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How to Handle a Holiday Divorce or Separation

How to Handle a Holiday Divorce or Separation

The holidays are upon us once more! For most people, this festive season is a time of family, joy, and celebration. However, when you’re going through a divorce or celebrating your first holiday after a separation, you may have a very different experience, and it can often be difficult to stay positive.

Even if you’ve always been a holiday season enthusiast, divorce can put a damper on almost any experience. After all, it’s hard to truly embrace the spirit when your mind is filled with things like spousal maintenance agreements and visitation rights.

Dealing with divorce during the holidays isn’t easy, but it can be done. The following advice will help to make sure that you get through the season with as little heartache as possible:

Be Patient with Yourself

During the holidays, the flood of feel-good movies, family-portrait Christmas cards, and the like can make you feel intense pressure to be part of the perfect family. Unfortunately, when you’re in the middle of a separation or getting used to life after divorce, it’s difficult to fit in with those old-fashioned expectations of what the holidays should look like.

Holding yourself to unreasonable standards during this time will only make it harder to cope. No one who cares for you expects you to plaster a smile on your face through the season and ignore what’s going on around you. The people who love you will understand that you’re grieving some significant losses, and they’ll give you the patience, grace, and space you need. In turn, remember to be patient with yourself, too.

Accept the tears, the pain, and the feelings of anger that may emerge during the holidays and recognize that all of your feelings are completely normal.

Don’t Isolate Yourself

A divorce or separation can make you feel as though your life is falling apart. When this happens, it’s tempting to shut yourself in and avoid the other people in your life. Perhaps you’re worried about people seeing you when you’re not your best, or you’re concerned about being a burden to your family. This is an understandable worry, but the worst thing you can do during a time of pain is to force yourself to be alone with your thoughts.

Both during and after a divorce, spending the holidays with family and friends reminds you that you haven’t lost everything that matters to you. Make plans with the people you love most and allow them to form the crucial support network you need during this complicated time.

Plan Visitation Schedules

Keeping things in perspective during this season is important. You need to be realistic with yourself and summon the emotional clarity to step back and put your children first. Arguments about who should have the kids during Christmas or New Year’s will only make the experience stressful for everyone involved. The most productive thing you can do for your kids is attempt to share the joy evenly between you and your ex. Collaborate together to create a visitation schedule that you can both live with.

Your kids are always going to remember the time they spend with each parent during this season. They need you now, perhaps more than ever before, to show them that their lives aren’t falling apart as a result of the divorce. Children crave consistency during a divorce, and it’s important to show them that they can still experience the magic of the holidays. What’s more, nothing is better for the soul than sharing laughter and excitement with your kids.

Know Your Triggers

You have to do what feels right for you when it comes to managing your stress during the holidays. For some people, taking care of themselves means cutting some of the “to-do’s” from their list of festive prep work so that they have more time to spend on themselves. For others, it’s a process of finding the triggers that make them feel their worst and avoiding them at all costs.

Make a note of anything that makes you feel depressed, overwhelmed, or hopeless. Sometimes the smallest thing, like a certain TV ad, can unexpectedly flip the switch on your emotions. If you know what’s going to cause you the most suffering during the holiday season, you can take steps to avoid it. For instance, change the channel when the ad that upsets you comes on. If you can’t avoid exposure to your triggers, try imagining a scenario that makes you feel at peace, like watching your kids unwrap their presents or sitting by the ocean.

Start New Traditions

Many families have a set of traditions that they follow every year during the holidays. You may always watch a particular movie on Christmas Eve, make a certain dish, or go caroling around the neighborhood. You don’t have to force yourself to continue those traditions during or after a divorce. Pushing yourself to re-live those experiences may be unnecessarily painful and impede healing.

Give yourself a break and consider developing some new traditions that are all about your new life and what you need. For example, if your ex will have the kids over a certain holiday, you could consider taking a vacation where you can relax, unwind, and take your mind off what’s going on at home. If you’re limited on cash, make some free or inexpensive plans with your friends, like ice skating, walking outside, or taking in a movie.

Handling divorce at any time of the year is never easy, and the pressure of the holidays can compound the stress even more. The important thing to remember is that you need to look after yourself. For many fathers, the first step in self-care is contacting a lawyer that can help you understand your rights and protect your best interests during a separation. Call Father’s Rights today to ensure you have the support you need.

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Social Media Is Not Your Friend During a Custody Dispute

Social Media Is Not Your Friend During a Custody Dispute

For most of us, using social media tools is a regular part of our daily lives. Sharing personal details on these platforms — everything from significant events to mundane experiences — has become second nature. However, you must carefully evaluate your use of social media if you are involved in a situation as stressful as a child custody dispute.

