Saturday, January 19, 2008

Parenting and Preparation For Divorce

Parenting: Preparing For Divorce

How do I prepare my child for my divorce?

Preparing children for divorce is very important. What's important is that you're prepared. That conversation shouldn't happen unless the parents have figured out what their plan is for the child. They should tell the children together. They should be upbeat about the rearrangement. They should explain to them that both parents still love them. Children will automatically think, one: "I caused it." Very few parents really understand the depth of what I'm saying right now; that children will often think, "If I had been a better boy," "If I had been a better girl," "If I hadn't made my parents mad that night they'd still be together. Children universally want their parents to stay together. No matter how horrible one of them is or both of them are together, they still want them together. That's pretty standard.

What should I tell my child about my divorce plans?

Children need to know the basics of why are we getting a divorce, where are we going to live, how am I going to see both parents, what's going to happen? Where will I go to school? What kind of changes are in store? There are many changes. So, we have to explain to them when the parents will be separating, take the child to the other parents apartment or new home and let them explore that before the move happens ideally. So that they are grounded in this change that is coming. Children really hate change. It isn't in their nature to feel comfortable with change at all. They need a lot of reassurance that they are going to be okay. It isn't, for children, about protecting their parents. It isn't, for children, about being in the role of taking care of Mommy or Daddy. The parent role is still vitally important on the part of both parents so the constant reassurances that they are going to be okay is really what the bottom line is.

What should I not tell my child about my divorce?

What you should not tell your child is whose fault it is because it's always going to be both of your faults. You got together. You had this child. There are certain incompatibilities that were there from the beginning. You both made some poor choices. Don't blame the other parent. Children are very smart. They can figure things out. The one thing to do is, do not talk in front of your child on the telephone or with friends or allow other people, relatives or friends to talk badly about the other parent while the child is listening. Do not do that. That's crossing a line that is psychologically damaging to children. Even if the other parent is a total low life, is just obnoxious and horrible or whatever. Don't go there. Just leave them out of it. It's an adult problem and the parent should explain to the child as much as a child needs to learn and no more. Too many parents get into telling all. One of the worst things that a parent can do is to use the child as their very convenient therapist to go off on how bad, and horrible and awful the other parent is.

How will a "court mediator" help me before my divorce?

One of the things that happens in Los Angeles is court mediation. Parents are required to walk through the door of the mediator and the mediator will listen to both parents and discover if there is room to negotiate and figure things out. If the parents are being reasonable. In cases where one parent or both parents hate each other so much there's so much anger and frustration that mediation is not going to work. So therefore, they need to hire attorneys and go to court. A very expensive proposition. It's so much better to suck it up and go to a court mediator to figure it out. Court should only be used for those very serious cases. Parents need to figure it

Parenting Before Divorce

What do I do if I'm having problems with my marriage?

If you are having problems with your marriage, I suggest you work on it. It's very easy to go the divorce route. One of the first places to go if you are having problems with your marriage is for marriage counselling. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. However, there are now wonderful programs. One of them is Marriage Builders. There are many other programs were people are devoted to helping people who are having difficulties with their marriages understand how to make a marriage work. And I suggest that people take advantage of those programs. If the marriage doesn't work out it's not lost because there is so much that people learn about relationships in those programs, so there is more than just the standard go to a therapist and try to get a marriage that is not working fixed. There are many options, so I would suggest not getting a divorce, and figuring out what brought you together in the first place, and what your responsibilities are now; which obviously involves children; and how you can make the marriage work, and there are many creative ways to rethink what is a healthy marriage besides just dissolve the marriage.

What can I do to avoid getting a divorce?

