172399714Did you know that there is a National Financial Literacy Month?? Well, there is! The powers that be have selected April to be the Financial Literacy Month. Why April rather than July probably goes to the fact that so many people are acutely aware of their financial situation as they write out a check to the IRS. So, what is financial literacy and how does one become more financially literate? Financial literacy is about taking control of your finances by fully understanding the impact of your spending, saving and debt obligations on your financial well-being.  It is about making well-informed purchasing decisions and understanding the difference between wants and needs.  A financial literate individual understands the importance of saving for the long-term. They are committed to the budget that they created, which includes saving for specific large purchases, as well as longer-term financial goals such as a comfortable retirement. Financial literacy involves understanding the pros and cons of debt and being proactive about managing one’s debt obligations.  A financial literate person knows the importance of maintaining a good credit score and gets a copy of their free credit report annually at www.annualcreditreport.com.  Financial literacy is about recognizing when you have a problem managing your debt and getting assistance to help you manage the situation. Financial literacy is also about communicating openly with your significant other about financial matters. It is about teaching your children good financial habits such as saving for big purchases, starting a retirement account early and not getting in over one’s head in debt. So, now that you know what financial literacy is, go to www.financialliteracymonth.com to see what tools and information they have to help you be more financially literate.
514409797-rocks-forming-numbers-reading-2016-gettyimages2016 is well underway and many will look at the new year as a new beginning. While it’s important to have a positive outlook on the year ahead, sometimes the changing of the calendar year can create a false sense of promise. Pressure to set unrealistic goals such as being healed from your divorce this year, or that you will fall in love this year. Sometimes while going through the difficult path of grieving your divorce it may be helpful to consider that January 1st is nothing more than the day after December 31st. The changing of the year will bring a bit more healing and personal growth as each day passes, however it is imperative to understand that things can’t, and won’t, change overnight, which is why creating realistic expectations of the new year is essential to your healing. All the talk about new year’s resolutions, goals, “new year, new you,” that come with the month of January can leave you feeling overwhelmed, which creating realistic expectations, even if that means lowering or having no expectations at all can be a healthier way to navigate the healing process. Setting lower expectations allows you to be gentler on yourself. Creating a sense of balance in your life can be far more important than checking something off of an overwhelming, or unrealistic, to-do list. As you gradually adjust to your new normal, you may feel that everything in your world is now different, yourself included. You will have days of triumph, days of defeat, and plenty of temporary setbacks throughout the year ahead, but it’s crucial to remember that these temporary setbacks are just that – temporary. They happen to everyone and are a normal part of the process of healing from your divorce. It’s natural to have days where you hope and pray for everything to go back to the way things once were, but it is unrealistic to expect for that to actually happen. As you begin to accept your new normal, it might require a new approach to life, and maybe your biggest goal for 2016 will be to learn that approach and how to navigate it. Find the joy in life, which is more important than checking something off of a list. Reconnect with old friends, find new hobbies, look for the joy in everyday, but don’t feel the pressure to have a timeline on your healing, your happiness, your life, or finding new love.
82087964-start-on-january-1-gettyimagesAs 2016 begins, many of us come up with resolutions for the coming year. Some people hope to exercise more, spend more time as a family or plan a vacation. For families who have divorced, the new year often symbolizes a new beginning.  It is a time to establish a new norm. As a collaborative attorney, I often help guide families through divorce in respectful and supportive ways. I often hear from clients that they have goals and resolutions for a new year. Here are three common resolutions for families of divorce and ways all families can incorporate these values in their lives:
  1. Establish financial independence and security. Entering a new year is a time when finances are now truly separate – with no tax connections.  Be mindful of what you spend.  Track your expenses and see how they match up against your projected budgets and income.  Get a financial planner or, on your own, map out your financial goals for the year, including personal savings, retirement, and investment management.
  2. Embrace co-parenting. Children thrive with routine and care.  They love to be listened to and enjoy one-on-one time with both parents.  They also sense stress and tension.  As you establish routines and the children spend time with both parents, remember to treat the other parent with compassion as well. Avoid fighting in front of the children and support the time that they spend in both homes. Also learn to enjoy your off-duty time.  When you don’t have parenting duties can be a great time to focus on yourself and prepare for your next parenting day.
