piggy-bank-1429582_1920Sometimes your teenage children think they know everything. Do they know that if they saved the $6 they spend each day on a super antioxidant smoothie (or caramel macchiato), in 8 years they could buy a 4-door sedan in soul red or titanium flash (1)? Below are 3 lessons you should teach them about the long-term financial impact of decisions that they will soon be making for themselves. Lesson #1: Over time, compound interest can make a little bit of savings grow to a very big amount One of the regrets many of us has, is that we did not start saving soon enough. The idea of compound interest is something that your kids will understand by the time they are in middle school. There are numerous online calculators you can use to show them how deciding to save their money and forego that daily splurge can turn into better investments (like a new car). Lesson #2: College is a very expensive but financially important decision As your high schooler starts to contemplate where they want to go to college, don’t leave them out of the financing discussion. Even parents who expect to cover the entire cost of college need to make their child understand that it is a significant investment in their future, and not a nonstop party. Let them know that by completing college, they will likely earn $1 – $3 million more over their lifetime than their classmates who didn’t (2). Lesson #3: Credit cards are a tool and not a new source of money Credit card debt is rampant among people of all ages, but studies have shown that outstanding balances ramp up quickly after college. Before, during and after college, make sure your child understands that credit cards are not free money. Talk to them about using credit cards only to the extent that the balance can be paid off each month. Revisit Lesson #1 and show them how fast the balance on a 20% credit card can grow out of control. The best way to drive these lessons home is to set a good example. Demonstrate good use of credit by paying off your credit cards monthly. Develop a budget and then communicate how sticking to it serves larger financial goals. It’s very likely that you have made some big financial mistakes in your life. Wouldn’t it make sense to share what you have learned so they don’t make them too? (1) Assuming $6/day, saved for 8 years, earning 6% after fees, the total is $22,403. This exceeds the base MSRP of a 185 horsepower 2016 Mazda 6 4-door sedan with 6-speed manual transmission in Titanium Flash Mica ($21,330). The same model in Soul Red Metallic is $21,630. (2) The Economic Value of College Majors 2015, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
question markMy husband and I were taking our kids to swimming lessons when we saw a man and woman standing outside the facility arguing.  The anger and negative energy were palpable.  While still in the parking lot, we met up with another family we know, and we exchanged uncomfortable glances as the conversation between this couple became more heated.  “Awkward,” my friend whispered. As we approached, I could hear what they were arguing about, and the expletives were flying (this is a family place, mind you, and my kids were five and two at the time – yikes!)  The woman was saying, “I don’t give a $*&^ what you think.  You can’t have that #$&* sleep over when it’s your weekend with our son.  You are such an ^*&+@!  We aren’t even divorced yet.”  My five year old glanced up at me with an odd look on his face.  Oh boy.  I wondered if they had attorneys and what process they were using. Even though I see this sort of conflict on a regular basis, it was very uncomfortable to witness.  I’m not sure if my discomfort was because I couldn’t do anything about their conflict (I was there as a mom, not a lawyer) or because my children were in earshot.  For a fleeting moment I did, however, consider going up to them.  I felt compelled to inform them there is a better way to deal with this “stuff” and that a child specialist and divorce coach could get them to a better place regarding “adult sleepovers.”  That was the lawyer in me. Since we were running a bit behind, however, the mom in me picked up my two-year-old and hurried my son through the door.  Either way, I felt bad for this couple, and even worse for their child.  I wondered how old their son was and if they had made a scene near the pool when they decided to “take it outside.”  I will never know how their divorce turned out.  I can only hope that things cooled down at some point so they could focus on co-parenting their child.  It’s understandable that emotions are highly charged during a divorce, which is the reason a divorce coach and child specialist are incredibly helpful during the process, as well as a therapist or counselor.  Stop.  Breathe.  Think.  And talk to a mental health professional.
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.
157494477-redheaded-girl-in-cloud-of-leaves-gettyimagesLooking for some Twin Cities fun on a budget? Going from a duel income to a single income is not only difficult, but can bring on many emotions, especially if it leaves you feeling inadequate with providing for your children. There are so many low and no cost options out there that you don’t have to feel your children are missing out if you are on a single parent budget. Here are some of our favorites:
  • Como Zoo (free)
  • Minneapolis Sculpture Garden (free)
  • Walker Art Center (free admission Thursdays from 5-9pm)
  • Minnesota History Center (free admission Tuesdays from 5-8pm)
  • Fishing at many local community piers and parks (free)
  • Minnehaha Falls (free)
  • Three Rivers Parks District: Elm Creek Park Reserve, Lowery nature Center, Minnetonka Regional Park, etc. (free admission and many free activities and play equipment). Tip: make a list for a scavenger hunt before you go, kids LOVE scavenger hunts!
