“The Talk”: A Caring and Confident Approach to Telling the Kids About Your Plan to Separate or Divorce

Lisa Gabardi, Ph.D., LLC

Sharing the news with your children that you and their other parent are divorcing, moving into two homes, and living separately can create great angst and worry.  What to say? What not to say? As parents, you want to protect your children from harm, yet you know that giving them this news is going to be painful.

You probably have lots of questions about how to handle this important conversation well and minimize harm to your children. And, there’s no trial runs or practice talks. There’s really only the one opportunity to have this important first talk about the divorce with your children. I know you want to do your best in having this important talk with your children.

The words you choose will set a framework for your children view the divorce, what they remember about it, and will set a tone for them about how you and their other parent intend to conduct yourselves through this process. For these reasons, this is a very important step in the divorce process. You want to be prepared, able to handle your own feelings, and be available to answer your children’s questions and support them.

In order to help you feel confident and prepared, I have identified the key messages you will want to send to your children in this brief, but important talk.

#1  Share the news. “We have something important to discuss. Mom/Dad and Dad/Mom are separating/getting a divorce/moving into two homes.”

#2 Give a brief, age appropriate explanation that avoids blame, is honest, (but doesn’t share too much detail about the intricacies of your marriage) and validates your children’s reality of what they may have witnessed/experienced/felt in the home. “We haven’t been able to get along as married partners and think we can be better parents from two homes than we can be married partners together.”  “We haven’t been able to resolve some significant problems/differences in our marriage so we are getting divorced but will continue parenting from two homes.”

#3 This is not the child’s fault. They didn’t cause the divorce and they can’t fix it. “This is an adult problem between Mom/Dad. This is not because of you, is not your fault, and you can’t fix it.”   “Love between adults can end, but the love between a parent and a child doesn’t end.”

#4 Ask about and validate feelings. “I’m guessing you might be having all kinds of different feelings about this news.”  “I can understand how you could feel that way.”

#5 Identify specific things about their lives that will change. “Dad will be moving into an apartment at the beginning of next month.” “Some days you’ll be at Dad’s and some days you’ll be at Mom’s house.”

#6 Reassure them about the parts of their lives that will stay the same. “You’ll still go to the same school.” “Mom/Dad will still take you to dance/soccer class.” “You’ll still get to play with Pat on the weekends/afterschool.”

#7 Reassure your children that you love them and will be there for them. “We love you very much.” “We’re sorry to have to give you this news.” “We will always be your parents and will always be there for you.”  “We will take care of you and help you through this transition.”

#8 Ask them if they have any questions. Answer honestly, but with appropriate boundaries about information they don’t need, and appropriate to each child’s age. It’s okay to say “We don’t know yet, but will let you know once we have that figured out.”

Hopefully, you now have specific ideas and scripts to help guide the talk you have with your children. You have bullet points for things to cover, to make it easier to remember. Of course, every family is different. You will need to adapt these general guidelines to the specifics of your family situation and the particular ages and temperaments of your children.

With these tips, you will be ready to help your children know that your family will ultimately be okay, and that their relationships with each of you as parents will remain secure and protected. With your thoughtful handling of this important conversation, your children can feel reassured that, while their family is reorganizing, their parents remain available to them, will continue to parent them, and they will be alright.

Still feeling unsteady? Still have questions and concerns? Wishing you had more details and further discussion of these key points? What about touchy topics such as when parents don’t agree with the “we decided to divorce” perspective or when one parent has had an affair? If this information leaves you wanting more, I discuss these key points, plus others, as well as these tough topics further in “The Talk”: A Caring and Confident Approach to Telling the Kids About Your Plan to Separate or Divorce(TM).  Learn more about this educational video series, with companion tip sheets and worksheet hereIt also includes co-parenting do’s and don’ts to set you on a path toward successful post-divorce co-parenting. While on the Products and Free Guides page, check out other resources as well; including a free tip sheet for Telling Your Children About Divorce.

 



Divorce or Stay Together? Unhappy Parents are Faced with a Challenge

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

Deciding whether to divorce is a tough, complex and controversial subject. There are no right or  wrong answers … nor are there any simplistic black and white solutions. I am sharing my own perspective, based on my own personal choices. I welcome you to contribute your own perspective as long as you are respectful of the rights of others to see the world in a different light.

I am the author of a book about parenting and divorce, focusing on my own life experience. I also grew up in a family that stayed together for the sake of the kids, so I have a keen understanding of both sides on this topic. Obviously neither option is one any family would choose – they both create pain and hurt.

However, I am opting in on the side of divorce as preferable to years of living in a home where  parents fight, disrespect one another and children grow up surrounded by sadness and anger. That’s the world I grew up in and the scars are still with me today, many decades later. Dr. Phil often says, “I’d rather come from a dysfunctional family than be in one.” I firmly believe he’s right.

Staying in a marriage only for the kids is a physical choice that doesn’t touch upon the emotional and psychological pain children endure when their parents are a couple in name only. They experience no positive role model of how marriage can and should be lived. Happiness, harmony, collaboration, respect and joy are all absent when parents are emotionally divorced while still living together. Children feel it, are confused by it, often blame themselves, are usually guilt-ridden and experience little peace in childhood.

That’s why I chose the other route when my marriage was failing. However, I intuitively understood what not to do in divorce. I consciously created what I call a child-centered divorce, co-parented with my former husband, shared custody and maintained a positive relationship with my ex for the decade to follow. Most gratifying for me is the satisfaction of my now adult son writing the introduction to my book, acknowledging the merits of my philosophy and behavior.

