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.

Considering Divorce?

If you are, take your time. It’s a huge step. Marriage is something that should take time and very careful consideration. However long you have been partnered or married, you owe your partner/spouse and children, if you have them, to give it all you’ve got.

Have you thought about your significant other’s critiques of you and if you could make some changes to improve the relationship? If you have already tried everything – talking with your partner/spouse, marital counseling – here are some questions to ask yourself before you take your first divorce step.

Do you choose to divorce respectfully so neither you nor your spouse/partner and certainly not, your children, feel destroyed by the process? Do you want decisions to be made by the two of you and not by lawyers or a judge? Do you want it not to drag on? Is keeping the fees down important?

If the above are your goals, can you:

* Give up blaming, the negative past, ‘ego’ and anger?

* Bring your best self to the table?

* Focus on the big picture?

* Find room in your heart for empathy ?

* Learn to control your emotions?

Are you ready, able and willing for some hard, but worthwhile work?

Do you think your partner/spouse could do the same?

If you want to divorce respectfully and make your own decisions on your schedule, consensual dispute resolution, more specifically, collaborative divorce, is an opportunity to be considered.  Collaborative professionals: attorneys, divorce coaches and child specialists, as well as financial experts, are trained in mediation and the collaborative method to help you through this difficult experience in a manner that can leave parents and children feeling whole as they transition through the divorce experience. The collaborative divorce professionals can also be available to assist you with post divorce issues that may arise..

You can make coming apart less painful….your choice.

Discipline

One of the hardest tasks we parents have to undertake is disciplining our children. Eventually our tiny ones learn that they are ‘separate’ from mother and have different feelings, wants and ideas from us and are ready to test us. Discipline is all about the consistent practice of clear, preset rules to help encourage responsible behavior, at home, at school and in the community.

Things to consider:

  • Know your goal. Is it about punishment or teaching?
  • Children learn more by what they see and experience than by what we say.
  • Set a pattern for self-discipline that they can emulate.
  • Repeated physical punishment does NOT work…it engenders hostility and rebellion.
  • Physical punishment teaches children to hit, hurt others when they are frustrated or angry.

Does your child misbehave? [I know, silly question]

  • Encourage them to share their problems…listen to their distress.
  • Be firm but not dictatorial.
  • Self-check…how do you feel about authority?
  • Are you clear, firm, consistent, fair?
  • Does your child show signs of being turned off to you, school, friends?
  • Help your child take responsibility for his/her words and actions.
  • Don’t overload them with responsibilities; be appropriate to age, ability, personality.

Discipline:

  • Always begin with communication.
  • Listen to their feelings.
  • Be clear about your requirements of them.
  • Remain calm (not easy) as it demonstrates good self-control.
  • Don’t give mixed messages and practice what you preach.
  • Be firm and consistent so your child knows what to anticipate as a result of behavior.
  • Be a parent, not a friend…children need our guidance to develop their own beliefs.
  • Let the ‘consequence’ fit the misbehavior. When related, it has more meaning.
  • For young children, consequences need to be immediate and brief.
  • Discipline is easier with a spoonful of love and praise, if honest and warranted.
  • ENJOY your progeny and have FUN!

Blended Family Myths

Today, it’s likely to imagine that nearly everyone in America, is either in, related to someone who is part of, or know someone in a blended family.

The older term, stepfamily, comes from the Old English word, steop, designating a bereaved orphan.  Stepfamilies date back to colonial times when men and women were widowed, sometimes due to war.  Indeed, as I’ll describe later, a blended (newer term) family involves loss and grieving. A blended family, is formed when one, or both, partners, have a child, or more, from a previous relationship. Today, this term, encompasses many different types of family profiles: non-married cohabitants, double remarriages [when both partners remarry], when one or both, partners are widowed or divorced. A blended family can arise in a dating relationship.

For those who were enchanted or frightened in childhood, by fairytales, stepmothers tended to be in charge as their husbands went to work. In “Hansel and Gretal” the children are sent into the woods, to fend for themselves, as a result of insufficient food, equality and love. In “Cinderella,” the stepmother fears that her stepdaughter’s beauty and charm will disadvantage her own two daughters chance of being chosen for marriage by the prince.

