Divorce: Books for Parents

“Growing Up Divorce”, Linda Bird Francke, 1983

“Mom’s House, Dad’s House”. Isolina Ricci, 1997

“The Switching Hour”, Evon O. Flesberg, 2008

“Divorce Book for Parents”, Vivki Lanksy, 2003

“Creative Divorce”, Mel Krantzler, 1974

Co-parenting During Covid

 

During this pandemic, countless parents are under pressure, with children at home, without daycare, school, freedom, lessons, other activities and not seeing friends and relatives.  Not easy.  If you are on the verge of divorce or living apart or already  divorced, family life can be even more complicated and difficult.  But, it is doable!  First, be healthy and well informed.

Co-parenting during Covid  requires thoughtfulness, patience and flexibility…for couples with children of all ages.  Since court systems are presently available for essential cases only, you are on your own to work through things with your co- parent. Talk about the realities of each home and which parent might best accommodate various  needs of the children. Remember, it would not be permanent.   Shifting to a summer schedule, if possible, might it easier on all for some households.

Communication is key to provide the best environment for your children to feel safe and connected to you both.  Keep your co-parent honestly informed about what’s happening in your home.  Are you still employed?  If your income has been affected, and you pay alimony, etc., give reasonable notice and explanation.  If you are the receiver of funds, make him/her aware of your efforts to make things work with hardship.   Discuss how you each feel about your new situation and try to establish ways to cope with the challenges.   Create a plan if either of you – or the children – become ill.   Be careful with grandparents as they are more vulnerable.  Try to choose back-ups you are both comfortable with if there is a need for them to step in quickly and safely.

In this topsy-turvy world, it is crucial to have two calm, steady and predictable parents.  Structure, routine and continuity in both homes  offer grounding to your children. .  Protect them from listening to the news but be available to listen to their concerns.  Offer age-appropriate explanations.  Be clear, with each other and the children, about new ‘rules’ and some new, but temporary, exceptions.  Yes, they are going to miss friends and  activities and want and need more screen time.  It’s okay…for now.   Be creative and encourage connection with the other parent, via phone, facetime, zoom, to talk, play games, read books together.

Enjoy your progeny but find ways to treat yourself – conversations with loved ones and friends, a luxurious bath or special book when you can create a quiet time.  As you remind your children, remember this is not forever and the gains you make with the other parent can last longer than the pandemic.

Divorced With Children? Communication Is Crucial

 

 

Silence

silence 

            If communication is key when you are ‘together’, it’s even more important when you are apart, with children.  Please consider the following do’s and don’t’s.

DO’S

  • Use what works best for the two of you – talk, text, email  –  at ay given time.
  • If possible, don’t communicate when you are angry with him/her.
  • If necessary, use “I” statements, not accusations.  For example,                                                  “I feel frustrated when you are late and don’t communicate”.
  • If necessary, review your note, when ang and imagine yourself receiving it.
  • Try to speak when you both know that your children cannot hear you.
  • Make a short list, to refer to, and stay focused and fairly brief..
  • Be sure to acknowledge positive words or deeds of the other parent.
  • Establish a blog about activities with young children.
  • With older children, consider a family blog.
  • Treat it like business….it is…family business.
  • Do admit, if you were wrong, and apologize.

DON’TS 

  • Don’t extend the communication longer than necessary,
  • Don’t need to have the last word or always be right.
  • Don’t forget –  it’s all about and for the children.
  • Don’t blame or ‘bad mouth’

 

 

When Your Relationship Ends…Part V – Acceptance

 The relationship is over and you are really done, emotionally. There are twinges here and there but you move beyond.  Old patterns may crop up but you recognize them now  and  are able to alter your urges and responses. Memories don’t need to be completely erased but you don’t need to dwell in the past and. You are beginning to have plans and goals.  You are able to value aspects of your past, especially for your children. Now that you are comfortable and proud of yourself, don’t be afraid to be open to a new relationship but don’t seek perfection – just a good “fit” with great communication and mutual acceptance.

 Children:

 Your independence makes you a solid role model. It is important for children to be independent, from parents, before they make a successful, significant love connection, not because of need but from desire.  Each child is different and will have his/her own needs, path and time schedule to heal and flourish.   Offer some family pictures from the past in their rooms to acknowledge and appreciate their cherished memories .

 Your Task::

  1. I am pleased with my progress and myself.
  2. I nourish myself physically and mentally.
  3. I am proud of my part in our co-parenting relationship
  4. I am able to express my feelings.
  5. I let go, emotionally, of my partner/spouse and former life.
  6. I released my guilt and anger toward him/her.
  7. I know I can stand alone but am open to new things and people.

When Your Relationship Ends….Part IV – Bargaining

              

When you have wrestled with anger and find yourself winning, you arrive at the bargaining phase.  You’re not dancing a jig yet, but are beginning to see the light. Your emotional investment moves from couplehood to  a  focus on yourself. After looking inward, you begin to recognize  input that you don’t want to repeat  in a new relationship.  Work on your self-concept and interaction with others.   Opportunities  loom on the horizon and there is a developing new normalcy.  Consider options and build on them. 

Children:

As your household becomes less emotionally chaotic, your children are calmer and more ready to embark on some new routines in two homes.  Cooperative co-parenting is the foundation of their future emotional growth. As they experience two civil parents, there is no need to take sides.  They are free to love you both.  They understand that they can’t manipulate you both [though most children will try].  Open communication is key as they grow and develop.

Your Task:

  1. I know me and I like me.
  2. I am confident that I can tackle what comes up.
  3. I think of my partner/spouse less emotionally.
  4. I am much less angry about my situation.
  5. I rarely discuss him/her with my friends.
  6. I accept that we will not get back together.
  7. I fantasize about moving on, with clarity and confidence.

