How to Start Getting Your Life Back
When most people think of prison, parenthood, much less fathers’ rights, is not something that comes to mind. Yet, there are 2.7 million children in this country with a parent in prison or jail.
The overwhelming majority of incarcerated parents, ninety-five percent, are fathers. Many of these dads are not new to the prison system; in fact, 2 out of 3 inmates re-offend after their release and end up back inside.
It is not surprising that incarcerated dads are usually fatherless themselves when you consider that growing up in a fatherless household dramatically increases a child’s odds of ending up in prison. If dads in prison want to give their children a better chance at a more promising future than they had, it is critical that they reintegrate into society and their children’s lives in a way that is functional and healthy. The problems many dads face in integration include a lack of parenting skills, decreased self-confidence, barriers to jobs and housing, lack of education, and discrimination based on their status as ex-convicts.
While reentry into society may not be an easy road, dads returning into their children’s lives must make an effort on three critical fronts: finding a place to live, getting a job, and being a positive influence in their children’s lives. Unfortunately, once prisoners leave the highly structured life of prison, there are few resources to help them start over.
Very few dads are returning to a loving family when released. They usually lack the money to rent a place, and if they do have money for first and last month’s rent plus security deposit, they are likely to find their applications repeatedly turned down after landlords run a background check. Homeless shelters and the streets may be the only place to turn. Newly released dads find it nearly impossible to secure a job without a place of residence, making finding housing a critical step for establishing themselves.
How to search for housing
- Start by contacting churches, religious organizations, non-profit groups and government agencies in your area that offer housing for those in need and those that specifically help newly released prisoners. These include temporary housing, half-way houses, shelters, and low-income housing. There are organizations such as Delancey Street, which offer housing for ex-convicts who need to take the first step to getting back on their feet.
- Check out the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC), an organization dedicated to helping those that have been incarcerated and their families find local reentry services.
- Follow up with phone calls. Find out if there are any openings and ask what rules or requirements they may have.
- Choose the ones that seem to offer the most suitable solutions and make appointments for an on-site tour. Bring a notebook to write down what is needed to get started in case you find a good place and want to move forward in applying for housing.
Finding a Job
The U.S. Department of Labor Resources for Ex-offenders is a good place to begin. The site is easy to navigate even with limited internet skills. Click on the Get Started Guide, and it will walk you through finding what you need. It covers everything from Finding State Resources for your state, to figuring out how to start the job hunt, getting your GED or job training, exploring possible careers, and tips for putting together a resume. Unsure how to get references, find job listings or bring up your conviction in your job interview? The guide covers all these topics, and more.
Organizations such as Goodwill, and agencies like the State Employment Offices, offer job programs to get ex-offenders back into the workforce.
Reuniting with Your Children
Coming back home is not only an adjustment for dad, but it is also a big change for kids, too. There are a few tips to make reuniting after an extended absence go more smoothly. With some effort, fathers can reestablish themselves in their kids’ lives while minimizing the stress it puts upon kids who may not be sure how to react to the new normal.
- Talk to your kids about how happy you are to be a part of their lives again and how you missed them. Try to keep from making too many promises up front, let the trust build as they see, over time, that you are back for good this time.
- Ease them into your return by praising them for staying strong and helping out when you were away. Let them know you are proud of them.
- Be patient if they act out or seem unsure how to behave. Children and adolescents are less experienced dealing with emotions and change and may respond with negative behavior. Try to avoid reprimanding them for every little thing. Give them some space to make a few mistakes and to figure out how to respond to dad being back in their lives. They will eventually sort things out and begin to become more confident that you are not going to abandon them again.
- Try to avoid power struggles. This will put you and your kids in an adversarial relationship, and you want to try to become a family again, not become mired in conflict.
- Ask them about school, their lives and the things that matter to them. They may be anxious or unsure at first, so let them express themselves without judgment. Once they become comfortable and more confident, they will open up to you more. The key is not to force anything. Let them come to you at their own pace.
Reentry Services by State
Need an easy place to start looking for services in your area that help those recently incarcerated get into housing, find jobs, access family services, and more? Click on your state on the Reentry Services Directory Map.
