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Giving Back and Coping During Social Distancing

We are being asked to change daily life as we know it.

Routines are interrupted. Kids are home from school.

Offices are closed and people are working from home.

We are not sure how to act within the constraints that our government and health experts are recommending.

SO MUCH CHANGE…

How do we deal with the extra stress, fear and conflict that may arise? Perhaps, by focusing on some of the positives and focusing on others, we can find some solace and good news…

Click this link for an inspiring article on Coping and Giving Back:

Giving Back and Coping During Social Distancing

Today as I write this blog, the sun is out and the sky is a vibrant blue. Not usual for the Rochester area. I am basking in the warmth and light.

People are out walking with their kids, families and dogs. So many dogs. We may need to stay 6 feet apart but the dogs are rejoicing in being with their owners and making new friends.

Strangers you pass when walking are grateful to say hi and welcome conversation even from a safe social distance.

More ball is being played in the front yards with fathers and sons, mothers and daughters.

People are slowing down and connecting more with people far away through virtual technology.

Creative play evolves out of boredom. More furniture forts in the living room and many humorous memes on social media.

Neighbors reach out to neighbors with groceries and kindness.

Communities come together to support those who may have less or are more vulnerable to getting sick.

Systems that are pushed have the chance to adjust and change.

And maybe, JUST MAYBE, we can learn from this time. Learn how to treat each other better and to have systems in place that can take care of us all.

The Mediation Center

www.mediationctr.com

585-269-8140

Financial Perspective During COVID 19

By: Kitty Bressington, CFP®, CDFA

I know that these past few weeks have been a challenge. I think the market drop, the border restrictions, the layoffs, and the “yikes” factor is snowballing and it can be tough to balance all the associated emotions.

Episodes like this are what New Englanders like to call “bracing.” Shocking enough to take a little bit of your breath away but not cause frostbite. (OK, a true New Englander wouldn’t consider Rochesterians “New Englanders” but this is a time for solidarity, in all shapes and sizes).

Several people have asked if we are at “panic” point yet and I’m still going to say “No.” Here’s how I gauge panic – are you and your family making life-long significant changes to your personal spending patterns that will alter, forever, your relationship with money. Are you going to drop down to one car? Are you going to aggressively down-size your home? Are you evaluating all of your spending patterns and making wholesale shifts in where and how you spend (or will spend) your money? Sure, things are a little nuts right now (if you had told me two weeks ago I would be hoarding Taza Toffee Almond chocolate bars, I would have laughed – but now, hey, a girl has her vices….); this will pass and when the stores re-open, most people will slip back into old habits, slowly perhaps, but I doubt few of us (as in the population as a whole) will make significant changes.

To put some perspective on things – The market dropped 33.5% during the 1987 correction, 36.7% during the 2000-2001 episode and 51.9% during the 2007 drop. We are barely scraping the least of those numbers now and aren’t even close if you factor in that we shouldn’t have risen as high as we did. Further, most of you have well diversified portfolios which means that you have only a percentage of your portfolio in “the markets” so your value drop is even lower. Does that make it less painful – heck, no. It just means that we have to separate the emotion from the actual financials. It’s not easy, I get that but it’s critical so if any of you are feeling the itch to pull the trigger on your accounts, call me and we’ll talk.

On to some structural issues. For those of you who don’t know me well, it may come as a slight shock that I don’t have internet, cable, or a TV at home which is going to make the “stay-at-home” order somewhat challenging. It was a personal decision made years ago to protect my mental health and when the thought that I would need to work at home wasn’t even on the horizon.

Right now, the most important thing is to stay well. While drops in the market are shocking, the are easier to recover from than some health issues.

OK – the weather has turned and we can all get outside so go get some fresh air this weekend and let those UV rays burn off the germs.

Kitty Bressington, CFP®, CDFA is a founding principal of Linden Financial Consultants, LLC a fee-only, hourly-only financial consulting practice. With more than 20 years of experience, Kitty provides affordable, objective, well-explained financial advice helping clients understand the long-term ramifications of the financial decisions being made, particularly during the course of a separation and/or divorce.

By working on an hourly basis, clients are able to benefit from product-neutral financial advice, either periodically or on a regular basis, depending on their budget, making financial advice more accessible to those who want to take control of their financial well-being – no income or investment account minimums are required.

