5 Signs You’re Doing Co-Parenting Right by Kathy Johnson

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When a relationship with your spouse or partner goes south, you have to remember that they will still be a part of our life. This is especially true if you happen to have a child together.

 Even if things didn't work out between the two of you, you still share the beautiful blessing of raising a child together. This is what co-parenting is all about, as it is a wonderful way for both of you to be involved in your child's development.

A lot of research over the years has looked into the importance of supporting children through their parents' divorce, and whether or not it is possible to take care of the child’s wellbeing during this tough situation. A post on psychology by Maryville University highlights an undeniable link between mental health and academic success, which means that co-parents must collaborate to create a healthy environment for their kids to grow up in. In turn, it will not only give the children the opportunity to succeed in life, but they will also feel assured when it comes to their parents' love. That said, here are five signs to help you check if you're co-parenting properly:

 1. You Put Your Child’s Needs First

 Let this be the guiding principle in your new role as a co-parent. Despite not being romantic partners anymore, you and your fellow co-parent are now teammates in raising your child, whose best interest should be the basis of all your decisions. To determine if your team has a strong foundation, ask yourselves these questions:

• Are we putting the well-being of our child first?

• Are we setting a good example for our child?

• Are we making our child feel safe and secure?

2. You Speak to Your Co-Parent with Respect

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 From dropping off your child at your co-parent's house to attending school programs and ceremonies, you’re bound to have a conversation with your co-parent. Good co-parents understand that the way they speak to each other will directly affect their child. Researchers from the University of Vermont found that arguing in front of your child can actually alter their brain's development and cause them to process emotions negatively. To keep this from happening, remember that a divorce or a break-up isn't a declaration of war. Co-parents who seek an effective partnership post-separation must instill the values of humility, kindness, and respect in the way they communicate with each other.

 3. You Don’t Criticize Your Co-Parent in Front of Your Child

 Healthy communication doesn't only matter when you’re in the presence of your co-parent, it should also be practiced when you're home alone with your child. Certified co-parenting coach Anna Giannone writes in The Huffington Post that children take it to heart when you speak negatively about their other parent. Never underestimate the role that dialogue plays in co-parenting, as principled co-parents should always pay attention to both the words and manner used in talking about each other. Above all, both need to be selfless; neither of you should cause your child to think they have to choose sides.

 4. You Have to Master the Art of Compromise

 In our post on ‘7 Ways to Help Your Kids Have the Best Summer Yet’, co-parenting entails that both parties are on the same page when it comes to scheduling, no matter the season. Although this is easier said than done as being in constant communication with your ex can come with some challenges, responsible co-parents will understand how to compromise because they prioritize their child's feelings. Moreover, they also know how to follow the schedule agreed upon, so that their child can have quality time with each parent.

 5. You Have a Happy and Healthy Child

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 Parents usually set the path for their children, which is why seeing your child thrive in life is the most important telltale sign that you’re doing co-parenting right. Not showing your child love will ultimately cause aggressive and antisocial traits, which means that co-parents must put their pride aside and love their child wholeheartedly. Regardless of the circumstances, you and your fellow co-parent still comprise a family, and ultimately, the choices you make together will be reflected in your child's well-being.

5 Signs You’re Doing Co-Parenting Right Post, solely for the use of fayr.com written by Kathy Johnson

Post-Breakup Concierge Service? Yes, please!!

Onward: Helping you manage life’s unexpected circumstances.

Onward: Helping you manage life’s unexpected circumstances.

What does Onward do? Onward is a Post-Breakup Concierge Service.  We work with folks exiting long-term relationships, physically relocate and emotionally relaunch themselves.  We aim to make their transition as seamless as possible by taking care of the hassles (moves, housing search, address changes, identifying a therapist, financial advisor, attorney) so they can take care of themselves.

 What made you realize there was a need for Onward? Both of us (Mika and Lindsay) went through “Big City Breakups” from significant partners who we were co-habitating with.  Mika was first; Lindsay six months later.  We saw firsthand how derailing this life moment can be - both the logistics and the holistics.  It’s hard to heal when your principal concern is purchasing and carrying a mattress up four flights of stairs (New York City reality!).  With a giant trend in cohabitation before marriage, we also recognized there wasn’t a neutral third party like an attorney serving these uncouplings, which in many cases are as complicated as divorces -- shared dwelling, furnishings, financial obligations, pets, kids, and sometimes all of the above.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was an On-Demand support service that could make breakups less painful?  We got to work.  Both of us have backgrounds in project management (Lindsay in Broadway theater; Mika in tribal affairs and the federal government) so logistics were always a strength.  Plus, Lindsay’s late mother was a divorce attorney so we had in a sense “grown up” around tough relationship conversations.  Neither of us feel like divorces, separations, breakups are taboo topics, but rather that they can serve as powerful milestones to reorient toward a better, more positive future.  Onward!

