It's Not Fair

If there’s one phrase I have heard over and over again, both personally and professionally, it’s the phrase, “It’s not fair.” You know what? It’s not fair! I agree.

It’s not fair that many of us see our children a fraction of the time especially when their other parent isn’t with them. It isn’t fair that some children don’t see their other parent because that parent refuses to get involved.

It’s not fair that the parent who does the most homework with their children can have the least amount of time after school with their kids. It’s not fair that the person who makes the children feel the most at home sometimes has the least amount of placement.

It’s not fair that some have to pay more in child support than seems fair. It’s not fair that others receive less in child support than what feels fair. It’s not fair that expenses aren’t always shared the way they’re supposed to be.

It’s not fair that we have to pay a lawyer (not a counselor or social worker) to decide what’s in the best interests of our children. It’s not fair that this person gets to make life-altering decisions on behalf of our children after meeting them and their parents for a couple of hours in between meeting with other families.

It’s not fair that working with a high-conflict co-parent means that a Judge will make a final decision on behalf of our children, simply because one of their parent’s refuses to work together.

The list goes on and on. And I get it. It’s not fair.

In that entire list, do you notice that these are things that aren’t fair to us as parents? This is about to get worse before it gets better. It’s not fair for our children to have to see their parents part of the time. It’s not fair for our children to have to be put in between their parents, and worse, sometimes have to choose between them. It’s not fair that our kid’s lives are a giant financial transaction for some parents. It’s not fair that our children know first-hand what GAL’s, lawyers, and Family Court is all about. It’s especially not fair that they have just as much anxiety and stress over it as we do.

It’s not fair, but now what?

The answer is simple. Accept the reality and make the best of it. If there is nothing you can do to change it, then it’s time to accept it. Make the best of it by getting creative, knowing it’s temporary, and focusing on what’s important - our children! Their adolescence is a fraction of their lives. What if we all decided to focus on building the best relationship with our children that we can, work to raise them to be the best adults they can be (even if our co-parent’s have different ways of raising them), and celebrate every success they have. It still won’t be fair, but it’ll be much more manageable.

Co-parenting is so much harder than parenting. You still have to parent, but you have to try and do it with someone that will not work with you. Hang in there. I feel your pain as do many others. Accept the reality and let’s work together to make the best of it.

Comment below with how you make the best of your reality.

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Self-Care and Co-Parenting

Hopefully seeing the title doesn’t push you away from reading this. Self-care is SO important to the co-parenting relationship that it’s worth a series, not just an article. I’ll start with an article, though.

When you separate from a committed relationship, that’s hard enough. You’ll find article after article filled with tips to get you through the emotional trauma that comes from divorce and separation. Those articles are right. You do need to take care of yourself as you heal.

Unfortunately, that’s where those articles stop. Co-parents, this is such an important opportunity for you to not only heal, but to prevent the negative from sinking in. Making sure you take care of yourself helps to keep your energy up, your emotions in check, and your mind optimistic. Let’s unpack that a bit.

Spending time taking care of you can mean a lot of different things. Eating well, being active, and having a meditative or spiritual practice are all proven to be effective in fighting disease. When you take care of your mind and body, your mind and body takes care of you. When do you need your mind and body in it’s best shape? During the hardest times in life. You already know that divorce and co-parenting are some of the hardest times you will ever go through. What can you do, today, to treat your mind and body well?

I have the privilege of working with people who struggle with depression and anxiety. I have struggled with depression myself over the years. Many of us have. Look up ways to manage depression and anxiety. You’ll see activity and eating well at the top of the list. You’ll also find exercises to manage your thinking. Some of those exercises include gratitude journals or simply recognizing small moments that brought you joy each day. Starting a practice like this can keep your emotions in check when you’re faced with difficulties.

The key to happiness is being content with what you have instead of waiting for something to bring you happiness. I don’t care where you are in life right now, there are areas in your life that you can be happy about - right now. In the midst of court hearings, GAL appointments, constant threats for custody, and negative communication with your co-parent it can be really hard to find those areas to be happy about. In fact, you may spend time strategizing and working to prevent all of what I mentioned above rather than focusing on areas to be happy, but I promise you that taking 2 minutes out of everyday to be thankful for what you DO have will change your mindset.

