Children and Divorce - How You Can Help Your Child Adjust

A child of divorce writes on how to help your child during divorce. What better source? Thanks to Melissa Farrell a freelance writer who lives in Kansas for her insights.

Speaking as a child of divorce, every situation is different. My parents were high school sweethearts and were together for over 10  years before they decided to call it quits. And when they finally divorced, they tried their best to make sure it didn't affect me negatively. I was too young to really remember anything, at four years old, but I do remember they were always nice to one another around me.

So how can you help your child adjust to divorce?

Explain the Situation

If at all possible, both of you should sit down and explain in the simplest, most straightforward way why you decided to get divorced. Explain that it is in no way the child's fault, but that you don't work together any more. A possible conversation could be "Mommy and daddy fight all the time, which isn't good for anyone. We've decided to live in different houses and not be married any more." Calmly answer any and all questions your child might have and reiterate the fact that it was not his or her fault and you both still love your child.

Throw Around the Idea of Therapy

Sometimes children feel more comfortable expressing their feelings to a third party, someone who will listen to them and not judge. Find someone who can help them express their feelings and work through their struggles. It may be your pastor, a family coach or someone else who is trained to work with children of divorce. 

Don't Let Your Child Be the 'Middle Man'

Although parents know it's not healthy to put the child in the middle, sometimes they just can't seem to help themselves — they roll their eyes or sigh when they talk about their ex, they make negative remarks about the other person in the kids' presence, they ask the children to relay messages to the other parent. DON'T be like those people.

Allow Substantial Time At Both Houses

As a kid, I lived with my mom during the school year and visited my dad once a week and stayed with him every other weekend. During the summer months, I lived with my dad and saw my mom once a week and every other weekend. Every situation is different, but making sure you allow equal time between the both of you is important. Split school breaks and holidays. If it's not your weekend but there's a fun event going on you think your child would love, talk it over and switch weekends. Communication is key.

Avoid Fighting

Children remember when parents fight, argue and yell at one another and it mentally effects them. Although seeing parents fight helps the child understand why the parents can't stay together any more, it is hard on them when they're surrounded by it all day long.

 

Thanks to them I have a  healthy outlook on relationships and marriage and I never saw divorce as this horrible monster. But there are many out there who have the opposite feeling, especially in children who are old enough to understand the situation. Divorce is not easy on anyone and children often feel anger and resentment towards their parents unless you commit to helping your child through your divorce like my parents. 

 

Four Steps to Take with Your Child After Divorce

divorced couple with babyHelping your children adjust after your divorce is essential. Heather Smith offers excellent advice on what you should do to help you child after the dust settles.

 

Here is Heather's blog: 

 

 4 Steps to Take with Your Child After Divorce

You have sat your child down and given the dreaded speech that you never thought you would have to make. Mom and Dad are getting a divorce are some of the most difficult words a child will hear from their parents mouth. There are a few things that will help you and your child during this time; here are 4 things to consider doing:

Get them a counselor: Once you have shared the unfortunate news with your child it is important that no matter their age, you get them a counselor to speak with. Weekly sessions are best for them. It gives them one day a week to discuss and work out their thoughts and feelings. Children have a difficulty opening up to parents and need that third party when it comes to dealing with the divorce. It is a life change for them as well and you need to provide them with help.

Keep quiet: No matter what you do, keep your thoughts to yourself. Do not speak negatively about your former spouse in front of the child. Keep your arguments and frustrations away from the child. Do not share details of the divorce. It is so important to keep that out of the child’s life. Children already feel a sense of responsibility of the parents’ divorce and hearing things like this will only push them further into that belief. As hard as it can be to keep your feelings in, just do it.

Remain positive Make the transition easier on them by remaining positive. Most likely parental rights and visit have been established and now come the difficult part for child, spending time in two different homes. When you drop off and pick up, be sure you remain positive. Be interested in their time at the others house and respond with a smile. You want this to be easy and comfortable for the child.

Get them involved and active: If you child isn’t already part of a sports team or involved in a hobby, be sure that you start them in something. There are all sorts of emotions for your child during this time and having a sport or hobby is a great for them to express it without doing harm to themselves or others when they act out. Sports teams are great because they require practices and game days. They are exercising and socializing with peers their age and can act like a child that they are. Hobbies like painting, learning a musical instrument will stimulate the child’s need to share their emotions. Try a few things out and allow your child to make the decision on what makes them the happiest.

Your divorce is what you make it. It may be a difficult and stressful time for you, but remember you aren’t the only one feeling that pain. Remain positive, get your child involved, find them a counselor and always keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Don’t allow your child to feel like it’s their fault, because it is never the child’s fault.

Author Bio

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to nanny service by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

Joint Parenting - A Blog by Two Parents

I just stumbled upon a wonderful new blog jointly authored by two parents sharing joint custody of their children. It is honest, heartfelt, insightful and engaging. The authors are New Yorkers Magda Pecsenye and Douglas French. 

