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Parenting During Tragic Times, Part I

On December 14th a gunman stormed Newtown, Connecticut’s  Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 27 people, the majority of the casualties being children between the ages of 5 and 8. The horrific incident has sparked debates over gun control laws and mental health care reform. In addition to shocking and wounding the nation deeply, the Sandy Hook tragedy has confronted parents with difficult questions from their younger children.

Do We Tell the Children?

After a horrific incident like the Sandy Hook shooting, parents the world over hug their children more often and tighter. Parents with safe, living children feel the other parents’ excruciating pain of losing a child; but parents with unharmed children also feel guilt over their good fortune. That is, until those parents must explain what happened to their children.

Most parents teeter on the brink of telling and not telling their children about tragedies, but think about this: If you don’t bring up the topic with your children, someone else will either directly with your child or indirectly. Children are usually in their strange little day dream spheres, but that does not mean they are not observant. News of the Sandy Hook shooting is bound to wind up on the child’s radar. So instead of hearing about it through the grapevine, it is best to break the news to them yourself in a safe, trusting environment.

How to Talk with Your Child About Tragedy

For divorced parents, finding ways and times to discuss topics like school shootings is more limited than married parents. But the talk should feel natural and easy, instead of scheduling a time and sitting the children down rigidly to break the news. This approach will spark some anxiety and nervous behavior because formally sitting down makes it seem like the child somehow is expected to take action or hold this act as a personal attack.

It is recommended to bring the topic up during a longer car ride, at dinner, or maybe during some down time. Ask your child if they heard about the incident, and ask them what they think and feel about it. Keep the conversation open and relaxed, and listen to the child’s words, tone, and expression.

If you detect excessive distress, let your child know the incident is bewildering and it’s okay to feel unsure and upset. However, make sure to ensure the child’s safety. Let them know you will always protect them, tell them how other adults feel protective of children too, and tell them about how schools will take extra precautions as well.

Divorce is basically expected in our society now since the divorce rate has settled at a steady 50%. There are many articles and studies about how divorce affects children, and how to  successfully co-parent. But the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy has exposed an area of parenting we all hope we never have to face: How do you address topics like school shootings with your child? And more specifically, how do two divorced parents address these topics with their child? Read “Parenting During Tragic Times, Part II” to discover ways to co-parent during times of tragedy.

Parenting During Tragic Times, Part II

As a parent, how does one answer a question like, “Why did that man shoot those children?” Then there is the most base, yet most difficult question a parent could respond to: “What does it mean to be dead?” Parents treat these questions like live ammunition, and often collaborate on providing their child with a suitable answer. But what about the parents who are divorced and do not have as much collaboration time or willingness to cooperate with the other? How are children of divorced parents expected to fare when perplexed by the horrors of the world, like school shootings?

First and Foremost

When spouses decide to divorce, and they have children, those spouses are first and foremost parents. The spouses relationship as romantic partners is over, but their duties and roles as parents to their children is never, and should never be considered, over upon a divorce.

After a tragedy like Sandy Hook, all children will feel shaken and unsure about their own situation. In the child’s mind, no one is safe. After the Sandy Hook incident, it is natural for children to be more attached and anxious about losing a parent or family member, especially a child of a divorced family. In a way, the child has already ‘lost’ a parent, and will have enhanced separation anxiety after something like Sandy Hook. To combat the separation anxiety make sure both parents are fully available to the child if they should ask for them. Both parents should make sure the child can call, visit, or see them whenever the child needs.

Set the Tone

In divorced families, both parents must find a way and time to discuss how to approach the subject and talk with the children. If the parents feel it is necessary, the parents may decide to limit TV exposure to prevent the children from becoming over saturated by the news.

Make sure both parents are dedicated to listening to the child’s thoughts and feelings. Allowing the child to speak freely will not only strengthen the bond and trust between parent and child, but it will boost the child’s confidence to share feelings and thoughts. But listening must go beyond just quietly waiting for the child to finish speaking. Listening involves asking questions when appropriate and encouraging the child to fully express themselves.