It’s much harder for someone to bring you down to their level if you have a practice in place to keep you at a higher level. How are you taking care of you? If you’re missing a part of the practice, what will you put in place today to change that?

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

This is one of the topics discussed in the co-parenting course. You cannot pour from an empty cup. That means if you're not taking care of yourself, you won't have the energy you need to combat the negative, build on the positive, or even be present when your kids are there. Learn more in the course by clicking on the button below. 

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Understanding Anger

Anger and co-parenting are a natural pair. While it can be rare to see one without the other, neither does the other one good. Sometimes, it helps to understand anger so we know best how to handle it. After years of reading about anger, experiencing many types of anger, and helping to mediate anger in others - here’s what I’ve learned.

Anger always, always, always comes from a place of fear. For some co-parents, it’s fear of the other parent being right. For others it’s fear that they will lose their children (and let’s be honest, in divorce and co-parenting, isn’t that always a fear?). The trick to understand your anger is to ask yourself, “What am I afraid of here?” When it’s your co-parent showing anger, work to empathize, what could they be afraid of?

Anger is only permanent if you allow it to be. This is one of those times where many of you are thinking, “My co-parent needs to let go of their anger” and you may be right. My co-parent and I were in mediation to update our parenting plan and the mediator actually told him several times that he needs to let go of his anger - and it’s been 10 years. That doesn’t mean I get to blame him and the anger he’s decided to hold onto for everything that’s gone wrong. I can control me. That’s it. I can let go of any anger I feel, and guess what, after 10 years I still get angry from time to time. It’s a choice to let the anger stay or to let it wash over you and move on.

You get to decide what side of you to show to your co-parent and to your children. Anger is there. It’s going to happen with many people in your life. What are you going to show them? Do you want them to see your anger so they know how they affected you? Or would you rather they saw that you got angry, you managed the anger, and you moved on? Which is the better example for both your co-parent and your children? Again, this is your decision and you can only control you. Your co-parent may make a different choice.

You may be the cause of anger in others. This is a tough one. If you’re still in the anger stage after divorce, you may think it’s good to create anger in your co-parent. (That’ll show them!) It always comes back, though. You know the quote from Mark Twain, “Anger is an acid which can do more damage to the vessel in which it’s stored than on anything on which it is poured.” Even if you’ve temporarily let go of your anger by creating it in someone else, how do you think they’re going to handle it? It creates, what I call the “angry cycle”. One person gets angry, takes it out on another who then feels they need to get back at the first person and the cycle goes on and on. You are the only one to stop the cycle. Sometimes you are creating anger in someone because you will not allow the angry cycle to continue, and that’s ok! Keep doing your part to prevent it.

By now you know that the way you communicate, your intentions, and the example you set are ways to prevent the angry cycle from continuing, but what about managing your own anger? First, know where it’s coming from. What are the real, underlying fears you have that create anger in you? Then do what you can to manage those fears. Be the example of who you hope your co-parent is.

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Mother’s Day - What it Means After Divorce

Did you know Mother’s Day was started by a woman who lost her Mother? A woman named Anne Jarvis worked to create a day on the US Calendar to celebrate Moms. Her vision for the day included private celebrations with families to honor Mom. When the day became commercialized, she tried to erase it from the calendars. Obviously, that didn’t happen. (If you’re interested in the history of Mother’s Day, you can read more about it here.)

Mother’s Day remains commercialized, but it’s more than that now. As divorce became a huge part of our culture, Mother’s Day was celebrated by more than Mom’s. It’s celebrated by Stepmoms (though there’s a somewhat unofficial Stepmom Day), Dads, and other caregivers. Anyone in a mothering role is celebrated on Mother’s Day. I think that’s a wonderful thing. It’s incredible that we’re celebrating the nurturing side of anyone in our children's lives.

With that said, I want to talk about what Mother’s Day means to me personally. Before divorce, Mother’s Day was a more traditional breakfast out celebration with my kids. After divorce, I only had my children on Mother’s Days that fell on my weekend. It was one of the agreements my co-parent had to make to allow me to have our daughters on that day. My daughter’s and I celebrated when we could during those years knowing that Mother’s Day didn’t have to fall on 1 calendar day in the year.

