By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Michael Mastracci is an attorney on a mission -- one he shares with the entire child-centered divorce community. He talks about - and is soon to be the author of a new book about - "Divorce Without Dishonor", a difficult and acrimonious divorce and child custody battle led to my interest in collaborative family law, notes Mastracci. His soon to be released book focuses on child custody issues and divorce using collaborative law.
Mike is quite personable and a good listener. Along with those traits he has a sincere interest in helping parents to resolve their divorce and child custody issues "in a fair and even-handed manner that will cause the least amount of damage" to their children. "I have personally seen the strife that divorce causes in families," says Mike, "and want to express my concern and compassion for your personal situation."
"Collaborative law does not mean giving away rights or just rolling over to a stronger willed soon-to-be ex-spouse," he adds. "It means working through the issues as adults with one focus -- helping the kids get through the mess caused by divorce."
Fortunately, there are collaborative divorce attorneys like Mike located all over the United States and in many other countries around the world. Seek them out. Read their websites and blogs. (Mike's is www.divorcewithoutdishonor.com) Get to know their philosophy about supporting families and putting children's needs first when making custody and other related divorce decisions. Your children will thank you years from now when they have the awareness to understand how you bent over backwards to diffuse negative energy and create collaborative harmony in your post-divorce family relationships.
One of the most rewarding experiences in my life came when my son, as a young adult in his late teens or early twenties, mentioned the separation that took place when he was eleven (followed later by divorce). He said although he was very upset at the time, looking back he can now see that Dad and I were not very compatible and didn't really belong together. He mentioned that he was happy that both of us have since remarried much more happily. And he thanked me for working hard to maintain a positive relationship with his father over the years so that we were both there for special celebrations, important events and other significant times in his life.
In fact, he wrote the Introduction to my new book, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children - with Love! The book is based on my own personal experience more than a decade ago when I came up with the concept of creating a personal family storybook, in advance of the dreaded divorce talk. Through this approach the children have something to read over again and again reminding them of the crucial messages they need to repeatedly hear and accept.
I am so grateful that divorce attorneys like Mike Mastracci are available to share their legal expertise, along with their compassion, about child-centered issues to assist parents facing divorce or separation in creating the most positive outcome for everyone in the family.
1. Write a list of all the things that you know your partner loves about you and
wants from you. Write everything down that pops into your mind.
2. Go over each item on your list and ask yourself, “ Do I do that for my partner?”
Why or why not?
3. Interview your partner and ask them to be straight with you about what would
make you the best partner ever. Make a list without judging, correcting, defending,
or taking it personal. Interview them as if you were a reporter writing an article on
the ideal partner. Get every detail continue to say what else and be curious, "Tell me
more about that, what else do you need, desire, and crave?." Just keep writing don’t repeat
anything just get it all down on paper. Pretend they are someone you don’t know so
you don’t react. You want to create a safe place.
4. Next to each item be truthful whether you provide this for your partner or not.
Then next to your answer write down in a few words why you either do or do not.
5. Now make a list of everything you adore about your partner. Their smile, if they
like nature, animals, humor. One way to add intimacy to your relationship is to be
really interested in what your partner is interested in. Shift from loving your partner
the way you think they should be loved to how they desire love. This is key to being
the best partner ever!
6. Notice if there is any difference in what you thought your partners wanted to
what your partner needed. In order to feel loved, valued powerful and connected.
7. Make a lifetime commitment to making your partner extraordinary no matter
what! Be the gift of being the best partner EVER!! Love is a verb.
When your child does something hurtful, use Self-Quieting and ACT.
For example, say your children are crying and you aren’t sure what happened, or maybe you do. First, don’t assume one child is to blame.
Instead, you might say: “It looks like something happened here. Your sister is crying and you look really angry. Go in your rooms, calm down, and when you are calm, I will come in and find out what happened.”
Separately Use ACT
A - Acknowledge Feelings
“I hate my sister!”
“You are really angry with your sister.” (Respond to feelings not words.)