In these conversations, parents should keep their comments positive and reassuring. When we say positive and reassuring comments, we mean restraining yourself from conveying feelings of anxiety and anger. It is completely appropriate to share your feelings of sadness and regret, but if you appear to be deeply, violently affected by Sandy Hook, your child will see you as less stable and comforting.

Parenting is a delicate business that leaves every parent’s nerves fried. The pressure of providing your child with the basis of their perspective makes you sweat bullets with each decision you make. But take a moment and relax; children are smart and capable of creating their own thoughts and opinions early. It is your job to nurture their mind and body by being a safe house, and the only way you can do that is by showering them with unlimited love. If they know they are loved, they will be okay.

The Singletons: Parents and Prosperous

Superhero mother and babyIt has been said children of rich parents have encouragement, while children of poor parents have grit. In response to this, a recently written article argued that children raised by single mothers have both encouragement and grit. Pamela Krimpke, the author of the Slate article “It’s Better to Be Raised by a Single Mother“, says children of single parents are given real world experiences, which make the children appreciative, hard working, and insightful.

While there is no scientific or psychological research behind this, we are inclined to agree that children of single parents have a little more life experience than children of intact families (which is an entire topic in itself). Yet we won’t discriminate or question the efforts of single fathers. Any single parent deserves to have hats tipped at them and pats on the back.

The Laws of Single Parents

Single parenting is hard. There is no question about it. But here are a few tips that may make the journey just a little more enjoyable and decrease the probability of ripping ones hair out.

Get Some Sleep: For any human being, sleep is an essential part of being able to function. But for parents, single and coupled, sleep is both a necessity and a rare luxury. Some way, somehow, though, you must find a way to get some sleep because sleep boosts immunity, allows your body to repair itself, and releases tension. So whatever you do, make sure your child stays on a reasonable sleep schedule so you can stay on a reasonable sleep schedule.

Weave a Supportive Network: Married parents have a built in support network, but even they need some reinforcements from time to time. A good support network for single parents is imperative. To build a support network, look to family, friends, neighbors, and community groups. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but wisdom.

Guard Your Health: You are the one person your kids depend on for everything, so make sure you’re always in good health. The best way to do this is to keep up a healthy regimen of healthy, colorful, fresh foods along with a refreshing exercise schedule. The exercise doesn’t have to be a workout that takes everything out of your; the exercise should be a tension releasing workout that leaves you invigorated, and can double as some well deserved me-time.

Create Structure: For your sanity, and your child’s future, begin setting boundaries and rules early. Part of parenting and setting boundaries is learning to say “No,” and this couldn’t be a better thing for a child to hear every now and again. Learning to set limits and say no will allow you to evaluate and make decisions about what is necessary and what isn’t; it will also teach your child valuable life lessons.

Go Easy on Yourself: For any parent it’s easy to set the lofty goal of trying to be and do everything, but when you don’t reach that goal you feel like a horrible parent. Avoid aspiring to be Wonder Woman or Superman, and just try to be the best you can be; be Super You.  A part of being the best you can be is coming to terms with what your best is and working within your abilities. That’s the way to keep a household happy, whether it’s headed by two parents or just one.

Love, Divorce, and ‘Family’ Matters

200209831-001In the 21st century we like our families mixed. With the rise in divorce, it’s almost impossible for anyone to say they don’t have at least one step relation or acquaintance. This used to be a shameful topic because divorce used to be seen as a shameful act. But now marriage is seen as a romantic, heartfelt decision rather than a rational necessity, and there is (relatively) no shame in ending an unhappy marriage.

Yet after ending an unhappy marriage, you may be faced with the task of deciding who your family is. Does this signal the breakdown of the family as we know it, or the beginning of an evolved family structure?

21st Century Family

In 2010, the Pew Research Center uncovered that 42% of 2,691 surveyed adults had at least one step-relative in their family; of those 2,691, 30% had a step or half sibling, and 18% had a living stepparent. Welcome to the make up of almost every 21st century family, thanks to gender equality, changing morals, modernized divorce laws, and whatever else we can blame the high divorce rate on.

