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Episode 097: Reduce Holiday Stress for Your Kids
Episode 097: Reduce Holiday Stress for Your Kids with special guest Alan Plevy
Holidays are all about kids and family. Reduce your stress and plan ahead! Alan Plevy shares some extremely helpful tips to make this holiday season easier. Alan is a co-founding principal and family law attorney at SmolenPlevy in suburban Washington, DC. With almost 40 years of experience, Alan is regularly named a ‘Top Lawyer’ by Washingtonian magazine. He is known for being a tenacious litigator and negotiator who is zealously devoted to his clients.
Leanne: 00:05 Welcome to Life Lafter Divorce episode 97. I am your host Leanne Linsky.
The Boyfriend: 00:10 And I’m The Boyfriend.
Leanne: 00:11 Welcome back to another wonderful week of divorce. Hey, while you’re out there tuning in make sure you rate, review and subscribe, why? Because we want to hear it from you and hey, while you’re at it, check out the website at lifelafterdivorce.com. We have a whole online store which is perfect for your holiday shopping. Why not get something for yourself? Treat yourself to some self care products like really nice high quality soaps and candles
The Boyfriend: 00:39 Get some peppermint candles around the tub. Put you in the holiday, jolly mood
Leanne: 00:44 right. And they’re even in a wonderful divorce theme. So if you want to get an easy Annulmint or De-Spousing cleanse or whatever that may be that you want or just get Engage Yourself or Unbridled passion, you know, actually we are running out of a lot of our product. Get them while you can while you can because there’s not a whole heck of a lot left. so yeah, stock up now for your stocking stuffers. Also the new year is right around the corner, which is a perfect time for planning some more self care, self care, but it’s planning and goal setting and if you want to really jumpstart your year
The Boyfriend: 01:28 You’re not going to use the r word?
Leanne: 01:29 Resolution? I’m staying away from it. Yeah, you can use it. You can use the word resolution. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that, but if there’s a new year’s resolution or something that you want to jumpstart to get your year started off in the right foot, why don’t you sign up for Your Free Life Coaching session with me? I have one per person that I am giving out and you could go ahead and click on that tab on the website and schedule your, your session.
The Boyfriend: 01:55 It sends you a link or send you a calendar. And you go from there, right?
Leanne: 02:00 You basically click on the link and you pick a date and time that works for you when you schedule. He hasn’t scheduled one with me.
The Boyfriend: 02:08 I have no idea.
Leanne: 02:09 So there you go. It’s that easy. So now I think we got your shopping done. Where it got you ready for the New Year for set? Yeah. Yeah. And the one thing you know that a lot of you have that the boyfriend, and I don’t
The Boyfriend: 02:24 What a Segue,
Leanne: 02:25 there can be so many different things, would be kids.
The Boyfriend: 02:31 Oh yeah. We don’t have any of those.
Leanne: 02:32 No. And so because we don’t have a, there’s times where we kind of forget to talk about that. And we’ve talked, we’ve had a couple of episodes podcast, right? There’s a couple of episodes out. We’ve actually talked about how to prepare for the holidays and really kind of taking time out for yourself. And we always reiterate those things like self care, self care, self care. But what about the children? What about taking care of the kids? We probably should be putting them first, and a lot of this, I think
The Boyfriend: 03:04 If we had them, we would
Leanne: 03:06 think of that, but the single selfish people that we are, we don’t, but we know we, we talked to a lot of our friends who have kids and they’re going through divorce or have have gone through divorce and you know, it’s really important to really think of those kids before ourselves at a lot through this whole thing.
The Boyfriend: 03:29 Especially during the holidays. It is time for family and you want to make the most of that time, but when you’re, when the kids have to be split to split time between the families, you got to make sure that it’s good for them. Right?
Leanne: 03:41 Well, I think there’s, it’s got to be, this has already a hard process on the children and we want to make sure that they feel safe. They don’t have big abandonment issue. Like there’s so many things that could go wrong and also our own behavior and how we are behaving through this whole thing. You know, negative talk. kids are smart. They pick up on everything. It pick up on everything
The Boyfriend: 04:08 Body language, the whole deal. So you want to treat your ex fairly and kindly, right?
Leanne: 04:15 We do, yeah. But there’s even more than that.
The Boyfriend: 04:19 You, you’re the one you have access, did you?
Leanne: 04:22 Yeah. Gosh, it was so long ago and I didn’t have any kids but she’s a big deal. Right? So you can just let the horse was in Vegas. It was almost as quick as the wedding itself. It wasn’t as challenging as what so many people endure and you know, when it comes to planning with kids, boyfriend, you and I are probably definitely not the experts in this area, you know, and we’re kind of reaching. So that’s why I’m excited about our guest this week because he really filled us in on, I think a lot of the gaps that we had in some of our conversations about how to plan better for the holidays when you have a family.