Kitty is a member of the Garrett Planning Network, a nationwide network of independent, fee-only financial advisors, a member of the Rochester Association of Family Mediators (RAFM), and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).

Kitty is also founding director of the Foundation for Women’s Financial Education, a non-profit
dedicated to improving the financial literacy of women in the Greater Rochester area and local sponsor of the Second Saturdays Divorce workshops.

Guest Blogger: Maryellen Dance, LMHC, “Excuse me, you’re really going to talk to me about managing my anxiety during a global pandemic? You must be the crazy one.”

Maryellen Dance is a LMHC, Licensed Mental Health Counselor. She has a private practice in Pittsford, NY, is an adjunct professor at Nazareth College and is a friend. Maryellen and I began working together a couple of years ago for the Second Saturday Workshops. Workshops designed to inform and educate women about separation and divorce. You can find more information on this workshop at www.womensfinancialeducation.org. The workshop is held every Second Saturday of the month at The Mediation Center.

From Maryellen:

As a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, I am getting a lot of comments like the one above. I hear so many people telling me that they have just accepted they are going to live in a puddle of anxiety until this is all over. Well, that sounds miserable to me. Of course we are going to feel a bit more anxious than usual during this time in the world, but we don’t have to just sit and let our anxiety take over.

If I had to guess, we are doing other things that actually increase our anxiety. Some of the top triggers for anxiety are boredom, fear, and loneliness.

Can any of us relate to these feelings right now?…..I know I can!

Although we can’t directly do anything to stop the global pandemic, we can work on our boredom, fear, and loneliness which ultimately lead us to managing our anxiety. I want to share with you some of the best and easiest ways to manage your anxiety during this time!

1. Recognize that you have anxiety. It’s okay to admit that right now is a stressful time in life. If we ignore anxiety, it has this tendency to bubble up underneath the surface until we feel like we’re losing it! Talk about it. Share with a loved one how you’re feeling. Have compassion for yourself for feeling this way.

2. Stop reading the news!! Okay, maybe not completely, because it’s important to stay informed. But we are inundating ourselves with news articles with so many statistics, opinions, and hypotheticals. Stay up to date, but put the phone down!

3. Stick to a schedule. Just like babies have feeding and sleeping schedules, so do we! To keep some sense of normalcy try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day as well as eating three meals around the same time each day.

4. Breathe! Breathe! Breathe! If you notice your shoulders going up and down, you’re breathing shallowly which can increase anxiety. Put your hand on your stomach and try to breathe in deep in your belly, your stomach should grow when you inhale and shrink back when you exhale.

5. Distract yourself. Make a quarantine bucket list of things you want to accomplish during this time and every time you feel bored, go to something on the bucket list. Call a friend. Read a book. Go outside. Anything to distract from the spiral of anxious mush in your brain!

Please don’t put your mental health last. Please don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, and panicked to reach out for support. Right now, (not all) but most insurance companies are even waiving copays for mental health therapy to meet the growing needs of the community. Call 585-294-1390 or email maryellen@qltherapy.com with any questions or to make an appointment.

Changes To Your Parenting Plan and Expenses During COVID-19

Many separated and divorced parents have questions during this uncertain time.

How do you manage shared parenting time and financial changes due to loss of job and/or schedule changes? Modifications to your current agreements can be made as long as you are both in agreement.

Agreements for child support include language for any substantial change in circumstances and COVID-19 can mean a large change for you and your family.

Mutually agreeing how you and your ex-spouse will manage the kids and finances while keeping everyone safe and healthy is of the utmost importance.

If you can agree on any changes for sharing time with the kids that need to happen (for health concerns or job schedule changes) and adjustments to support or sharing of expenses due to being laid off or having other changes in income, that is wonderful.

If you are unable to agree on how to handle the current situations we are all dealing with, loss of income and concerns for kids going between houses and exposure, (two of the most asked questions during this time), The Mediation Center can help you navigate these conversations to help you put a temporary plan in place.

Although the courts are closed, we can meet with you online or via phone. Let us know how we can help.

These are stressful times. Getting your questions answered and having clear understandings between you and your ex-spouse can make these next few weeks and months more manageable.

Call us at 585-269-8140 or email us at renee@mediationctr.com to make an appointment.

