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Parental Conflict Impedes Reunification

Posted by on Jan 25, 2015 in Parenting | Comments Off on Parental Conflict Impedes Reunification

The trauma of parental conflict holds children in abeyance.  How can they build healthy relationships with either parent?  They are put in the position of defending one or defending self or mediating arguments or punishing a parent.  Sometimes they shut down.  Sometimes they self-destruct.  Sometimes they refuse to see one parent and the other blames everyone but self. Give kids a chance. Stop fighting with the other parent.  If you don’t know how to do that, get help and learn communication tools and how to manage your own reactivity. Don’t engage with the parent who, so far, cannot approach problems from a sound psychological position.  Model power to change and in doing so, teach your child how to attend to self, recognize and control emotions, resolve the past, refrain from arguments based on what is fair, separate emotions from situations, and manage anger. Withdraw from conflict.  That is the foundation of co-parenting.  Relieve your children from having to make a choice between mom or dad and from taking the place of “parent” in a dysfunctional, conflict-ridden family. Make an appointment.  Learn to walk away from debilitating conflict and regain fulfilling relationship with your...

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Children and Loyalty

Posted by on Mar 23, 2014 in Divorce | Comments Off on Children and Loyalty

Children from about the age six, whose parents are divorcing, usually want things to be equal between parents. Therefore they need parents to respect the court orders, make custodial time as equal as possible, and make custody simple, without too much confusion and transitions.  When they defend another parents, it is in part, their need for equality and to stand-up for their “other” parent.  They need connection with both parents, each is a part of his or her identity.  Sometimes, they minimize problems in the other home so they can remember the good.  Don’t get in the way of that.  They don’t want to disappoint either parent.  Here are some suggestions to help you and your child manage the shared custody. During your custodial time, be with your children.  This sound simple, but some parents actually opt for child care instead of asking the other parent to care for the children. Help your child with preparation for the transition-help pack, use a check list, remind them of things they need, pack with them, encourage them to take something from your home so they have a link to you. Honor and encourage them to enjoy the time the children are with their other parent. Give them permission to be with the other parent so they do not feel conflict about the transition. Don’t ask them about their custodial time with the other parent and help them understand that each home is different.  Don’t pick fights by criticizing the food they eat, their dress, their hygiene, and their homework.  Instill good habits in your home and support them to be responsible in general, no matter where they are. Of course, these suggestions are for the normal situation where the child is not in danger or otherwise hurt in the other parent’s home.  Also, there may be instances where the children choose sides either by their own assessment or pressure on the part of the or the parent.  This will be addressed in another...

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Parental Alienation

Posted by on Mar 20, 2014 in Divorce | Comments Off on Parental Alienation

The most blatant case of alienation is when a child starts to wish their parent dead.  A child finding fault this one parent, lying about the visitation time events, calling the parent names, crying and kicking and screaming when that parent asks for compliance and bullying anyone who might try to reason with the child. What happens to the child long-term?

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Stop the conflict

Posted by on Mar 16, 2014 in Divorce | Comments Off on Stop the conflict

Children suffer when their parents remain locked in high conflict. They are caught in the middle of their parents’ conflict which is extremely damaging to children’s well-being.  As parents, our goal should be to reduce the conflict through parental cooperation, negotiation, mediation, and the development of parenting plans.  However these suggestions only work with both parents agree to participate.  What do you do when one the other parent refuses to stop the battle? You can provide a warm, secure, honest, dependable and supportive relationship with your child. You can refuse to argue. You can find intermediaries to help in communication and transportation. You can limit your messages and texts and phone calls to the bare minimum. You can modulate your voice so as to be polite. You can refuse blame and point the finger. You can let go of the past and get help to do so if that is too elusive. You can refrain from interference in the other parent’s custodial time. You can take responsibility to know your court orders and follow them. You can refuse to complain or criticize about your ex-partner, EVER. You can remain focused on your child, enhancing your attunement to their needs. You can separate your previous marital hostilities from your ongoing parenting. You can shield your child from persistent and unresolved conflict that is dangerous for your child. Conflict reduces over time when we are dedicated to eliminating it from our lives. You can reach out to therapeutic family mediation, parent education programs, and parenting coordination. Studies more and more indicate that parents who are fighting are not capable of emotionally caring for their children. Children, victims of this conflict, are highly prone to suffering maladjustment.  Children caught in parental conflict, even pervasive underlying conflict and resentment between parents as anxiety.  This feeling manifests itself in a variety of ways including physical aggression, sleep disorders, bed wetting, becoming sexually active prematurely, poor grades, truancy and disassociation.  Even more alarming, it appears that many children of high conflict custody cases develop attachment disorders that leave them unable to form friendships with others in fear of being abandoned. In other words parents in high conflict neglected children and they feel abandoned. Commit today to stopping the violence and fighting with your ex-partner and give your child a safe and secure...

