Imaginary Friends

Is your child talking about a friend that you are completely unaware of ? Possibly you are told that the ‘friend’ is currently at your dinner table or on a trip with you  but you can’t see or hear them.  Your child is likely enjoying a special relationship that is only hers/his.   Do you recall having an imaginary friend ?

Not to worry. Imaginary friends are part of normal development.  By age seven, 65% of children have had one at some point.  The most likely children to experience an imaginary friendship are the eldest, shy or only children, for obvious reasons. .

An imaginary friend may be a person, creature, ghost or even a personified object.  It may involve a mirror image of  play that your offspring has had. Think of your child’s invention as an action figure or doll as they serve a similar purpose.  Invisible friends may be positive and soothing company for a child who is lonely or bored.   S/he can practice social skills and be able to be in complete control.   Such play involves  stretching the power of imagination.

You learn more about your little one when you hear what your child is saying to his/her friend or what that friend is quoted as saying. Is your child trying to ‘safely’ tell you about things s/he doesn’t like so it becomes the buddy who doesn’t want to visit grandma or go to school ?.  When does the friend pop up?  Dinner-, bed-, bed-time? There’s likely a message to you there.  If your child wants a certain toy or extra treat, for his/her friend of course,  you can say “Invisible friends get invisible treats”. Maybe the friend exists  in the service of becoming more independent…”my friend will give me a bath”. Sometimes, an imaginary pal may be nice, mean or bossy…more information for the adult to ponder.

No need to jump into the veracity pond. Just dip a toe in and go along with it.  These elusive friends usually fade when a child enters school.  If the friendship continues through  first or second grade, you will want to evaluate why they are still hanging around.

We adults have imaginary situations and conversations in our heads.  Think of practicing for a job interview.  “He’ll say…” and “I’ll respond…”  Or, “The next time my friend says…”  I’ll remind her….!”.  Our little ones are just  practicing in a more concrete manner.

 

 

Mothers and Mothering

With Mother’s Day on the horizon have you thought about your mother? What was she like when you were growing up?

* What was her parenting style… strict, laissez-faire?                                                        * What did you like to do with her?                                                                                    *  Did you confide in her?                                                                                                    *  How did she discipline?                                                                                                    *  What are you favorite memories?                                                                                                                          * How was she, in your eyes, with your father?                                                                                                                                 *  How will you honor her?

Are you a mother?

*  How would your child[ren[ describe you?                                                                      *  Do you say/do things you swore you wouldn’t – because your mother did ?               *    How do you think your child[ren] will quote you?                                                      *    What memories would you hope they have?                                                              *    Do you see your mother differently now that you are one?                                         *   Do you consciously emulate her ?                                                                               *   Do you appreciate how hard – and joyful -it is to mother?

We are all our mothers, to some degree.  We are all human.  Let your mother know how much you appreciate her now that you know what a struggle it is and also how wonderful…to be a mother.

 

 

 

 

A Good Divorce? Oxymoron?

General opinion is that the two simply don’t go together. I say ‘no’. Coming apart because a relationship/marriage hasn’t worked means that two personalities (or, at least, one of them) couldn’t get beyond their different needs, wants, styles, expectations and disappointments.  Initial attractions have likely waned and living in close proximity has become too difficult.  Does that mean dislike and worse need to ensue?  Hopefully not, but if there are no children from the union, each person can go forward separately with no further contact.

When there are children, parents are connected, for life, with each other – decisions, of all kinds  (religious, academic, camps, medical, etc.) need to made.  Experiences such as birthday parties, school and sports events, recitals, communions, graduations, weddings, and grandchildren, bring on a whole new cycle of events and need to be discussed, decided and shared in some manner.  When there is no  flexibility and parents can’t discuss and negotiate solutions, the children suffer.   Parents who do not get along model a kind of negative relationship behavior for their children, demonstrating that coming apart means bad feelings and/or interactions.  Children, of all ages listen to and watch us and learn from our behavior.

