Al Cole Interviews Shelly Mahon on the Importance of Fathers

Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Al Cole with “People of Distinction”.

In this interview I share the importance of fathers and how couples, divorced or together, can work together to support the growth and development of their children. This was a fun, informational, and stimulating conversation about how moms and dads are different, how a father’s involvement supports both mothers and children, and what we can do to help fathers get the support and resources they need to be an active, healthy influence in their child’s life.

Click on the picture or the link below to listen!


Al Cole from CBS Radio is known for his outstanding broadcasting, public speaking, literary and musical achievements. Al is published by the international book line “Chicken Soup for the Soul“. He’s the talk show host of the nationally syndicated “People of Distinction“. His People of Distinction Humanitarian Award honors “Unsung Heroes” who make the world a better place through their great humanitarian work.

You can learn more about  Al Cole and “People of Distinction” at

Happy Parenting!


Co-Parenting Part II: Creating Cooperation

“This is probably one of the most difficult challenges any parent could face — Learning to love the other parent enough to make the children first.”
Iyanla Vanzant

Co-parenting takes into account ongoing mutual involvement in is_DSC1849sues related to childrearing. This means cooperation and support as both parties work to maintain a relationship with their children. Cooperation in the co-parenting relationship takes sharing responsibility for the children, while also treating each other with consideration and respect. It involves working together to manage schedule changes, transitions, social gatherings, and school and extracurricular activities.  You will be called on to deal with routine parenting tasks such as well-checks and dentist appointments, as well as spontaneous issues such as sick days and friends’ birthday parties.  Achieving this level of cooperation is often a process that can be easier said than done. The important thing is to start the process, and keep working toward a workable relationship with your co-parent. Read here about Establishing Effective Communication, a foundation for this type of cooperation.

One challenging, but important task is to work through the natural feelings associated with divorce so that you can begin to let go for the sake of the children.  Like other forms of loss, the end of a marriage can pass through stages of denial, pain, fear, and anger before you are able to find acceptance.

Some things to keep in mind as you work toward creating cooperation:

1.  Start with An Attitude of Creation: What you think guides your behavior.  When you change your thoughts from “I can’t stand her!” to “She is the mother of my child and my child loves her”, it alters the feeling underlying your behavior.  Acting from the later, you can ask yourself, “What would a person concerned for their child’s well-being do/say right now?”  What do you really want to create?  All your feelings are still valid. You are just choosing to be intentional about your actions.

2.  Recognize That Cooperation Does Not Equal “The Same”:  One of the natural outcomes of divorce is the opportunity to do things your way. If you think about it, a child’s math teacher has different class rules than their language arts teacher. Similarly you get to choose rules, standards, boundaries, and routines that work for you. Your co-parent will do the same and your child has an opportunity to learn an important life skill, that environments differ and they can adapt.

3.  Create Agreement on Some Core Values: At the same time that you get to do things your way, it’s helpful to create consistency around core values. Establishing agreement in some specific areas provides a degree of stability at a time when life can feel confusing and chaotic to your child. Some examples include such things as completing homework before hanging out with friends, keeping electronics in the main living space over night, and being home by a certain time. Developing basic rules for day-to-day living can simplify things and help your child develop a sense of family identity.

4. Share in Important Decision-Making: Being separated can make you feel alone in decision-making. However, divorced couples are often called on to make the big decisions together. Where your child goes to school, who the family doctor is, and whether your child is allowed to go on a family vacation with their best friend are examples of decisions parents make together. It is helpful when both parents are informed and invested in taking responsibility for decisions that could impact the health and well-being of their child. Cooperating with one another gives you a degree of support, and some freedom from being fully responsible for issues that arise or situations that do not go as planned.

5. Accept the Situation: There is power in working from what is actually taking place, rather than what you wish were the case.  Everyone’s situation is different. You may have a working relationship with your co-parent, you may not be able to be in the same room together, or you may be somewhere along the continuum between the two. If you do not have a cooperative relationship with your co-parent, you can still focus on your own thoughts, feeling, and behaviors. Do what you can to create your home as a place where your child feels cared for, safe, and knows what to expect.  The circumstances of your relationship with your co-parent may change with time and consistency on your part.

Years of research shows that a child’s adjustment to divorce or separation is easier when both parents provide a loving and consistent environment for their children. The very definition of cooperation is an act or instance of working or acting together for a common purpose or benefit.  To cooperate with your co-parent is to surrender to a common purpose of raising healthy, happy children. Just because the marriage didn’t work doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to cooperate for the sake of your child.