 How is the word spreading about Onward? We’ve been fortunate to get a lot of early press on TV, print, and radio.  I think no matter where you are in your life, what your current relationship status might be, you or someone you care about has gone through a messy breakup.  That pain and discomfort is unfortunately a universal reality.  We’ve heard so many stories from folks - like, “Hey, where were you X years ago when I was going through this?”  Too bad we can’t offer retroactive services -- we wish we had been around too!  The outpouring of support and interest has been very heartwarming.  

 What types of services have you found are necessary that you may not have originally considered? We are always expanding our partner and service offerings as we uncover more challenges facing our members.  For example, resources for picking up and schlepping furniture for donation, acquiring new gently used furniture for a new place, dating coaching for folks who want to get back in but are out of practice, or how to cancel shared travel and accommodations.  One solution we are still working out is how to gracefully uncouple on social media.  It’s more complicated than “unfollowing” or “unfriending” because these networks send you reminders of special dates, look backs, and so forth.  Those can provoke surprising unwanted feelings most would rather avoid.

 What markets do you find yourself growing in and expanding in to? Breakups are not unique to NYC, or the United States, for that matter.  We see the biggest need for Onward services in cities that have similar pain points to New York (i.e. high cost of living, transient population, often far from home) where going through the logistical headache post-breakup can be especially felt.  Cities like Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco are our likely next targets.

 What does Onward 3.0 look like? Likely, our initial growth will be the expanding of our offerings into other geographic areas.   With this, we anticipate having concierges scattered across the U.S., who are well-versed in the nuances of the various cities they represent. We will, of course, continue to expand services and partnerships that make sense for our members’ needs. We also hope to have a larger Onward community, serving for friendship, networking, and helping members live their best life!

 What is the BEST story that you can share that you did for someone needing a life relaunch? There are so many!  We just worked with someone through their breakup which meant significant downsizing of the personal items, finding a new place, packing and moving, changing utilities, canceling streaming services, getting new furnishings for the new place, starting to explore their new neighborhood - finding new “go-to” places for coffee, live music, rollerblading.  It’s amazing through that short, condensed process how you see someone go from “Survival Mode” to standing on their own two feet (and rollerblades) and figuring out how to live a new normal that feels like a true reflection of their own goals.

Lindsay Meck & Mika Leonard, Co-Founders of Onward, have been best friends since the fourth grade. They’ve seen each other through their share of personal challenges: death, divorce, breakups, and moving multiple times in New York City.  They thought: there has got to be an easier way to manage unexpected life circumstances. And there is. https://www.move-onward.com/

Lindsay Meck & Mika Leonard, Co-Founders of Onward.

Lindsay Meck & Mika Leonard, Co-Founders of Onward.


 

Gabrielle Hartley, author of "Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate", shares opportunities to help people move through and beyond their divorce with power, grace and dignity.

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I wrote Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate (HarperCollins) with the hope of meaningfully and positively impacting the lives of people going through divorce at any point of the process. 

 I am so excited to be sharing with you what I’ve been working on for the past few months.  After writing the book, I felt compelled to do more. I wanted to offer something to go alongside the book, something that would take people deeper, provide an additional level of support and to help people navigating separation on a larger scale. And so, the Better Apart Master Class was born!

After growing up with divorced parents, the last thing I ever thought I would become is a divorce lawyer.  I was so sick and tired of the subject that if you would have told me that one day I would become a top divorce lawyer, mediator, and highly sought after divorce coach I’d have fallen off my chair. But, after a divorce court clerkship in New York City, I learned very quickly that I had a very strong calling and ability to help people move through and beyond their divorce with power, grace and dignity. 

 Looking back on how my parent’s did things well, and how their divorce served them as they moved forward, here’s what I realized, regardless of how messy your life is at any moment, with some simple, accessible practices, your divorce can be transformative.  It can actually be the launchpad for you to access and develop greater internal presence for yourself and your family.  