  3. Take care of yourself.  As parents, workers, and functioning members in society, we often spend our tie focused on others.  We take care of the children and our work obligations, but we often forget our own self-care.  Use the new year to establish work-out routines or start exploring a new hobby.  It is never too late to start improving yourself and the new year is a perfect time to make that effort.
525444317-studio-shot-of-females-hands-holding-broken-gettyimagesMarried, separated, or divorced alike, it’s hard not to feel anxious about the upcoming holiday season. Whether you love it or are dreading it, the 2015 holiday season is just around the corner. Maybe you are feeling that there is no way you are going to get through this year with your emotions in check. You are not alone. Whether you are feeling anger, sadness, grief, frustration, anxiety, etc. it is important to feel balance this time of year. How do you do that, especially if you are still grieving from your divorce? We can’t (and shouldn’t) try to banish these emotions. However, we can be intentional and generate positive emotions to help redistribute the weight of these negative emotions. So how can you do that even if you are feeling completely down this time of year? We’ve blogged previously about ways of helping others and paying it forward as ways to help ourselves emotionally, and ‘tis the season of a vast array of opportunities to help others, but here are some additional ideas for creating positive emotions in your world: Finding Nature: Nature has an amazing way of soothing us without words. Sit down and make a list of places nearby to visit nature. Maybe some are as easy as stepping out your front door and others maybe involve a little bit of a drive. Even that drive to get their can prove to be therapeutic. Nature heals and being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, has been shown to reduces anger, fear, and stress. Exercise: It’s no secret that exercise can help to balance your emotions – whether it’s running, walking, yoga, or even a team sport, find what you love and carve time out of your schedule to do it! When you exercise, the body releases endorphins that minimize the sensation of pain. These endorphins elevate your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety. You will also feel better when you exercise and because you are healthier, you will have more energy, and feel more balanced. Distractions: Distractions can be a positive solution for balancing emotions. Although you might be thinking that distractions will just bury your feelings to come out later on, healthy distractions provide positive emotions that will help you to release some of the negative feelings. Make a list of both healthy and unhealthy distractions that you tend to gravitate towards. While an unhealthy distraction like having drinks with friends seems like a good idea in the moment, a healthy distraction like Saturday morning coffee with a friend will prove to be better for your emotions. Focus on the Positive: Right now you might be thinking, “what positive?” At Daisy Camp we love the quote, “There is always, ALWAYS, something to be thankful for.” Maybe you’ve found journaling a helpful process for you through your divorce, which is great, but if you read through it, it may bring on raw and deep negative emotions, so start a separate gratitude journal. Make lists of what you are thankful for (past, present, and future), and try to add to that list daily. When you are feeling down – read that journal. Wishing you strength and positivity as you balance your emotions this holiday season. Remember that, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.” Maya Angelou. You will make it through this.
185223738-social-media-gettyimagesWhat do you remember about the 90’s? The band Hanson, the Backstreet Boys, and Céline Dion? Wayne’s World,  Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The Titanic movie, and hyper-colored T-shirts? One thing you won’t recall – social media. For better or for worse, there was no social media in the 90’s, at least not what it is known as today. In the 90’s (and before) when you got a divorce you didn’t have to navigate whether or not to make your relationship status “Facebook official.” You didn’t have to decide when or how to tell your 345 Twitter Followers that your last name changed or better yet, see who notices and awkwardly asks you about it. Deciding when and how seems to be all personal choice based on what you feel comfortable putting out there online. So let’s discuss whether or not it’s a good idea to stay “friends” online with an ex. One could argue that if you have kids together, you want to see what photos of your children are being posted online. This becomes difficult in that it could be emotionally damaging for you to see every ice cream social, park play-date, snuggles by the fire, etc. that your children are having with your spouse while they are away from you. For some it is comforting to see these photos, for others it may be downright painful, and even create jealously. Photos of the children may just be the tip of the iceberg – what about when your ex-spouse starts dating? You see a man or women tagged in a photo, human nature leads you to want to know more, so you click on their name and find yourself looking through all the photos and status updates that you can get your eyes on. What you may have thought was harmless in staying “friends” with your ex has now become emotional self-destruction. Maybe you made it this far unscathed and now your ex is dating someone and you’re ok with that, but what about when the ex’s new partner is now in photos with the kids? Your kids. At that new amusement park YOU had planned to take them to. Do you see the emotional roller coaster that social media has created? It’s a double edge sword. As a co-parent you don’t want to miss out. You want to see every photo and moment of your children that you can, but you need to establish boundaries that create the least amount of hurt in the long run. Have this discussion with your ex. Maybe you decide that you both take a social media break until things are more stable. Perhaps being online friends with your ex is just not for you, that is realistic too, and perhaps the healthiest way to navigate social media with your ex.
