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!

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.

Summer Break After Divorce: 7 Ways to Help Your Kids Have the Best Summer Yet

Those long, warm days of summer are just around the corner.

Summer is thought of as a magical time for kids.  It's a chance for them to shake up their routines, get outside, get dirty, learn something new and, most importantly, to have fun.  

However, for kids of separated parents -- especially those who are already struggling with the transition to two homes, a new school, a new stepparent or stepsibling -- the switch to summer mode can feel like yet another form instability in their lives.

The good news?  There are several steps that you can take on as co-parents to help your kids transition smoothly and joyfully into summer.  After all, just because you are co-parenting does not mean you child can't have an exciting, carefree summer of their own!

7 Things to do right now to get your family ready for summer break.

1. Wrap up the school year well.

The final days and weeks of school are often filled with special events and varying schedules depending on your children's ages.  Make sure you and your co-parent are on the same page about important events (graduations, honors nights, assemblies), schedule changes (half days, finals) and tasks which need to be completed (help clear out your child's cubby or locker, thank you notes for teachers) before summer begins.  A smooth end of the school year sets the stage for gentle passage into summer.

2. Confirm the details of your summer child care plans.  

With the kids out of school, as co-parents you are now jointly responsible for an additional 40+ hours of child care each week.  Make certain you're in agreement about who will be care-taking during this extra time-- e.g.: a parent, nanny, daycare, camp, or combination of several -- as well as the cost and new schedule/routine required.  This is the largest of all transitions to summer.  Having both parents on the same page will help your child feel settled even amongst the change.

3. Map out summer activities.  

Will your kids be participating in camps, teams, or lessons this summer?  Take the time to jointly review the schedule, sign-up costs, pick-up and drop-off plans, and incidental expenses for each (Does Sally need a new baseball mitt and cleats for sports camp?  Do books need to purchased for Johnny's art class?  Should Micah rent a tuba for his lessons this summer?).  By agreeing to scheduling and costs up front, you'll be able to avoid a host of potential disagreements over the next several months.

4. Make a plan for the holidays.  

There are a number of holidays between the school year's end and start: Memorial Day, Father's Day, 4th of July, Labor Day.  Determine how the kids are going to spend these holidays, who will have custody, and if that will alter your typical custody calendar.  Perhaps, if your communication is particularly strong, you could even plan a tradition or event that everyone can be present for.

5. Schedule vacations. 

The flexibility of the summer schedule often allows for one or both co-parents to take the kids for an extended trip or vacation.  Make your co-parent knows and agrees to: the dates, costs, location and types of activities the kids will be doing while there.  This type of communication promotes mutual respect and trust (and is often legally mandated, particularly if you are altering your typical custody schedule).  While you're on vacation, you can use the Fayr app's geo-tagging capabilities to confirm your location with your co-parent.

6. Allow for down time.  

All the above being said, please don't forget to set aside chunks of unscheduled time for the kids when they are at both houses. Down time is not the enemy of brain development or well-being -- quite the opposite is true.  Idleness, leisure, and boredom are good for kids.  Creating open space for "kids to be kids" prevents over-scheduling and it gives co-parents a brief reprieve from shuttling kids to and fro.

7. Share the plan with the kids.

In advance of summer break, set a time to go over the kids' new schedules and activities for the summer.  This overview not only helps kids prepare mentally for the transition to summer, it gives them space to ask questions about the changes and to express any worries or anxieties they might be experiencing.  In an ideal world, all parents and kids would be present at this meeting to ensure that the whole family is on the same page.  If this is not an option for you and your co-parent, ensure that you've agreed to the 6 points above before each parent reviews the summer schedule with the kids at their respective homes.  

Constructive Conversations: How to De-Escalate High-Conflict Exchanges With Your Co-Parent

Constructive Conversations: How to De-Escalate High-Conflict Exchanges With Your Co-Parent

At Fayr, our goal is to facilitate a kind, fair relationship between co-parents for the good of the children.  

We also know that maintaining a conflict-free relationship is not always simple or easy.

Sometimes, divorce or separation is precipitated by a high level of conflict that carries over into the initial separation period.  Other times, the actual separation might be relatively conflict-free, only for disagreements to arise during a different, challenging period of co-parenting.  This makes sense -- the task of constantly communicating and interacting with an ex over the course of years is daunting for even the most even-tempered and zen among us.  

Unfortunately, in the field of developmental psychology "there is no debate that continued, ongoing, unresolved high conflict is harmful to children of divorce." (1)  

Which means that periods of high conflict are not just inconvenient, they're urgent to resolve.  

If you identify as being in or can recall a time of high conflict, the following questions might feel familiar:

 
  • How do I continue to communicate with my co-parent when they’re the person I'd least like to deal with?

  • How do I continue to look out for my children and their well-being when I feel personally attacked?

  • How do I ensure that a necessary conversation can stay positive and productive when it seems like we don't see eye-to-eye on anything?

