Are You Putting Off Mediation?

Debunking 5 Myths Stopping Couples from Starting Mediation

By Jennifer Safian

Some people anticipating a separation or divorce think or may have heard through the grapevine, about necessary prerequisites to starting divorce mediation. You know how the grapevine is. You can’t rely on everything they say being correct.

So I thought it would be helpful to clarify 5 of the most frequently heard mythical statements given as reasons for not being ready to start the mediation process.

We have not yet filed for our divorce in court.

Many couples believe that they have to “file for divorce” before starting the mediation process. This is not necessary. In fact, the parties will not need to file any documents themselves. Once a couple has agreed to all the terms of their divorce, the mediator can help them with the next steps in order to get the divorce agreement completed and filed.

We have not yet worked out the terms of our divorce together.

A couple does not have to work everything out before coming to mediation. Actually many people who come to mediation have often not discussed much at all prior to their session. One of the advantages of mediation is the opportunity for the parties to discuss all their issues in the presence of a neutral professional who will facilitate their conversation so they can make all decisions together.

We have not decided what to do about the marital home.

Again, this is not something you need to work out before you begin mediation. Making decisions about the marital home is difficult, but as the mediation progresses, things will become more clear to both of you. Discussions will take into account various factors including:

Your finances;
Your respective attachment to the house;
The needs of the children;
One or both parties’ desire to actually maintain the house
You will then both be in a better position to make an informed decision as to what to do with the marital home.

We don’t get along.

It is probably because you don’t get along that you are getting separated/divorced in the first place. Avoiding mediation will not improve that situation. Instead, you could both benefit from having a mediator helping you work out all the issues of your divorce. And as a bonus, you may actually start communicating differently and in a more constructive way!

We have not yet retained lawyers.

You do not need to retain lawyers to begin a mediation. The mediation process encourages you to consult with lawyers at any time during that process if you need advice, as well as have separate lawyers review your agreement before you sign it. These attorneys charge on an hourly basis, and need not be “retained.” Your mediator can give you names of attorneys to consult with.

Many people put off beginning their mediation because of these 5 myths, but that is exactly what they are, myths. Don’t prolong what may be a very unhappy situation. Make the call, set up your mediation appointment, and let the mediator assist you in creating your separation/divorce agreement so you can move forward with your life.

How To Bargain In Negotiation

By John Morrison M.A., CDFA

There are different types of bargaining but here I address bargaining in which all that is at issue is the monetary amount of something. Bargaining often occurs in divorce negotiations. It might be over the amount of spousal support or perhaps how much cash or other financial assets each spouse will receive in the division of assets and debts.

A key distinction is whether the bargaining is being done “as business” (between two people who each want to get the best outcome for themselves) or between two people who still care about each others' well-being and want to come up with a figure that’s reasonable and fair. In the latter, the discussion is more of an exploratory conversation than a bargaining session. Often in divorce negotiations there is an element of both.

In what follows I am discussing business-like bargaining - a form of haggling. A fancier term is distributive bargaining.

Distributive Bargaining

In this kind of bargaining the spouses start some financial distance apart (say one spouse wants spousal support of $1000 per month and the other offers $400) and then work toward an agreement somewhere between the two initial positions by a series of counter-offers.

People who are not used to bargaining often make mistakes in their approach to it. A common one is making an initial offer that is the worst position you will accept. In the spousal support example above, if you want $1000 but the least you’ll take is $500, some people start out requesting $500. The problem is that you have left yourself no bargaining room. The bargaining will likely proceed between the offered figure of $400 and your requested $500 and you may end up at an impasse or with less than $500.

Another common mistake is making an initial offer that you think is a good compromise. Although you’d really like $1000, let’s say you think $700 is a good middle figure so you start by suggesting $700. Again you have limited your bargaining room. The bargaining will probably proceed between the offered $400 and your suggested $700 and you could end up near the low end of your acceptable range.

Less common but also problematic is starting with an outrageous offer. Let’s say you know your spouse will be very hard pressed to pay more than $1000 per month but you request $2000. You've immediately undermined your credibility as a reasonable person and you’ve given the bargaining a bad taste. Your spouse may even refuse to proceed.

So what should you start off requesting? Something in the neighborhood of your ideal result. In the example above, maybe $1000 or $1200. You won’t be surprised if your initial request isn’t accepted. But if it isn’t, you have left yourself a lot of bargaining room. As the bargaining proceeds and you reduce what you request (and your spouse increases what they offer from the initial $400), you are able to make concessions and still be in desirable territory.

