Navigating Military Divorce in California

Two wedding bands lay in the palm of someone's hand

Going through a divorce can be difficult on its own, but when one of the spouses is in the military, it adds a whole new layer of questions.

Fortunately, there are systems in place to ease the process for military parents going through a divorce. With a little research and some patience, the process can be made as smooth as possible.

So, what do you need to know if you’re going through a military divorce in California? For starters, California is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means there is no guilty party in a separation. The role of the state in your divorce is to help the divorcing spouses reach fair agreements relating to their lives, belongings, and children, so they can both move ahead in their lives.

Once divorce proceedings are initiated and both spouses are aware of the movement, it will take six months to complete the process. This is a mandatory waiting period to protect both spouses.

The military considers divorce a private civil matter — they are, after all, your employer. With that said, there are some specific challenges you may face as a military father. This blog post can help you navigate those challenges, so you can reach the best outcome possible for your family.

Your Rights & Responsibilities

If you’re the one filing for divorce, it’s your responsibility to file in your home state. This means that even if you’re working overseas, you are not subject to their jurisdiction. If you have several legal homes, you can choose where to file. In this post, we’ll focus on California specifically.

If your spouse is the one filing for divorce, it’s important that you get a good understanding of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This act protects your rights while you’re on active duty. Normally, there’s a time limit required to respond to a divorce filing; but if your spouse files for divorce while you’re overseas, this act can extend the administrative procedures to allow you to answer in a more realistic timeframe.

Your Spouse’s Rights & Responsibility

One of the first things that seems to come up in military divorces is the matter of ID Cards. Here is the general rule: it is your spouse and child(ren)’s right to retain their family member ID cards unless Congress decides to take those cards away. As the military spouse, you may apply for and sponsor your family for these cards — but Congress is the one who gives the ID cards, and they’re the only ones who can take them away.

Usually the nonmilitary spouse will lose their ID card after the divorce is finalized, but some exceptions do apply when it comes to long-term marriages.

If you live on-base, another common subject that separating couples ask about is military family housing. As a military member, you cannot evict your spouse or children from this housing — only the installation commander can do that. You may be placed in barracks while your family stays in the family housing; but, there is usually a 30 day limit for a spouse to stay in military housing without their military spouse.

Finally, your spouse may be entitled to some of your retired pay, medical care, or other benefits. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act allows the court to take care of administering this, so it’s important to be aware of this act as it relates to your situation.

Child Support & Custody

When it comes to child care and custody, remember that divorce is a civil proceeding. That means the standard California laws apply when it comes to custody and child support. You’ll have to negotiate an arrangement with your spouse, which will likely involve legal representation from an attorney. In determining child support, the court will consider your income, your spouse’s income, and additional factors such as time spent with the children.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your legal aid office if you’re a service member. They’ve seen similar scenarios, and may be able to help put your situation in context. That said, there are limits to their expertise; and it’s always wise to reach out to a professional attorney with expertise in military divorce for more detailed and personalized information. Your attorney can help you assess your family’s unique situation, and advocate on your behalf to the court.

At Father’s Rights, we specialize in helping our clients navigate matters in divorce, child custody, and child support — and we have particular experience with clients in the military. With our expertise and legal counsel, we’ve helped military clients minimize the burden of support during deployment, coordinate parenting plans while they’re on deployment, and facilitate contact with their children; all while taking into account the great service they’re providing for their country.

Contact us today to speak to an experienced attorney about your situation and navigate this process as smoothly as possible.

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4 Books on Single Parenting to Add to Your Reading List

A man lounges on his couch as he reads a book.

Being a single dad can be as tough as it is rewarding. Between balancing parenting and work, planning for the months (and even years) ahead, and simply managing the day-to-day operations of a somewhat smooth household… things can pile up fast.

Sometimes it can help to hear from other dads who have gone through the same thing, who have stories that make you feel a little less alone in raising your kids to thrive in this world.

If you can manage to steal a few moments between parental obligations and other duties, we highly recommend checking out some of our favorite books on single parenting — written specifically for single dads. There are more single dads out there than you’d think (about 2.6 million in fact), and these books feature some refreshing and reassuring viewpoints.

Here are our four favorite books on single parenting for single dads to add to your reading list, all available through Amazon.