Fathers’ Rights After Release
Fathers rights as they pertain to housing, employment, and reunification with their children vary by state. There are some federal laws, such as The Fair Housing Act which provides legal protection to ex-offenders across the country. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for landlords to ban all ex-convicts from renting. However, there are exceptions to the regulation, for example, if you are a registered sex offender you can be banned from living within a designated proximity to a school. To complicate the issue, some savvy landlords will blame your rejected application on something other than your criminal record to get around the law. If you feel you may have been discriminated against, contact an attorney for help or file a complaint online.
Fathers rights when it comes to employment and reunification can be complex and vary by the offense you served time for and by the particulars of your custody case. You may have to put in considerable time to research the laws that apply to your case or seek legal counsel for help. Don’t get discouraged; there is help out here if you are willing to put in the effort to find it and to follow through. Your kids are counting on you. Let them be the motivation you need to make a better way for your future, and theirs.
(c) Can Stock Photo / dabjola
Fathers Rights advocates understand that a man who is incarcerated does not bear the weight of his punishment alone. His family—especially those most dependent and vulnerable, his children—also suffer. Kids of imprisoned fathers face well documented adverse effects. Having a dad in jail or prison puts his kids at higher risk to experience poverty, suffer from addiction, or end up behind bars themselves. These children often live with trauma, shame, social stigmatization, guilt, and financial hardship. As if the picture is not bleak enough, incarceration leads to generational institutionalization. Growing up fatherless is the number one predictor of criminal behavior in a child’s future. In fact, most dads in prison are fatherless. It’s a tragic cycle.
This is not just a family problem. With 1.5 million kids in this country separated from their fathers as a result of state or federal incarceration, it is a societal issue. Add inmates imprisoned in jails, and the number jumps to 1 out of 28 U.S. children. And the problem is growing. The number of children with a father in prison has skyrocketed by 79% since 1991. To help these children, we all have a stake in helping these fathers. In fact, dads who have a relationship with their kids are less likely to re-offend. That’s a huge benefit to these children, who are our country’s future, and to society as a whole, since two-thirds of prisoners end up committing crimes which land them back in prison within three years of their release.
Barriers to Parenthood in Prison
As an incarcerated father, you face unique parenting challenges. It can be difficult to see your children if you are imprisoned. There may be no one willing to bring your children to visit you. If you lack the means to pay support, it can affect your kids and your custody rights once you get out, and simple communication via phone and mail can be unaffordable while inside. Private phone companies are making a killing exploiting those who have the least money to pay, holding their relationships with their loved-ones hostage for up to $24.95 for a fifteen minute, in-state phone conversation.
Free, in-person visits are the newest area targeted by private companies for profit. There is a trend to replace in-person connection with video visitation technology that charges up to $1.50 a minute for low quality, offsite video conferencing.
Distance presents another hurdle for fathers behind bars. Proximity to family members is not always taken into account in determining where a prisoner will be sent to serve his time. Fathers rights take a back seat to considerations of overcrowding and other issues. As the distance loved ones must traverse to visit incarcerated family members increases, the likelihood of getting a visit, and the number of visits, decreases.
What are Fathers Rights in Prison?
From the inside, it can be difficult to find information on fathers’ rights or to access legal resources. The feeling of powerlessness and the struggle to stay in touch add to the strain of prison life for dads that are serving time. It may not be easy, but it is vital to stay in touch with your children, for their benefit as well as for yours. Children who have a relationship with their father have a better shot at a brighter future, and inmates who maintain healthy relationships with their loved ones are less likely to return to prison.
Tips for Protecting Fathers Rights While Incarcerated
1. Maintain Visitation
If your children are unable to visit because of financial hardship, distance, or other reasons, then keep in touch by phone. Lack of interest can be used as grounds to terminate a fathers’ rights and clear the path for adoption by your ex’s new husband, by your child’s caregivers, or the foster parents.
The onus is on you, as a father, to research and know the laws of your state. Seek legal counsel if necessary. Time is one resource that is abundant in prison; invest it wisely into nurturing meaningful contact with your kids and educating yourself on how your state’s laws function.