If you and your spouse get close but are still not in agreement on a figure, sometimes it works to split the difference between each of your last offers. You might also consider whether there are other concessions you could make that would help your spouse accept your last offer. An example would be offering to wait a couple months before the spousal support begins.

Do's and Don'ts

Here are some good practices for this kind of bargaining:

Consider in advance what is your bargaining range (best case and the least you’ll accept). Have good reasons (objective if possible) why this is your range;
Being willing to be flexible and compromise and let your spouse know this;
Make reasonable offers and explain why you think they are reasonable;
Ask your spouse for the reasons behind their offers and listen to what they say;
Don’t act like a bully and don’t be too timid;
If your spouse takes a strong position, be prepared to counter it with an equally strong position;
Stay calm. If things get heated, take a break;
Be willing to walk away from the bargaining if the result or the process is unacceptable to you.

There are many excellent books on the subject including Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People by G. Richard Shell.

The Practice of Mindfulness

Why Mindfulness Matters

By Sandi Kimmel

Be Here Now, the mantra of mindfulness, is not just a catch-phrase or soundbite. It’s a powerful suggestion for living your life as it’s actually happening…instead of living in your thoughts.

What exactly do I mean? Today, for example, I could get completely torn up about the most recent mass shooting (it doesn’t really matter which one) and spend countless hours pouring over the latest news reports. Or I can stay informed without getting stuck in the quicksand of mass consciousness, send my love and prayers to all involved and come back to my life, my family, my yard, my chores, my trees, my own sweet day, with gratitude. 

The approaching holidays are another example. We tend to race through all of the tasks (planning, shopping, wrapping, sending, cooking) with the “goal” in mind…instead of savoring each of the parts that make up the whole.

I can almost hear you asking, “How do I do that?” Years ago, I read a lovely little book called When Singing, Just Sing: Life as Meditation (sadly out of print now) that basically instructed the reader to fully experience whatever they were doing mindfully.

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your awareness back to the present moment and whatever it is presenting. Even household chores! Raking leaves? Remember the cycle the tree is experiencing, releasing the old to prepare for the new. Cooking? Spend a moment thinking about the farmers and the sunshine and the rain, infusing love into the meal. Even a grilled cheese sandwich required a LOT of people and the generosity of nature to get the cheese and the bread to you. Folding laundry? Notice each item, appreciate the person who wears it, feel the warmth from the dryer, smell the freshness, enjoy having “new” clothes to put away.

Sound crazy? To me, it’s crazier spending all of my time in my thoughts about the past…or the ones about the future. I remember working in my corporate life, always planning months ahead. I missed whole chunks of my life only looking ahead and never looking at where I was at any given moment. I noticed one day that when the future I’d been thinking about arrived, I was already thinking about the “next” future. And I missed the present moment entirely.

And I also remember countless hours spent going over past events, dragging them kicking and screaming into the present. Better to leave them where they were…

Some years ago, I took a week-long training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, the program pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are. During the course of the week, we spent many hours meditating, paying attention to our busy minds. We were asked not to wear watches so we would not be tempted to see how long we were meditating. (“That’s why they call it a watch…”) One day, I was having a particularly hard time sitting still. My chattering mind was getting the better of me. I decided to “cheat” to see how much longer it would be until we could go back to our rooms. I stole a glance toward the back of the room to see the clock…but someone had taped a piece of paper over it with the word: NOW I got it…and almost burst out laughing!

One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to take a breath, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, with your awareness on your breathing. BAM! You’re in the present moment! (Amazing how that happens, right?) Or, as my 88-year old mother often says when we’re enjoying a family gathering, “Can we just press the PAUSE button?” That magic button is the breath, and you can press it any time…

This holiday season, press the PAUSE button…as you plan shop, wrap, ship and cook. I suspect you’ll find the holidays last longer…and so will you!



How Experiences Impact Your Feelings

What Life Experiences Have Led You to Feel the Way You Do?
By Mark Baer, Esq.

"Kennedy's marriage opinion points the way forward....

Obergefell v. Hodges is and will, I hope, come to be recognized as a watershed in the [United State's Supreme] court's fundamental rights jurisprudence....

In a recent piece for the Harvard Law Review, I argued that Obergefell's lasting achievement is to have tightly wound the double helix of due process and equal protection into a doctrine of 'equal dignity' - and to have located that doctrine in a tradition of constitutional interpretation as an exercise in public conversation and education.