Their blog is called "When the Flame Goes Up" . 

Here is an excerpt from a blog posting by the father, Doug French, talking about the state his relationship with his now ex-wife and co-parent (and co-author) Magda Pecsenye. 

... I’m not in love with her anymore, and that ship has sunk.

I don’t say that lightly, because not being in love with the mother of my kids is a drag. Ever since I was a young adult, I had visualized a specific event in my head. It was to attend my youngest kid’s college graduation, look over at my wife, my life partner, plant a big kiss on her and say, “We did it.” We stayed together, we weathered the storms, and we did all we could to raise emotionally stable kids who can function in the adult world.

I spent a long time mourning what I perceived was the loss of that, but when you think about it, it’s still sort of partially possible. All that’s really missing is the kiss, the most expendable pigment in the painting.

Doug and Magda were interviewed by the Globe and Mail about their experience blogging together. It is worth a glance too. The comments are negative. I like the blog. I think it is helpful for someone who is trying to establish their own shared custody regime just to get a sense of the struggle; the ups and downs of co-parenting. 

I think the bottom line message from this couple is that when you go through a divorce and you have children, it's never completely over. You still have to parent together, so you might as well get on with it as best you can. I like it.

Barrie Divorce Lawyer Explains Parental Alienation

parents stretch childWHAT IS PARENTAL ALIENATION AND WHY IS IT SO BAD?

There is an old African proverb that states “when two elephants fight it is the grass under their feet that suffers”. Similarly, when parents fight over custody and access of their children after a separation it is the children that suffer. In many cases the parents are not even aware of the effect that their custody battle is having on their children and they do not intend to hurt their children. Nevertheless, research shows that children who have lived through a high conflict divorce have a greater tendency to develop mental health issues, addiction issues, are less likely to obtain a post secondary education and have a whole host of other social problems that develop later on in their lives as a result of their negative experience.

In some of the more extreme high conflict custody cases, a dynamic develops whereby one of the parents sets out to sever the children’s ties to the other parent. The American psychiatrist who first coined the phrase “parental alienation” described it as, “a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent.”

Some of the symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) which will be added as a diagnosis under the DSM in 2010, are as follows:

The alienated child:

·         Sees one parent as all good and other parent as all bad;

·         Appears to really hate “bad parent” and hates their family and even their pets

·         Feels no guilt about hating parent or treating him/her badly

·         When they talk about alienated parent appear to be putting on a show – affect does not match their words

·         Worries about non alienated parent and is protective of them

·         Blames alienated parent for the divorce

The alienating parent:

·         Allows child to make decisions regarding access

·         Does not encourage access or contact with alienated parent and gives child silent treatment after access visits

·         Tries to delete memory of other parent by taking away pictures of other parent and not speaking about them.

·         Will not let alienated parent come to door or speak with them alone- treats alienated parent as if he/she is dangerous

·         Does not tell alienated parent about special events or school activities involving child

·         Withholds gifts, mail and voice messages from other parent and will not tell child about it.

·         Rewrites family history sometimes to involve stories of sexual and physical abuse by other parent

·         Involves child in litigation by reading court documents to him/her and or using child as messenger

·         Puts child in position where he/she is forced to choose between their parents

As with most things in life, there is a wide spectrum of severity and the blame usually does not fall on one person’s shoulders only. The “alienated parent” often contributes to the problem by making the child feel guilty, rejecting the child, acting aggressively towards the child or to the other parent or by simply giving up hope and abandoning the child. Also, some children are estranged from a parent prior to the separation and it only gets worse after wards. The alienating parents often act the way they do because they feel that they have been abandoned by the other parent and are very hurt by the separation. They themselves may have been abandoned or abused as children.

Richard Gardner and some of his followers are of the view that the only cure to this problem is to take the child out of the custody of the alienating parent, subject the child to intense counseling to de-brainwash the child and then place the child in the alienated parent’s custody. 

Not surprisingly, there are many family court judges who do not accept that this is the only solution to the problem. Instead, they try to affect a change in the dynamic by making access orders enforceable by the police, making a parent who is withholding access pay a fine or even ordering that the alienating parent go to jail if they breach the access order again.

In the US there are some residential programs available for families with this problem. In Canada, there are therapists who specialize in assisting families with this problem, but there are no residential programs that I am aware of.

In my view the essential thing is to prevent the alienation from happening in the first place. This can be done by identifying the early symptoms and ensuring that there is an access plan in place very shortly after the separation that is strongly enforced by the court. It is also essential that all parties involved get counseling to identify the issues that are at the root of the problem and bring them to the surface and that professionals involved in helping parents who are separating and divorcing are trained to recognize the early symptoms.

There have been recent amendments made to the Children’s Law Reform Act to reinforce the idea that maximum contact with both parents is generally in the best interests of children and that parents have an obligation not only to allow access, but to facilitate that access.