2. Document your Progress
Make a record of the positive steps you have taken while in prison to be a good father and to prepare yourself for success once you get out. Upon your release, you will have to prove to the judge that you can safely care for your kids. These records will show your efforts to visit and contact your children, as well as classes and certifications you have earned from rehabilitation programs. Be detailed; write down the time and date of everything you do for your child. A documented list of your interactions with your kids and others involved in their care will go a long way in convincing a judge you are serious about being a good parent.
How to make a record:
- Use a notebook or piece of paper to keep track of all visits and calls with your child and anyone connected to your case. Be sure to write down the date and time. Add any additional notes you feel were important to remember about the call or meeting.
- Include calls and visits from your child, your child’s caregiver, your lawyer and the social worker.
- Write down dates of letters or pictures you send your child and keep a copy.
- Attend programs and meetings offered by your institution. Keep a record of these and any copies of certificates of completion. Some detention facilities offer classes on parenting, be sure to attend these if offered. Do not only take classes or participate in programs that are mandatory; take the initiative by taking advantage of resources that are voluntary.
- Ask the teachers and counselors of any programs you complete if they can write a letter about your performance.
Tips to stay actively involved in your child’s life:
- Ask about their education. Ask to see report cards, inquire about their favorite classes and any challenges they may be having.
- Be supportive and understanding of their daily achievements and struggles.
- Stay focused on your kids and their needs. Try not to add to their burden by placing your problems or issues on them. Keep visits positive, so your children leave with a good feeling.
- Be patient and let the relationship grow slowly and steadily. Trying to force things will likely have the opposite effect of making your child more closed off and resistant. Nurturing a relationship takes time.
3. Stay on Top of Child Support
Father’s rights, when incarcerated with a Child Support Order, vary by state, but whichever jurisdiction your judgment falls under, you must be informed to avoid the risk of leaving prison with a mountain of debt. On average, an incarcerated parent with a Child Support Order can potentially leave prison with nearly $20,000 in child support debt, having entered detention with around half that amount owed.
Laws regarding Child Support and incarceration:
Whether incarcerated or not, a material and substantial change in circumstances is required to modify child support orders in most states. Two situations that may be treated as a material and substantial change in circumstances are incarceration and unemployment. State policies regarding modification of child support during incarceration vary and depend on a number of factors.
A significant reduction in income due to a job loss or job change is generally considered a material and substantial change for modifying child support if the job loss or reduction in earnings was involuntary (usually meaning you were fired or laid off). If a parent tries to avoid child support payments by voluntarily losing their job (such as quitting work or refusing to work), it is not considered a material and substantial change of circumstances and would not qualify for modifying child support.
Currently, there is a federal rule in place that makes it illegal for state child support programs to treat incarceration as voluntary unemployment, which means you can request a modification of your child support to take into account that you are no longer able to work in the same capacity you did on the outside.
Be aware: most states require you to be proactive in making that request. You must familiarize yourself with the process to file a modification and to do so within the mandated time limit. In a couple of states, the responsibility is not on the incarcerated father to file, but these are the rare exceptions. Recent California law requires the Child Support Order to be automatically suspended in the cases of incarceration or involuntarily institutionalized. Vermont and Wisconsin allow the child support agency to file a motion to modify the Child Support Orders on behalf of those fathers that are incarcerated. The key is to seek legal counsel or do your research, so you are informed. The burden of filing falls on the father.
The consequences of falling behind on child support are not merely added debt. Non-payment can be used against you in custody judgments and can result in revocation of privileges once you are released, such as an industry licenses, business licenses or your driver’s license.
To find out the laws that apply to your case, check the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement State-by-State-How to Change a Child Support Order page and the Modification Laws and Policies for Incarcerated Noncustodial Parents facts sheet.
4. Access Free Resources
Here are a few online resources for information, support and more.
The Prison Fellowship offers resources that tackle everything from how to avoid “visiting room sabotage” to offering interactive activities for visiting day.
The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated is “the oldest and largest organization in the U.S. focused on children and families of the incarcerated and programs that serve them.”
For fathers of young children, Sesame Street offers a wonderful Incarceration Toolkit that uses the characters in the show to introduce the idea of a father’s incarceration to young kids in an entertaining way that they can understand.