The Obergefell opinion is the culmination of a decades-long project by Justice Kennedy to enshrine the notion of dignity into the vary core of our 14th Amendment jurisprudence. 'Dignity' has deep roots in religious tenets like the Christian notion of grace, and since World War II has become central to human rights discourse and international law - a fact of which Kennedy, a noted cosmopolitan, is well aware. For nearly 25 years, Kennedy has been pushing 'dignity' closer to the center of American constitutional law and discourse, bringing our centuries-old Constitution into harmony with ideals now enshrined in the founding charters of many nations in our postwar, postcolonial world.

'Equal dignity' - the idea that all individuals are deserving in equal measure of personal autonomy and freedom to 'define [their] own concept of existence' - has animated many of Justice Kennedy's most memorable decisions about the fundamental rights protected by the Constitution. The importance of this idea to Kennedy's jurisprudence has been most apparent in the gay-rights triptych of Lawrence v. Texas, United States v. Windsor, and now Obergefell. In each successive case, and in the opinion Kennedy wrote in Romer v. Evans invalidating a state constitutional amendment that he rightly described as making each LGBT individual a 'stranger to its laws,' Kennedy has wound the equal protection and due process clauses more tightly, finally fusing them together in Obergefell with the notion of 'equal dignity in the eyes of the law.' ...

Through its focus on encouraging the development of the doctrine of dignity through robust dialogue among individuals, institutions, and even parts of our constitutional structure, Obergefell points a way forward in the still ongoing struggle for equal rights for LGBT individuals - a struggle that will have to be waged not just in the courts but in the regulatory bodies, legislatures and popular lawmaking through initiatives and referenda."

The above excerpt is from an article by Laurence Tribe titled "Kennedy's marriage opinion points the way forward" that was published in the November 17, 2015 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal. Laurence Tribe is a University Professor at Harvard, a Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and a pre-eminent authority on the Constitution.

This brings me to a "Letter to the Editor" by Garrett M. Fahy titled "Professor Tribe's view of Obergefell opinion is problematic for several important reasons" that was published in the November 25, 2015 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Without getting into Mr. Fahy's various points, his entire perspective is shaped by his belief system, which is evidenced by the following quote from that article: "The Constitution protects citizens from government's encroachment on inalienable rights; it does not exist to force a justice's views of dignity on a diverse population."

The following is a quote from the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

Mr. Fahy is a civil litigator who graduated from Westmont College and Pepperdine Law School and was admitted to the California Bar on December 4, 2009.

The following is a quote from Westmont College's website: "Christian - At Westmont, Jesus Christ holds preeminence. With our commitment to historic Christianity, we encourage students to integrate their beliefs with their studies and to live out their faith in service to others. Rooting the liberal arts in Christ means that we educate the whole person and encourage students to develop biblically based, intellectually strong convictions and worldviews."

The following is a quote from Pepperdine's website: "Pepperdine is a Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership."

Mr. Fahy's opinion must be based upon his belief that members of the LGBT community are not human because otherwise, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is very clear and it applies to all humans.

Mr. Fahy is correct that "The Constitution protects citizens from government's encroachment on inalienable rights." The problem is that he either doesn't consider LGBT people to be citizens or he believes that they should somehow be the only group of humans who are not eligible to enjoy equal dignity, rights and freedoms.

It also bears mentioning that there are nine United States Supreme Court Justices. Moreover, Supreme Court decisions that are rendered by a slight majority of Justices are no less "the law of the land" than are those decided unanimously. Since there are nine Supreme Court Justices, at least five must be in agreement in order for their constitutional interpretation to become "the law of the land." I'm afraid that Mr. Fahy is conveniently ignoring that reality when he says, "[The Constitution] does not exist to force a justice's views of dignity on a diverse population."

I have the following questions for Mr. Fahy:

What life experiences led you to feel the way that you do?

What facts would you need to know to cause you to question your point of view?

A "fact" is defined as follows:"Something that truly exists or happens; something that has actual existence; a true piece of information."

An "opinion" is defined as follows: "A belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something; what someone thinks about a particular thing."

A "belief" is defined as "acceptance of truth of something; trust; something that somebody believes in; opinion; Acceptance by the mind that something is true or real, often underpinned by an emotional or spiritual sense of certainty."

In fact, the following is a quote from my article titled "Everyone Should Be Required to See 'Inside Out'":

"On a related note, the following quote from the film holds so true and leads to a great deal of conflict in the world: 'Facts and opinion look so similar. They get mixed up all the time.' It also mentioned 'critical thinking,' which is how people are able to distinguish fact from opinion. Of course, critical thinking also requires self-awareness, which most people tend to lack."