Seven Guidelines for Parents Who Are Divorce/Separated and Sharing Custody of Children During the COVID19 Pandemic

From the leaders of groups that deal with families in crisis:

Susan Myres, President of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML)
Dr. Matt Sullivan, President of Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
Annette Burns, AAML and Former President of AFCC
Yasmine Mehmet, AAML
Kim Bonuomo, AAML
Nancy Kellman, AAML
Dr. Leslie Drozd, AFCC
Dr. Robin Deutsch, AFCC
Jill Peña, Executive Director of AAML
Peter Salem, Executive Director of AFCC

1. BE HEALTHY.

Comply with all CDC and local and state guidelines and model good behavior for your children with intensive hand washing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched, and maintaining social distancing. This also means BE INFORMED. Stay in touch with the most reliable media sources and avoid the rumor mill on social media.

2. BE MINDFUL.

Be honest about the seriousness of the pandemic but maintain a calm attitude and convey to your children your belief that everything will return to normal in time. Avoid making careless comments in front of the children and exposing them to endless media coverage intended for adults. Don’t leave the news on 24/7, for instance. But, at the same time, encourage your children to ask questions and express their concerns and answer them truthfully at a level that is age-appropriate.

3. BE COMPLIANT with court orders and custody agreements.

As much as possible, try to avoid reinventing the wheel despite the unusual circumstances. The custody agreement or court order exists to prevent endless haggling over the details of timesharing. In some jurisdictions there are even standing orders mandating that, if schools are closed, custody agreements should remain in force as though school were still in session.

4. BE CREATIVE.

At the same time, it would be foolish to expect that nothing will change when people are being advised not to fly and vacation attractions such as amusement parks, museums and entertainment venues are closing all over the US and the world. In addition, some parents will have to work extra hours to help deal with the crisis and other parents may be out of work or working reduced hours for a time. Plans will inevitably have to change. Encourage closeness with the parent who is not going to see the child through shared books, movies, games and FaceTime or Skype.

5. BE TRANSPARENT.

Provide honest information to your co-parent about any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus, and try to agree on what steps each of you will take to protect the child from exposure. Certainly both parents should be informed at once if the child is exhibiting any possible symptoms of the virus.

6. BE GENEROUS.

Try to provide makeup time to the parent who missed out, if at all possible. Family law judges expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made and will take seriously concerns raised in later filings about parents who are inflexible in highly unusual circumstances.

7. BE UNDERSTANDING.

There is no doubt that the pandemic will pose an economic hardship and lead to lost earnings for many, many parents, both those who are paying child support and those who are receiving child support. The parent who is paying should try to provide something, even if it can’t be the full amount. The parent who is receiving payments should try to be accommodating under these challenging and temporary circumstances.

Adversity can become an opportunity for parents to come together and focus on what is best for the child. For many children, the strange days of the pandemic will leave vivid memories. It’s important for every child to know and remember that both parents did everything they could to explain what was happening and to keep their child safe.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE – THE MEDIATION CENTER IS OPEN TO HELP DURING COVID-19

You are not alone during this time of uncertainty.

The Mediation Center is OPEN and conducting mediation sessions via phone and Zoom for separation, divorce, custody and visitation and family issues.

Although the courts are closed for matrimonial filings, we are not. We can help you navigate your process from start to finish (or pick up from anywhere in-between). We would like to support our clients, new and existing, so that they may structure a plan for now and in the future that is both durable and sustainable.

If you have started a process for separation and divorce, we can still help you move forward if you feel that is right for your situation and family. We have a process in place that can allow you the peace of mind of having a separation agreement signed, if needed.

We understand that taking some time to adjust to the “new normal” may be appropriate for you or you may feel more comfortable staying on track with your decision to separate or divorce from your spouse.

Stress levels may be increasing over the next few weeks with kids and parents home and with increasing questions and fears about finances.

We have wonderful supporting professionals who can help with your financial, legal and emotional needs.

Give us a call at 585-269-8140 or email us at renee@mediationctr.com

Whatever your situation or decision is, we are here to help.

 

The Mediation Center Moves to a New Location

150 Allens Creek Road, Suite 250, Rochester, NY 14618

Our new location will offer the same quality work and experience we have offered for decades to the community in and around Rochester, NY. We offer services for separation/divorce and family mediation and collaborative law processes, that keep couples and families out of court. We have expanded and will offer additional resources for financial and legal services ON SITE.