The Boyfriend: 05:06 So tell me about him.
Leanne: 05:09 So the boyfriend wasn’t there because this was a Skype interview. but the boyfriend did listen because the boyfriend is our sound engineer and he does all the editing. So thank you for making that good. But who he talked to you this week was Alan Levy, who is the co founding principle and family law attorney at Smolen Plevy in suburban Washington DC. He has, he has almost 40 years of experience and is regularly named a top lawyer by Washington magazine. Alan plebe is known for being a tenacious litigator and negotiator who is zealously devoted to his clients. And he is. And he gave us some great. And you know what, you guys
The Boyfriend: 05:48 listen to it all. There’s a little bonus at the end.
Leanne: 05:50 Exactly. There’s a little bonus in the end. They are going to go, Ooh, I’m glad I listened and I’m going to make note of that and call my attorney. So without further ado, Mr Allen Plevy.
Leanne: 06:18 So Allen, welcome to Life Lafter Divorce podcast.
Alan Plevy: 06:22 Well, thank you for inviting me, Leanne.
Leanne: 06:24 Yes, I’m excited to have you on because the holidays are a really tough time for a lot of people. And as an attorney, I’m sure you kind of feel the brunt of that.
Alan Plevy: 06:36 Well, I do. My clients feel the brunt of it and quite frankly, the children feel the brunt of it. The parents are, are out of sync with things are worried about holidays and gifts and getting together with family and big dinners and then having to worry about, well, how’s my ex spouse going to really mess this up for me?
Leanne: 06:59 Exactly. I wondering, you know, one of the big notes that you had mentioned, is planning ahead, right? And it seems ideal and I’m wondering what tips you have about actually planning ahead and coordinating that with your soon to be ex
Alan Plevy: 07:16 planning ahead is again, making it easy for the children so that the children know where they’re supposed to be, when they’re supposed to be there and how they’re supposed to get there. So by communicating with your ex, either by email or text message or some way so that it’s in writing as opposed to verbally, which can be misconstrued or miscommunicated and just talk about, okay, when are you going to pick them up? When are you going to drop them off? What kind of clothes do they need? Do they need toiletries? How many, how many, how many days are they going to be with the other spouse? And there’s two or three days, or is it just a, an overnight and then communicating with that with the children, your dad and your mom and I have talked about what’s going to happen over the holidays and we’re going to, I’m going to drop you off at mom’s house and then she’s going to bring you back the next day and then you’ll be with me and then we’re going to have a family dinner at my house and then, you know, I’ll bring you back to mom’s house. Things along those lines so that the children know not knowing what’s going on, for the parents is disconcerting for the children. It’s devastating
Leanne: 08:22 and it seems like that makes perfect sense and it does, right? So if we can coordinate a plan ahead, all should run smoothly. But what about those couples where things are pretty heated? Our one person is just doing everything in their power to make it difficult to the other. For the other.
Alan Plevy: 08:39 You mean the normal course of business? Unfortunately that becomes very difficult. The best way to handle that is by thinking ahead and going to your mediator or going to court or whatever it takes to get somebody to help you work out an agreement, but if you’re, if you’re basically flying by the seat of your pants and you got somebody that’s not going to cooperate, you’ve got to make your plans and stick to him and, and tell the other person, and this is where we’re going to be, this is where the children are going to be. I can bring them over on this day for you, and so forth and, and, and you can’t make somebody cooperate, but you can make it a little difficult for them not to cooperate.
Leanne: 09:23 Right. Well, what have you ever seen, I’m sure because you’ve been an attorney for a long time, but what has been your, like a worst case for somebody that you’ve seen?
Alan Plevy: 09:35 Well, it is an easy example is people are living to people live across town from each other and they agree that they’re going to meet at Starbucks. Well, unfortunately their perspective of which Starbucks is going to be mad at, you know, if I’m living on the east side, I’m going to go the east side, Starbucks, they’re living on the west side, just going to be the west side. Starbucks. So be specific. And so the last thing you want to do is leave your children. Well mom will be here in a little bit or dad will be here. Dad said he’d be here at 1:00. It’s five after one. I need to leave. Don’t leave your children, don’t leave your shoulders, stay with them. again, try to make it easy for the children.
Leanne: 10:18 Yeah. Wow. People do that. I’m that sad in my mind that you just leave your kid at any Starbucks stuff. That’s scary. And I’m wondering like, do you know if people when they’re coordinating this stuff because a lot of times, you know, everything’s text and emails and everything. Have you found that anybody’s found any sort of APP or any sort of other all out of the box thinking solution to do the scheduling?