Like many Moms, I love the handmade cards and gifts that have been given to me over the years. I’ve kept all of them and continue to display most of them in our house. What these gifts are to me is a reminder that my children took time out of their day to do something for someone who does a lot for them. They took a minute to be reminded of what’s special in our relationship and celebrated that. It makes me wonder, “When was the last time I celebrated what’s special to me about our relationship and celebrated it with my kids?” There’s no “children’s day” where my kids get a card to remind them of why they’re special and what I love about them. Mother’s Day is a reminder to give them just that.

During the years my kids and I weren’t together on Mother’s Day, it was a reminder that every day is special with them. There will always be chores to be done around the house, errands to run, and work to be done. Just as my kids take time out of their schedules to celebrate me, Mother’s Day is a reminder that my time with them home is short. It’s even shorter after a divorce and shared placement. When was the last time us as Moms stopped and celebrated the running around, the things we do for our kids to make them feel special? Mother’s Day is my reminder to be thankful for those times because they'll end far sooner than I would want. 

Mother’s Day isn’t just for Moms. It’s a day to celebrate our time with our children. It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May or not. What matters is that you celebrate your time and relationship with your children as often as possible.

Comment below with your traditions for Mother’s Day, whether they happen on the calendar day or not! Traditions are a way for our kids to remember the feelings held during that time. See my comment on the traditions we’ve built - some of which were celebrated the week before or the week after.

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Motivation to Keep Working at Co-Parenting Positively

There are 2 types of tired. There is the exhaustion that comes with being a parent and raising children, the type of exhaustion that a weekend of sleep can help. There is also the exhaustion that comes with working everyday to be a positive co-parent only to be met with coldness, hostility, and anger. It’s the type of exhaustion that can only be helped when you put any extra energy you have into being there for yourself emotionally. Emotional exhaustion can quickly turn into depression, so today’s post is written to help you prevent that. I hope to give you some motivation to just keep going, even when it feels like you’re going nowhere.

You’re not alone. Sisters. Brothers. All of you in this fight to co-parent consistently. You are not alone. There are so many people sharing in the emotional exhaustion that comes with working to do the right thing even when it’s not noticed or reciprocated. Here is a group of people who are in that fight with you. Join them for free and share your story.

Even though it doesn’t feel like it, the modeling you are doing is being noticed. I will tell you that it is absolutely being noticed by your co-parent, but more importantly, it’s noticed by your kids. When you start to feel like the work you do goes nowhere, know this, your kids notice it. Even though you’re not letting them in on what’s happening between you and your co-parent, your kids notice the emotions in your face. When you show them positive co-parenting in spite of the frustration you feel.

When you feeling like nothing you’re doing matters and all you want to do is give up, re-consume yourself in your children’s lives. They’re the reason you keep doing this, right? You know that positive co-parenting is what’s best for them. You’ve taken the courses, read the books, applied the knowledge, but you know you can’t control them and it’s frustrating because it could be easier on everyone - especially your children. This is the time to let go of the frustration and focus entirely on your children. Go to the park. Visit a museum. Grab a basketball and get a game going. Hit the gym for family bootcamp. Just grab a board game and start to play. I promise you that for every minute you spend simply enjoying your kids, you gain just enough emotional energy to keep trying with your co-parent.

If you’re like most parents, you have pictures of your kids on your desk, on your phone, and projects from them everywhere, too. Today, I challenge you to look at those with both thankfulness and admiration, but also with a renewed energy to keep doing your part to give them what you know is best for them - positive co-parenting.

*I know that co-parenting isn’t possible for all divorced families. I know that parallel parenting is a reality for many parents, and that’s not all bad for your children. Even if parallel parenting is where you’re at, know that the positive attitude you have towards your co-parent is noticed. Parallel parenting doesn’t take the work away, it just limits the opportunities for arguments.

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Letting Go - Myths, Benefits, and How-To

This isn’t going to be an easy blog post to read. What I’ll be asking you to do through this post is something some of you will have already put behind you (please read through and comment at the end to share your insight!) and some of you aren’t ready to do yet. This post is meant only to inform. It’s meant to inform from the standpoint of someone who’s been there and someone who has seen the difference in others after they’ve let go.