It can be hard to take care of yourself during this time and as such, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and get swept up in emotions. It may feel good to vent on social media about your problems with co-parenting, your struggles with single parenting, or the custody proceedings. The problem is that you may be posting material which could reflect poorly on your character and suitability as a parent. If any of these statements are submitted as evidence against you, this could seriously damage your case.

Here are some important things to keep in mind about your social media activity during a custody dispute:

You Can’t Assume Your Social Media Posts Are Private

Have you ever posted something online or sent a private message that you would not want revealed publicly in court? Reminder: Social media is inherently social. Even if you have your social media accounts set to private, you cannot assume the information you post will stay a secret. None of your messages or posts are likely to be considered privileged information and could be used against you in a legal proceeding.

Though you might want to lean on your network during this time, it is not unheard of for people you know to leak your private posts. Think about how easy it would be for one of your friends or followers to capture screenshots of your posts and share them with your ex, mutual friends, and others. Because of this, you must carefully consider everything you decide to post online. Assume everything you post is public.

Other People’s Posts Can Hurt Your Case

The potential pitfalls of social media don’t end with your own posts! If a friend posts photos of you or shares information about your activities, these posts could become evidence as well. For instance, if your friend posts pictures of you using alcohol or drugs, with a new romantic interest, or makes reference to any behavior which could cast doubt on your fitness as a parent, this could damage your case — even if you never had a social media account.

Be sure to have honest, direct conversations with the people you spend time with about what information you want shared on social media forums.

Do Not Discuss Your Case Online

Your custody case may weigh heavily on your mind, and you may be tempted to post about the specifics on social media. However, this is never a good idea. Disparaging the judge, court officers, or anyone else involved in the case also may make you seem hostile, which will not win you any favor in court. Remember that if posts are introduced to the case, they will be read and interpreted entirely out of context. These people don’t have a solid picture of you as a person, of what you’re going through, and any other information that can help them understand where you’re coming from.

There are also times in which a judge may specifically request that you not talk about the case online. If you decide to anyway, you will be in violation of a court order — not the position you want to be in. The bottom line here is: You want to appear as a cooperative, stable role model for your children to the court. You would be best served discussing your case only with your lawyer, therapist, and trusted family members you talk with on the phone or in person.

Never Vent on Social Media — About Anything

Even if you resolve never to mention anything related to the case online, you still can hurt your case by talking online about things that upset you. Angry rants about your thoughts on politics, a disagreement with a coworker, or an inconvenient traffic jam all have the potential to make you look out of control. This is particularly true if your case involves allegations that you have anger management issues. Even if you insist you didn’t mean anything serious and were just blowing off steam, those rants will likely sound very different when a judge reads them.

Even Posts Unrelated to Your Case Can Backfire

Your social media posts can construct a vast web of evidence about your lifestyle. If your custody case involves child support and you post photos of expensive vacations or items you have purchased, this can be used as evidence that you have more money than you’re letting on. Similarly, if you are in the middle of divorce proceedings and post about a new romantic partner, this may raise questions about potential infidelity and what environment you’re providing for your children.

Even following or commenting on accounts promoting controversial viewpoints when it comes to things like religion or politics, illegal activities, or adult entertainment could cast doubt on your character. Please be aware that deleting posts which you feel may be used against you could also be considered destruction of evidence. The best method here is to abstain from posting, following, or liking anything questionable at all.

If you’re involved in a custody dispute, you must be extremely careful in the way you approach social media. Father’s Rights is here to guide you through this process and answer any questions you have along the way. Contact us today and visit our blog for more advice on how to navigate the world of single fatherhood.

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Taking Care of Yourself During A Custody Dispute

Taking Care of Yourself During A Custody Dispute

Divorce is extremely common. Though researchers disagree on the widespread claim that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, the fact remains that many children grow up in “non-traditional” households and have mothers and fathers who are no longer married.

When it comes to divorce cases, custody and visitation disputes are some of the most common issues that the courts face. However, the fact that these cases happen on a regular basis doesn’t make them easy to deal with — especially for the separating parties. There are few tasks harder than deciding how you and your ex-partner should divide your children’s time and other previously shared resources.

During this time, it’s easy to let your self-care strategies fall into the background. However, as with any other crisis, it’s crucial for you to think carefully and act with intention right now. Emotional fog and exhaustion can impair your ability to make solid decisions and cloud your judgment, so you’ll have to be extra conscientious of your actions and priorities right now.

Here are some suggestions for keeping your self-care intact during this turbulent time.