Alan Plevy: 10:43 Well, there are a lot of apps. There’s calendars that are online, but my experiences, if you got somebody that’s unwilling to go operate, you’re not going to get them to agree to even download an APP or download. And Myself, I’m a, I’m a relatively simple guys, so if I can send it a text or send an email and you and somebody writes back and says, yeah, that’s fine, that’s okay. You got an agreement, Nice. And then take it from there. Don’t try to force the other person to use a, some type of research or, or a APP that they don’t want to use or for one reason or another they don’t want to download or something like that or create another password and username. We all have thousands of those.
Leanne: 11:28 Good point, especially around the holidays. Keep it simple,
Alan Plevy: 11:32 keep it simple and that’s the best way.
Leanne: 11:36 Okay, excellent. So when it comes to planning, what about gifts?
Alan Plevy: 11:42 Well, gifts can be really exciting, especially for the children. you know, you don’t want to be competitive with the other person. And unfortunately, that such natural, children really don’t care about the gifts that much they want to be with the one to be with the family. They wanted to be with their mother or their father or the mother’s father, mother’s family are and so forth. And that’s the way it is. you also run into problems when you have second marriages and you’re, you’re trying to coordinate and, and trying to coordinate guests. Competition is not good. Then in many situations where I had one dad, one suit tell me, he says, well, I’m thinking about getting my child snake for for Christmas. What do you, what do you think about that? I said, well, you know, so long as you’re willing to feed the steak and take care of the steak when, when your son’s not there, that’s fine.
Alan Plevy: 12:38 He goes, no, no, I was going to send it over to mom’s house. Oh Gosh. Well that’s not gonna work. You know, don’t, don’t put your child in a situation like that child really craves that drum set. Then then they, they make electronic drums such where you’re banging on pads on rubber pads instead of a full drum kit with symbols and the rest of that stuff don’t go into competition. And the simplest is, again, we’ve said it before, its simplest is the better the children. You know, I’ve seen plenty of children have a lot of fun for a full afternoon playing with an empty brown box. It can be an airplane, it can be an airplane, it can be a car, it can be anything that was children. Imagine it to be
Leanne: 13:28 so maybe giving your time versus gifts and monetary material items,
Alan Plevy: 13:35 well spending, time reading and so forth. But children, they see a lot of commercialization of the holidays and they tend to expect stuff and, and you know, some folks going through divorce don’t have as much money as other folks and good time to teach your children that. Maybe show them how they can help donate to salvation army when you walk out of a supermarket and put a dollar in and, and they can feel good about that.
Leanne: 14:04 Right? So have you done, have you seen a way where parents. Well it sounds like you’ve seen obviously the worst where a drum set, you read my mind because that’s exactly what I’m wondering. Like have you ever seen something that really surprised you or parents really coordinated in it and did an outstanding effort for their kids?
Alan Plevy: 14:27 It happens more when you hear about is bad case. It happens more often where people do coordinate where they have the calendar on the refrigerator and your mom and I and dad and I have spoken and this is where you’re going to go and this is where your step siblings are going to be and they’ve the important, you know, we were going to get you, we’re going to get you this and it’s going to be a bicycle and you know, mom’s buying it and I’m buying it were all chipping in and I’m going to be a gift that can go back from back and forth from one house to the next and, and those sorts of special time. So those are the cases that, that unfortunately you don’t hear about it enough.
Leanne: 15:08 Right? That’s true. You hear about the bad things more than you hear about the good things and it really should be the other way around
Alan Plevy: 15:15 and you know, going back to the animals, if both parties can agree on a little fuzzy dog and the dog goes back and forth from one house to the next, depending on what the schedule for visitation is for the child.
Leanne: 15:32 Yeah. That would actually be a nice gift for a child. Needs some, some little partner in crime, you know, to go back and forth so that
Alan Plevy: 15:39 it would make those transitions easier too.
Leanne: 15:42 Right. Excellent. Well I’m wondering like you know, these are great and there are going to be those exceptions and around holiday times, like if, if things are escalating, if, if one parent is dating and the other is not, or one person starts drinking more than the other and there might be some conflict and one isn’t behaving like an adult. What, what do you, what do you recommend for the one that is ready to behave like adults?
Alan Plevy: 16:11 Well, I find that that people behave better in a crowd and if it’s a one-on-one situation or if you think that there’s going to be some difficulty with an exchange of a child, do it in public and, and possibly not in, not in the middle of a parking lot, but at a Starbucks or, or the local grocery store or someplace like that because people don’t want to act bad or look bad when they’re in public and we’re. Or if it’s necessary, then bring a family member or what have you. because it just helps to calm down the situation. It’s never good.
