JOY, LAUGHTER, FAMILY & FRIENDS

Christmas, a time of joy, laughter, good times, family and friends.

Or it it?

This time of year can also the catalyst for endings.

Many people spend this time reassessing their lives. Whether it be a job or career they are no longer finding satisfying,

the realisation that continuing to ignore their health and fitness is no longer an option,

being in debt, ending conflict with family and friends or living yet another year being unhappy or unfulfilled in a relationship.

For many people who spend time reassessing their relationships either consciously or sub-consciously, it can and does lead to many couples heading to the divorce courts in the New Year.

It’s not that someone suddenly wakes up one morning and says “OK, it’s all over, I want out of this relationship.”

For many there has been an emotional and physical disconnect for some time before the actual decision is made to call it quits and sometimes it can be just one more little thing that happens that proves to be the catalyst for this decision.

When I started to write this blog the words ‘Emotional Bank Account’ popped into my mind and as I usually take notice of these ‘little things that pop into my mind’ I went to my book shelf to find the book that this came from. It’s just a little ‘off topic’ but worth sharing.

If you haven’t read Stephen R Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ there are many, many takeaways from this book and I highly recommend, it is a great read.

Here are just a few of the profound words from Mr Covey on relationships.

An Emotional Bank Account is a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.
If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty and keeping my commitments to you I build up a reserve.

When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant and effective. If a large reserve of trust is not sustained by continuing deposits, a marriage will deteriorate.

Instead of rich, spontaneous understanding and communication, the situation becomes one of accommodation, where two people simply attempt to live independent life-styles in a fairly respectful and tolerant way and may further deteriorate to one of hostility and defensiveness.

For many women who have been through divorce this is yet another time of emotional turmoil as they struggle with memories of good times past. Happy family gatherings at Christmas and seeing children’s faces light up with delight on Christmas morning. For those women now on their own, particularly if they are newly separated, it is a time of sadness for the loss of those special family times. It may also be a time of financial stress as they simply do not have the resources to buy their kids the gifts they would like to, particularly if they see the father lavishing all sorts of presents on them. The facts are that there simply doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of joy in the world for them.

If you are reading this blog and this is how you are feeling about Christmas there are some things you can do to make this a more enjoyable time.
The very best way, as with most things, is to take the focus of ourselves and think about what we can do to make the day more fun and enjoyable for someone else.

Easier said than done, I know.

But the truth is that when we get out of our heads and turn our thinking around there are many ways we can really make a difference in the lives of someone else and the reward is that we get to “feel great” about ourselves and grateful for the people and things what we do have in our lives.

Here are just a few ideas.

  • Have an open house for your friends who might be spending the day on their own. Here in Australia we call it an ‘Orphan’s Christmas’.
  • Perhaps volunteering at a homeless people’s shelter or a women’s refuge.
  • Or visiting the local hospital or an aged care facility.

Begin by asking yourself this question.

“What could I do today to make someones day a little brighter?” Notice what ideas come to mind. Then go do that!

Your thoughts, comments, personal story or suggestions are important to me.

With love and gratitude

Jenny xx

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SHARING THE JOY THAT IS CHRISTMAS MORNING

Todays’ blog is written by Lorrie Brook, a friend and colleague and the creator of Our Children Australia. With a background in Family Law Lorries’ passion and her reason for creating Our Children Australia is to provide a resource that protects children from the conflict that can arise between separated parents.  Our Children Australia is Australia’s first website offering software which helps parents manage shared custody peacefully and protects their kids from being used as messengers.  You can find out more about Our Children Australia by visiting the website www.ourchildren.com.au.

It is that time of year for separated parents to remind themselves to act with empathy and sharpen their compromise skills to protect their children during the lead-up to the Christmas break.

It goes without saying that the Christmas season is often the most stressful time of year for separated parents navigating through shared custody. It can be an emotional holiday break, as each parent does their best to make the most of arrangements that are usually not their ideal preference.

Making the transition to being respectful co-parents who are no longer a couple can be extremely challenging.  The impact these changes can have on family dynamics at Christmas can be significant.  As hard as it may be, parents should consider the flow on effect conflict can have on their children, and to remember that their kids look to them as their role model.

With this in mind, what are the common issues of conflict arising at this time of year?

  1. Sharing the joy that is Christmas morning

Waking up on Christmas morning and seeing the joy on your children’s faces is so precious that each and everyone of us want to be there to experience this.   This is normal.  Unfortunately though, the obstacles of life mean that when you separate chances are this can’t occur.  So in these scenarios parents need to be flexible when planning the schedule for Christmas.  For most of us it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to do this every year.  Chances are that this will occur every other year. It is the children that suffer the most when parents kick their heels in over schedules. It is always best to take a longer-term view on what will be best for both family units.

  1. What gifts are you giving your children?

Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for their to be a silent competition between you and your ex when it comes to buying Christmas gifts for the kids. This can be easily avoided – all you need to do is ask.  Make an effort to speak about your plans in advance; showing sensitivity where there is a difference in income levels.

  1. What plans do you have for the day?

Complicated schedules and long drives between locations can result in grumpy parents and grumpy children. It is best to keep arrangements as simple as possible and avoid late night drop offs which can be particularly exhausting.   Always think of your children when you are planning your day.  Don’t forget that they will want to be able to play with their presents!