“Yes, she’s always messing with me! “
“She can really make you mad, huh? I can see how you might feel that way. What else are you feeling?”
“I just wish she wasn’t so mean. She is always trying to get me mad so I hit her then she fake cries and goes and tells on me. Then I get in trouble. “
“I can see why you are so upset and the hitting thing really isn’t working. Is it?
C - Communicate limit
Communicate limitations of their behavior.
“Hitting is not safe. What else can you do?”
Target what they can do with anger instead of the limitation.
“You can use your words. You can say, I am angry! Get out of my room. But you cannot hit. Hitting is ABUSE and it is not safe. Would it be ok if I hit you when I get upset? No, that would be child abuse and scary. It is not ok to hit your sister. Hitting doesn’t solve problems. It sounds like it makes more problems if you keep getting into trouble. Relax for a while and I will talk with your sister.”
Go to the other child and repeat.
Opportunity To Teach Problem Solving Skills and Communication
After speaking with each child and when they come out of their self-quieting area, post these three questions in your house so they know how to solve problems on their own next time. One at a time, teach the sender to answer the question and the receiver repeats what they heard and checks to make sure the understand the sender.
1.HOW DO YOU FEEL?
RECEIVER -“How do you feel Casey?”
SENDER - Casey responds, “I don’t like it when you come into my room and mess with my stuff. You annoy me and make me angry.
RECEIVER: Kelly (listens and repeats what she heard without adding anything else to it or leaving anything out)
SENDER - Casey replies yes.
RECIEVER - Casey asks Kelly, “How do you feel?”
SENDER - Kelly responds, “I don’t like it when you hit me. Hitting Hurts.”
RECEIVER - Casey responds, “You don’t like it when I hit you, because it hurts.” Is that it?
SENDER: Kelly responds, “Yes
2.WHAT DO YOU WANT?
RECEIVER: Casey asks, “What do you want Kelly?’
SENDER:- Kelly says, I want you to use your words and stop hitting me
RECEIVER: You want me to use my words and stop hitting you.
SENDER: Kelly responds, yes.
3.WHAT WILL YOU DO?
RECEIVER: Casey what will you do?
SENDER: - Casey responds, I will tell you to get out of my room. If you don’t I will get mom instead of hitting. (Parent steps in with a consequence if Casey hits)
RECEIVER: - You will tell me to get out of your room and if I don’t you will get mom and she will have us hang out in our rooms for awhile. Do I understand you?
RECEIVER Casey asks Kelly, What will you do?
SENDER: -Kelly responds, I will stop messing with your stuff and leave your room.
RECEIVER: - Casey repeats, “You will stop messing with my stuff and leave my room. Do I understand you?
SENDER: Yes, Let’s go play.
THE KEY IS TO PUT THE CHILDREN IN THE SAME BOAT
Do this once or twice, and the next time it gets out of control, stop the fighting and say do you want to go to your rooms and chill out or can the two of you work this out? Watch how fast they work it out to avoid the three questions! Encourage them for working it out and fire yourself from being the judge the juror or the referee.
These tools will help them to build healthy relationships throughout their whole life.
Life Works Parenting Tools is dedicated to bridging the gap between home and school by working collaboratively with families, schools, and other local programs and agencies to provide parenting classes, teacher-in-service training, mediation and stay in school programs for at-risk children.
by Guest Author Elizabeth Powell
Have you ever come to a place where there is nowhere else to go but up, down, or sideways? You know that place, I’m sure we’ve all been there, right? You just get to this point where the choices aren’t easy and you know, you just know, that you can’t go back… back is not an option.
