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Episode 93 - How to Reduce Holiday Stress Using 5 Simple Concepts

Episode 93 - How to Reduce Holiday Stress Using 5 Simple Concepts Image

11/20/2018 9:43 am

The holidays can be a stressful time for an intact family. For those families struggling with a divorce, however, it can be much worse. Fortunately, there are things that you can do that will help reduce the holiday stress so that you and your children have positive memories this next holiday season. In this show, we discuss 5 tips that will help reduce the stress that the holiday season can bring.


Leh Meriwether:             Welcome, everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on The New Talk 106.7.

                                         Here, you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis, and even, from time to time, how to take tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to learn more about us, you can always call or visit us online at

                                         All right. Ready?

Todd Orston:                   Born ready.

Leh Meriwether:             You sure about that?

Todd Orston:                   No.

Leh Meriwether:             Who's coming over for Thanksgiving?

Todd Orston:                   I was not very ready when I was born. I'll manage. All right?

Leh Meriwether:             Okay.

Todd Orston:                   I don't know if I'm ready, but yeah. What are we talking about today?

Leh Meriwether:             Well, I know it's the beginning of October, but today we're going to talk about the five ways parents can reduce stress during the holidays.

Todd Orston:                   Ho, ho, ho.

Leh Meriwether:             That's right. I know we're a little bit early, but you're going to hear when we talk about it, a lot of times, stress, especially when you have a divorce in the middle of this around the holidays, the stress associated with holidays, stress associated with divorce, combining those two together creates chaos, and you can create a situation where the kids just have a horrible Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever you may celebrate at that time. With a little planning, you could actually set the stage for a ... and considering the circumstances, a positively memorable holiday season.

Todd Orston:                   Stress free or as stress free as the holidays can be.

Leh Meriwether:             Exactly.

Todd Orston:                   There's a natural, probably, amount of stress that goes along with every holiday, but that's obviously not what the show is about. We're talking about situations where, let's say a divorce is pending. All right? It really goes post-divorce if you don't have a good plan in place and if you don't handle yourself properly and reasonably. It's going to create stress, and that stress is not just going to be significant on the impact, significant on you, but on the child or children, on the other party.

                                         I'm not sitting here saying that you've just gone through a divorce, you and your spouse have to be best friends, but the alternative, where if you are just at each other and cannot get along, the holidays act like a magnifier. We've seen this time and again. The problems you may have had while you were divorcing, post-divorce, or even during pendency-

Leh Meriwether:             Mid-divorce, yeah.

Todd Orston:                   The problems are magnified 10 times over. Doing things ahead of time, coming up with a plan, knowing or having some tips on how to effectively communicate and plan and schedule and do all the things you need to do to have a successful, happy holiday, it's worth the time and effort.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah, and the reason we're doing this October, because everybody's like, "Where did the year go?" I mean 10 months have already flown by, nine months if it's the beginning of October. They've flown by, and you're sitting here going ... well, you think, "Oh, well, Thanksgiving, that's just ... I got a month for that," but the next thing you know, it's right there. By that time, it's too late.

                                         I want to add one more scenario that this would be helpful to is maybe your marriage is teetering on the edge, and one thing that may set you on the right course for next year would be an amazing memory from a holiday that was well planned out, that was stress reduced, or maybe even if you do it right, minimal stress. Then it sets you for the course where like, "Wow, this is what our marriage could be like," and then in January, you get into counseling so that you can work on your marriage to make the whole year like that.

Todd Orston:                   Bottom line, holidays should be happy times. Okay?

Leh Meriwether:             Yes, yeah, exactly.

Todd Orston:                   What we see, as practitioners, as family lawyers, is not only is that not the case when people are going through a divorce or they have recently gone through a divorce, it is where major, major problems come up, and the problems that maybe already exist get blown up, like I said, magnified 10 times over. What we're going to spend some time this show going over and talking about are tips and things you should be thinking about that hopefully will lead you down the path of having a fun, happy holiday season.