Critical thinking is "the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment." While people tend to believe what they want to believe, that is not critical thinking; rather, it is about confirmation bias and other such things. The "objective analysis and evaluation" involves determining the credibility of any given material.

In comparing the credibility of Professor Tribe's analysis with that of Mr. Fahy, I am afraid that there is no comparison. Among his great many credentials, Professor Tribe is a pre-eminent authority on the Constitution. Mr. Fahy, on the other hand, has practiced law for six years, has no expertise with regard to Constitutional Law, and has clearly demonstrated his biases through his choice of schools. In other words, from my assessment, Mr. Fahy's thoughts on the subject have nothing to do with critical thinking and have all to do with confirmation bias.

I should point out that people who are unwilling to entertain the thought that their belief on something may be wrong, regardless of what facts may come to light, are closed-minded because they only care about their beliefs, regardless of the facts.

This all leads me back to an article I published on September 5, 2015 titled "Denying Others Their Human Dignity Based Upon Your Religious Beliefs Is Unconstitutional."

What To Do If This Is Your First Divorced Xmas

We all know Christmas is a time of family, but what if you're divorced? Do you split the holiday with your ex, have it together, is it a time of awkwardness for everyone?

Christmas is often the hardest time for divorced parents. Especially for the newly separated, it can be agonizing to be separated from children. For most families, more tears are shed over how to divide this holiday then any other time. How do families deal with this problem? There are some strategies that may help.

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Source: Your Tango Breakups Divorce

How To Get Ready For Negotiation With Your Spouse

By John Morrison M.A., CDFA

You're ready for the negotiation process to begin. How should you prepare so you have the best outcome possible? Here are some guidelines to a positive negotiation:

1. Assess your personal negotiating skills

Consider similar negotiations you’ve had in the past. Would you benefit from being more assertive? A better listener? Less emotional? Did you express your ideas and concerns clearly and succinctly? Taking a personal inventory in this way can help you make some appropriate adjustments.

2. Consider how you interact with your spouse

What should you do or say to ensure your spouse takes you seriously? You are probably aware of things you say that rub your spouse the wrong way. Can you avoid these topics or approach them differently? Does your spouse feel that you don’t listen to them or understand their point of view? If so, how can you do better at this – even if you don’t agree with them?

3. Identify the issues that will be addressed

Be clear about the subject of the negotiation so that you can think about it in advance. You should clarify this with your mediator well before each session. List the topics in a neutral way such as “decide what to do with our house” rather than “make sure I get the house.”

4. Identify and prioritize your interests

Your interests are the underlying things that are most important to you. In negotiation preparation, it’s good to distinguish between positions that can be taken and underlying interests. For example, a position is “I want the Honda Accord.” The underlying interest is probably something like “I need to have a safe and reliable vehicle large enough to transport the children.” Think about what really matters to you. If there are a lot of things, prioritize them. Try to free yourself from set positions so you can be more flexible in your thinking when the negotiations get underway. Knowing your real underlying interests will help you evaluate how well possible options meet your needs.

5. Think about your spouse’s interests

While you shouldn’t assume you completely understand your spouse’s interests, it’s good to consider what they probably are. This can help you take into account both points of view in advance and not just when they arise in the negotiation itself. You may even come up with some settlement ideas that might appeal to your spouse. Negotiation works best if you have some flexibility, are open to the possibility of seeing things in a new way and can step into the other person's shoes.

6. Consider the pros and cons of your alternatives to reaching agreement

If you go into a negotiation thinking you have to reach agreement no matter what, you may end up making unwise concessions. Think in advance about possible settlements, including ideally what you’d like to achieve and the worst you could live with. Consider what you could do if your spouse is really unreasonable in your view and offers you less than this. Take a break from negotiations for awhile? Hire a lawyer? Try to get what you want from court? Do something else that might your spouse's attention in a positive way? Think about the pros and cons of these options.

7. Do your homework and consider getting specialist advice

Negotiation preparation should include understanding and being prepared on the subject matters to be discussed. Do whatever homework your mediator requests. Knowledge is indeed power, or at least it will make you feel more powerful. Sometimes challenging legal, financial or parenting topics will be relevant to the negotiation. If your understanding of these topics would benefit from the input of a specialist, consider getting it as part of your negotiation preparation. Sometimes you might want to suggest to your mediator and spouse that a specialist provide their input in person in the negotiation session.