There is another way. Parents can demonstrate that although love is gone, respect and civility prevail.  Acknowledging each other and conversing, when you are both present, reminds your children that you are still able to perceive positive aspects of the person with whom you created your offspring.  They are the product of that love and are part of you both.  If one parent diminishes the other, in word or deed, the child feels that he/she is diminished as well.

Show your children that you both can get past your differences to create a better family environment for all. Yes, you are still family, in two homes, even when one or both of you have recoupled. That civility is likely to be absorbed by your children and played out in most of their future relationships.

If you are considering coming apart, mediation and collaborative divorce are available.

Collaborative, A Mindful Divorce

There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness lately….focusing on being in the moment, being fully present without being overly reactive or overwhelmed. Add awareness and non-judgmental to the list. We can take a class in mindfulness, do the exercises and help develop greater inner peace.  Harder to imagine is mindfulness going through divorce… a life altering experience, the angst, the pain…but… there is a way, collaborative divorce.

Unlike traditional divorce, with two attorneys often strategizing to get the best deal (which can cause considerable strife between partners/spouses) , the collaborative method consists of a team (trained in mediation and the collaborative process), dedicated to making your divorce respectful and out of court. The attorneys work cooperatively, while still protecting their client.   All work together to come up with a plan that serves both parties and children in a non-judgmental yet purposeful atmosphere.

In addition to the attorneys are licensed mental health professionals who help maintain the emotional temperature in the room.  It is not therapy, but a supportive way to know what you want and need, going forward, without emotionally damaging either partner/spouse.  The collaborative facilitator is there if you or your partner/spouse get ‘overheated’ and need to take a break.  They offer assistance and guidance to calm partners/spouses and to more effectively present their thoughts and needs.   The facilitator can help inform the attorneys on the best way to proceed, considering the personalities and situation.

The collaborative child specialist informs parents, after briefly meeting with the children, of their concerns to better tailor the Parenting Plan to  meet the specific needs of their family. They are trained to understand children of all ages and make them feel comfortable and safe as their parents navigate through the divorce process.  The result is a more cooperative  co-parenting team  to continue as a family, but in two homes.  Children learn, via parents, that coming apart does not need to tear people apart.

When appropriate, a collaborative financial expert joins the team to help couples divide their assets and establish a realistic budget that will work for both. These experts are not only skilled in dealing with figures but also dealing with the stress people experience and helping them toward a more relaxed way to ‘divide the pie’.

In collaborative divorce, you do not go to the court, in itself a stressful environment. No, you are settled in a lawyer’s quiet consultation room, with conscientious seating so all are equal and comfortable.  You are assisted in focusing on what is important to you and to state that in a manner that expresses your needs without offending or distancing your partner/spouse.  None of us can change the past.   Team members help couples stay in the present which is the best way to plan for the future.  They do not overemphasize the negative but pay attention to the positive.  In a non-judgmental manner, collaborative professionals help couples pay attention to what is essential to them. Each couple and family is unique.  Collaborative professionals celebrate that and the concept that when mindfulness prevails during divorce, all family members can grow and move past division and create addition in their lives.

Coming Apart From A Narcissist?

Let me introduce you to the narcissist.  Narcissism is a personality disorder, which is a maladaptive and deeply ingrained pattern of behavior and personality style. It can develop from our genes, early childhood and teen experiences and the environment in which we are raised.   In general, the narcissist has a sense of grandiosity and entitlement which can cause him/her to be manipulative, critical, envious of others, and demanding.

Narcissists feel easily slighted, exaggerate their talents, expect special treatment, want the best of everything (because they deserve no less ! ) and are swift to blame others.They are arrogant, to various degrees, need constant attention, and lack empathy.  If they fall short, they are fragile and experience vulnerability and humiliation.  Under the bravado and charm, is a core of insecurity, often unconscious.  They look down at those they consider to be inferior.  There are legions of narcissists on our public stage  in all fields..

