Could Nesting Work for Your Family?

Instead of getting a divorce and having two separate homes the kids rotate through, nesting is a newer concept where the kids remain in the existing family home and the parents take turns staying there. Some parents each get their own new place and rarely some will share one other place that they are never actually in together. Often parents rotate on an every other week schedule, but any schedule that works for the parents is definitely possible.

The idea is that the kids remain safe and sound in the “nest” or family home. Their living arrangements don’t change and they aren’t shuttled around from place to place. It allows the kids to have a more stable environment and familiar surroundings as they adjust to the divorce. The children experience as little disruption as possible and can continue with the same school, same activities, same schedule, and essentially the same life as prior to the divorce. The benefits of that are huge.

Nesting can be quite expensive though. Maintaining the existing family home as well two additional homes is a huge financial burden most families cannot take on. Nesting can also be challenging for the parents. You’re sharing a home with your ex even though you’re never there together. You don’t actually see each other (except for planned meetings or occasionally passing on your way out) yet you’re sharing a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living area. All of the conflicts you had about not doing things the same way or disagreeing about how a household should be run will continue.

It can also be difficult to uproot yourself every other week and stay someplace else. Packing clothes, work things, toiletries, medications, and everything else each week can result in some giant mix-ups.

Another challenge is that after divorce, it’s common for the parents to gradually evolve and make some changes about who they are, what they think, and how they live their lives. This is often gradually reflected in parenting styles that can change. If this happens during nesting it can be confusing for kids who may find the parents suddenly are implementing different rules within the same home (Mom says no eating in the family room, but Dad says it’s ok, for example).

I worked with some families who tried nesting and most found that it worked as a short-term transitional method. It wasn’t something they wanted to do long-term, but they found that for a few months to a year after the divorce it was a great way to help their kids adjust and also give themselves time to figure out what to do with the family home and to find other places to live permanently.

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Coping with the Parenting Plan

Setting up and living with a parenting plan is a big change for everyone. All of you must get used to a new schedule. Working through the new plan takes time. You need to readjust your weekly rhythm and perhaps make adjustments to other activities in your life to make the schedule workable. Perhaps the hardest part though, is learning to handle how you feel about visitation.

It’s Normal

You might be totally overwhelmed with the emotions you’re going through as you adjust to and live with visitation. There is no “right” way to react. Everyone handles this in their own way and in their own time. You need to be patient with yourself, accept the various emotions you are feeling, and try to go with the flow. There’s nothing weird about you for having a myriad of feelings about the situation.

Don’t Feel Guilty

You might experience some feelings that bother you. It is normal, for instance, to have very strong negative emotions about your ex. It is also normal to sometimes feel excited about having some scheduled time alone, away from your child. It is also ok if you feel angry or resentful towards your child – for enjoying time with the other parent, for not worrying about you, or for making things difficult. Feeling or thinking these things does not make you a bad person or parent. It is healthy to feel these things and try to find a way to accept them and get through them.

How to Cope

If you feel like you’re drowning and don’t think you will ever be ok with the parenting plan, there is hope. First of all, if you don’t have a therapist, get one. Having someone to talk to who can help you work through problems and find solutions can be invaluable. It is also important to take things one day at a time. If you look ahead and wonder how you can ever cope with years and years of this schedule, you will feel overwhelmed. Instead, try to get through today and this week only. Try not to focus on your anger and resentment, instead think about what you can do right now to move ahead and get through the day in a positive way.

Dealing with Missing Your Child

As you first adjust to the schedule, and even in the years to come, there will be days when you will miss your child while he or she is with the other parent. Remind yourself that spending time with the other parent is a healthy and important thing for your child to do. Find other things to do during these times, so that you can begin to find some fulfillment, or at least distraction.  No matter how hard you work at it though, there will be times when you ache to be with your child. During those times, there is nothing wrong with calling, texting, or emailing your child. Remember, however, to keep your conversation light and do not dump your loneliness and sadness on your child.

Getting Through Anger at Your Ex

Even if your divorce or separation was handled in a somewhat amicable way, cooperating as parents can cause strains and tensions. There will be times when you will be angry at your child’s other parent. The best way to try to handle this is without involving your ex or your child. Scream and cry, unload onto your friends, throw pillows at your wall, do whatever you have to do to release steam. However, getting into a shouting match or a war with your ex will only make things worse. It will make it harder to work together as parents and it will be hurtful and difficult for your child, who will feel as if he or she is in the middle. Try to partition these feelings and keep them away from your child and as removed as possible in your dealings with your ex.