The Better Apart MasterClass is a six-week, self-paced online course to help you uplevel your mindset and thrive, through and beyond your divorce.  This course is designed to be a companion for you to have by your side, beyond your lawyer’s office or your therapist’s couch.

 With videos, emails and journaling prompts and exercises, as well as the option to add on a live group call, the Better Apart MasterClass is everything you need to guide you into the next chapter of your life. 

 In the course, we dive into the 5 elements of the Better Apart Framework - Patience,Respect , Peace, Clarity, and Forgiveness. In just six weeks, you will feel lighter, calmer more peaceful and clear on the life you want to live moving forward.

 If you’re going through separation, or have separated from a partner and don’t quite feel back to yourself, I would love for you to join us. 

 The Better Apart MasterClass will help you to…

  • Learn mindfulness techniques so that you can show up as the best version of yourself for you and your family

  • Learn to navigate your relationship with your ex (no matter how much they drive you crazy) so that you can create a peaceful, happy and healthy environment for you and your kids

  • Re-write your divorce story so you can go from feeling fearful and anxious to empowered and in control of your life

  • Powerfully engage with your inner voice and begin to be more present for yourself and for your family.

  • Move through guilt, shame and anger so you can release negativity and live the happy and prosperous life you’ve always dreamed of (yes, it truly is possible!)

It’s time we SMASH the stigma and start feeling better about ourselves, and our lives. Our internal stories shape our lives and inform our children about who they are in the world.  When we feel good, we are more present for ourselves, and for our families.  

 You might just be focused on surviving right now. You might just be trying to keep your head above water.

 Or maybe you’re a parent just focused on helping everyone around you get through this transition time.

 But you know what?

 It’s time you helped yourself. You deserve this support. You deserve to have a thriving, happy life, through and beyond your divorce.

 Questions on whether the Better Apart MasterClass is right for you? Head over to gabriellehartley.com and drop me a line.

 I am so excited to help you and your family on your road to feeling better.  One day at a time, one moment at a time.

 With support and strength,

Gabrielle Hartley

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Co-Parenting Wins Today with Jewrine Brown, Founder of the I Win Today Challenge.

Developing an app that would help co-parents communicate respectfully, with clarity, and calmly, without the typical “snark” was no easy feat.  Meeting someone who fell in love with the FAYR app as much as the Founders loved developing it, seemed to be a little too much to ask.

 But it happened. 

 Meet Jewrine Brown, Founder of the I Win Today Challenge.

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 What were factors that made you realize you needed a better way of communicating with your co-parent?

 JEWRINE: When you have a relationship that is no longer reconcilable emotionally with another person, your demeanor, or your approach can come off as a tone, or problematic to them. The FAYR app allowed me to have a tone neutral. It allowed me to have a format, that allowed him (my son’s father) to be made aware of everything. 

 I noticed the decline in our son’s confidence and enthusiasm level when he observed his parents interact. Especially when we were required to attend school meetings or speak over the telephone. I wanted to feel more secure when addressing his father in all modes of communication. I noticed our son was uneasy, anxious, and seemed uncertain how to react when he left my home to visit with his father based on our previous difficulties without communicating noticed the need to ensure our son felt comfortable visiting with his father as a consistent practice. I also determined our son required the emotional security that his father would remain engaged and I would provide a supportive role. As a mother, I began to seek a higher level of inner healing in my own life. I was determined to develop a concise message that required a greater level of emotional clarity to focus on our son’s best interest.  

 How did you locate the FAYR app, and what has it done to improve your communication skills and overall co-parenting situation?

 JEWRINE: I located FAYR while searching online. I was captivated by your simple design. I assumed the cost would be affordable as a result of the simple design – I was right.  I love all the features of the FAYR app. If I had to pick one specific feature, it would be the ability to text my son’s father in one central location. I enjoy the feature very much, it’s easy to use. The app kind of gave us a feeling that we were doing this for our sons best interest, not something that was causing aggravation, it was made for us.