When fathers rights are used to promote a healthy, ongoing relationship with their children, we all profit as a society. Benefits include a reduction in recidivism for incarcerated dads, a more promising future for their children, a decrease in taxpayer-funded detention facilities, and healthier communities for us all. All that is needed to break the cycle of the damaging effects of fatherlessness is for fathers to assert their legal rights to pursue positive father-child involvement.
(c) Can Stock Photo / fuzzbones
There was a time when family court judges automatically ruled in favor of the mother. While vestiges of this default primary custody bias may still be felt in some areas of the country, the tide is turning. More and more, courts of law no longer presume that mothers are more fit parents than fathers. In fact, the odds of a dad being able to prove that the child’s best bet for a full, safe and healthy life is for him to be the custodial parent is higher than ever. There are even states that have passed laws indicating that mothers will not be given preferential treatment in custodial disputes.
While times are changing, the reality is still that mothers are more likely to get custody of minor children. As a divorcing dad, your best bet in a custody hearing is to know some of the factors that judges commonly consider in making decisions. There are also steps you can take to outline why you are the better parent.
Factors in Awarding Custody
The first factor the courts look at is which parent is the primary caregiver. The term “primary caregiver” essentially refers to the parent who is best able to meet the child’s needs, who accepts the most parental responsibility and who has a history of primarily cared for the child. Which parent meets the child’s most basic needs? Who handles the feeding, doctor appointments, bedtime stories and bath time fun. Historically, women, even when they work full-time, are much more likely to take on the primary caregiver roles. So start taking on as many of these tasks as you’re able. The court will take into account your history of performing such tasks.
The second factor is the parent-child bond. What is your relationship with your child? Does your child miss you when you’re away? Have you spent time building a relationship with him or her.
They younger the child is the more strong the mother-child bond may be. This does not negate your effectiveness as a father, but it’s a result of more traditional parenting roles. Because mothers are conventionally the parent that primarily cares for the child from infancy to preschool, the closeness that develops is a different sort of bond than the one that is created between father and child. The more involved you have been in the rearing of a young child, the closer your overall bond will be.
In a lot of jurisdictions, many courts presume that kids will be kept emotionally whole and healthy by having a meaningful relationship with both parents. One of the primary factors taken under consideration is which parent is more likely to foster a healthy relationship between the children and the other parent. Any parent who has attempted to commit parental alienation — such as poisoning the child against the other parent, or refusing access to the child — will not fare well in any family court. And there are other extenuating circumstances, such as allegations of child abuse and instances of domestic violence, of course.
Try To Get Along With Your Ex
If there is any way that you can maintain a civil or even amiable relationship with your ex, it can only help your custody and visitation chances. Maintaining this type of relationship, especially in front of your children, will only help them in the long run. It’s a well-documented fact that kids who come from divorced homes fare much better if they are not used as weapons of manipulation. Allow your kids to maintain a positive, healthy relationship with both parents. Speak only positively of your ex. Not only will it help you in court, but it really is what’s best for your children.
Consider a Fathers Rights Attorney
If you’re hoping to be the custodial parent of your child, the best course of action is to first consult a family law attorney with experience in Fathers Rights. Because laws differ from state to state and family courts can be as unpredictable as the judges who preside over them, your attorney’s insight can become the most valuable tool you have at your disposal. He or she will have some insight into how certain judges will react in any given situation, and how they may lean in custody disputes. They can help you to build the strongest case possible.
What is a parent’s worst nightmare? Just about every parent will agree the most terrifying scenario possible is your child is abducted. The horror of parental kidnapping, your child missing without any idea where they are, if they are safe, or if you will ever see them again is almost unimaginable. The anguish of being separated from your child is intensified by the torture of not knowing.
