By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
As I bring to a close the latest blog series that has focused on parenting, I wanted to highlight the importance of cherishing the memories. Parenting is not easy, but it has so many special moments that will only happen once. Of course there are the huge milestones, such as the first step, the first word, starting kindergarten, getting a driver’s license, graduation. Hang onto those. The special moments also include the hard times– when having to discipline your child, or telling your child of the divorce, or when a family pet has died. How you handle those times can, in fact, bring you closer to your child than anything else.
The key is to not be so caught up in one’s own self, or material needs, or career, or stress, or anything else to let those moments slip away. Fully engage in them. Open yourself up to them.
The older I get, and as wonderful a life as I have, what I treasure are the memories I have with my kids. The good, the bad, and the ugly all had love as part of each and every one. Those memories can last forever, and there is always room for more.
By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
Children whose parents are going through a divorce already have a lot with which they must deal. They are facing the loss of their family as they know it. Fear of the unknown is overwhelming. Change is guaranteed; the only question is how much will there be. The last thing these children need is one more worry or concern. The best that a parent can do is protect each child from as much as possible, including shielding them from adult issues that are part of the divorce process.
Involving the child in the details of the divorce, telling them about what the other parent is saying, or leaning on the child for support is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Adult issues are just that — adult issues. There is no place for children at the adult issue table. Children do not need to be aware of a parent’s concerns about money, parenting disputes, or legal proceedings. That is for the adults to handle. Children are not responsible for emotionally supporting their parent. Instead, the parent is to provide a sense of safety and security for the child. The child never needs to hear what one parent is alleging about the other, but instead needs to be kept out of the fray. Failing to abide by these parent/child boundaries can harm the child more than any other component of their parent’s divorce.
One parent might break these rules. If this happens, kids are pretty quick to share in order to work through the negative feelings this conjured up within him or her. Sometimes, the child will come right out and report what the parent said. Other times, the child’s behavior will speak volumes that something is off. Another version of response is that the child hurls the allegations inappropriately shared by the parent. The best the other parent can do is listen, empathize with the feelings the child is experiencing, and then reassure the child that he is loved too much to be put in the middle any further.
Some children will ask for more information. Some will argue that they are in the middle already, because it is their future that is being discussed. Some will ask questions based upon what the other parent has overshared. The receiving parent need only remember the magic words: “I love you too much to put you in the middle.” Then, that parent needs to act on that and continue loving the children too much.
By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
As parents, we wear many hats. Cook, coach, therapist, nurse, nutritionist, and on and on. One of the most important is role model. That responsibility should not be taken lightly, as it can have a life-long impact on a child.
The role can be either positive or negative. Does the parent bully? Lie? Have patience? Speak kindly? Cuss openly? Smoke pot? Show respect? Choose moderation?
During divorce, sometimes the parent lets down on the role. They become a bit more self-absorbed or self-indulgent. Unfortunately, this is the worst time to let a child see such a shift. They learn by watching, and see that when times get tough you turn to bad choices. Additionally, the children have the greatest of emotional needs at this time, and the parent is absent, either physically or emotionally. What message does that send the child? How will that influence their future parenting?
A great exercise is to write down what you hope your child will be— not career-wise but personality and emotionally. Then, emulate that for your child. Work hard to be what you hope they will be. Let them see the positive role model. In the process, you will likely find your self happier and more satisfied. Walking the walk is a win-win.
By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
Crucial to a child’s ability to successfully navigate the divorce of his parents is an opportunity to express what he is feeling. As the parent, it is key to encourage the child to share his thoughts and feelings. Although at the right point, reassurance should be provided, actually listening to the child and allowing him to express himself is so beneficial. This is not a one-time need, either. The child will need it throughout the divorce process, and even afterwards. When a child is observed as being upset, that is an obvious time to reach out and ask him to open up. But, it is also helpful to randomly check in, and not wait for the child’s emotions to trigger the focus on sharing feelings.
This communication creates a healthy outlet for the child, and teaches them great coping skills for the rest of their life. There is also an added benefit—the child and parent become even closer. The child knows the parent cares and will listen. The talk is very personal, and can be raw. The child feels exposed, but also supported and heard. That can really bring two people together!
There is a life-long benefit to teaching these communication skills. In addition to helping your child have better emotional intelligence and health, they learn key relationship skills. It is a win/win, as you help them in the present, for the future, and strengthen your tie with them as well.
By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
During one of my recent commutes to the office, I heard a radio advertisement for unlimited data for up to four lines, celebrating that each family member could watch a different show on a separate phone. Why in the world would this be celebrated?
There should be no doubt that actual family time together is good for children, as well as the parents. It is best if this time is not screen time at all, such as a sit-down family dinner, with all technology put away and actual talking with one another. If screen time is involved, it should be shared screen time, all together. I have wonderful memories of my family choosing a t.v. series that we were going to watch together each week. Look at the family bonding: We chose the series together; we all looked forward to a shared event; we enjoyed watching it together; we discussed what we had all watched before the next installment. We even had discussions about moral issues, what could have been done differently, and life lessons.