How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – With Love! provides an innovative new way to have the dreaded “divorce” talk. What makes the book unique is that I don’t just tell parents what to say. I say it for them! I use fill-in-the-blank age-appropriate templates to show parents how to create a storybook sharing family photos and history as a successful way to break the news to their children.

Therapists, attorneys, mediators, educators and other professionals from around the U.S. and beyond have been endorsing the book and the value of my novel approach to this subject. Six therapists contribute their expertise to the book, as well. My purpose is to raise the consciousness of divorcing couples so they will stop, talk and create a caring plan of action before having that first crucial conversation with their children. I provide six essential messages every child needs to hear and understand when divorce or separation are pending. I also advise parents, for the sake of their kids, to choose to create a “child-centered divorce” and highlight all the short- and long-term advantages in the months, years and decades to come.

If parents have the maturity and determination to re-connect, get professional assistance and stay together in a renewed commitment to a happy marriage – that would absolutely be ideal. The entire family will benefit and the healing will be a blessing.

However, if children are being raised in a war zone or in the silence and apathy of sleep-walking through a dead marriage, divorce may open the door to a healthier, happier future for all concerned. But only – and this is the key point – only if parents consciously work on creating a harmonious, collaborative child-centered divorce that puts the children’s emotional and psychological needs first!

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and author How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — With Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, personal coaching services, co-parenting e-courses and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

© Rosalind Sedacca   All rights reserved.

 



Spending Time With Your Children After Divorce? Make Every Moment Count

Divorce is a tricky thing for all parties involved. However, many times parents are so focused on their own needs that they forget about their children’s needs. In some cases, they may try to vie for the attention of their kids by purchasing large gifts or using them as a pawn to get what they want.

As a responsible parent, you would never want to do something like that. Whether you are the custodial parent or just get weekends doesn’t matter. You need to make sure that every minute counts. So, if you only have your children on the weekend, how can you make it fun and stress-free? Here are some tips for quality family time.

1. Have Activities Planned

Sure, after any divorce, your children are going to have lots of questions. Rather than giving them too much idle time to sit and think, have something fun planned. Some downtime is appropriate, but you need to have something fun planned too. Having fun doesn’t mean you need to spend a ton of money either. You should know what your child likes and what they dislike. Even if it’s playing a board game, do something that makes him or her smile. Focus on the positive and less on the negative.

2. Find Time to Talk

While you don’t want to make the whole time you spend about the divorce and how things went wrong, make sure that you have time to talk to your child. Even if they don’t want to talk about family stuff, you need to find out what’s going on in his or her life. Keeping the doors of communication open is advantageous. How are they doing in school, and do they have a new friend or love interest? Encourage them to talk about whatever they need to. You are at a disadvantage if you only see them on weekends, but you need to make sure they know you are still there for them.

3. Do Something They Love

The adult idea of fun usually isn’t head banging at a rock concert. However, your child may feel like that is the best thing in the world. Sometimes, as a parent, you must sacrifice and do something that your child will love. They probably accompany you to many things that they don’t like too. It may not be a concert, but find something that allows them to make memories. Take plenty of pictures and a few selfies to document the trip.

4. Be Sure to Have Bonding Time

While a concert or a trip to the mall is fun, it won’t necessarily bring you closer together. In most cases, bonding comes from sharing your heart with each other. Part of going through a divorce is talking about all the emotions going on. Even working together on a school project can make a huge difference as your child will feel that he or she still receives all the support they need – while you will get the chance to be more present in their life.

5. Reassure Them of Your Love

One of the most significant problems with the breakup of a marriage is that children often feel confused. Some children may feel that they were the cause of the union ending. Others may feel like you don’t love them anymore if they only get to see you for short periods of time.

Try to reassure your child of your love. If you must tell him or her ten times while they are with you that weekend, make sure they know that your divorce is not their fault. They must know that your love for them is unwavering. Problems between parents always affect a child. It’s up to you whether you let it change your relationship with your child.

Making the Time Spent Memorable

You want every moment you spend with your child to count. One of the greatest things you can do for them is to try to maintain a relationship with their other parent. Many ex-couples are still good friends even though their relationship didn’t work. Some even go as far as taking their children on vacation together. If you can work together in that capacity or at least be friendly, then you will help build strong and healthy kids.

On the other hand, even if you and your ex-spouse don’t have the best relationship, never speak ill of them in front of your child. Trying to make the other party look bad may hurt them worse than the divorce. Plus, if your child feels that you are always negative about a person they love, they may dread coming to stay with you. This can make the time you spend together full of angst.

If it helps, make a list of all the things you may want to do with your child. The list can include things like:

•Go Roller Skating
•Watch New Movie On DVR
•Support them with homework and/or visit a museum
•Bake Brownies
•Play That Board Game They Love
•Just Chill and Snuggle on The Couch

Remember, it doesn’t have to be big or break the bank, it just must be enjoyable. Spending time with your child should be a welcomed break from the daily grind, and they should enjoy seeing you as much as you enjoy seeing them. Show them a good time and they won’t be able to wait to come back again.

Author Bio: Sean Blaney is an event planner with a passion for self-development and a healthy, positive lifestyle. He is also the co-founder of CalendarTable, a site that provides, among other information, a highly personalizable calendar printout formats for a better time management.

 



Making Holidays Magical for Kids After Divorce

When we think holidays, we think magical time of year for children.

But, when it comes to children of divorce – – not so fast. For far too many of these children, holidays mean split loyalties, guilt, sadness and regret.

Why split loyalties? Even if children have no choice as to where they are going to be for a holiday, the mere fact of being with one parent versus the other means an inherent sense of longing for all that could have been.