1. The Single Father: A Dad’s Guide to Parenting Without a Partner

If you’re looking for an easy place to start, The Single Father combines expert advice, firsthand accounts, and humor so smoothly you’ll forget you’re reading to learn. It contains plenty of content aimed at showing single dads how to help their children, and how to help themselves.

Armin A. Brott writes about how single dads can keep up morale and improve their self esteem when parenting without a partner gets challenging. It covers everything from how to smooth things over with ex-partners, to dating advice for newly single dads — and the whole thing is equal parts hilarious and helpful.

Single dads will appreciate the resources it contains on how to talk to your children about their feelings, and how to talk to them about even the most difficult of subjects, like chores.

The Single Father is a survival-guide-style approach to being a single parent; one that you’ll enjoy when times are good, and feel especially grateful for when conflict arises.

2. The Complete Single Father: Reassuring Answers to Your Most Challenging Situations

The powerhouse team behind The Complete Single Father is made up of Elaine Fantle Shimberg and her son — a single father himself — Michael Shimberg.

You’ll learn how to organize an efficient schedule with your ex, plan healthy meals kids will actually eat, and deal with common childhood illnesses. It also deals with situations where a single dad has been widowed, sensitively touching on how to take care of yourself while also caring for your children.

This mother-son duo incorporate “tales from the trenches” from more than 50 other single dads, giving plenty of material for readers to relate to. It also includes advice from professionals that range from psychologists to teachers and even spiritual leaders. If it takes a village to raise a child, you’ll find a village in this book.

3. Better Dads, Stronger Sons: How Fathers Can Guide Boys to Become Men of Character

Fathers are their sons’ first heroes. As a single dad, it can seem like the weight of your sons’ world is on your shoulders — this next book shows that the weight doesn’t have to feel so heavy.

In Better Dads, Stronger Sons, author Rick Johnson explains practical ways you can be a positive role model for your young sons as they grow.

You’ll learn how to discuss difficult topics like dating and sex, strengthen your understanding of the importance of male bonding and discipline, and gain confidence in your existing skills. This book confronts complex issues and teaches you how to work through them — rather than providing overly simplified solutions that might not get to the heart of what’s really happening with your son.

This book includes a list of 10 mistakes single dads can avoid making, helping you recognize and evade some of the most common pitfalls; all while giving you the skills and mindset you need to focus on the important things.

4. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know

If raising a son alone is difficult, for many single dads, raising a daughter presents whole different sort of challenge. Many people think it can be harder for a father to connect to a daughter, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who specializes in counseling young girls. She wrote Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters to show just how important a daughter’s relationship with her father is. A young woman’s confidence and strength can benefit greatly from a healthy relationship with a father who acts as a positive role model.

This book outlines 10 secrets for every father that will help you build a strong, lasting relationship with your daughter. For single dads, it’s especially useful as a simple guide on how to raise wonderful girls in an increasingly complicated world.

With these books at your disposal, and many other parenting support books out there, you don’t have to feel alone as you navigate the world of single parenting. For more tips and advice on raising children or adjusting to life as a single dad, check out our blog.

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How Much Responsibility Should You Give Your Kids Around the House?

A young boy smiles at the camera as he washes dishes

It’s common for a parent to assign children household chores — but how do you know when your child is old enough to take on a new chore, or how much responsibility they can handle?

These are questions all parents face, and as a single parent, you may feel antsy to get some helping hands around the house. Household chores not only help you share the load of managing the household, but actually provide a lot of character-building opportunities for your kids. Giving your kids chores from a young age, and gradually increasing their responsibilities, is a great way to instill lifelong skills.

Below, we explore some of the top questions parents have when doling out the chore chart.

Is Your Child Old Enough for Chores?

Your child’s readiness for chores depends on their age and level of ability. In general, if a child is old enough to walk and talk, you can introduce them to the idea of chores gently with very simple tasks, such as putting toys away after playtime. While they’ll be too young to fully comprehend the notion of personal responsibility, they can begin to understand that the toys must be put away — and that they should help because they played with them.

As your child gets older, this concept can be expanded so they understand their role in contributing to the function of your family unit. In other words, “everybody helps.”

Remember that your child must be tall and strong enough to perform some chores, and must be mature enough to cook or use cleaning products safely. If your child is too young for some of these “mature tasks,” think of a smaller, related task they can help with — for instance, if your child is too young to help cook dinner, perhaps they can be tasked with setting the table while you cook.

How Much Responsibility Can Your Child Handle?