Children, and adults, are already on their social media and technology devices way too much. Not only are they losing personal social opportunities, such as verbal communication and face-to-face interactions with real humans, they are losing a special bond with their siblings and parents, as well as losing opportunities to build memories. I see no special memories from binging on a series watched all alone.
And really, why do we have children, if not to spend some special time with them, influence them directly, teach them real-world social skills, and share love? If the goal is to ignore each other, and live separate lives, a potted plant is much cheaper than raising a child, and you don’t have to pay for the latest I-phone or unlimited data.
Quite simply, you only have time with your children a brief number of years. Make the best of it. Enjoy it. Let them feel loved. Feel their love. Time is fleeting.
By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
I am starting a new series within the blog about parenting. This first installment, though, focuses not on the children, but the parent.
The most successful parents put their children first, they sacrifice for the betterment of their children, and they tend to be the best at not speaking negatively about the other parent. This obviously gives their children the greatest chance at success in all areas of their lives. Good parents strive for all of this, but sometimes they do this to their own detriment, treading so lightly not to cross an inappropriate line. This often arises when the other parent speaks ill of that parent to the child, involved the child in a disagreement between the parents, or even flat out misrepresents facts to the child. Those excellent parents’ first response is to protect the child, know that it would be wrong to engage in similar behavior, avoid putting the child in the middle, and, as a result, vow to not respond. However, a therapist shared with me that that is not fair to the child or the parent.
The child is left with an uneasy feeling and questions, and the parent is hurt and possibly angry by the lies about him or her. It is okay for the parent to reassure the child, and at the same time stand up for him or herself. It is always good to thank the child for sharing, and the child should be encouraged to release such confusing feelings and experiences. It is likewise okay for the parent to apologize to the child for what he or she heard, and to say that it is not appropriate for a child to be involved in such a discussion. The child should hear that they are loved too much to further involve him or her in a discussion that should just be for parents. The parent can still teach the child right and wrong,, and this approach does not sink to the level of the other parent.
The final step in all this, though cannot be skipped. The parent needs to stick up for him or herself. It is not improperly involving the child to simply state that what the child heard about the parent is just not true. It is okay for the parent to make clear to the child, and role model in the process, that the parent has self-respect and will not tolerate misrepresentations about him or her. That is all that needs to be said. The child is left comforted and with enough clarity to move on, and the parent has said just enough for self-worth and inspiring the child to respect that as well.
By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
The best advice I can give anyone approaching mediation is to be realistic, which includes being reasonable, but not give just for the sake of settling. I recently completed a case that spanned close to seven months, and ended in a lengthy and expensive trial. The ruling, achieved thousands of dollars later, was almost exactly what my client offered at the mediation that occurred within the first month. The offer she made was not her ideal. It included compromise on her end, but realistic compromise and it was realistic in that she would not get everything she wanted exactly as she wanted it. The ruling was affirmation that she was on the right track, not being unreasonable in her positions throughout the case. Unfortunately, the other side required a Court to rule, rather than accept what ended up proving to be a very fair offer.
The question is always, do you give more and more, in order to reach resolution? By knowing what your line in the sand is as you approach mediation, this becomes pretty easy to navigate during mediation. Saving money in the short run just to settle and not litigate now, can lead to even more future protracted litigation and expense as a result of a bad agreement. As such, looking at what is realistic and reasonable requires a “big picture” overview. If you truly do not believe parenting time outside of certain parameters will be in your children’s best interests, set that as your line in the sand and stand true to it. If you have a dollar amount in mind that is justified by the facts and arguments, and you have thought through how to afford it, know that you can go up to that line. The thinking and preparation in advance can keep you from caving at a tired, weak moment during mediation, and then having buyer’s remorse.
This is where a skilled attorney can be of greatest assistance to a client. The attorney can advise the client as to the soundness as to current positions, as well as potential risks attendant to the current litigation and also to future, potential issues. In the case I reference above, the opposing side’s final offer was likely the worst-case scenario for my client, and in fact maybe worse. Accepting that offer would have been guaranteed at least, and litigation emotion and cost would have been saved in the present case. However, accepting that offer would not provide much-needed peace to the children or my client. Nothing would get better and, in fact, the risk was that things would actually deteriorate further. That advice helped the client set her line in the sand, make her final offer at mediation without going past her line and, in the end, get a good ruling in line with her offer. The current result was good, but the future looks bright as well, as real change was achieved sooner rather than later.
By Brenda L. Storey, Esq.
As 2017 comes to a close, and 2018 is just around the corner, it is a time for new beginnings. With the right perspective, a divorce can be seen like a new year. It is a chance to look back at what has been accomplished, where improvement can be made, and to count blessings, and then look forward.