Are you in a relationship with someone who only seeks to fulfill his/her needs?   Does it seem that their attention to you, and others, is a means to appear giving but is more about getting attention or having their way.  Their charm may have  attracted you but, as time passes, you observe that it is superficial and geared to serving their own interests.  What is underneath that public charm is not so pleasant.  You will be told that you have stopped being interested, proud and supportive and that is why your relationship has deteriorated.  It’s never their doing. If your partner cannot recognize or acknowledge any part of their contribution, don’t expect any cooperation.  Once they can no longer seduce you into their web, they will accuse you of all the problems in the relationship (please note: we all have some input).

If you admit to some your shortcomings, and that doesn’t make any difference, it may be decision time…to stay or leave.  Such decisions are painful and deserve deep consideration.  If you cannot tolerate your situation and decide to come apart, be prepared.  Try to avoid ‘pressing’ certain buttons that may encourage more abuse.  Do not be reactive to your partner’s behavior  Focus on protecting yourself, your assets and, if applicable, the children. It will not be easy early on but eventually you will be freer to pursue your own goals.    In addition to family and friends, a counselor and good lawyer are critical supports to help you extract yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Divorce and Grandparents

When couples dissolve their relationship, there are extended family members who do not want to lose their relationships with the children. Why should children have to lose those family members they have bonded with and love?  At the grandparent phase of life, you may be  taking stock of where you have been, what you have done and what’s really important.  Maybe you are on the last leg of your journey and more focused on the basics, being connected to others, especially your family.  What could be more important than children?

Chances are you celebrated when your children found the person they wanted to share their life and start a family, providing you with grandchildren.  Love at first sight and ever after!  From their first cuddly days to tottering about, then talking, entertaining and adorable, always interesting.  We’ve all seen many pictures of and heard stories about grandchildren by doting grandparents.  As grandchildren mature, many have a special relationship, confiding in their parent’s parents, experiencing them as a safe haven when things are tense at home.

Why then, when there is a divorce, deprive children of those close relationships as their household, as they knew it, is dissolving?  The security and continuity of talking with and/or seeing grandparents can be soothing and supportive as parents struggle with coming apart.

In a contentious divorce, extended family may be brought into the fray, creating two sides.  Children then have to navigate between both sides of their family, perhaps hearing negative comments about one of their parents.  Or, they may not even be able to see  grandparents as the battle wages.  When parents are engaged in divorce war, children suffer immeasurably.  Their world feels turned upside down and they don’t know when it will end or what else will happen.

Grandparents need to stay out of the negativity, supporting your child by being helpful but not engaging in verbally bashing the children’s other parent.  You can offer  sage, neutral, advice and assure them that things will settle down and life will go on.  Grandparents can serve as a safety net as children’s parents seem to be teetering on a high wire.

When there is a respectful dissolution of a relationship, or divorce, parents tend to recognize and appreciate what their own [and their spouse/partner’s] parents can provide to them and their children.  Grandparents are a valuable resource, in fact, priceless.

 

 

 

Recipe For A Good Divorce

Divorce is not easy  but if you prepare it together, and follow the directions below, you can be proud to serve it up.

        Ingredients

  1. Two partners who know they can’t to stay together
  2. Be ready for a pinch of heartache and eventual happiness
  3. Liberal measures of honesty and trust
  4. Strive to dissolve the relationship/marriage respectfully
  5. Share pertinent information and really listen to each other
  6. A sense of where s/he wants to be in 5 years
  7. Willingness to negotiate conflicts with thinking, not feeling
  8. Develop the ability to forgive, necessary in all recipes
  9. Agree on cooperative co-parenting, if there are children

recipe for a good divorce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directions

Chill the first ingredient. It must not get overheated !  Sift the next four ingredients, then add to the first, and stir, tolerantly.  Blend the next three ingredients and blend into the first batch. Be patient and let it rise.  It is ready to be baked at a low, steady temperature with understanding and empathy. Give it ample time  to cool and then feel good about your efforts and results.  If you have the last ingredient [children], that’s icing on the cake.  Be sure the icing is cool enough.   Stir, gently and smooth on the your finished  product.  Beautiful.  Take a picture and feel proud of your collaborative creation.