Take Care of Yourself First

During custody disputes, there are eyes on you from all angles. Your children will be looking to you for confirmation that everything is going to be okay. This is a time in which their lives are changing drastically, and they may be very anxious about it. Your ex-partner might be studying you as well, and the courts will definitely be evaluating your behavior and presence too. They are tasked with making a decision in the best interest of your children, and so you need to be as healthy and stable as possible.

If you want to assure everyone that you’re capable of looking after your children, then you must look after yourself first. It may seem obvious that you need to shave, shower, brush your teeth, and wash your clothing during a divorce. However, the stress and depression that arise from a custody battle frequently lead to self-neglect.

Remember that these feelings are normal. You are going through a hard time, and you are doing the best you can. Despite how overwhelmed and exhausted you feel, try to keep your eyes on the big picture. You are working to remain strong for your children — and in order to do that, you must start with taking care of yourself.

Look After Your Body

This goes hand-in-hand with the first point. In times of significant stress, a lot of people ignore their basic physical needs, like decent sleep, healthy food, and regular exercise. However, you have a stronger chance of being the best version of yourself when you don’t let those things fall by the wayside.

A few tips:

  • Make sure that you get at least eight hours of sleep each night whenever possible.
  • Avoid fast food or processed foods. Whole foods offer the best nutrition, which will support your health and give you sustained energy.
  • Set up a schedule for regular exercise. Even if it’s just a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood once a day, the physical and mental benefits are vast. If you don’t have a lot of time, try breaking it up into 10-minute sessions of movement throughout the day.
  • Consider implementing a mindfulness or meditation practice. Meditation has many health benefits and can help you learn to relax during strenuous times.

Looking after your mind and body can help you be fit and healthy enough to deal with one of the most arduous situations of your life. Additionally, regular exercise will help to reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety by raising your endorphin levels and giving you an outlet for difficult emotions. This could mean that you feel more capable of coping with the situation at hand.

Spend Some Time Doing the Things You Love

When you’re in the middle of a custody battle, it can seem like all of your time is spoken for. Whether it’s filling out documents, talking with your lawyer, or just waiting for the court date to come — none of these activities are probably the way you would choose to spend your time otherwise, and this can be draining and frustrating. It’s crucial to make time for things that help you relax and recuperate.

Take some time to do things you enjoy as often as you can. Think about your hobbies and how you can proactively make time for them. Even if it’s just an hour spent watching your favorite show, reading a book, or taking a walk through your local park, it will help. Having some fun and remembering who you are outside of all of this will help put things in perspective.

Remember that you will eventually come out on the other side of your custody battle. You’ll be able to move on with your life. Keeping this in mind is crucial during long legal disputes.

Find Your Support Network

Having a trustworthy support network is a crucial element of self-care during a child custody battle. Divorce and other family law matters can feel incredibly isolating. Having people around to remind you that you’re a good person and talk with you about your feelings will help you stay motivated and focused during this challenging period. (Note: social media as an outlet is not a great choice during this time.)

You might even separate your support network into two categories: people you love and professionals. On one side, you’ll have your family and friends, who can be there for you emotionally. On the other side, you’ll have a therapist or counselor, who can give you objective guidance and feedback during this time. A therapist also provides a forum to express your feelings when you’re worried about putting too much on your friends and family.

Perhaps the most crucial expert to include on the “professional” side of your support network is a lawyer with experience in child custody disputes. An attorney you can trust to fight for your best interests, as well as your children’s, can put your mind at ease. Father’s Rights has over 30 years of experience in assisting husbands and fathers throughout their dissolution and custody cases, and we’re always here to talk to you about the specifics of your case.

For more tips on navigating single fatherhood, follow the Father’s Rights blog.

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6 Ways Military Fathers Can Transition Kids Back to School

6 Ways Military Fathers Can Transition Kids Back to School

The end of summer ushers in a whole new season: going back to school! This is prime time for a refresh on your family’s organization, healthy eating, goal setting, sleep schedules, and more. Similar to the start of the new year in January, the start of the school year gives families a chance to envision what they want to achieve in the next nine months or so. With the right planning and support, this can be an exciting time for all members of the family.

That’s not to say everyone will be in agreement and it will be a seamless transition. As a single parent in the military, the start of the school year can be particularly stressful for your kids and may bring with it some major scheduling changes.

Here are some tactics that military fathers can employ to help your kids adjust to the new school year.

1. Discuss the Schedule

Sit down as a family and look ahead to everything on the agenda for the coming school year. Talk about things like extracurricular activities and important academic dates, such as exams and school holidays. List special events, like family vacations and upcoming deployments for parents.

If there is a custody schedule between parents, make sure that is clearly noted alongside school, work, and activities so your children have a sense of routine and stability. The point of this discussion is to get a big picture feel for what will happen in the coming year, so nothing catches your kids off guard and they have the opportunity to ask questions if necessary.