 I have noticed an increase in my son’s father’s moral level towards me as an individual-specifically his ability to communicate freely towards me. I have directly benefited from the use of the FAYR app because it reduced unwanted stress, clarified expectations and increased morale within our blended family. I have been a single parent for several years. I wish this app existed during the darkest places in my life. I realize one of the most difficult aspects of life is parenting. I was unable, on several occasions, to demonstrate the emotional clarity required to address my own needs in the midst of the greatest letdown in my personal life, my marriage. I plan to encourage others to utilize this app to save heartache, eliminate shame, and reduce depression. I am thrilled that the app has allowed my son’s father to become the type of man that he has been trying to become. FAYR gave us a feeling that we are doing this for our son's best interest.

We are so excited to hear about your I WIN TODAY Challenge. Are you able to tell us more about what it is?

 JEWRINEI Win Today was developed solely with the mindset of what I can do to help others, and was created because of FAYR. Coming from a broken home, no father and overcoming poverty by completing my educational goals.  I still found enough resilience inside myself to put my kids first, and communicate with clarity, respect, and dignity. I hope this challenge will help encourage somebody else.

 I Win Today is being pushed out in my community as a social awareness message, because I was so impressed with the seamless effort the FAYR app made in my personal and professional life, I would like others to benefit. As a parent, I was unable to find a way to manage the emotional baggage that manifested from the break-up. It was damaging to me as a Professional Counselor, which required attending counseling as a family to ensure we were healed and remained emotionally healthy moving forward. 

 I was successful, but required a higher level of inner healing in order to realize my emotional well-being was needed to lead our son with clarity and focus. I am hoping the I Win Today Challenge will encourage others to utilize the app in order to reduce stress, increase positive communication techniques, and reduce depression. I hope the challenge will inspire others to remain emotionally resilient, focused and prepared for court or other meetings that require documentation to secure a positive outcome in their circumstance. 

 No matter what you are going through, you will see a win. It’s going to take the focus off the pain, and away from the children, and put the mindset on the parents to be the bigger person.

For more on Jewrine Brown’s I Win Today Challenge go to; www.thedown2earthcounselor.com

Jewrine Brown is the proud parent of two boys. She resides in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she considers herself as  “Your Down to Earth Counselor” and the Creator of the “I Win Today Challenge.” Jewrine is a humble advocate, who is understanding and compassionate towards others as a result of rising above her own hardships and socioeconomic struggles. She has been a dedicated professional in the mental health industry for over 13 years, and has extensive experience with a variety of client demographics. I personally understand the value in learning how to love yourself and others in life. Everyone has been let down in life. It's the best time to build your faith. Once you are able to comprehend the vast amounts of knowledge life has invested in you, the need to reach your goals will become a mission.  It's okay, your plans don't always work out as planned because failures are lessons to increase your capacity to pour back into other's in life. What are you willing to sacrifice to learn correct?

 IDOCAREEVENTS@gmail.com | YOUR DOWN TO EARTH COUNSELOR | 910-574-3487

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 You Tube Link:  https://youtu.be/YIw8sHNAT7c


I Created Fayr for You (and Me)

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Early in our divorce, my ex-wife and I were trying to set up a 50/50 schedule for the kids as we worked out a long-term custody arrangement.  

To say that we were both in a really emotional place would be a tremendous understatement. I knew that it would be far better for our kids to be raised in two stable, loving homes rather than in a single conflict filled one. And yet get used to this new way of living was hard on everyone, much harder than I'd anticipated. 

It's plenty hard to negotiate and navigate parenting duties when you are in a relationship with someone; it was brutal to end a romantic relationship and then instantly need to deal with logistics, communication, and compromise. 

It was in the middle of this tumultuous transitional period that our signals got crossed.

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On one of our custody change days, our signals got very crossed. I showed up during what I thought was the designated window to drop off the kids and their mom wasn't there. She, of course, was expecting them at a totally different time.  

This was more than an inconvenience or cause for a fight. When you're still legally sorting out custody, errors like this can have long-term repercussions regarding the time you get to spend with your kids in the future. Luckily, I had a very savvy attorney who was able to match my toll receipts and email conversations to prove that I had attempted to drop the kids on time. (That, of course, cost me thousands of dollars in lawyers fees and bottomless anxiety for weeks.)

In the middle of this chaos, I just kept wondering, "Why can't this be easier?"

Emotionally, divorce or separation takes a long time to process. I still work all of the time, 7 years later, to make certain that my kids feel loved, stable, and secure. But there are so many opportunities for the smaller things to be made easier: scheduling, communication, finances. 