10 Considerations for Breaking the Divorce to Your Kids After the New Year

file9571249388655The decision to get a divorce doesn’t happen over night, and sometimes the realization that your marriage is coming to an end is shocking and inconvenient. There are several times throughout the year when parents consider delaying the formalities of divorce. The end of the school year, vacations, and holidays are often romanticized as times that are traditionally filled with joy, excitement and celebration. Parents do not want to hurt their children, or ruin these experiences for them.

In the midst of the holiday season, you may be worried that announcing your divorce could have a bigger impact on your children than it would at other times of the year. You may also be concerned that your children will forever relate the holidays with the divorce. These concerns can motivate you to wait until the new year to make an official announcement.

Below are 10 things to consider if you are planning on waiting:

1.  Make a Plan: Work with your co-parent to agree on when you are going to pick things up again. Setting a date will help you create boundaries. Without that, you can be left with frustration and uncertainty. Working on open communication and cooperation from the beginning of the separation can set positive patterns in motion for ongoing cooperation. This doesn’t necessarily mean positive cooperation will start right away.

2.  Set Ground Rules: Agree that you will not fight or talk about the separation in front of the kids. Dropping hints, skipping traditions, or engaging in verbal digs is unnecessary and will create bad feelings.

3.  Take Care of Yourself: Find time to be alone and do things that you enjoy. This will help you manage your stress.

4.  Begin New Traditions: In preparation for creating a new life after divorce, find something new to do with your children. Spend some time observing activities your children enjoy. Continuing to do things together creates a context for having an ongoing relationship.

5.  Practice Co-Parenting: Regardless of marital status, you are still parents together. It can take time to establish effective co-parenting, especially when emotions are high and you are building a new relationship with one another. Starting now allows you to begin establishing a working relationship from the early stage of divorce.

6.  Get Organized: Take inventory of your finances. Gather information about your accounts, budget, taxes, and end-of-year statements. Make sure you are aware of your assets, debts, and credit cards you have together.

7.  Begin the Process: Even if you do not want to formally announce the divorce, you can begin the process. This may involve preparing yourself emotionally and interviewing mediators and/or attorneys.

8.  Learn About Divorce Laws: In most states, assets and debts are shared until the couple has filed for divorce. In hurt emotional states, people can overspend because they feel it is well deserved or they want to punish their partner. For that reason, you may want to file before the holidays, even if you do not plan on taking other actions until later.

9.  Prepare To Tell Your Children: How you tell your children can have a big impact on their understanding and experience of the divorce. It is recommended that you tell the children together, and ensure them that it is not their fault. Emphasize your love and remind them that you will always be there. I recommend a book called, How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce?by Rosalind Sedacca. This book takes a storybook approach to preparing your children with love.

10.  Remember it is a Process: It may sound simple, but grief takes the time it takes. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Ask for support from those in your network of friends and family, and be patient with the process. Things will get easier.

When and how you tell your children about the divorce is a personal decision to be made with your co-parent. Regardless of where you are in your own adjustment, it is important to communicate that it is not their fault and that you will always be there for them.  Remember that your children will have their own unique reaction.  Prepare yourself to give them time to respond with all the love and compassion you have for them.

Co-Parenting: Part 1 – The Art of Effective Communication

“I thought we agreed to use time out’s when he throws food on the floor”

“She should be grounded for not turning her assignments in”

“1:00 am is to late for a curfew”

“Let’s take her cell phone if chores aren’t done by Sunday afternoon”

Parents make a number of decisions all day long, and co-parents do not always agree with each other.  These  moment-to-moment choices require you to think on your toes, stay calm, and respond in a way that helps your child understand that there are natural consequences for their actions. You’ve probably noticed that your ability to do this can be clouded by the fact that your child knows how to push your buttons like no other person. Isn’t it a lot easier to give advice to another parent, or know exactly how you would respond to another person’s child melting down in front of you at the grocery store?

Similarly, you are likely to be activated by things that your co-parent says or does.  These may even be some of the very reasons you are no longer married.  However because you have a child together, you are called to learn to co-parent. You may be asking yourself, how do I do this when there are so many emotions involved?  You can start by being more committed to having a happy and well adjusted child than you are to being annoyed, sad, angry, or right in your interactions with your co-parent.