Note: These good and healthy ingredients will allow for  errors, especially if you add liberal amounts of #8

Gray Divorce

Although divorce rates have stabilized and appear to be inching downward, couples between ages 50 and 64 are increasingly choosing to come apart. In 1990, one out of ten, in that age group, were getting divorced.  Now it’s one out of four.

Here are some of the reasons for gray divorce:

  • The stigma of divorce has faded.
  • Divorce is easier to obtain than years ago.
  • Long-term unhappiness.
  • Waiting until the kids are grown.
  • Spouses evolve and don’t communicate.
  • People want to discover themselves…alone or with someone new.
  • Couples drift apart and feel a lack of fulfillment.
  • Many cite wanting more freedom and control.
  • Women are tired of caretaking and feel a loss of respect.
  • Men are tired of supporting a wife who doesn’t appreciate them.
  • “It’s my time now and there may be little time left.”
  • Some cite their spouse’s drug or alcohol abuse.
  • “The kids are gone…new lease on life…new interests and friends.”
  • Some women are more financially independent and can now manage alone.
  • Viagra helps more men be appealing to younger women.

The consequences for the above are numerous.   Couples may be severing a relationship that began as young adults or even younger. The leaver may feel the pressure of time and want to act on feelings they have been harboring for some time.  Those who are left often feel confusion, anger, helpless during and after the divorce.  The divorce news is a major and unexpected change in life, when a spouse may be experiencing the physical and emotional aspects of being fifty plus.

Many, fifty and older, are part of the sandwich generation, coping with elderly, more needy, parents and dealing with their own children, ranging from teens to college age or even married, but still looking to parents for guidance and help. While adjusting to their middle age, they feel squeezed at both ends.

Often men, during their silver years, don’t have the same support system that women do and they isolate, possibly affecting their emotional and physical health. They are less inclined to discuss feelings.

Divorce ‘survivors’ are expected to get over grief sooner than those coping with the death of a spouse.  In death, fate ‘decides’; in divorce a spouse decides, leaving the ‘left’ feeling worse, abandoned in a different way, especially if they also need to deal with the fact that a new person is chosen.

If it is a second or third divorce for the person who didn’t make the divorce choice, the trauma of the earlier partings can exacerbate current feelings of loss, fear and anger. “Here I go again.  How will I ever trust?”

Despite all of the consequences listed above, gray divorce can offer new possibilities, if one explores new ways to cope and grow.  It’s a time to spread wings and be open to   new people and experiences as well as deepening old relationships.  Most important is to look at the ledger of your life – understand –  and love yourself.

 

Coming Apart Together

Are you contemplating divorce? Do you have children?

If you are in a relationship/marriage, with children, that’s not working, consider coming apart together. You created your children with love, hopes and dreams for a family future. Just because the adults can’t be together, don’t deny your children the feeling of a family.

When there is a divorce battle, there are two distinct sides, often dividing extended family and friends. Everything trickles down from parents. When there is a divorce war, children (and others) feel the need to take a side.  Everyone loses. Children lose the continuity of co-parenting and perhaps parts of each extended family. War is trauma…  divorce war is a more personal trauma.

The alternative is to demonstrate  that, although the adults can’t live together any more, they can still cooperate on parenting the people they love most in the world…their children.  Children need to be able to love and be with both parents, know that their parents will meet their important needs and will share some parental expectations and consequences so they can enjoy a healthy relationship with each parent. Cooperative co-parenting is a valuable role model.

For parents who do need to come apart, a worthy process is the collaborative divorce method. It’s private, out of court, with a team approach.   Divorce specialists – attorneys, financial and mental health professionals, with specific expertise in the different aspects of divorce, work together.   They provide a comprehensive approach to resolve differences and set the family on the road to still being a family, in two homes.  Two homes can provide love, guidance and the opportunity to see that differences can be settled when people listen to each other, respect the other and come up with solutions that are best for their children.