Making a New Life

A parenting plan gives new shape and definition to your life. Embracing that new direction can help you feel as if you have a grip on things. You may never completely love your parenting schedule or feel completely adjusted to life as a single parent, but you can move forward and try to put a positive spin on the situation.

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And Baby Makes…

You’re divorced with kids and are expecting a new baby with your new partner. Maybe he has kids too from a previous marriage. This isn’t the Brady Bunch, but there are definitely ways to blend all your various families together. His, mine, and ours can all function together happily if you follow some important tips.

 

Talk to the Older Kids

When you’re expecting a baby, make sure that your kids and his kids understand that the baby belongs to all of you. Together you are one big family and the baby will be brother or sister to everyone. Avoid using terms like “half-brother” because kids are not concerned with degrees of relatedness. All that matters is that the baby is going to be an important part of their family and will be a sibling.

 

Be Prepared for Jealousy

Jealousy of a new baby is normal in an intact family, so don’t worry that your divorced status has caused your kids to react negatively to the baby. Keep in mind that your older child will recognize that the new baby has two parents under one roof, something he doesn’t have, which can cause disquieting emotions. Don’t give your kids a pass because they are children of divorce. Expect love and respect to be shown to all members of the family no matter what.

 

Prepare Extended Family

If your husband’s family comes over to meet the new baby, make sure they understand that everyone must be included in good wishes. Your mother-in-law should not fawn over the baby and her bio grandkids and ignore your children. She needs to congratulate everyone on being a new brother/sister. If her grandkids get a “new brother” t-shirt, yours should too. You do need to set general boundaries and expectations for holidays and events (for example, many families create the rule that grandparents will buy holiday or birthday gifts for bio grandkids only, while some grandparents want to embrace all the children as their grandchildren), however when the baby is new it is important that everyone receive equal attention.

 

Cope with Your Ex

Because your child is going to be excited about the new baby, she will probably want to share that excitement with her bio dad. No matter what kind of relationship you and he currently have, there are probably some uncomfortable feelings, particularly surrounding the new baby. If your child wants her dad to meet her new sibling, welcome that and think of it as a way to help her adjust to the new baby. You will want to encourage a friendly relationship between your new child and your older child’s bio parent. Not too far in the future, your baby will be old enough to interact with him and understand who he is. You want them to develop a friendly, fond relationship since they will likely be seeing a lot of each other over the years.

 

Schedule Family Time

If you are dealing with his, mine, and ours when it comes to children, your life is likely in total uproar with the various visitation schedules, not to mention school and activity schedules. Getting everyone together in one room might not be possible very often, but it is important to make the effort to do so. Gathering all the children in your family together on a regular basis will help reinforce that they are one unit and are all important to each other and to you.

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Shacking Up

photo credit: digitalart

Most parents who divorce or end a relationship do find that at some point they are able to move on with their lives and find someone new. If you become serious about your new partner, you might reach the point where you would like to live together. Many couples live together without ever marrying, or before deciding to marry, so this is a common choice.

When you have a child from a previous relationship or marriage though, this decision is one that affects your child. In fact, the decision to live with a new partner can have a big impact on your custody situation, should your ex choose to make an issue of it.

How to Decide

When you’re thinking about whether or not you should move in with your new love, you need to of course examine your feelings about the person and evaluate the relationship. That’s not all you need to do, however. You should also examine the relationship your child has with this person. Have they had time to get to know each other? Are they friendly with each other? Does your child feel comfortable around this person? Is this person a good role model for your child? Does he have skills that allow proper care of your child?

When someone moves in with you, he assumes a parental role with your child, whether you intend for that to happen or not. If you move someone in that your child is not comfortable with, you create a difficult situation for your child. Think about how you would feel if someone you didn’t really know was suddenly living full-time in your home and exercising at least some authority over you! It would be pretty disturbing. While you may have spent a lot of time with your new partner, your child might not have had as much of an opportunity to develop a relationship, so you want to make sure they have truly gotten to know each other and feel comfortable around each other.

