Collen Rice of Family Nexus: “Sit and establish your boundaries”

Sit and establish your boundaries. How much time will you devote to communicating with your ex, don’t allow negative or abusive communication. Don’t allow too much communication with them especially when it’s negative. It can be overwhelming and distracting from your daily functioning with your job, children, etc. They are not married to you and […]

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Sit and establish your boundaries. How much time will you devote to communicating with your ex, don’t allow negative or abusive communication. Don’t allow too much communication with them especially when it’s negative. It can be overwhelming and distracting from your daily functioning with your job, children, etc. They are not married to you and they do not get to take up all of your time and make your life miserable. Take notes and carry this on to other parts of your life. How many of us do things we truly don’t want to do and it’s draining to us (that negative friend? Drop her! That job where you’re not treated well? Find another)

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewingColleen Rice.

Colleen Rice is a CoParenting Consultant and owner of Family Nexus, a divorces support company in Alberta, Canada. Colleen has developed programming to educate parents on how to co-parent in healthy ways so that children can grow in a positive way. She helps parents regain control of their lives while co-parenting using proven and simple techniques to significantly increase knowledge and confidence, while decreasing conflict.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up with my mom, dad and two sisters in a small fishing community in Newfoundland, on the eastern most part of Canada.

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been driven to help people. It’s always been more than a want, it’s a responsibility, people who can do, should do. I’ve worked in different human services fields in addictions and quickly into child protection. I’m a people watcher and throughout my career I noticed that children were being dragged into the Child Welfare system that was there just because of their parent’s divorcing. When I went through my own divorce I experienced the struggles first hand and saw the impact on my children, and felt my own heartbreak. I thought no child or parent should be without access to one another, that connection is critical and that’s when I began offering that safe visitation time together to foster that connection. As I began telling my stories to parents in the supervised stories, I found that they were having good results from what I was telling them to do. I amalgamated a career of human services work with my own personal experiences to teach families how to get to the other side more quickly, minimizing mental health and developmental impacts on their children.

What was the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

All of my operations are from home and I had business cards made that had my home address on them. Early on I went to visits with only one request, so I did an intake with one parent and arrived at a public place for children to supervise a little girl and her dad. Dad had not been told I was coming and I gave him one of my business cards when we met. During the visit he was volatile. We were at a Chuck E. Cheese, which was one of the loudest places on Earth prior pandemic, and he was yelling so loudly at his little girl and me that people were stopping to stare. I ended the visit and afterwards asked mom (who had told me that he had anger problems) if he had a criminal history (this guy was scary). She said yes, he was wanted in the UK for a murder during a road rage incident. So of course, I tossed the rest of those cards, realizing my mistake and refined my intake questions and required an intake from both parents ensuring me, or my staff, wouldn’t be put in that position again.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I blog, and have since began writing books, but trying to multitask I had my children out a play place over the weekend and they were climbing on an inside gym and I thought I can easily knock out a blog post by using a voice to text app on my phone. I was intently watching my kids play when I was voice recording my blog. When I was finished I looked down to read the blog to edit. It was loud and my Newfie accent sometimes comes out more than other times. Every time I had mentioned the word “divorce” in my voice recording it was recorded as “intercourse.” So, I had one of the lines that read “after intercourse it is normal to feel angry and even betrayed.” I thought ah, this could work too, I guess. I’ve since stopped using that app and reserve blog time to a more quiet location where my recordings will actually record properly. I’ve also used this advice when someone is having a really hard time and finding it hard to find joy in their day. I ask them to replace the word “divorce” with “intercourse” and it instantly brings a smile to their face and levity during a tough time.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising each time we fail.- Nelson Mandela

Every mistake we make in life (real or imagined) is an opportunity for us to get up and do things better. I am very much a doer, jump first and ask questions later (which I’ve learned to tame over the years). I began my company to provide transportation for children in care to see their parents because I saw the deficit from my regular job. I quickly learned that I needed a government contract (didn’t know that in the beginning because I hadn’t properly researched it). So, I pivoted right away and got contracts to provide transportation for special needs children to get to school that couldn’t take the bus. A couple of years in I began providing the divorce component and there was an awful accident with one of my vehicles and I pivoted again to focus on the divorce piece. Following my own divorce, things were very difficult, and I made a choice to step into other families’ difficult transitions so that I could help parents learn the skills that they need to protect theirs and their children’s mental health. Everybody does things at one time or another in life that they wish they didn’t. How do we reframe those experiences to do better next time? I’m a cheerleader for not allowing people to stay in those moments of regret, and using those learnings to move forward to a more positive life. I live this every day in life and business and it’s become a culture in my business and family.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’ve just finished writing two books and am working on a third that will help parents and their children after divorce. One is a book of messages that young children need to hear because sometimes parents don’t know what exactly young children need to hear and they tell them too much or too little. The other is for parents and is a goldmine of tips and tricks they need to protect theirs and their children’s mental health after a divorce as sometimes the conflict can become overwhelming.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

I learned so much going through my own divorce and as I shared with others afterwards, I found that my experiences weren’t all that different from many other stories. We both moved at a different pace in acceptance after the divorce. I had to reestablish boundaries. Working with children my entire life I had a very clear picture of how harmful certain conversations were to children whereas my ex had different ideas. He wouldn’t take my suggestions, no matter how they were presented. In the end I was left with developing ways to help my children on my own through some of the difficulties these conversations created. It was the only way that he could try to hurt me but it hurt my children. Yes, a story about one of my personal experiences, I had just taken my children to school and went back to my new house to enjoy some rare quiet time alone and was showering with my music on in my bathroom and opened the shower curtain when I turned off my water to see my ex standing there. I was shocked, whereas he said I’ve seen it all before what’s the big deal? Boundaries are critically important and not assuming things will be the way you want are an important part of reestablishing the new relationship after a divorce.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

-People don’t establish boundaries which lead to anger, upset and confusion.