Most abducted children are taken by a family member
While all parents understand the fear of child abduction, many don’t realize that most kidnappings in the United States are not perpetrated by strangers. Kidnapping by a relative referred to as “family kidnapping,” accounts for forty-nine percent of all abductions. Family kidnapping is usually committed by parents, and overwhelmingly by female family members (forty-three percent). According to the Justice Department, approximately 155,800 children are kidnapped in “serious” parental abductions every year. These cases vary widely. Some parents abscond with their kids across state lines. Others take their children and leave the country. (Parents Magazine, 2017) (Washington Post, 2017)
Parental kidnapping and the Law
The federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act outlaws parental abduction across all states by applying the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution to all child-custody cases. This means that while custody laws vary by state, custody decisions made in one state’s court must be upheld in all other states. This law ensures you are protected by the terms of your custody agreement even if your ex-wife leaves your state.
Parental Abduction is against state law in every U.S. state, in addition to violating federal law. Parental kidnapping is when one parent takes, withholds, or conceals his or her child(ren) in defiance of a court-mandated custody order. This can apply to both visitation and custody rights.
When a parent abducts a child, or children, to circumvent a custody battle or decision, the law is less clear. Some states do not recognize one parent leaving with a child, or children, as a criminal act if no formal custody order is in place and the parents are not living together. However, many states have mandated the abduction of a child across state lines by a parent as a crime, even without a custody order. It is therefore critical to seek professional legal advice, or do your research, to determine how the law in your state applies to parental kidnapping if you and your ex-wife do not have a court-sanctioned custody agreement.
If your ex-wife absconds with your child in violation of your custody order hefty fines, jail time, loss of custody, loss of visitation and termination of parental rights are all potential legal judgments. Additional legal penalties for crossing state lines can also be weighed. If she flees the country, then things become less clear. Some countries participate in international treaties, such as The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, and will cooperate with U.S. law enforcement to try and recover your missing children.
Countries with no existing international agreements pose a greater difficulty. If you suspect or know, your ex has left the country with your kid(s), contact an attorney specializing in international custody disputes that can help you leverage political pressure and international resources for the safe return of your family.
Five Important Facts about Parental Kidnapping
If your ex-wife refuses to show up with your child for visitation or shared custody, she is violating your custody order. While a mix of intense emotions will surely overcome you as you realize she is withholding your child and may have left the area, state, or country; the key to a positive outcome is to keep your composure so you can act quickly and strategically.
The sooner you act, the better your chances of getting your kids home as soon as possible. Knowledge is power and armed with these five facts you stand a much better chance at dealing with parental abduction in a way that will lead to the safe recovery of your children.
1. Know your Rights
Law enforcement may try to get you to wait and see if your ex returns with your child before taking action. Some officers are inclined to treat a parental abduction as a family dispute and not a crime. It is not unheard of for the police to put off taking a report or initiating an investigation. They may try to convince you to wait until your ex-wife transports your child to another state.
While patience may be a virtue in many situations, this is not one of those! If you are asked to wait, advise the officer you are aware the 1990 National Child Search and Assistance Act prohibits law enforcement agencies from creating waiting periods before accepting a missing-child report, regardless of custody status, and that The International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993 and the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act of 2006 all require they act immediately.
2. Know which Agencies to Contact
There are a number of resources to help you recover your kids. While your first instinct may be to hunt down your family yourself, your best bet is to enlist the expertise of professional agencies. Get ahold of them immediately. Timing is critical.
- The Center for Missing and Exploited Children http://www.missingkids.org/theissues/familyabduction (This is the organization that issues Amber Alerts)
- The FBI (your local field office): https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices. The nearest FBI International office: https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/legal-attache-offices
- IF your child is taken out of the country, you can contact the U.S. State Department International Parental Child Abduction.
3. File a Complaint for Contempt
If your ex-wife is returning your kids late, missing some visitations, or otherwise playing fast and loose with the custody rules, filing a complaint for contempt can be a good move to head her off before she takes more extreme measures and decides to leave with them and not return at all. This complaint asks the Probate and Family Court to order the other parent to obey your custody order. An attorney can help you file this with the court. If the court decides the other parent is disobeying the order, it can put them in jail until they do obey it.
4. Be prepared
If you suspect your ex is capable, and maybe even likely, of taking off with your child, there are steps you can take right now. If delay is your enemy in the safe return of your family, preparation is your greatest ally. Having a few critical things in order can make all the difference in deploying help at a moment’s notice. Don’t wait until you in the midst of the terror and confusion of a kidnapping to get your ducks in a row.