Gaining a sense of responsibility, teamwork, and commitment are invaluable life skills. A child’s capacity for handling responsibility grows over time, particularly when they are given a few small responsibilities to begin with.

However, between their schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and housework, it also is important that your child is not truly overworked. Pay attention to how well they are dealing with their workload and help them learn to manage their time — always be willing to make adjustments for your child’s wellbeing. You are the parent, and you know your child better than anyone else.

Should You Pay Children an Allowance for Doing Chores?

Not everyone agrees on whether paying children for chores is a good idea. After all, a child is a member of the family, not an employee. The child directly benefits from the chores they do, as well as the results of other family members’ chores. Some say that paying kids for tasks you expect them to do undermines the goal. Some families simply may not be able to afford it, and that’s perfectly okay.

Remember that paying your kids an allowance is entirely your choice as a parent — there’s no definitive rule (even if some people seem passionate about it), so whichever you decide is fine.

If do you choose to give your child an allowance, you may consider withholding some or all of the money when chores are not done on time, or are not done thoroughly. This is a good way to teach your child about work ethic and follow-through.

Make sure your child understands these consequences, and that doing the chores is not optional — whether they receive any money for them or not. Keep in mind that an allowance should be a reward, never a bribe.

How Do You Motivate Children to Do Chores?

Whether or not your child receives an allowance for doing chores, there are times they’ll need some extra motivation. Your kids may resist completing their chores, especially when reading or playing video games sounds much more fun. When this happens, here are a few constructive strategies to try:

  • If possible, set up a “chore time” — a block of time when everyone in the family does their chores simultaneously. This reinforces the idea that it’s a group effort, and can even foster family bonding as everyone puts in the work and gets it done together.
  • Use positive reinforcement. If your child does a task well, praise them for doing a good job. Tell them that when they complete their chores consistently, it demonstrates that they are reliable and responsible. Show that you are proud, and let them take pride in their own good work.
  • When practical, rotate the chore schedule so everyone gets experience doing various household tasks and nobody is stuck doing the same thing all the time. This is a good way to gradually build up your children’s life skills, preparing them to live on their own someday. Everyone should know how to do laundry, wash dishes, and perform other basic life tasks.

Doing chores helps the family in the moment, but also teaches children crucial skills they will use throughout their lives. Determining the best strategies to implement in your home may take some trial and error, but everyone will benefit in the long run. For more tips and advice on raising children or navigating the world of single parenting, check out our blog.

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5 Child Support Basics in California

Money fanned out with a piece of paper that says "child support"

Separating from your spouse is a messy business, but when kids are involved, it’s important to ensure they don’t have to shoulder that mess.

With our extensive experience helping fathers navigate custody situations, we’ve put together a list of some child support basics that can help you wrap your head around the process and prepare. Since the average child support payment is around $430 a month, it’s an expense worth understanding — whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of the payment.

Child support guidelines are determined on a state-by-state basis. Here are some of the child support basics you need to know in California.

1. The Amount is Based On Both Incomes

The formula for determining how much child support you will pay changes depending on which state you’re in. In some states, such as Texas or Alaska, your child support may be based on a percentage of your income. However, California uses an income shares model.

In an income shares model, the court calculates child support by adding up both parents’ monthly incomes (yours and your ex’s), and representing each income as a percentage of the whole. They use another calculation to come up with the anticipated cost of raising your child, and the support amount for each parent. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent.

That means, if you’re a non-custodial parent making 60% of the combined income of you and your ex, your child support payment may be up to 60% of the anticipated costs of raising your child. Every situation will be unique, as the court takes into account additional factors such as the amount of time each parent spends with the children, child support or alimony from previous relationships, and more. An attorney will be able to help you more accurately calculate your expected child support, based on the details of your family.

2. Child Support is Intended to Cover Essentials

The purpose of child support is to ensure that your child’s quality of life stays the same when you separate from your partner. As such, the money the custodial parent receives in child support is intended to cover essentials like food, shelter, and clothing. The court essentially assumes that the custodial parent is using the child support money to cover these basic costs, or investing money in things like a mortgage that provides shelter.

California is one of the states that allows child support “add-ons,” which means a court order can be obtained to cover things like healthcare, medical insurance, or childcare costs if the custodial parent has to work.

3. There’s Plenty That Child Support Doesn’t Cover

While your child may consider piano lessons essential and you may deem private tutoring a necessity, that doesn’t mean the court will agree.