That situation I just shared with you was one of a dozen mishaps that might have been totally prevented by an app like Fayr. So I built Fayr for you, so that you might not have to go through those extra moments of conflict or strife. I also happen to use it Fayr's messaging and geo-tagging capabilities daily: win-win-win!

Gwyneth Paltrow, Apple Music, & Fayr's Big Night

It's been a whirlwind few days here at Fayr!

Michael, our fearless founder and CEO, was featured on an episode of Apple Music's new show, Planet of the Apps. The brief summary: it was the opportunity of a lifetime!

You can watch the full episode here or read our recap below (warning: spoilers!).

The Premise

Planet of the Apps gives app creators the chance to be mentored by four celebrity with knowledge of creating influential, highly successful businesses and brands: Jessica Alba, Will.I.Am, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gary Vaynerchuk.

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The Pitch

App creators have only 60 seconds to pitch their app while riding down an escalator to get at least one of the advisors interested. If an advisor is potentially interested, the app creator then has a chance to demo the app and answer additional questions.

The Match

Michael blew all the mentors away, with all four wanted to mentor him (see their names in green above)!

The advisors then had their turn to pitch Michael on why they would be best able to help him out and guide the business. He ended up selecting....

The Mentor

....Gwyneth Paltrow

As the massively successful founder of Goop, an Academy Award Winning actress, and the separated mother of two kids who has created a deeply positive relationship with her co-parent, it was Michael's dream to work with Gwyneth and utilize her experience to make Fayr stronger.

With Gwyneth's guidance over 6 intensive weeks, Fayr pivoted from an app to strictly reduce legal fees and provide court admissible information to a lifestyle brand focused on helping make life as easy, amicable and positive as possible for co-parents.

Pitching a VC

Gwyneth introduced Michael and Fayr, and stood by his side as he pitched the venture capital fund, Lightspeed Venture Partners.

While Lightspeed did not invest in Fayr on that day, the episode fades out as Gwyneth promises Michael: "I'm still going to be your partner and I'm still going to help you in any way I can."  

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Fayr's Favorite Partner

True to her word, Gwyneth remains on the team as Fayr's senior advisor and north star. She and Michael recently celebrated the launch of Planet of the Apps at the SoHo house in NYC.

Want to watch the full episode?

Check it out on Apple Music.

 

Be the Best Co-Parent You Can Be (Even if Your Ex Doesn't Deserve It)

Co-parenting is not for the weak of heart.

After choosing to end a romantic relationship, it can be painful to spend years continually navigating the tender and fraught landscape of parenting with your ex. As our Advisor, Gwyneth Paltrow says of co-parenting, "You have to constantly let go. You have to let go of old ideas, old resentments."

After separation the goal is to create the best, most stable, most loving life for your kids. One of the crucial ways you can do this is by creating a solid foundation with your co-parent. Gwyneth's trick? "If you once loved the person enough to have kids with them, you have to focus on what you still love about them and what's beautiful about them and all the good aspects of your relationship."  

If you're currently finding it hard to locate those things you love about your ex fear not. We have three simple steps below, as sort of "fake it 'til you make it" guide to being the best co-parent you can be (even if your ex doesn't deserve it). Because it's not for your ex. It's for your kids.

1. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Or as Leo Babuata of ZenHabits says, "take the good-hearted view." This is when we assume that people who have done something to bother us are not incompetent jerks, but are in fact good people with decent intentions who made a mistake or are having trouble of some kind. One of the most positive things we can do in a relationship with a co-parent is to take a good-hearted view of them. From this place it can be easier to assume that errors made, pickups forgotten. permission slips left unsigned are not a signal of maliciousness, but rather the normal experience of a good person trying to do their best and occasionally making mistakes. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt diffuses the situation, leaving you more content and modeling for your kids an accepting and generous relationship.

2. Speak well of your co-parent.

Kids are very astute about verbal and non-verbal communication cues. Children as young as two or three can tell when parents are in conflict. It's not just speaking poorly of a co-parent that kids pick up on. Some co-parents attempt to solve this with the age old adage "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Yet from this silence, kids learn that speaking of their other parent is taboo and partition off their lives with each co-parent. This leads to parts of your children's lives that they don't share with you and positively reinforces them withholding information, which can be harmful as kids get older.