We offer couples a comfortable, safe and private space to resolve their conflicts. With coordinated and comprehensive service from start to finish.

We are committed to providing a private, professional and affordable place to mediate or collaborate a divorce, separation or family issue.

We are dedicated to providing our clients with a cooperative, positive and empowering approach to resolving conflict.

We work along side with supporting professional and have a team presence and work model to help people through their conflict in the most positive and healthy way.

One of our goals is to educate the public about their options for conflict resolution and to keep people out of expensive and volatile/contested court battles. We will be offering workshops and educational sessions on separation and divorce and process choices that will include information on finances and staying emotionally healthy.

Mediation and collaborative law processes give people the control to make the decisions that effect their life, rather than the court deciding for you.

Contact us today!

“Who Packs Your Parachutes?”

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, ‘You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down.

‘How in the world did you know that?’ asked Plumb.
I packed your parachute,’ the man replied.
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.

The man pumped his hand and said, ‘I guess it worked!’

Plumb assured him, ‘It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.’

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, ‘I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.’ Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, Who’s packing your parachute?’

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory – he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes. Friends, family, colleagues; Who packs your parachutes?

Mediation is Underused as a Genuine (stand alone) Option for Conflict Resolution

“Mediation is greatly underused in most areas in which it is offered because it is ‘intertwined’ with the adversarial process it is designed to be an ALTERNATIVE to. Mediation is usually an anomalously non-adversarial step within an adversarial process rather than an option available at any point in the life of the dispute, conflict or relationship breakdown available IN PARALLEL to and SEPARATE FROM the adversarial process and NOT a step within it. This ineffective application of the process makes it a ‘grab it while you can’ option and participants are often pressurised into accepting it at the point of offering (and because of the pressurising, are more likely to resist it), even to the point of some systems wishing to make it ‘compulsory’ – thus risking an undermining of their right of access to justice where mediation is an inappropriate option for the situation concerned . Where the availability of mediation is presented appropriately it is more frequently taken up and more able to be clearly recognised as a non-adversarial option which participants in a dispute can see as a genuine, participant-chosen alternative offering a step out of the stressful, often bureaucratic, debilitating adversarial approach which is the traditional ‘default’ option. #CAOSmediation
Alan Sharland

How to tell kids about divorce: An age-by-age guide

The news that Mom and Dad are separating hits a two-year-old and a 10-year-old differently.

Here’s how to help children handle it at any age.

Two thoughtful parents once sat their preschooler down to tell him about their upcoming divorce. Carefully and gently, they told him that Mommy and Daddy were going to stop living together and would now live in different houses, but he would still see both of them regularly. They finished with the most important point of all, that Mom and Dad both still loved him, and asked if he had any questions.

The four-year-old was silent. Then he said, “Who’s going to look after me?”

This little story, related by California psychologist, mediator and author Joan B. Kelly, provides a window into the differences between adult and child experiences of divorce. These parents had done all the right things. They’d sought professional advice and tried to give their son the essential information without overwhelming him. Yet they failed to get across this key point, which may have seemed obvious to them, but wasn’t to him.

Adults see divorce for the complex, multi-faceted situation it is. This is why couples try and keep the divorce as smooth as possible in order to avoid children being affected negatively. If you are thinking of finding a law firm to use then you may want to visit https://www.eatons-solicitors.co.uk/offices/ilkley. Having a law firm involved can help you focus on the other changes that often occur in the event of a divorce, such as helping your children adjust. As a parent you might be worried about how you can provide for your children once you are divorced, trying a child support calculator might help put your mind at rest. This might make it easier for you and less stressful. When it comes to your children, you want to keep it as positive as you can as you don’t want to upset them. If you have young children involved they might not understand what divorce is about. Young children tend to view it in concrete and self-centered terms. Big-picture reassurances will mean little to a child who is wondering, “Where will the cat live?” Understanding where kids are at, developmentally, can help you help them adjust to the reality of divorce.

