Co-Parenting After Divorce

co-parenting children

This man had lost his mother a couple of years ago.  They were very close and he missed her dearly so I naturally assumed that the death of his mother would indeed be the most difficult time of his life, but it wasn’t.

It was his parents’ divorce when he was 11 years old!  It was a nasty divorce that left him feeling angry, alone and abandoned as his parents fought it out.

He remembered his father not turning up to pick him up for the day and when he did, there was so much fighting and arguing that he would just return to his room until they were done.

The transitions between the homes was such a nightmare for him that he found himself wishing that he didn’t have to see his father ever again if it meant that it would eliminate the horrible anxiety that constantly sat in his belly that was fuelled by the fear that there was going to be a vicious verbal fight when he arrived.

He was well aware that his mother didn’t make things easier by doing little things that she knew would infuriate his father.  And each time, his father would rise to the occasion.  It was a horrible dance.

Co-parenting after divorce or separation needn’t be hell.  No.  It may not be easy but it needn’t be hellish.

I’m not going to create a tip sheet for you on what to do to be successful in your co-parenting arrangement because no matter what I or anyone else says, the one thing that you need to constantly keep in mind is your child.  That’s it.

If you, as the parent and adult, find yourself getting angry and emotional think what it might be doing to your child; same emotion, little body.

Co-parenting is such a wonderful thing.  It’s not about scoring points and working a way to hurt or annoy the other parent.  You can do that in other ways if you must without using your child as ammunition or holding him/her hostage.

When you send your child to the other parent in dirty clothes, drop him/her off late what do you imagine he/she is feeling knowing that it won’t go down well with the other parent?  Most likely than not anxiety is begins to build within him.  And why?  Because you have your own agenda that’s why.  You’re child is not your priority at that time, you are.

Keep in mind that there is a physical reaction to every emotion and in a situation such as this, the physical reaction is not a positive one and you are the cause.  Sorry to sound so  harsh but that’s a fact.

Joint custody can be hard.  It can be extremely challenging especially where you have a very unreasonable parent to work with.  What I say to this is do your bit.  Play your role as the supportive parent that you want to be.  Have a support system where you can take your emotions, thoughts, anxieties and fears.

Your marriage might be over yes, but your family isn’t, it has transformed, changed and it’s time to adjust to that and play along nicely.

If you are having trouble with co-parenting, be it how to get it right for you family or how to support your children, then please do get in touch with a complimentary session – 07850 85 60 66

Lives are Full of Accidents Mama.

lives are full of accidents

Recently, on our way home, a car veered onto our lane hitting us and sending us crashing into a ditch.  I was driving and my mum and 8 year old daughter were my passengers.

The driver of the other car was drunk.  He admitted liability on the spot, apologised several times over and kept saying that he would pay for the damage to the car.  I could hear him but I was waaaaay to furious to accept his apologies or whatever else he was saying.  I believe he fell asleep at the wheel.  I put this to him and he didn’t deny it.

Thankfully there were no serious injuries to any of us and we understand it could very well have been much, much, much worse.

When we got home, that evening following the accident, I was helping my daughter get ready for bed.  She kept talking about the accident and saying how good it was that we were all wearing our seat belts (I lost my brother Davis 6 years ago in a car crush and it was never established if he had his seat belt on or not and this was her reference point).

After much discussion around this topic during our teeth brushing session, she finished by saying something that we can apply to our lives including in divorce and separation situations and experiences.

She said, “Lives are full of accidents Mama and we need to learn from them.  It would be really boring if everything was perfect and we had ice cream everyday.”

Indeed, life is full of “accidents” and difficult experiences but we do need to learn from that experience if we are to heal, grow and move on.

Soila (www.soila.co.uk)

 

 

Divorce – When Shame is Eating you Up

shame

If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment.   Brene Brown

Brene Brown on Shame

As it so very often does when our relationships fail – we tend to be engulfed in shame, maybe for a day, maybe for a while much longer.

  • Shame that I failed in my marriage – I mean who do I think I am thinking that I can succeed in it while so many people have failed
  • Shame that it brought shame to my children and family
  • Shame that it’s not only happened ones but twice
  • Shame that I put on an act all these years and now it’s clear that I was only putting up a show
  • Shame that my partner left me for someone else

And on and on it goes.

Here is another video with the fabulous Brene Brown (Ted Talks) that I sincerely hope will help ease that shame.

I hope that it will make you aware of what is going on inside you and just how powerful this feeling can be.  I also hope that you will, after listening to it, that you will look to release yourself from it’s hold and grasp.

