CAN YOU BE FRIENDLY WITH YOUR EX?

 

Is it possible to be friendly with your ex?

This is something I am asked regularly by my clients and from my own personal experience, I say yes!

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The main motivator to maintain a friendship with my ex is for the benefit of our daughter and to have a healthy co-parenting relationship.

The Family Law Act provides that the paramount consideration for children is their “best interests” including that they should know and have a relationship with both their parents (subject to a whole range of other considerations of course).  It is also important for parents to promote the relationship between the child/ren and the other parent and avoid exposing them to conflict.  As a family lawyer, I personally take the legislation seriously and when providing advice to my clients.

My pathway to separation was difficult and I agonized over making such a huge decision knowing it would impact not just me, but my daughter and my ex as well.  So, I planned, I gathered information, I spoke with various people, including professionals, to ensure I received the validation that I was making the right decision. This, I believe, put me in good stead when delivering that final message about going our separate ways.  Great preparation laid a solid and positive foundation for the steps to come which continues to this day.

My marriage and my ex weren’t perfect however, now we have separated, I choose to leave the past behind and look ahead towards a positive and happy future.  I’ve navigated my ex’s new marriage (yes, I attended their wedding!) and the news of the pending birth of their first child together.  There are many other times when my ex says or does things that drive me nuts. The key for me is not to react but smile and bite my tongue.  This allows me time to process the issue and consider whether it’s worth the argument (and rarely it is). 

I also preach this motto to myself and my clients often – “Remember, we can’t change other people’s behaviors, only the way we manage the impact of that behavior upon ourselves”.  I live by this motto because I don’t want to live in a negative past but prefer to live for the now and look ahead to a positive future.  

Everyone’s pathway through separation and divorce is difficult and maintaining a friendly relationship with your ex cannot always achieved. However, once the pain of separation has eased, and parenting and financial matters are settled and new life chapters contemplated, that question can potentially be revisited. It takes a little getting used to, and a lot of work (and biting of tongues!) but it is do-able.

MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT A JOKE - Fighting Stigma's and how you can help

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This negative stigma in society surrounding Mental Health and those suffering form a mental illness acts as a bar to sufferers from speaking out and seeking help. This stigma comes form a lack of understanding and inaccurate and extravagant portrayals of mental ill people.s.

As you can see from the image on this article, mental illness has been brought to the forefront of our minds again but from the cinematic universe. The recent release of the Joker played by Joaquin Phoenix has brought about many questions relating to mental health and the role society plays.

Joaquin’s acting was amazing and the film is definitely a must see however even though the film highlights how important it is for society to be aware of mental illness and how to help those suffering, the film does depict an unhealthy stereotype of how everyone with a mental illness is “’mad”. It is showing an extreme version of mental health and it is important to remember that not everyone suffering form a mental illness is going to go on to be “the Joker”.  

People with a mental illness are very rarely dangerous especially when receiving appropriate treatment and support.

In Australia in any given year around 1 million Australian adults suffer from depression and over 2 million from anxiety.

October is Mental Health Month which aims to bring awareness to mental illness in our society and how we can help those that are experiencing mental illness. The R U Ok campaign have many recommendations on how we can help those around us and help minimise the stigma on mental health.

FIRST: Are you okay?

This isn’t a question to the person you are wanting to help but to yourself. Firstly, ask this question to yourself before someone else. To be able to help someone you need to be in a good mental state. If you feel you too are struggling maybe it is time you sought some help. If you feel you are okay then ask the person the same question you think is struggling.

SECOND: Listen with an open mind

Listen to what your friend has to say. We know you want to help but being a good listener is key and not being judgmental. It is very hard to open up to someone so take the moment as a privilege and listen to what your friend has to say.

THIRD: Encourage Action

Encourage your friend to seek help. Offer your support and ask them how you can help and if they have thought of seeking help in the past. Maybe they can look to speaking with their GP and being referred to a psychologist. You could also give personal advice on your own experience on how you sought help.

FOURTH: Check in on them

Put a reminder on your phone to check in on them. Send them a message that you’re thinking of them and ask them how they’re going. It is always nice to know that someone cares.

Let’s stop encouraging our friends to just “put on a happy face’’ but to go and seek help. There is no shame in not being okay.  

HOTLINES

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

Headspace: 1800 650 890

Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78

Turn the Gas Light off! The Married at First Sight examples of gaslighting and abusive relationships!

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It seems like everyone in Australia is currently watching Married at First Sight #MAFS. It may seem extremely scripted at times but nonetheless it appears to have the nation gripped! However, are there actually important messages that we can find hidden in this ding-a-ling of a show? One major issue that has come to our attention is the constant Gaslighting between the couples Elizabeth and Sam and Mike and Heidi.