Myths, as fairy tales, mislead and therefore can make it more troublesome for those forming blended families, leading them to unrealistic expectations and ignorance of the complications inherent in the formation of a blended family. Some contemporary myths about blended families are:

  • Love develops quickly between a stepchild and stepparent. Love that has depth requires the test of time  as a child understands that s/he is listened to, cared for and respected. Demonstration of the aforesaid entails many hours of listening, tolerating, sharing time and experiences together. Still more complications are involved when a stepparent comes to the family with their own child/ren. Both parents and children need to understand and accept that there will be emotional differences in such situations. A stepparent puts undue pressure on him/herself when s/he expects to love a stepchild in the same way as his/her bio child, with whom one has had a history of a myriad of attachments and experiences. Blended love does not need to rival to be significant. As long as family members don’t expect instant bonding, they have the leisure to become a ‘new’ family more organically.
  • Stepmothers are wicked. The role of the stepmother can be the most difficult,     especially if she is the parent  at home the most. If there is role confusion, for both child and stepmother, things can quickly spiral downward. When the new couple can work out their respective roles, this can be communicated to the child/ren in word and deed. Stepparents who understand can accept a child’s feelings of loyalty, for their bio parent ( and likely wishes for his/her parents to be reunited) may not take rejection and testing so personally. A stepparent should also be sensitive to a child’s potential feelings of disloyalty, and ensuing guilt, if the child does  like her/him.  Informed stepparents understand that their role is to be that of a special friend who cares, listens and carries through limitations set by the bio parent. A new relationship with the child/ren, independent of the bio parent is the reward. And so it grows…
  • Children will adapt to their new blended family more easily if their bio parents withdraws. Nooo ! Such situations only create abandonment problems. In blended families, more is more. Children benefit from the love of each of their parents, blended and bio. When there is a parenting partnership among all of the parents everyone wins, especially the children.
  • A stepfamily formed after the death of a parent is easier for children. When a child has lost a parent, both remaining parent and child need to first mourn the loss of that parent and the first family. Otherwise, there is a possibility of a ghost in the house. Idealization of a deceased parent is also difficult for a new parent. The new parent needs to be comfortable, not competitive, with a child’s effort to hold on to that first parent.
  • Part-time stepfamilies are easier. Change and relationships take time. With
    children going back and forth between two families, it takes longer to build relationships, gel and stabilize , especially if the rules are very different in each household. Each stayover is a transition – different home, expectations, limitations, rituals and people. Aside from how the adults handle the situation, there are also variations of the children’s ages, personalities, interests and sibling bondings.
  • Divorce and remarriage damage children. On the bright side, this does not need to be true !

Blended Families

Are you in or do you know someone in a blended family? The chances are that your answer is ‘yes’. A blended family is formed when one, or both, partners have a child, or more, from a previous relationship. Today, this term includes many different types of family profiles: non-married cohabitants, double remarriages (when both partners remarry) or when both partners are widowed or divorced.   This term can also include a dating relationship.

First marriages are full of hopes and dreams. The couple usually celebrates being alone, together, and has time to adapt to each other before having a child. Then, the family develops rituals, mealtimes, bedtimes, vacations, holidays, family fun, dealing with illness, etc. Experience by experience, there is memory building and all that entails.

The old term ‘stepfamily’ comes from the Old English work steop designating a bereaved orphan. A blended family is born of loss – of a parent, perhaps extended family, home, school, friends, family rituals, etc. Stability needs to be a addressed. Children’s fantasies are often initially, “My parents will get back together” and may be an extended wish. The adults may think “My new partner, spouse will never love may kids as I do” or “His/her kids won’t love me”. So, loss is natural and requires grieving and adjustment, for all. The new family needs a cumulative foundation of security to bind it in difficult times[ adolescence, for example]. There can be confusions of roles and relationship boundaries between the adults, adult/bio child and adult/blended child and the blended children. Each of these dyads emanates from a unique family culture. The blended family is rife with echoes of the past and needs to establish new family rituals.

Prevalent blended feelings include loneliness, confusion, anxiety, anger, failure, resentment and insecurity. Family members may feel underappreciated and overwhelmed. Such feelings may be experienced at different times by various family members so they may be out of sync with each other at times. There can also be confusion of boundaries between new family members. Children learn, and then test, the limits of the new couple. Still another emotion is hope,  the seed that needs to be nurtured. Patience and persistence can prevail!