Why guilt? Children are acutely attuned to the fact that holiday conversations can quickly devolve into holiday vexations and that they are the identified cause of yet another source of exasperation between their parents.

Why sadness? Psychologists know that the experience of what they call “cognitive dissonance” is an exquisitely uncomfortable and irreconcilable state where two sets of emotions or thoughts cannot contemporaneously co-exist. Children wonder how they can manage to have a joyous holiday with Dad while simultaneously longing to be with their Mom (who in this all too real scenario is ironically the one “home alone”).

Why regret? Many children of divorce naturally take on a tremendous burden, a syndrome known as  “parentification,” whereby they feel that it is their grown-up responsibility to somehow proactively change the dynamic between their parents while inevitably recognizing that they are really too helpless to do so.

It always strikes me that, for most children of divorce, the heartache attendant to the holidays does not diminish as divorce anniversaries wax and wane: instead, this is a yearly occurrence that stirs and reawakens abject wounds and unhealed scars. Even as children become adolescents and young adults who “vote with their feet,” the mere fact of making a holiday choice reawakens the old worries: “How is my Mom going to feel since I am with my Dad this year? I hate making her so sad….”; or “It is just easier to be with friends so my parents don’t think I am choosing as between the two of them.”

Consider typical holiday custody provisions – does it resemble more of a bus schedule or a child-centered schedule?

Christmas

In 2017 and all applicable odd-numbered years, the children shall be with the Father on December 24 as of noon until December 25 at noon, at which time the Father shall drop the children off at the Mother’s residence. The children shall remain with the Mother for the first half of the remainder of the Winter break, at which point the Mother shall drop the children off at the Father’s residence for the second half of the Winter break. In 2018 and all applicable even-numbered years, the parties shall use the reverse of that schedule.

Yet, despite best efforts to make these schedules as clear and even-handed for the parents as possible, glitches still arise. I recall vividly one case in particular in which, as a Parenting Coordinator, I was asked to make the following decision: since the children were not supposed to be with the Mother until noon on Christmas Eve Day, her request that they fly out to her on an 11:50 a.m. flight was denied by the Father since it did not comply with the agreed upon schedule. The Father felt that the Mother had purposefully sabotaged his time with the children by attempting to circumvent the mutually negotiated schedule by booking an earlier (by 10 minutes!) flight.

In an interesting twist, I have spoken with many adult children of divorce who have instituted a parenting plan for their divorced parents. Thanksgiving is always with Mom and Christmas is always with Dad: now that the proverbial empowerment shoe is on the other foot, it is frequently the parents who feel shortchanged. But no matter who is in control of the planning, the fact remains that these children of divorce feel no less wistful that they have to do workarounds because their parents literally refuse to come to the holiday table together.

Recently, my client told me that she and her ex-spouse spent the first night of Chanukah together with their teenage son. Whereas Dad lavished Michael with 10 gifts, Mom presented Michael with just one present. It was not lost on Michael that his parents were off to the races as they jockeyed to win  the gifting competition…. not surprisingly, Michael did not enjoy a moment of the celebration as he self-consciously felt obliged to give each parent’s gift precise equal measures of thanks and praise.

Are there any antidotes to making the holidays a happier time of year for children of divorce?

As to those divorced parents who manage to put the best interests of their children first and foremost, they have my utmost admiration and respect. I am particularly impressed with parents who even manage to share a holiday meal or tradition together so that their children can have the best of all worlds. From a psychological standpoint, although this can mean that parents are directly playing into a child’s fantasy of having their parents reunite, I believe the modeling of putting past conflicts behind them (at least for the day or dinner) far outweighs the risks of feeding the fantasy.

But if emotions are still too raw such that divorced parents do not feel they can endure a family meal, then I would urge them to consider other creative ways to inject joy into their children’s holidays.  One such option might entail the pooling of their resources to buy their child a single and meaningful present. In this way, the child can always reflect back and remember fondly that this gift was from both parents who were able to at least make an agreement over the choice of a present – even if they cannot agree on a host of other matters.

Another option is to ensure that you, or your child, has a gift for the other parent: this signals the message that despite the demise of the marital bond, your parental devotion to the spirit of the holiday is alive and well. Last year, when my ex-husband and his wife came to pick up our daughter so they could start their holiday time together, I presented him with a box of chocolates – simply saying that I hoped they were still his particular favorites and reminiscing with him about the time that our dog ate a pound of chocolates the day we got engaged. It was a delicious, joyful and unexpected moment all around. I will never forget the look of surprise and appreciation on our daughter’s face as she got to watch us in a rare tender moment. He, of course, was stunned and grateful. And his wife, recognizing the simple gesture for what it was meant to be, was gracious about the whole interaction.

So, as the holidays approach, let’s use our parental wizardry to enable our children to again bask in the magic of the season by transforming what might otherwise be bittersweet reminiscences into joyous memories.

Vicki L. Shemin, J.D., LICSW, ACSW

Partner

Fields and Dennis LLP

80 William Street, Suite 210

Wellesley, MA 02481

Tel: 781.489.6776

Fax: 781.489.6233

VShemin@FieldsDennis.com

www.FieldsDennis.com

 Vicki L. Shemin, J.D, LICSW, ACSW is a family law attorney, clinical social worker, mediator, collaborative attorney and parenting coordinator (and a divorced mom of two adult children of divorce) practicing at Fields and Dennis LLP in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

 

 



5 Great Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem After Divorce

By Amanda Wilks

Nothing can be quite as devastating to one’s self-esteem as a divorce. No matter how amicable a parting is or the conditions under which it happens, moving past such a monumental part of one’s life comes with a bevy of lifestyle changes to adapt to and emotional toils to overcome.

