One way to help your child thrive through divorce is to keep your conversations about the other parent positive
What if the other parent has problems and safety is an issue?
Talk about the actions of the other parent. Anger management, addiction, and mental health issues. The other parent can love their children and need help. It is never the child’s fault and they need to have a plan. Your child’s job is to keep them safe and your job is to help keep them stay that way. If your child’s safety is an issue due to Excessive drinking, violence, mental health issues, seek help. Tell your child these behaviors are not ok. There is no excuse for abuse. During these trying times sometimes things get out of hand and your children needs to discuss ways they can handle the situation. What is the plan if they ever feel afraid? Have a list of neighbors to call. Have an emergency plan; create a bag with hidden money and numbers of people to call. Teach them how to call the police. Let them know it is ok to get help.
Only have talks with your children about things they can control like; school, friends, hobbies, feelings. If they are angry it is ok it is just as normal for kids to be angry as it is for parents to feel angry. Kids who are not showing emotions are often trying to help the parents by hiding them. Let them know it is ok and that anger is a stage of loss. It is what happens when basic human needs to feel loved, valued and powerful are not being met. Let them know that anger is just part of the reaction. Teach them how to take care of themselves by making a list of things to do that make them feel better so they do better. They need to know that the anger will pass and things will get better. It helps if they can see this change happening with their parents. It gives them hope and models how to recover from loss.
Ask yourself is the way I am talking with the other parent helpful or hurtful? If hurtful say, “The way you are talking to me is hurtful I don't want to fight I want to work on solutions. Repeat until it sinks in or say I have to go now and I will call you later when we are both calm.
If you are not able to speak to one another respectfully, use Our Family Wizard. It is an email program where you can communicate about schedules, changes and manage child support. The program is a way for the courts to monitor effective communication. Knowing this is a court record sometimes helps parents be civil.
Instead of pumping the child for information about the other parent commit to speaking directly or let it go. Sending messages through your children puts the burden on how they land on your child. Agree to talk directly and equip your child with a friendly signal to remind you in case you forget. “This sounds like A.P. Adult Problem”
Solving problems like custody issues, money issues, visitation need to be done as a business not to hurt the other parent or harm the child’s relationship with the other parent
Remember to always ask, “Is what I am thinking or doing helpful or hurtful?
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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.
By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Bad things can happen to good people. Divorce is a prime example. Good people get divorced. Responsible people who are loving parents get caught in the decision to end a loveless marriage.
The consequences of that decision can either be life affirming or destroying, depending upon how each parent approaches this transition. Parents who are blinded by blame and anger are not likely to learn much through the experience. They see their former spouse as the total problem in their life and are convinced that getting rid of that problem through divorce will bring ultimate resolution. These parents are often self-righteous about the subject and give little thought to what part they may have played in the dissolution of the marriage.
Parents at this level of awareness are not looking to grow through the divorce process. They are more likely to ultimately find another partner with whom they have similar challenges or battles and once again find themselves caught in the pain of an unhappy relationship.
There are others, however, for whom divorce can be a threshold into greater self-understanding and reflection. These parents don't want to repeat the same mistake and want to be fully aware of any part they played in the failure of the marriage. Self-reflective people ask themselves questions and search within - often with the assistance of a professional counselor or therapist - to understand what they did or did not do and how it affected the connection with their spouse.
These introspective parents consider how they might have behaved differently in certain circumstances. They question their motives and actions to make sure they came from a place of clarity and good intentions. They replay difficult periods within the marriage to see what they can learn, improve, let go of or accept. They take responsibility for their behaviors and apologize for those that were counter-productive. They also forgive themselves for errors made in the past - and look toward being able to forgive their spouse in the same light.
These parents are honest with their children when discussing the divorce - to the age-appropriate degree that their children can understand. They remind their children that both Mom and Dad still, and always will, love them. And they remember their former spouse will always be a parent to their children and therefore speak about them with respect around the kids.
By applying what they learned from the dissolved marriage to their future relationships, these mature adults start the momentum to recreate new lives in a better, more fulfilling way. From this perspective, they see their former marriage as not a mistake, but rather a stepping-stone to a brighter future - both for themselves and for their children. When you choose to learn from your life lessons, they were never experienced in vain. Isn't this a lesson you want to teach your children?
* * * *
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook(TM) Guide to Preparing Your Children - with Love!
One of the most difficult conversations any parent will ever have is telling their children about their pending divorce. I know first-hand because many years ago I went through the experience. I fought and faced the overwhelming emotions. The deep gut-wrenching fear. The continuous anxiety. The incredible guilt. And the oppressive weight of shame. My son, after all, was innocent. A sweet, gentle soul who loved his father and mother dearly. He certainly did not deserve this. I struggled with the anxiety for weeks in advance. When should I tell him? How should I tell him? Should we tell him together? And most frightening of all, WHAT SHOULD WE SAY? How do you explain to a child that the life he has known, the comfort he has felt in his family setting, is about to be disrupted - changed - forever?