Gift giving done right.

By Carmen Schaffer, Viva La Vida Travel

In this fast paced, self indulgent, "look at me" world we live in, it can seem nearly impossible to impart our values of being selfless, compassionate and generous beings on to our children. Mass media and societal influence seems to strip away all that we try to do for our children ~ often times feeling like an upward climb just to raise socially and globally conscientious children.

One of the best things that we can give our children is the the gift of experiences that deepen their perspectives on the human condition and help them become global citizens both in their own backyards as well as afar.

This holiday season, we will be bombarded with the stress of what to buy our children. We will spend more money than we would prefer in order to impart a sense of momentary happiness in our children's lives. The key word in that last sentence is really, "momentary." The joy of opening up presents fades as does the novelty of the gift itself and then it's on to the "next thing" they will be wanting.

Let me tempt you with the idea of giving the gift of a deep and meaningful life experience with your child that will give back to him or her for the duration of their life. Give the gift of travel.

Consider taking a "half and half vacation." Half of the time you dedicate yourselves to giving back to a community in need in the destination of your choice. Bring your skill sets with you and share your knowledge and abilities with those who would be greatly inspired by your gifts of time and good intentions. Learn local traditions, gastronomy, customs, lifestyles and embrace the differences between you yet relish in the similarities you will discover. Spend some time getting to know another culture, even if there are language barriers! Learn their language and share yours with them ~ open the doors of humanity by sharing yourselves!

The other half of the vacation will be spent experiencing the culture in a more "vacation-like" way but instead of being just a tourist, you'll have greater insight into your destination and the people and your "vacation" will be so much more rewarding.

Planning a vacation of this sorts for you and your child or children has infinite rewards. Both you and your child will grow exponentially together as well as individuals. You will never know how the seeds you plant will grow within them but I guarantee if you don't plan them, they will never grow.

Yes, travel can be costly. So can Christmas. My question to you is this: Would you rather spend your money on giving material gifts that quickly lose their luster or would you rather impart a sense of inspiration, hope and global consciousness upon your child that ultimately bring you and your child closer together?

Think about it. Travel changes lives. It inspires. The long-term benefits of a well spent vacation with our children will never be regretted, unlike that new cell phone or video game you may have just purchased.

Negotiation Principles

By John Morrison M.A, CDFA

Divorcing and divorce mediation necessarily involve negotiation. Three negotiation principles that should help you increase your effectiveness in divorce discussions with your spouse are:

1. Prepare for the negotiation.

One of the best predictors of negotiation success is preparation. Gather the relevant facts. Think in advance about what is important to you and to your spouse. Consider what you can do to make the discussions productive. Imagine different possible settlement scenarios that you could be accept.

2. Adopt a collaborative style.

A collaborative negotiating style has been shown to be the most effective in getting acceptable, fair agreements. Negotiators who adopt this style are respectful, clear and not wishy-washy when talking about their points of view. But they also listen attentively to the other side to try to understand what is important to them. Their proposals then try to meet everyone’s needs and not just their own. It can be challenging to be both assertive and attentive. It takes a fairly high level of composure and often takes practice.

By contrast, a competitive negotiating style is aggressive and tries to win the negotiation. It may bowl over a weak opponent but it is alienating.

A cooperative style is characterized by being very open to what the other side has to say but also by being rather tentative in expressing your points of view. This style risks getting an outcome in which your concerns are not as well met as with a collaborative style.

3. Use an interest-based approach.

Effective negotiators use their communication and problem-solving skills to work collaboratively in a mutual search for solutions that will meet the underlying needs and concerns of both sides.

The interest-based approach was popularized by what is probably the most famous book on negotiation, “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William Ury. In this approach, it is advised not to take the initial expressed positions (requests or demands) of each side overly seriously. Instead find out what is really important to each spouse. Then work together to come up with proposals that will meet these underlying interests as well as possible.

Applying these negotiation principles will improve your chances of reaching a fair and workable result. It should also help make the process itself fair, comprehensive and satisfying. If you are working with a divorce mediator, most mediators will help you apply these principles in the mediation sessions. In subsequent posts I will provide more information on negotiation preparation, the interest-based approach and bargaining.

Watch Out, It’s Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving, one of the keys to burning calories is to stand up, move around, don't stay in one place...and there's more tips to help you through the day!

Story highlights

  • Moderation is key to not overeating on Thanksgiving
  • Even if you indulge, keep moving -- even simple household chores can burn off the calories

But with the right planning and a serving of willpower, you can have a healthy (or healthier) Thanksgiving.