Despite the ubiquity of teams, clubs, and lessons, they are not considered essentials. If you want your child to be involved in enriching, extracurricular activities, the non-custodial parent will likely have to fork over extra money on top of child support to cover them. Other common costs that aren’t covered by child support include daycare or nursery school, school photos and yearbooks, and college funds. In an ideal-world-scenario, you and your ex would negotiate a separate, additional amount to set aside for this.

Although the court might not include “extras” in their divorce decree, it’s still a good idea to have them on the record, to help avoid arguments or messy situations down the road. Your attorney can help you assess and include specifications for “extras” in your agreement. This will also help you and your ex calculate your budgets.

4. The Parent Who Pays Doesn’t Get to Choose Where the Money Goes

Even if you’re paying child support to cover your child’s essential living costs, there’s no way for you to track how it’s being spent; the recipient of child support is not expected to present receipts to prove how they use the money.

This is one of the biggest points of contention when it comes to child support. If you’re the one paying, you may be concerned that your ex is misusing the money. However, the system is based on the court’s assumption that the custodial parent is acting in the child’s best interest. So, even if your money does not go directly towards essentials, the court will assume that it’s contributing to your child’s essential wellbeing.

If you are genuinely worried that the child support you’re paying is not going toward your child’s basic care, and that their needs are not being met, it’s time to get an attorney involved.

5. An Attorney is Your Best Bet

While the court prefers mediation and compromise to resolve issues related to child support, if you’re having real concerns about setting an agreement with your ex, it’s always best to consult an attorney. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, you can receive personalized counsel from a professional who will account for all of the details of your family situation and advocate for you to gain the fairest terms possible. Instead of assessing your child support requirements alone, an attorney with experience in family law will consider all aspects of you and your children’s wellbeing and work with you to achieve the best outcome for your family.

Negotiating family law is complex and varies widely from family to family. Getting advice from an expert is just about the only way to ensure all your questions are answered and all your concerns are addressed. Contact Father’s Rights today to speak to our experienced team about your unique case.

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What Is Temporary vs. Long-Term Spousal Support?

a gavel sits atop money

If you have questions about spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, you’re not alone. Spousal support comes in two general types: temporary and long-term. When you go through a divorce in California, you or your ex-spouse may apply for one, or both. Spousal support is a written agreement or order to instill temporary or permanent payment from one spouse to another after separation, when plans for divorce have been made. Let’s look at these two basic types of support, how they are calculated, the differences between them, and when each is put into effect.

What Is Temporary Support?

Generally speaking, temporary spousal support is implemented to maintain the financial status quo during the actual process of divorce or legal annulment/separation. Long-term support, on the other hand, can be indefinite. For temporary support to be put into effect, each party must file an income and expense declaration to prove their financial situations. It is at the discretion of the court to determine what the financial status quo was prior to the time of separation. Guideline calculators are often used (but not required) by the courts to determine the amount awarded. These calculators factor in each spouse’s income, healthcare deductions, and expenses. This type of support is considered temporary because it is meant to end once more permanent, long-term support is awarded once the divorce is finalized.

What Is Long-Term Support?

Long-term support does not employ the use of a calculator in determining payment amounts. The courts instead consider a broader spectrum of factors, including the couple’s married standard of living, current separate income, earning capacity, ability to pay alimony, relative financial needs, assets, length of marriage, the needs of dependent children, the age and health of each spouse, any prior payments from one spouse to another towards education or training, and more. Because of its long-term nature, it is more all-encompassing.

Modification of Long-Term Support

Long-term support can be modified, and very rarely lasts forever. Long-term support for shorter marriages is often implemented for only half the length of the marriage. For marriages over 10 years, a judge will determine how much time is reasonable for the supported spouse to become self-sufficient after the marriage has ended. But the duration and amount of long-term support can be modified by request as long as “non-modifiable” verbiage is not contained within the initial agreement. You and your ex-spouse can agree to modify the amount, or either one of you can bring the issue to court by filing a motion for a material change of circumstances that would warrant such modification or termination. Some such circumstances might be loss of a job, a health issue, or any other circumstance that has decreased the paying spouse’s income through no fault of their own. Long-term support obligations also automatically terminate upon the death of the supported spouse.