Studies are clear that children of divorce need a continued relationship with both parents and an atmosphere of support and cooperation between their parents.  This combination contributes to findings showing 75-80 percent of children experiencing divorce develop into well-adjusted adults with no lasting psychological or behavioral problems.

We have learned that the most effective co-parenting arrangements focus on (1) Communication, (2) Compromise, (3) Cooperation, and (4) Consistency.  Below are 5 important practices to enhance your communication.

1. Know Your Triggers:  Are you annoyed by the eye roll? Angry about late pick-ups? Tired of being ignored?  Frustrated that your co-parent brings your child home dirty or unfed?  Regardless of the trigger, the trick is to accept it may happen, and then be intentional about how you respond. When you are prepared and intentional, you can be responsible for your own behavior.

2.  Establish New Ways to Communicate:  The way in which you communicate will change, moving from intimate and spontaneous to business like and child-focused. Create strategies that allow you to communicate in a less personal and confronting way. For example, you can use tools like Dropbox to share important information and paperwork such as school forms, doctor notes, financial statements, etc.

3.  Establish Unbreakables:  Work together to establish “Unbreakables”, or a set of agreements that can not be broken.  Again, approach this like a business agreement by having a private conversation  when neither party is upset or activated.  These agreements may include rules like, don’t fight in front of the kids, don’t send messages through the child, and don’t talk poorly about the other parent in from of the children.

4.  Have a Plan for Setbacks:  Once these agreements are established, develop a plan for how the two of you will handle any breech of the agreement. In other words, give each other permission to hold the other to account for their agreements. This may look like a signal or a phrase, such as “This is outside of what we agreed on.”

4.  Create Habits of Positive Communication: Honoring your co-parent as someone your child loves involves more than not talking poorly of them; it involves giving compliments. When the opportunity arises, say something nice about your co-parent in front of your child.

5.  Use the Sandwich Technique: The sandwich technique can be used to share concerns. However, it is important to use this intermittently. Used too often you will train your co-parent to wait for the other shoe to drop, or automatically brace him/herself for your suggestions and/or criticism. It is also important to be clear from the beginning that you would like to resolve something. Specific steps are as follows:

  • Share your intention to discuss an issue and get their permission  – “I would like to share some thoughts on our drop-off/pick-up arrangements. Can I share my thoughts, observations, and suggestions?”
  • Provide 1-3 strengths – “I noticed your commitment to being on time. And, it always looks like you and the kids had fun together.”
  • Offer one suggestion for improvement, not criticism – “It might be helpful to have Johnny put his soccer gear on before you leave so he is ready to go when he gets here.”
  • End with a compliment or expression of appreciation – “I admire your commitment to him playing the sports he enjoys.”  

Co-parenting after divorce or separation can be difficult. You can expect to get activated. When this happens, remember to stand in your commitment to your child and focus on being responsible for your communication.

Happy Parenting,



Honored to Join As a Founding Expert of Creating Champions For Life (CCFL)

I am honored to be invited to join as a Founding Expert of Creating Champions for Life (CCFL) Global Academy, launching Fall of 2014! My role is to provide information, resources, and tools in the areas of parenting teens, parent-child relationship, and adjusting and parenting after divorce.

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CCFL is comprised of a team of 31 of the world’s leading experts, specialists and authors who are passionate about helping you achieve more happiness, peace and love within your family.

CCFL is right for you if you:

  • Want to be proactive in raising strong, healthy, and productive children
  • Seek the most up-to-date information to foster the growth and development of your family and the individuals within it
  • Experience frustration, stress, or anger when it comes to dealing with your children, relationship, mental illness, trauma, abuse or any other personal or family related issue
  • Are tired of searching the web and wondering about the accuracy of  the information, strategies, and tools you find
  • Want to be part of a community of people who share a common goal of being happy and empowered in their parenting

CCFL’s Mission Statement:  A world-wide humanitarian movement to heal, unite and empower families and communities, equipping them with the necessary tools to strengthen individual standards, ethics and values while together raising the next generation.

Find us on Linkedin to ask questions, follow discussions:

Healthy Families – Heal – Unite – Empower

Find us on Facebook:

This Global Academy is designed to provide one place that gives you access to resources and high quality parenting information.