Inherent in a newly formed blended family are complexities of role definitions and structure, for example, the insider/outsider positions. The bio parent and child/ren form an insider grouping while the blended parent and children are outsiders. Bio parents and children have a lifetime of prior experiences, good and bad, tried and true. They have developed ways of relating to each other that are, if not always the best, are at least familiar and often predictable.   Parental loyalties and guilt can tug at the adult relationship. Whose home and community are hosting the new couple? Perhaps they have chosen a new area. If not, one partner/spouse has to adapt to new surroundings, people, perhaps a new school and house of worship as well, definitely an outsider position. Sometimes it can feel as if there is a maze of differences to navigate in a blended family, by all members. There are internal and external (former partner/spouses, extended families and friends) to be dealt with and resolved.

The blended couple takes the lead and guides their children to enjoy and appreciate some new ways of doing things. They can help the children understand that their loss, of first family, can develop into something additional, not a replacement of their other parent. The blended family, new and special, offers more family members to love them and be loved by them.

Forgive……..Can You?

Has anyone hurt your feelings or insulted you recently? On purpose? Repeatedly? Are you repeating it over and over in your head and stewing? Thinking of a way to ‘get back’? Feeling more tired, stressed, distracted? OK, that’s a lot of questions. Now for some understanding and solutions.

We are all human and have likely hurt others and have been hurt too. Not forgiving is an option but it costs you. The price is high. Holding a grudge impacts us physically and mentally.   Feeling angry, defensive and wanting to hurt back emanates from part of our primitive, brain. We are attacked and want to reciprocate, a matter of life and death in the animal world. However, a larger brain enables us to consider threats and explore other options when our life is not in danger. Physically, wallowing in hurt and rage can affect our anxiety, blood pressure and heart rates, leading to physical ills and perhaps even a somewhat shorter life expectancy. Prolonged resentment is a mental burden.

Forgiveness is a state of mind and enhances our self-esteem and mental health.   To forgive someone is not releasing them from their negative words or behavior.   It is simply  letting go of whatever had a negative impact on us. We can only control our words and behavior and, therefore, free ourselves from the burden of trying to change someone else. We can speak up and let the other person know about the impact on us, ie, not being passive and a victim. If that other person persists, it can be useful to share what occurred to a trusted family member, friend, spiritual guide or therapist. But, then, we can stop licking our wounds and choose to see the beauty in life and other relationships. Forgiveness allows us the power not to get stuck in the negative. It can free us and bring back peace of mind.

How to?

  • Understand that it is a process and can take time. It gets better with practice.
  • Note how your anger and resentment hurts you.
  • Decide who/what needs forgiveness.
  • Review and try to understand their position.
  • Don’t give them control over your feelings
  • Don’t be a victim.
  • See the value of forgiving and know that it greatly improves your life.

Buddha said that holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else, But you are the one who gets burned.  I say “Toss the coal on the fireplace and enjoy the glow in your life.

Children and Divorce

“When you’re a little kid, you don’t know what’s going on”

“When they fight, I go to my room and cover my ears. Why do they have to do that? They tell me and my sister not to fight”.

“When my parents get into it, I play my music……loud ”

“I think it’s my fault when they yell. “

“I want things to be like they used to be. My little brother comes into my room. He gets so scared…….me too.

“ I want them to know how I feel but they might feel bad or get angry with me”.

“ I feel lonely and bad inside”

“I’m stuck in the middle…it doesn’t feel good…”

These are some comments I’ve heard from children of divorcing parents over many years. It’s heartbreaking.   They love both parents, who are part of them, and share their parents’ pain. Children may be confused by what they see and hear. They feel disappointed or upset with their parents’ negative behavior. Typically, they won’t, or can’t, articulate their upset to their parents for fear of upsetting them. Divorcing parents  struggle to hold things together during a very trying time. Because they can be preoccupied, many parents are not aware of what their children are experiencing.

Divorce is a multifaceted and draining experience.  It requires many  transitions for the entire family.  If you are considering it, or in the midst of it, you already know that. There may be a number of major transitions in your life. You may need to move, change your child’s school or get a job, even if you have been out of the workforce for a long time.  Living on your own may mean having to take on tasks that your partner/spouse took care of.  Entertainment can be impacted as well, including few extracurricular activities and vacations, dining out less and fewer indulgences for all. There may be shifts in how you relate to in-laws or how they relate to you.  Sometimes ‘couple’ friends choose one partner and withdraw from the other, which can also affect children.