While 21st century families don’t quite look like The Jetsons, 21st century families do slightly resemble the Jetsons’ robot maid, Rosie. Like Rosie, 21st century families are made of different pieces fused together. In 21st century families, there are step-siblings, ex-stepparents, various “uncles” and “aunts” who aren’t related by blood or marriage, and ex-relations’ relations who need sentence-long introductions.

Yet somehow all these people can be easily defined as “family.” Family is usually defined as “a group of persons of common ancestry,” but there are many other definitions.

Are You My Family?

Merriam-Webster.com includes groups who share the same home, share the same convictons and values, as well as various related organisms as part of the definition of “family.” This is because relationships and the semantics of those relationships are complicated. Once two people have become acquainted they cannot un-know each other. The result is one big, happy Frankenfamily.

Remember the old saying, “You can’t choose your family”? Well, consider that saying to be outdated. With in-laws and other “family” coming and going in and out of marriage, there is a choice. If you never really bonded, you can let an ex-in-law fall by the wayside; on the flip side, if you have a strong bond with a now-ex-in-law, you don’t necessarily have to let them go. Of course every family is different, and the decision to keep a certain “relative” around is up to the individual.

Is the Family Stronger?

The term “Frankenfamily” might not be very inspiring or reassuring, but it’s very possible the Frankenfamily is a much stronger unit than the family of old. The traditional perception of family chains a person to relationships with people they may not care for in the least. But the Frankenfamily is created upon much more stable ground since the person chooses and admits people into their family.

The Frankenfamily does not completely disband or destroy the traditional family, it just allows the family tree to be pruned. Who wants rotting branches on their family tree, anyway? Not I, that’s for sure.

Stepparenting, Step-By-Step

person at the top of long stairway outsideFamilies are complex organisms that are constantly growing, constricting, and adapting to daily life. On the outside, family is a beautiful word that gives people warms fuzzies. But when you’re becoming a stepparent, these beautiful organisms you once watched contentedly from afar become up close, personal horrors. Not only are you afraid of stepping on toes, kid germs, familial boundaries, and so, SO much more, you are afraid of turning into the evil stepmother or sinister stepfather.

Well, just relax as much as humanly possible, and let us breakdown the situation for you. We’ll include some helpful pointers, too.

Their Point of View

Some children are reluctant to let a stepparent into their lives, and some are overjoyed to have another parent in the house. The stepparents with the adoring stepchildren may have it easier, but there are still the parental boundaries to hash out with the children’s biological parent, and that is no easy task. Yet those with the reluctant stepchildren have a more difficult situation to juggle, so we’ll focus on them.

The best piece of advice anyone can give to stepparents (especially those with reluctant stepchildren) is not to push the relationship. We don’t mean give in to every demand and treat the children like princes or princesses. We mean don’t expect to be best friends right away. Don’t plan tons of outings together, don’t spend excessively on them, and don’t buy matching anything.

Stepchildren aren’t evil demons out to get stepparents (usually), but they are children. They feel powerless, torn between families, and unsure. If the other biological parent is in the picture, they may be waiting to be given “permission” to like you or may feel as though liking you is a betrayal to their other parent.

So whatever you do, just give the stepchild time to get used to the idea of a stepparent without suffocating them or patronizing them. Give them their space, and they will come seeking a relationship when they are ready. Warning: This may never happen in the way you would like, but no one every said being a stepparent was easy.

Your Conundrum

Huffington Post blogger Wednesday Martin put it best when she created a little list of things to avoid in her blog, “When and Why You Shouldn’t Put the Kids First.” This list handles the silent struggle between stepparents and stepchildren, and that is the struggle over the biological parent. To stepchildren, their biological parent is theirs’ and their other bio parents’; this perception is ruined when a stepparent enters the situation. The stepparent claims a part of the biological parent the stepchildren cannot claim, and that the other bio parent has relinquished. In essence, it’s an odd territorial standoff between the stepchildren and the stepparent.

