Divorce is a sad reality, no matter which parent initiates it. Nothing hurts like heartache, and grief from a divorce can quickly become all-consuming. When you start ruminating, blaming yourself or your other half, not only might your emotions be caught in this negative feedback loop, your body may as well.
Research has shown that physical pain and intense feelings of rejection from an unwanted romantic break-up "hurt" in the same way. Kross, Berman, Mischel, Smith and Wager (2011) .
While in this negative feedback loop, some try to make sense of the divorce, to lessen the pain by reconstructing what went wrong by creating a narrative that not only thwarts the process of recovery, but often involves the children and ignores the pain the children are experiencing, forcing the children to take sides, so one does not need to deal with the guilt, grief and focus on the anger.
As a single mother, this is my passion to help both men and women “make lemonade out of the life you are dealt with”, so that at least one parent can provide emotional support for the children.
If you are contemplating a divorce and want to minimize the impact of your circumstances on your child, you are not alone. Whether you are planning a good divorce or a “conscious uncoupling”, you need strategies to steer away from a bitter ending, while protecting your children and helping them to flourish in two homes.
If you are going through a messy divorce, you cannot control the other parent’s behaviour and how the other parent might cause confusing, conflicting, angry and anxious feelings added to the sadness that your child(ren) are already experiencing but you can choose to take action in redressing the relationship difficulties and together we can find strategies to ameliorate the negative effects on you and the children.
Do you want to learn how to ask yourself and your child(ren) questions that optimize healing and growth, during this difficult time? Children whose parents reach out for help are the lucky ones.
Divorce is hard on the children, and some of them need special consideration to survive the traumatic experience and continue enjoying a positive relationship with both parents.
If you are getting divorced, no matter whether you are the leaver or the left behind, you are probably worried about your child(ren). If you are the leaver, you are likely telling yourself that research shows that most kids can cope with a divorce. If you are the left behind, you are likely focusing on what could go wrong and how the emotional wounds can linger and affect the lives of all the protagonists.
Both are right, most children learn to cope when parents are mature enough and mentally healthy enough to deal with the hurt. However, when parents are not able to behave and focus on the wellbeing of the children and instead focus on fighting or abandoning the children, those are the risk factors that leave children scarred for live.
Conscious uncoupling might not be possible, you might still be struggling with whether you have done the right things and not be ready to accept the divorce or you might be divorcing someone with narcissistic tendencies or abusive. But with the following tips, you should be able to focus on protecting your children and minimizing the hurt and pain that comes with the news of divorce and the transition that follows.
“Divorce opens up a great unknown. It is ominous and dangerous, and a child is invited, no, forced to plunge into its unknown depths.” (Dr. Archibald Hart, Helping Children Survive Divorce)
1.Prepare a script and break the news together
You might not be able to make the marriage work, but by drafting a developmentally appropriate script together (you might need professional and unbiased support), you are showing the children that the two of you are mature enough and still able to focus on them, hence both of you will still be available for them.
2.Connect with your child
Similar to the parents, children also go through the different emotional stages of divorce—they experience shock, denial, the need for negotiation, anger, and sadness before they can accept the finality of the divorce. Regressive behaviour is a sign that your child is struggling and needs extra attention.
If you feel that you cannot provide the emotional support your child needs, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Children of divorce need an emotionally safe environment, have someone listen to them empathetically and validate their feelings (not their behaviours) as well as help them understand their conflicting emotions.
As painful as divorce can be, assuring your child that it is okay to ask for help may be the best gift you can give to them in the long run. Some children need help to sail through the cycle of grief before they can accept the permanency of the divorce and adjust to their new families. Giving children a voice helps them express their worries and emotions.
3.Refrain from talking about the other parent
Complaining to your child about the other parent might give you comfort in the short run, but at what cost? If your child loves the other parent, they will start to question how they can love someone that treats their other parent so poorly. Children might not be the best judge but they do listen, especially in times of divorce, but it is the adults’ responsibility to protect their emotional wellbeing.
If you feel like you need to vent, talking to someone out of earshot from the children is the least harmful way of doing it. You cannot be sure that the other parent will do the same, but your job is to be the “good enough parent” to protect your child. If your child comes home and tells you negative comments from the other parent, you can simply say that those are adult matters and you will discuss them with the other parent. Explain to your child that you love them and will not drag them into adult matters.
Doing so, you are also setting yourself up as a role model of how your children should deal with conflict in the long run.
4. Focus on what will remain the same
Separation and divorce bring along a lot of changes the children will need to adjust to. Focusing on what remains the same provides stability, whether it comes to regular activities or their daily routine, and will help the children handle the changes more easily and feel secure.