Three Major Differences between Temporary and Long-Term Support

1. These two types of support fulfill different needs. Whereas temporary support is meant to support the status quo during a divorce case; long-term support is meant to support the standard of living experienced during the marriage after the divorce is final.

2. Guideline calculators for the support payment amount can only be used to determine a motion for temporary spousal support. They cannot be used in determining permanent spousal support, as many more factors must be taken into account to determine a fair judgment for long-term support.

3.  Permanent spousal support is not considered taxable income as long as each spouse files a separate tax return.

Temporary and long-term support are both applicable to the divorce process, but in very different ways. Different factors are taken into account, and modifications can often be made to long-term rulings as circumstances change in the years following the divorce. A spouse may be subject to one, both, or neither during the process, depending on the financial dependence of each spouse and the determination of the court.

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What You Need to Know About Amending the Terms of Child Support

A gavel sits atop a desk covered with money

As the lives of you and your child move forward, child support payments may require modification. The court system is flexible to this, but changes must be legally approved and meet certain requirements. In California, parents must demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances significant enough to warrant the modification.

Child support is a serious issue to California courts. If your situation has changed and you believe your child support structure needs to change as well, make a modification request sooner rather than later. Failing to pay — even for valid reasons — without informing the court of your situation can lead to a judge finding you in contempt of court.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at why you may need to change your child support arrangement, and the considerations to bear in mind as you move forward.

Reasons for Modifying Child Support

A major life change, personally or professionally, is often the main reason to amend the terms of child support. An adjusted income (either up or down) or the loss of a job is often seen by the courts as a valid reason to reassess child support. On a personal level, child support may shift if a parent is incarcerated, has a child from another relationship, or is going through a divorce.

A child’s needs also affect support costs — for instance, the need for extra educational support or the onset of a health problem that demands care. A shift in custody arrangements is also a reason to modify child support. If a child is now spending significantly more time with you than before, then the amount of child support you pay may drop in accordance with your additional responsibilities.

Courts may also make temporary child support changes to accommodate pressing matters such as a medical emergency, or a short-term shift in income for either parent as a result of a temporary disability or the occurrence of a natural disaster, for example.

Going About the Change

Unlike in some states where child support modifications can be made by opening a case at a local child support agency, California requires that a judge sign off on any changes, provided the shift totals either 20% or $50, whichever is less.

A child support agency can provide assistance in this process, but it is not the main place where issues are mediated. If there are disagreements with the change, a family attorney or a facilitator in Family Court are two other individuals who can offer support.

If parents and guardians are satisfied with the change amount, they can sign an agreement which will be approved by the court. If there is no agreement, it is up to a judge to decide for or against a change based on the information parents must submit. This information includes any documents that offer proof of finances (paystubs, unemployment benefits, etc.), medical and health information for the child, as well as custody and visitation agreements. These are all elements that will be considered when deciding if an amendment is appropriate, so it’s essential to keep up-to-date and accurate records.

Getting the Support You Need

Amending the terms of your child support is challenging to navigate alone, especially because each person’s personal situation is unique. It may be in your best interest to speak with an attorney about your situation.

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5 Co-Parenting Don’ts: Mistakes to Avoid Post-Divorce

Two Parents Fighting Over Child
Parenting is one of the most challenging experiences any adult will face, but co-parenting can be particularly tough. Emotions are high after a divorce or separation, and even if you’re on
good terms with your ex, you might find that you struggle to agree on decisions impacting the future of your child. In the midst of heated times, some parents with the best of intentions accidentally act on impulse, handle things in a dangerous way, or respond thoughtlessly, which can be traumatic for the child.

Being aware of common issues that newly single fathers face might help you to adjust your decisions and attitudes more appropriately in the moment. Ultimately, parenting after divorce is a day-by-day experience, and it’s up to you and your child’s mother to make sure you’re doing everything you can to help your children cope. Here, we’ll look at what you shouldn’t be doing after the debris settles from your divorce.

1. Don’t Make Your Child Your Messenger

Communicating with your ex after a divorce is hard. Even if the split was mutual, you’re likely to feel raw, vulnerable, and upset. It’s tempting, in these situations, to ask your child to convey messages on your behalf, so you can avoid the experience. Unfortunately, this places undue strain on your child, and forces them to negotiate matters that they may not know how to handle.

If you feel as though you can’t handle speaking to your child’s mother face-to-face, then consider sending them a text message or an email to start. However, in some cases, you’ll simply have to take a deep breath and push through the unpleasant experience for the best interests of your child.