                                         Okay? Not just because we're happy people, we are, but because we don't want you to have to call us, because those calls that we get during the holidays are usually far worse, and the issues that we're dealing with are far more severe than during just other non-holiday times.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. Let's talk about what we see in family law cases around this time. When I say around this time, I'm usually talking about between Thanksgiving, well, sometimes between Halloween and Christmas, the Christmas holiday or the break. One of the things we see is, a lot of times, parents will have filed for divorce, maybe over the summer, and nobody's really planned out the holidays, and because there's ... They were used to doing traditions, and so traditionally, they did this or that or they always went to grandma's house on Christmas Eve and grandpa's house on ... or the other grandparents' house the next day. They were used to that, so it had become a habit, so all of a sudden they realize, "Oh, my gosh. What are we doing this holiday season? We've already separated."

                                         That creates a problem, problems with parenting schedules if there's no agreement in place, you know, attendance at parties. There's always holiday parties around this time. You go to the holiday party, but who's going to take care of the kids? Or maybe you both have a holiday party at the same time-

Todd Orston:                   Or you want to take the kids to the party.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah.

Todd Orston:                   And wife says, "I'm going to take them this Saturday," and it's like, "Well, no, no, no. I'm going to take to the holiday party I want to go to." Work related parties, sometimes families are included. Pre-planning, I can tell you right now, I'm not going through, knock on wood, thank goodness, I'm not dealing with a divorce. I know in my family, if we wait too long and get close to a holiday and we haven't made plans, there is a level of stress.

                                         Believe me when I say, when we see people, clients who are going through a divorce, and they are waiting to the last minute thinking that they're just going to just figure something out and just throw something together last minute, now there's this new dynamic. You're dealing with a former spouse or a soon to be former spouse. All that's going to happen is there's going to be disagreements and stress.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. All right. Another thing we see is parents getting upset because, especially if you're in the middle of a custody battle, where one, the parents suddenly start, well, "Hey, look. Johnny got a brand new BMW for his birthday."

Todd Orston:                   Some of the gifts I've seen, I'm like, why didn't my parents divorce? I wanted to call my parents and just be like, "Listen, I don't think it's working out between you guys." Mom, Dad, if you're listening, I'm sorry, and I'm only kidding.

                                         No, but you're right. Sometimes we see this competition, and the gifts are insane. There are some families where the gifts are just always insane. They were insane when they were together-

Leh Meriwether:             Right. That's not out of the ordinary then.

Todd Orston:                   That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about where we have asked the questions, like, "What was normal prior to in terms of gifts," and it's like, "Well, we would do X or Y or Z." Now all of a sudden, because this competitive juice starts to flow and the gifts are just ridiculous.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. All right. That's one thing. Then if the case has been active for a while, sometimes there's the sense of urgency arises, this is around the holidays. The case has been going on for a year or two, and everybody just wants the divorce done by the end of the year. There's this mad rush, sometimes you see everybody trying to get their case tried at the end of the year, and that creates stress in a lot of situations.

                                         Now, this year there's been some situations, a lot of cases there's a reason for it because the alimony law is changing, and in fact the courts are really already, a lot of people have gotten on the docket for December, because they don't want to roll into January.

                                         Then, one of the things that we see rise during this time too, during the holiday season unfortunately is domestic violence. Sometimes, it's because the parties aren't getting along together as it is. Then what happens is, they're not getting along, but all of a sudden, they have all this time off and they're together, and they're together, and then there's alcohol involved.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah. I was about to say, tied into the domestic violence is an uptick unfortunately in substance abuse. We see that unfortunately rear its head. We see people getting DUIs, we see the children witnessing and being present during periods of intoxication. Those types of things also come up during the holidays. All we can say there is I know things are tough, I think it's difficult, whatever it is you're dealing with, but those types of problems, those types of issues if you act a certain way can have major impact on your case. You have to be very careful with that.

Leh Meriwether:             And not only impacting your case, but they can have impact on your freedom.

Todd Orston:                   Absolutely.

Leh Meriwether:             I had a case where somebody lost it, and he tried to enforce a court order that wasn't really clear. He showed up to a Nutcracker event, there were 600 parents and 100 kids involved in this event. He wanted our client arrested at the event. The judge was so upset with him and he threw him in jail for 10 days, and he said, "Sir, you not only ruined your children's Christmas, you ruined all those children's Christmases, because they're going to always remember when they do The Nutcracker, that this is the time that the police showed up to arrest their-"

Todd Orston:                   Or they're going to expect that every time they watch The Nutcracker.