What is ‘’gaslighting’?

Gaslighting is a term used to describe a form of emotional abuse that sees someone trying to manipulate and belittle another person by making them question their perceptions of events, feelings and their view on reality. The term was actually coined based on the play Gas Light in the 1930’s. The play is about a man who manipulates his wife into thinking she is out of touch with reality hoping she will end up in a mental institution and he will gain her inheritance. Granted, this is a very extreme scenario however gaslighting is a form of abuse and can very easily spiral out of control.   

There are three examples of gaslighting in Married at First Sight that highlight emotional abuse.

Diverting

Diverting is one sign of gaslighting in a relationship and can be seen in the relationship between Sam and Elizabeth. Sam turned his cheating scandal back on Elizabeth frequently telling her she had ‘lost her mind’’ and that she was doing something she insists she wasn’t. By the end of these berating comments Elizabeth is very stressed and begins to question her memory of the situation based on the negative and berating comments made by her husband. Sam is diverting the blame onto Elizabeth by making her question her reality which is a key feature of gaslighting. This belittles one’s partner, creating a power balance in a relationship and is a form of emotional abuse.

Trivializing and Questioning Ones self

The next two examples of gaslighting are trivialising one’s feelings and making you question your perceptions of events. This is seen in the relationship between Heidi and Mike. Mike has trivialized Heidi’s feelings on numerous occasions. One scenario saw Heidi upset as Mike went against their promise to have a discussion with another contestant together. Heidi felt she was alone however Mike made it seem like it was all in her head and that she was over reacting. This was further done when she tried to tell him a story from her childhood which he told her to hurry up as it wasn’t very interesting. Mike’s actions do not allow for validation of Heidi’s feelings and trivialize her lived experiences by putting them down and questioning their validity in a condescending manner which in turn breeds an environment for a toxic relationship.

What are the effects of gaslighting?

The effects of gaslighting can range but nonetheless can be very belittling and is a form of abuse. For those that are a people pleaser or do not have a lot of self-confidence, having a partner who gaslights them constantly can lead to a very one sided and controlling relationship. As you begin to compromise and question your own feelings for your partners, this can create a great power imbalance in your relationship.

It is important to be aware of these signs of gaslighting in your relationship and we hope this article has helped you understand the many forms abuse can take! Despite MAFS being a wild and crazy TV show, remember to hold a zero tolerance to abuse and if you feel you are in a toxic relationship to seek help.

3 WAYS TO LOVE YOURSELF THIS VALENTINES DAY

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Eugh is it that time of the year again? It seems Valentine’s Day is either really important to some or it’s just another day on the calendar to others. No matter where you sit on this scale, here are our top tips to bring some love and fun into your Valentine’s day this year: 

TREAT YO-SELF  

Celebrate yourself! Give yourself a treat, go get a massage, curl up with a book and a tea or go to see a film at the cinema. Just focus on loving yourself and taking some time of the day to make it all about you!

GET THE KIDS ONBOARD

Plan something special to treat the kids, you could put chocolates on the end of their bed or make heart pancakes for breakfast or take them for an ice-cream after school. Get the kids on board with treating you on Valentine’s Day, maybe it’s an opportunity for them to make you breakfast in bed! 

JOIN FORCES  

Join forces with your support network! Plan a night out with your friends. Have a bit of fun and just enjoy those around you that you love and that love you. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about romance, it can just be about celebrating the friends that we love featuring a glass or two of red and a nice dinner!

BE YOUR OWN VALENTINE!

This isn’t necessarily going to be an easy day but remember to be kind to yourself! If you are newly separated, it might be difficult to adjust, but it is important to find the positives and take the opportunity to make new traditions for yourself. 

What are you going to do to love yourself this Valentine’s Day?

4 REASONS WHY ROUTINE IS KEY AFTER SEPARATION

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Routine with kids can be hard to maintain at the best of times, add two homes into the mix and it can get really tricky!  Here are four reasons why establishing a solid routine post separation might be the key to keeping the kids happy and healthy:

1.       CONSISTENCY AND STRUCTURE 

Having a routine in your household gives consistency and structure in your child’s life especially in times of change. When change is occurring routines can change very quickly but if you have a strong routine in place this offers some stability. It is also important to try and make sure the main parts of your routine at both houses are similar. These could be meal times, bath times and bed. This won’t always happen, so you must be open to flexibility but keeping them as similar as possible will help your child settle and have structure in-between both houses.

