Respectful Communication for Post-Divorce Parenting – Is that Possible?

If you are separated/divorced, and you have young children; be prepared that the journey ahead will involve ongoing communication with your former spouse. And if you are like many couples, then chances are this might not seem very enticing at this point.

 To compound things, you may also be finding your life becoming busier with navigating children’s schedules and activities. Children are often involved in sports, music, school activities; making the weekly calendar look more like a maize of who goes where, with whom.

I often ask parents, “if you could describe the ideal relationship with your former spouse, what would that look like?” Getting people to articulate what’s most important to them keeps the conversation grounded and focused on goals, rather than emotion. The two most common answers to that question are: “I hope we can be flexible with each other so that when things come up we can make changes to the schedule” and “I hope we can have a respectful relationship with one another.”

So everyone wants respect and flexibility – what does that actually mean and how do we achieve that in our communication once separated? Effective communication takes practice and by following a few simple rules you can make some pretty big changes to your interactions with your former spouse.

Here are some tips to help you achieve that:

1. Ask, don’t tell: many times in our busy lives, we need to rely on email or text messages to communicate with one another. The challenge is that there is no tone to the typed word and so messages can be wrongly interpreted. We are all so busy that we often just blurt the bare facts out, not even thinking how that message might be received by the other person. But let’s be clear – if you are the one wanting a change in the schedule, you want to think about how and the tone you use to communicate this.  Following the Ask, Don’t Tell rule will help you to avoid being misunderstood. For example:

Instead of: “I need to change Friday’s pick up from 5pm to 7 pm.”

Try: “I was hoping to change Friday’s pick up from 5pm to 7pm.Would that work for you?”

You might be surprised how much better that will work for you.

 2. Explain your ‘why’ – the underlying reason or need. This additional layer of knowledge can go a long way to building positive communication. By taking the time to explain the underlying reason, you’ve just given context to your request and allow for possible alternative solutions if you can’t agree. Going back and forth in a yes/no, yes/no yoyo pattern does not allow for possible resolution and just increases your frustration. By understanding the ‘why’ behind the question, new alternatives can be explored.

Instead of: “I need to change Friday’s pick up from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm because Johnny won’t be ready at 5pm” could get you this response: “why not? School is done at 3:30 and that’s my time!”

Try: “I was hoping to change the pick up time from 5pm to 7pm because Johnny has a birthday party to go to after school and it won’t be done until 7pm. I promised Samantha’s mom I would drive Samantha home after the party as well. Would that pick up time work for you?”

Or, when the shoe is on the other foot, and you’re asked for a change:

Instead of: “No that doesn’t,” doesn’t leave much room for options and could end up in an argument.

Try: “No, because we will be at my mother’s for dinner and I don’t want to leave half-way through.”

Knowing the reasons why, you can then explore alternatives. One parent needs to move the pick up time, the other parent can’t be there.  Possible solutions – mom drives Johnny to his mother’s house or pick up time is later. Both work.

Try this: “would it help if I drop Johnny’s off at your mother’s? Or would you rather pick him up later when dinner is done?” When you are able to offer choice, the other parent still feels like they have voice in the situation.

3. Give a specific timing for response

The final piece to this new pattern is respecting timelines. Sometimes we have one parent who is a planner (that person might like to have the week laid out before Monday) and the other parent is more about going with the flow (not wanting to commit). By recognizing these different styles, you can avoid ongoing conflict.

Have you ever waited for an answer only to have the deadline approach with no response? Most times people think their co-parent is deliberately trying to avoid them, but in my experience, life sometimes just gets busy and the person simply forgot to respond.

Try:  “ I can either drive Johnny to your mother’s at 7pm or you can pick him up later. Can you let my know by Thursday night? I’m ok with a quick text message on that.”

Remember, ASK don’t tell – let’s face it, nobody wants to be told what to do. You’re more likely to get a warm response with a question than a demand. Giving the ‘why’ behind a request will allow you to explore options if ever you still don’t agree. Being courteous around response times allows everyone to plan ahead. Working together, practicing respectful communication patterns means you both feel good about your parenting role. And Johnny gets to attend the birthday party. In the big picture, isn’t that the most important thing?