2. Outline Expectations

Tell your kids what you want them to accomplish in the coming school year. It’s important that these expectations focus more on actions than end results. For example, helping kids establish a consistent study and homework schedule is healthier than simply demanding good grades. Likewise, creating an action plan for improving athletic skills is more helpful than expecting your child to qualify for a certain sports team.

Perhaps more importantly, ask your kids what they want to accomplish for themselves. The beginning of a new school year is a great time to teach your children about setting their own internal expectations and goals. Have a discussion about what motivated your child to choose the goal they selected for this year, and encourage them to think about steps they can take to meet that goal.

This is also a good time to define each child’s role around the house as it relates to chores and housework. With each new academic year, your children may be ready to take on more responsibility at home.

3. Identify and Plan for Obstacles

What could stand in the way of your family’s productivity and happiness this school year? What challenges could interfere with your kids accomplishing what you’ve outlined for them or you mastering your personal goals? Maybe your family struggles with conflicting schedules or work responsibilities, or perhaps there are a few weeks each year when life is more stressful than normal.

Identify these potential issues up front and try to think of creative ways to address them. Sometimes even if nothing can be done to remove an obstacle, it just takes a bit of communication to work through it — for example, if you will be less available to your kids than normal because of work obligations, make sure they know ahead of time so they’re less likely to feel neglected.

4. Break Old Habits

If there are habits in your household that simply aren’t working, the start of the school year is a perfect time to change them. Some things to consider: Are your kids often tired in the morning? Are they eating enough fruits and vegetables? Do they seem emotionally healthy and well-adjusted?

You can leverage the clean slate of this season to set earlier bedtimes, plan healthier meals, and carve out more quality family time. The change in routine from summer to school year and its accompanying activities offer an ideal opportunity to switch out old habits for healthier ones.

5. Introduce Change Slowly

If there are changes to be added to the schedule, try to anticipate them in advance so you can roll them in slowly. For example, if your child joins the swim team and must now get up before sunrise on two days of the week, ease into this before the swimming season begins. Have her wake up early one day a week for a couple weeks toward the end of summer. You might have a special breakfast on those days, or do an enjoyable activity together. Then, increase to waking up early two days a week. By the time swim practice starts, she’ll likely have an easier time rising to get to practice in the mornings.

6. Practice Makes Perfect

Doing a few dry runs of the schedule is a good way to introduce change in a palatable way. These practice runs should include dinnertime, bedtime, and the updated morning routine. If your family’s summer has consisted of late nights and sleeping in, roll back bedtime by 30 minutes at a time until it aligns with where it needs to be when school starts.

It could also be helpful to practice laying out clothes the night before and packing lunches. If there is a way to practice any other part of the school routine in advance, put that into play in the weeks leading up to the first day of school.

It’s also smart to check for military discounts when back-to-school shopping rolls around. Many companies offer special pricing on everything from laptop computers to desks; these deals are for active or retired military members, so it pays to do a little research before spending.

Military kids are exposed to a lot of change and easing the stress of transitions is part of what military parents are called to do. Returning to school is one of those change-filled seasons, so remember to take some time now to help make this the best season yet for your family.

For more resources and helpful advice on single fatherhood, check out the Father’s Rights blog.

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8 Positive Ways Newly Single Fathers Can Impact Their Children’s Lives

A single father holds his toddler aged daughter

Being a newly single father and adjusting to what your life looks like now comes with more than its fair share of challenges, but one of the unique opportunities it presents is the chance to really focus on the impact you have on your children’s lives. When you spend time with your children as a single parent, it often involves more one-on-one time, which means it’s more important than ever to make sure your actions and lifestyle have a positive impact on them.

Here are 8 positive ways you can impact your children’s lives as a newly single father:

1. Take Care of Yourself

Often the most obvious ideas are the easiest ones to ignore, but don’t forget that you can’t take care of anyone if you’re not taking care of yourself first. If you’re going through a separation, consider finding someone to talk to about your feelings to make sure you’re learning how to cope with them in a productive way. Develop and maintain healthy habits like exercising regularly, taking time whenever possible to relax, and cooking healthy meals for yourself and your children.

2. Avoid Negative Talk About Your Ex-Partner

A crucial requirement when it comes to making a positive impact on your children is refraining from any negative talk about your ex-partner. While you may have legitimate concerns and frustrations about your ex, your children are not the audience to share those with. By maintaining a mature attitude and working toward a collaborative relationship with your ex, you can show your children that separations can be amicable and ensure they feel safe and comfortable.