“Are you a mom or dad who is seeking answers with your children, relationship or you? This group was created to help bring healing, unity and empowerment to your family. It includes 31 of the Top Experts, Authors and Speakers in the world in the field of family and community services. They have joined forces to help bring you the answers you are looking for when it comes to raising happy, healthy children, and developing the best relationship possible with your family. This includes your children, partner and you.” CCFL Founding Visionaries 

Check it out and see if CCFL is right for you!

Why Family Communication Is Such A Big Deal AND How You Can Improve It In 6 Minutes!

Guest Blog: Kevin Strauss

Family communication: We’ve all heard about it on the news and read about it online. We know we’d like to improve it but we’re just not sure how to do it. We’ve read the lists of what to do but we just can’t seem to put them into practice.

The simple fact is that communication leads to connection and family is one of the most natural and important places to feel connected.  People form connections all the time with friends, co-workers, members of groups like a sport teams and clubs, or even gangs. Think about that list for a minute. We, as humans, connect with other people everyday. In fact, we seek out those connections even if they are not always positive, like drinking buddies.

The connection we have with our family is special. It’s not one we choose, but it is one we feel deeply about because it is coded in our genetics. When we share something in common we are connecting. When we do it regularly, like practicing a sport or working on a project, the connection grows stronger. In other words, having a deep connection takes time and effort. Now, before I share with you the 6 minute solution, let’s talk about why the connection you have with your family is so important.

Your connection with your family provides a foundation of support. Whether you are the parent or the child, we all need support and love. Having support not only allows you to share your successes and joys, it helps you to push your boundaries and challenge yourself. When you fail or have sorrow, your loved ones comfort you and help you move through the challenge.

A strong foundation of support, one that can withstand all life has to offer, requires an emotional connection. The best way to connect emotionally is by communicating and sharing what you’re thinking and feeling. Right then your mind may have gone blank, or been flooded with thoughts. Relax. Don’t worry. It’s easier than you may think.

Sharing your thoughts and feelings doesn’t have to be all mushy. In fact, by simply sharing basic information about yourself and learning about your loved ones, you can become more familiar with one another in a very natural way. Let’s try by answering these four questions, in your mind:

  1. How would you rate your day on a scale of 1-10? (1-Worst and 10-Best)
  2. What was the best part of your day? Why?
  3. What was the most troubling part of your day? Why?
  4. What thought was most on your mind today?

Now, imagine how members of your family might answer the same questions. Do you feel like you would know or understand them a little better if you knew their answers? How long did it take you to think of your four answers?

Thousands of questions like these are available to you and your family, for free, on Their data shows that users spend an average of 6 minutes per session. That means that in just 6 minutes, without having to initiate a conversation, be in the same place at the same time, or worry about how someone will react, you and your family can share and learn about one another.

It’s the everyday communication that leads to stronger connections and deeper relationships. With each passing day, it gets a little easier and you feel a little closer. Before you know it, you will nurture your family relationships to a whole new level.  Just like exercising a muscle, your relationships will weaken if you don’t nurture them. So give your family 6 minutes, feel the power of connection, and enjoy all the benefits!


About Author – Kevin Strauss, M.E. earned his Master of Engineering in Biomedical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He has worked for nearly 20 years in the areas of orthopedic implant research and development, regulatory affairs consulting and NIH funded research. Kevin also has nearly 10 years of experience researching tools for positive behavior modification. His work has been published and presented at conferences, earned approximately 30 patents and won awards for innovation. His passion for psychology, human behavior and communication has led him to set his goal on helping families.

Main website:

Dating After Divorce: Five Things to Consider

Going through a divorce puts you and your ex-partner back in the dating world. This can be both scary and exciting, maybe even at the same time!  It is important to remember that while the divorce itself can make you single, it doesn’t necessarily make you ready to date.


You may be struggling to accept the divorce or eager to meet new people. You may like the space or yearn for companionship. You may want to try new things or spend time with someone who likes to do the things you used to do. There are a lot of different paths to new relationships and it is up to you to find the path that works for you.

Below are 5 things to consider as you move back into the dating world:

Give Yourself the Time You Need: There is no right time to start dating again. Experiences that bring emotional pain can instigate personal growth.  When you think about it, we push ourselves to gain clarity and personal awareness when we are challenged or confronted with something difficult.  You may need to get to know yourself again before you are ready to share yourself with someone else.

Be Clear About Your Boundaries: You are the only one that can communicate what you want from a relationship.  It can be helpful to be upfront and clear about your circumstances and what you are ready for at the time. It is likely that the person you date has their own set of circumstances and ideas about relationships. Why not start off with open, honest communication.