The urge to remain sedentary and wallow in a separation might seem overpowering. At the same time, freeing oneself up from another person is a golden opportunity to spend time bettering oneself rather than working on a relationship.

The first step to moving past such a big life change is approaching the coming days with a healthy attitude. Yes, chances are you don’t feel your best. No, the pain won’t pass immediately. The lessons taught by separation are hard to ignore yet taking the right frame of mind forward will only help you in the days to come.

If you’re not sure how to keep yourself feeling chipper and occupied during strange stretches of free time, boosting your self-esteem can be as simple as any of these self-improving tips.

1.Exercise!

The urge to stay on the couch and feel sorry for yourself is probably going to be a strong motivating factor in the early days after your divorce. This is perfectly natural, but starting a healthy routine instead of settling for less-than-healthy urges can be vital in ensuring you stay active over the long term.

The physical benefits of exercise speak for themselves. The mental benefits, on the other hand, are wide and varied but may not seem obvious to outside viewers. Exercise is proven to help those suffering from depression and anxiety through the release of endorphins paired with changes of scenery and other small touches. You’ll likely manage to sleep better after a day full of exercise, too, which is a benefit in a league all of its own.

2.Take Up a Hobby

Relationships take time. There are very real situations that require a lot of care and attention that draw us away from things we hold near and dear to ourselves, making a period of separation a perfect time to get back into something we once enjoyed or simply explore new hobbies and interests as they come along.

Building social links and promoting healthy time management are but a few upsides to taking on a hobby. If your hobby is one that leads to something tangible through art, gardening, cooking or other creative outlets you just might find that the creation process can help boost your self-worth through reaffirming your ability to create and impact the world around you.

3. Spend Time with Friends and Family

The inertia that comes with becoming your own person can be taken in healthy or unhealthy ways. To make the most of coming to terms with your reclaimed independence, make sure you take time to socialize with those you love in a less romantic context.

Family and friend ties can help keep your stress levels low and having a network of support during a troubling time can be absolutely vital. Try not to let recent events shape your conversations and activities at all times, though: Everyone needs time to just unwind and forget about the world be it through sharing hobbies or going out for a spa day. Let the world take a back seat so your mind can rest whenever possible.

4. Keep Your Diet in Check

If romantic comedies are to be believed, every romantic split ends in someone eating gallons of ice cream without any negative repercussions. To some degree, you’ll probably feel a lessened sense of fulfillment from cooking for yourself and your snacking habits may start to get out of control. Stress eating is often a symptom of emotional toil and a fluctuation in weight can really throw your self-image out of whack.

Like with most diets, try to stay away from eating the cheapest, fastest options you can find. Take time out of your day to prepare proper meals and seek out snacks that aren’t stuffed with fat and excess sugar. Fruits and vegetables are sorely lacking in many a diet, yet their inclusion can ensure you don’t lose out on vital nutrients you need to stay happy and healthy. If you need to eat some comfort food here and there to stay on track as a whole, go for it! Just keep your health goals in mind.

5. Stay Positive

Even if you diet well and keep a healthy attitude you’re probably not going to be the happiest person around. Negative thoughts will come and go yet keeping a positive attitude is one of the strongest ways to ensure your self-confidence stays high. It may sound silly, but thinking negatively often leads to acting in a way that makes those negative perceptions come true.

Conclusion

Divorce isn’t the end of the world. As long as you work towards taking care of yourself and try to keep a positive outlook on life you’ll bounce back from it just as you would any other hardship.

Stay active, keep in touch with friends and try to remind yourself that it’s just another unfortunate part of life. Nothing can stop you unless you stop yourself!

Author Bio: Amanda Wilks is a motivational writer, cooking enthusiast and contributing author for http://thekitchenadvisor.com/. She discovered her passion for gastronomy when she was going through a rough breakup. Back then, cooking was the only thing she would relax her and as the time passed, she grew fond of this new and exciting hobby. Amanda is now taking cooking classes and hopes to become a renowned chef. Learn more about her on Twitter.



Gratitude in Hard Times

Divorcing your spouse is a major life event that can leave you feeling a range of challenging emotions; from sad, exhausted and energy-depleted to angry, bitter and regretful. As we approach the holiday season, past memories of when your life was very different are easily stirred up. It can also be difficult to be faced with family members, friends and co-workers questioning your new single life at holiday gatherings.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that going through a divorce can be an unbelievably stressful time. And, to help guide you through this trying time it’s more important now than ever to be grateful for the good in your life. Here are three things you can do to appreciate what is good in your life and how to remember them when times are hard.

Recognizing the Good

Gratitude is not only great for your peace of mind. There is science that backs up claims that practicing thankfulness actually benefits your health. Clinical trials have shown that those who maintain a daily practice of gratitude typically have lower blood pressure, better immune systems and more peaceful sleep patterns. Studies have also indicated that the act of keeping a daily gratitude journal can act as a stress reducer and can decrease the effects of aging on one’s brain.

Take time out of each day to recognize the good parts of your life. Maybe it’s your weekly-anticipated nights out with friends, or your Saturday shopping trips, a job that you love or the volunteer work you do at the local hospital. Perhaps it’s the time you keep just for yourself every Sunday night, watching your favorite TV show, snuggling up with your dog while drinking a delicious glass of red wine.

Buy yourself a journal or notebook and make a point to write down the things in your life that you are grateful for. If you are feeling down, the number of things on your list may surprise you to see once. Make it a habit to do this each day and read over it when you need a reminder.

Refocusing on the Good

Give yourself permission to be sad, angry or upset when times are hard. But, once you have let yourself feel the emotions make it a point to re-center yourself and refocus on what you are grateful for. That way you are never sad or upset for too long. This is especially helpful for when you have to be professional or interact socially.