  • Minnesota Children’s Museum (free admission the 3rd Sunday of each month)
  • Outdoor concerts in the summer: Minneapolis Music in the Parks and St. Paul Music in the Parks, as well as many suburban concert series (free)
  • Movies in the Park in Summer: many area options (free)
  • Minnesota Landscape Arboretum (free admission every third Thursday of the month after 4:30 pm April through October)
  • Farmer’s Markets: many area options, check your city and surrounding areas for dates and times. Tip: If you go close to the end of the day many vendors may have reduced their prices or are willing to negotiate on fresh produce. (free admission)
  • Bike or walk the area trails. We are very blessed with many quality area trails like the Luce Line, Dakota Rail Regional Trail, etc. Tip: Another great place for a scavenger hunt!
  • Local beaches in the summer – We are in the land of 10,000 lakes, there are so many options for free swimming and sand castle fun!
  • Local art fairs, craft fairs, car shows, etc. Admission is typically free and it is so fun to walk around and look at everything.
Also be sure to check out local discount websites such a www.SaveOn.com, www.Groupon.com, and www.LivingSocial.com, where you can find deep discounts on local amusement parks, museums, the arboretum, restaurants, and more!
Your divorce probably has you feeling like everything is beyond your control. Now imagine the lack of control your children are feeling. Yesterday they had a family with two parents living under the same roof, and today their family life as they knew it is torn apart. Your children may not have any idea how things got to this point, much less have the ability to change things. While it is seemingly impossible to feel in control right now, as a parent it is your role to support your children and help them to cope with the stress of the divorce. Focusing on these four components should help to lessen the stress on your children: patience, reassurance, structure, and stability. Patience. Have the patience to answer your child’s never ending questions they may have about the divorce. Offer them a listening ear and time to vent. Patience is tricky, especially when you are going through such a stressful time in your life. This is why it becomes so incredibly important for you to take care of yourself so that you can be the best parent you can be. Do whatever you can not to take your own stress out on your children. Even if it’s as simple as locking yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes to cool off – do it. Reassurance. Reassure your children that they are still loved by both parents, and that they did not cause this. Reassure them that it is ok to have fun and enjoy their time with each parent by not acting jealous or getting upset. Do not put your child in a situation where they are forced to pick a side, which will only cause them more stress. Reassure them that you will get through this together, and that this is not the end of their family, but rather the beginning of a different type of family for them. Structure. By providing routines kids can rely on, you remind your children they can count on you for stability, structure, and care. This is where parenting plans come into play and are so important to maintaining structure. A toddler may not know what day of the week it is, but something as simple as a color coded weekly calendar showing them what days they go to moms house at what days they go to dads house can help them to understand their routine. A preteen or teen may benefit more from an electronic calendar, where they know exactly who is picking them up from school and activities each day. Find what works best for maintaining structure in your family and stick to it. Stability. It is important to maintain structure in order to provide stability for your children. If one parent has bailed on picking up the kids for the past two weeks, that child no longer has the stability in their life to help them cope with the stress of divorce. Parents in this situation will often stop telling their children when the other parent is going to pick them up because they hate to see them get disappointed. When this happens the parenting plan needs to be addressed and reevaluated. Not only is it stressful on the parent when the other doesn’t follow through, but it is incredibly stressful on children. All of these points go hand in hand with one another. The more stability and structure you have, the more reassured your child will be. Divorce may be uncharted territory, but you can successfully navigate this unsettling time—and help your kids emerge from it feeling loved, confident, and strong.
collaborative divorce optionsDivorce is a challenging life experience for children, and parents worry what the impact will be on their children’s lives.  Based on my work with families of divorce, I have three specific suggestions for how parents can empathetically support their children during this difficult and often painful transition: 1.  Never put your children in the middle of parental conflict. This cannot be overstated:  exposure to parental conflict is toxic for children.  Heated arguments around children, even if parents believe their children can’t overhear, negatively charge the environment in the home, and kids will feel it.  Critical or disrespectful words  about a parent said by the other parent in the hearing range of their children make kids confused, sad and often angry.   I have heard many stories from tearful  children about trying to get parents to stop arguing and belittling each other.  You would never feed your children poisonous food;  do not make them absorb poisonous words. 2.  Remember that children deserve the best safe parenting they can get from both parents.  Be civil, treat each other with courtesy and remind your children that both parents love them.  Despite your hurt, anger or betrayal as a spouse, remember that your child’s relationship with and feelings about your soon-to-be-ex are separate from yours.  Resist the urge to try to get your child on your side, or to alienate your child from the other parent.  Of course real safety concerns must be addressed and may result in protective measures like supervised parental access.  But it is not fair to try to negatively manipulate your child’s feelings about the other parent just because you are angry. 3.  Listen to your children and stay attuned to their needs. The emotional and time demands of a divorce can understandably absorb parents’ time and attention at the exact time their children may need extra reassurance. Because regular routines are usually reassuring to children, try to designate time to spend with your children doing normal family activities.  Let them know whatever feelings they have about the divorce are okay, and you will always love and support them.  Check in with them to see how they’re doing, but read their cues if they tell you you’re asking too often.