5. Create a new routine
To help your child adjust to having two homes, create a routine that is similar to their old one. If possible, the routines in the two houses should be similar so the child can adapt more easily. Try to create routines that strengthen your connection, such as having dinner or breakfast together to encourage communication. Share your routine with the other parent and maybe create a visual calendar for younger children to make their daily lives more predictable and help them adjust to the new schedule.
Having fun: Consciously plan time to have fun with each child, so each one can spend quality time with you to do things they enjoy. Children share and talk about their feelings when they are relaxed. Try not to only talk about the divorce, you don’t want your child to feel that you are only spending time with him or her because of the divorce. Use this special playtime to connect with your child and make him or her feel how much you care.
6.Communication between the parents
Sharing information and pictures of the children is not about helping the other parent, it is to help your children have the other parent in their lives in a meaningful way. I have seen parents hoarding information and using it to punish the other parent. I have also seen situations where one parent shares information with the other parent and the other parent uses it to attack the first parent by bringing up trivial complaints to undermine the other’s parental competence.
If you feel that you and the other parent are not able to communicate effectively, seeking help early on can help avoid a lot of conflict generated by the legal system, and it can prevent further damage to your co-parenting relationship. Both of you will still need to learn new ways to communicate with each other in a business-like manner, respectfully and effectively.
I work with children and families to help them make a healthy transition during separation and divorce. My therapeutic session offers a safe place for children where can feel protected when their parents’ fear and anger are likely spilling over into their life. Seeing myself as a child advocate, I consider it my job to protect the well-being of the children I work with, and I do not hesitate to address issues that I sense are hurting the children.
Asking for help is never easy—be courageous. Together we can help your children adjust more easily and in less time. I am here to help you and the other parent develop a parenting partnership with clear and firm boundaries that support the emotional, economic, and physical needs of your children.
If you are considering using your children to get your ex-spouse back or gain the upper hand in finances, I will not be a good match for you and you will be disappointed in my work because in this regard our values would be vastly different.
I know from first-hand experience how tough divorce can be on both the parents and the children, and I am familiar with the feelings of anger, fear, grief, and betrayal you and your children might be experiencing.
As a therapist I have also seen that the emotional impact from the trauma of divorce can have lasting effects on the children and usually the left-behind.
However, as a parent, you have the choice to keep the divorce relatively peaceful and constructive. You also have the choice to get support and learn to embrace the divorce as a learning experience, especially if the other parent chooses to remain difficult.
If you are tired of working with a difficult co-parent, or you are contemplating a divorce and want to minimize the damage to your children and avoid the black hole of litigation, which is mentally costly for everyone, I am here to help you make sound choices during the divorce process, and help you understand how the legal process and how it affects you emotionally.
Divorce is never easy, but you can minimize the stress by managing your expectations and developing a healthy working relationship and setting boundaries with your co-parent for the sake of your children.
I know how overwhelming it is if you are in a high conflict situation, emotionally drained from being taken advantage of and constantly on edge. As a parent, there is nothing worse than suffering from a deteriorating relationship with your children during or after the divorce. It can be so frustrating when the other parent holds the children as hostage and you don’t know how to turn it around, but there are concrete steps you can take to minimize the damage.
Keeping Parenthood a Priority
(Number of sessions subject to circumstances)
As a parental coordinator I have been holding divorce co-parenting classes to assist parents and children of high-conflict divorce. Through these court-ordered courses I offer guidance to parents in implementing their parenting plan and help them resolve conflicts regarding their children to ensure an emotionally healthy transition that can lead to meaningful parent-child relationships.
My hope is that educating parents about the impact of high-conflict dynamics and the resulting psychological trauma it may cause in children will help them shift their focus on the needs of their children. Through psycho-education and learning about state-of-the-after research, parents can understand how the children are affected by divorce and how they can support their adjustment. Parents learn to experience what it’s like to be the children in the family involved, instead of seeing them from a their own, often resigned, angry and exhausted, perspective.
At this stage of the separation process, my primary role is to make this transition as smooth as possible for all parties involved.
Cooperative Parenting, or Co-Parenting, is not just a mindset but also a set of specific strategies and skills that help to develop and maintain a workable family structure and a constructive and respectful environment that supports each child's growth.
Even the most amicable of separation arrangements can benefit from early advice and counselling. Early intervention is the surest way to reduce the time, trauma and expenses that usually accompany an acrimonious split.