Spend time with your kids. If you are parents, your ex will always be a part of your life as they are your children’s parent, too. It’s important to acknowledge the good that came out of the relationship – your beautiful offspring!

Creating More Good

Once you have allowed yourself to feel the negative emotions and have come to a point where you can be grateful for the many good things in your life, it’s important to pay it forward so you can help others going through a potentially hard time in their lives. When you can come to a point where you realize that others might be worse off than you, you gain perspective.

For sure divorce is hard! However, as you have glimpses of the new possibilities or come out on the other side, it can be a new beginning–you can build your new life. Create more positivity in your life by doing more of the things that make you feel good and are beneficial for others. Remember that you wouldn’t be in the positive place you can be in today had you not found a way through and past your thorny relationship.

It’s incredibly easy to incorporate a gratitude practice into your everyday life. The benefits continue to be proven and have the power to drastically increase the quality of your life. When times are tough it might seem like the last thing you want to do is ignore the negative things that may be going on in your life. The power of gratitude is there to help ease the burden and allow you to move forward in life.

Divorce with Dignity helps our clients move forward in a positive way. We can help ease the burden of preparing and filing divorce papers. We can also provide recommendations to family therapists and mediators to ensure that our clients have the best resources possible to establish amicable co-parenting relationships.

By Staff Writer, Divorce with Dignity

For more information on how we can help, please visit our website and find a Divorce With Dignity professional near you to schedule a consultation.

 



Parents: Children Going Through a Divorce Have Deep Emotional Needs

By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

A child’s psychological needs are greatly increased during and after a divorce. Often they are experiencing an economic and emotional roller coaster, which can lead to guilt, fear and confusion. If parents are consciously focused on and sensitive to their child’s needs through divorce and its aftermath, they will do a better job of meeting those needs in the weeks, months and years ahead.

At this time it’s important that both parents strive to minimize the price your child has to pay for the breakup of your relationship. To do this effectively it’s important to understand some of your child’s most significant emotional and psychological needs:

Approval and Acceptance: This will be a child’s greatest need because their sense of self is very likely in a fragile state, especially if they have been exposed to conflict, anger or high stress. They will try to gain approval because their sense of belonging to the family has been shattered. Children also tend to personalize things and blame themselves. If mom and dad are fighting and divorcing, they personalize it. They think, “If we didn’t make so much noise. If we didn’t need shoes…” They need acceptance. They need to know that they are important, that they are a priority. They will try to gain approval because their sense of belonging to the family has been shattered.

Safety and Security: Parents need to go beyond normal efforts to assure their children that although the family has fragmented, their protection is solid. The key is to maintain as much normalcy as possible in parenting, boundaries and routines. They need to know that their world is still predictable and that it’s not going to keep changing on them. By trying to minimize changes and focusing on what is still the same (friends, school, toys, etc.) your child will feel some sense of comfort which can help them adapt to the differences they are facing.

Release From Blame: Children often shoulder the blame for the dissolution of a marriage. They personalize their part in the divorce because they know they misbehaved and they feel that they’re somehow being punished for it by the breakup of their parents. Be conscious of this and assure your children they’re blameless. They need to hear this message from both parents – and not just once. That can help them release the sense of guilt, blame or shame they experience – and may not share with you.

Structure and Discipline: When parents are divided or absent from the home, children will check and test for structure. So be sure to provide it. During and after divorce children need structure more than any other time in their lives, because their world seems to be falling apart for them. This is the time to enforce discipline consistently and with the right currency to promote good behavior. They need to see that life goes on, and they’re still an integral part of a family unit, despite the divorce.

Stability and Strength: Whether or not you feel brave and strong, you have to show up at your best for your children. They’re worried about you and about your partner, especially if either of you reflect your sadness, anger and instability. When children sense weakness they will test their limits, putting strain on your relationship with them or opening the door to your children parenting their parents. That immediately robs them of their childhood! So do everything you can to assure them of your strength. By doing so, you make it possible for them to relax. Role model yourself to be a person of strength and resilience – a parent they can still depend on with confidence.

Permission To Be a Kid: Children are not responsible for your divorce (even if you’re fighting about them) nor should they be given the job of healing your pain. Too often we expect our children to serve as armor or as saviors for parents in crisis. They shouldn’t be dealing with adult issues or know too much about the drama taking place between mom and dad.

There are two primary rules to keep in mind for your kids at times of crisis and instability in your family.

  1. Never burden your children with situations they cannot control. It will promote feelings of helplessness and insecurity, causing them to question their own strengths and abilities.
  1. Never ask your children to deal with adult issues. Children are not equipped to understand adult problems. Their focus should be on enjoying their childhood and learning from the various stages and experiences           they go through.

With this sound advice in mind, you will be better equipped to navigate the challenges of parenting after divorce with greater success for you and your children. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support from therapists, divorce coaches, educators and other experts experienced with the challenges of divorce.

Your kids need you now for that ever. Always remember to hug and tell them how much you love and appreciate them – every day!

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — With Love! For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting as well as helpful articles, coaching services and other valuable resources for parents facing, moving through or transitioning after divorce, visit: www.childcentereddivorce.com.



7 Tips to Help Your Teenager Cope with Divorce

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

The teenage years can be challenging for both a teenager and his or her parents after a divorce. Helping your teenager to make a smooth transition to becoming a more independent person can be complex in a divorced family.

Some of the challenges that teens face in divorced families include: going back and forth between two homes, different rules in each house, loyalty conflicts with their parents, moving, dealing with parents dating just as they’re exploring intimate relationships; and possibly adjusting to one or both parents’ remarriage and stepsiblings.