108746711-pointing-to-oneself-gettyimagesCo-parenting can be challenging even in the most amicable divorces, but there are some personalities disorders that make co-parenting downright difficult. Among these include, but are not limited to: bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder. We are going to focus on narcissists in this post. Narcissists have a magnified sense of self-importance and lack they empathy for others. Narcissists insist on getting their way regardless of how it may affect others, even their own children. They may make promises to the children in order to gain compliance from the child, then refuse to honor the promises. They can be arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, demanding, and vain. As co-parents, these individuals often feel superior to their former spouse. It is challenging to reason with a narcissist, or attempt to try to get them to see the situation from someone else’s point of view, which makes co-parenting together a great feat. Sound familiar? Most importantly you must know that your ex’s personality disorder does not need to define your divorce. One of the best things that you can do in this situation is file a parenting plan with the courts. A parenting plan will outline anything from daily routines to holiday schedules. When dealing with a narcissist the more information you have laid out in writing, the more black and white it becomes. A parenting plan with help to maintain firm boundaries with your ex. When co-parenting with a narcissist you may need to keep your expectations low. You cannot expect the narcissist to tackle parenting with the same parental instincts that you have. What seems like second nature to you, may never cross a narcissist’s radar. Because a narcissist places no value on their children’s feelings, there will likely be emotional messes to clean up. Get your children (and you) into therapy and make it a regular and “normal”  part of their lives. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There are support groups out there, both online and in person, that are aimed specifically towards coping with a narcissistic ex. Divorce is never easy on children. Coping with a narcissistic parent makes a stressful situation even more difficult, but not impossible. Educate yourself on co-parenting through these challenging times, and also commit to self-care to provide some reprieve.
172244707-daddys-comfort-series-gettyimagesHaving recently become a grandparent for the first time, I am pondering the future with renewed urgency that my granddaughter’s legacy be one of hope and abundance. As she grows, there is no way to prevent the pain of grief and loss, the challenge of change or the regret of unfulfilled expectations, as major and minor crises are a normal part of our complicated human lives. But I want her to always know she is safe and loved, especially by her parents, as these are the building blocks of her resilience. Almost always, children experience divorce or breakup as a crisis, a challenging change, a loss. However, as I tell the parents with whom I work, it is possible to keep this crisis from ever becoming a trauma. It is possible to separate or get unmarried in such a way that your children will continue to feel safe and loved by both parents. Selecting a process that enables a divorcing couple to make the transition to effective co-parenting is an investment in their children’s future. As with other important investments, there is a need to balance potential gain with possible risk. In terms of impact on children, an adversarial divorce has minimum gain and maximum risk. A shorthand equation may be, the greater the court involvement, the greater the risk. In contrast, a process that focuses on respectful problem solving, and eliminates the need for court involvement, such as mediation or Collaborative Practice, has lower risk and potential maximum gain for children. Choosing the right professionals to guide you through the best process for your family can pay huge dividends in your children’s future.
136006968-writing-letters-gettyimagesIn the past few months, I have seen a number of people in my social network share this letter. It is a wonderfully written letter from an ex-Wife to her husband’s new girlfriend. Instead of the expected angry, hurtful, stay-away-from-my-children many people would have expected, the letter is filled with caring love for another human being and a potential influencer in her children’s lives. It is welcoming and tries to explain many of the nuances of the new family structures that arise out of divorce. Indeed, they take all shapes and sizes. This letter has been shared tens of thousands of times, because to the general public, it is unique. It is not what they expect to emerge out of divorce – it is not what society seems to expect of couples deciding to end a marriage. Truthfully, however, I see this kind of result all the time. As a collaborative divorce specialist, I loved this letter. It brought tears to my eyes as a real example of kindness and compassion in action. It is what I strive for every day when I work with families transitioning through divorce. We ground the collaborative process in mutual shared goals. If there are kids involved, both parents always want outcomes that protect the children. Regardless of what behavior, emotions or acts have led parents to a divorce, I know parents want to maintain strong relationships with their children and want their children to thrive in a post-divorce world. Many parents would even acknowledge the important role the other parent plays in raising the children. These goals are not unique – I see them all the time. And, when parents commit to an out of court, non-adversarial process, like collaborative law, the professionals in the process are as committed to these goals as the clients. I believe this letter demonstrates how important a positive co-parenting relationship is for children of divorce. That relationship lasts the rest of your life – figure out how to make it work. You do not need to be friends or call each other to talk about your day at work, but a respectful communication style to discuss your children will hugely benefit everyone. Having a strategy to embrace and face the changes that come after divorce is important as well. Statistically, both parents are likely to start new relationships – address these changes with healthy communication or seek outside support to learn how. Collaborative law is a divorce option that addresses many of the long-lasting implications of divorce and attempts to prepare families to move into a post-divorce life that allows everyone to thrive.