Seven years ago I was at that point. I had a great job that I loved, two beautiful children, but my home and my marriage was falling apart, like ground crumbling in one of those action adventure movies where the earth is caving in behind the characters’ feet and they have no choice but to jump or climb or die. Actually, my marriage was crumbling before it started. We had built a relationship on a poor foundation to begin with. Everything that was contributing to the inevitable collapse of my family as I knew it were the very things that I saw as “red flags” when I met my husband. Now, don’t get me wrong, my ex-husband is an amazing person. He is a remarkable human being. He is a good father and a kind person. And those were the reasons I stayed and created a relationship with him. You know, no one teaches us how to have relationships. There are no classes when we are growing up in school about how to have relationships, so we learn by default. And our default can be good, our default can be disastrous – or somewhere in between. The fact of the matter is that we learn by our role models and by our societal norms. Very rarely do we “learn” how to have healthy relationships. Many times we don’t even know what a “healthy relationship” looks like.
So here I was, sitting at the edge of the cliff… scared to death to take that jump, that leap of faith, but I had no other option… the ground behind me was crumbling and crumbling fast. If you have been through a divorce, then you probably have a pretty good idea of that place I’m talking about. You know people don’t just wake up one day an say “oh, honey, gee, this isn’t really working out, let’s get a divorce” – statistics show that one of you figure it out first… and the other one, even if all the signs are present that your marriage is falling apart, don’t even see it coming. So regardless of which side you were on (or are on) with your divorce, don’t feel bad. There’s a lot of guilt and frustration on both sides of that coin. So there I was… ready to jump knowing that there was no other option… but it isn’t just me, you see, I have these two precious children to think about… ages 6 and 3… pretty critical ages for making a drastic life change, but again, there was no other option. The marriage was so bad that staying I could see was more detrimental than leaving. So, carefully planned out, I did it. And let me tell you… it was NOT pretty! There was fighting and a lot hurt feelings, but after about 2 months things had finally settled down and we were, well… not amicable, but we could at least talk without trying to verbally assault each other! Fast forward one year and the fire was at least settled down to coals. We had been living separately and the children were on a good schedule. I had somehow done it. Somehow my husband had done it. We had managed to separate our family and peace, to some degree, was the result. After a year I had decided to file for divorce and that’s when we found out about the Parenting Class that was required before our divorce could be finalized. At that point we didn’t have to take the class until right before the divorce proceedings. A few weeks before our court date I took Sue Dockerill’s parenting class and it completely changed my life and the way I parent my children and co-parent with their dad. Shortly after I took the class, my soon to be ex-husband took the same class and it revolutionized our relationship as newly divorcing parents.
You know, I see so many couples who have divorced or are divorcing with children, and instead of it being a solution to the problems they were having, it becomes an extension of the problems. It’s just a continuance of the fighting, bickering, blaming, guilting, and shaming…. And the worst thing about this is that there are children involved… no children - fight, bicker, shame, blame all you want. It’s like driving a car without wearing your seat belt… only you will suffer the consequences of your actions… but put a child in the car without a car seat or seat belt and you can have a disastrous effect on that child and his or her life forever. And this is exactly what happens when you continue to fight and blame and shame as co-parents. Ultimately, you are teaching your child how to relate to another human being, and more importantly you are teaching the child how to have unhealthy relationships.
Did you know that a child’s brain is 90% developed by the age of 5? Critical life skills are being imprinted early on like communicating needs, showing affection and love, how to handle stress, and how to self calm. When our children are born they don’t come with an owner’s manual. When did you take a class that taught you the most effective ways to parent? When did you take a class on how to rewire yourself so that you are modeling the most effective methods for relating to yourself and others? Anybody? Ever? You upgrade your computer, you learn the most effective methods for managing your company, your employees, you keep up to date with the newest techniques in your professional field, you take continuing education credits… but when do you update, upgrade, and, when necessary, rework your method of parenting?
If I give you a block of wood and a screw and ask you to put the screw in the block of wood, there’s no doubt in my mind that any of you could do this task with ease, correct? So here’s your screw and wood – an easy task…. But here’s your choice of tools - a wrench, a hammer, needle nose pliers, a mallet and a ratchet – now how successful are you going to be with this “easy” task? What’s this screw going to look like after your attempt to put it in with these tools? Probably not very good, huh?