Leh Meriwether:             Hey, up next, we're going to get into MRRCP.

                                         Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners of the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. You're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on The New Talk 106.7. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at

                                         I didn't want to talk too much there, because we've got some stuff to get into. We've got to get into MRRCP. Todd, what is MR ...

Todd Orston:                   My Rail Road Captain Pants.

Leh Meriwether:             Captain pants?

Todd Orston:                   Am I close?

Leh Meriwether:             No. Not even.

Todd Orston:                   Not even a little close?

Leh Meriwether:             Do you want another try?

Todd Orston:                   No.

Leh Meriwether:             Okay.

Todd Orston:                   What does MRRCP stand for?

Leh Meriwether:             It stands for Map, Respond, Remember, Competition, Positive.

Todd Orston:                   See! I think I said positive, didn't I?

Leh Meriwether:             Okay, it's not the best-

Todd Orston:                   I was sort of close.

Leh Meriwether:             I was struggling to come up with something good.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah. That just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it, Leh? You know, MRRCP. You know? I'm sure every listener is going to be walking around just singing that one in their head.

Leh Meriwether:             The funny thing is it's so not good, they're going to probably remember it because it's so bad.

Todd Orston:                   Right, and then they'll send hate mail like, "I can't get MRRCP out of my head. I hate you Leh!"

Leh Meriwether:             It's like one of those songs you can't get out of your head. All right. Enough laughing.

Todd Orston:                   Map, respond, remember, competition, positive.

Leh Meriwether:             Right. If you can remember these five things, and we're going to explain what they are over the course of the next several minutes, you're going to set yourself on course to have a positive holiday season rather than a stress filled nightmare.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah. Really, remembering what we do for a living, we see the nightmares. I can't overstate it anymore than I am right now. We see the horrible situations where police are being called because things get so bad, or you're spending the majority of the time calling your respective attorneys because, really, what it comes down to, so many of those problems, right, so many of those problems, once the attorneys get involved and spend considerable time, we realize, this really is just because you didn't talk ahead of time. You didn't figure something out, and now all of a sudden there's disagreement, and the attorneys have to step in like referees, and it's what we do, but it's not what we want to do.

Leh Meriwether:             Right. It's a lot of money.

Todd Orston:                   It's a lot of money. We want you to just have a nice time over the holidays listening or doing these things, the MRRCP. This is going to help you hopefully avoid those problems.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. The first one is map out your holidays. I know that sounds, oh, well, duh, but nobody seems to do it. Here's what you do. We're going to get real, real practical.

                                         First off, pull out a calendar this upcoming weekend. I like those big desk calendars, I'm a visual guy, but it doesn't have to be that. Write down every event that you at least know of that's coming up, and put it on that calendar for October, November and December. Put everything, you may already know when your holiday party is. Obviously you know where Thanksgiving and Halloween is. Write it all out. Pull out your child's school calendar. A lot of times, they'll have those things on there, when is the school year ending before the holidays? When is everybody getting out? Put all those things on the calendar.

                                         Then, I know this may sound sacrilegious, you might have to give up a Saturday to plan this out, and I know people love their college football, I love college football, but my gosh, how much is it worth it to you? We've seen cases where the parties couldn't get along so bad, they spent $5-10000 for an emergency hearing just to deal with the holidays, because they just got so worked up about it, when if they just pulled back and go, okay, this is just one holiday season. Let's work through this as best we can.

Todd Orston:                   Before you go on, remember that the whole reason we're saying map it out, is because if you don't, we see a lot of problems where people are like, "I forgot. I have this, my child has that. I want to do XYZ." If you map it out ahead of time, you are educating yourself, you are making sure things don't fall through the cracks, which then creates a problem. That's the whole purpose of us saying map it out.

Leh Meriwether:             Mm-hmm (affirmative). All right. Part of that too, once you've completed your calendar, try to think of everything that you can. Once you've completed it, reach out to your spouse or your ex-spouse depending on where, if it's post-divorce. Ask them if the two of you can have coffee one morning and sit down and share it with them ahead of time and say, "Hey, look, I want to discuss the holidays and planning things."