So instead of aggressively trying to win the battle, and instead of forfeiting to placate the stepchildren, simply accept your place as the biological parent’s partner. However, this requires joint commitment, so make sure to talk things over with the biological parent.

  1. When the stepchildren visit, make them a part of your household’s routines; don’t make the plans all about the children and their wants; that sends the message that their parent and their new stepparent’s life is secondary to theirs’. Make it equal by maintaining the household rituals.
  2. Sometimes the biological parent may try to show the children they matter by making the relationship with the stepparent secondary. This is most often exhibited by limited affection and contact with the stepparent. For you biological parents, this is a poor route because it alienates your new spouse and fails to unite the family. So continue to show affection for your new spouse, even in front of the kids. (Just don’t go overboard. Kids don’t even want to see their bio parents make out.)
  3. To the stepparents, don’t sacrifice your sanity, relationship, or time to win over your stepchildren. The stepchildren will make themselves available when they are ready to be in a relationship with you, so don’t take desperate measures to make that day come any sooner. Maintain the relationship with your spouse, maintain your health, your work, and the rest will follow in time.

American Girl (and Boy) Divorce

amerdivorceExplaining divorce to children is a complicated, heavy-hearted task, but it’s important to help them understand. Since divorce has become a pervasive part of our world, there are many resources to help broach the topic of divorce with children. Many children’s TV shows and books are helping parents explain what divorce is, and now those TV shows and books have a new ally in Julie Albright.

Julie Albright is a 9 year-old San Francisco native from 1974, who just happens to be a the latest American Girl doll. All the American Girl historical characters live during a time of historical significance, and for 70′s child Julie Albright that is divorce.

That 70′s Divorce Rate

Many ascribe the high divorce rate in the 1970′s to the Women’s Liberation Movement, which pushed for gender equality. As a result of this, women were able to enter the workforce and were no longer dependent upon men and the institution of marriage to survive. The way women viewed marriage altered, and as a result women felt free to leave unhappy marriages.

While the Women’s Liberation Movement was a great gain for civil rights and women’s rights, the high divorce rates created a large group of children of divorce. Divorce was a secretive aspect of life people rarely spoke of or were confronted with. As such, the resources and knowledge about the effects of divorce on children were minimal to zero.

The Julie Albrights of the World

Julie Albright, like all American Dolls historical characters, has a book series. In that book series, Julie shares her sadness and confusion about her parents divorce. Some parents may feel their children shouldn’t be exposed to these “adult” topics, but sharing Julie’s experience assists children of divorce realize they are not alone. Also, Julie’s stories show children that life will be okay, even after divorce.

For children whose parents are married, Julie’s story and her experiences provide insight and understanding in an area they may be completely unaware of. Besides, Julie’s best friend Ivy provides children of intact families with an example of how to deal with topics of divorce as an outsider. In the face of divorce, children whose parents are married may wonder if their parents will be next, and may feel insecure about their own families. The Ivy character calms these anxious feelings by showing not every marriage ends in divorce.

How to Handle Divorce With Children

Divorce may becoming more prevalent in our world, but that doesn’t mean divorce is any easier on children than before. Divorce highly impacts children in psychological ways forever, no matter how it is approached. But parents can lessen the impact and make the impact more positive by handling the divorce appropriately.

For starters, both parents must sit down and talk with the child about the divorce. This is crucial because the divorce talk sets the tone for the rest of the family’s interactions. Both parents must speak calmly and politely to each other, and focus on making the point (repeatedly) that the child is not the cause of the divorce. Allow the child to ask questions, and answer them honestly and openly; however, do not go into the gritty details the child doesn’t need to know about just yet (like the cheating spouse and such). Also, always be available to talk about the divorce or the child’s feelings; this is important to continue to develop the child’s trust, confidence, and self-expression.