Our tools are handed down from generation to generation within a model given to us by our society, our culture and our religions. We can’t help that we only have a wrench, let’s say in our toolbox.
Let’s take spanking as a perfect example – “spare the rod, spoil the child” – we love using that as our justification for spanking our children, especially if we were raised in the religious tradition that gave it to us, but let me explain – does anyone truly understand the context from which that proverb was given?
Proverbs 13:24 actually says “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” This is the new International Version and regardless of whether you are a “religious person” or a Christian, wouldn’t you say that this saying is deeply embedded in our culture?
The thing that most of us don’t realize, however, is the context which the proverb was given. The rod was used by sheep herders to direct their flock and keep them safe, however, a rod would never have been used to strike or hit a sheep because it would bruise the meat.
So how, when and where did the translation and use of this saying come to condone and even encourage spanking, whipping or hitting our children? Not only is it encouraged in some groups, but we, culturally, have strong disdain for those who do not spank their children.
We continue to shame those who do not “discipline” (i.e. spank) their children and encourage each other that it is the right and only way to raise up strong, healthy, happy kids and furthermore, that if you withhold this type of discipline that you don’t love your children and that they will be doomed to fail in life. That’s like me telling you that the only and right way to put this screw in the wood is to use this wrench.
So we have pressures, parental peer pressures, if you will, for how to raise our kids, we have our families telling us what to do, we have our experience (good, bad or indifferent) from how we were raised… all of these are our tools, sitting in our toolbox waiting to be used.
Some of these tools might be very effective and some of them can be disastrous, but we continue using them many times and even if they aren’t working and we can see they aren’t working, we are at a loss as to a better way. Even when presented with a better way to parent our children, the concepts might be so foreign to us and so counter-intuitive based on our past and our culture that we have a hard time adopting them.
Tell a spanking parent to stop spanking and they will give you a very unusual look – I was one of those parents, trust me I know firsthand how hard it was to embrace the “non-spanking” philosophy – but I’m a highly logical person… I kept looking at this situation after Sue’s class and asking myself “why do I continue to do something that does not work?”
“Why do I spank my child for hitting?” When I really deconstructed it I realized how absurd it was. But I also had to have another tool in hand… I needed something that worked! Without the replacement of one tool for another and the reality of having to “get the job done” we have to empower our parents with tools that work!
Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t raise our children based on the latest and greatest research or knowledge – if we ran our businesses the way we raise our children, we would likely go out of business… we have to modify, learn, research and try out new methods when the old methods aren’t working.
Add divorce to the scene of raising children and you have the potential for disaster –
major life transition, etc.
These are major changes that are coming out of an already unstable situation and even as adults we have a lot of trouble navigating our way through “troubled waters” – so, imagine how difficult it is for our children. If you’ve already been through something like this then you already know what I’m talking about and how hard it can be. It would behoove all of us to have parenting and relationship classes and instruction way before now – we should be teaching life skills like this with really sound curriculum in our schools beginning in pre-k! We usually introduce “Life Skills” to middle schoolers, but the fact of the matter is that this is too late.
Children’s brains reach 82% of their adult size by age 3 and 90% by age 5 – they are learning critical life skills early on even if we don’t recognize it – they are like sponges. They are
Life Works Parenting Tools is dedicated to giving parents, teachers and even corporate America new tools for dealing with children and behaviors that we want to change. You can take any of the tools that we teach in either the divorce class or Redirecting Children’s Behavior class and apply them to anyone, anywhere at any time….