Leanne: 16:52 Yeah. That is a really great idea. And even when it comes to when you’re not with that partner about not talking about the other person in a bad light,
Alan Plevy: 17:03 well you have Christmas dinner or, or whatever holiday you’re celebrating and everybody’s drinking the Eggnog or what have you. And all of a sudden grandma starts dissing the other parents. I’ve got news for you that, that’s, that’s not only bad, but it’s going to play against you. It’s going to play against grandma and it’s going to play against the father or mother that’s letting that happen because the child’s going to want to come the next year or not to want to come for Easter or for the next birthday or whatever because they, you know, this is a parent that they love, whether it’s mother or father and they want that they should be respected. The children’s should be. And not, not to have a uncle disregard something or something somebody said or didn’t say. So parents should tell parents the children and the parents of the children should tell the family, okay, look, let’s make just a happy time.
Alan Plevy: 18:05 Let’s let mom keep it calm. Don’t say anything bad against our and let, let’s, let’s make it happy and let’s make a good. I’ll have a good time and try to give them a heads up that this could be an issue. and, and one thing to say to them is, look, you don’t want child being upset and not wanting to come back and visit. You don’t want to lose the grandchild. You don’t want to lose a nice, you know, don’t, let’s not let that happen because I’m not going to let it happen and if you let your family know that you’re not going to stand up port that you are going to stand up for it and, and not let it happen, then that’s gonna be better for the children and frankly better between your relationship with the other spouse because the child is going to say good things about you.
Leanne: 18:53 Right? So true. And that it does really matter because kids hear everything. They really pick up on that very quickly.
Alan Plevy: 19:03 They, you can pick up on movement and smiles that are fake and all, all of that stuff. They’re smart kids and even what can pick up that,
Leanne: 19:16 right? They pick up on this, the tension in the room. So great. Great idea to have those conversations in advance and I’m wondering like when it comes to these things, you know, when one parent is now gone and you know, holidays in the past, like last Christmas or last New Year’s or last Hanukkah, we did Xyz, but we don’t do them anymore. What about creating these new traditions are doing new things, like some people will suddenly start going on vacations. Do you find that this is helpful or. And how so?
Alan Plevy: 19:50 I think traditions are great, because kids, again, it’s the planning, it’s knowing what’s going to happen and it’s easy and you don’t need to go on vacation, you know, certainly I’m sure everybody likes to, but everybody cannot do that. You can bake cookies and take it down to the local firehouse. Those guys would love to have that stuff or go caroling or, or, or go ice skating. Even in California, I’m sure there’s ice skating rinks somewhere and you know, and, and just find a new tradition, bring food to the homeless. invite somebody into the house that a neighbor that, that may be alone for the holidays and things along those lines at the feel good stuff. The stuff that makes children know that a love that things are going according to plan. I’m going to have a restaurant, you know, and just go to that restaurant for, for big events, birthdays or anniversaries or holidays.
Alan Plevy: 20:53 And that’s, that’s the restaurant. That’s the happy restaurant, things along those lines. It is always helpful and it gives you a, gives you a plan, you know, it’s not like you need to come up with a new idea every year. You don’t have to. We’re going to do this, we’re gonna do the same old idea but, and we’re going to enjoy it and the kids are gonna grow up earlier and guess what the, if you, if you do this with your children, your children are going to grow up with these types of ideas and, and bring food to the needy and take care of other people and feel good about it.
Leanne: 21:29 Yeah. So true. And I really liked that your examples aren’t about spending money or out and I wouldn’t imagine that they would, especially coming from attorney, but it’s not about going out and out doing somebody. It’s not about being competitive, but actually what I’m hearing is go and help those others that maybe less fortunate or might benefit from you kind of giving a new sense of purpose to your family. Like is because a lot of times people get into that spiral where they think, oh, things are so bad because this is happening to us, but instead they can flip it and be like, what can we do to help other people who have it so much worse?
Alan Plevy: 22:04 Well, like you said, usually as bad as you think you might have, that there’s somebody that unfortunately, that has it worse than you. If you can show your children and, and frankly for your own self worth, do something to help somebody else, that’s a nice thing, a nice thing and a good habit to teach your children. That’s, that’s the best lesson. Not letting an a so and so bad mouth the other parent. But the best lesson is by setting an example for your children.
Leanne: 22:34 Yeah, absolutely. Well, is there anything else that has come up and over the holidays that you don’t normally, we don’t normally think of that can blindside us?