For those parents who are, unfortunately, already in the mindset of highly acrimonious relationships and have been suggested by the court to take a divorce co-parenting course, I am a licensed facilitator for two court-approved co-parenting programmes.
Parents Forever™ Programme
This parent education programme is recognised by the Minnesota Supreme Court, where it originated. The course is structured into 10 one-hour sessions and addresses issues often mandated by courts concerning parental education, such as:
Children's reaction to divorce
Children's reaction to parental conflict
The recovery cycle of divorce for children and adults
The four different types of co-parenting
This course is suitable for relatively low-conflict divorce.
New Ways for Families ™
This program is a court ordered co-parenting education programme developed by the High Conflict Institute in the U.S. The course focuses on helping both married and unmarried parents strengthen their conflict resolution skills in separation or divorce. It has been designed to protect children as their families reorganize in new ways. The structured course is aimed at parents who are working to resolve high-intensity conflict situations.
The following information has been drawn from the Association of Family and Conciliation Court (AFCC) brochure on “Understanding the Parenting Coordination Process” and the American Psychological Association (APA) Guidelines for the Practice of Parenting Coordination.
What is Parenting Coordination?
Parenting Coordination is a non-adversarial dispute resolution process that is court ordered or agreed upon by divorced and separated parents who have an ongoing pattern of high conflict and/or litigation concerning their children.
The underlying principle of Parenting Coordination intervention is a continuous focus on the children's best interests by the Parenting Coordinator (PC) while working with high conflict parents and helping in decision-making.
Parenting Coordination is designed to help parents implement and comply with court orders or parenting plans, to make timely decisions in a manner consistent with children's developmental and psychological needs, and to reduce the amount of damaging conflict between caretaking adults to which children are exposed to.
PCs assist parents by providing:
(1) education about co-parenting and parental communication
(2) information on the psychological and developmental needs of the children
(3) strategies to manage conflict and reduce the negative effects on the children
(4) advice on effective post-separation parenting
PCs further facilitate referrals to community providers when necessary and collaborate with other professionals who may already be involved with the family. Any decisions made by PCs are subject to the review of the Family Court, which is an important safeguard to the process.
Why Parenting Coordination?
The course of the divorce process is undoubtedly one of heightened anger and conflict, anxiety, combined with diminished communication, and sadness or depression for one or both partners. These negative emotions are often accelerated by the separation and the adversarial nature of the divorce process. Although the majority of parents significantly diminish their anger and conflict in the first two to three years following divorce, between 8 and 15% continue to engage in conflict in the years following divorce, with little reduction in the intensity of their feelings.
When parents are engaged in the legal battle, often they cannot see how their children are being exposed to ongoing conflict between them. Nor can they see how the children are at significant risk for social, academic and mental health problems, and may experience more difficulty with their own intimate relationships in the long term.
Parenting coordination can sometimes help to reduce parents’ conflict and may shield children from exposure to their parents’ disagreements.
The parenting coordinator can also help parents resolve child-related issues in a timely manner without court involvement and can protect and sustain safe, healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships. Most importantly, the parenting coordinator can help parents focus on the best interests of their children, rather than on their anger toward one another.
When to use Parenting Coordination
Parenting coordination is appropriate for high conflict cases dealing with child-related issues, but not for cases in which it has been determined that the safety of parents or the minor children is at risk.
When there is a high rate of litigation, especially concerning the implementation of a custody order or parenting plan, parents may also need assistance developing, modifying or implementing their parenting plan to ensure that it is focused on the best interest of the children and not on the best interest of the parents.
How to enter the process of Parenting Coordination
The process of entering parenting coordination varies and the Family Court maintains a roster of PCs who meet specific qualifications to provide parenting coordination.
Who can be your Parenting Coordinator?
Since PCs are appointed in high conflict cases, their qualifications are particularly important. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts’ Guidelines for Parenting Coordination recommend that PCs have specialized psychological knowledge, relevant legal knowledge and significant experience working with high-conflict divorce and parental separation cases.
PCs should ideally have experience with mediation and should have specific training in parental coordination.
To avoid a potential conflict of interest, it is best to choose a PC who has not worked with the family in the past and will not work with the family in the future in any role other than parenting coordinator.
Custody evaluation or Parenting evaluation is a legal process, in which a court-appointed or parents mutually agreed mental health professional evaluates a family and makes a recommendation to the court for custody matters, usually including residential custody, visitation and a parenting plan.
The purpose of the custody evaluation is to assist the family court in making decisions for the family that is based on the best interest of the child(ren).
2010 - present
2010 - present