Do not shortchange yourself with looking back. Allow yourself to see the good you did and what you enjoyed. Too often, we only see the bad, or what we could have done better. Every single relationship has successes, and those should be remembered. Also, give any feelings of loss the respect they deserve. Each of us grieves in a different way, but grieve you must. It is not healthy to push these feelings down.
The best way to move on successfully is to not repeat the same mistakes. So, identify where improvement is needed. Make a list of on what you wish to focus, what steps are needed, and a time-frame for each. Too much all at once will never be completed.
Then, focus on new beginnings—fresh starts. Will you move? Will you change jobs? Will you date? Will you create new traditions? You have the opportunity to start fresh and pursue what you want. Your goals can be limitless. Some goals will be short term, some will take a lifetime. But, see this change as an opportunity and take advantage of it!
By: Hanna Storey
To an outsider, divorced children simply get to celebrate Christmas multiple times, enjoy multiple dinners, and get double the presents. But, as a child of divorce, this is not the case. Christmas traditions when my parents were married included celebrating with my Mom’s side of the family on Christmas Eve, and celebrating with my Dad’s side of the family on Christmas Day. Thankfully, we were able to keep these traditions through the divorce as we still celebrate Christmas Eve with my Mom and Christmas Day with my Dad. But, the house that Santa would visit switched every other year following the divorce, allowing for each parent to get to partake in this Christmas tradition. As a child this was extremely hard to embrace. Santa was one of our household’s most memorable Christmas traditions. My parents pulled up all the stops: writing a letter to us, leaving just one cookie with bite marks in it, and drink marks on the glass of milk. As Santa moved from house to house when my parents divorced, the tradition and spirit seemed as if it was no longer there.
However, as time went on and my parents remarried, we suddenly had new traditions as well as new family. Celebrating with this new family became hard to do as a parenting schedule dictates at what specific time we go from one house to another. This meant that many times my brother and I would miss out on the Christmas Eve party at my Dad’s house that all of our friends were attending and would then hear about. Or, that we would miss out on Christmas celebration with our stepdad’s family and the funny white elephant gifts that were exchanged. We were only told what happened at these functions after the fact. Children of divorce during the holidays may celebrate multiple times but do not get to be a part of everything as children with married parents do.
Now, as an eighteen year old I am able to choose what I would like to do for the first time in my life. This freedom is difficult as I do not wish for any feelings to be hurt, nor do I wish to spend any time apart from my brother as we have gone through this process together. But, this is the first Christmas I may be able to partake in all that is going on for just a short amount of time and possibly not have to be told what all occurred and instead be a part of the memories.
As I look to the future, I wonder what being an adult with divorced parents around the holidays will be like. While my parents were married they separated the holiday into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but there will be some difficulty in order to see both sides of my family as well as my future husband’s family. This is not something I blame my parents for, it is just something that I never thought growing up that I would have to figure out. Christmas is still such a joyous time during the year with or without parents being divorced, and I am sure my future family will enjoy all the extra food and celebrations.
Wishing y’all a Merry Christmas!
By Natalie Gentry
The holiday season can be a challenging time of year. With so much work on our plates, parties to attend, gifts to buy, travel plans to make, guests to prepare for, and our own emotional needs to tend to it’s no wonder many of us feel stressed and overwhelmed during this time of year.
I want your holiday to be as enjoyable as possible, so here are a few tips that might make your holiday a little less stressful and a lot more festive.
1) Take a moment to meditate.
Find time during your day to create a moment of stillness. Just 10 minutes a day can give you more energy, inspiration and openness to tackle your many responsibilities with ease. Meditation is great in the morning before you start your day, during your lunch break or before going to bed.
2) Decide what YOU want your holiday season to look like.
Many of us were raised to celebrate the holidays in ways that our parents, grandparents, neighbors, and communities have. This is YOUR season, so celebrate it in ways that make you feel good.
3) Know that it’s okay to say, “No.”
If you don’t enjoy attending various holiday gatherings, buying a tree, putting out decorations, cooking lots of food, and the whole 9 yards, give yourself permission to scale back or disregard the things that feel onerous. The purpose of the holidays is to relax and enjoy the spirit of the season — not to stress you out.
4) Give yourself a break and rest.
Make time to take that long bath. Take time on the weekend to sleep in or to simply chill. Do that reorganization project you’ve been needing to do and do it easefully. Do the things that will help to support your nervous system at this time because we are actually built to slow down and regroup during the winter months.
5) Book a massage.
Sometimes we need to feel supported and massage does just that. It can help to calm your nervous system, soften muscles you didn’t know were tight, and it can even help to reconnect with your center. Massage isn’t a luxury — it’s a necessity.
Take care! I wish you the best this Holiday season has to offer!
Check out Natalie’s Website at: https://www.nataliegentry.com/