3. Keep a Flexible Schedule

When you become a single parent, you have to learn how to be flexible. Whereas in the past you may have been able to negotiate with your partner about who would pick up the kids when they were sick, if they get sick on your watch it’s on you to pick them up. Especially during the early days after the separation, your children may require more attention than usual and keeping your schedule open and adaptable will help you accommodate their needs.

4. Make Time for Vacations

Don’t just set aside time when your children are sick or need something specific — proactively make time to schedule fun things they’ll want to do, like going on vacation or trying new activities together. Not only are vacations and special events great bonding time, they can also help your children stay occupied and busy after a separation, when they may be feeling especially isolated or alone.

5. Respect Your Children and Expect it Back

Major changes can be disruptive for children, because they lose the comfort of their old habits and routines. While it may be tempting to be lenient and overlook some of the rules during this time, the resulting lack of structure could actually be harmful to them. Consciously enforce boundaries and treat your children with respect when you become a single parent, and ask that they show the same respect to you. This could be as simple as setting up a household chore chart at your new house and recognizing them for doing a good job following it.

6. Develop a Support Network

We always hear that it takes a village to raise a child, and with good reason — your “village” will be critical for you in these early days and beyond. As a single father, it’s essential to grow a support network to help provide your children the well-rounded community and care they need. Whether it’s fellow parents, your siblings, friends, or your kids’ teachers, don’t be afraid to reach out to people in your circle and develop strategies to ensure your children have everything they need and you have people to go to when you need help.

7. Lead by Example

While a “do as I say and not as I do” approach may make a good occasional punchline, it doesn’t necessarily make for good parenting. Your children look up to you as a primary role model, hanging on your every word and watching your actions. If you want to ensure you’re having a positive impact on them, lead first by example. Do your best to exemplify the morals you would like them to emulate.

8. Stay Positive

Finally, while you can’t be all smiles all the time, one of the biggest things you can do to make a positive impact on your children’s lives as a single father is staying positive. Remembering that the hard times will eventually pass can help put things into perspective. Building a supportive network, taking care of yourself, and spending meaningful time with your children will hopefully help all of you find the silver lining.

We’re here to help you be the best single father you can be. Get in touch with Father’s RIghts to ensure your custody and/or visitation rights are fair and balanced. You and your children deserve it.

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4 Reasons Why Support Groups are Great for Single Military Fathers

4 Reasons Why Support Groups are Great for Single Military Fathers

Juggling work and family can be tricky for anyone, but when you’re a single father in the military, this balancing act can get downright precarious — and considering nearly 8% of the military population is made up of single parents, it’s a sizable issue to take into consideration.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that so many single military parents turn to support groups to help find a system that works for them. Support groups provide a consistent opportunity to relate to peers in a safe setting. A support group creates an environment in which single parents can express frustrations and fears, while exchanging tips and strategies with people in similar life situations.

What Defines a Support Group?

If you’re unfamiliar with support groups, the term refers to any gathering of people facing the same challenge or going through related life experiences. Groups for single fathers have been emerging more in recent years, as people realize how important it is to have an outlet and support network to deal with the challenges of single parenting. This is also partly driven by the fact that single-father households have increased nearly tenfold since 1960.

Support groups often start off informally as small gatherings and develop from there into something more organized. Some groups are designed for single fathers in general, regardless of career. If you live near a military base, you may be able to access specialized groups dedicated to single military fathers, where you’re likely to meet people who can relate to the unique struggles of being a military parent, such as navigating deployment or military divorce.

Meetings are usually held on a regular basis in a comfortable, accessible space with refreshments. Attendees will first check in and then have an opportunity to share experiences or participate in organized activities as a group.

Finding a Support Group

Local newspapers or news websites will usually list or advertise parenting support groups, as will networking websites like Meetup.com. Hospitals, clinics, churches, and schools are other community spaces that feature listings or keep track of local resources for single parents.

If you’re having trouble finding a support group through these methods, you could also consider talking to a therapist or social worker to get their recommendations. If you know or work with other single fathers in your area, ask them if they know of any resources. Many times, these groups thrive by word-of-mouth and just asking around might open the door to finding one.

Benefits of Support Groups

Here are a few key benefits you can expect to gain from attending a support group:

1. Information

Single father support groups are an excellent source of information. Whether you’re looking for a local doctor, don’t know how to interpret your child’s recent behavior, or just how to get through the morning routine with young kids, it’s likely the other members of the group have been through the same situation (or something similar). They’ll be able to give you the information you need and may offer specific tips they’ve learned from experience.

You’ll also find that your perspective is valued and validated in the group setting, which can build your own confidence as you navigate the world of parenting.