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Tips on “Stepping”

Posted by on Jul 28, 2013 in Parenting | Comments Off on Tips on “Stepping”

“Stepping” is my term for parenting a stepchild. While this experience can be joyful and bring dimension to your life; it is fraught with pitfalls. So let’s look at a few do’s from The Do’s and Don’t’s list. 1. Do discuss in the family forum (weekly family meetings ) with the child and the child’s parent, the household standards. Let the child’s parent lead the meeting. Identify yourself as an equal member of the group. Offer your contribution as to “rules” and standards and let the group or the parent make the decision. If you don’t agree with the decision or think that you cannot enforce it, Don’t accept responsibility in situations where you are alone with the child. 2. Do check your emotions at the door. Frustration is probably the biggest detractor to harmony in the home. When you feel frustration build, try a few calming techniques. For example, stop talking, review the rules in your head, asked the child once for compliance, present the child with choices, and most importantly….allow the parent to enforce the consequences when at all possible. Don’t raise your voice, make ultimatums, or allow anger to get in the way of that goal. 3. Do honestly assess your ability to assume the role of authority when the child’s parent is not present. It may not be possible at times in your stepping, to be the authority figure. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. 4. Do try to identify and understand the many reasons the child might not comply with the rules when you are in a position of responsibility. The child might not see you as an equal parent. The child might be harboring anger over the loss of the other parent due to separation or divorce. The child might not be able to follow through with the task at hand. The child might have different standards with different people, and depending on the child’s age, may not be able to manage all the rules. The child might have difficulty with transition from one home to the next. The child might use nonverbal communication, that is noncompliance with rules, as a way of expressing emotion. Don’t “push the river” if compliance is not forthcoming. 5. Do remain in constant communication with the other parent and be willing to step back from the situation. It is not always true that your goals, based on your childhood and possibly your parenting, will apply as a “stepparent”. Don’t try to enforce your version of parenting on your own in a “stepparenting” situation. 6. Do remember that “stepparenting” is extremely difficult because it asks you to fulfill many roles at the same time. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or problems comes up in dealing with your stepchild, remember that you are not the parent. Don’t engage when a difficulty comes up because yours is usually not the final word. 7. Do be true to the family standards, manager emotional reaction, follow the family rules, and don’t engage in a disagreement. Don’t worry about defending yourself if a difficulty comes up-discuss with your partner a way to avoid the problem in the future. 8. Do be careful to not let “stepparenting” come between you and your partner. Together you put the child’s first. Don’t lose sight of...

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Kids take control-part 2

Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Parenting | Comments Off on Kids take control-part 2

As promised, here is the rest of the story. We were talking about ways children take control of the family environment, and hold parents hostage through several predictable milestones in each family’s life. We left off with homework in the last blog entry. Here are some ideas concerning grades choice of friends, chores, TV and electronics and finally dating. Grades-mean different things to different families. For example, they represent the importance of education, way to earn self-esteem, gateway to higher education, indication of preferences for future vocation or profession, association with peers, and adherence to family standards. Some or all of these examples are part and parcel of parents’ focus on grades. Other matters affect grades too. For example, children experiencing anxiety and high levels of stress, approach school in different ways. Such events as separation and/ or divorce, other major changes in the family structure (unemployment, moving, and death of a parent) turn a child’s life upside down. Sometimes the only place they have control is at school. At school, they are responsible for their behavior and recognized for their accomplishments. In a sad way, they are also recognized for their individuality and resistance to conformity, including grades. The best way to foster good grades is to give the child control of his or her behavior and recognize that performance at school reflects on his or her ability to control circumstance apart from the family situation. It is at school where they can demonstrate the true essence of who they are. Parents who realize this and encourage their child to make good choices are more apt to experience success in this area. Linking grades to rewards is the same as receiving pay for a job well done at work. Kids respond to rewards just as we respond to pay. Choice of friends-kids like to belong. They strive to find a group where they feel heard and respected. Helping them choose a group that fits their wants and needs is not easy. Encouraging them to think for themselves in the context of the group is a good way to assist them in making wise choices. Sometimes we need to alert them to the consequences of poor choices. For example, hanging out with kids who shoplift, even though they are not participating in the theft, will lead to juvenile court and a possible detention. For example, dressing in an individualistic way (Goth, affiliation with the group or a gang) will signal to onlookers and attitude, frame of mind, and range of behaviors. Reframing (saying it another way, or at giving it a different connotation) this information to help them understand what message they want to send to others will assist them in the choices they make concerning friends. Chores-ask your child what chores he or she is willing to do each week. Assigning chores puts the parent in the position of struggling for power and control. When a child chooses a chore, it is than his or her responsibility to follow through. Chores change weekly. Allowance is a separate issue not linked to chores. Allowance is money given to a child so they learn how to manage money. Chores both personal and familial, are activities we do to improve our relationships in the home and our living condition. Personal chores...