                                         Even if you have a parenting plan, still, maybe like we talked about, maybe there's this weekend coming up where there's this great holiday party but it's your husband's or the wife's weekend, or ex-husband, ex-wife's weekend. Why not plan it out? See if, discussion, "Hey, can we swap these weekends," and explain why. "Look, I know the kids will love it, our company is spending all this money to do this fun event."

Todd Orston:                   Very quickly, if you think that coffee may result in flying danishes or a blueberry tossed at your head, then obviously don't do the coffee, but the whole point is, engage in discussion. Open up the dialog with your spouse or former spouse, and basically say, "Hey, look, I would love to talk about the holidays so that you and I can be on the same page and avoid any issues." Hopefully if the other party isn't so caught up in the emotion, they will appreciate the fact you are reaching out and basically doing so in order to avoid problems.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. Let's say you do sit down and you come up all right and you work through it, and obviously be flexible. You can ask your spouse to do the same thing, "Hey, look. I wrote down a calendar. I put everything on there that I know about. Would you like me to share it with you? I'm just saying, let's try to talk about how to get through the next three months so that we're all, I mean, the kids especially are happy." Maybe share it with them ahead of time. Ask them to add to the calendar things that they know about.

                                         We've seen that too where one party is all planned out, but the other party is ... they think of something at the last minute and it creates chaos. You might say, that shouldn't be my responsibility. I shouldn't be responsible for my husband or my wife just because they're unorganized. I flip it and say, hang on a minute, if you know they're disorganized-

Todd Orston:                   Or manipulative.

Leh Meriwether:             Or manipulative, then take the chance, I mean, take the opportunity, sort of set the stage so it doesn't happen, and that leads me to the next part of mapping it out, is that if you are in litigation, and you've agreed to your temporary parenting plan for the holidays, then go to your lawyer in the case and have it committed to a consent order which becomes enforceable by the court. Don't just come to an agreement, just have it written down into a consent order the judge signs off on.

Todd Orston:                   There are tools. We've talked about this before. There are tools out there like setting up mutual calendars that can be incredibly helpful, My Family Wizard, there are other companies out there and other tools out there where you can set it up, if you know you're going through a divorce or you're going to be divorced, or if you've never been married but you share a child with someone and you have to co-parent, there are tools out there to help you communicate, help you schedule. The reason those types of tools are popular, it's because they work. It forces communication. By forcing you to act responsibly and to deal with these things ahead of time, it avoids those problems that come up when parties don't talk and they try to just wing it at the last minute.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. Okay. You know, some parties, they want to get into every little detail of it. Write it all down. Put it in a consent order, so they later can't say, "Well, wait. I want this," and you can be like, "No, no, no. We worked all this out." I love the idea of using a tool like Our Family Wizard, and there's other ones out there. That's just the one that we think about most frequently. It also forces you to do it, and it's a platform that everyone can see, it syncs with your calendar, and everyone has access to it.

                                         I like how you said that. It forces the communication. Sometimes that's one of the problems. People don't want to communicate because they don't want to get in an argument, and what they do is they just delay the argument and then it becomes much worse.

Todd Orston:                   Well, and that tool's actually, what I love, I know this isn't a commercial for that tool, but what I love about that tool also is, you can communicate through that tool, and it also tracks when different communications have been accessed. If you send an email let's say and you're like, "Hey, I would like to have Halloween." Okay, you send that email. You know exactly when the other party opens that email. It allows you, if the party's like, "Well, I didn't see it," and you see that they opened it up three weeks earlier, yeah, you did. Liar, liar, pants on fire.

Leh Meriwether:             All right. On the mapping out, another thing to keep in mind is create breathing room. Don't put everything that you know's coming up, don't pack in ... I think that's why some people get sick during the holidays. They get sick because every night is some event, there's some thing going on, and they get so overwhelmed, it adds the stress. They get sick, that makes it an even more stressful situation. Create breathing room on your calendar. Up next, we're going to talk about when it's okay to say no.

                                         Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on The New Talk 106.7. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at

                                         Well, the show we've been talking about, we're getting ahead of it, we're getting ahead of the holiday curve, whatever you want to call it, but we're trying-

Todd Orston:                   Definitely not holiday curve, but whatever.