Before I talk about different ways to let go, let’s talk about the myths associated with letting go. First, letting go (or forgiving) means you’re letting the person (or persons) who wronged you off the hook. This is the biggest myth there is when it comes to forgiveness. Let’s talk about it. When you’re holding onto anger after being hurt, who is that affecting? Do you believe that your anger is affecting the person who hurt you? I would argue that not only do they not care, but if they do care, they love that you’re still hurt and angry! Letting go takes that power away from them.

The second myth when it comes to forgiveness is that you need to tell the other person. Letting go of the hurt and anger has nothing to do with the other person. It has everything to do with you. Making a conscious choice to let go of hurt and anger and forgiving the people that hurt you is entirely internal and has everything to do with you.

Why let go?

Do you know that people who have gone through a divorce are more likely to suffer from depression than those who have not? As a side note, men are more likely to suffer from depression than women. Why do you think that is? Women do a pretty good job of talking difficult things out. Women open up and when they do, they get what’s on their mind out instead of holding it in.

Remember who is affected by holding onto the anger. It certainly isn’t the person who hurt you. In fact, you end up holding onto feelings no one enjoys having simply because you haven’t let go yet.

When you hold on, when you won’t release the hurt that is very real, you are allowing another to control your emotions. What happens is that when you hold onto the hurt, you feel it whenever you’re in contact with the person that hurt you. In essence, you are allowing them to hurt you all over again every time you have contact because you have not released the pain.

How do you release it all?

If you’re ready to forgive, ready to let go of the pain and anger and sadness, there are 3 tangible ways to do this:

  1. Meditate. This is a great visual to help you imagine the emotions you need to let go of as a wave. Close your eyes and imagine laying on a beach. Imagine a wave starting out in the water coming towards you. You’re warm and dry laying in the sand and you don’t want to get wet, but the wave is too close for you to get away now. You decide it’s best to let the wave wash over you. As you lay there, you prepare by closing your eyes, holding your breath and letting the wave wash completely over you. In a moment, it’s done and you’re left wet and cold, but just as you open your eyes, you feel the sun on you. The worst is over.

  2. Throw them away, literally. Some people are kinesthetic. This is a great tool for someone who needs to feel the process. Go on a walk and grab rocks. Write words or phrases related to the pain you are ready to let go of on them. Put them all in a backpack and carry that backpack, really feeling the weight of it. If you can carry it to high ground, even better! When you reach it, take each rock out, notice the words and repeat the phrase, “I am letting go of (insert the word or phrase here)” and toss the rock away.

  3. Write it out. Some people are great with words. For someone who can sit and type or sit and write, grab your pen and paper and get it all out. Have a conversation with yourself not worrying about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Once you get this out - get rid of it! Throw it away! Burn it (safely!). Remove it from your life just as you’re removing the emotions.

Letting go is the key to moving on. If you haven’t felt ready for it, consider why. Hopefully I’ve given you an answer to help you overcome it, but if not, you can always reach out to me for help. If you’ve let go, comment below and talk about your experience!

Want or need more support than what's listed here? How about a workbook to give you the emotional freedom that makes co-parenting less frustrating and divorce a little more in your rear view mirror? The Emotional Freedom Workbook is yours. 

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Why You Need to Journal If You Are Co-Parenting

We are lucky to have a guest post today from Tim Backes over at Custody X Change! Check the post out below and his bio at the bottom. Thank you, Tim!

Unless you have been in a situation where you are or were one half of a co-parenting duo, it’s difficult to understand all of the frustration that you can feel. It’s incredibly easy to lose control of your thoughts and come off to friends, family, lawyers, and even judges as disorganized and even vindictive when discussing your problems with the other co-parent.

How can you solve this common problem? The easiest solution is to start and maintain a co-parenting journal.

Get Organized

One of the key reasons for why you should keep a co-parenting journal is that it will keep you and your experiences with the other co-parent organized. As this is your journal, and not a shared document, you are free to record anything you want.

Some useful information you might want to consider keeping track of is:

* Accuracy of drop off and pick up times of both parents

* Missed or changed visitations

* Extracurricular activities such as sports practices & games and music lessons as well as missed activities

* Noticeable behavioral changes after time spent with the other co-parent

* Anything out of the ordinary after time spent with the other co-parent

Make it a habit to date and timestamp each journal entry and make plenty of entries. The frequency of your journaling is just as important as the information you record.