Co-Parents, Co-Pilots

200258257-001The first month of the New Year is about to come to a close, and if January is still the most popular month for divorce, many find themselves facing the task of rebuilding their lives. You may feel pain, resentment, and confusion over the situation, but the world still continues to turn, as divorced parents are fully aware. So hold yourself together, pick yourself up, and start rebuilding your life.

However, we have one caveat when rebuilding your life, and it concerns children. If you and your ex had children, just realize it will be impossible (and probably unhealthy) to try to rebuild without including your ex. We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: You can stop being someone’s spouse, but you can’t stop being someone’s parent.

Erasing the ‘Bad Parent’ Feeling

It will be difficult to still allow the person who caused (and causes) you so much pain to still have any part of your life, but there are a few ways to try to make it work. Just a few words of wisdom before we launch into what seems like a Herculean task: These tips are guidelines, which might be terribly difficult to follow.

Just recognize no one is (or should) be expecting you to be able to follow these guidelines immediately. Think of them as an end goal in this whole situation. No one is perfect, and the last thing you need is to be left feeling inadequate or like a lesser person for not being able to shut off your feelings.

Rebuilding Your Life, With Your Ex

You and your ex need to establish your roles as divorced parents, and how that will play out for the rest of the children’s lives. Here are a few goals to aspire to in your new “co-parenting” journey.

  • Keep Civil Rights Alive: You don’t have to be buddy-buddy, but avoid being antagonistic. So be civil, even if there are some things or words of your ex’s that make you want to laser beam them into ashes. This will give your children a feeling of stability, instead of making them as though they have to suit up like a S.W.A.T. team whenever their parents are together.
  • Planning Makes Perfect: Collaborate on a schedule for the children. Planning for who will have the kids on holidays and such will eliminate stress, high-strung emotions, and probably tears. It will also allow for a more peaceful co-parenting transition for the children.
  • You Are Not the Gestapo: You know how the secret police in Nazi Germany would hold 24 hour or longer interrogations, making people confess to what the Gestapo wanted to hear? Don’t do that. When your children come home from time with your ex, don’t fire off rounds of questions. You may ask “Did you have fun?,” but questions about your ex’s personal life are off limits. Also, if you have questions about the schedule, ask your ex. Keep the children out of the middle for your sanity and theirs.
  • Don’t Play Hide-And-Seek: Get used to being in the same room, at the same time, as your ex. It will be difficult for quite a while, but don’t let these moments of brief contact be about the contact. Chances are, the contact will be necessary for the children (school plays, parent-teacher meetings, awards ceremonies, graduation, recitals, and so much more). This will make future functions easier on both of you, as well as keep your child from being addicted to anxiety pills.

There is one last giant addition to this list, but its so important to fully understand, it requires its own blog. So just bear with us, and we’ll get to it tomorrow. In the meantime, let us know what you think about these tips/guidelines/ goals (whatever you want us to call them). Will they be difficult or easy? Are there any we missed?

The Number 1 Rule of Co-Parenting

shocked babyWe’re back, and we’re ready to get right into the number one rule of co-parenting after divorce or during the divorce process. Like we said in the last blog, this rule seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many times this rule is broken. Here it is: Never ever speak ill of the other spouse in front of the children.

Think of the Children

You may be thinking to yourself “Really? That’s the big rule?” But before you brush us off, hear us out. Bad-mouthing your ex in front of your children greatly harms them, and the effects can last a lifetime. You see, your child gets half of their genes, features, and mannerisms from your ex. So when you verbally mutilate your ex, in your child’s eyes, you’re mutilating them as well.

Not only can this create resentment (directed at you, no less) within your child, this creates anxiety and fear within your child as well. In a Huffington Post article, a researching author shared the fruits of her research about the effects of divorce on children. One of her subjects, “Mike,” is a 43 year-old, well put together man who has lived in fear of his mother viewing him as a “loser,” like his dad.