Leh Meriwether:             We're trying to get ahead of the holidays, the holiday season so that we can, we're talking about five things that parents can do to help reduce stress during the holidays. A lot of it is getting ahead of the holidays.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah. I guess it would be really bad messaging on our part if we aired this show on maybe December 23rd or something. The whole point is to get ahead of the holidays and basically educate people so that they can start doing things before the holidays hit.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. The last thing we talked about was mapping out the holidays. That was tip number one. Where we left off is, when is it okay to say no?

Todd Orston:                   Right now. No.

Leh Meriwether:             I hadn't said anything yet.

Todd Orston:                   No.

Leh Meriwether:             Okay. Here's where people also get themselves in trouble. They plan out their holidays, and something comes up that's not on the calendar, so they like, "Okay, I'll add that to my calendar. That sounds great." Give yourself permission to say no. If something comes up on the holidays and you've already mapped out something, especially if you're in the middle of a divorce, and let's say it's slightly contentious, say, "You know, I would love to, but this year's not the best time. It's nothing personal, it's just, I'm going through a divorce." Give yourself permission to graciously decline, because what you're going to do is you're going to help reduce the stress in the divorce situation.

Todd Orston:                   There's a middle ground. As with everything, you have to be ... you can't or should not take an extreme position. What we are saying, or rather-

Leh Meriwether:             Is that an extreme position?

Todd Orston:                   Well, what we're not saying ... You and your extreme positions. Just say no. It's all about co-parenting.

Leh Meriwether:             Right.

Todd Orston:                   In a perfect world, you should be able to work these things out. If a last minute thing comes up and let's say a mom asks a dad, "Hey, I know it's your parenting time, but my parents are flying through town, my best friend or whatever, can I please have one of your days?" In a perfect world, my advice to a client would be absolutely say yes. If you have something yourself already scheduled, then you don't need to just totally upend your whole world and change your plans, but if you were going to go out to dinner and just hang out at the house and they ask for that, my advice would be do it.

                                         Now, if it's a one-way road, if every time they ask you say yes and every time you ask for some accommodation they say no, I'll be the first person to say, just start saying no. Just say, "We have an agreement," or, "There's a plan in place. We're sticking to the plan, because it's not fair that every time I ask you say no and vice versa."

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. I think I'm talking more along the lines of, you've committed to a plan with your spouse or ex-spouse, and then a friend of yours comes along. Now, the situation of someone flying into town that you hadn't seen in years, I think that's the exception.

Todd Orston:                   But it happens, and we see that kind of stuff.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah, it's an exception. You have somebody who just, "Hey, we're going over to this party this weekend and we'd love to have you and with the kids and everything," and you already know it's your spouses time, you're like, "You know, we've already agreed to all of this." It's better off to reduce that stress, to not have that stress during that time period. Plus, you don't over pack your holiday.

Todd Orston:                   Without a doubt. It's just that, we also see the stress where somebody tries to ask for an accommodation, and ... how many times have clients called and said, "My spouse is asking for an accommodation. I want to say no," and then we dig in, and it's like, there's no real reason to say no, other than, it's really, we know, it's based on the emotion. It has nothing to do with is it a reasonable request or not. As a matter of fact, it's clearly a reasonable request.

                                         All I'm saying is, there is no black or white definitive yes or no right or wrong answer. But, I understand your point, our point, which is, you have the right to say no. If you have an agreement in place, sometimes it's just easier to stick to the schedule. That's going to avoid stress.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. It's also going to avoid stress for the kids.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah.

Leh Meriwether:             All right. You know what? If they don't know about the event, then they're definitely not going to miss it.

Todd Orston:                   That's right.

Leh Meriwether:             Number two. Learn the difference between reacting and responding. The biggest difference between a reaction and response is the amount of time that you put in between the stimulus and then what you ultimately do. If something happens, "I think that's the dumbest idea you ever had," and then you say, "Oh yeah? Well, you're just an idiot," you know, something like that, or, you know-

Todd Orston:                   As long as you finish off with Merry Christmas, doesn't that make up for it? "You're an idiot. Merry Christmas." Was that mean? Because I can't tell.

Leh Meriwether:             Well, you know, if it's a tense situation, sometimes silence can help, you know? Count to 10 inside your head before you respond. Someone says, "Hey, that's the dumbest idea you've ever had." You go, "Okay. What led you to feel that way?" Just pause. Rather than responding and saying, "You're a moron if you think this is a bad idea. It's a great idea." Just say, "Okay. What led you to think this was a dumb idea? Please educate me."