- Have recent photos of your kid(s) and your ex-wife easily accessible.
- Have a copy (or a few copies) of your custody order.
- Have a list of all daycare providers, schools, and after-school programs in case the police want to check with them before declaring your child missing.
- Have a detailed list of your ex-wife’s transportation and personally identifying information. This should include a description of her car(s), license plate(s), who she may be traveling with, credit card and banking info, and any other pertinent information that may lead to her whereabouts.
- Get a Parental Abduction Search Checklist
MissingKids.CA offers a thorough, easy-to-follow pamphlet that details each step to take in the event your worst nightmare becomes a reality. You will likely find it hard to focus and think on your feet when you are faced with a parent’s most menacing fear. With this packet at the ready, all you will have to do is follow the steps laid out for you.
The wise adage “Forewarned is forearmed” applies to parental kidnapping. When you are aware of a danger, you can adequately prepare to ensure the best outcome. As a parent, your priority is to protect your children and keep them safe. While there is no way to be with your kids every moment, there are some powerful precautions you can take today that may save them from future danger.
(c) Can Stock Photo / Bialasiewicz
You’ve probably noticed (and unless you are completely detached from anything in life, you most certainly have) that the holiday stress season is upon us. Stores are filling with the holiday essentials and more, commercials are airing advertising holiday shows, movies, and gift-giving ideas, and people are already chattering about pending holiday plans. It’s a wonderful and stressful time of year! Stay ahead of holiday stress with these seven hacks.
Whether you are naturally a lover of all things holiday or have struggled with a case of the Scrooge’s in the past, the first holiday season post-divorce is a changed game. Particularly if there are children involved. Like learning to navigate any other uncharted territory, awareness of what you are likely to be facing and pre-planning can help make all the difference between a joyous time versus a “please just fast forward to 2019 while I pull the covers over my head” attitude.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings with it stress. Stress isn’t always a bad thing. Some stress is healthy and motivating. It’s the push we need to feel energized to engage in activities we want to do and keeps us going through a busy and exciting time. But stress can also be negative and have detrimental effects on our physical and emotional well-being.
Negative stress is linked to sleep difficulties (difficulty falling or staying asleep), extreme fatigue, stomach issues, irritability, forgetfulness, and difficulty problem-solving. Prolonged stress can lead to high blood pressure and even trigger panic attacks. People feeling the effects of negative, prolonged stress are at higher risk for substance (or other addictive) issues and mental health problems.
If you feel yourself wanting to reach for the fast-forward button already, while simultaneously pulling the covers over your head, know that you are not alone and there are ways to ensure holiday stress doesn’t get the best of you.
Combating Holiday Stress: Social Settings
Set Boundaries with Social Gathering Invites:
Determine your priorities and what you can realistically handle in terms of time. There is never a busier time of year than the holiday season for social gatherings. You might even find yourself with more invitations for social gatherings now that you are flying solo. The family will surely be getting together, friends (probably from several different social circles) will be looking to host their own holiday bash, and the after-hours office holiday party will all be competing for your time and attention. If you have children, the invites for plays and concerts hosted by the school and church as well as gatherings with their friends will start flowing in as well.
Determining what you can handle in terms of time on the front end will help in knowing immediately which gatherings you can gladly RSVP “yes” and which you can politely decline. Have in mind an idea of how many days or evenings a week you want to be engaged in social activity, and which days or evenings are the best fit for you and your family. You may determine that Friday and Saturday evenings are best and that requests for Sundays or a certain evening of the work week need thoughtful consideration (based on priorities) before accepting the invitation.
Equally important is knowing your priorities. For example, if you have children you are likely to determine that, first and foremost, attending their holiday concert at school is priority one. If you’re not all the crazy about the crew you interact with daily at work, you might decide to forego the office holiday gathering (or determine a plan to “make an appearance” for a shortened period).
Whatever you decide, give yourself permission to politely decline invites for social engagements that simply don’t fit with your priorities and time. It is better to fully commit to fewer gatherings, where you can be present and enjoy yourself than it is to over-extend and feel miserable and tired at every gathering you received, and accepted an invitation.