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Selling Your Home While Separating & Divorcing? 8 Steps to Maintaining Your Home’s Value

By Stephanie Catcher – Realtor RE/Max Estate Centre Inc.

Selling your home during a separation or divorce can be challenging. Your home’s value can be negatively affected if the buyer finds out that you are parting ways and decides to offer less because of the perception that one or both sellers are highly motivated.  The following are 8 steps you can take to avoid your divorce or separation affecting the value of your home.

1.      Check your Closets –  Buyers look in closets; so make sure that both spouses have clothing present in the master bedroom closets.  The buyers’ Realtor knows who owns the home and will be looking for evidence that those listed homeowners have a presence in the house.

2.      Keep your Guest Rooms as Guest Rooms – If you are both still living in the house but in separate rooms, make sure the guest rooms and guest bathrooms still look like they are reserved for guests.  If one spouse is using a guest room as their main living space, make sure it is cleaned up daily (no personal belongings are left out). This is evidence that this space is used daily.

3.      Keep Furniture in all Rooms of Your Home  – If one spouse has moved out and takes furniture with them, make sure you are able to fill the space in your home with other furniture.  A home with obvious holes in the furniture placement, can tell a Realtor that one spouse has moved out.

4.    Keep your Bedding off the Couch – Even though one spouse may be sleeping on the couch, make sure that extra bedding is put away every day – not just neatly folded on or next to the couch.  Nothing says separation or divorce more than someone sleeping on the couch.  By making it a habit of putting the bedding away every day, you will always be ready for showings and not have to rush home to tidy up.

5.    Be Honest with your Realtor – Make sure your Realtor knows your situation and that you do not want your motivation for the sale disclosed.  Many buyers and other Realtors will ask your listing agent why you are moving and it is important to let your Realtor know what answers are acceptable and what to do if a neighbour asks if you are separating when they come to an open house.

6.    Make Sure you are Never Home During a Showing – While it can be very inconvenient to be away from your home every time it is shown, it is important that you are not there to engage in any conversation with the potential buyers or their Realtor.  They can often ask hard questions and it’s not easy to come up with the “right” answers on the spot, so avoid those situations by trying to be out of the home 10 minutes before a showing and arriving 10 minutes after a showing.

7.     Keep your Poker Face During Negotiations – When its comes to negotiating the sale of your home, you may be in a situation where you, your listing agent and the buyer’s agent meet together to negotiate.  This is another area where the buyer’s agent is going to be looking for motivation for the sale.  Again, it is important to discuss acceptable responses with your listing agent ahead of time.  If you have a disagreement with your spouse about what offer is acceptable, or the terms of that offer, make sure that this does not show while the buyer’s agent is there.  Nothing reveals a possible separation like spouses arguing in front of everyone. The best thing to remember is to keep your poker face while the buyer’s agent is there and then discuss your issues in confidence with your listing agent as your agent is working for you and you only.  If your conflict becomes emotional and result in tears, everyone can see this, so maybe excuse yourself from the conversation.  It is not rude if you are unable to sit at the table to complete negotiations, your listing agent can brief you on what is happening. You do not need to be present for the entire time that the buyer’s agent is there.

8.      Choose a Realtor who is Impartial – To avoid any further conflict both during the listing and the negotiation process, choosing a realtor who is impartial is best.  Often one spouse may know a realtor personally and want to use that realtor due to the personal issues that can arise.  However, using someone who is impartial is best and that person can look objectively at both spouses’ sides and be able to assist each spouse individually without any bias.

Stephanie Catcher is a Realtor specializing in residential sales in the Kitchener/Waterloo, Guelph and Cambridge area.  Stephanie prides herself in providing her clients with friendly, patient, courteous and knowledgeable service and will work with you directly when buying your next home or selling your current home.  If you have any questions, feel free to call Stephanie for a no obligation discussion about your Real Estate Needs.

Stephanie Catcher – Re/Max Real Estate Centre Inc.  720 Westmount Rd E, Kitchener, ON

Stephanie Brick Background Small    stephanie@catcherteam.ca

Website: http://www.catcherteam.ca

A New Year’s Resolution For Those in the Midst of Divorce

With a new year fast approaching, many people look ahead in anticipation for a positive year ahead. We make goals such as to lose weight, get fit, quit smoking, spend more time with the kids – all with great enthusiasm and optimism. But for those who are in the midst of divorce, feeling positive and optimistic can seem about as realistic as climbing Mount Everest.