2. Don’t ‘Badmouth’ Your Ex

Divorces don’t always end amicably. Sometimes, you might leave a courtroom or lawyer’s office feeling angry and bitter. However, it’s important to try and mute those emotions in front of your child. While it’s O.K. to show children that you’re feeling emotional, try to minimize your anger. Do not say anything bad about your co-parent in front of your child, as this can put them in a tough position, and make them feel as though they’re expected to dislike their mother to gain your approval.

Remember to be careful about the conversations you have around children, too. They can easily overhear the things you say on the phone, in conversations with friends, or even when you’re muttering to yourself.

3. Don’t Overindulge Your Child

A divorce can be a traumatizing experience for a child. Often, parents are left feeling guilty about subjecting their child to such a difficult event. As a result, some parents will overindulge their child, buying them gifts and letting them get their way whenever they want in an effort to compensate. Although it might feel good at the time, it’s not doing your child any favors in the long run, as it might teach them to have unrealistic expectations.

Similarly, try not to indulge your child as a way of getting a leg-up on your ex. Don’t try to identify yourself as the “fun” parent by buying your child more stuff. Children want love and support from both parents, if they begin to see their parents competing over them, this can lead to emotional problems.

4. Don’t Expect Too Much From Your Child

As a parent going through a difficult emotional experience, it can be tempting to lean on your child for emotional support and guidance. Unfortunately, your child doesn’t have the emotional strength to help you get through this difficult time. Children can struggle just as badly as adults during a divorce, and it’s unfair to expect them to support you. As a father, it’s always your responsibility to care for your child, not the other way around.

Some parents subconsciously ask their child to fill in for their former spouse at home, asking them to prepare meals, do housework, and more. While there’s nothing wrong with asking your child to continue their regular chores and help out sometimes, be careful about placing too much pressure on them. Your children need to see that you have the strength to cope without leaning on them.

5. Don’t Make Your Child Choose

Finally, in some cases, rather than having to deal with the complexity of mediation and visitation arguments, parents leave it up to their children to choose where they want to live, and which parent to spend the most time with. Sometimes, it’s easy to think that you’re doing your child a favor this way by allowing them to make their own decisions. However, this is a decision far too important and complicated for a child to make, and there can be hurt feelings all around if they do make this decision.

Don’t leave important co-parenting decisions up to your kids. Everything from visitation to where the child should spend the holiday should be handled by you and your child’s mother.

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Surviving the Morning Routine as a Single Parent

A father helps his young daughter get dressed

With back-to-school time just around the corner, plenty of single dads are wondering how they’re going to manage the stress of the morning routine. School mornings can be chaos for any parent. It’s up to you to make sure you get your kids dressed, fed, ready, and off to school. All that, and you still need to turn up at the office on time!

The good news is that the school season doesn’t have to mean months of terrible mornings. With the right morning routine, you can make sure that you get out of the door on time each morning feeling fresh and confident — all with a positive attitude, too. So, let’s take a look at how you can make your morning routine more effective.

1. It All Starts with a Good Night’s Sleep

During summer vacation, it’s typical for kids to stay up a little later than they would during the school year. If you’ve been a little lax with your child’s bedtime lately, it’s a good idea to start making changes before school starts. You can expect your kids to make a few complaints, but the earlier they start going to bed, the more prepared they’ll be for the school routine.

Make sure your child gets at least eight hours of sleep the night before school. Remember, tired parents and children can make mornings much more difficult, and that’s the last thing you need come school time.

2. Prepare the Night Before

The evening before school starts can be a tiring one, but remember that the next morning may be even more exhausting. That means that getting things ready ahead of time is the best way to prepare for success. Finish anything you can do in advance the night before. Short of sleeping in the clothes they’re going to go to school in, your kids should be fully prepared to get ready in as little time as possible. Try doing these things the night before:

  • Packing lunches
  • Filling bags with homework and supplies
  • Picking out the outfit for the next day
  • Setting out breakfast dishes

3. Wake Up Before Your Kids Do

On a weekend, and your days off throughout the summer vacation, you might have let your children wake you up. However, on school and work days, waking up before your children is essential to making sure that you have time to deal with the things you need, before you start running around after your youngsters. Waking up a little while before your children hear their alarm means that you can get a shower, drink some coffee, and sort out the things you need for work before your children rise.