Another subject brings up a separate issue: the damage the resentment you hold has on you. “Heidi” is a 38 year-old stylist who dreads bringing people to her mother’s house because her mother can’t resist the temptation to tell visitors about her greedy ex-husband. Heidi’s parent’s divorced 30 years ago, and the only growth in her mother’s life is her healthy 30 year-old resentment.

But here’s the real kicker, bad-mouthing is not just a horrible habit, it’s a component of parental alienation, which is being recognized more and more.

Extra-Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is a term for the subconscious (or conscious) practice of undermining the relationship between the child and the other parent. Parental alienation can take place due to bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the child, which changes the child’s perception of the other parent; by asking your child to spy on the other parent; by disrupting the other parent’s visitation; making your child feel guilty for spending time with the other parent, and so much more.

You may be doing these things without meaning to, so be careful to stay unbiased with your child when it comes to your ex. Without intending to, you may be causing harm to your child; for example, if you let the child choose between spending time with one or the other parent, this could translate to the child as a loyalty test. So how do you navigate co-parenting after divorce, without meandering into the dark side?

Stopping the He Said, She Said

Here are a few ways to put your foot down on parental alienation, without putting your foot in your mouth:

- Don’t fight fire with fire. If it turns out your ex is bad-mouthing you, resist the urge to address this with your child. In trying to set the record straight, you may end up caught in the bad-mouthing cycle yourself.

-  Take the high road. If your child comes to you with disturbing slander your ex dished out, don’t be too reactive. Just say something like you don’t know why they would say that, and they probably didn’t mean it. If the cause of the divorce comes up, just leave it at you two divorced because you couldn’t get along, and that has nothing to do with the child.

- Find a vent. Divorce creates emotionally draining and straining situations, just recognize and accept this. To prevent the urge to bad-mouth and vent your divorce frustrations with your child, find a friend, relative, professional, or group to do this with instead. For your sanity and your child’s, find another venting source.

North Dakota’s Divorce Bill Revisited

North Dakota divorceDivorce is a hot topic in any society because it involves family values, religion, and personal beliefs. Some people find divorce a non-option, while others view is as a sign of an evolved society. Divorce is, however, as personal a choice as religion; therefore, it should be left for the individual to decide on. But apparently, some North Dakota senators haven’t received that memo about free will.

The Original Senate Bill 2367

The good people of North Dakota dodged a legislative bullet in 2011 when Senate Bill 2367 was rejected. Bill 2367 was brought to the Senate by Senators Larsen, Sitte, and Wanzek, and supported by Representatives Grande, Koppelman, and Ruby. The bill originally recommended a two-fold change in North Dakota divorces with children involved:

  1. Extend the waiting period to 1 year, which would mean spouses would have to wait 1 year after filing for divorce before continuing the divorce process. If there is “substantiated allegations of domestic abuse,” the waiting period may be waived.
  2. Instate mandatory marital counseling of 10 hours, which must be provided by the spouses themselves. The spouses may undergo marital counseling together or separately as long as the sessions are with a “paid or volunteer counselor, clergy member, or any state-certified or licensed marriage mediator.” Four sessions must focus on post-marital finances.

The bill was rejected by the Senate, but was allowed to be revised into “[a] bill to provide for legislative management study relating to divorce reform and education.” In other words, instead of letting the unwanted bill die in the Senate, the Senators decided to turn it into an opportunity to study divorce on children in North Dakota.

Recently, a revised Senate Bill 2367 has found its way back into the Senate and currently awaits deliberation.

Is the New Senate Bill 2367 Good Enough?

The new Senate Bill 2367 has one major revision, but will it be enough to pass the Senate? The revised bill cut the proposed waiting period in half, so now spouses with children seeking a divorce only have to wait 6 months to finalize the divorce after filing the divorce petition. The spouses must still go through 10 hours of marital counseling, and pay for it out of pocket. However, if there is “substantiated” domestic violence in the marriage, the waiting period is waived.

The downsized waiting period is a step in the right direction, but there are still a number of vaguely written sand traps waiting for unsuspecting divorcees to fall right into.