Be Sure Your Communication is Clear:  Have you ever heard what you wanted to hear instead of what the person actually said to you? It is not just about having boundaries, it is about carrying out your boundaries.  You may have to make sure that the person you date really understands where you are coming from. Practice reframing and clarifying what has been said. Start with reframing and clarifying what the other person said, “So, it sounds like you are not ready for anything very serious, and that for now you just want to get to know each other. Is that right?” Then communicate what you need. “I am in a similar position. I am definitely not ready for anything serious right now. It sounds like you are ok with that.”

Understand the Times: Depending on how long you were married, things may have changed since you last dated. In today’s world, it is more acceptable for a woman to ask a man out on a date or to share the bill at the end of a nice meal. Technology provides new avenues for meeting and communicating with people.  Even online dating serves have moved from generic sites to sites that are specific to different interests, like or It can be helpful to connect with friends who are also trying to learn how to navigate the new aspects of dating.

Find Agreement about Introducing New Partners to Children:  With separation comes a level of privacy. In other words, you do not have to tell your ex-partner about the people you choose to date. That said it is important to talk to your ex about how the two of you are going to handle introducing new partners to your children. If you can, come to an agreement that you will not introduce dates to your children unless the relationship is serious.  Having adults come in and out of their lives quickly can breed anger, resentment, distance, and/or mistrust in children.

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A Conversation With Coach Heidi Krantz

Coach Heidi K’s signature system for successfully navigating the dating world offers a blue print for finding love that has proven to have real practical value for many men and women. Create your very own plan for the love that you seek and learn effective strategies to implement it! Approach dating with brand new clarity to enhance your success and make better choices!


Reserve your Webinar seat now at:




How Do We Mend Trust After Divorce? With Guest Blog from Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Being trusted is an honor because it means that person is willing to rely on you.  It is a measure of their belief in you to be honest, fair and benevolent. When you trust someone else you are willing to abandon control over his or her actions. In other words, you can rely on that person to do what they said they would.

Some psychologists, like Erik Erikson, trace the foundation of trust all the way back to our experiences as an infant. As babies, we rely on another person for everBlog_Rebuilding Trustything from food and shelter to warmth and love. Through several interactions, a baby learns to trust that their caregiver will respond to his/her needs. When he is hungry, his caregiver feeds him. When she cries, her caregiver comforts her.  When needs are consistently met, the baby learns to trust others. When they are not, the baby sees the world as inconsistent and unpredictable.

That said, developing trust in others continues after infancy.  Throughout our lives, we move in and out of relationships that have varying degrees of trust. Having trust is believing the person you trust will be authentic and true to their word. Having confidence in someone is a little different because it relates more to their abilities, rather then their character.  Psychologist have shown that a breach of trust is more easily forgiven if you see it as a failure in their performance rather than a lack of honestly or benevolence. This is why a breach of trust in an intimate relationship can be the most challenging to overcome.

In this guest blog, Terry Gaspard shares 6 ways to mend trust and restore your faith in love.

6 Ways To Mend Broken Trust After Divorce

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Learning to trust is one of the biggest challenges that individuals face after divorce. Experiencing the breakup of your marriage can intensify trust issues. Because of your past experience, you might approach relationships warily and come to expect the worst. It may seem at times as if you’re wired to recreate the past. However, with courage and persistence, you can learn to trust again and restore your faith in love.

Follow Terry on Twitter  , Facebook, and

What Can You Gain from Community: Reflections from the 100-Year Flood in Colorado

I am a resident of Boulder Colorado, one of the many towns that experienced or Blog_Boulder floodwitnessed a huge sense of loss and devastation from the 100-year flood that crashed through Colorado over the last few days.  Whenever the rain stops, I hear a constant sound of Chinook helicopters flying over my house to evacuate people and pets who are trapped in the nearby town of Lyons. Lyons is about 20 minutes from my house and one of my favorite places to mountain bike. Like many other parts of Colorado, it looks like the trails are going to need some serious restoration in the months to come.

As I reflect on what the last few days have been like, I realize that one of the biggest gifts to come out of this tragedy is a growing sense of community.  Here are some of the things that Boulder residents said:

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“Amazing support angels kept showing up and beautiful connections happened in abundance…whatever is terrifying to us in the energy of aloneness is nourishing and loving in the energy of community.”