How to dish up a healthier meal

"My advice is to do everything in moderation. Normally, people scoop up mounds of stuff on their plate, and that's where it gets to be a problem. But if you can handle small portion sizes, then that's fine," said Sara Haas, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

And just because you are going to indulge during that one meal of the day doesn't mean that you have to blow the others. "Balance it with good meals at breakfast and lunch and do some exercise ... think about how much better you'll feel by the time you get to Thanksgiving dinner," Haas said.

When it comes time to feast, there are steps you can take to keep from overeating, or at least to limit it. Haas recommends putting your fork down and taking a sip of water between bites to keep from shoveling food in your mouth. And wait at least 20 minutes before going back for seconds (or thirds) -- it takes your body about that much time to know that it is full, she said.

Of course, if you are the one doing the cooking, there are lots of steps you can take to make your Thanksgiving dinner healthier. Using low-fat meats and dairy products is one easy way to lower the calorie load -- and in foods such as stuffing and pies, you probably won't even notice the difference.

Haas recommends sources such as Cooking Light and Eat Right, the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for beloved recipes made healthier, and for turning those mountains Thanksgiving leftovers into creative, and possibly healthier dishes.

How to burn Thanksgiving calories

Even if you choose the healthiest sides on the table, eat only one slice of pie and keep your leftover plans in check, you might still need some activity to break even on Thanksgiving.

Consider looking for a race to run around the holiday, or just go jogging in your neighborhood -- 60 minutes of jogging burns about 477 calories -- about one slice of pecan pie.

Sixty minutes of Zumba burns about 540 calories -- that almost takes care of your sweet potato casserole and your cranberry sauce.

An hour of tossing around a football with your family burns about 160 calories. There goes the turkey!

But there are plenty of ways to cut back without tying on your athletic shoes.

An hour spent clearing and washing dishes will burn about 100 calories. Another hour of mopping up after the big meal can burn more than 100. Cleanup could be the cure for green bean casserole.

There's good news, too, if you're hanging out at the kids' table. An hour of carrying around small children can burn about 136 calories. Running around with them for 60 minutes can burn more than 200. See you later, stuffing.

Planning to line up for Black Friday sales? Thirty minutes of shopping can burn 76 calories -- if you're moving fast enough to score a few big deals and long enough to cover everyone on your list, you can easily take care of your mashed potatoes and dinner rolls.


Source: CNN.com - Health

Grandparents Can Be A Great Support To Kids

Grandparents Can Help Grandchildren Cope with Parent’s Divorce!

By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT

While taking sides is all too easy to do in a divorce, it's important to remember one thing: kids come first and they need you for support during this time of turmoil in their lives. Grandparents can be a stabilizing presence in helping grandchildren cope with divorce.

Too often, grandparents are caught in drama between parents during and after their divorce. While they want to help in any way they can, many grandparents just don’t know how to ease the hurt, confusion and other emotions affecting their innocent grandkids. Since every divorce is unique there are no cookie-cutter solutions that do the trick. But here are some guidelines to help you be there for your grandchildren at a time when they need your love and support.

If you haven’t been close to the kids beforehand, post-divorce is a difficult time to develop a relationship. But if you already have that bond established, it’s important to keep the on-going connection at this time when the children are facing so many unknowns.

When communication and trust are strong between you and your grandchildren it’s easier to bring up issues that concern you for a chat. Children who are comfortable in their relationship with you are more likely to confide their frustrations, fears and insecurities to you. Keep in mind that it’s always more effective to offer advice once they ask or bring the subject up. Then you can share your wisdom in an age-appropriate manner.

One important word of caution: If you are going to discuss issues regarding divorce or other life challenges, it is essential that you discuss this subject first with the children’s parents to get permission in advance!

It’s never a grandparent’s place to interfere where you are not welcome -- tempting as it may be. So bring up the topic you want to talk about with your own adult child or son- or daughter-in-law first. Explain your concern on behalf of the children, and what message you’d like to share with them. If their parent approves, then give it your best shot.

If the child is resistant to the conversation, don’t push the issue. You’re better off retreating into safer territory. If they do confide in you, be careful not to make judgments about their parents. Listen; offer sound advice they can use, and then talk with the parents about ways you believe they can provide healing, reassurance and support to their children during this difficult time.