Through parent education, we are able to give parents new tools. And fortunately enough the courts require parents who are divorcing or even non-married parents to attend the 4 hour parenting class during divorce. I’m not saying this is enough by any stretch of the means, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Sue’s class changed the relationship I had with my children’s dad. We had real tools that worked for communicating with each other and with our children. The information she presented and her “real talk” touched, moved and inspired me so much that I knew one day I would want to share what I had learned with other parents. Routinely, I have other parents completely amazed at how my ex-husband and I co-parent our children. People often say “you guys are an exception to the rule.” But my answer is that with all the right tools, everyone can be successful co-parents! We can change our co-parenting relationships with the right tools to be the norm, not the exception! We can successfully put that screw in the block of wood with ease and have it hold strong! Today, six years after taking Sue’s class, I’m not only bringing the coursework to parents who attend my class, I’m bringing 6 years of experience, time tested results to demonstrate the effectiveness and success of Sue’s class. I understand intimately the ups and downs, the struggles and the successes of co-parenting and more importantly I know that it IS possible to co-parent with success!
What do you do when someone you love hurts you? (Now I am not talking about abuse... if you feel unsafe call 911 and seek help.)
I'm talking about the child who makes you feel like you are the worse parent on the earth... or maybe a lover who hasn't been too nice lately, or a friend who doesn't return your call because they are too busy, or a teenager experiencing unruly hormone changes (you know what I'm talking about!).
When someone damages you emotionally, you have an opportunity to be powerful. Do the unexpected. Be an observer. It’s like an out of body experience. Suddenly you have a shield that everything bounces off. Nothing sticks because you are not taking anything personally. Remember, feelings are neither right nor wrong, they are just feelings.
Here are 3 rules when someone you love hurts you:
Rule 1. Don’t hurt them back...
Instead recognize that they are upset and calling out for love. A way to do this is to change your thinking... Let go of "good" and "bad" and see all behavior as a person is either "thriving" or "struggling". What do I mean? Instead of saying "you're a good kid" or "you're a bad kid", acknowledge that children (and adults) are either struggling or thriving. If someone is hurting you, they are most likely struggling, so don’t take it personally. When you know someone is struggling, it's easier to come from a place of empathy and help that person.
When we let other people’s hurtful words stick to us, we become the victim. What if I told you that the hurtful words are not really about you? Which leads me to the second rule...
Rule 2. Don’t make assumptions...
Instead be curious. Say to them,
"Tell me some more about how you are feeling. I can see how upset you are, and I feel terrible.”
Our gut is to get defensive and hurt back. If you don’t want this to be a reoccurring argument, complete it by making the person feel understood. Once you make someone feel understood the problem can be resolved.
Imagine the person saying, “It would mean a lot to me if you could just repeat back to me what I am trying to get across."
Then tell them what you are hearing to confirm it is correct and help them feel understood.
Rule 3. Remember the kids are watching you.
This is the most important rule. If we want your children to grow up feeling loved and powerful, we have to model it.
Try these rules out in your life and tell me in the comments below what you experienced. Did it help you resolve an issue?
This Could Change Your Life, Again
by Guest Author, Amanda Hinson
I was sitting with my four year-old son, and he took my face in his hands, turned my head, and looked at me in the eyes. It was morning, and I hadn't yet checked my emails or phone messages. We stared at each other for a little time in silence, smiling to each other. My mind wondered about what I needed to do today, but then I paused and let myself take the time with my son. I sensed he was feeling loved as I responded to his demand for attention. And then it hit me. What did people do before the Internet? They took the time--they had the time-- to really deeply look into the eyes of those closest to them.
I am a wife and mother of four, and I thought about how we rarely do this exercise of gazing into each other's eyes. We do it so rarely, in fact, my 7 year-old daughter asked the other day, "Mom, what do your eyes look like? I never see them." Again, I took the time to just let us look at each other for a bit, to study each other's eyes, what people once said is the window to our souls. My daughter's big, beautiful, brown eyes are hard to miss, but as I took the time to let her look into my eyes, I could see her gathering the information about me she wanted to know-- I love her, I care about her, she is special to me.
My husband also discovered a new way to communicate with me this week. He learned that he can build intimacy with me by taking the time to look into my eyes for 5-10 full seconds after he has said something pleasant to me. Sounds so simple, but how many times, do we find ourselves rushing out the door and calling, "See ya later, hun!" as we are texting others on social media?