One of the amazing developments in recent times is the idea of self-development, of making myself as good as I can be. And there are a lot of self-help consciousness raising programs around. And it's there that a lot of people get dramatic shift in their consciousness to realize that they have settled, that this is all there is, when there is a whole world out there available to them if they would change their thinking, if they would develop positive relationship skills, that many things could be working to their benefit. One of the concepts we want parents to know and married people to know, in any relationship, is that to take personal responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and actions. All of your thoughts, all of your feelings, all of your behavior and actions, are distinctly you. You decide that. In the old days the way most of us grew up, people didn't accept responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, and actions. And so instead, they blamed other people when things didn't go well for them. And that means, in blaming someone else, you don't look at what you are doing or saying that's creating the problem. When you're pointing the finger at someone else, you've got three fingers pointing back at you. That's a good metaphor like the place to start is within. Like, why am I having a problem with this person? Why are my children acting like brats, and I can't stand to be around them? It has everything to do with you.

Why is my marriage ending in divorce?

One of the reasons that parents end up in divorce is, they never did learn the positive relationship skills of how to be in a successful relationship, at all. They never learned adequately how tto receptively listen to each other, the value of an "I" statement, the value of a win-win way of solving problems. What a lot of parents learned in their childhood was to use drama to try to solve problems but drama doesn't solve problems. Drama escalates problems. So when people have grown up without adequate relationship skills, modern skills about how to be in a positive relationship at all, like a marriage or to be a parent or even in the workplace, then they will flounder in their relationships and it is so easy to run the victim game. Look at poor me. I've done everything I should and it's their fault. What's really at fault is that they never learned how to be appropriate in relationships. They're constantly in conflict and they dont realize that the person creating the conflict is me.

When should I consider a divorce?

A person should go down the divorce route when there really is no way for them to be compatible together. Certainly if there's serious abuse, domestic violence or someone's out of control, a rageaholic, an alcoholic, drug abuse, criminal activity, there isn't any way to make them change, then in extreme cases divorce is a very important thing to do. I just, it's something that needs to be thought through very, very carefully because the implications of reorganizing a family is very vast, and there's the possibility for one person to be making a unilateral decision for everyone in the family. In order to get a divorce all that's necessary is for one person to decide, "I'm getting a divorce", and everyone in the family, not just the other spouse, but the children, the extended family, it is a very serious decision to make, and there has to be really good reasons, I think, to make it, just as there has to be really good reasons to get married in the first place. I think that we have a tendency to take the concept of, idea of marriage too cavalierly. Like okay. I see people in my classes and I'm just astonished at how they got together and how they ended up making babies; that part doesn't astonish me, but now what astonishes me is that there are children and the people haven't thought through the relationship. If you're going to have children then you need to make a nest to put the children into, so that the children can be provided for and that takes maturity. So, back to should parents have children at all? Not, I say, not unless they're ready, that they've prepared and they are mature enough to raise those children.

Parenting: Plans For Divorce

What is a "parenting plan" during a divorce?

With regards to parenting and divorce, a parenting plan is very critical because when parents separate, they have to make some really big decisions about who is going to do what and when, and who is going to pay for it. Parents need to put together a whole time share schedule so that the child knows when they're going to be with Daddy and when they're going to be with Mummy. They need to figure out all kinds of things that they never had to figure out while they were married, because as the children grew, they just would have figured it out together in the marriage and through discussions. However, now all of a sudden they have to put together a whole plan for this child's life. This parenting plan becomes a blueprint for the child, and how they're going to live is extremely important.

Why is it important to agree upon a parenting plan during a divorce?

Parents really need to think through how the time share will go before they sit down and tell the child that they're getting a divorce. There very well may be really serious complications to a parenting plan, like one parent wants to move across the country, or the child's changing schools, or something really big is happening. We're moving in with grandma and grandpa. Parents really need to sit down and understand what is the parenting plan. It's so easy to get very emotional and upset, and blaming and shaming, and lose track of the child, and the child then falls through the cracks because the parents weren't able to figure the parenting plan out ahead of time.

How do I create a parenting plan that is "best for my children"?