If instead you say kind things about your co-parent, even tiny, off-handed remarks, kids will realize that your home is safe for them to discuss their full lives. Something simple like, "Oh, your dad loves this show!" or "Your mom has always had such a great sense of humor" serves to validate the kids themselves, who see parts of their own personalities and selves inside of each parent. It will give them a sense of peace that even thought their parents are not together, they do in fact still respect one another.

3. Take on more than your share when you can.

Over the course of our children's lives, there will be times when one parent has more bandwidth to dedicate to parenting. This will naturally ebb and flow with each parent's career, health and personal life. When you're in a couple, this is often decided or mapped out intentionally: the staggering of professional and personal obligations so that there is always one parent available to the kids.

This is a far more complicated balance to strike as a co-parent; you're no longer in a romantic relationship nor are you strategizing for parenting under one roof, so there's no promise of a tradeoff when each parent has independent responsibilities. And yet, if you find yourself in the place, for whatever reason, that you have more time and energy to dedicate to your kids: do. Even though your co-parent may not be able to (or not be interested in) paying it forward, your kids will benefit immensely even from brief periods of undivided attention from you.

The Best Resources for Staying Social After Separation

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Divorce inherently causes a shake up in your family life and your relationship with your former partner, but it can create waves in your social life as well.

A recently growing area of study and social reflection includes the loss of friendship and social isolation that can occur after divorce or separation. Here at Fayr, we're committed to supporting you through your separation, your new life as a co-parenting, and to helping you be your best, happiest self for your kids. As such, we've gathered up some of our favorite resources to help you strengthen and grow your social connections wherever you are in the co-parenting life cycle. 

Here are our favorite methods, tips, + tools for strengthening your social connections after divorce:

1) In Person

  • Connect with existing friends: Yes, it is likely that a separation will strain or cause distance in certain relationships, like those originating with your former partner and those that were created in your time as a couple. But don't let that stop you from reaching out to your best buddies. Researchers have found that after divorce a person's network of friends overall increases. Divorced and separated folks often find “more closeness and intensity” within their individual group of friends. 
  • Meetups: Especially early on in divorce, it can be really helpful to meet people who are going through your same experience. Meetups are a fabulous for making in-person connections and creating community with people in your same stage and location. Of particular interest might be: Co-ParentingDivorce Support, and Divorced Parents groups. 
  • Hobbies: Want time to not talk about your separation? Connect with people in your area by joining a local gym or yoga studio, taking language lessons or cooking classes, or volunteering at an organization you love. You can do many of these activities with your kids OR you can use them to fill/embrace your non-custodial nights.

2. Online

Sometimes the people we have the most in common with don't live close to us—or even in our same state or country. This is precisely where the internet comes in handy. Social networks and websites can not only provide robust sources of content and knowledge, they can also help us give and receive support, encouragement, and connection. 

Facebook groups:

Websites:

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3. At the Library

The list below is for the introverts, for the times before bed, for the downtimes after work when you’d rather curl up with wine and connect via story. These books are a selection of memoirs, advice books, and spiritual tools for processing your transition and stepping fully into your new, beautiful life. 

What did we miss? Please share your favorite books, websites, and networks with us on our Facebook page!

On Fatherhood and Father's Day After Divorce: A Conversation With Michael Daniels

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Today we have a special treat, a conversation with our founder Michael Daniels on his favorite topic in the world: fatherhood.  

Michael founded Fayr in 2016 with two very personal goals in mind: to help separated parents be the best people they can be for their kids and to make the process of co-parenting easier and more enjoyable for the whole family.  

Below Michael shares the advice he wished someone had given him when he first separated, the most challenging time in his co-parenting journey, and how Father's Day has evolved over his 7 years as a co-parent.  Interspersed are a couple sweet, wise, and humorous anecdotes from his daughter Vincenza (10) and his son Vance (9).

Happy Father's Day to Michael and all of the dedicated co-parenting dads out there!

Have you always known you wanted to be a Father?

MICHAEL: I always knew that one day it was something I would do.  I don't think I had a clear picture of when it would happen or what exactly it would look like, I just always knew that having kids and being a dad was important to me.

How is being a dad different or similar to what you imagined?

In all honesty, I was worried that I might not be totally prepared to be a dad. I had an atypical and challenging upbringing. My own father was a really brave, noble guy who did the best he could to raise me, but there wasn't a lot of emotional warmth. My goal, even though it was never modeled for me, is to be really affectionate with my kids. I tell them I love them multiple times a day.    