How to talk to 0 to 5 year old kids about divorce: Key developmental issues

Babies and toddlers
• dependence on parents or caregivers
• no ability to understand complex events, anticipate future situations or understand their feelings
Preschoolers
• beginning to develop independence, but still highly dependent
• limited ability to understand cause and effect; still unable to think ahead to the future
• understanding of the world revolves around themselves
• line between fantasy and reality is sometimes fuzzy
• some ability to think about feelings, but limited ability to talk about them

When Nicholas Benson* and his wife, Lisa, separated last fall, their two children, Andrew, six, and Caitlyn, four, were already accustomed to being with Dad most of the time, since Mom’s job kept her out of town all but a few days a month. So when Lisa moved out of their home in Milton, Ont., it took a while for Caitlyn to understand the change. When the kids got home from their first weekend visit with their mother, Caitlyn said, “Mommy home?” even though they had just left her. It will take Caitlyn time and lots of simple explanations before she can understand.

What to watch for: Signs of distress in preschoolers include fear, anger or emotional instability, which may be expressed indirectly through clinginess, anxiety, whininess or general irritability. Preschoolers may also lose ground in their development. Tots who were sleeping through the night might start waking up more often, for example.

With their limited cognitive ability, three- and four-year-old’s can develop inaccurate ideas about the causes and effect of divorce, says Rhonda Freeman, manager of Families in Transition, a program of Toronto’s Family Services Association. “If Dad’s the one who leaves the home, they might think, ‘Dad left me,’ rather than ‘Dad left Mom,’” she says. “Children need to understand that the decision to live apart is an adult decision. It’s difficult for preschoolers to understand that.”

Parental priorities: Consistent care and nurturing give children a sense of stability and reassurance. So as much as possible, tots’ lives need to be anchored by their normal routines (meals, play, bath, bed) in the presence of a parent who is “there for them.” This, of course, is important to all children, but especially after divorce. As Joan Kelly notes, “If things aren’t going well at home, preteens and teenagers can escape by going to hang out with friends. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers can’t.”

Preschoolers need simple, concrete explanations. Stick to the basics: which parent will be moving out, where the child will live, who will look after him and how often he’ll see the other parent. Be prepared for questions; provide short answers, then wait to see if there are more. Don’t expect one conversation to do the job; plan on several short talks.

How to talk to 6 to 11 year old kids about divorce: Key developmental issues

6- to 8-year-old’s
• a little more ability to think and talk about feelings
• broader, less egocentric view of what’s going on around them, but still limited understanding of complex circumstances such as divorce
• developing more relationships outside the home (friends and school)
9- to 11-year-olds
• more developed ability to understand, think and talk about feelings and circumstances related to divorce
• relationships outside the family (friends, teachers, coaches) are more developed and become a greater factor in planning the child’s time
• tend to see things in black and white; may assign blame for split

Erica Hallman* of Toronto recalls her daughter Jessica, then in kindergarten, trying to understand the conflicts behind her parents’ separation. “One time she asked me, ‘Why are you fighting? Is it because he deleted something from your computer?’” This misunderstanding was easily remedied. Yes, Dad had deleted something from Mom’s computer and they had angry words about it, but, of course, that did not cause the divorce. However, her daughter’s question made Hallman realize Jessica’s need to make sense of circumstances she couldn’t fully understand.

What to watch for: School-aged children may show their distress as fear, anxiety, anger or sadness, and some display more clear-cut signs of missing their absent parent. Some may have fantasies about reconciliation and wonder what they can do to make that happen. Freeman says, “Children who think that they might be able to bring their parents back together, or that they somehow contributed to the divorce, will have trouble getting on with the healing process. So they need to understand that those are adult decisions which they didn’t cause and can’t influence.”

Parental priorities: Stable care and routines are still important. Kids at the upper end of this age range are more able to talk about what they’re feeling. However, just because they can doesn’t mean they’ll want to. Approaching the topic indirectly can help; saying, “Some kids feel sad, afraid or even angry when their parents’ divorce,” is less threatening than asking directly, “Are you feeling sad?” Books about divorce can also help kids focus on their feelings.

How to talk to 12 to 14 year old kids about divorce: Key developmental issues

• greater capacity to understand issues related to divorce
• ability to take part in discussions and ask questions to increase their understanding
• beginnings of desire for more independence; questioning of parental authority
• relationships outside the family increasingly important

Eve Mirowski’s* boys were 10 and 12 when she went through a messy divorce from her alcoholic husband. The situation was so bad that, at one point, both parents were ordered by the judge not to discuss the court proceedings. It’s impossible to fully shield children from that type of conflict, but Mirowski did what she could. “I just tried to make our home a safe haven…regular mealtimes, regular bedtimes and my husband was never allowed in the house. When I left the boys to go out in the evening, I took my cellphone and told them to call me any time.” And call they did, often. Her eldest, Joe, started getting headaches and having trouble sleeping, Mirowski recalls. “I was worried that, given my stress, I couldn’t do enough on my own to give him the coping skills, so I got help.” Joe started seeing a counsellor who was able to help him enormously.

