Thursday, April 24, 2008

Looking Ahead to Mother's Day (and to Father's Day) published Parenting: Divorce Etiquette for Mother's Day to Help No Matter What the Situation with a list of ten things to do to help with Mother's Day. I think the same points can be turned around used by mothers for Father's Day.

I suppose it may seem odd for a lawyer touting etiquette. I could go into a long discussion about etiquette being part of custom part of law, but even with editing the points from the article this post is too long. There are things that the law cannot help, things where the law is inefficient. Good manners can help where the law does not. Besides, it sets a good example for the children to see the adults acting as adults.

1. Accept there will be anger from the children.

Be honest about the fact things are different. “Kids live a long time hoping mom and dad will get back together,” said Dr. Post Senning. “They may dream about the family going out to dinner on Mother’s Day like they always did and hope that will be the catalyst for mom and dad to reunite. Parents need to be respectful of those feelings, while at the same time telling them, we can’t do that because things are different. If you try and make it like it was when you were a family, you’re only pretending and you’re going to make it worse. Instead, detach from emotion and think about what is it you want to do.”


3. Be considerate and plan ahead for Mother's Day.
Children do better when they don’t have to scramble to figure out how to handle important events. “The kids shouldn’t be the ones solving the problem about what we do for different holidays,” said Dr. Post Senning. Special occasions, like Mother’s Day, should be part of the parenting plan you work out during the divorce. So, sit down together with the calendar and figure out who has the children for which special day. If there is a joint custody situation and Mother’s Day is on Dad’s weekend, negotiate for some time with the children on Sunday. While most fathers will cooperate for the sake of their children, some will dig in their heels. “If he refuses to change the day, the kids and mom should celebrate on their own on another day,” said Dr. Wallerstein.

4. Be respectful of your ex as you work out the details.
Communications problems are the number two reason for divorce. When you’ve had problems communicating in the best of times, communicating when nerves are raw can be tough. Carolyn Ellis, author of the New York Times bestseller “Thrive After Divorce” suggests approaching your ex with respect. “I’d like to talk with you about Mother’s Day. Is this a good time for you to talk?” Ellis advises opening the door with a positive statement like, “I think we’ve been doing a really good job handling our divorce in a way that makes our kids feel safe and loved.” Then state your position by saying something like, “Mother’s Day is coming up in three weeks. The kids are scheduled to be with you and I would like to have some time with them. My request would be to have the children for Sunday morning brunch. If you could help them with a card and gift, I would really appreciate that and I would be happy to reciprocate for Father’s Day.” This is not the time to mention the affair five years ago. Instead, listen to the answer, take some deep breaths if you need to and be as open as possible to what your ex has to say.

5. Parents should facilitate helping children with gifts.

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