2.       FAMILY TRADITIONS

Having a family routine creates moments to bond with your kids and gives opportunities to create new traditions.  A common example is the bedtime story, no matter how chaotic the day was, it’s a moment to bond at the end of the day. Special occasions can also be weaved into the weekly routine such as seeing a movie or going out to get ice cream. In our house we go to the park after school every Friday, the kids know this and look forward to it.

3.       CONFIDENCE AND INDEPENDENCE 

Giving your kids a routine helps them build independence and confidence. Slowly introducing more chores around the house to your kids gives them more daily and weekly responsibilities. These responsibilities help your kids develop more independence around their house that translate into their daily lives and helps build confidence in their abilities to complete tasks.

4.       GOOD HABITS

Creating a routine is an opportunity to implement good habits into your kid’s daily life such as making their bed, putting their lunches in their school bag or doing their homework at a particular time. These are good habits to get your children into, so they hopefully continue them throughout their schooling or use these structures to create their own routines once they get older.  Using the ‘First this then that’ strategy is a great way to show your kids how FIRST we have to have our bath or tidy up and THEN we can read that book or then we can go to the park.

No Family is the same and creating a good routine doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and patience and trial and error to see what works best for your family. What can you implement this week into your routine to make life easier?

5 tips to make back to school less stressful

It’s that time of year again, its back to school time! If you are anything like us, you are secretly relieved because the kids are starting to truly drive you bonkers! At the same time you are a bit (read A LOT) panicked because you have once again left everything to the last minute and are making a mad rush to get everything organized - uniforms, lunchboxes, ballet, soccer, basketball…..all that fun stuff!

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What about if you are separated? It can add an extra layer of stress. Here are our tips for separated or divorced parents to co-parent during the back to school rush.

 

1.       Make a plan for the first day of school

In an ideal world both parents would attend drop off on the first day of school. However, this is just not realistic, even when parents are still together. What works for some families, is to facetime or skype the other parents before heading off to school. Another idea is to take a photo of your child at the school and send it to your co-parent. It can be tricky when there is high conflict with your co-parent, but trust us, your kids will appreciate both parents being involved in this milestone.

2.       Communication is the key

We find the most overwhelming part of the school year is remembering all the special dates and events. This becomes even more stressful if you feel like you have to constantly remind your co-parent- nothing is more frustrating! Take this opportunity in the new year to relieve yourself of this burden. Each year the school releases a calendar of important events, grab this calendar and enter the dates into a shared calendar or a co-parenting communication app like Divvito (www.divvito.com) . During the year you can keep adding excursions, parent teachers interview, school concerts etc to the calendar.

3.       Avoid Backpack dramas

As children of divorced parents, we remember the irritation of the backpack we needed to pack while we divided our time between two homes. Your kids might similarly complain about the backpack, and sometimes they might even be embarrassed. Try lighten the load for your kids by having important belongings at both homes. Some families also speak to the teacher and make sure there is an extra bag space for their child.

4.       Keep the School in the loop

If you are recently separated, make sure to tell the school ASAP. Trust us, you are not the first parents of the school to separate, they will understand and will be well equipped to help your child navigate through this change in their life. Make sure both parents receive school newsletters, reports and bulletins. Nowadays most school have online portals too, and both parents should have separate logins. If you see your child is struggling, reach out to the school and teacher, they might need a bit of leeway and that’s OK!

5.       Dreaded homework

Getting your kids to do their homework is hard enough! Putting two different homes into the mix can make it even more stressful. The key is to make sure both parents are on the same page. Have a chat with your co-parent and discuss what your expectations are when it comes to homework. Ideally, you want your child in a routine which is carried through both households, consider if they need to do homework on set days of the week? Sit at their desk or the kitchen table? Do homework before dinner?

 

Every family is different and only you know what will be best for your family and your child! Whatever routines you choose to put in place this year…make sure you enjoy that first latte in peace on Tuesday morning! You’ve got this!

5 WAYS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR SUMMER BREAK

This time of year can be really difficult for newly separated families. Your family’s school holiday traditions will be in a state of flux and you might be coming to terms with not seeing your children for over a week at a time. Families who have been separated for years will tell you it’s not something that gets “easier” per say, but something you learn to adjust to and make the most of. If these holidays have been a bit tricky, try implementing our 5 step plan to make new traditions for your family next summer:

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1. PLAN IN ADVANCE

Make sure you have your holidays planned before the last day of term. If you are taking the children on a holiday let the other parent know so you can schedule calls or skype conversations with the kids. Organise your drop offs in advance including place and time as to not create confusion but also to provide a routine. These are just to name a few. Having all this in place will help you organise your holiday with your kids but also make the holidays run much more smoothly.