“It’s true that what is frightening alone, can be so enjoyable in community. Some of the grossest and truest experiences the last couple of days. What amazing people bring food, work all day, hang out and have a good time. It’s the quality of the time we spend together no matter what we are doing that counts!”

“The neighbors were coming out in droves. People I didn’t even know offered to help me get water out of my house, bring over fans, or run to the store for supplies. My 19 year old son was walking the streets offering to help people pull furniture out of their house, build trenches, drain water, or anything else they might need. I have never felt a bigger sense of community.”

“I’ve watched a community define itself out of tragedy. They stopped and talked to each other out of genuine concern.  Neighbors were going door to door asking if people needed anything.  Even my business partners stepped up and supported each other so that people could take the time they needed to take care of themselves and their families.”


The word community has a couple meanings. First, a community is a group of people living in the same place or having certain characteristics in common. Community can also mean a feeling of fellowship that results from sharing common interests, attitudes, and goals. What this looks like in the way you live your life is different from person to person, and from culture to culture.

Some cultures, like America and many Western cultures, value independence. With that comes a sense of self-worth that is based on ability, intelligence, personality, goals, preferences, and personal rights. People strive to be unique, reach for their goals, and value full self-expression.  Contrary to this, many Asian, African, and Latin American cultures value interdependence. In interdependent cultures, self worth is based on a person’s ability to fit in and be part of a group and to adjust and attend to the ongoing relationships within the group. People’s sense of “self” is dependent on context, as they strive to establish and follow through with their roles, obligations, and social responsibilities.

Interestingly, it is common for people from independent cultures to tackle things on their own. Not only is this unnecessary, it is likely to cause undue work, frustration, sadness, and pain.  In times of crisis, it is clear that even in independent cultures we are not separate from context. We are impacted by, and responsive to, the context in which we live. Much like someone who has experienced a divorce, moved across the country, or started an entirely new career, many of the people in my community are rebuilding. They are working to bring things in their life back to order and begin the process of starting over.

What Can You Gain From Community?

1.  Camaraderie: Friendship, companionship, company, and fellowship are all synonyms for camaraderie that represent building mutual trust and friendship among people with whom you spend a lot of time. Whether you organize a regular poker night, or meet to watch football at the local sports bar, these communities are a place to build camaraderie.

2.  Normalcy: No one likes to feel like they are alone. Being part of a community allows people to voice their challenges and share their stories. This can help people feel like what they are dealing with is normal, which can restore how they feel about themselves.

3.  Support: Being part of community gives you an opportunity to give and receive support.  You learn that you are not alone in what your a dealing with, and you work together to solve problems.

4.  Ownership: It is normal for people to be attracted to groups and settings in which they feel they have influence or power.  Taking ownership allows you to be part of the solution, rather than a victim to your circumstances.

5.  Hope: It is easy to lose hope when life throws you challenges. Challenges present a degree of “unknown” that can be both frightening and exciting. Being with others can help you to see that while things are changing, life will move forward and things will get better.

Regardless of whether it is a divorce, a natural disaster, or some other major life event, it takes time, patience, and community to start over and rebuild. I am certain that Boulder will not look the same for many months to come. In fact, it will probably never look exactly the same; just like your life does not look the same when you go through a divorce. Yet, through the process of accepting what has happened, letting go, and rebuilding, you can come the other side content or even inspired by what you have.


The Devil Is in the Details: 5 Details That Can Help You Grow Through Your Divorce

The Devil is in the details, an idiom that means there are important elements hidden in the Blog_Devil in the Detailsparticulars of a given situation. In divorce, we can get caught up in managing our lives rather than being proactive about how things turn out. Feelings of overwhelm can leave us dealing with our circumstances, while distracting us from what is really important. Still, we continue to make choices and take actions that can have an impact on our relationship with our child. This man’s story highlights 5 details that can help you grow through your divorce.

The devil is in the details. Untangling my marriage of 20 years, a co-owned house, joint bank accounts, cars, various possessions, and, of course, splitting time and households with our two children – preteens at the time – was a herculean task.

The small details seemed to be the hardest, particularly when it came to kid-exchange time with the ex. Things are just that, things. I was willing to let a lot of “things” go. The plates? Take them. The paintings? Take them. My vintage car? Um, okay, not sure why you want MY car, but damn, take it and go! Please.