What is best for children is a principle that's used and said over and over. I don't know to what extent it's used – that's a problem. It's said over and over – My plan is best for the children – No, no, my plan is best for the children. You can always have an argument one way or another about what's best for children. So, applying this principle of what's best for the children can be extremely complicated, particularly when the parents don't agree, and they don't agree on a lot of things – that's why they're getting a divorce. So, the courts are appealed to to decide what is best for the children. It gets thrown around a lot and it doesn't necessarily end up being best for the children. There's a lot of negotiating, there's a lot of gray area here, and people have a tendency to think in black and white during the time when they're getting a divorce.

When should I discuss a "parenting plan" during my divorce?

Start discussing the parenting plans as soon as the two of you decided to get a divorce. And how it is going to work, how will I be able to stay intouch with my child if I move out. What is the best time to move out. What are the implications of all these things. Ideally parents can figure out themselves and they're all happy with the result that's the ideal and many parents can do that.

What do I do if my partner and I don't agree on our parenting plan?

Some parents are getting divorced because they don't communicate well, they don't talk well with each other, they don't solve problems together well. The next best thing to agree a parenting plan is to hire a mediator. That is the very best way to go. This is a person who's trained in listening to both sides and then not taking sides and helping people communicate with each other about the best interest of the child and the best interest of everybody in the family, to set a sensible parenting plan. And many times parents don't understand each other: there's a lot of conflict going on and they're not really listening to each other. A mediator can help people listen to each other in a depth that they need to listen and that's a positive service. That's the place to go to agree a parenting plan. In fact, most of our courts now are requiring that parents go to a mediator to agree a parenting plan before they ever go to the court for good reason because with a person who's a professional at mediation they can help people settle their differences quite quickly. And it isn't necessary to go to a judge. So they have a very high success rate in courts when they require mediation. And mediation isn't just a one shot deal. I mean you go back and back you go back and you figure it out and that's a very powerful wonderful service.

How can I get help with developing my parenting plan?

So many parents were in my class in a terrible mess. This could have been resolved early on, but it wasn't resolved because they didn't have their plan figured out. They weren't organised enough. Then I realized, well, who ever makes a parent plan for a child? You figure it out as you go along. However, when parents seperate it now becomes one of the most important tools they've got, and they don't know how to do it. So, I wrote this book called "Creating a Successful Parenting Plan; A Step-by-step Guide for the Care of Children in Divided Families" There's no cookie cutter approach to a parent plan because families are just as different as can they can be, but they all still need to figure out where the child is going to school, who the paediatrician is, what social events the child is going to attend. They need to figure out what the time share is, and who is going to pay for what. When people sit down with this plan, they know most of it already because they're doing it. There are refinements that go into the decision, for example one thing that parents very rarely ever think of is regarding special days; that they can make an exception to the basic plan when there's something special going on and it's not their designated day. There are so many subtleties to a plan so people are very grateful when they see what a plan is. It's not hard to do, it's just hard to create it all by yourself.

Where can I find sample parenting plans?

With regards to plans for divorce, the best place to find a sample parenting plan is online. There are kinds of people that have posted parent plans online. The courts use a standard form which is fine but doesn't get into detail the way I've put my parenting plan together. There are many parent plans because every parent has to make one for their child.

1 comment:

Rosalind Sedacca said...

I appreciate your valuable insights into parenting through divorce. You are also correct in your sensitivity toward telling kids about divorce. My own experience more than a decade ago led to my writing a guidebook for parents on how to create a storybook with family photos and history as a successful way to have this tough conversation. It's called How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook(TM) Guide to Preparing Your Children -- With Love! Therapists, attorneys, mediators, educators and other professionals from around the U.S. and beyond have endorsed the book, attesting to the value of my fill-in-the-blanks, age-appropriate templates. Six therapists contribute their expertise to the book, as well. I hope divorcing couples will stop, talk and create a plan before having that crucial "divorce" talk with their children and hope, for the sake of their kids, they will decide to move ahead in creating a child-centered divorce. For free articles and more information, visit
Best wishes,
Rosalind Sedacca, CCT