Your Words Are Great But Hard Data Is Better

As important as journaling frequently and recording your thoughts and data are, showing evidence is of key importance. Your words are one-sided, but physical evidence is non-bias. It’s much more difficult to ignore pictures and documents than it is words and opinions.

It’s not always easy to get ahold of physical evidence, but a few ideas are:

* Copies of emails or text messages you’ve received from the other co-parent

* Pictures of any bumps, scrapes, or bruises on your child after returning from time with the other co-parent

* Copies of any unused tickets for events your child was supposed to attend with the other co-parent

* Medical bills and receipts from extracurricular activities

* Notes from teachers or school administrators about your child’s behavioral or overall demeanor

It takes a little effort to gather and document this type of information, but hard data that backs up your written or typed journal entries is invaluable. It elevates the perceived trust of your journal as a whole.

Summary

If you are one half of a co-parenting team you should be keeping a journal. You should be making entries often, and you should be baking up your words with physical evidence when possible.

The true value of journaling is not each entry by itself. Over time visible patterns will begin to appear, like a child always getting in trouble at school after spending a weekend with the other co-parent, or a very visible pattern of routinely missed visitations.

By documenting everything, you have hard evidence to show your mediator or judge. And, in court, evidence is everything.

Tim Backes is the senior editor for Custody X Change, a co-parenting custody scheduling software solution.

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Being Human and Positive Co-Parenting

My ex made me so angry and I flew off the handle. I shouldn’t have said what I did. I know I shouldn’t have said it, too, and that makes me even more upset!

Sound familiar?

I’m human. You’re human. Emotions take over sometimes and we react with them instead of with our heads. It happens. In co-parenting, however, this is how arguments happen. It’s how arguments continue to happen. Like it or not, sometimes those arguments are our fault. And that really hurts to hear.

How do you positively co-parent when you’re human and have these (valid) emotions that sometimes take over?

First, acknowledge that you have them. Accept that you’re angry, frustrated, bitter, or resentful. No one would blame you for feeling that way, so why try to fight it? Really understand what that means for you, too. What do these emotions feel like in your body (e.g. fist clenching, heat rising, shoulders tensing, etc.)? What are your triggers? Is it every time your ex contacts you or only when they contact you about certain things?

Once you accept and understand your thoughts and feelings related to the divorce and co-parenting, put a plan in place. Anger comes with energy. How can you use that energy for good? Put a plan in place. Do you go for a walk, hit the gym, listen to music, read a book, build something, fix something, or even volunteer for something.

When you do say or do something that you later regret, apologize. Simply saying, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that” can go a long way in building a better co-parenting relationship. (Note: when dealing with narcissistic personalities, an apology will only create more drama, simply do what you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again in those cases knowing that, if it does, it’s a moment of weakness.) Accept it for what it is, a mistake. Too quickly in negative co-parenting situations, we’re quick to blame - “WELL, IF YOU HADN’T…..” The key is knowing that your ex will do/say something that will irk you and that sometimes, despite your best efforts, you’ll do/say something that’s equally as irk-some. It’s time then to take ownership of YOUR role in it and change it. You can’t go backwards, you can only move forward.

Earlier in this post, I asked how you positively co-parent when you’re human, the answer is that it’s possible as long as you own your role in it.

Other co-parenting classes will tell you that you have to communicate this way, respond that way, but they aren’t telling you how - that’s what’s different about this class. Start here by understanding where you are and what you can do to manage it.

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What Do They Think Of Me?

Do you ever worry about other's judgments of you? Either as a parent or as a person? When you go through a divorce, what’s one of the first things you think of? Isn’t it something along the lines of, “What will everyone think?” Divorced or not, isn’t there a piece of all of us that worries just a little bit about what others think?

When your child is the one screaming in the toy aisle of Target, when your teenager dyes their hair purple (I've been there!), even as small as when your phone rings in the middle of a quiet room. Don’t you wonder, “What is everyone thinking?”