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Kids Take Control-part 1

Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Parenting | Comments Off on Kids Take Control-part 1

Kids take control: Take it back by presenting their choices! As children grow and change, they can accept more and more responsibility. Wrangling control from mom and dad starts early, really early. For example, potty training , choice of food and time to eat and bedtime (including monsters in the closet) are the first battles that might become a center of attention. Next is going to school. Then, homework becomes an issue. Later on, grades, choice of friends, chores, tv and electronic games and dating. WOW. Kids can choose to reign all powerful unless we outsmart them! Don’t argue. Don’t demand control. Set up the structure in your home so the kids have a choice and learn to manage the consequences. So, here are some ideas: Potty training: kids love to mimic their parent. Get them a small potty and teach by example. Reward with positive words when they start to do it themselves. One big incentive might be to buy a toy for them on the day you no longer have to buy a box of diapers! Mealtime can be fun! Good nutrition is important and so is harmony in the home. Therefore, a broad range of good food and choice of favorites is a way to encourage compliance. Routine so that children can depend on a time for meals helps. Lastly, small snacks during the day helps children not be too hungry and a good way to sneak in vegetables and healthy food. Don’t argue over food and amount of food. Manage the pantry so all is ok to eat. Take older kids (five and up) to the market and let them help select foods. Bedtime must be managed from the beginning or it is difficult to change habits. Additionally, family changes such as a move, divorce, custody requirements and potty training can make continuity challenging. A routine at bedtime helps. Monsters in the closet say they don’t want to be alone or are anxious. Bath, jammies, brushing teeth, a story and prayer help them start to wind down and relax. Reassuring messages at bedtime and a review of daily accomplishments work for them as well as parents! Going to school signals “big girl” and “big boy” status. Selecting a lunchbox every year is a way to get excited about the first day. School clothing purchased and saved so they look terrific as they walk into the room is important. A new backpack is also a good way to encourage your child. For children about 9 years old or more, calculate the amount of money you will spend on the new school year and take your child shopping. Give the money to the child and have him or her select the purchases and pay for them! Do this twice a year or at the beginning of the semester or trimester. It builds anticipation and underscores the importance of being prepared and doing your best. Homework is a school-related issue. Don’t let it disrupt the home relationships. If your child is having trouble with homework, consult with the school and have rewards or consequences related to the school. Commiserate with your child but do not over-manage homework! Rewards work wonders here…1 hour on homework is ½ hour on the electronic games. Don’t let homework take all afternoon and...

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If children had a vote…

Posted by on Apr 22, 2012 in Divorce | Comments Off on If children had a vote…

If children had a vote… they’d abolish divorce. First some facts: the National Vital Statistics Report published in August, 2010 reported 2,077,000 marriages in 2010 and about half ended in divorce. If they averaged two children per marriage, 2,000,000 children faced divorce that year. According to researcher Frank Furstenberg (Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. is the Zellerbach Family Professor of Sociology and Research associate in the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania), the typical divorce for many children means a cessation of contact between the non-residential parent and child or a “relationship that is tantamount to a ritual form of parenthood.” In nine cases out of ten, the custodial parent is the mother, and fully half of all divorce-children living with their mom have no contact with their father for at least a full year. Only one child in 10 sees his non-custodial parent as often as once a week. Over all, only about one youngster in five is able to maintain a close relationship with both parents. Many custodial parents remarry, which brings on another set of problems. Frank Furstenberg reports that “one of the consistent findings in research is that step-parenthood does not recreate the nuclear family.” Strikingly, children from stepfamilies have a behavioral profile much more like that of single-parent children than that of children from natural two-parent families. Even though just over half blended families succeed, there are many difficulties to overcome; more information on that subject will follow in subsequent posts. This article deals with only one obstacle for blended families as well as single-parent families, that of a child’s fantasy of a normal-family reconciliation. Children secretly nurse a dream that “once my parents realize how much I want them to, they’ll live together again.” Even if they are remarried, they assume that since they divorce once, they can divorce again and remarry their parent. They also carry with them the idea that they are somehow at fault for the divorce and if their parents reconcile. They will be absolved. Another deep-seated anxiety is that of abandonment. If one parent abandons their child, what is to say the other won’t? Marring a new partner heightens that anxiety; studies show that “fear of abandonment” is greater when the parent, the mother for example, has remarried. Children love their parents. Judith Wallerstein in her book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (2000) found that children are more traditional than their parents. They have very little good to say about divorce. They think divorce is too easy to obtain and do not agree that divorce is better than bad marriage. They want both parents and they want family. Divorce forces them to choose, bounce back and forth from one parent to another and creates significant psychic trauma in their lives. In 1988, professor Jeanne Dise-Lewis surveyed almost 700 junior high school students, asking them to rate a number of life event in terms of stressfulness. The only thing students ranked as more stressful than parental divorce was death of a parent of close family member. Is it any wonder then that children vote for the fairytale ending: their parent’s reconciliation? References: Dise-Lewis, J.E. (1988). The Life Events and Coping Inventory: An assessment of life stress in children. Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, 50, 484-499. National Vital Statistics Report:...