If your spouse is involved with a new partner, there will be a period of acclimation for all. Even though your children may like the new person, there are often loyalty issues to their bio parent. Much of children’s feelings depend on how their parents feel and handle the situation.   “If I like Mary, will mom feel bad or be upset with me?” “If David plays ball with me, how will dad feel”? In a blended family situation there will be new and different family rituals and rules to be absorbed by children…the time [and how] you eat dinner, rules of behavior, holidays and vacations to name just a few situations that require adaptation on every one’s part. If your partner’s or spouse’s new partner (or yours) has children, additional layers of adaptation need to be considered and managed.

Children don’t cause divorce but they do have to live with its consequences. Confusion, sadness, anger, guilt and feeling lost and powerless are some of the feelings expressed by children living through divorce and its aftermath. Parents should protect their children from having to do the hardest thing of all – choose between them. One way to protect them is to minimize or eliminate the negative and angry aspects of the divorce experience. If parents don’t create two sides, children don’t feel conflicted about having to take a side. It’s important for them to feel safe and be able to hold on to cherished family memories as the family transforms.

Single or shared parenting is a new and challenging experience, for parents and children. If your spouse/partner relocates farther away, you may find yourself with most of the parenting responsibilities.  You long for your children when they are with the other parent.   Your children may be missing one parent much of the time, especially initially. If you live near the other parent, your children’s needs, schedules and desires will be best served by flexibility on the part of both parents. There are so many ‘ifs’…   cooperative co-parenting is crucial!

One of the benefits of collaborative divorce is that stressful transitions can be eased.   The level of divorce related tension is largely determined by how you and your spouse/partner navigate the divorce experience. When you work together, with dignity and respect, everyone feels more comfortable – family members, including in-laws, other couples and friends in your sphere but, most important, your children. As you and your spouse/partner make decisions together, with the assistance of experienced and understanding professionals, in a safe environment, your joint efforts to put your children first will generate priceless rewards.

The child specialist is a licensed professional who has expertise in working with children, adolescents, adults, family systems and divorce. S/he is knowledgeable about the emotional and cognitive development of children and can provide answers to your questions and guidance, as needed. Child specialists are experienced in gathering information and sharing recommendations with parents that are specific to each child’s personality and needs. Having been trained in mediation and collaborative divorce, in addition to fulfilling the  requisites of their clinical professional licenses, they are well qualified to help you create a Parenting Plan, which covers all aspects of your children’s needs following the dissolution of a break-up or divorce.

The child specialist is a member of the collaborative divorce team who first meets with both parents to gather background information on the children’s personalities, predilections and possible problems.   He/she will want to know what the children already know about the divorce and how the parents have dealt with, or plan to deal with, the situation. S/he can advise you on how to tell the children about the change in your family and how to prepare them to meet with the child specialist.   Parents often seek guidance on the best way to inform their children, about separation, and/or divorce.   The child specialist’s role is to understand what is especially important and meaningful to each child and share that information with parents.   S/he educates parents about the impact of divorce and family transition on their particular children, given their ages, personalities and established relationships with each parent. Working with both parents, the child specialist tailors the Parenting Plan to each family’s specific needs. Cooperative co-parenting, at all times, is basic to insuring continuity and consistency.

The children’s contact with the child specialist is often brief and focused. They are seen individually and/or together, as appropriate, in a gentle and friendly manner. They are helped to understand that they are their parents’ priority and their input is important to their parents although it is their parents’ responsibility to make decisions.  The child specialist can also be available, if child related issues arise, following divorce.

After working with parents and children during the collaborative divorce process, I have been so happy to hear more different comments from children:

“I got punished a lot so thought it was my fault that mommy and daddy were getting divorce. Now I know it wasn’t my fault, just something between them. I don’t know what – they said it was grown-up stuff”.

“They used to fight but now they talk more – even so, they still don’t want to live together.”

“They said Santa will know and come to both houses!”

“We’re still a family but don’t live together any more, that’s all.”

“ I think they are both happier and it’s easier ,“

Ah, music to my ears!

They’re Watching You: How Your Relationship Impacts Your Children

I am a gardener so I sometimes experience the world in terms of flowers. Children are the flowers we ‘plant’ and nurture. How we do that has a considerable effect on how they sprout and blossom. The relationship we have with our partner/spouse has a considerable effect on how children learn to deal with others. As you read this, you may recall your own parent’s relationship and its impact on you.