2. Skills

Beyond gaining information, a support group is an excellent opportunity for skill development as a single father. Oftentimes, the challenges of being a single parent can wear on your patience and energy. At a support group, you can learn some of the strategies other fathers use to stay calm and get the job done without burning themselves out. Some groups might even involve specific activities based on skill building, like cooking classes.

3. Support

This one seems a bit obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. At its core, a support group provides a much-needed sense of shared community and support for single fathers. Single parenting can be a lonely experience at times; just knowing that other people are going through similar experiences, and having the chance to share your story with peers, can be undeniably cathartic. This simple exchange can help prevent emotions from becoming pent up or manifesting in unhealthy ways.

4. Friendship

While you may start going to a support group for the opportunity to gain tips and skills, chances are you’ll develop some strong friendships out of it; or even a community. Your children may have the opportunity to make friends and find support through the connections you make, if other parents in the group have children going through similar situations or life stages.

If you’re a single father and think you could benefit from a support group, try seeking one out in your local area. If you can’t find one that suits your needs, chances are you’re not alone — why not consider branching out within the community and starting one of your own?

No matter what you decide, remember that a support group is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to caring for your children. For more tips and advice on single parenting, check out the Father’s Rights blog. Our experienced team specializes in father’s rights and family legal matters, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

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4 Ways to Help Your Child Cope With Deployment

4 Ways to Help Your Child Cope With Deployment

So you’re deploying. You’ve set up a parenting plan to start, but now you’re wondering how to help your children deal with their upcoming new reality. Being away from your children can be hard on all parties involved, and this is often even truer for single parents. From expressions of separation anxiety like acting out, to concrete physical symptoms like stomach aches, kids can react strongly to being away from a parent.

Knowing your child may be experiencing these things can take its toll on you, impeding your ability to stay calm and focused while you’re away. It’s critical to ensure your child is in trusted hands during your deployment because chances are, you’ll be facing situations that require your complete attention. You’ll want to be able to rest easy, knowing they’re in a good situation; likewise, they will feel safest and most secure with people who can support them and address any concerns they have.

If you’re facing deployment, it’s worth considering how you will help your children cope with it well in advance. With that in mind, here are 4 ways to start preparing for your planned deployment.

1. Talk to Your Children

The first step in preparing your children for your deployment is talking to them about the upcoming event and their feelings about it. Things you should cover in initial talks include: where you’re going (show them on a map or globe), how long you’ll be gone, why you’re going, where they will be staying and with who, and what your and their day-to-day lives will look like.

Ask them how they feel about your deployment, and encourage them to ask any questions they might have. Sometimes these questions might be uncomfortable, but it’s essential to let them get any pressing concerns off their chests. When you respond to questions, be honest. If you don’t know the answer to something, tell them that. If they ask if it will be dangerous, tell them the truth, while also explaining all of the systems in place to keep you safe.

Take the time to work through all of their questions and concerns, and let them know they can talk to you about it again if they need to.

2. Find Supportive Peer Groups

Sometimes the best support is peer support; no one understands a situation more than someone who’s going through it too. In this case, you should look to find other children whose parent(s) have been deployed. Around three percent of American children have parents who have been deployed, and there are organizations that exist to bring them together to share their questions, concerns, and thoughts about it. Sharing these experiences in an organized peer setting ensures children are understood and supported at their own level, while still having access to professionals who can step in if needed.

3. Limit/Monitor Media Coverage of War

War can be scary, and media coverage often only perpetuates that perception. Bad news is far more likely to be reported than good news, so headlines may skew a child’s perspective of deployment toward thinking it’s far more dangerous than it actually is. Even accurate, responsible reporting might contain imagery that is upsetting to a child, so it’s often a good idea to avoid war coverage for younger, grade-school-aged children.

However, if you have older children, it can be impossible to prevent them from seeing coverage online or on TV. In these cases, it’s sometimes better to sit down and watch coverage from reliable networks with your older child to ensure he or she gets the full, accurate story and learns to apply a critical approach to what is being seen and heard. If your child is coming across coverage of the war, intentionally or not, make sure to take time to analyze what has been seen, what your child thinks about it, and answer any questions that may come up throughout the process.

4. Create a Family Emergency Plan

Creating a family emergency plan can help both you and your child feel safer when you’re deployed. A family emergency plan guarantees your child has all the necessary contact information in case there is a crisis; it also ensures that everyone knows where they will go if such an event occurred.

As you prepare for deployment, the most important thing you can do (after talking to your child, of course) is talk to a lawyer to ensure there is a clear custody plan in place, and that your child will be well cared for while you’re away. Contact Father’s Rights to get that conversation started today.