What to watch for: Irritability and anger are common, at either parents or the one who moved out. It can be hard to gauge how much of a young teen’s moodiness is related to the divorce. “Think about what your child was like before the separation and how their behavior or moods have changed,” Freeman says. “That gives a clue as to the cause. However, even if you conclude that the problem is not divorce related, that doesn’t mean you don’t address it.”

Parental priorities: Keeping communication open decreases the chance that emotional problems slip under the radar. Kids in this age group can be harder to reach, and sometimes they act as if they don’t want to be reached. But most teens and preteens still need and crave connection with parents. “Lots of kids have told me, over the years, that they were testing their parents to see if they really cared,” Freeman says. So keep talking, even though your child may seem to push you away; make at least some of the conversation about what they want to talk about.

Surviving the Split
Research shows that three factors help children of any age adjust after divorce: having a strong relationship with both parents (when possible and when the child wants it); plain good parenting (what experts call maintaining parenting capacity); and minimal exposure to conflict. No real surprises there. The challenge for parents is pulling it off.

Nurturing the bond
Loss of a parent-child relationship after divorce can happen when one parent drifts out of the child’s life, or when one parent (or both) undermines the other’s relationship with the child. Or it may be the child who pulls back, says Rhonda Freeman, manager of Toronto’s Families in Transition. “Some children have a temperament that makes it difficult for them to deal with the ongoing hellos, goodbyes and transitions.”
Parents can’t control these factors. What you can do, apart from maintaining your own ties with a child, is to respect his relationship with the other parent. “If you denigrate the other parent in front of your children, you are essentially devaluing their relationship,” Freeman says.

Good parenting
It’s hard to maintain normal, good parenting when you are grieving a lost relationship and preoccupied with lawyers and court dates. Do your best to keep the adult issues separate from your interactions with your children, and get outside help like counselling if you need it.
Both Freeman and psychologist Joan B. Kelly of California recommend divorced parent education classes. “Many parents think, ‘I don’t need this,’” Kelly says. “But research shows that separated parents who attend divorce education classes are the most confident.” To find classes, check with your local family service agency or information center, your lawyer or mediator, doctor or counselor.

Containing conflict
The ideal approach to post-divorce conflict is to stop it before it starts. Janice Weiss* of Calgary remembers unbearable strife when her own parents split. “I swore my kids wouldn’t go through that.” She and her ex-husband both agreed to follow the advice in Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Isolina Ricci. “It became like a bible and it really did help.”

Here are five ways to lower the temperature when conflict is high:
• Limit conversations when exchanging the children. Stick to the basics like confirming pickup and drop-off times.
• Don’t use children to send messages back and forth with your ex.
• Exchange important details in writing. Some parents use email; others use a book that goes back and forth with the children. If things are really tense, have someone else (a counsellor, mediator or friend) screen your email for inflammatory language before you send it.
• Respect the other parent’s time with the children. Be on time (or have children ready) for pickups. Make sure anything they need to take with them (homework, clothes, special equipment) is ready as well.
• Respect your ex-partner’s privacy. You have a different relationship now; you’re aiming for more of a business-type partnership. You don’t need to know as much about his or her personal life as you once did.

*Names changed by request.

Kids’ books about divorce
1. Dinosaurs Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (Little Brown, 1988). Helps explain divorce in a friendly and easy-to-understand manner. Ages 4-8
2. I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Jeanie Franz Ransom, illustrated by Kathryn Kunz Finney (Magination Press, 2000). This storybook explores the range of emotions that children are likely to feel when the subject of divorce is first brought up. Ages 4-8
3. My Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore: A Drawing Book For Children of Separated or Divorced Parents by Judith Aron Rubin (Magination Press, 2002). Allows kids to express their feelings through art. Ages 4-12
4. What Can I Do? A Book for Children of Divorce by Danielle Lowry (Magination Press, 2001). Offers resources to help children understand and sort out feelings they face over divorce. Ages 8-12
A version of this article first appeared online in June 2006.