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Divorce 360, Parenting
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The Life-Changing Magic of Helping Kids Get Organized

I opposed all screen time when my son was a toddler. But after my husband moved out, I relented. Specifically, I let our early-rising son watch “Fireman Sam” in the morning while I sat in bed in a torpor with my first cup of coffee.

Two years later, we moved to Los Angeles. Fireman Sam came too, my son continuing to watch him save the accident-prone residents of Ponty Panty early mornings from our post out west.

I hadn’t envisioned a parenting plan so inclusive of an animated firefighter from Wales, and later some crazy purple puff ball masquerading as a chicken. But my son loved them, and establishing routines—even around leisure activities such as a (marginally) educational television show promoting positive values—can help create continuity and a sense of stability.

Stability matters for children. Knowing what happens when translates into confidence and security, a sense of efficacy and control. Creating stability takes extra effort if you move, as we did, or if your child “relocates” weekly because you share custody with your ex.

If you’re divorcing and have joint physical custody, you can take the time to teach kids helpful organization skills. Not so organized yourself? Use the fact of your divorce as motivation to learn.

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Dating
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Should You Log On for Love?

Many of us coming out of marriage are both appalled by and attracted to the notion of online dating. On the one hand—unlimited options! On the other hand, there can be a niggling discomfort when going out with people unconnected to our social or vocational circle. And also, why aren’t we meeting more people naturally? Why do we need to look online?

The bigger question for many of us: does it really work?

Social psychologists Eli Finkle and Paul Eastwick offer some answers. They led a recent study investigating whether online dating is fundamentally different than meeting someone in real life—and if it works better. Does uploading your most flattering photos and a polished, aspirational description of yourself clue a potential mate to your ultimate compatibility and vice-versa?

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waterfight
Divorce 360, Family & Friends, Parenting
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The Successful Blended Family

Three (or Four) Questions for . . . Anne Brennan Malec

Okay, I am not anywhere near the stage of remarriage, let alone re-falling madly in love. Nor are most of us, at least in the immediate aftermath of divorce. But it hovers out there—the aspiration to connect with someone new, recommit, perhaps remarry. We’ve all heard the statistics; second and third marriages have higher rates of divorce than first ones. How can we be optimistic about our own romantic future?

Start by having realistic expectations, particularly if you have children, says Anne Brennan Malec, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist, step-mother of six, and author of Marriage in Modern Life: Why It Works, When It Works

 Wendy Paris: What should people expect when remarrying, with kids?

Anne Brennan Malec: The couple is in love and want to spend their lives together, and they can be under the false impression that their children will feel the same way. In reality, children are often confused and have contradictory emotions about the new family setup. Forming a blended family is a long-term process, and it is reasonable to expect some push back from children, who had no voice in your choice to marry. If you imagine that your children will find the transition to be more difficult than you will, you’re off to a good start.

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Uncategorized
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Dating After Divorce . . . Or Not

When you’re stuck in a lifeless marriage, dating can sound enticing, thrilling, like a rousing carousel of non-commitment. None of the old problems will exist in a new relationship, you think. All those interesting, attractive people who were single before you married are probably waiting around, eager to go out with the newly-single you—not to mention the eligible strangers online.

Some people love dating after divorce. It can be a great way to meet new people, learn about new places and see yourself positively in someone else’s eyes.

But many people can’t bear the thought of it. This doesn’t indicate a permanent, bad-marriage-induced lack of passion, but rather a natural and even healthy response. Some people want time to process their marriage, to figure out what just happened here. Others wanted to prove to themselves that they can make it on their own. Some parents I met said they were too focused on their children to make space for someone new right away.

For many of us, the issue is one of attachment. We’ve been dedicated to the wellbeing of this other person for years or even decades.  Attachment is an emotional and physical reality. It maps itself on the brain, and can take a while to lift.

Biological anthropologist and legendary love scholar Helen Fisher describes love not as a feeling, but rather as three basic brain systems that evolved to help us seek partners, narrow our focus to one, and stay together to raise babies.

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Communication, Divorce 360, Getting Along Better, Post-Divorce, Parenting, Uncategorized
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Trouble Communicating? Consider Divorce Counseling

Many people seek help communicating with an ex. I’ve written here about how my own communication skills improved once we split. Distance definitely was an aid. But I also had some outside assistance.

About seven months after my husband and I separated, I needed help handling some of the changes in our lives. I didn’t want legal help, but emotional support, insight, and communication assistance. I suggested we go to a therapist, together; my ex agreed.

I found a therapist on Psychologytoday.com who agreed to meet with us for couples counseling. Or, former couples counseling. Or, divorce counseling, actually.

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