Month: December 2014

Stress at the Holidays

The Holiday season brings family and friends together. Some of us make cookies, share meals and exchange gifts. It is a wonderful time of year full of festivities and cheer. It is also the time of year that our stress levels may rise. Family visits and the rush to the mall to fight parking and lines at the cash register can raise feelings of frustration and being overwhelmed. We are trying to manage work, home and daily life while at the same time adding holiday “to-do’s”.

The joyous celebration may feel more like one big headache. Here are some suggestions for feeling less stressed during the holiday season and make it more enjoyable for you and your loved ones:

  • Take time for yourself – whether it is going for a walk or sitting down with a book, remember to unplug and take some “me” time.
  • Slow down – pace yourself. You know this is a busy time of year, so start preparations earlier to help alleviate the last minute rush
  • Make a list – write things down to avoid forgetting. A list can give you a sense of calm and control. Check things off as you go, so you can see the progress you are making.
  • Ask for help – Don’t be afraid to ask for help when getting things accomplished. We all need help sometimes.
  • Limit what you say yes to – You don’t need to go to every party or cookie exchange. It is okay to say no to activities and say yes to taking care of your own needs. Put yourself first.

Hopefully following one or two of these suggestions will help you put more HAPPY into your Happy Holidays! Wishing you a wonderful and less stressful 2015!Calm Panic

What’s your financial IQ?

wad of moneyI can divide most of my divorce or separation mediation clients into two categories: the member of the couple who handles the finances, and the member of the couple who does not. In an overwhelming number of cases, my experience has been that one party is solely responsible for the finances, and the other party has little or no idea about the day-to-day or the long-term financial picture. Some people are just better with finances than others!

While this is common, it may have implications that effect the mediation. The non-financially savvy spouse may be or become distrustful of the spouse who has handled the couple’s finances all those years. They may be unable to create an accurate budget for projecting their future living costs (which is a part of all settlement agreements), without help from their partner or the mediator. It can affect negotiations around support (Child Support and Spousal Support), either expecting too much or asking for too little. And when the non-financially savvy spouse gives up asset and retirement distributions or support that they really can’t afford to be without, this can be disastrous for them in the future.

Keep in mind that the division of your marital assets and liabilities, including retirement accounts and loan debt can rarely be changed in the future if you should regret the decisions you made in mediation. When mediating your divorce or separation, it is important for you to become familiar with your household expenses and with the assets and liabilities that are marital. You may be able to do this with your soon-to-be-ex spouse. If you find the financial information being presented to be too complex, ask questions! The mediator can usually explain it in a way that you can understand. If that doesn’t work, or you and your spouse can’t work together, getting a financial advisor involved during the process can be in your best interest.

Holiday Traditions

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A Mediation Center holiday tradition–wrapping gifts at EastView Mall to raise money for Ontario ARC!

I’m probably the most traditional person I know when it comes to my favorite holiday–Christmas. I even look forward to simple traditions, like the sweet potatoes topped with pecans we only have once a year and the raucous gift exchange game with extended family on Christmas Eve.

I often hear families this time of year expressing concern about maintaining their holiday traditions for their children when divorcing. Traditions are comforting. They fill our need for reliability, an element which is often shaken when divorcing.

Yet, every year–like it or not–things change. For one thing, we never had that sweet potato dish in our family until my sister-in-law made it for the first time a decade ago. And we never did that wacky gift exchange until one of our family members skipped a year and came back from Minnesota with this new idea.

My point is, traditions haven’t always been traditions–someone started them. And, while it may be possible to maintain certain traditions, divorce often means that some of them will have to change. As a parent, you have the opportunity to show your children that it is possible to create new and special traditions.

With hopes for peace, inspiration, and a new sense of reliability, here are some “new” traditions to consider:

Thanksgiving movie night followed by going to see Santa on the Friday after Thanksgiving;

Reading “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” after lighting the Menorah;

Playing “The Message Game”–each person writes one thing about every person present they appreciate and then everyone takes turns reading the messages and tries to guess who wrote it;

Hunting for the “Santa Present” that Santa left on Christmas Day when the Child was with her other parent;

Giving each child a special ornament to hang on the tree and then presenting them with “their” ornaments when they move into their first place.