Experts advise us that adolescence is a time of transition from being a child to establishing an identity different from your parents. This normal process can become more complicated as teens experience the breakup up their parents’ marriage. Although it may take them about a year to adjust to your divorce, feelings of sadness or anger may reappear during stressful times such as taking exams or a parents’ remarriage – even if they’re coping fairly well overall.

Some warning signs that your teen is having difficulty coping with your divorce include displaying intense mood swings that range from extreme elation to extreme hostility toward others that last more than a few days. Also, they might rage towards others and overreact to triggers in their environment. This could be anything from temper tantrums (especially in public) to becoming exceedingly angry or irritable over small things.

Other warning signs of depression or psychological problems include radical changes in behavior such as fighting at school, cheating, stealing, lying, or intense arguments with others (teachers, friends; or you or their other parent), declining school performance for over a period of a few weeks, developing physical ailments or chronic complaints (such as stomach or headaches), sleep problems, eating disorders (or gaining or losing more than ten pounds when not trying to), changes in peer relationships such as losing friends or isolating themselves from social activities, and sadness that lasts more than a few days.

During and after divorce, it’s crucial that both parents promote a healthy bond with their teenager in order to nurture high self-esteem and resiliency. Showing your teen compassion and understanding won’t guarantee success every day but they’ll feel less stressed as a result. Be sure to establish an open dialogue with your teen so they can discuss the stresses in their life and brainstorm solutions with you.

Seven tips to help your teen cope with divorce:

  • Be an active listener when your teen wants to talk. When kids feel valued by their parents, they will value them in return. Teenagers are under a lot of stress at school and in peer relationships so need you to be available to listen. Turn off your cell phone when you’re with him or her. If you must take a call, keep it short and apologize if it interfered with your time together.
  • Don’t bad mouth or argue with your ex in front of your teen. Model self-control and being polite with your former spouse. Negative comments about his/her other parent are likely to cause teens to experience loyalty conflicts – which can lead to emotional pain and turmoil.
  • Avoid putting your teen in the middle between you and your ex. Be careful not to share too many details about your divorce with your teenager. Don’t grill them with questions about the other parent!
  • Promote a healthy bond between your teen and both parents. It’s important to be flexible with your expectations about scheduling “Parenting Time” at both houses (if this is possible). Keep in mind that a teen need some control over his or her schedule.
  • Be a positive role-model by taking care of your own mental and physical health. Go to the gym or take a power walk and invite your teen to join you. Seek out supportive friendships and counseling if needed so you can stay optimistic about your future.
  • Set limits with love. Many parents complain that their teens are rarely home once they begin to drive or work. Remember you are the parent and need to set a positive tone for your household, including having expectations for behavior, curfew, etc..
  • Be aware of warning signs of depression and seek professional help if needed. Adolescence is often a time of turmoil which is exaggerated by the multitude of changes that go along with parental divorce. If any of the warning signs detailed above persist for more than a few weeks, you are wise to seek professional help.

Ways to promote your teenager’s resiliency include expressing empathy, understanding, and support when they’re going through a challenging time. For instance, Haley noticed changes in her daughter Alana’s behavior when she was fourteen, after her remarriage.  Alana showed signs of depression such as sleep problems, complaints of chronic physical symptoms, and avoiding contact with her friends. She also began protesting spending overnights at her dad’s house.

Fortunately, Alana’s parents agreed that it was in her best interests to revise her custody schedule temporarily and to seek counseling for her. As a result, Alana attended counseling for six months and was able to come to terms with the losses she experienced when her parents divorced – eventually restoring a better sleep routine, improving her social life, and spending overnights at her dad’s home.

Experts agree that friends, school, extracurricular activities, and jobs are all crucial to a teen’s well-being. Being flexible in your parenting schedule allows your teenager to enjoy the things that are essential for his or her life. Operating from a mind-set that your teen needs balance in their life will serve as a protective factor during the whirlwind of adolescence. Your teen might end up feeling disappointed or resentful if you try to get them to adhere to your expectations or you’re rigid.

Why is it that some teenagers seem to make it through their parents’ divorce relatively easily, while others struggle and are more likely to have a negative reaction?  The reasons for these differences include: the child’s personality and temperament, gender, parenting styles, and a families post-divorce adjustment. Keep in mind that some teens, especially girls, don’t show out-ward signs of trouble until years later. Many experts refer to this tendency as the “Sleeper Effect.”

The good news is that if you’ve built a healthy foundation with your teen prior to your divorce, it’s likely that they’ll be resilient and adjust to your divorce. When you take time to truly listen to your teenager, they’ll be more likely to ask your advice when they have a problem. Divorce expert Rosalind Sedacca CCT writes: “How you handle this now will affect your long-term relationship with her. So don’t stand on your soap-box. Show her your empathy, compassion and the ability to turn the other cheek.”

Finally, finding time in your busy schedule to listen to their concerns and engage in mutually enjoyable activities can help ease their adjustment to your divorce. Making an attempt to stay connected with your teen is worth the effort!

Follow Terry on Facebook, Twitter, and movingpastdivorce.com where you can order her award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Divorce and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.

 

 



How To Move On from Your Parents’ “Grey Divorce”

By Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

As divorce rates among adults over 50 continue to climb, many adult children of long-time married parents may have difficulty dealing with feelings of bewilderment and loss – with few places to turn for advice and support.

In fact, adult children of divorced parents (ACODS) tend to be the forgotten ones because common wisdom tells us they won’t be as impacted as children by parental divorce. However, ACODS may find themselves in plenty of tricky situations that younger children are spared, such as hearing about their parents dating life.