Alan Plevy: 22:44 Well, I, I like to tell him like my clients, men, women that represent both, you know, if you’re not healthy, if you’re not healthy, then you can’t be healthy for your children. And you got to take care of yourself first. So there’s gonna be times during the holiday that you may be alone, you may not have family in the area, your children are off, and this may be the first Christmas or holiday when the children are off and you’re alone and you don’t have them. Plan a plan a plan on doing something for yourself. Take care of yourself, whatever it may be, even if it’s a simple as a bubble bath or a nice long hike in the woods somewhere, but do it for yourself so that you feel good. And then your children can benefit from that because if you’re not healthy, you children are going to be healthy.
Leanne: 23:34 Yeah, that’s excellent because it’s really time for some self care and let go of some of that anxiety and stress and tension that builds up worrying about all that. And especially being alone. If you’re not used to being alone and you’ve been married for some time and suddenly, like you said, this is a first, I might hit you really hard.
Alan Plevy: 23:55 It’s going to be a difficult time. There’s no question about it, but you’re going to get past it and the second time will be easier, but again, fresh air or whatever it is that makes you happy, do it. There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself.
Leanne: 24:12 You know, these are all such really great ideas and you know, it’s something that seems to make so much sense, but we tend to forget about it at times like these, if there is, if there, if there are people out there going through this divorce experience and they are those people that we do hear about that are having a hard time or in high conflict. Is this a place where you would recommend them reaching out to you or a mediator or who would you recommend that when it comes to planning and having trouble managing that with the other partner?
Alan Plevy: 24:44 Well, if you’re having trouble, I got to tell you to reach out to an attorney. But, one of the first questions I always ask my clients are, who’s your therapist? They tell us that I’m going through a divorce is one of the, is the pinnacle of the pyramid as far as the emotional distress short of having a child pass away before yourself. so this is, this is a hard time and recognize it and recognize there’s gonna. Be a rollercoaster. Speak to your attorney. What can I expect? What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen now? What if we do this? What are we going to go? How long is this going to take? These are all questions your attorney can attain the answer for you. And again, just like the children, as long as you know the roadmap and you know where you’re going to go and when you’re going to get there and how you’re going to get there, then you’re feeling less, less anxiety in the holidays are certainly filled with anxiety, whether it’s getting, getting back to family that you haven’t seen for awhile or, or the kids not being with you for the first Christmas in 10 years.
Leanne: 25:52 Yes. So true. This is also great. Is there any last pieces and words of wisdom that you’d like to leave us on before we all go into this, this holiday month in a. In a flurry?
Alan Plevy: 26:06 Yeah. Relax. Take it easy as they say. Don’t sweat the small stuff and just have a good time with your children.
Leanne: 26:15 Yeah. Yeah. Keep it simple. This is so wonderful, Alan. I really appreciate you taking the time and walking us through this. I, it’s such a good reminder. It seems like we should know this, but I feel again, it just, this time of year we get wrapped up into so many things and things escalate so quickly. It’s like you said, just relax. Let, let, take a breath.
Alan Plevy: 26:38 I’m glad. I’m glad we’ve had an opportunity to talk so that I can share this. I’ve been doing this for quite a while and again, it’s the simple things. It’s a quiet things that make things easier.
Leanne: 26:50 Yes. And you’re about to go into a pretty busy season, I would imagine
Alan Plevy: 26:55 starting in January. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, we have the, we have the issue with the alimony going on and starting January first where it’s no longer deductible by the payor and the pages are going to be paying, paying taxes on it.
Leanne: 27:10 Really?
Alan Plevy: 27:11 Yes. That, that law changed after some 40 or 50 years. Alimony will no longer be tax deductible unless there’s a degree, unless there’s an agreement or court order making it tax deductible before the first of the year.
Leanne: 27:30 That is a huge tip for our listeners. If you are thinking better, better check that out. You got to get a few weeks left.
Alan Plevy: 27:39 Well, absolutely. It’s an important important thing to think about.
Leanne: 27:44 Yeah, it is. It can make a huge difference next year. Well, this has been wonderful. I’m going to be sure to include all of your contact information in our show notes and on the website so people can know where to find you and how to reach out if they have any questions. and we will look forward to getting through this holiday seasons by following these simple tips. This is great. I don’t even have, I don’t even have kids that I’m going to follow these things.
Alan Plevy: 28:12 Pleasure talking with you, Leanne,
Leanne: 28:15 so nice speaking with you. Have a great holiday.
Alan Plevy: 28:18 Thank you. You as well.
Leanne: 28:19 All right. Bye Bye.
Alan Plevy: 28:20 Bye Bye.