When Your Relationship Ends…Part III – Anger

 

As grief and loneliness subside, your emotional temperature rises.  Anger often occurs  when we are hurt and can be useful if we can control it.  While sadness induces a wish to shut down and hide under the covers, anger is energizing. It has many levels, from feeling annoyed, frustrated and piqued to rage, boiling, incensed, stewing, to name just a few.  The latter recall fire, which keeps us warm and cozy, when managed,  but fire, of out control, is dangerous, out of the body and in the body.  It can lead to headaches, tension, ulcers and more.   Feeling angry helps to emotionally distance from your partner/spouse to pursue your own path.

Have your anger help rebuild your life but titrate it. In private, allow yourself to cuss, cry, yell, write a letter [but don’t send] or dance your anger away.  Fantasy is a creative means to discharging anger as long as you don’t act on it. I have heard  many  disasters befalling partners/spouses who were leaving.  Thankfully, none of them occurred and the fantisizers felt relief. With some friends, sarcasm and humor will  also help  but  only share your anger with those you trust most.

Children

Expect your children to be angry with you for changing their lives.  If they learn that one parent wanted the breakup/divorce, they will likely be angry with that parent and protective of the other.  It’s best to not share that  kind of information – that is “adult information”  When parents are positive role models, children have an easier time coping.  They need to express their anger by being listened to and hearing calm, age appropriate explanations.  If your partner/spouse is unable to do that, then it’s up to you.  Sometimes children need to hear the truth –  just some, not the whole,  picture.  For example, “S/he does drink too much” or “parents who abandon children have a hard time with parenting”. That is simply confirming your children’s reality testing –  brief facts, not condemnation.

Your task:

  1. I understand why I couldn’t express my anger better before.
  2. I will not harbor my anger.
  3. I am able to communicate with him/her calmly.
  4. I don’t put all the blame on him/her.
  5. I don’t need to ‘get even’.
  6. I can express anger constructively.
  7. I am moving toward forgiveness, for myself and him/her.

 

When Your Relationship Ends…Part II – Sad and Lonely

After getting through the first phase (please see my prior post on this topic) of denial and isolation, you understand that it is not just a bad dream.   Grief and loneliness creep in as you miss aspects of being with your partner/spouse and your former lifestyle.  You feel alone, perhaps unlovable and contemplate impending changes in your life.  This is a stage of grief over loss – of a partner/spouse, hopes and plans as well as an established family life.  Grief is a process and you need to go through it before you move on.  It is a time to withdraw and allow introspection, to develop inner resources, as long as you don’t brood, feel the victim or completely blame or isolate yourself.

In this second stage, eating and sleep patterns may shift, either more or less.  You may feel out of control and drained emotionally, with guilt or reduced concentration.   Don’t be afraid to express those feelings.  Cry, shout, whatever, when you are alone, as you feel the pain.  It can lead to important learning.  Unresolved grief will stall progress and can affect you physically. Develop a healthy balance of alone time and being with trusted and supportive friends and family.

Children

Children also need to be able to experience their sadness and loss. The difference is that most parents do not ‘divorce’ their children, even though there will be changes in their living arrangements and parenting time.  Be a role model for them.  Articulate hope and assure them that they will always have two parents who will work together to raise them, even though it will be in two homes.

Your task:

  1. I will feel my sadness and pain and work through it.
  2. I will not be so busy in order to avoid being alone.
  3. I will only be with people I like.
  4. I will develop activities that are important to me.
  5. I will not withdraw socially.
  6. I will not seek another love relationship to avoid loneliness.
  7. Grief and loneliness will not control me.

Feel free to pass this along to those you know who are trying to cope.

 

 

 

When Your Relationship Ends…Part I – Denial

Breaking up is hard to do…we know that.  It’s the relationship that is coming apart but you likely feel that you are coming apart.   When you learn that the relationship is no longer viable and about to end, there is  disbelief or outright denial.  For the “leaver” it is likely a developing realization and therefore somewhat less intense, over a period of time.  For the “left” partner, it can feel like a bolt of lightning. “You don’t mean it”!  “How can this be happening to us”?  The emotional storm knocks the wind out of you.

You may be experiencing despair,  disappointment, a wish for retaliation or even revenge  and feel hopeless and helpless.  Once there’s no more denying, you need to believe that there is the possibility for something positive once you can develop a new orientation to life..  There is life after a separation to divorce but it does take dedication to create a newer you.   There is the possibility for something positive once you develop a new orientation to life.  Pay close attention to your feelings and attitudes.

The emotional levels of separation and divorce mirror those of the death of a partner. The stages are denial, depression, anger, bargaining and acceptance. No stage should be skipped as each has its purpose for rebuilding you.

It’s okay to cry and be sad, even useful.  You need to wade through your pain to be able to get to the next phase.  Friends and family are invaluable now.  Seeking a new love relationship would a big mistake at this juncture.   The reality needs to sink in.

Children

      Be gentle but firm, about “the end” with your children and understand that they, too, will be in denial,  In fact, they will hold on to the fantasy of you reuniting for a long time, even if/when you both recouple with others.  They may also blame themselves for the breakup (as they are self-focused) and you should assure them that is not the case.

Your task:

  1. I can accept the end.
  2. I will be able to tell friends and family.
  3. I’m starting to realize some of the reasons that it is ending.
  4. I know it will be hard but believe it can be a positive experience.
  5. I will pursue my own personal growth.
  6. I will learn to be happy alone before committing to another relationship.
  7. Even if we were to reunite, I would still work on my own growth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 a parent 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

depressed child

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 your 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.