From a very young age, our offspring experience and observe us. We are the most important people to them. They count of us for survival, guidance, teaching and fun. It is a given that they learn more from what we do than what we preach. Infants are more keenly aware of their surroundings, especially people, than professionals realized many years ago. When babies are exposed to parental tension, they experience bodily responses, just as young infants often respond to other crying infants by crying too. Parental figures provide their sense of security and can threaten feelings of safety when they are engaged in angry disputes.

As a therapist,  it is important to understand the family “soil” in which a person grew and developed. There are many connections related to the interactions of parents which serves as a blueprint for children’s future intimate relationships. Just as we see children playing house, feeding or soothing a doll, they are absorbing and reenacting their parent’s ways of behaving, especially with each other. They may shave like daddy, cook like mommy and hug their little ‘spouse’ or… yell at them. They may learn to boss or control their playmate or, on the other hand,  ask what they think or would like to do.

So, no matter what we tell our children about behavior, we influence their belief system by our own behavior.   Do we negotiate respectfully, giving our partner/spouse the time to explain his/her feelings and perspective? Are our children learning to trust, respect and still feel secure, even if they disagree with others? Do they see us arrive at compromise with which we can both be comfortable? What are we demonstrating ie, teaching about friendship, caring and affection?

As parents, we need to prepare, work and enrich the soil of relationship in which our children can grow and flourish. Just as the above is true for marriages, it is equally, if not more so, for parents who are divorcing. We can demonstrate that, even though the love may be gone, to maintain a viable marriage, we can differ, negotiate and compromise to offer a continuation of respectful and civil co-parenting.

Remember…. they are watching you.

Kids and Divorce…They Are Never Too Old to Protect

For most couples seeking a divorce or a dissolution of their relationship, children are the primary concern and rightly so. We fall in love, partner or marry, expand the family and then, all too often, problems develop and the end of a partnership or divorce follows. It is the choice of parents and the responsibility of parents to ‘protect’ all children from the fallout of the dissolution of a relationship or divorce and subsequent changes in their lives. As parents, you agonize over custody and parenting time, vacation and holiday schedules, camp, activities etc. Discussions and papers abound, in media, on how to plan for younger children and divorce but often fail to address the impact of divorce on older teen-agers, young adults and, even adult children with their own children. It’s so important for parents to be mindful of the needs, concerns and feelings of that population too. As long as we have parents, we are still children, no matter our age in years.

Teen-agers, especially those over sixteen, are often ambivalent about home. They have one foot out the door, preferring to be with their peers, thinking about being more independent, their romances, learning to drive, contemplating or preparing for college or work and being away from home with no parent to tell them when to sleep, study or set curfews.  But home is also that safe place they have known for all of their years. Parents often complain about their teens’ thinking they know it all while still exhibiting childish behaviors. There can be a lot of testing limits.

Learning about parents separating and/or divorcing can shake teens’ emotional foundation [what they’ve always known or thought] and lead to feelings of loss of control. They have more opinions than younger children and may take to blaming one or both parents, especially if they think, or are told, that one parent caused the break-up.   They may feel that they have to be in charge, particularly with the parent they feel has been hurt and is not managing well.

It’s important to allow teens to express their feelings, including disappointment and anger. You need to keep the communication door wide open so teens don’t resort to acting out their feelings, with alcohol, drugs, sex, dropping school work and other self-destructive behaviors. Listening to their anger, etc. doesn’t mean that you don’t maintain many of your boundaries and restrictions.  Don’t drop your boundaries because you feel guilty or bad for them. They need to see that life does go on. Teens are especially vulnerable and being able to get away with anything can be just as unsettling as having too many limits.  Cooperative co-parenting is still so important.  When your children know that you keep each other in the loop, they are less likely to try to manipulate.  The royal “we” works beautifully. ” We’ll  speak and give you an answer tomorrow.”

Many parents believe that their emancipated offspring are completely launched, often with families of their own and, therefore, not affected by their parents’ marital dissolution. Wrong!  Once children leave the nest, they are still affected by the breakup of their family unit.  I have heard: “I’ve never seen a normal relationship,” “I’ll probably make the same mistake,” “I’ll need to take care of myself because I don’t trust anyone now” and “Why are they doing this to us now?”   Older children worry about their parents, how they will each manage, financially, emotionally, etc., especially the parent who says they did not want the divorce.  Adult children feel they need to be protective of that parent and angry with the other…another good reason for parents to be vague about such details.