Some ACODS may feel devastated when they hear the news of their parents’ breakup and wonder why they stayed unhappily married for so many years. Kelly, a twenty-eight year old information technology specialist says, “I wish my parents would have split earlier, I lived through years of daily battles and now my mom is middle-aged and having a hard time being alone.”

Even if they are in favor of their parents’ breakup because of chronic unhappiness or abuse, adult kids may be blindsided and grieve the loss of their intact family. Over a sandwich a local café, Justin says “My parents were never happy so their divorce was somewhat expected, but it felt weird to spend holidays in two homes after they split and my mom needed more help with household chores.”

In spite of the fact that the so-called “grey divorce” rate more than doubled between 1990 and 2008, there are few guidelines for adult children dealing with their changing family.  Many ACODS experience loyalty conflicts because they feel that they have to pick sides. Even if they don’t take sides, they may feel stressed trying to maintain appropriate boundaries – especially if their parents are angry foes.

Another common concern voiced by the hundreds of ACODS I’ve interviewed for my research is role reversal.  They might feel burdened by being their parent’s confidant and feel uncomfortable if they are given too many details about their parents’ feelings about their other parent.

Let’s look at Alexis, whose parents divorced when she was twenty-four years old, getting ready to launch into a teaching career and deciding whether to take the next step and get engaged to her partner Tim. She says, “I don’t feel entitled to grieve publically because my mom is having such a tough time and I feel uncomfortable hearing about her feelings about my dad leaving.”

In a recent movie A.C.O.D., actor Adam Scott plays Carter, a content and successful man who decides to revisit a former counselor to make sense of his brother’s wedding and his parents’ extremely messy divorce. When he decides to confront his family about their dysfunctional communication, we witness Carter’s fear of commitment coming to a head with his girlfriend Lauren, played by Mary Elisabeth Winstead. While comedy may exaggerate real-life, this film does an amazing job of highlighting how a high-conflict divorce can result in an ACOD becoming cynical about love and commitment.

According to researcher Paul Amato ACODS have double the risk of divorce, compared to counterparts raised in intact homes.  However, author Elisabeth Joy LaMotte believes that experiencing parental divorce can make you a clear-eyed realist and can enhance your chances of achieving, a successful, long-term relationship. If you pay attention to the multiple factors that impacted your parent’s sense of happiness and make good choices in romantic partners, you can build healthier relationships for yourself.

The good news is that experiencing your parents’ divorce can make you more careful about whom you choose as a partner as an adult. This can emerge as your signature strength. You understand the fragility of love, yet maintain a healthy respect for commitment in your own life.

Here are some guidelines for adult children who have dealt with their parents separating or divorcing:

  • Maintain healthy boundaries. If one or both of your parents is sharing too much personal information or relying too much on you for support they need to know how you feel. Or, if one parent badmouths the other one, you need to tell them to stop.
  • Resist being in the middle between your parents. You can be sympathetic if one or both parents ask you to settle a dispute or expects you to be their counselor or mediator. But saying something like “I’m sorry you’re hurting but I need to stay out of this,” will hopefully communicate the message you desire.
  • Express your feelings calmly and clearly. Daughters in particular may find themselves feeling emotionally upset by the news of their parents’ split. According to Louann Brizendine M.D., women value emotional expression more than men do and their memory is better for emotional memories due to their amygdala being more activated by emotional nuance.
  • Strive to not let your parents’ divorce define your relationship with your parents. Enjoy pleasurable activities together and during those times you might say “Let’s not talk about the divorce right now.”
  • Maintain contact with both extended families. If you want to keep your relationship with both of your parents’ families, be clear with your parents that this is your goal. Gary Neuman, author of “The Long Way Home: The Powerful 4-step Plan for Adult Children of Divorce” says that ACODS may have strong bonds with extended family members because it provides them a sense of family and closeness.
  • Stop comparing your romantic relationships with your parents.’ Attempt to see yourself as capable of learning from the past, rather than repeating it.
  • Face your fear of commitment if it exists and embrace the notion that commitment has to be made with some degree of uncertainty. If you wait to make a commitment when you are free of doubts, it will never happen.
  • Take your time dating someone and make sure that you’ve known them for at least two years to make a life-long commitment to reduce your risk of divorce.

If you are an adult child of divorce, it’s no longer up to others to help you bounce back from your parents’ divorce. But in order to heal and adjust, you must move out of the place of being a victim and take responsibility for your recovery. It can no longer be about your parents’ attitude or behavior. It’s time for you to create change in your life and move forward.

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com where you can order her award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship.

This article appeared Previously on HuffingtonPost.com

 



Narcissists are Codependent, too.

Writers often distinguish narcissists and codependents as opposites, but surprisingly, though their outward behavior may differ, they share many psychological traits. In fact, narcissists exhibit core codependent symptoms of shame, denial, control, dependency (unconscious), and dysfunctional communication and boundaries, all leading to intimacy problems. One study showed a significant correlation between narcissism and codependency.[i]  Although most narcissists can be classified as codependent, but the reverse isn’t true – most codependents aren’t narcissists. They don’t exhibit common traits of exploitation, entitlement, and lack of empathy.

Dependency

Codependency is a disorder of a “lost self.” Codependents have lost their connection to their innate self. Instead, their thinking and behavior revolve around a person, substance, or process. Narcissists also suffer from a lack of connection to their true self. In its place, they’re identified with their ideal self. Their inner deprivation and lack connection to their real self makes them dependent on others for validation. Consequently, like other codependents, their self-image, thinking, and behavior are other-oriented in order to stabilize and validate their self-esteem and fragile ego.