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5 Ways to Stay Connected With Your Kids While You’re Deployed

Man in military uniform texting on phone

Deployment is a confusing and challenging time for everyone involved — and this is especially true for your kids. The new routines and communication methods may create some discomfort and anxiety for your kids. However, you can help make this transition easier by creating a plan for staying connected with them during your deployment.

Instead of discussing the communication plan after you are deployed, plan ahead so your ex-spouse and kids will know what to expect. Your kids will feel better knowing how and when they can reach you, and you can be assured that your connection will stay strong regardless of where you are deployed.

Here are some of the best ways to stay connected with your kids while you’re deployed.

Phone Calls

Sometimes the simplest solutions are best. Plan weekly or bi-weekly telephone calls with your kids to stay in touch and keep your relationships strong. These phone calls create new routines for your kids and give them added stability and security during your absence.

Skype Dates

While a phone call is an easy and traditional option, talking face-to-face via a video call is much more personal. If possible, schedule a video call with your kids on a regular basis using a communication application like Skype on your smartphone or laptop. While you’re on the call, show them the view around you, or perhaps share a unique souvenir with a backstory they’d enjoy hearing about.

Be mindful, however, that your location will determine the reliability and strength of your internet and video connection. You may want to let your family know it won’t be as reliable as they might expect.

Email

Depending on their ages, email may be the easiest way to get in touch with your kids. It is also a mode of communication that children often find easier for communicating emotions. Email allows them to get their feelings down in writing as opposed to verbally communicating them — affording them a safe space for sharing.

Email has the added benefit of being easily accessible from almost anywhere, and it could afford you flexibility during your deployment.

Letters or Postcards

Handwritten letters never go out of style, and they can become great keepsakes for your kids. Take the time to write every couple of weeks, even if you’re talking on the phone regularly. Your kids will look forward to checking the mail for a personal token to hold on to and read on their own time.

Surprise Gifts

Few things are more exciting than receiving an unexpected gift in the mail. A gift is one way to surprise your children and brighten their day when they least expect it. Small items like stuffed toys, souvenirs, or funny t-shirts are all good ideas for surprise gifts.

If time allows (and you’re feeling creative), you can even send something handmade. One thoughtful option could be a series of written letters detailing some of your fondest memories together or detailing fatherly advice you wish to impart to them. Send the bundle together as one wrapped package for your kids to treasure and read at their leisure.

Plan Ahead

Planning with your ex-spouse before your deployment can help you with communication — and good communication before deployment always begins with a parenting plan. If you haven’t made one already, contact one of our attorneys at Father’s Rights and get help crafting a plan that covers the care of your child in your absence.

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32 Affordable Summer Activities You Can Do With Your Kids

A father and son fly a kite together

Summer is just around the corner, and that means barbecues, beach days, and warm patio nights ahead. It also means your kids are going to have plenty of free time on their hands — and it’s up to you to fill that time. While it might be tempting to go way over budget signing them up for every camp, lesson, and excursion available, keeping your kids active and entertained over the summer doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

After all, the average day camp charges $304 per week, a sum that compounds quickly if you enroll for multiple weeks or have more than one child. For many single parents, it’s a challenging burden to take on. Luckily, all it takes is a little creativity and a lot of love and attention to make this summer a memorable one without breaking the bank.

Check out the below list of free and low-cost activities you can do with your kids this summer!

When You Want to Keep Things Chill

  1. Pack up your gear and plenty of snacks and spend a day at the beach — then splurge on some ice cream at the end of the day.
  2. Go for a picnic, and get your kids to help with planning and preparing the menu.
  3. Go bird watching.
  4. Learn how to make your own ice cream sandwiches (and then eat them, of course!).
  5. Attend a free outdoor play or concert.
  6. Spend an afternoon at a farmers market.
  7. Host your own movie night at home, complete with freshly popped popcorn, DIY movie tickets, and a red carpet.
  8. Schedule a weekly board game night. Have one family member pick a new game each week they have to teach the others how to play.

When It’s Time to Get Active

  1. Go swimming at a free outdoor pool — or a clean lake if there’s one nearby.
  2. Research the best trails in your area and go for a long hike.
  3. Sign up for a beginner lesson at the nearest rock climbing gym, for both you and your kids.
  4. Go for a bike ride.
  5. Play Frisbee.
  6. Go canoeing or kayaking.
  7. Attend a free yoga class in the park or at a local studio.
  8. Play tennis outside.

Keep Them Learning, All Summer Long

  1. Attend a free day at a museum, art gallery, or science center near you.
  2. Find a book on foraging at the local library and go on a discovery walk in the woods.
  3. Since you’re there already, spend a day at the library! Check out a few of our recommendations for single parents.
  4. Take a tour of a local farm.
  5. Visit a wildlife sanctuary.
  6. Volunteer with an organization that supports a worthwhile cause, like a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  7. Find free workshops at your local art gallery and learn to sculpt, paint, or draw.
  8. Plan a camping trip together, and see how resourceful you can be.

