allocation is well balanced and appropriate for your risk tolerance and time horizon.
173230422-little-girl-playing-gettyimagesMy two year old daughter received Legos for Christmas.  They were the bigger bricks, which are perfect for her chubby, dimpled hands, and pink and purple “princess” Legos that could be made into, what else?  Castles!  She really wasn’t interested in the figurines that were included, but she WAS interested in creating a “super tall building.”  I loved watching her build various creations. I’m pretty sure Lego didn’t make “girl” kits when I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s.  My little brother had Legos, and I just shrugged them off as toys for boys.  I was into…dare I say…Barbie.  And all things that sparkle.  I would, most certainly, have played with pink and purple Legos, though.  After all, I liked putting things together.  When my “boombox” stopped working, I took it apart and put it back together (and yes, I even fixed it!).  Would I have become an engineer instead of a lawyer if Lego had made purple bricks?  Nope.  But if Lego had created a kit of pastel bricks, Legos might have outsold Superstar Barbie! Did girls miss out on something by not playing with Legos?  Maybe not.  But what IS it about princesses?  Dressed in her sparkly tutu, my daughter plays just as much, if not more, with trucks and transformers as she does her dolls.  Is it because she has an older brother?  Does she find transformers more interesting than her dolls?  My five year old son is all boy (rough and tumble, loves trucks and ninja turtles, slides into “home plate” – which is the northwest corner of the family room – so much he wears holes in his jeans) so I was pleasantly surprised when he picked up his sister’s doll and stroller and zoomed around the house.   “Great,” I thought, “maybe he’ll play dolls with his little sister.”  Uh…no.  He took the doll and stroller to annoy his younger sibling. Nevertheless, watching my daughter with those pink and purple Legos certainly made me think about how items are “sold” or “packaged.”  Do we really buy “things” or are we buying an “experience?”  It depends.  I think in many cases, we are paying for an experience, even when we buy products.  (For instance, why do I need to have an aromatherapy experience grocery shopping?  I’m there to buy groceries to feed my family.  If I want such an “experience” I’ll go to a spa.)  Nonetheless, the way products and experiences are packaged can make all the difference in the way we feel.  But with legal services, you are buying a product (the divorce agreement/documents) as well as the experience. When you are interviewing attorneys, be aware of what they are selling you and how they are selling it.  Does the attorney you are meeting with base his or her expertise on all the cases “won.”  Chances are, that attorney is talking more about him or herself and isn’t doing much listening to you.  This is a divorce, people.  A change in significant relationships within a family.  Nobody wins in a divorce, so please don’t fall for that “package.”  This process is all about getting to a new normal, and if you have young children, parenting them well.  So, the attorneys and team you are interviewing should be all about helping you get to that new normal.  That, in my opinion, is how divorce should be “packaged.”