 

To answer these questions, we enlisted the help of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Robin Maddox to give us tips for how to turn a high-conflict situation into a constructive conversation.

7 Tools for Constructive Co-parenting Conversations:

  1. Request a conversation.  If you know the topic is tricky or has been a source of high conflict in the past, it's good to allow yourself and your co-parent time and space to prepare to enter the conversation calmly and removed from unrelated external stressors. Try messaging: "I want to talk about {Johnny's summer vacation schedule}. Is now a good time to talk?" Your co-parent might be available at that time, but they can suggest another time in the next 24 hours to talk.

  2. Stay on track. The quickest way to escalate an already tense conversation is to bring in other areas of conflict.  Honor the requested topic and speak directly to the conversation at hand only.  If other topics arise, note them and request to tackle those areas later, in a separate conversation.  

  3. Don't respond with your own aggressiveness.  Arguments escalate most rapidly when both parties feel attacked or go on the attack.  Do your best (within reason and appropriate boundaries) to ignore your co-parent's aggressiveness and answer calmly rather than responding with your own anger.  

  4. Name your experience.  This might seem counterintuitive, but naming your experience can help you gain objectivity and increase empathy in your co-parent.  It can be as simple and straightforward as this: "I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed and reactive right now. This is a really hard topic for me."  

  5. Count to three before you respond.  A classic and universally applicable technique, taking even a few moments to breath and process before responding to your co-parent helps decrease your own reactivity and pauses the escalating pace of an argument. 

  6. Take a time out.  If a conversation feels too escalated, call a time out. Tell your co-parent in an even tone (e.g.: no slamming down the phone or storming off if you're in person) that you need a break, but confirm that within the next 24 hours that you'll return to the conversation. 

  7. Get a third party involved. If you are struggling to make progress and feel instead that each conversation is only adding fuel to the fire, it's wise to involve an objective third party such as a family psychologist or legal counsel. If you've been using the Fayr app, you'll have a clear, inalterable record of your message exchanges which you can print out as a PDF report to share with your counselor.

 

1. E. Kruk, Ph.D., "Co-Parenting and High Conflict," Psychology Today (2012).

3 Crucial Co-Parent Communication Tools That Will Make Your Whole Family Happy

3 Crucial Co-Parent Communication Tools That Will Make Your Whole Family Happy

From dueling partners to communicating co-parents.

It's not always the case, but separation of romantic relationships often comes after a period of extended verbal conflict and a breakdown in communication between partners.  

While your ex might be the last person you'd like to speak with personally, your roles and relationship with one another have changed.  You are no longer romantic partners -- you are co-parents.  And from now on your most important job from here on out is to act as a team who, together, will be support and nourish your kids and help them thrive.   

Conflict, not divorce, is what harms our children.

Children from divorced families tend to experience greater behavioral symptoms and academic problems than their peers in non-divorced two parent homes. Yet as clinical psychologists Joan Kelly, Ph.D. and Robert Emery, Ph.D found, separation does not have to be a death sentence for your children.  Post-divorce conflict has a strong influence on children's adjustment, meaning that even if your kids experienced conflict when you and your co-partner were together, if you can create a cooperative post-divorce relationship and reduce conflict, your kids will fare far better.*

Whether your previous conversations were tense, mostly amicable or argument-filled, below are are three clear ways to improve communication with your co-parent for the good of your kids.

... Even if your kids experienced conflict when you and your co-partner were together, if you can create a cooperative post-divorce relationship and reduce conflict, your kids will fare far better.*

3 Crucial Tools for Communicating as a Co-Parent That Will Make Your Whole Family Happy:

1) Clarity.  Much tension and disagreement in communication arises from a lack of clearly stating your request / timeline / needs.  If you need to change your schedule or have another request for your co-parent, focus on clearly outlining your exact ask.  Don't say, "Things are crazy at work, can you help out Tuesday?" Instead say, "I have a work project that will go late on Tuesday.  The kids finish baseball practice at 4:30.  Would you be able to pick them up and get them started on homework until I can get them at 5:45?"  This clear request prevents confusion and makes it easy for your co-parent to respond. 

2) Consistency.  This is a time of a lot of change for everyone.  What will make your kids feel more secure and your ex feel like you are on a team is simple: do what you say you're going to do, at the time you said you were going to do it.  If clarity is about saying exactly what you mean, then consistency is about having your actions follow your words.  When you follow-through on your promises and are reliable in your communication, it reassures your children and fortifies your co-parenting relationship. 

3) Compassion.  Navigating the new world as a part-time single parent is not easy for anyone.  There will be times when you make a mistake, when you feel overwhelmed, when you need help.  This is precisely true of your co-parent as well.  If they make a small error or need additional support from you, one of the best things you can do is respond with compassion.  It sets a positive tone for your communication with you co-parent and is kind behavior to model for your children.  

 

*Kelly, J. B., & Emery, R. E. (2003).  Children’s adjustment following divorce:  Risk and resiliency perspectives.  Family Relations, 52, 352-362.