Mentally Prepare for Social Gatherings:
If you are newly separated or divorced, those with whom you haven’t yet had contact (but who are aware of your circumstance) are going to be looking to you for cues on interaction. Some will follow these cues flawlessly while others will be more awkward, but you can certainly be <mostly> in control of the interaction. Decide ahead of time how you might respond to questions (direct or subtle). If you are willing to share information, go into the social gathering knowing what and how much you have a willingness to share. Also, have top of mind “subject changers” so when you’ve said all you are willing to say on the topic you can steer the conversation in another direction. You also are well within your right to comment very briefly and clearly communicate your preference not to continue discussion on the matter (“yes, it’s been difficult, and I prefer not to talk about it. Thank you for your concern and for keeping me in your thoughts” ….insert subject changer).
Social Gatherings and Gift Exchanges:
The holidays don’t have to be about buying extravagant gifts for everyone you know. Determine and to stick to your budget with gift buying. This goes for gift buying for your children as well. Consider DIY projects that are cost-effective, and purchasing experiences that you might be footing the bill for in the future anyway. For example, if you have children consider passes to a movie, children’s museum, water park, or other activity they might enjoy getting more bang for your buck. There is the thrill of opening a gift with a stuffed giraffe and passes to the zoo in the gift opening moment, followed by opportunity for an outing that you were probably going to pay for down the road anyway.
Check out this resource for inexpensive gift ideas for adults in your life, and these inexpensive gift ideas for kids.
If there are gift exchanges at other social gatherings that are optional (i.e., the office holiday party, or a white elephant exchange at a friends’ holiday bash), consider opting out if it just doesn’t fit your budget.
Combating Holiday Stress: Personal Wellness
Take Time for You:
Make time to participate in activities that you find to be relaxing and rejuvenating and resist the temptation to feel guilty about needing a holiday obligation break. These essential breaks will aid in your ability to better enjoy the holiday activities you have committed to and channel the holiday stress into being positive.
Even when you are feeling worn out and unmotivated, pencil in some physical activity. Doing so will lower adrenaline and cortisol (i.e., stress hormones) within the body and this is the absolute best way to fight negative effects of stress. You don’t need to log half an hour on the treadmill or train for a triathlon. Scheduling a tennis match with a friend, shooting hoops, or a brisk walk in the cooler weather can be just what your body needs to clear out excess stress hormone and leave you feeling more relaxed.
Practice Relaxation Skills:
Relaxation activities force us to slow down and help our bodies to regroup. Consider deep breathing exercises, turn on relaxing music, practice meditation, or go for a quiet drive after the sun goes down. Maybe even consider scheduling a massage. Not sure where to start? This short relaxation video will walk you through five minutes of relaxation.
Get Adequate Rest:
During times of high stress (whether positive or negative) it’s quite likely that our bodies will require more rest than is our norm. Our bodies will also let us know when this is the case, so we must be careful to listen. When you are feeling physically or mentally worn out, don’t strive to complete just a couple more tasks. Instead, call it a day and tuck in; your body will thank you for doing so.
The holiday season doesn’t have to be characterized by holiday stress, even when you have experienced significant life changes. Everyone gets an opportunity to decide, and be in control of, how they are going to approach this busy time of year. Know your priorities, set boundaries (don’t feel guilty about doing so), and don’t forget to care for yourself.
(c) Can Stock Photo / vitalytitov
Thinking about starting over somewhere else? Take a look at eight good reasons you shouldn’t move away from your kids.
During a divorce, your kids are often the ones who are affected the most. You and your ex understand why your relationship had to come to an end, but your children don’t always see it the way you do, especially if they are young. If you are the non-custodial parent, you may feel like moving away to get away from the overwhelm of the divorce, but that is not necessarily the best road to take. And if your ex is thinking about relocating with your kids, this would be a good time to put a stop to it.
Why You Might Consider Moving Away
There are a number of reasons why you may move away from your kids after your divorce. Like I mentioned above, you may want to get away from it all and feel like moving away is the best option. You might be from another state or country and feel the need to move back home for support. Perhaps you got a job offer that is hard to resist, or even met another woman while you were on a trip somewhere, or are starting a relationship with someone in another state.