 

The pain and hurt associated with divorce is impossible to describe and many people find themselves lost and unsure of the path ahead. So how do we look to the future when all we feel is the memories of the past burning inside of us? The truth is you can’t. Looking to the future without grieving for the past is impossible.  The good news is that it won’t last forever. In fact, it is precisely by burning through the feelings, allowing them to flow through you, that you will be able to move past them. It is not easy, but it is necessary. And what awaits you on the other side is a greater understanding of who you are; as well as a more deep-rooted faith that you CAN overcome difficult times.

 

So how do you move past the feelings in a healthy way that allows you to let go and let be? Here are 4 ‘A’s that you can build some resolutions around to get you started on the right path.

 

Acknowledge the feelings – it’s ok to feel hurt, angry, sad, disappointed. Allow yourself to feel whatever comes. Write your former spouse a letter (you don’t need to send it for it to have healing impact), draw, cry. No one gets married expecting it to end. Whatever the reason, it happened – it likely wasn’t part of your life plan, and it hurts.

 

Accept– humans have an incredible ability to feel so many different emotions. That is what makes the human experience so remarkable. Accept that you are in the dark part of the journey but know that things will get better. After all, if we didn’t feel sadness, then how could we know joy? This is a really difficult time for you, so give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel. Don’t apologize or beat yourself up for what you feel.

 

Ask –loved ones for help. When you feel like you can barely take your head off the pillow – turn to those around you for support. Don’t try to be a super hero and handle everything of your own. Be good to yourself, you will get stronger. Do what is necessary and let other obligations go for now. If you have children, now is the time to cash in all those favours from those you have helped in the past. You need to be there for your kids, so take time for yourself so that you have energy for them.

 

Awareness – know that the universe is always providing us with signs, be open and listen. Look for moments of inspiration and peace. Surround yourself with things that make you feel safe and good. Pictures, music, candles, time with a close friend, a walk outside, do whatever works for you. Feel the universe providing you with support and love. Many have been down this road and you will make it through.

 

A New Year’s Resolution – to move through the grief process by using the 4A’s as your guide. There is no shortcut through the grief of ending a relationship. By accepting this as part of the journey, you Will be able to move past this stage and be able to look to the future. Here’s to burning through the grief and moving on!

 

A New Tradition: Bye Bye Birdie!

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 The time it takes to eat a family dinner can be as little as 10 minutes on the way to the next game or practice. Today’s pace is so fast and rushed that many families struggle with quality time at the table. Even special Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner can see 6 hours for preparation and gobbled up in under an hour of eating time.

With divorce, blending families and juggling multiple family dinners over the holidays can mean your children might be eating 3 turkey dinners in the span of 48 hours! If you are looking to create new traditions you might want to consider some different options.

Having a blended family with 7 children (ranging in ages from 30 down to 18), we found ourselves planning our family Christmas gathering for December 27th. My husband and I made a pact with ourselves that we never wanted to pressure the children that they had to be home on the 24, 25 or 26th. Rather what was most important to us was that everyone could be together (if possible) on one day.  So when the date was confirmed, we decided to break tradition and do something a little different.

We bought and borrowed individual stir-fry pans (called Raclettes). The idea is that each person has their own little pan and cooks their individual portions of food.  After purchasing several kinds of meat, fish, veggies and sauces, we had everything chopped and ready to go. So for 2 ½ hours, we talked, laughed, cooked, ate, then cooked and ate some more. It was probably the most conversation we had all had in a long time. You can’t rush this kind of meal because the pans are so small; they only cook a little bit of food at a time. It was so much fun to see everyone engage not only in the cooking, but also in the conversation and laughter. And I didn’t have to get up at 5:00 am to stuff and prepare the turkey!

            If you are looking to break tradition or find yourself looking for ways to engage the kids in the festivities, consider looking at alternative dinner ideas. Fondues or “make your own” are a great way to step out of the old and into new.

It’s a fun way to put a little more Merry back into the festive season!