But what about the kids? That obviously presents a very different set of detailed negotiations. After some time we  agreed on a 50/50 split. But what would that look like? Ultimately we settled on a “2-2-5” schedule so that neither of us would ever be too long without the kids.  We agreed on pick-up and drop off at 10am or after school on our given day. Our goal of never being too long without the kids was achieved. To my surprise the kids adjusted with little or no problem.

Occasionally my son would show up at my house on his bike on a Wednesday forgetting where he was supposed to be. Ultimately that probably had more to do with my house being close to his school. And, of course, the bounty of popsicles I kept in my freezer! He seemed to always remember where he was supposed to be after a Popsicle or two.

Everything was good, but I soon grew tired of the constant back and forth and the amount of stuff that had to go with the kids (soccer bag, baseball bag, favorite stuffed animal, school books and so on). In addition, my need to travel for business meant that I too often had to schedule all my work to fall conveniently on a Wednesday and Thursday. Not always feasible.

So, after a few years of this I proposed a week-on week-off schedule with exchange at 10am on Monday, or after school during the school year. I wish I had done this from the start! Less back and forth with gear, less conversation with the ex, more time to schedule my business travel without taking the red eye back to get home 24 hours after I left. Ahhhh. Yes, by the end of a week with the kids I was ready for a break and by the end of a week without them the house felt lonely and empty. But all in all it works as well as anything can.

The conversation with the ex was sometimes challenging. For the most part we were amicable, but we had our good days and our bad days — more good than bad, thankfully.  I retained the house and the pet, but found that her return to the house often brought up old feelings. Sometimes these were feelings of anger, and other times they were feelings of overly comfortable familiarity.

Too often she walked in the house without knocking. She might tell me how to arrange the furniture, make suggestion on how to better spice a meal, or grow angry at her intuition that another female had been in “her” house. Ultimately I chose to sell the house because I needed to define appropriate boundaries with her. And, to be honest, because their was too much remnant of “her” in the house for my likes. Moving is extreme and not very realistic sometimes, but it sure worked for me.

I also cut down interactions with the ex at exchange time by setting up a large box near the garage. This served as a place in which the baseball bag, phone charger and chemistry book could be discreetly and safely deposited at any time without any interaction between she and I. She, the kids and I all have a key to the lock. I highly suggest this for all who have the space for it at their home.

One last observation on the subject of “the exchange”: chill out and be a good role model for your kids.  You may have to absorb a snarky comment from your ex without retort, or silently suffer through seeing someone else’s things lying around the house. Your kids don’t need to see you be rude to their mother. Deal with it discreetly later or just let it roll off your back.

5 Details That Can Help You Grow Through Your Divorce: 

1. Remember Things Are JUST Things: Parting ways involves a division of personal possessions. This can be especially difficult when you have been together for many years. At the end of the day, the bigger conversation is about finding the best parenting plan for your children. Research on adult children of divorce tells us that children want a relationship with both parents. When this happens, they report having higher levels of self-esteem and stronger adult relationships.

2. Take Time to Re-Evaluate and Reset: Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean it is the best plan. Life happens and sometimes you have to re-evaluate what is working and not working.  You may even have to change things several times before you “get it right”.  Your child will benefit directly when your life is set up in a way that works for you.

3. Get Organized to Reduce Chaos: Having a community box outside the garage is great example. It gives you and your ex a structure for exchanging important items without having to see one another. It also provides your child a level of certainty, thus reducing day-to-day stress and worry. What causes chaos in your life? What structures could you put in place to reduce the chaos for you or your child?

4.  Learn to Let Some Things Go:  For many, your child is the only reason you still talk to your ex. You do not have to solve every disagreement.  In fact, you can just let some things go, or “agree to disagree”. The most important thing is that you are responsible for doing what is best for your child. You do not have to like your ex’s furniture or respond to a snarky comment. Save your conversations with your ex for the ones that matter.

5.  Be a role model: You cannot control your ex’s behavior, but you can choose to be a role model for your child. Be conscious of how both your body language and the things you say can have an impact on your child.  Don’t talk poorly about your ex or put your child in a position to pick sides. You can even say something nice if the opportunity arises.

Be open to seeing the details so that you can determine what is working and not working.  Make the adjustments you can to reduce chaos and increase stability and security for you and your child.

Let’s Chat:

  1. What details have been important as you adjust to your divorce?
  2. Where do you have unnecessary chaos in your life? What could you do about it?
  3. What can you let go of that would make a difference for you and/or your child?
  4. What actions can you take to be a good role model for your child?