Divorce happens. When divorce happens and there are children involved it's a whole new ballgame. No matter what the age of the child is there will still be an effect on them. How the children are told about your decision matters because your decision impacts their lives completely. How you tell them will set the foundation for the future by establishing your new parental roles, ensuring their sense of security during an extremely unsettling time in their lives, and by creating open dialogue from the beginning.
All families are different, but there are some standards of conduct that can help children through the transition.
-Parents should both be there when the children are told about the decision to divorce. Depending on the personality and age of the child you may want to tell each child seprately or have a family meeting. With both parents present you will quickly establish that you have made a mutual decision (even when it may not be) to divorce thus eliminating blame. You will role model how to work together during a highly emotional time. You will also be demonstrating that they are still the center of the universe and that you are both going to continue to be their parents.
-Have a solid outline of what life will look like after the divorce. The more informed children are about the upcoming changes the more secure they will feel. Conditions, time sharing, and decisions may change in the future, but in the beginning it is helpful if children can get a picture of what their life will look like post divorce.
-Establish individual parent time right from the beginning. Actions always speak louder than words. Show them through actions that you will always be there for them. Small actions such as a walk in the park to feed the ducks, cooking a favorite meal together, or skipping rocks in the lake, are great. Give your children one on one time by providing time for them to ask questions and talk about whats going on for them.
1. You are in control of the process and all the decisions being made rather than the attorneys or the judge.
2. You maintain integrity and pride throughout the process by working together as a team rather than in an advisarial relationship.
3. Your children are barometers and the lack of escalated emotions will help them adjust to the changes.
4. You will save money. Even though both a therapist and attorney are retained for this process, it is cheaper than a war.
5. You can go at your own pace rather than rely on court schedules or get rushed by attorney agendas.
Dr. Francine Shapiro, the founder of EMDR Therapy, states the following.
"The reason that some people are affected more than others depends on genetics, the intensity of the experience, length of exposure and earlier life experiences. Some people have had positive experiences that contribute to greater resilience. Others have had negative experiences that can make them susceptible to later problems. For instance, an official diagnosis of P.T.S.D. requires that the individual experience a major trauma, like a rape, accident or battlefield experience. However, recent research indicates that in many cases, P.T.S.D. symptoms can occur as the result of less dramatic events. Some examples are hurtful childhood experiences with parents and peers, which can have a very negative effect on a person’s sense of self-worth. These events can set the groundwork for a wide range of symptoms, including a vulnerability to P.T.S.D."
If you or someone you know is suffering for any level of PTSD we can help. Contact Paul at (209)242-4311 or Cathy at (209)242-4745.
A client recently asked, "What is courage?". "Is it the absence of fear or is it the capacity to subdue fear in order to act?"
Fear is an automatic response when we percieve danger, both physical and psychological danger. Obviously, an earthquake or a burgler will provoke a fear response. Life threatening situations trigger an innate fight or flight response to elicit self-preservation. This is necessary for the continuation of a species.
What about fear of public speaking? Or taking tests? Or making significant changes in our lives such as moving, marrying, divorcing, or changing jobs? There are risks thats why there is fear. Psychological dangers of being judged, rejected, or failing are real concerns for most people to some degree or another. Perception effects all experiences and responses in people so, the degree of fear response will vary, but it is real.
The question is then, what is courage? It is not the absence of fear. It is not the ability to subdue fear. Courage is taking a chance despite the fear you experience. Taking that first step toward self-preservation even when the fear is psychologically based in order to create the best life you can for yourself.
Courage is taking a chance even when the outcome is unknown, thus scary. Making a change even though you are not sure. Doing something, experiencing something, challenging yourself even when you may be judged.
Courage. It's what keeps us all marching forward despite the odds. Courage builds character, inner strength, and integrity. Courage can be cultivated in one's life. With just one step toward the changes you'd like to experience you are demonstrating courage. You can feel good about that.
Written by Gary Direnfeld, social worker
Think twice about Court involved strategies to resolve child custody/access disputes.
Typically more than 95% of contested child custody/access disputes settle prior to a Judge making a final order.
If however an assessment is entered into at court, the Judge will make an order consistent with the assessor’s recommendations some 80% of the time.
Outcomes that are imposed by the Judge are less likely to be followed than those outcomes that are reached by mutual agreement, even if both parties aren’t satisfied with the mutual agreement. Here’s why:
Please work hard to resolve things between yourselves. If you have had an assessment, know that it is likely to be very influential even if you think you know more than the assessor or if you think you have a hardball litigator. Giving the assessor a rough ride on the witness stand still won’t mean from a statistical perspective that the Judge will make an Order very different from what has been recommended. Further, even if the Judge does make an Order in favor of your position, don’t think that will be the end of your conflict. In many cases it is only the propellant to fuel more conflict.
If you want an agreement more likely to last and where you have some say or control in terms of the outcome, find a way to settle outside of Court. through Mediation; or Collaborative Law.