                                         They may be, just remember that maybe they've had a bad day. We do have the stressful holidays. That's why it's so important to remember particularly during the holidays to slow down just a hair so you can respond.

                                         If you get an email in with something that's really offensive or something that gets your blood boiling, sleep on it and respond in the morning.

Todd Orston:                   We've talked about this before. We do that in our office. We don't necessarily have to sleep on it, but there are many times, and we tell all of our attorneys and staff, there are going to be times when an opposing party or even opposing council might do or say something that upsets us.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah.

Todd Orston:                   If you have to therapeutically write something, that's fine. But then walk away, take a few breaths, get a drink, whatever you need to do, and then go back and reread it and make sure you're not ... it's not coming from a place of emotion. Then all you're doing is fanning the flame.

Leh Meriwether:             And you're creating a horrible experience for your kids.

Todd Orston:                   That's right.

Leh Meriwether:             A horrible memory.

Todd Orston:                   That's right.

Leh Meriwether:             It's not just an experience. I know as a child, I have a lot of very positive memories right around the holidays. I don't remember much of the rest of the year, but I have these positive memories around the holidays.

                                         If you make it a miserable memory like that case where the judge got so mad at the guy he said, "You didn't just ruin your kid's Christmas, you ruined all these kids' Christmases. Every time they watch The Nutcracker on TV, even when they're older, they're going to remember the time the guy showed up with the police officers to arrest their ballet teacher."

                                         Here's a few things to remember on this before we move on. Sometimes people focus too much on their spouse or their ex-spouse, and the decisions that he or she are making, and you lose focus on what's really important, like your personal health and happiness, and the health and happiness of your children. Before you go, "I can't let him or her get away with that," just wait a minute. How has what they're wanting to do, is it going to create a positive memory for the kids? Pull back. A positive memory really, don't create these, "Well, they don't really like them." Sometimes they get so focused on the other side that they lose focus on what's truly important.

Todd Orston:                   Again, that's all about controlling the emotion. We've talked about that time and time again. It is basically one of the unfortunate evils of this kind of practice and this kind of life event. It's not a positive life event, it creates a lot of emotion. Sometimes when people allow themselves to be driven by emotion, it creates horrible experiences. You're so caught up in the emotion, it's ruining it for you, but it's also ruining it for the other party, and more importantly, for a child or children.

Leh Meriwether:             There's another thing that some people lose track of, that this isn't the only holiday they're ever going to have. This is just one holiday, one year there'll be more. You don't want to get so hung up on this particular holiday that you're like, "I am drawing the line here. We are going to go to battle over this one holiday." There's more around the corner.

                                         What you don't want to have happen is when the kids get older and it's time for them to come visit you and bring the grandkids, they're like, "You know what, I'm not sure I want to go over to dad's house. I remember the Christmas, I will never forget that Christmas when he did this to me," or, "when mom did this to me."

Todd Orston:                   Yeah. Very quickly on that again, going back to one of the main messages we're trying to send in the show, you shouldn't even have to deal with that if you pre-planned everything. If you did things ahead of time, then there shouldn't be stress in scheduling. You shouldn't have to worry about who gets this holiday or that holiday, because it's all mapped out and there really is no room for argument. If you want to make an accommodation, great, but you don't have to.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. All right. The last thing to remember, create a conflict free zone for the sake of your children. Even if that means you've got to bite your tongue, bite your lip, create a conflict free zone.

Todd Orston:                   Well done.

Leh Meriwether:             All right. Hey, up next, we're going to talk about the last two ways parents can help reduce holiday stress and help create some positive memories for their children rather than negative ones.

                                         Hey, Todd, while we take a break here, what do you think about taking a moment to speak just to our podcast listeners?

Todd Orston:                   I think that sounds like a great idea.

Leh Meriwether:             All right. Well, first off, we wanted to thank everyone who is listening and downloading our podcast. We are so glad that you've taken the time out of your busy day to listen to us.