If this sounds familiar, please consider the collaborative way.

 

Divorce, The Collaborative Way

When it’s time to come apart collaborative divorce allows parents to come apart respectfully

For the last 26 years, savvy couples have discovered a newer,  kinder and gentler,  way to divorce   It’s keeping  your divorce private and confidential.  You don’t  go to Court or have a judge make your  decisions. Collaborative divorce offers an alternative dispute resolution. You each have an attorney, to advocate for you.  Both collaborative attorneys, committed to working in a civil and respective manner to reach an Agreement acceptable to both parties.

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals [IACP]   has more than 5000 collaborative professionals.   they provide services in 25 countries. Governor Christie, on September 10, 2014, signed the New Jersey Collaborative Family Law Act into law. New Jersey collaborative professionals take pride in being in the vanguard of helping couples dissolve their partnership/marriage in a non-adversarial manner to preserve the sanctity of the family they have created.

We recommend that couples seeking a divorce ask self proclaimed collaborative attorneys if they are members of the IACP.  Ask what specific collaborative training  they have taken. There are eight collaborative practice groups throughout New Jersey. The Collaborative Divorce Association of North Jersey  requires its members to have 40 hours of mediation in addition to  collaborative divorce training. Its members continue advanced education throughout each year to expand and update  skills.

A team approach

Licensed mental health professionals can function as a divorce coach.  They help couples overcome emotional obstacles to get a decent divorce experience. They also keep the team on track of offering options and getting to mutually agreeable resolutions.

The child specialist is a licensed clinical mental health professional.  S/he  meets with parents first and then the children to understand their needs, fears and wishes. Children often don’t share their feelings with parents because they don’t want to upset or anger them. The child specialist’s role is brief and focused.

Although the coach and child specialist are licensed mental health professionals, they are NOT doing therapy. If that seems warranted, they may refer to other professionals. However, they do utilize their clinical skills to guide parents an children in navigating the muddy waters of the family in crisis. Because divorce is such an emotionally intense experience,  having professionals with specific skills can offer priceless guidance toward helping each family member progress.

Licensed collaborative financial professionals help protect the family’s interest by reviewing your assets, debt and income.  They help you each develop viable options for the future. They are skilled not only in dealing with numbers but are trained to work in the emotional atmosphere when you are couples coming apart.

With the collaborative divorce process, professionals have specific areas of expertise to offer which are best suited to clients’ needs and pocketbooks. For example, you would not pay attorney fees for dealing with emotional, communication or parenting issues. Instead, mental health professionals, at a lower fee, are best suited to deal with such concerns and situations. The collaborative team is an experienced grouping, with each professional utilizing and sharing their specific expertise to other team members, when appropriate, to offer a more comprehensive way of addressing the multitude of situations that can arise. The team strives to present a wellness approach for the future of your family.

Why choose collaborative divorce?

  • Collaborative professions work to help couples resolve issues in a more positive way and can be more cost effective.
  • Keeping out of  Court offers privacy, especially desired by couples with high worth or public profiles.
  • There is no judge involved who has to review documents of scores of couples so you benefit from more personal attention. You work directly with collaborative professionals who are dedicated to helping you both to create a plan that works best for your family’s needs.
  • Convenience. There is no Court schedule  or costly cancellations. Collaborative professionals work around your time frames and respect your emotional readiness to continue – or – take a breather, as needed.
  • A team of divorce experts, with specialized training and experience, efficiently addresses your family situation.
  • The collaborative way helps you protect your children from potentially damaging fallout of a “messy” divorce. The goal is to preserve parent’s mutual respect to ensure cooperative co-parenting going forward.
  • After the divorce is over, some team members are available to advise on post-divorce situations, as needed, or to revise any aspect of the final agreement.

You may be coming apart from your partner/spouse but you can still preserve what you both recreated – the family – in two homes, with the collaborative way.