Divorce is unfair in that is often asks people to make some of the most important decisions in their lives at a time when they may be impaired by many emotions, including grief. Many clients experiencing divorce have described the process as feeling like dealing with a death.  It is true that no person dies, and therefore the analogy of death is not perfect, but a marriage dies and some amount of grief would seem quite natural. In addition, grieving the loss of a marriage can be complicated because there is less of a support network.  As a culture, we have learned how to help people grieve death. However, the people in your support network may not know how to help you grieve the loss of your marriage, and that can cause them to respond with either anger or avoidance instead. One of the significant trends in our society is an increased understanding of the role of hospice when someone in approaching death. Hospice occurs after all efforts to preserve life have been exhausted. At that time, the focus of the medical team and support personnel turns away from finding a medical “solution” and toward providing comfort and care and preparation for what lies ahead. It may seem odd, to think about hospice for a dying marriage, but many of the same principles may apply. If all efforts to save the marriage have been exhausted, it may be best for the legal team, as well as friends and family, to switch to providing comfort, and, perhaps, to finding time to grieve. Giving divorcing clients time to grieve, and providing resources to help them with the grief, (including options such as coaching, or divorce closure counseling), could help people make better decisions when they are ready to focus on divorce details. If you are facing divorce, and feel like you need time to grieve, it is important to select a divorce team that understands why this is important, and to fully explore your divorce options so that your emotional health can be taken into account. To learn more, go to www.collaborativelaw.org or www.divorcechoice.com.  
Divorce brings up many feelings, including feeling helpless. Sometimes you feel like your life is spinning out of your own control and you are left helpless. There is a quote by Aung San Suu Kyi that reads, “When you feel helpless, help someone.” So what does that mean? We have all experienced times in our life where we feel like the world is against and nothing is going right, divorce being one of them. The easiest way to get out of feeling this way: if you are feeling helpless, help someone. It helps us realize that we are all in this together, and we all have real life problems. In fact, it often helps us realize our problems are not nearly as big as someone else’s are. This is not to say that your problems are not important, but we are all fighting our own battles and you never know what the next person is battling. Not sure where to start? Strapped for time and/or cash? Whether it’s finding a cause that you are passionate about and seeing where you can best share your time and talents, or simply random acts of kindness, no gesture is too small. See if there is a committee at church where you can lend a helping hand, register for a 5K which supports a cause that you care about, ask an elderly neighbor what they could use a hand with over the weekend, etc. If you have children, of any age, but especially teenagers (good grief!), chances are they too are feeling like their lives are suddenly beyond their control, as they likely are. Help them find something they can control, because when you feel helpless, helping someone else is very empowering. Check into age appropriate volunteer opportunities at a local shelter to serve meals to the homeless, packing meals for children overseas, collecting coats and blankets and dropping them off for the homeless; the opportunities to help people are endless. Teaching your child that giving back to others will not only empower them in an otherwise helpless situation, but also helping others becomes a life lesson they will remember for years to come. As Ghandi stated, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Start with yourself and then with your children.
In a divorce, parents often wonder how to tell the children about the dissolution.  This can be particularly difficult if the parents have a strained relationship or if the parents disagree on divorcing. Research shows that coming up with positive ways to talk to kids about divorce and a shared message can significantly impact how the children process and thrive after divorce. A family specialist or other collaborative professional can help parents work on this messaging.
An often forgotten element of divorce, however, is the “story” for everyone else. The children of divorce often take precedence, but divorcing people also may worry about telling their own parents, extended family, friends, or people in the community.