Todd Orston:                   Absolutely. We especially wanted to thank all of you that took a few minutes to post a five-star revenue of our show on iTunes.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah, and if you're enjoying this show and getting a lot out of it and you haven't posted a review yet, we would be so grateful if you would take a moment or two to post a five-star review for us wherever you listen to the show. If you're really enjoying it, please let us know what is it about the show you enjoy in the review. If you want to post a review, but you're having trouble figuring out how to do so, just google, "How do I post a podcast review on iTunes," or Podcast Addict or SoundCloud, whatever you're listening to.

Todd Orston:                   Absolutely. We'd give you a step-by-step guide on how to do it, but as soon as the show comes out, Apple or Google is probably going to issue an update that changes everything.

Leh Meriwether:             Absolutely. Hey, everyone, thanks so much for listening.

                                         Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp Radio on The New Talk 106.7. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at

                                         Today, we're talking about the five things that parents can do to help reduce stress during the holiday season. We talked about the first three, we're getting to the last two. We sort of mentioned this before about the extravagant gifts that Todd wished he could've gotten if his parents divorced ...

Todd Orston:                   There's time.

Leh Meriwether:             There's time.

Todd Orston:                   I want a pony!

Leh Meriwether:             We're just kidding. The next tip is, the holidays are not a competition. For some reason, people think it is, and so they get all worked up about gifts during the holidays. They try to outspend the other spouse.

Todd Orston:                   We have seen some ridiculous situations where it just ramps up more and more and more, and the gifts get more and more extravagant. It's being done for a number of reasons, and to be honest with you, none of them are valid good reasons. It's not what the children or child needs. It has everything to do with like me more than the other parent. That's not the way it should be. Obviously, the kids aren't complaining about a nice gift, but deep down, they also know what it's about. That's where it does have a lasting negative impact on a child.

Leh Meriwether:             And the kids will, in some of the interviews that we've heard from counselors, they'll say that. They're like, "I love the gift, but I know why I got it." It kind of makes them feel guilty, and actually creates stress on the kids.

                                         Here's the other thing some people don't think about. They get all worked up in this, they spend a lot of money on gifts, and then they put themselves further and further in debt, because they're already spending money on attorney's fees, they've already doubled their household expenses because they've moved into two separate households.

                                         The next thing you know, that adds more stress in the future because they put it all on the credit card during December, and then it comes due in January and February, and that adds to all the stress. It just bleeds over into the next year and it continues after the divorce if you've racked up a lot of debt. Another reason really to try to avoid that.

                                         You don't need to go crazy on the gifts. In fact, I've seen some really good co-parents where they said, "All right, we're going to do this because so we don't spoil the kids," because too much in the way of gifts is not good for, I don't think is good for kids.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah. They coordinate.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. They coordinate. They sit down and say, "Hey, Joey really wants this toy train," or something like that, and say, "Hey, why don't you get the engine, and I'll get the rest of it?" That way it's like ... it is so a positive experience for the children, because what they experience is, first off, they get the gift they want, the total gift, and then they felt like the parents worked together to give it to them, so they feel that sense of both my parents love me and are listening to me, so it's very powerful.

                                         Here's, I think you came up with this last year.

Todd Orston:                   Was it smart?

Leh Meriwether:             It was brilliant.

Todd Orston:                   Well, then of course I did.

Leh Meriwether:             Try having your child make or buy a gift for the other parent. That is a really positive experience for you with your child or children, to go out and buy something for the other parent, so rather than going crazy on the kids, obviously buy them gifts, but have them buy something for your spouse. Even if they don't do it for you, it doesn't matter. This is all about trying to set the stage to resolve your case, or set the stage for positive co-parenting on the go forward.

Todd Orston:                   When you're thinking in terms of the child, if you are prioritizing the child's needs, and you want them to basically come away with a positive view of you as a person, as a parent, as a co-parent, doing something like that, and it may, it may turn your stomach a little bit, if the relationship between you and the other parent is bad, but when you do that, I firmly believe that years down the line, if you get into a routine and pattern of pushing the children to call the other parent, to buy a gift during the holidays, even a card, just do something, they're going to walk away with a positive message, having learned, I think, a positive lesson, that, you know what, right is right, wrong is wrong. Whatever was going on between your father and I or your mother and I, the right thing is for you to be respectful and be good to your parent. Buy a gift, get them a card.

Leh Meriwether:             Yeah. It's like the proverbial olive branch in some situations. Like you said, it creates a positive experience. It can become something that you do every year. It could become a new holiday tradition, and a positive memory too.