There may be no such thing as a good settlement. However if you reach an agreement that brings some semblance of peace that you both can live with, then your children are better off and you all can get on with life. Indeed, that just may be what a good settlement is all about.
1. People do not have to agree on solutions to be able to mediate the differences.
The point of entering into a mediation is to help couples resolve those differences and develop solutions.
2. Having a sense of power equality is not necessary during a mediation.
That is the benefit of entering into a mediation. There is much less power struggle present. A communication Coach can help immensely throughout a mediation by assisting and sometimes directing the communication. A coach helps equalize power differences and can be a strong voice when needed.
3. Solutions become mutually beneficial and fair.
One attorney is hired for the legal piece and one communication coach is hired for the solution building piece. All four people work toward the same results that are fair to each person in the couple dyad, typically saves money by staying out of the court battle, and helps the children through the process.
4. The legal system upholds mediation.
In fact, the court system prefers mediation and collaborative divorce over litigation. Amicable resolutions keep people out of court, and is beneficial to the entire family.
5. Anyone can mediate a divorce.
The whole point of mediation is to resolve the differences, find solutions that work for everyone, and to save couples from the extensive costs of litigation. If you are already in agreement about the end of your marriage, then you don't need mediation.
Mental Health professionals understand the imporatance of an amicable divorce. Maintain your integrity! Help the children with the transition! Secure your grace!
These are lofty goals when facing such a difficult change in life, but they are goals worth doing!
If any of those goals are important to you then please consider Collaborative Divorce as your method to disolve the marriage. It's okay if it's time to move on, but you want to be able to look back and say with confidence "I did that difficult transition in my life with pure grace".
Mental health professionals can help you throughout litigated divorce and mediation as well as Collaboration! Having a support person, a communication coach, and someone to help you strategize can make the difference in meeting the above goals for integrity, grace, and your children's well being.
Think about the results you are seeking before you start. How do you want to feel about your handleing of the process in hindsight, what do you want to others saying about how you handled things, and what would it look like for you to feel strong throughout such a difficult time.
We can help!
Self Care is critical in this complicated world. Sometimes it feels like we just want the world to stop spinning, just for a couple minutes while we catch our breath, but it doesn't do that, not even for a second. So it's up to us to design a life that carves out those minutes, those hours, those moments for self care.
I always tell clients to look at their time like a piece of pie. How they slice that pie matters, because there needs to be a slice for everything that's important to you, including yourself!. If anything of importance is not included then your life will not feel balanced. Now these slices of pie are not fixed in quantity, they are flexible, and are ever changing. Sometimes your child will have a bigger slice, sometimes it will be work, it's always changing.
Self care is a big, big important part to include in your pie design. If not, life won't feel balanced, and eventually you will crash and burn. So find time for yourself in order to care for yourself! It may be a minute, it may be a weekend, but whatever it is make it count. Make it doing something purposeful. Commit to it. Be mindful of it. The purpose may be to sit still and watch the sprinklers, or taste each bite fully, read a book, take a walk, have a 15 minute shower. It doesn't matter, as long as you own it, the time is for you, and it helps to energize you. Get the idea?
Now, make yourself a list of all the ways you have in the past done self care, do presently, and would like to do tomorrow. Start thinking about time frames, days, opportunities, and desires. Maybe make a list of new self care ways you want to incorporate. Focus on you for a change, even if it's only for a moment!
People don't get married with divorce in mind, but sometimes divorce becomes the conclusion of a marriage. Unfortunately, many people are severly traumatized by a divorce. Maybe because they didn't expect their spouse wanting to end the marriage, maybe because they don't want the divorce, or maybe because a battle occurs between spouses that may even involve the children getting emotionally brutalized.
Post Traumatic Stress can occur from events that may not be life threatening, yet are an extremely emotionally stressful, such as an embattled divorce. Characteristics of post trauma stress can include nightmares or bad dreams, lack of focus, anxiety, depressed feelings, lack of motivation, fears of the unknown or future, the avoidance of certain people, places, or situations, and just a general avoidance of relationships.
The stress from divorce can lead to negative self-assessment, insecurity, self-deprication, low self-esteem, self blame, and negative body images. The trauma can cause people to socially isolate, loose interest in their life, to quit looking forward, or to get stuck going over and over the past.
For most people this is a momentary spot they visit after or during a divorce, but for some it is a place where they get stuck. Once stuck, it can become extremely difficult to get out of the thought quagmire.
If you think you may be one of those people who may emotionally suffer through your divorce or whose divorce could be embattled then I highly recommend seeking out a Collaborative Divorce team to help you through the process. The resources available through the team are highly invaluable. The team works together instead of advisarily to help work through all battles in the best interest of the couple rather than any one individual. Collaborative Divorce can also help to keep the kids out of the middle. Please read more about Collaborative Divorce on my web site.
If you are suffering from Post Divorce Trauma then I highly recommend EMDR therapy to help process all the emotional load you carry with you through the day. EMDR helps many people unload all those troublesome feelings and thoughts. Please read more about EMDR therapy on my web site.