Divorce and the Holidays-Helping Children Stay in the Spirit

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The holidays are upon us and for most it is a joyful time of year filled with love and traditions. However, many parents and children may be new to navigating through family changes and holidays after divorce or separation. Some newly divorced or separated families are able to maintain great relationships with one another and keep family traditions going, while others struggle to get in the holiday spirit. Regardless of the situation, it is always important to create a sense of normalcy for the children that are involved.

Children can be creatures of habit, so when it comes to the holidays, they are more than likely used to the same routine every year and looking forward to that tradition. The following are some suggestions for parents that are new to divorce to help keep the holidays a joyous time for their children:

  • Try not to overload your children’s schedules. It is more important that they get to spend quality time with each parent (rather than every member of the extended family). Choose one parent to have the children on the holiday and the other parent can spend time with them on a day surrounding the holiday. Alternatively, share large blocks of time with the children during the holiday (i.e. wake-up through lunch with one parent, and dinner and evening routines with the other parent).
  • Plan ahead so the children know what to expect and have a routine to look forward to.
  • If, as parents, you are able to get along with one another without any added stress, then spending the day (or just the morning opening gifts) together can be great for the children so long as there is the understanding that it’s nothing more than just that.
  • Make an effort to keep traditions alive. Children look forward to traditions and they help create security, so do your best to keep them going. Remember, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to maintain ALL of the holiday traditions your children are familiar with. Involve your children in creating new traditions to enjoy during the holidays.
  • Remind yourself that this is not a competition to see which parent can create the most fun or buy the most/best gifts. Keep things civil and non-competitive.
  • Refrain from pestering your children with multiple questions about what they did with the other parent. Let them have their time and leave it at that.

While divorce is not always easy, there are ways to make family transitions less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone involved. The children should be the main focus and it is important to attempt to maintain routines and family traditions, new and old. Don’t set the bar too high and expect everything to be perfect because that will only create more stress for you, and remember to try and enjoy yourself as well this holiday season.

From everyone here at Patricia S. Fernandez & Associates, we wish you and your family a happy holiday season!

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Divorce and the Classroom: The Effects of Divorce or Separation on Children and Academics

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School has been in full-swing for two months now and the holidays are right around the corner. If you are a parent in the midst of a divorce or separation, or are a teacher in a classroom, there are certain circumstances that may require special attention with a child who is coping with the separation of his or her parents.

While divorce is a difficult time for all parties involved, the child should always remain the focus to ensure he or she has a routine and the love and support needed to help stay on the right track. If a student’s grades have started slipping or behavior has changed in the classroom, one of the first questions asked by teachers is: “is there an issue in the home?” As a parent, it is helpful to make your child’s teacher aware that you and your spouse have separated, and that your child is adjusting to the changes at home.   There is no need to go into great detail about the proceedings or the underlying reasons for the separation.  It is important for all of the adults in your child’s daily life to remain on the same page and work together as a team to help provide the proper support and guidance for your child so he or she may successfully manage the transition.

A few things for both parents and teachers to keep in mind/be on the lookout for when it comes to a child and his or her performance in the classroom:

  • Are homework assignments missing?
  • Have grades changed drastically from previous marking periods?
  • Are there any behavioral issues or emotional changes?
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Does the child separate himself from others at home and/or at school?

Being mindful of these warning signs will help to address the situation in a timely manner before things get too out of hand. Even if a child is doing exceedingly well in school, it is important to check in with the child as it may be a sign that he is immersing himself into too much school work and not enough of anything else, including being with friends.

If you are a newly separated parent, it is crucial to provide your child with love, support and stability.  Helping your child understand and adjust to a schedule that he or she can follow allows for more consistency and reduces anxiety about what to expect. It is critical that you make every effort to communicate with your former spouse and co-parent your child to the best of your ability. Providing consistent rules and discipline for your child will also help with transitioning the child between parents and your respective homes.

Keeping your child the main focus through your separation or divorce is imperative. Communication with your child, your child’s teachers, and your former spouse is an important step in raising a healthy, well-adjusted child through transitions at home, and will likely prove to be beneficial to all parties involved.

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What will Happen to my Children Post Divorce?

 

divorceIf you are newly divorced or are in the divorce process and children are involved, you have good reason to be concerned about them and the effects divorce may have. One of the most common questions that we receive as family law practitioners is: “What is going to happen to my children?”

The first thing to expect is a wide array of emotions. Depending on the individual child, those emotions could range from anger to sadness, or in some situations, a sense that he or is she is to blame. It is important to make it very clear that the divorce has nothing to do with anything that your child has done and that both parents love him/her very much. Patience is key for you as you navigate your way through helping your child through this family transition.

The following are a few tips to keep in mind as you all adjust to new life after the divorce:

  • Encourage your child to express his/her feelings and emotions. Ask your child what he or she is feeling and encourage conversation. You should reiterate to your child that he or she child may speak freely about their feelings with you.  Engaging in activities/common interests together with your child (i.e. sports, painting, etc.) may help maintain a connection that encourages communication and expression.
  • Your child may surprise you with what he or she has to say and it’s crucial to pay attention and work things out together.
  • Regardless of how acrimonious the divorce may have been, it is imperative that you and your former spouse remain calm and respectful toward one another when your child is present.
  • Maintain routine. Children function best with a daily or weekly routine that brings on a sense of familiarity and comfort.
  • Be aware that it is normal for children to be angry, have mild anxiety or depression after a divorce. You may want to consult your child’s pediatrician and seek a referral for a therapist for your child, and/or reach out to your child’s school adjustment counselor.
  • There are, however, other behaviors to be aware of that may require more attention and additional support. According to Help Guide.org, a non-profit guide to mental health and well-being, red flags include: sleep problems, poor concentration, trouble at school, drug or alcohol abuse, withdrawal from loved ones, and refusal to continue with activities previously important.

Through trial and error, you and your child will find what works best for your every day lives post-divorce. If you find that the coping process is more difficult than expected (for you or your child), seeking guidance from a therapist is a prudent decision from which many parents and children in transition benefit.

 

 

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