Divorcing parents need to protect all their children from ‘adult information’, even when those children are parents themselves. They deserve not be placed in the middle or be   a confidant to either parent. That’s what friends are for!  Adult children who become parental confidants are at risk of becoming less secure about the future of their own relationship or marriage. Also, they may need to deal with their children’s feelings and reactions to their grandparents coming apart, particularly if they are close to them and… their own children worrying if that will happen to them..

Adult children have to alter their ways maintaining contact with both parents, more so if parents no longer live near each other. How, if possible, to split or alternate holidays and other visits? Some families are still able to share holidays, grandchildren’s birthdays, graduations  together. Concerns can arise, with older parents. who are divorcing at increasing rates, about how to take care of them as they age and are living alone.  Adult children may also have reactions to a parent’s new love interest, especially if that is presented during or soon after a divorce.

When divorcing, be aware that your coupled or married children are still vulnerable. Here are some guidelines:

  • Agree with your partner/spouse to keep personal information confidential.
  • Tell your child[ren] calmly and peacefully, together, setting the tone for “We are coming apart but are not enemies”.
  • Never ask, or hint, that they need to take sides.
  • Never speak negatively about their other parent or his/her new partner.
  • Have a good support system [friends, family] and let your child[ren] know that.Be accepting and flexible with their having to divide visits and holidays.
  • Reach out, when possible, to include the other parent in family celebrations, to demonstrate civility and respect and not have to have your children celebrate twice or miss one parent on special occasions.

It’s about ‘how you ‘do divorce that determines much of how your children, young, teen-age or adult children will fare. The work is not easy but the rewards are so well worth it!

Divorce: The Leaver and the Left

For the majority of couples who come apart or divorce, to say it is a ‘trying time’ is to put it mildly. There is a loss of hopes and dreams that most of us have when we embark on such unions, compounded by the reality that has evolved.

When one partner/spouse is convinced that the relationship is no longer viable, the partner/spouse doesn’t have a choice. What’s important, for both, is to realize that they are not in sync with their thoughts and feelings. Each person needs to understand the other in order to be able to part in a respectful manner, particularly when there are children involved.

The leave’ has made the decision that it is necessary to come apart, most often after experiencing sadness, anger, hopelessness, etc. about their situation. Most people don’t elect to take such steps lightly or quickly. They mentally slog through  disagreements, disappointments, and considerable differences between them. Both adults navigate  phases….akin to having a terminal illness:

The 5 stages

  1. denial…feeling this can’t be happening to us, it’s unreal.
  2. depression… changes in eating, sleeping, energy level.
  3. anger…impatience and resentment of their partner and why can’t they change?
  4. negotiation…acknowledging a need for change and how to achieve it.
  5. acceptance…we will be coming apart.

The leaver needs to realize is that their partner, who may not feel the same way about their relationship (or may, but not conclude that coming apart is the best or only solution) has time to adjust and will also need to go through the five stages. They are generally experienced in the order listed above although people often shift back and forward, particularly in the beginning phases. It helps when the leaver understands his/her partner/’s/spouse’s need for going through that process and presents his/her wishes gently.  They need to clearly state the reasons for the decision and then be patient for him/her to catch up.  Doing this can facilitate a  less emotional and more civil dissolution of the relationship or marriage, which is important to the couple and  essential when they have a family.

The person who doesn’t want to end the relationship, for a multitude of possible reasons, is thrust into the first phase listed above. “This can’t be happening! ” “I knew we had problems but…not this!” “How can you do this to me [and the children] ? ”  That partner/spouse usually experiences deep sadness and often anger once the reality settles in. Everyone’s coping mechanisms vary in how this and all of the phases present. When anger  boils up in the ‘left’ partner/spouse s/he frequently resents that  leaver seems to be doing so well.  The  left person doesn’t realize that the leaver has already had  similar feelings and is just ahead of them. If that can be sincerely explained, it can ameliorate a more negative reaction. When there isn’t counter blaming or accusations, there is a  less traumatic coming to terms with the situation and negotiating. Then acceptance can progress.