After the past couple of years – you’re probably asking yourself, why should I bother making a New Year’s Resolution?
With the uncertainty from COVID – we don’t know where we’re going to be next week, let alone the end of the year. But if you’re a newly separated parent, 2022 is going to bring its own unique challenges. New Year’s Resolutions are a great way to focus the mind. To set positive goals which will help you face the trials ahead. And the people who benefit from a focused and happy parent? The kids.
Let’s dive into four of the New Years’ Resolutions that I’ll be sharing with my clients this January.
1. Maintain a Friendly Relationship with your Ex
Research has shown that children are excellent at picking up on conflict. They’re like sponges. You might think that they’re too young to understand what’s going on – or that you do a great job at keeping them out of earshot. And that might be true. But subconsciously, if there is conflict in your relationship, they’ll be able to sense it. A number of studies over the years have found that a traumatic divorce for children can affect them for the rest of their lives. It can impact how they deal with emotions well into adulthood. If they know you’re really unhappy or stressed, they impulsively feel the need to protect you and look after you. This can easily turn them against the other parent – and experts agree that, no matter what your personal opinion is, it’s beneficial for children to have a relationship with both of their parents.
Make a conscious effort to take the high road. If you need to have a rant – call a friend or family member, don’t start an argument. Your ex will only retaliate, creating a vicious cycle. You could even type out an email or letter to your ex, using all the emotion you need to get out. Call them all the nasty names you feel like. But don’t press send.Come back an hour later and delete it. Then simply write what you need to say, with no emotion, to move things forward.
2. Enjoy Your Newly Discovered ‘Me’ Time
I’ll be honest – the first few times that you’re alone while your kids are with their other parent will be hard. Maybe you’ve experienced that already. The rush of getting their coats on, making sure they have everything packed, and then…. silence. You’ll look at the clock and won’t believe it’s only been 30 minutes.
This year, promise yourself that you won’t waste the opportunity you have to just be you. I firmly believe that parents who are more than just parents make better ones. By that I mean, having your own hobbies away from your children and taking time for yourself outside of the home, in whatever way that feels best for you. You’ll come back to parenting refreshed, relaxed and much happier than if you’d simply been moping and watching the clock. It teaches your children an important lesson – self care and self worth. Teach them that they can be OK by themselves too.
So, don’t waste it because the kids will be back before you know it, and the chaos will erupt once again.
3. Ask for Help
This separation will bring a huge change in your life, and there’s a lot to process. There’s the practical issues like — how does that affect homework, sports clubs, time with their grandparents? And of course the emotional toll. Trying to deal with all of that alone is an enormous task. But, in reality, you don’t have to. You are not alone. There’s so much freedom in taking everything off of your own shoulders and lightening the load a little bit. Pledge to yourself that you’ll ask for help.
For example, your kids’ school will almost definitely have information for separated parents. They’ll be able to advise how they keep you both informed, without you needing to constantly communicate with each other and let you know what other families in your situation do. If you’re struggling emotionally, talking with a therapist can make things so much easier for you and your children. You don’t have to commit to going for years, even one or two sessions could make you feel better. Look for a therapist that specializes in working with separated families.
Finally, if you feel like you’re close to reaching an agreement with your ex but just need some outside help to finalize things – consider mediation. Mediation is a way to reach agreement with a legally trained professional without the expense or stress of attorneys negotiating back and forth.
4. Finalize Legally Binding Agreements
One of the best things you can do this year is to make sure you have a legally binding agreement in place. Informal arrangements are not enough. If you’re newly separated, you might be worried that mentioning the words ‘legal’ or ‘attorney’ will cause an argument. From experience, when things are new, everyone pulls their weight and things work out well initially. But there will inevitably be a time this year where the custody agreement is called into question. Someone will want to swap a weekend because of a special occasion. How much flexibility are you comfortable with? Did you talk about what will happen on the kids’ birthdays? What about your birthday?
Parenting plans spell everything out in black and white.. Everyone, including the kids, know what will be happening and when. Once you have a parenting plan ordered by the Court, a change of plans must be agreed upon by both parties. This gives each of you the security and certainty that, unless you give your consent, what the parenting plan says goes.
Get Started Today! The time is now.
Keeping up with these resolutions might seem overwhelming. If you want to lighten the load, a consultation with a family law attorney based in Missouri is the first step. Exploring your options and finding out where you stand gets you started in the right direction.
My first consultation is always no-strings-attached. I’ll explore a little about your family dynamic and give you specific advice personal to you and to Missouri State law.
Taking back that power is the first step to your New Year.
To book an appointment, call (816) 601-1380 or visit our contact page.