Getting up early also means that you can focus on things that you might rather do without your kids hanging off your arm, like preparing breakfast.

4. Stick to the Same Simple Routine

Variety might be the spice of life, but consistency is key to a good morning routine. If you want to make sure that everything runs like clockwork when the kids are back at school, then it’s a good idea to follow the same schedule every morning. Kids often run on autopilot, just like us, when they know what comes next. You could even try putting key tasks into a checklist that includes:

  • Brush your teeth
  • Comb your hair
  • Get dressed
  • Eat breakfast
  • Grab your shoes
  • Pick up your backpack
  • Leave for school

5. Switch from Television to Music

It can be nice to have some background noise going when you’re just waking up first thing in a morning. However, the television can quickly become a time-draining distraction for both parents and kids. Try introducing a rule for school kids that ensures phones, tablets, and television aren’t allowed until people are fully ready for school.

If you need a way to keep your children motivated, you could always try switching to music instead. Sit down with your kids one day before school starts again, and create a playlist full of their favorite mood-lifting tunes. This will be a great way to rev up energy levels in the morning and get your kids moving a little faster.

6. Pick Your Battles

Finally, no matter how prepared you might be, there’s a good chance that things aren’t going to go very smoothly during those first few days when you’re heading back to school. Some children are particularly strong-willed, and the desire to continue playing around the house rather than going back to education is sure to lead to some temper tantrums. Rather than fighting over everything and making the whole experience take longer, make sure you pick your battles carefully.

If your kid insists on eating a different breakfast to what you picked out for them, or your daughter tells you that she wants to brush her hair before she brushes her teeth, ask yourself if it’s worth arguing about it. Most of the time, it’s better just letting the chips fall where they may.

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5 Ways to Encourage Your Daughter in Sports

three young girls on a soccer team smile at the cameraGetting your daughter involved in sports can be a fantastic way to help her improve her health, develop positive habits, and cultivate more confidence and leadership skills. On top of that, sporting activities also deliver countless opportunities for father/daughter bonding.

We all know that an active child is a healthy child. Sometimes, as a father, it’s up to you to nudge your daughter into more physical activities to help her avoid the threat of childhood obesity, grow stronger muscles, build self-esteem, and learn the value of teamwork. However, there’s a fine line between a supportive dad and an overbearing parent screaming from the sidelines.

Encouraging your daughter to excel is all about finding balance. Here are a few ways that you can be the enthusiastic father, rather than the crazy sports parent.

1. Focus on Enjoyment, Not Winning

It’s always a thrill to see your daughter bring home the win for her team, or accomplish something incredible in her chosen sport. However, it’s important for both you and her to recognize that winning isn’t everything. Children who feel pressured to win are often too anxious to focus on the game. In fact, a focus on winning could lead to anxiety that drives your daughter to avoid competition and sports altogether.

The biggest motivation your daughter can have to play sports is fun. Instead of concentrating on the win, make sure that you encourage your child to simply do her best. At the end of the game, ask her what her favorite moment was, regardless of whether her team won or lost.

2. Help Her Set Her Own Goals

Goals are incredibly effective when it comes to motivating your daughter in sports. Helping her to set appropriate goals will ensure that she focuses on the aspects of the game that are in her control. For instance, you could ask your daughter which skills she’d like to improve upon and help her reach her goal. You can even help your kid chart her progress over time so she can see how well she’s doing.

Importantly, make sure that you don’t push your goals on her. As tempting as it might be, remember that your daughter is a unique person with her own unique interests. Allow her to define her own accomplishments.

3. Be a Volunteer

It’s all too easy for a dad to assume that if he wants to show his support, he needs to push himself into the center of his daughter’s interests. However, it can be far more effective to volunteer help than to assume the role of coach, manager, and leader.

Rather than yelling instructions during the game or taking over for your child’s teacher, let her come to you when she needs you. Your daughter will be sure to let you know if she needs you to coach her, or if she’s going to need some extra help with practice before a game. What matters most is that she knows you’re there for her, regardless of what she wants you for.

4. Let Her Learn from Her Mistakes

One of the biggest problems that loving parents struggle with is an overwhelming desire to fix everything. Your daughter isn’t a pro athlete, and even if she was, there’s a good chance she’s going to make mistakes on the path to success. Subdue your desire to tell her that every mistake is the result of the weather, the position of the sun, or the equipment she’s using.