And how many times have we forfeited these chances for building intimacy because we were busy looking somewhere else, like our phone or computer? No wonder today's children are more incessant and angry or annoyed by their parents' online communications. Even if the parents are doing legitimate work or talking to a close friend, most of today's communication requires directing your gaze into a screen rather than yesteryear's holding up a phone to your ear.
I remember when I was a little girl, my parents gave me all kinds of looks-- and I loved the ones that said, "Hi, I am here and listening to you. I love you and want to know how your day was." I remember my father's blue eyes when he talked to us about his work, how they lit up with excitement. It wasn't like he was going to text someone out of state the news, because that was not possible. I'm grateful for that opportunity now, but my dad's own parents might not have heard a single story about his work. We appreciated hearing from Dad, face to face. I still enjoy hearing from Dad on text.
Today, it seems we could give our own parents a play by play of what we're doing all day. But, what of our children? Do they know what we do and what we're excited about? I know mine get a little freaked out when they hear me laughing to myself and see that I had just read a text message. They've told me, they feel left out when that happens. I now always share the text with them aloud before laughing. But still, what am I doing to let them see into my eyes, my heart, what I think is important or noteworthy? If we ever text our kids in the future, will they be able to see my face in their minds talking to them... or will it be a visual of me looking at the screen?
When I got to be an adolescent, I remember what it meant to have a gaze with the boy across the hall. If he looked at me in the eyes, just long enough, I felt swept off my feet right there. I'm sure, for boys too, they melted when a girl would give them even a second of eye contact. As married adults, I haven't stopped needing that gaze from my husband to assure me that he is still interested. And do I give him the time to gaze back and let him melt? Even 10 seconds?
What did we do before computers and fancy androids and iphones? We looked into each others' eyes. Technology sure continues to change and change lives. But let's change again, and start looking at those closest to us. Really, those who are right by us, they need you to look into their eyes. You need them; you need to see what their eyes have been wanting to tell you for a long time.
Your children aren't good... but they aren't bad either.
The first step to redirecting your child's negative behavior is to realize that your child is either THRIVING or STRUGGLING. When you shift your mindset to realize your child is neither good or bad, you will have empathy for your children. This is so important, because you would not punish a child that you know is struggling. Your reaction would be to help that child to thrive.
If you know your child is struggling, think about how you can help your child. Maybe it's giving your child a choice so they feel like they have some power. For example, if your child is throwing a fit because her dress shoes are dirty, you could say, "I'm sorry, your dress shoes are dirty right now. Would you rather wear your pink shoes or your brown boots?" You are not manipulating your child, rather you are giving your child a choice on a matter in which you have no preference. By giving your child choices, you can redirect their behavior.
Additionally, you can give choices to adults and peers in your life. Possibly offer two positives first. For example, "Honey, I appreciated that you worked on the walkway yesterday and it was helpful that you played with our daughter while I got work done. I just have a few things left to do, would you be able to help me? The dishes need to be put in the dishwasher and the garbage needs to be taken out. Can you do one, which would you rather do?"
Remember, the children and people around you are either struggling or thriving. Help them thrive! Support them. Offering choices is one simple way to help them gain some sense of power. Try it and tell me how it worked for you.
Hear more about this topic here.
If you have a problem in your relationships and you don't know what to do, bring your question to my next radio show.
Susan Dockerill has ten years of teaching children in public, private, and military schools at home and abroad, plus 17 years teaching and mediating with parents and teachers. Susan has the expertise to speak frankly about marriage, divorce, children, and being responsible for living the life of your dreams.
Learn how to redirect your child's behavior and improve relationships in all facets of your life in our Redirecting Children's Behavior Course.
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DCF Approved Family Stabilization class A Child's Life Depends on Peaceful Resolutions Instructor Sue Dockerill Serving Families since 1991.
Life Works Parenting Tools is dedicated to bridging the gap between home and school by working collaboratively with families, schools, and other local programs and agencies to provide parenting classes, teacher-in-service training, mediation and stay in school programs for at-risk children.
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