Just Plain Fun

  1. Throw a water balloon party with all the neighborhood kids.
  2. Build your own kites and learn how to fly them!
  3. Host a cookie swap, and get each of your kids to make their own batch.
  4. Build a fort or tree house in the backyard.
  5. Make a blanket fort in the house.
  6. Get a head start on Halloween this year by having your kids start making their own costumes early. Combine old clothes and cheap finds from the local Salvation Army or Goodwill.
  7. Host a tea party at home, complete with fancy dishes and freshly baked goodies.
  8. Drive out of the city at night and do some stargazing.

Money Doesn’t Buy Great Memories

When looking back on their summer days with you, your kids won’t remember how much money you spent. They’ll remember the experiences you shared together, the new things they learned, and the adventures they had — so get creative, and have fun! If you enjoyed these suggestions, the Father’s Rights blog offers lots of tips and advice for how to make life work as a single parent.

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How to Balance Your Career and Children As a Single Father

How to Balance Your Career and Children As a Single FatherYou don’t need to be told that being a working parent is tough. With so many competing responsibilities vying for your energy and attention, finding any sort of work-life balance can seem impossible — and all the more so if you’re a single dad. However, maintaining both a fulfilling career and an enriching family life can be done, whether you have a partner or not.

Successfully balancing your career and children will take some careful assessment and planning. It will require setting boundaries, schedules, and priorities, both at home and at the office, and sticking to them as often as possible. It will also require forgiving yourself for those many times when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Here are some effective ways to ensure your career, family, and personal well-being all get the attention they deserve.

Build (and Actually Use) a Support Network

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” No matter where you live, you need a network of people you can rely on for support and, perhaps more importantly, you need to actually use it. Being a single parent can be isolating, exhausting, and frightening at times, with worries about the future always at the back of your mind. Knowing you have friends and family members to talk to, especially if they’re people who also understand the challenges of parenthood, can go a long way toward banishing that sense of isolation.

Your support network will also function as your backup child-rearing team. It should be comprised of people you can reach out to when you need a babysitter, assistance around the house, or anything else. It can be difficult to ask for help, but remember that your loved ones likely want to provide for you.

After all, consider a time when someone you loved needed you. Did you consider it a burden — or an honor — to provide that support to them?

Ask for a Flexible Work Schedule

It’s important you and your employer are on the same page, and that begins with letting them know you’re a single parent. Consider scheduling a meeting with your supervisor. Come prepared to not only discuss your needs and scheduling issues, but to also offer concrete solutions that prove you’re willing to be flexible in turn.

For example, If you need to leave early some days, you could offer to start work earlier than usual those days or work from home during off hours to make up the lost time. A flexible work schedule could also include options like working part-time or working longer shifts but fewer days during the workweek.

A reasonable employer should be open to discussion, and an increasing numbers of companies are offering flexible work arrangements to accommodate employees. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to keep your family life running smoothly.

Keep Yourself on Your Priority List

Self-care might be a huge buzzword right now, but don’t let that detract from its critical importance in your life. For the sake of your mental and physical health, and that of your family, you simply can’t pour from an empty cup. If you don’t take time for yourself to rest and recharge, you won’t be able to devote your full energy — or your best self — to work or parenting.

Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s important to figure out what will help you recharge. Do you play a sport or love hitting the gym? Do you crave social outings with friends or love to keep your mind engaged with art, literature, and film? Give yourself permission to do things that bring you joy. Allow yourself time to actually rest, too. This means time when you’re not checking work emails, planning the kids’ meals, or doing chores around the house. Not only will this make you more present when you are taking care of responsibilities, but it will set an example for your kids that they should be treating themselves with the same level of respect — not putting themselves at the bottom of their own priority lists.

Determine Your Non-Negotiables

This is a part of self-care, but it also applies to your entire working and family life. Ask yourself: What absolutely has to be done this week? What can wait? Non-negotiables might include taking your kids to lessons or practice, ensuring there’s always home-cooked food in the fridge, or allotting one day per week to doing something fun together as a family. You might also include time for your morning workout or meditation, or joining your coworkers for drinks after work every couple of weeks.

Once you know what is essential for your family to function well, your performance at work to remain solid, and your well-being to stay intact, it will be much easier to say no to the things that run counter to those priorities.   

Protect Your Rights With a Family Lawyer

Making sure you have access to your children is the foundation on which you will build these other aspects of your life. Seek out the help of a family lawyer today to maintain custody of your

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