-People allow their emotions guide their interactions and communications with their ex leading to conflict.

-People want to avoid communication with their ex leading to expensive lawyer bills, messages being passed through their children and children being drawn into their conflict.

-To fix those things a person needs to establish boundaries and stick to them (I’m only looking at emails once a week from you, and I’m only responding to anything directly related to the children if the marriage is really over). Learn to have difficult conversations and part of that is having an open mind when entering into them that you may receive information that will change your mind. It’s okay to be wrong.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

Yes, divorce is sometimes labelled as negative but sometimes it can be the most positive experience of a person’s life. For me I’ve learned to clearly identify my boundaries, and I have become highly skilled at difficult conversations. I’ve developed a self confidence in who I am that isn’t tied to someone else’s perceptions and assertions (which truly had nothing to do with me but was more about their own insecurities). I’ve learned to have acceptance over the things and focus over the things that I have control over. These are invaluable lessons in every part of my life and skills I can now take forward to help other families use to protect themselves and their own children after their divorce.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

When you love yourself and know yourself well there is a confidence that leads you in the right direction. I reunited with my high school sweetheart after 20 years and a divorce. We’ve been married for 10 years now and it was like finding my missing piece. There are so many good people in the world looking for someone to share their life with.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

Anguish, boundaries, and self care are critically important for your and your child’s mental health. Your child must be allowed to be a child and not be part of the conflict between the parents.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Sit and establish your boundaries. How much time will you devote to communicating with your ex, don’t allow negative or abusive communication. Don’t allow too much communication with them especially when it’s negative. It can be overwhelming and distracting from your daily functioning with your job, children, etc. They are not married to you and they do not get to take up all of your time and make your life miserable. Take notes and carry this on to other parts of your life. How many of us do things we truly don’t want to do and it’s draining to us (that negative friend? Drop her! That job where you’re not treated well? Find another).
  2. Communication skills: developing your own communication skills will help you not only in this part of your life but in others as well. Be brave and have those conversations with your ex that you know will be nerve wrecking, if not painful. Be afraid and do it anyway. That’s what being brave is and with each conversation you will become more confident. Understand that the results may not be what you want but be proud that you’re having the conversation anyway. Changing your mind because you have new information doesn’t mean you’ve lost in any way. These are life skills and the world will not end if your mind is changed. There are billions of dollars spend on divorce lawyers every year for conversations that are not legal and that money should be going towards your children.
  3. Learn something new every day. You are entering a new chapter of your life and why not embrace the adventure and hope of a new more exciting future. Even when people are leaving an especially toxic relationship and may not believe that there are better things in store for them in the future when they learn something new every day they become confident, they expand their mind and begin to love themselves. Everything tends to fall in place in life when you learn to love yourself. I learn something new and inspiring to give me goals to aspire to. Having goals gives people something to look forward to and is an instant mood booster.
  4. Meet and help someone every day — Just one person if that’s all you can do and it could be little things like helping someone reach something on a shelf at a grocery store or donating your gently used clothes that your children have outgrown. Not only does it make us feel really good that we are in a position to help other people, but we may also be helping people that can help us. We are growing our friends, our support and our networks. These people may become friends that can help you out down the road if you need it. Meeting people gives us opportunities for fun and laughter too.
  5. Be grateful — make it a daily practice every night before bed to write down three or four things you are grateful for. Sometimes it isn’t a natural reflection after a divorce because there are so many things going wrong and it becomes easy to be overwhelmed by all the things going wrong. If you practice thinking about the things that are going well it will become a natural practice. People who are grateful are happier people because they are able to look at life through rose colored glasses. When we have this outlook, we are building our resilience and better able to handle the awkward encounters with your ex that will become more tolerable and less frequent as time goes on. This habit is transferable to all other parts of your life too and will long outlast the discomfort from the first few years following a divorce.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

I have so many recommendations as my favorite for parents following a divorce. Invisible String, by Patrice Karst explains how we are always connected to the people we love by an invisible string that is attached to each of our hearts no matter the distance. I use this for children moving from house to house and children in care as well. I is applicable to any child who is away from their parents. Alter Ego, by Todd Herman is a great performance book and talks about how to approach difficult situations by developing this alter ego. It’s especially effective when some of my parents are having to go to court or other scary situations. Greenlights, by Matthew McConnahey and The Divorce Club on Clubhouse is real time advice from me and other coaches who can answer questions as they pop up.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement it would be around children’s mental health and not molding them into this world that is created but allowing them to create a whole new world. I think that’s already happening in some different areas but overall, we don’t train our children to think but rather what to think.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

If I could have lunch or breakfast with one person in the world it would be Grant Cardone for his recognition of children needing fathers growing up and how he could influence my reach and work.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!

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