2. CREATE NEW TRADITIONS

Try to not fixate on what was but try and focus on what will and can be. Start creating new traditions with your kids. May that be a new camping trip, holiday destination or maybe an activity you all do together. Your kids will relish the time they have with you and will love trying and doing something new as a family.

3. COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE

Did we say communicate enough? Communication is truly the key in any separation or divorce. It is very important to have open and amicable communication over the holidays. In Family Law, January is our busiest time of year and a lot of that has to do with the breakdown of communication. Remember your kids are the focus and they will flourish more in the process if you and your other side communicate and uphold an amicable relationship.

4. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

Don’t feel guilty for making plans for yourself. It’s not going to be easy, but it is important to take time to recharge and focus on you. Read that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table for months. Sign up to those gym classes or go on a day trip or two to the coast. Remember you have nothing to feel guilty about and these are the moments to have some down time.

5. ENCOURAGE AND LET THE KIDS HAVE FUN

Lastly, encourage the time that your children will be spending with their other parent. Don’t talk them down or bombard your kids with questions. It is important that your kids know that it is okay to have fun and enjoy their time away from you and to not feel guilty about leaving you alone. Holidays are about kids, so let the kids be kids and have fun.

 

We know it is always easier said than done, but we hope that these tips can help you remember to make the most of your holidays. Make every moment count and despite all the changes and adjustments, know that you’re not alone and you’ve got this.

How to minimise the effect of divorce on your kids

In this Podcast with Lucy Good from Beanstalk we discuss:

  • How experience has led Dani and Jacque to where they are today helping others

  • The most common mistakes during separation that can negatively impact children

  • How these mistakes can be avoided

  • How much do children need to 'know' during divorce

  • What children can actually learn from a divorce

  • What resources are available for kids to help them with a divorce

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7 top tips for minimising stress over the holidays

The holiday season is almost upon us. Whilst this can be a very exciting and magical time of the year, for many, the mere thought of Christmas leads to anxiety and stress. As soon as the supermarkets start playing jingle bells on repeat, the excitement mounts but so too does the pressure. 

So, is it possible to get through the silly season without becoming a complete and utter mess? We think so. 

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Here are our top 7 tips for making it through the festivities and coming out the other side (relatively) unscathed:

1. Manage your budget

Christmas can be an incredibly expensive time of the year. Overspending can bring unnecessary financial stress, so set a realistic budget that you can stick to. 

When it comes to buying gifts, You’ll find it is much easier to stay on budget if you’re organised. Write a list before visiting the shops. This will help avoid impulse buys which almost always lead to overspending. You might also consider a Kris Kringle arrangement amongst adult members of your family, with a maximum spend that suits your budget.

Don’t forget to set a budget for family functions as well. Try not to over-cater and remember you don’t always have to be a traditionalist. If turkey is outside your budget, that’s ok, be creative!

 

2. Prioritise ‘me’ time

Over the holidays we tend to spend more time socialising with family and friends. Enjoy being social, but don’t forget about much needed ‘me’ time. Something as simple as going for a walk can be just enough to ensure you’re taking time out for you.

Don’t be afraid to enrol the kids in a holiday program or arrange a play date or two over the school break so you can really concentrate on yourself!

 

3. Stick to your routine

Life can get so busy over the holiday period that your usual routine can suffer, a lot. Try to prioritise the important things, like your daily exercise or weekly book club. Don’t feel you have to accept every invitation you receive or say yes to every request. Know when to say no.

There is only so much you can commit to and knocking a few events or requests for freshly baked cookies off the list in favour of the things that are really important to you, is ok.

Maintaining everyday routine over the holiday period can help keep you calm and relieve stress during those busy times.

 

4. Plan, plan, plan!

It can be tricky when kids have more than one family to spend time with over the holidays. Make sure you plan well in advance so the kids know who they are spending each significant day with. Try alternating each year so that no one misses out. Planning is key. Everyone will be much happier and more calm when they know there’s a plan!

 

5. Relieve the pressure- ask for help

If you’ve volunteered to host Christmas Day, that doesn’t mean you have to do it all. Share the work-load by asking each adult to bring a dish. People enjoy contributing and you will end up with a  lot less pressure, and a wonderful communal meal.

 

6. Pick your battles

The holiday season can put a lot of strain on relationships. You’re likely to be spending more time with family members than you would ordinarily, and they’re probably going to get on your nerves. So, pick your battles. 

Don’t get caught up in pointless disagreements about things that don’t really matter. If you need to, remove yourself from the table, take a deep breath and move on.

 

7. Don’t forget to have fun

The holiday season can be fun, you just need to remember to do what feels right for you. The truth is, you can’t do everything. So, take the pressure off yourself and enjoy.