As a collaborative professional, I often have divorcing clients wonder “how can I tell my child’s teacher?” “I am worried about what my mom/sister/grandmother will think if I tell them about the divorce”. Or, “what will the neighbors think?” People also may worry about telling people at work.  While it is important to have a shared narrative for the children, it can often be beneficial to have a shared narrative for the greater community as well.
If both spouses work together on messaging, it can avoid confusion and prevent additional animosity resulting from third parties. In collaborative divorce, the professionals often work with clients on the shared narrative to the community. While it is important to have a consistent message, people sometimes differ on the level of information to share. It can also sometimes be difficult to consider not being 100% honest in what is shared. While it is rarely best to lie, keeping certain elements private or just stating “this is not something we are comfortable sharing” can be a good way to have a message, but keep it controlled.
A traditional court process does not typically address this messaging.  By making a decision to use a non-adversarial, out-of-court process, such as collaborative law, couples can work together to find more complete and holistic resolutions. This work can lead to better, long lasting resolutions for the individuals and others in their lives.
91538368-womans-arm-reaching-for-a-floating-balloon-gettyimagesNo one imagines they will find themselves single, divorced, and living in a 4 bedroom house in the suburbs alone, and then it happens. So what do you do when you wake up and realize that your life is not at all what you ever imagined it would be? How do you “cope” and “mourn” the loss of the life you had been planning for yourself? First, remember you are not alone. You are never alone in this. Lean on your friends, family, and a good support group – whether it’s a support group you created with a network of friends and family, or a more formal divorce support group in your area. There are so many resource out there, find people/places/networks that you feel comfortable with. Seek out professional counseling or therapy, sometimes just talking about these hopes and dreams that could have/should have/would have been to a neutral party can be such a relief. Know that it is ok to mourn this loss. For you it may be the loss of the “perfect family” you had envisioned – whether you never had kids and always wanted them, or had 1 or 2 and had wanted more. Maybe for someone else who is forced to go back to work because of the divorce, it may be the loss of being able to stay at home with the children. Perhaps it’s the loss of a certain lifestyle one may have gotten used to or thought they would attain someday, whether financially or within a certain social circle. Maybe divorce forced you to move to new area and you are mourning the loss of being close to your friends, in a certain school district for your children, or even simply mourning the loss of your home. It’s not irrational to mourn these things, whether they are lifestyles and material items you no longer have, or were simply hopes for the future – it is ok. Take comfort in knowing that you never know what the future has in store for you. Maybe you always wanted kids and suddenly find yourself dating someone with children that you simply adore (young or old). Think you’re too old for that reality? Maybe you will remarry and have pile of grandchildren in your future. Maybe having to go back to work will one day lead to a promotion that allows you to take your children on trips of a lifetime and provide for their college education. There is a quote by Joseph Campbell that reads, “We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Remember that.
96390961-business-man-holding-wedding-band-gettyimagesIf a ring is a sign of marriage, should there be a sign for divorce? How do you handle simple social situations and interactions regarding your divorce? Do you come right out and tell people you are divorced, wait until it comes up in conversation, or ignore it completely? What about when someone asks you if you have a family? When my recently divorced neighbor moved into my neighborhood they first thing I had asked him was if he had a family. Once you’re past 30 it seems to be the natural conversation maker, so now how do you respond to that question? Some divorcees chose to keep wearing their wedding ring to possibly avoid these social situations, avoid the stigma of divorce, or maybe to avoid being hit on! Wedding rings are symbols of marriage, and once that marriage ends, it becomes unnecessary and possibly misleading to continue to wear a wedding ring. Some may wear the wedding ring on the opposite hand, or have it made into a different piece of jewelry. Interestingly enough, according to “Popular Mechanics” magazine British women in the 1920s would cut notches into their rings to symbolize divorce. Having children brings up another societal stigma regarding having a ring on your finger. A recent conversation with a widowed friend brought forth this subject as well. She had been wearing her wedding ring for three years since her husband’s death. Feeling that closeness to him played a part in it, but she said she mainly continued to wear it because she didn’t want to feel that society was judging her for being a “single mom” when she was in public with her child. Divorced mothers can surely relate. Many people struggle with what and how much to tell strangers, acquaintances, and co-workers. What do you think? Sometimes do you wish that there was a “sign” or “code” so that people just know and you can avoid the questions, would you rather keep it a secret when meeting new people, or are you open to questions?