If you are fearful that this dynamic may be occurring in your family, please don’t wait for things to get better. Parental alienation is like cancer- if left untreated it will grow and kill your relationship with your child. Children in families where there is this dynamic are “victims” of abuse and end up exhibiting the same symptoms as children who are physically and sexually abused by their family members. You have a responsibility to protect your children from this abuse, as do all the professionals who are involved in your case.

The new provisions of legislation in Ontario are as follows:

34 (2) If the court is satisfied that the responding party wrongfully denied the moving party access to the child, the court may, by order,

(a) require the responding party to give the moving party compensatory access to the child for the period agreed to by the parties, or for the period the court considers appropriate if the parties do not agree;

(b) require supervision as described in section 34;

(c) require the responding party to reimburse the moving party for any reasonable expenses actually incurred as a result of the wrongful denial of access;

(d) appoint a mediator in accordance with section 31 as if the motion were an application for access. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.12, s. 83.

Period of compensatory access

(3)  A period of compensatory access shall not be longer than the period of access that was wrongfully denied. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.12, s. 83.

What constitutes wrongful denial of access

(4)  A denial of access is wrongful unless it is justified by a legitimate reason such as one of the following:

1. The responding party believed on reasonable grounds that the child might suffer physical or emotional harm if the right of access were exercised.

2. The responding party believed on reasonable grounds that he or she might suffer physical harm if the right of access were exercised.

3. The responding party believed on reasonable grounds that the moving party was impaired by alcohol or a drug at the time of access.

4. The moving party failed to present himself or herself to exercise the right of access within one hour of the time specified in the order or the time otherwise agreed on by the parties.

5. The responding party believed on reasonable grounds that the child was suffering from an illness of such a nature that it was not appropriate in the circumstances that the right of access be exercised.

6. The moving party did not satisfy written conditions concerning access that were agreed to by the parties or that form part of the order for access.

7. On numerous occasions during the preceding year, the moving party had, without reasonable notice and excuse, failed to exercise the right of access.

8. The moving party had informed the responding party that he or she would not seek to exercise the right of access on the occasion in question. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.12, s. 83.

Motion re failure to exercise of right of access, etc.

(5)  A person in whose favour an order has been made for custody of a child and who claims that a person in whose favour an order has been made for access to the child has, without reasonable notice and excuse, failed to exercise the right of access or to return the child as the order requires, may make a motion for relief under subsection (6) to the court that made the access order. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.12, s. 83.

Order for relief

(6)  If the court is satisfied that the responding party, without reasonable notice and excuse, failed to exercise the right of access or to return the child as the order requires, the court may, by order,

(a) require supervision as described in section 34;

(b) require the responding party to reimburse the moving party for any reasonable expenses actually incurred as a result of the failure to exercise the right of access or to return the child as the order requires;

(c) appoint a mediator in accordance with section 31 as if the motion were an application for access. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.12, s. 83.

Deciding Whether to Vaccinate for H1N1

We are experiencing a pandemic of H1N1 influenza worldwide. As a result, governments around the world are asking everyone H1N1 vaccineto become vaccinated. Kysa Crusco of New Hampshire has recently done an excellent blog about this issue from an American perspective.

Parents everywhere are wondering  "should I vaccinate my child?"  My own opinion is that the benefits to yourself and society far outweigh the risks. I believe you should bare the long lines and get it done.

I recommend you read more about the issue. The Simcoe County Health Unit has an excellent website with information about clinics in the Barrie area and other information about the issue. I especially like the fact sheet. The Government of Canada also has a great website with information about H1N1 too.

I believe that all of us should become vaccinated, not only to protect ourselves from illness but to minimize the spread of the virus to other people, some of whom might die from it. I feel it is my obligation to the Canadian society to be immunized even though the likelihood of a serious bout of flu is minimal. In fact, I believe so strongly about this issue, I have given my staff up to five hours off work with pay so that they can get their H1N1 vaccination shot, should they choose to do so.

That's my opinion but vaccination is voluntary. You have to decide for yourself and your children whether to get vaccinated.

If you are separated or divorced, you should consult with your ex spouse before making this type of decision. That is, if your ex has any involvement in the children's lives and you can discuss issues without a battle.

I always remind my clients ACBD: "Always Consult Before Deciding".

If you share joint custody with your ex, you have an obligation to make all major decisions affecting your children together. This includes major medical decisions.

Whether to vaccinate your child is a "major decision" requiring you to discuss it  and decide with your co-parent, if you share joint custody. 

I suggest you call or email your ex and offer these links so your ex can become informed too. Avoid it becoming a power struggle. Stick to the facts and the best interests of your children.

Even if you don't share joint custody, it is a good idea to consult with your ex before proceeding so that your ex spouse feels involved. Your children benefit from having two involved parents and participation in decision-making helps make a parent feel involved.

If you believe that consulting with your ex will lead to a battle and you have sole custody, you can make the decision alone. It is important to minimize conflict, for your children's sake, so avoid the conversation.

Now... go wash your hands and try to stay healthy!