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Mom has a boyfriend….

Posted by on Mar 22, 2012 in Parenting | Comments Off on Mom has a boyfriend….

When Mom has a boyfriend or Dad’s remarried, for example, parents must stay focused on the needs of their child.While many parents create a loving “new family” through remarriage, it has to be done with attention to a child’s needs and point of view. Bringing a new person into the family might threaten the child’s sense of security and belonging.Parents who have successfully incorporated a mate have managed by talking to their child and listening when he/she expresses concerns or fears about their changing world.Kids need their parents’ love and attention and do not want to compete with a new partner. Parents look at dating and remarriage as a way to rebuild their lives.Children, on the other hand, face sharing their parents with other spouses and usually more kids, changes that often rock their world.Consequently, children often feel like they lose some of their parent’s attention and protection in the shuffle.It is no doubt that a child might view mom or dad’s dating as intrusive, competitive and destructive.Dating and remarriage asks the child to shift loyalties and accept a “surrogate” parent, and the challenge of fitting into a new family structure.New parents mean more responsibility for the child.Instead of two parents managing their life, they have three or four.With so many changes, children lose a sense of security. Before bringing a new person into your family system, talk with your child.Assure him or her that a new person in your life does not replace his or her other parent.Reinforce your words with actions.Promise that dating and marriage does not mean that your relationship with your child will be a lower priority.Spend as much time with your child as you can. Create “special time” for just the two of you.Admit that this new person is your companion, and at the same time, you will always be there for your...

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A Form of Acting Out – Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Posted by on Mar 7, 2012 in Behavior | Comments Off on A Form of Acting Out – Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Dealing with passive-aggression is frustrating and confusing.In divorce and custody cases, it insidiously perpetuates the disagreements. The parent who acts in a passive-aggressive manner, is likely to behave unpredictably, regardless of any agreed upon understanding.This behavior will often leave others feeling manipulated or doubting their sanity. This complicates any negotiated agreements and follow through with custody recommendations. Passive-aggressive behavior is a form of hostility disguised as innocence and compliance where one never truthfully says why he/she is angry. This behavior develops when a person does not learn how to express anger constructively; instead pushing their feelings underground and expressing them in hidden ways.It is this unrecognized anger that leads to passive-aggression. A person acting in this way may claim not to be angry but to the observer, the anger is obvious.A child, partner or friend then becomes a convenient target for that person’s aggression.Sometimes the person acting in a passive-aggressive way will provoke an angry response, and then blame others for having a problem with anger! The origin of passive-aggression is varied however, one explanation is that a child forms a dependent relationship with a needy parent and that parent fails to support the child’s need to grow and become autonomous.Without knowledge and self-confidence, the child will cling to the parent for support (which is never really given), and when the child tries to express anger, it is never validated – don’t be angry is the message.The only way the child (and ultimately the adult) can achieve any degree of independence is to stay in control at all costs through anger and to express it passively.Ultimately, passive-aggressive people are both afraid of being alone and unable to achieve full independence as an adult. A passive-aggressive person can be very attractive at first.In the beginning, he/she is capable of containing their anger. They appear strong and capable on the surface and can read your needs very well.When problems in a relationship erupt, a destructive circle of behavior starts.One person gets unreasonably angry, the other feels victimized. The passive-aggressive person apologizes and seems to change.In the “honeymoon” phase both parents minimize problems and then stress builds.With the stress, frustration sets in and an angry outburst once again starts the vicious circle. This push-pull dynamic tends to feel like a never-ending trap. Passive aggressive partners fight independence by trying to have control of the other; they are out of touch with their feelings and lack the tools for appropriately expressing emotions.They are guarded and feel emotionally fragile.During divorce, one parent may blame the “ex” for his/her unhappiness and unconsciously begin to rely on the child(ren) for emotional support, thwart independence and thus promote development of passive behavior in their own...

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