If the issues are complex, be sure to suggest bringing in professional counselors to handle the situation with all involved. They are trained to handle heavy emotional and psychological challenges. So leave it in their hands. You want to be loved as a caring grandparent – not as a therapist or judge!

If your own son or daughter is unaware about the emotional turmoil the divorce or other challenge is taking on your grandchildren, schedule a time to talk with them. Arm yourself with resources in advance. Assemble articles, study results, websites and other

valuable information about how children can be adversely affected by family drama and share them during your conversation. Have some positive and concrete suggestions regarding where they can get help and support. Let them know you’re there for them, on their side and also an advocate for the children. Don’t accuse, judge, dismiss or demean their parenting. Remind them they are not alone and that most all families coping with divorce face similar issues. Help is out there. You want to make sure they find it.

Remind your grandchildren’s parents how much those children mean to you so they don’t overlook your relationship with the kids following the divorce, especially if relocation or other major changes are in the works. Children need, want and value the safety and reassurance of their grandparents’ love. Be there for them and you can be an asset in their adjustment to life’s many challenges for a long time to come.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT, is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! For her free book on Post-Divorce Parenting, her free weekly ezine, coaching services and other valuable resources about divorce and parenting issues visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com. To learn more about her internationally acclaimed. ebook, visit http://www.howdoitellthekids.com.

All rights reserved. © Rosalind Sedacca

Successfully Being A Stepparent

6 Tips To Help You Cope With Being A New Stepparent

We all know the stresses of going through Divorce and creating a positive environment going forward. It can be quite difficult. Now multiply that by 1000 when you are getting remarried into a family with children. The dynamics and variables are very complex and difficult.

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

When you remarry into a family with children, bring your own children, and/or have a child with your new partner, the challenges can be overwhelming. If you are unaware of typical family dynamics and issues that may arise in a stepfamily or blended family, you can easily be blindsided and lose faith in their ability to cope with everyday family life.

In my work with families, as well as firsthand experience, I’ve found that it can take years for a blended family to gel and form an identity. Perhaps it’s because the dynamics in a newly created blended family can be stormy – and it can take time for the new “normal” to take hold. Census reports tell us that over 40 percent of first marriages and 67 percent of second marriages fail. But what they don’t explain is why these families are fraught with so many difficulties. Perhaps knowing about some of the challenges can help you to normalize your experience as a new stepparent and to adopt helpful strategies.

Here’s a list of 6 reasons being a stepparent can be a challenge:

1. Children often see stepparents as rivals for their parent’s attention – especially if they remarry soon after their parents’ divorce. Remarriage shatters a child’s dream of a reunion between their parents so it’s normal for them to take out their anger and frustration on a stepparent. A child of divorce may feel that their parent has turned against him/her when they start expressing love toward a new partner or spouse.
2. Children are more forgiving and accepting of their own parent than a stepparent. Truth be told, most kids would rather be disciplined by their own parent than a stepparent so are more likely to be defiant or negative in their response to redirection by a stepdad or stepmom.
3. Your children may have difficulty coping with stepsibs. After all, they don’t get to select each other and they might see each other as rivals. In time, however, they might grow fond of one or more stepsiblings. However, be prepared that your children may never gel with their stepsiblings.
4. Parents usually have more tolerance for their own children’s behaviors that a stepparent does. This is normal. But since it’s not something that is talked about often, you may feel guilty about not warming up to your stepchildren.
5. There might be an unhappy or resentful ex in the backdrop – discouraging their child from bonding with you – their stepparent. Whether or not it’s overt or covert, this dynamic can have a negative impact on the ability of blended family members to bond.
6. You may feel uncomfortable in your new role as a stepparent and it can take years for you to assert your feelings. Walking on eggshells with your stepkids can be exhausting and drain energy from the new marriage.

If you’ve decided to remarry or be part of a couple again after a divorce, take it slow. Do your best to spend time with your new partner away from your children until you feel confident about the future of this relationship. Prepare your children when your new partner sleeps over and make sure that they are comfortable with this person. Even though you believe your new partner or spouse is a great person, this isn’t a guarantee that your children will share your opinion.

Just because things went well when you were dating your partner, does not ensure things will go smoothly with your children once you’re a committed couple. A second marriage effectively ends any hope of children’s mother and father reunifying and can reignite feelings of loss for kids. Take your time in getting to know your stepchildren. Rushing it may satisfy your own unmet needs to be liked. Sharing common interests, from sports and arts, can help you bond with your stepchildren. Overall, stepparents can be an asset to kids if they take on the role of friend or coach and not discipline them.