Why You Shouldn’t Move Away from Your Kids
There are lots of reasons why you might consider moving away after your divorce, but that decision has the potential to be harmful to your relationship with your kids. Here’s what could happen.
1. It Could Strain Your Relationship
If you move away from your kids, there is no question that you will miss big events and important milestones in their life. When you miss these important events, your kids may start to feel like you don’t care and aren’t invested in the relationship. They need you there for not only the big events but smaller achievements and even just day-to-day experiences that build your relationship stronger. Chats about their struggles at school, picking them up from their extra-circulars and helping them with homework. Once your relationship becomes strained, it is hard to get it back on track, and being close in proximity is one of the main things you can do to keep your relationship strong.
2. It Causes Emotional Stress
It is already going to be tough staying in a different house than your kids, let alone moving miles away. Both you and your children need each other to physically be there to help with the emotional stress of the divorce. You need to see each other, hug each other and talk to each other face-to-face on a regular basis to make the situation easier for both of you. It is extremely important you are together for birthdays, holidays, recitals or sports games, and it is a lot more meaningful if you are there for it all rather than stopping into the city when you can.
3. You May Get Alienated
This one depends on your relationship with your ex and the type of person she is, but if she already wants to keep your kids all to herself, you leaving is not going to help the situation. She may tell your kids you don’t care about them and don’t want to be near them anymore, and tell them not to have contact with you. If you have a toxic ex, who talks badly about you to your children, you are going to want to have as much in-person contact with them as possible to make sure you offer positive, loving experiences that don’t match what your ex is saying about you.
4. It Affects Their Physical and Mental Health
A study published in The Journal of Family Psychology found that children of divorced parents who lived at least an hour-drive away from one of the parents are significantly less well-off mentally and physically than children whose parents did not relocate after divorce. They also found children had a better rapport with both parents when they both stayed close by, and had better overall health. This study makes it clear that children are strongly affected by the distance of one of their parents during a divorce and need both their parents in close proximity to lead a healthy lifestyle.
5. Your Bond May Break (Especially If They’re Young)
Think about the age of your children. Are they old enough to know who you are, have you formed a close enough bond with them to be seen as their father figure? If your child is two or three and just developing a bond with you, you do not want to risk breaking that bond. If you move away from your kids, instead of seeing them multiple times a week, you may only see them a couple times a year, and if you leave before that bond develops, you may never have a strong relationship with your kids.
6. They Need You As a Role Model
Kid’s parents are often their biggest role models. They see you as prominent, strong and loving figures in their life and they admire you for what you do and who you are. They look up to you and rely on your guidance when they need to make choices and decisions. It is more difficult to be a role model when you live hours away and barely see them. Even with technologies like Skype and FaceTime, you can be more of a prominent figure and role model when you are physically in their life.
7. They May Wonder If It Was Their Fault
Kids have wild imaginations and sometimes blame themselves when something doesn’t go right. If you move away, they may think it was their fault and wonder what they did to make you leave. Even if you tell them you are not moving because of them, they still have a mind of their own and may make up reasons for your relocating in their head. They may think they did something bad or that you don’t care about them anymore, which is hard to come to terms with as a child, even if it is not true. They are already going through a lot of emotional distress from the divorce, and putting the blame on themselves is only going to make it worse.
8. Your Relationship May Fade
This may be the worst of all. If you move away from your kids, you may see them so little that they become a distant part of your life. The more you see someone, the closer you are to them and the stronger relationship you share. You may make a considerable effort to visit them in the first couple years, but over time people get busy, and the distance may get to be more of a hassle. You may start seeing them less and less, and once that relationship gets weaker, it is possible that neither side will put in their effort to make it work. There won’t be any hard feelings, just the understanding that you are not a big part of each other’s lives anymore because neither is making the time or effort to see each other in person.
Deciding to move away from your children can be life altering for you and for them. Don’t let the pain of divorce push you into a rushed decision. Your life, and theirs, is worth taking the time to consider the long-term results of your choices.
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