How do you explain to a child that none of this is his fault? How do you reassure him that life will go on, that he will be safe, cared for and loved, even after his parents divorce?
And, even more intimidating, how do you prepare him for all the unknowns looming ahead when you're not sure yourself how it will all turn out? I needed a plan. A strategy. A way of conveying all that I wanted to say to him at a level of understanding that he could grasp.
Thankfully I found that plan. I came up with a storybook that told my son, in words and pictures, the story of how his father and I met, married and started a family. It explained problems we encountered that we could not readily fix, and the decision we ultimately made to get a divorce. In my upcoming book, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce?, I provide a fill-in-the-blanks template that other parents can use to prepare their children for the many changes ahead. The interactive format allows parents to customize the story to fit their family dynamics. It also focuses on five key messages that are essential for every child to hear, understand and absorb. By sharing and repeating these five points to your children in the weeks and months following the initial conversation, you will enable them to better handle, accept and even embrace the challenges and changes they will soon be facing. Here are the five must-tell messages for your children:
1) This is not your fault. Mom and Dad have been having problems. We don't agree about certain key issues and that creates conflict. Even when some of the issues are about you, that does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child who we both love and cherish. It is not your fault that Mom and Dad disagree about your bedtime, where to go on vacation, how to help you with your homework or whether you should play soccer. We are not fighting about YOU. We are disagreeing with each other about issues that concern you and our family. But you are not in any way at fault.
2) Mom and Dad will always be your parents. No matter what changes occur over the weeks, months and years ahead, one thing is for certain. Mon and Dad will still always be your parents. No one else will ever be your real Mom. No one else will ever be your real Dad. We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.
3) This is about change, not about blame. Divorce is a scary word. But all it really means is that our family will be experiencing some changes. Change is okay. Everything in life keeps changing. You grow bigger, taller, stronger and smarter every year. The seasons change every year. Clothing styles and hair styles keep changing. You change grades and schools as you grow older. Change means things will be different in some ways. It doesn't mean things will be bad. Change can be fun, exciting and new. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like beginning a new grade with a new teacher. Other times change gives us a chance to do things in a new and better way, like trying a new sport or a hobby you grow to love.
The change in our family is not about who's right or wrong or who's good or bad. Mom and Dad both tried their best to resolve our problems. The old way didn't work for us and now we will be trying a new way for our family to live so there's more peace, calmness and happiness for us all. Instead of worrying about who's to blame, let's think about how we can see the changes ahead as a new adventure -- a brand new chapter in our lives. Who knows what lies ahead?
4) Things will work out okay. We're often frightened when we begin new things and face new challenges. Like the first time you learned to ride a bicycle, the first day of school or day camp, your first trip to the dentist. Things always have a way of working out, even when we're scared that they won't. Divorce will be the same way. Things will be new and different for a while. We'll have new ways of doing some things ... some new responsibilities ... some differences in our schedules. But life will go on. We will get used to the differences. Some of them we may even prefer. And after a while, we'll look back and say, life is different than it used to be, but it's all okay. I'm okay, our family is okay and, most important of all, we still love each other. That is a lot better than okay. It's great!
5) Mom and Dad will always love you. No matter what happens, no matter what changes occur, one thing is for certain. Mom and Dad will always love you. That will never change. Regardless of where we live, what we do and how old you get. You can count on that. And don't ever forget it. These core messages are the foundation your children will depend on when they are feeling frightened, sad or insecure. Repeat them often in your own words and your own style. You'll be rewarded in countless ways as you and your children encounter and overcome the challenges of life after divorce.
Rosalind Sedacca, a Divorce & Parenting Coach, is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids. About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to preparing your children -- with love! The book provides expert advice which helps you to create a unique personal family storybook that guides you through this difficult transition with optimum results.
When your children move from house to house whether every other weekend or every week, there is always a “settling-in time” at each home that is challenging for kids and parents. When my stepson Drew, would come home In spite of the excitement, I noticed a change in his behavior. It took about three days to settle in to our routine. Fortunately, I knew this was normal. I also take about three days to settle in when I stay somewhere different. It makes sense that going from one parent to the other would be an adjustment. Not to mention a step mom and a step dad in the mix.
The switch is a reminder of the split and a heightened mix of feelings involving basic human needs. Remember how your child gets their needs met with mom is going to be different with dad. When these needs: loved, value, and belonging and power are not met kids act out. Kids often misbehave during this time and parents worry it is a sign of a difficult visit with the other parent, or take it personally believing their child isn’t glad to see them. While these are possibilities, the most common cause of acting out in the transition time is because the switch is hard, plain and simple. I also notice a change in Drew’s behavior right before he left. It was his way of detaching. Saying goodbye is a little easier if there is a little tension in the air.
Here are a few tips that have helped kids and parents alike:
Talk to your child about how hard it is to go back and forth and that you realize they might be “grumpy” or not want to talk when they first get home. Your understanding of how things look from their eyes will help them feel loved, and connected.
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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!
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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