  1. Have they eaten anything but sugar?

It is best to establish dietary and household ground rules for the Christmas season with your co-parent early to avoid any conflict over the holidays. Complaints around excessive sugar consumption and late bedtimes are common, which can result in exhausted, grumpy and cranky children. Acting with common sense and sensitivity towards your co-parent as well as honouring the agreements made should help prevent any of these issues arising.

  1. Have you left on time?

Christmas day is such a special day for everyone.  People are celebrating this wonderful time of year and our children are usually the main focus.  The joy they bring to us at this time of year is priceless.  Time has a way of moving too fast when we are having fun but it can be very distressing for the other parent if time gets away and you are late for changeover.

Always remember that you would be upset if you were missing out as well. Keeping to agreed timelines where possible should be a priority to nurture goodwill between co-parents.

Lorrie HighResColour_038

 

Share your thoughts, comments or personal story via email jenny@divorcedwomensclub.com.au

With love and gratitude
Jenny xx

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Lauren’s Story of Divorce and Lost Childhood

I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren on the weekend – this is her story!

I attend a prestigious private girls school, and my brothers attend the all boys’ school. We live in an impressive private, gated estate, in a mansion, complete with housekeepers, dog groomers, an ironing lady, gardeners, window cleaner and as many hired help as you could imagine. Life really couldn’t get much better. My parents entertain wealthy business people, are extremely influential and as I am told repeatedly, successful.
My father is always busy though, either at the races, lunches, on boating excursions or on our horse stud. My mother is always trying to make sure everything is perfect, too perfect. She is either sewing designer clothes for us, cooking or making sure our every need was catered for. We were like a normal family and my parents had a normal marriage.

That was until cracks started to appear. It was like an earthquake, first there was nothing and then everything changed forever. As my parents prepared to go out got a social event, the specialist called with my medical report, although I didn’t know it at the time, this was about to change all of our lives. It wasn’t the cause; it was the catalyst to a whole other world of endless problems. The next morning, I saw my father with his bad walking out the door. My mother was unusually calm. I was chasing my father repeating, “Why are you leaving?” He mumbled something that just didn’t make sense. In my confusion, I turned to my older brother, who hugged me and reassured me that everything was okay.

I didn’t understand what had happened, I didn’t understand why; I did see all the happiness that followed though. My mother started dancing with us, playing and it was surreal, it was fun, we were so happy at the time and the obsession with everything being perfect was no longer. I had no idea how life was about to change again. With no money to provide for us, leaving my school and all my childhood friends behind, devastated me. The promises of still staying in touch with my dad were never a reality. Life had changed in more ways than anyone could imagine.

My father continued to visit for a time, thinking that my mother would be forced to return to the marriage. The sight of my father pulling up in the driveway was like Christmas, time and time again. My mother became more and more withdrawn; I went from having two parents living together and a stable life to feeling that nothing would ever be the same. I felt so insecure. I looked on bewildered as my mother frantically tried to earn money. I felt so guilty whenever I needed anything.

At one time I overheard my mother saying she accidentally left a birthday present at home. Knowing we couldn’t afford one, I was so deeply distressed, I started making up stories as to why I couldn’t accept birthday invitations from that day on, further distancing myself from my old school friends to avoid embarrassment and the stress my mother would have to go to-to try and provide for my needs.

My father still seemed to have plenty of money so this taught my brothers and I to become manipulative and arrange visits when we needed things. It’s just what we had to do to survive. Knowing how desperately my mother needed money I felt ashamed to say I took to searching his car for coins to help my mother manage financially. At this time every dollar was important.

Even the smallest of things changed, like every meal. Instead of a cooked breakfast and freshly packed gourmet lunches that used to be prepared for us, along with our uniforms all laid out perfectly, mornings consisted of fending for ourselves, and wasting time searching for socks, shoes and uniform pieces, along with leaving out mother to sleep considering she would work all through the night. Previously we all enjoyed family dinners around the table prepared so precisely that restaurants would be envious, and changed to us preparing toasted sandwiches, boiled eggs or omelets and being left at home whilst she worked. It rapidly reached the point where I started cleaning up when I knew guests or friends were coming, and taking the responsibility of organizing the boys for school. Our mother was now working seven days and nights and constantly stressed about debt collectors and bills. She was totally unavailable and if she was awake she was on the phone arranging appointments. This required me to step up even more, giving up what little leisure time I had left, to help keep the house running in some kind of less than perfect order. It bothered me so much. I felt as if my childhood was being missed and I was required to mature to an age I was not, just to keep on surviving and pushing through to tomorrow.

Visits to my fathers turned into more of an inquisition than family fun. The stress on us children was massive, even the smallest comment could be involved in an impending court battle. He kept diaries and asked questions constantly. Even innocent comments were diarized. At this point I found it impossible to feel at home and have fun anywhere. Where was my childhood? Christmas and Birthdays brought out the magnitude of our family tragedy as I wanted to spend time with both parents, like it used to be, with laughter, excitement and fun. These special days that are meant for children to enjoy had become days that posed greater problems for me than any other.

Both parents insisted that they wanted the best for us children, and despite every effort, life as a child ended on that one fateful day. The day my parents separated was the day my childhood ended, and my adult life began, far too early.

The fallout of divorce spreads far and deep.

To share your comments or personal story – send me an email: jenny@divorcedwomensclub.com.au

With Love and Gratitude

Jenny xx

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