The greatest surprise for me was that being a parent is really fun.  It’s hard work, but it’s also so great telling bedtime stories, playing with my kids, watching them grow and mature.  I don't think I had any idea how enjoyable and fulfilling fatherhood would be.

"My dad is a giving person. He’s a really funny person. And he’s the type of person that you like to be around. My very favorite thing is that he always makes time to be with us, not like most other dads."  - Vicenza

What does Father's Day mean to you?

For me, it’s about two different things: my own father and my kids. My dad passed away in 2010, right in the middle of my own separation. He was a decorated Army Ranger. I've always admired his courage and raw toughness. The lessons he taught me inspire me to be brave and strong, to know that even when things are tough, I live a wonderful life. As a father myself, I think how I want my own kids to never doubt that they are my top priority. I strive everyday to be a real presence in their lives, to be both emotionally connected and physically present for my kids. We also try to make meaningful memories together whether that be going camping, as my son's boy scout master, or teaching my daughter to ride a bike.

How is Father's Day different since your separation?

I separated when my kids were 2 and 3, so there aren’t other Father’s Days to really compare it to. In a nice way, we’ve been able to start from scratch and make this day ours. And it’s so rewarding to see them take initiative each year.

What are your favorite Father's Day traditions?

I love how my kids go out of their way to think of me. They’ll always get me a card on their own and then plan a creative, family event. Last year we did Color Me Mine together. I didn’t have any Father's Day traditions growing up, so it’s sweet to see my kids honor this day.

"My favorite thing about Father’s Day is that I have a tradition with my dad. I always get him something that stands for how great he is.  And I write on his cards about how much I love him and how much he means to me. I love watching him read my cards." - Vicenza

How has your time with your children changed as they've gotten older?

We still have a 50/50 custody share, so we spend the same amount of time together but the activities have changed a lot. When the kids were toddlers we spent a lot of time down on the ground playing. As they get older we continue to play but now we go swimming or ride bikes. I try to make certain they don’t grow up too fast, so we do still play goofy games and rough house—I think the kids don't want to give up that kind of play yet either. I know a time is coming when my kids will be more independent and will want spend more time with their friends. In the meantime, I just want to keep making the most of this period when the three of us really enjoy being together.  

What do you worry about most for your children as a separated father?

When I was separating I didn’t know what the future held—there were so many unknowns. All at once my dad got cancer and passed away, the recession hit, and my home life was changing dramatically. I worried about two things mainly.  First, I worried about the kids with all the transition they were going through. There was so much in the air, so much constant navigating for all of us between our initial separation and working out the optimal custody arrangement. I also just missed them so much as we first started spending time apart. Second, I was really worried that with all that stress that I wasn't being the best version of myself for my kids. 

What are routines, sayings, or expressions that you always share with you children?

I say I love you multiple times a day, everyday. I never want them to doubt that.

We also have a fun and kind of quirky morning routine. A few years ago I was given a really beautiful poker set as a gift from a former mentor. The kids were infatuated and insisted that I teach them how to play. So if we're having a good morning (where everyone has eaten, brushed their teeth, gotten ready for school and we still have some spare time) we will sit down and play Texas Hold 'Em together.  It's not what I thought we'd do, but the kids love it and it's such a fun and relaxing start to the day. Plus, it's our own unique thing and that's really special.

"My favorite thing about my dad?  I like how my he's always nice to me. I like how he always looks out for me and how he understand my feelings." - Vance

What is your top priority for the days you have your children?

My goals are for them to have experiences, to be active, to get outside a lot, and to enjoy time together.  

What advice do you wish someone had given you right when you separated?

In hindsight, it would actually have been some version of the advice that Dr. Sadeghi gives: don’t spend time being angry, don’t waste energy feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve gone through something really tough, but you cannot let it destroy you. Focus instead on healing, on self-reflection, on the people you love and people who love you. Make a conscious effort to not dwell in the anger and sadness of the loss but to say "This is completed, this is done.  So what now am I going to focus on in this next phase in my life?" What ultimately healed me was refocusing my attention is what matters most: my kids, my personal growth, and our shared well-being.  

What is the best thing your kids have said to you since your separation?

The sweetest thing actually just happened the other day. My daughter said sort of out of the blue, "No matter what, you are the best daddy I could ever want."  It doesn't get better than that.