A Smooth Transition

Once you make the decision that your new partner is going to become part of your household, talk to your child about this. It’s very important that you set some boundaries for everyone. Let your child know the new member of the family is someone to respect and welcome. Let your new partner know that he has got to take things slow with your child. It can help to verbalize some household rules for everyone to follow – such as rules about privacy (“He won’t go in your room without your permission”) and authority (“When I’m not home, he’s the adult in charge”). It simply takes time for everyone in a new living situation to adjust. Keep the lines of communication open, so everyone can work through the situation as it develops.

Impact on Custody

Your ex may express concern about the new living situation – and if you were in his shoes you would likely feel the same way. While you do not owe your ex any explanations, you will make things much easier if you allow your ex to get to know your new partner and find out that he is truly a great person. Remember that your ex will probably have real concerns about how this will affect your child. It’s also possible he could be worried that this new person will somehow replace him as a parent or in your child’s affections. You need to reassure your ex that is not the case and that he will always be your child’s parent and no one can ever interfere with that. Make it clear that you respect their relationship.

If your ex is concerned about the situation, it can be used as a basis for a change in the custody and visitation plan. Any person who lives in the home with the child has an impact. If he harms your child, creates a bad influence, creates a hostile environment, or disrupts your child’s life, it would be cause for concern and something a court would be interested in hearing about.

The thing to remember is that you are not just making choices for yourself, but for your child as well. The home environment has a huge impact on your child and your responsibility is to create a home that is beneficial to your child, first and foremost.

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10 Tips to Improve Communication with Your Ex

Although your marriage or relationship is over, you still have to communicate in order to arrange visitation and discuss issues involving your kids. Instead of gritting your teeth and sending mental daggers his way each time you talk, follow these tips to make communication easier, more effective and more comfortable for both of you. The less stressful those conversations are, the easier your own life is going to be.

  1. Smile. I’m not kidding. Studies show that if you force yourself to smile at times when you don’t feel happy, it actually does improve your mood. And if you smile at your ex, you immediately defuse the situation. Warring tribes used to greet each other with a handshake to show they had brought no weapons. A smile does the same thing.
  2. Don’t talk money. Money is often the root of the biggest disagreements among divorced couples. He’s not paying what he should, he doesn’t agree with you when you want more, he disputes what’s actually owed, etc, etc. Therefore, keep money out of the equation when you’re talking about the kids or exchanging the kids.
  3. Don’t take the bait. You’re excellent at pushing each other’s buttons. So be aware of that and be smart enough to keep your buttons covered. Remind yourself this is not a real conversation. It’s a game. You win by not engaging. End of story.
  4. Plan ahead. Mentally rehearse any decisions or issues you need to discuss beforehand and boil it down to a concise, simple statement or request. Have a script and stick to it. This allows you to control the course of the conversation and stay focused.
  5. Pause. No need to count to ten, but instruct yourself to just slow down all of your reactions. In difficult encounters, your first deep, primal reaction might be to slug him. You’re an adult though and suppress that and keep your hands at your side. However, your second reaction, which comes only split seconds later might be to verbally slug him. Take a second and press your lips together or take a breath so you can get past that and allow the thinking, reasoning part of your brain to take over.
  6. Be calculating. You know this guy. You understand how he ticks. Use that to your advantage. Work him to get the situation to work for you. Use whatever he responds to, whatever helps him behave rationally, calmly, and reasonably.
  7. Focus on the future. No one wins when you hash over the past. You each have your own version and that’s that. The future is there to be shaped, so focus on what you can do to make it a good one for your child. This means no fighting about who did what or any rehashing of past problems.
  8. Face the facts. Too many women waste time struggling against the truth – this guy is your kids’ father and you’re stuck with him for the long haul. Stop looking for ways to shut him out and start looking for ways to make it work with him in the picture. If you deal with him in that spirit, everything becomes easier.
  9. Complete the transaction. You and your ex are talking or seeing each other because there is business to accomplish – kids to be exchanged, a schedule to be made, a schedule change to be negotiated. Remember that’s why you’re there and that’s what your goal is. Focus only on achieving that goal. He can throw tons of other junk at you, but you’ve got to keep your eye on the final goal.
  10. Run. Not literally. But when you’ve completed the transaction, get out. This is where you get into trouble if you don’t move on. If you’re not working on a specific goal, you’ve got lots of room to pick at each other. Don’t let it happen.

NOTE: Please be sure to see the previous post for a chance to win the ebook The No-Fight Divorce Book, everything you need to know to use mediation.

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