Although it can feel like you’re helping by finding excuses, it’s usually much more beneficial to let your daughter own her mistakes and learn from them. Let her know that everyone stumbles sometimes, and help her come up with a plan to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

5. Give Her the Same Support — Win or Lose

Finally, while you know that you will love your daughter unconditionally no matter the outcome of a youth sports game, she might not realize that. It’s easy for a child to get confused when she sees the disappointment in your face after a loss compared to the elation that comes with a win. Show your child that you love her regardless of what happens. Don’t plan to go for ice cream after the game “if” she wins. Go either way. Celebrate her participation, not her success.

Researchers have found that the most effective thing you can say to your child after a game is: “I love to watch you play.” It’s not condolences for a loss or praise for a win. Showing your support and pride in your daughter is more than enough.

Supporting Sports

For your daughter, playing sports should be all about learning, growing, and having a great time. Kids love to play sports when they enjoy them, but if that sport becomes filled with pressure, your daughter could quickly lose interest. Learn how to walk the line between supportive and overbearing, and you should be on the right track to a happy, motivated, sporty child.

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Dad Guilt is Real — But Does It Mean Anything?

a dad looks stressed as he eats breakfast with his infant child
The moment a father meets his child, he’s overwhelmed with a range of emotions, such as joy, pride, love, fear, and more. The arrival of a bundle of joy instantly compels us to take responsibility for every element of that child’s life — and that can be a huge weight to bear. 

We frequently hear about the phenomenon of “mom guilt,” but “dad guilt” is a real issue, too. Fathers are just as prone to feeling the anxiety and panic that comes with ongoing guilt about everything from working too much or working too little, to being too strict or not strict enough. In fact, a survey conducted on over 1,200 dads found that 1 in 4 fathers is frequently overwhelmed by feelings of guilt.

Why is this? Modern fathers have countless stresses to deal with. Not only do most dads feel pressured to fulfill their traditional role as the family “breadwinner,” but a study from the Pew Research Center found that 48% of working dads felt as though they’re not spending enough time with their kids, compared to only 26% of working moms.

A Neverending Learning Curve

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about parental guilt is that it’s totally normal. Every parent will feel some guilt at some point, and in fact, that experience might be a good thing. After all, that guilt shows that you’re taking your job as a parent seriously. You’re doing your best to be the perfect role model for your child. That’s what he or she deserves.

The problem is that perfection is impossible. No father is going to jump into parenthood and get everything right without any stumbles or hurdles along the way. While most dads assume that they should be able to handle every aspect of parenting with skill and finesse, the truth is that raising a child is a learning curve. It takes some trial and error.

Take some time to look back over parenting through the ages, and you’ll notice we haven’t always taken the same approach to nurturing children. Today, you wouldn’t dream of hurting your child if they misbehaved, but flogging was a standard form of punishment in the 19th century. Collectively, parents around the world are learning together about how to parent more empathetically and effectively.

Like all learners, you’re probably going to make mistakes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The key is to forgive yourself, and keep working on it.

How to Overcome Dad Guilt

While guilt can be useful in some cases by identifying when we should change our behavior or helping us to see where we’ve gone wrong, it can also be dangerous if you allow it to run your life. As a father, it’s important to accept yourself for your mistakes and focus on being the best dad you can be.

For instance, if you feel bad because you promised to go to your child’s ball game and then didn’t turn up, then you’re feeling worthy guilt. Rather than dwelling on it, make sure that you take steps to avoid the same problem in the future. Take actionable steps to avoid your guilt.

According to studies, about 19% of dads feel as though they’re not “present” enough with their kids. A great way to minimize that problem is to schedule distraction-free bonding time. For instance, put your phone in a drawer for an hour each day while you chat with your child. You can get it back out when they go to bed.

Dads, Give Yourself a Break

When it comes to parenting, research shows that dads are much harder on themselves than moms. Among working dads who feel they’re not spending enough time with their children, only about 49% consider themselves to be doing a “good” job.

Ultimately, overcoming dad guilt means letting go of perfection. Be realistic about your ability to solve every problem that your child faces, and remember that the grass is always greener on the other side. While a dad who works constantly may feel bad about not spending enough time with his kids, a dad who works less might feel guilty about not bringing home a big enough paycheck. Parenting isn’t a competitive sport, so remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can.

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