Ironically, despite declared high self-regard, narcissists crave recognition from others and have an insatiable need to be admired – to get their “narcissistic supply.” This makes them as dependent on recognition from others as an addict is on their addiction.

Shame

Shame is at the core of codependency and addiction. It stems from growing up in a dysfunctional family. Narcissists’ inflated self-opinion is commonly mistaken for self-love. However, exaggerated self-flattery and arrogance merely assuage unconscious, internalized shame that is common among codependents.

Children develop different ways of coping with the anxiety, insecurity, shame, and hostility that they experience growing up in dysfunctional families. Internalized shame can result despite parents’ good intentions and lack of overt abuse. To feel safe, children adopt coping patterns that give arise to an ideal self. One strategy is to accommodate other people and seek their love, affection, and approval. Another is to seek recognition, mastery, and domination over others. Stereotypical codependents fall into the first category, and narcissists the second. They seek power and control of their environment in order to get their needs met. Their pursuit of prestige, superiority, and power help them to avoid feeling inferior, vulnerable, needy, and helpless at all costs.

These ideals are natural human needs; however, for codependents and narcissists they’re compulsive and thus neurotic. Additionally, the more a person pursues their ideal self, the further they depart from their real self, which only increases their insecurity, false self, and sense of shame. (For more about these patterns and how shame and codependency co-emerge in childhood, see Conquering Shame and Codependency.)

Denial

Denial is a core symptom of codependency. Codependents are generally in denial of their codependency and often their feelings and many needs. Similarly, narcissists deny feelings, particularly those that express vulnerability. Many won’t admit to feelings of inadequacy, even to themselves. They disown and often project onto others feelings that they consider “weak,” such as longing, sadness, loneliness, powerlessness, guilt, fear, and variations of them. Anger makes them feel powerful. Rage, arrogance, envy, and contempt are defenses to underlying shame.

Codependents deny their needs, especially emotional needs, which were neglected or shamed growing up. Some codependents act self-sufficient and readily put others needs first. Other codependents are demanding of people to satisfy their needs. Narcissists also deny emotional needs. They won’t admit that they’re being demanding and needy, because having needs makes them feel dependent and weak. They project judge as needy.

Although, narcissists don’t usually put the needs of others first, some are actually people-pleasers and can be very generous. In addition to securing the attachment of those they depend on, often their motive is for recognition or to feel superior or grandiose by virtue of the fact that they’re able to aid people they consider inferior. Like other codependents, they may feel exploited by and resentful toward the people they help.

Many narcissists hide behind a facade of self-sufficiency and aloofness when it comes to needs for emotional closeness, support, grieving, nurturing, and intimacy. Their quest of power protects them from experiencing the humiliation of feeling weak, sad, afraid, or wanting or needing anyone—ultimately, to avoid rejection and feeling shame. Only the threat of abandonment reveals how dependent they truly are.

Dysfunctional Boundaries

Like other codependents, narcissists have unhealthy boundaries, because theirs weren’t respected growing up. They don’t experience other people as separate but as extensions of themselves. As a result, they project thoughts and feelings onto others and blame them for their shortcomings and mistakes, all of which they cannot tolerate in themselves. Additionally, lack of boundaries makes them thin-skinned, highly reactive, and defensive, and causes them to take everything personally.

Most codependents share these patterns of blame, reactivity, defensiveness, and taking things personally. The behavior and degree or direction of feelings might vary, but the underlying process is similar. For example, many codependents react with self-criticism, self-blame, or withdrawal, while others react with aggression and criticism or blame of someone else. Yet, both behaviors are reactions to shame and demonstrate dysfunctional boundaries. (In some cases, confrontation or withdrawal might be an appropriate response, but not if it’s a habitual, compulsive reaction.)

Dysfunctional Communication

Like other codependents, narcissists’ communication is dysfunctional. They generally lack assertiveness skills. Their communication often consists of criticism, demands, labeling, and other forms of verbal abuse. On the other hand, some narcissists intellectualize, obfuscate, and are indirect. Like other codependents, they find it difficult to identify and clearly state their feelings. Although they may express opinions and take positions more easily than other codependents, they frequently have trouble listening and are dogmatic and inflexible. These are signs of dysfunctional communication that evidence insecurity and lack of respect for the other person.

Control

Like other codependents, narcissists seek control. Control over our environment helps us to feel safe. The greater our anxiety and insecurity, the greater is our need for control. When we’re dependent on others for our security, happiness, and self-worth, what people think, say, and do become paramount to our sense of well-being and even safety. We’ll try to control them directly or indirectly with people-pleasing, lies, or manipulation. If we’re frightened or ashamed of our feelings, such as anger or grief, then we attempt to control them. Other people’s anger or grief will upset us, so that they must be avoided or controlled, too.

Intimacy

Finally, the combination of all these patterns makes intimacy challenging for narcissists and codependents, alike. Relationships can’t thrive without clear boundaries that afford partners freedom and respect. They require that we’re autonomous, have assertive communication skills, and self-esteem.

If you have a relationship with a narcissist, check out my book, Dealing with a Narcissist: How to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People

[i] Irwin, H. J. (1995) Codependence, Narcissism, and Childhood Trauma. Journal of Clinical Psychology 51:5.

©Darlene Lancer 2017

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You

Ebooks:

10 Steps to Self-Esteem

Dealing with a Narcissist: 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People

How To Speak Your Mind – Become Assertive and Set Limits and webinar How to Be Assertive

Breakup Recovery

“I’m Not Perfect – I’m Only Human” – How to Beat Perfectionism

Spiritual Transformation in the Twelve Steps

Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness

Codependency’s Recovery Daily Reflections

How to Raise Your Self-Esteem

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