                                         All right. The last thing. Focus on the happy times. Positive. Be positive.

Todd Orston:                   That's another bumper sticker or T-shirt. Focus on the happy times.

Leh Meriwether:             You're in the middle of this, in the middle of a divorce, or you've just gone through a divorce. It's obviously, that is extremely difficult. There are a few practical things you can do to sort of shift your focus from the negative to the positive.

                                         One of the things is, take time out of every morning to be thankful for what you have. It can be as simple as, you know what? It's freezing cold outside. I have a car that doesn't leak that can drive me to work. I have gas that can get me there. I have a heater I can turn on to keep me warm on the drive.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah. Let me say it this way. We are not therapists. I'm not trying to play one on radio or TV. But I can tell you, based on my experience as a family lawyer, that especially during the holidays when emotions are riding high, people start to focus on the negatives, and even the smallest-

Leh Meriwether:             It creates a downward spiral.

Todd Orston:                   Absolutely. Even the smallest of issue can suddenly become some much bigger emotional issue that takes a really big emotional toll. If you can sort of push that down, if you can say, okay, hold on one second. Let me now look at it through a different lens. Let me see this negative issue I'm dealing with, and I can look at it through an unemotional kind of lens, then you can start to focus on the good things. I've said that ... today, she'll probably get angry that I'm sharing this, today ...

Leh Meriwether:             I'm sending this to her.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah. My wife, the key fob for her car didn't work. Brand new car. She goes to start it, car won't work. I'm not going to say the make and model of the car, we love the car, but it didn't work. She was upset. She had to get to work, she was stressed.

                                         I said to her, I was like, "Hold on one second. Knock on wood, I'm healthy, you're healthy. Kids are healthy, they're doing well in school. Start focusing on," whether you define that as the small things or the big things, "focus on the happy times, on the good things. Focus on those things."

                                         Once she did that, all of a sudden a key not working, and by the way, there was another way that I showed her how to get the car to start without the key fob, she then was able to move past it and go, "You know what? You're right." By the way, I recorded that, because she rarely says I'm right.

Leh Meriwether:             If you're really struggling, you should do it three times a day. In the morning, take out a sheet, don't just think about it, write it down on a piece of paper. "I'm thankful for ... " Try to do three things in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. It's really hard to realize, when you compare yourself, you shouldn't, I don't want people to get trapped in the comparison, but pull back and go, "Hey, I have a job. I'm making money. I have two children or three children or whatever it may be that love me." Just take that time. You might have to start small. I mean, things might be really, really rough, but you might have to start with some small stuff.

                                         There's a great book out there if you're struggling and it's got all the research. Shawn Achor wrote a book called The Happiness Advantage. This isn't just me trying to be a motivational speaker, this is, there is raw, I mean, psychological studies and data to support all this. What happens is, when people are in the midst of a crisis like a divorce, that we can get stuck in the misery of the status quo, and we can forget that another path is available. Those aren't my words. I think those came from this book.

Todd Orston:                   I was about to say, you had me at hello. I was almost moved to tears.

Leh Meriwether:             I think those were his words. That's probably the reason why I like that book so much.

Todd Orston:                   Yeah, no, absolutely. It's the negative thought that, and you said it, it's a downward spiral. We see our clients head down that spiral, that downward spiral, and things get worse and worse and worse and worse. It doesn't matter what we say. If you can't get yourself out of it, I can't. I can tell you positive things and I can try to get you out of it, but you have to get yourself out of it, meaning, you have to get yourself out of that negative place back to a positive place. One way to do it is what we're talking about. Think about the good, the happy, the positive things.

Leh Meriwether:             Here's another quote from his book, and this is again based on research, that when someone is stuck in a negative mindset, their brain is literally incapable of seeing positive opportunities. When armed with positivity, the brain stays open to possibility. Psychologists call this predictive encoding, priming yourself to expect a favorable outcome actually encodes your brain to recognize the outcome when in fact it does arise.

                                         To sum it up, map out your holidays, respond, don't react, remember it's not all about you, the holiday experience should not be a competition, and focus on the positive. Thanks so much for listening.

Speaker 3:                        This audio program does not establish an attorney/client relationship with Meriwether & Tharp.