After a divorce, you have to tell your family and they may or may not approve. Word gets out at your job. Your friends see a status update on Facebook. Hopefully everyone in your life is supportive, but if you’re like most, there’s the question in the back of your mind, “What have they been thinking all along? Did they see this coming? Did I miss something?”

You may be asking, why does it matter if I care what others think of me? Why does it matter if I worry about the judgments of others?

In my practice, there’s one thing I’ve found. Those that are quick to judge what others (namely their ex) are doing are the ones that worry most about what others (again, usually their ex) think of them. These are the people that have a competition mindset in co-parenting.

To their credit, many times this is subconscious and it’s only after pointing it out do they realize it’s what’s been happening all along. These are the people that also want to change it immediately. You all know that competition doesn’t work in co-parenting, so then what?

It’s when parents have a solid grasp on where they’re going that they care less about what others are thinking. When parents are able to take ownership of their thoughts and feelings, they’re less likely to care what others think because they know it will not result in learning something they didn’t want to learn about themselves. When parents accept where their lives were yesterday, own where it is today, and build towards where it’s going tomorrow - the only time other’s opinions matter is when it’s someone they respect.

Wouldn’t it be great to never let an insult get to you? Wouldn’t it be freeing to just brush off jabs that may come from your ex? Wouldn’t it be liberating to know that your ex can no longer get to you? Wouldn't it be powerful to be confident in your parenting skills - so much so that no one can shake it?

That can all be yours. You just need to take the first step. Take ownership of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going with this free training being released soon.

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The Emotional Roller Coaster that is Divorce

Buckle up, I’m hoping this post is real and all about the emotions men and women feel after divorce.

Whether you asked for the divorce or not, it’s heart-wrenching. It’s a punch to the gut to know your marriage is over and a double punch when you start moving forward to end it. That’s the easy part because what you go through after it is a ride no one would sign up for.

Who feels the emotions? Though it’s usually the women who feel the emotions in life, during and after divorce, men feel more negative emotions than women do. Why is that?

Women are more likely to ask for a divorce. They take on new roles in their life which does 2 things: makes them scared/excited and increases their self-esteem. Women, generally speaking, are also more likely to be relieved when the stress they had been living with is no longer there. The feelings that are associated with that include guilt, exhilaration, more guilt, and fear (to name a few).

Men, however, are usually caught off guard. If they are in the small percentage that file for the divorce, the feelings that can go with it are fear, sadness, and loss. Men are also less likely to talk about their emotions which only increases them.

As the divorce process starts moving along, you’re literally put in a boxing ring with someone you vowed to love through better or worse and expected to remain calm. Talk about the emotions that come with court! Let’s see if I can name a few of the big ones:

  • Overwhelming, sickening fear

  • Gut-wrenching disgust

  • Crippling resentment and anger

  • Paralyzing exhaust

Did I miss any? Now step into life after the divorce is final. This is it. It’s officially over. There is no marriage. What are some of the emotions during this section of the ride?

Fear that this was the best you are meant to have, excitement over possibilities, wondering when and how those possibilities will show up (as well as how you’ll deal with them - sex again, anyone?), loss of a relationship, loss of intimacy, loss in general, loneliness, happiness/joy, and scared as you figure out how you’re going to do this all - alone.

Do you see why emotional roller coaster is an accurate way to describe what divorce can put you through? It truly doesn’t matter if you initiate the divorce or not, it’s tough all the way around.

So why does this all matter? It matters because divorce isn’t the only thing going on in your life. You’re still a parent. Somehow you need to manage all of this and take care of your kids and get your kids through the divorce. All these emotions I just talked about - those are your emotions. This post isn’t even going to cover what your kids can go through, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s your job to help them manage their emotions, too. The best way to teach them to manage their emotions is to manage your own.

You’ve heard the phrase, you can’t pour from an empty cup. This post is listed under the “All About You” section of my blog. It’s here for a reason. You have a duty to care for yourself, manage your emotions, and help show your children how to manage theirs through this.

How do you do that? You can sign up for a free tool coming out soon (at the bottom of this post). You can read more posts here in this section. You can see a therapist, buy a workbook to help you through it. There are so many options available to you, it’s up to you to pick one and follow-through on it.

Comment below with a few of the emotions you’ve felt as you’ve gone through the divorce process.

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Kaern Becker, MA Life Coach