  1. What constitutes a “substantiated allegation”? Sure, if one was a victim of domestic violence and they went to the hospital for treatment, they could use hospital records as evidence or proof; if the victim called the police, they could use the police report or 911 call transcript. But not many victims seek medical attention or help. In fact, it’s estimated only about 25% of domestic violence incidents are reported or documented. Before this bill is passed, it should be clear what constitutes a “substantiated allegation.” If this vagueness is overlooked, the state of North Dakota could be sentencing a victim of domestic violence to 6 months of torment and fear.
  2. Marital counseling is expensive, and not available to everyone. The average cost of marital counseling is $100, and that’s per hour. $100 is a conservative price for counseling, which would bring the (conservative) cost of North Dakota divorce to an additional $600. It’s commendable the authors of Bill 2367 recognized the cost of this additional legislation and noted the counselor could be a “paid or volunteer counselor” or “clergyman.” However, the additional cost makes divorce out of low-income spouses’ reach; does that sound like a violation of civil rights to anyone else?
  3. A bill for the children should think of the children. Senate Bill 2367 was drafted out of regard and in consideration of the children of divorce. But I ask the authors if forcing parents, who clearly want a divorce, to continue to be married is beneficial for the children. Court-administered co-parenting classes would be a better option of looking out for the children of divorce than making the children live in a toxic, stressful home.

Have anything to contribute to the discussion of North Dakota’s Senate Bill 2367? We’re all ears (or eyes, since this a written medium).

Irradicating Irrational Divorce Decisions

Divorce declarationIt has been said that the worst mistake anyone can make during a divorce is to let their emotions cloud their judgement. This is so true that it can be said in any situation, because emotions have a hand in almost all the decisions we make. When you buy an item, no matter how large or small, you base at least a part of your decision off whether or not you like it. You can’t really manufacture an equation to gauge the level of like an item, option, or person musters, you just feel it. So how exactly does one make a totally rational, emotion-free decision?

You can follow the advice of others, or hire someone to do your thinking for you. Or, you could make a few ground rules for yourself to follow during times of emotional turmoil.

The Divorce Rules Charter

There are two life-altering D’s in life: Divorce and Death; while divorce can be avoided, staying married is not always a viable option. Deciding which movie to rent is difficult enough, let alone deciding on who will keep the house or car. So how do you keep a level, emotionless head during a divorce? Draw up a Divorce Rules Charter for yourself (or with your ex if that’s possible without a bloodbath). Here are a few rules we’d include in our Divorce Rules charter:

  • I will not lie. In the divorce process, and basically in life, it’s best to be truthful and honest; this is especially important when money matter are the topic of discussion. In a divorce it may be tempting to hide assets, lie about assets, and unscrupulously try to get all you can, but this guerrilla warfare approach could end up hurting you the most. If you’re in a contested divorce, do yourself a favor and be honest in court and with the lawyers (both your lawyer and theirs). If somehow you are caught in a lie in court, or in a court proceeding, you’d be in deep water and sinking fast. Besides, your mother taught you better.
  • I will vent only to the appropriate outlet. Part of not exploding in rage during a mediation session or in court is having an outlet for your feelings and stress. The other part of not being a human time bomb is having the appropriate outlet, like a counselor or therapist, group of friends, or one really good friend. The upside of a professional “outlet” is although a professional may bring out your less-than-perfect traits, it may be beneficial in moving on to healthier relationships. The upside of the friend route is you have a personal cheerleader, commiserating partner, and at times a reality-checker all in one; just make sure your friend doesn’t let you stay in the resentment/misery-monger phase too long.
  • I will think about what is best for the children first. If you have children from the marriage, think about how your actions and decisions will affect them. By putting the children first, this will cool your jets (hopefully) in your subconscious mission to make your ex pay. Also, a child-conscientious divorce might even pave the way for an amicable relationship with the ex, which really would be the best thing since the ghost of the family will still exist after divorce.

Have any other rules you want to add to the Rules of Divorce Charter?