Try your best to stay out of interactions between biological parents when they are working out holiday or vacation schedules. And especially, try to be courteous and respectful of the “other parent,” keeping in mind that it’s likely neither parent would have chosen to have their children live with them part-time.

6 tips to ease the transition to being a stepparent:

1. Expect storms and to make a commitment to work through issues that arise between family members. Hold family meetings or meals to discuss household rules and rituals on a regular basis. Make agreements and discuss expectations during these gatherings. Be sure to address questions and concerns – so no one is surprised by the inevitable areas of conflict that are likely to arise between all family members.
2. Make an agreement with your partner not to discipline their children – and vice versa. Divorce expert Rosalind Sedacca writes: “Kids will never accept that level of parenting from the “new” Mom or Dad. Their biological parent needs to maintain discipline and agreed upon rules and not leave it to you to step in.”
3. Expect jealousy and insecurity to rear up. According to Rosalind Sedacca, adults can feel threatened by the children of their new partner as easily as children can feel afraid of losing their parent to a new spouse. No one should have to choose between their child and their partner. Spread your love abundantly and communicate responsibly. Let your biological children that you have plenty of love for everyone.
4. Talk, Talk, talk. Find out what others want, as well. Create a dialogue that addresses issues as they come up – rather than burying emotions and grudges until they explode into toxic behavior.
5. Work on developing new strategies, rules and approaches to conflict. Learn from what worked – and didn’t – and adapt your game plan accordingly. Remember to include all family members in discussions.
6. Seek professional counseling as a support system if needed. Don’t expect the children to take responsibility for correcting situations that need addressing. Make an appointment for you and your partner to get help individually and/or as a unit when some of the above strategies don’t appear to be working.

Most importantly, trying to maintain realistic expectations of being a new stepparent can ease your transition. Just because you are eager to embark on your new role as a stepparent and have good intentions, that doesn’t mean each and every day will run smoothly. In sum, don’t let your feelings of discouragement win over because there will be bumps along the way. But making sure that you have an open dialogue with all family members can help everyone understand one another and form a bond. In time, many of the kinks inherent in stepfamily life will smooth out if you hang in there!

I would love to hear from you! Thanks, Terry

Dads This One’s For You!

Three Holiday Divorce Mistakes To Avoid

By Amber Steiss Rechner

Dallas Divorce Lawyer

The popular divorce book “The 10 Stupidest Mistakes Men Make When Facing Divorce” by Cordell & Cordell co-founder Joseph Cordell outlines devastating and avoidable blunders guys make.

The holiday season brings its own set of mistakes, including these three common gaffes you should avoid if you’re thinking of divorce.

1. Waiting until after the holidays to file for divorce.

Parties to a divorce often decide to wait until after the holidays to file. This isn’t always the best route to take.

It can be very hard to get a setting in court for a judge to make temporary decisions regarding custody of the children, parenting time schedules, and belongings during the pendency of the case. There may also be certain “waiting periods” in place within your state law, which can be prolonged by waiting until after the holidays.

Spending so much time around each other during such an emotional period can also leave room for disaster with regard to fighting or inappropriate actions that may take place around the children. Additionally, tax consequences of remaining married throughout the year should be considered.

2. Letting emotions around the holidays ruin a potential divorce settlement.

It’s very easy to let emotions become involved during the holidays, especially when you are being affected by being away from your children for the first time on that day. Do not make the mistake of acting in anger or ruining any potential steps you have made toward settlement with your spouse or ex spouse.

While child custody and parenting time can be addressed again after divorce through a modification, division of property is final. You don’t want to ruin what may have been a division in your favor by not properly controlling your actions.

Related Article:
Dealing With Divorce During the Holidays

3. Failing to co-parent and think about the other holidays.

Most states have a default possession order that covers the major holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. However, many will not account for other holidays which may be of importance to you and your children such as Jewish holidays, Halloween, the child’s and parent’s birthdays, etc.

If you are at all able to compromise with your spouse, it may be important for the two of you to start thinking how these other important days can be addressed and how to incorporate them into the children’s schedule.

Starting the children off on some sort of rotation will help them to get used to the unfortunate back and forth that divorce can cause. The more normal it feels for them and the longer they are on a set schedule, the less likely any court will be to change that schedule in the future.

Dallas Divorce LawyerTo arrange an initial consultation to discuss divorce rights for men with a Cordell & Cordell attorney, including Dallas Divorce Lawyer Amber Steiss Rechner, please contact Cordell & Cordell.