If so let me know 07850 85 60 66 – soila@parentinglives.co.uk

 

“Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?”  From ted.com

Divorce and Forgiveness – You probably don’t want to hear or read this but there is tremendous power in forgiveness!

divorce and forgiveness

Ok.  If you’re reading this then chances are that you are angry with someone somewhere on this mother earth planet of ours.

And maybe it’s not just one person, there could be several.

Now take a couple of minutes and just ask yourself, now that I have this anger and resentment in me towards this person, what is it doing to me?  How am I gaining from it?  And even more importantly, how is it hurting that person right now or ever?  Do they care that I have not forgiven them, that I am burning with anger towards them?  Or are they expecting it?

Now take another couple of minutes and ask yourself – “If I were to forgive them what would happen?”  “How would I feel?”  “How would it affect them?”

Very often we think that if we forgive then  the “perpetrator” or the person that has caused you offense has gotten away with whatever it is that they did to you.

We have sooooo often heard, “I can forgive but I won’t forget.”  But those are just words strung together to make a kind of pretty sentence – they don’t mean much.

But the question is “do you have emotional closure?”   And when you do remember whatever it is that the person did to you, because you will, how do you feel?  Does anger still rise up in you?  Most likely.  If so, do you still think you have forgiven?

Right now, you are probably thinking that you are justified to hate that ex spouse or partner.  And you probably are – but for how long?  And who the hate, anger and resentment affecting?  Does the other person lose ANY sleep knowing that you hate them and the you will not forgive them.  I don’t think so.  They most likely don’t care at all – to put it mildly.

Truth is hate, anger and resentment, change you.  They change your heart and your mind to such an extent that if you stepped out and looked at yourself from another angle, you might not recognise yourself or the person that you have become.

Now why would you think that hate, anger and resentment wouldn’t affect your physically let alone emotionally?  When you habour anger, hatred and resentment, your body’s chemical balance is dramatically disrupted.  Your “flight or fight” responses stay aroused twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  That means that hatred, anger and resentment are absolutely incompatible with your peace, joy and relaxation.” Dr Phil

Apart from these emotions affecting you physically, emotionally and mentally then keep in mind, if you can, that because you are full of these negative and toxic emotions, then your behaviour will be affected so anyone you meet from here on, meets the angry, resentful person.  You can mask it all as much as you please but it will still come through in your actions and words, however subtle.

Ok, if you don’t believe me, how can you really truly give what you don’t have?  If someone you really cared about came over to you and asked, “Gosh I need a holiday.  Would you book one full-paid for me please?”  Most likely not, not because you don’t want to necessarily but because you don’t have the money to do it.

So, do think about it.  Do give yourself a new path to follow by letting go off the resentment, anger and hate.  Stop holding yourself hostage to the past by starting to forgive.

It is easier to start forgiving what happens today than what happened yesterday or a few years ago.

If someone cuts in front of you at the lights or something, let it go.  Tell him or her to go have their accident elsewhere.

Start forgiving what happens today, this very moment and what happened yesterday will start falling away too.

Soila

Divorce and Children – The Mum Who Wouldn’t Let Her Child See Her Dad

Divorce and ChildrenLet me tell you about my friend “Tim” who lives somewhere in Western Europe, a man whom I have known for over 20 years.

Tim was married to a beautiful lady also from somewhere else in Europe (you will see why this is important) with whom he had a baby girl.

It was a whirlwind romance that led to a wedding but unfortunately the marriage didn’t last very long.  The divorce was bitter and full of anger and accusations from both sides.

Soon after the separation, before the divorce reached decree absolute status, mum flew back to her country taking their 2 year old daughter with her.   Tim had not wanted this to happen but she promised that it was only for a couple of months while she sorts herself out.

They agreed that he would visit them in a couple of weeks so he can see his daughter.

This was not to happen not for at least 2 years.

The next time Tim saw his daughter she was almost 5  years old.

During those two years of absence, I saw this man being reduced to almost nothing while he fought to find out where his daughter was, where they had gone to.  When he finally did find them, he flew over but it was clear that  father and daughter had become strangers more him to her than the other way round.

So Tim’s commute to this other country became as frequent as possible.

To cut a very long and sad story short, the ex-wife and daughter later moved back to the same country that Tim lives in, where they had first me.  And at present, he has only managed to see her 3 or 4 times in 3 years.  Mum keeps moving and each move involves Tim tracking them down.

Tim is fighting his way through the courts at the moment and each time a date, time and place is fixed, mum cancels at the last minute and it takes another few months to re-arrange.

How do I know that he has not been a villain in all this?  Well because he has shown me copies of reports by a court appointed psychologist where it has been reported that mum has played a huge role in “poisoning” their words not mine) their daughter’s mind against him.

There have been two meetings this year between dad and daughter.  The first one, Tim endured a barrage of abuse and accusations from his daughter now 11, that he had abandoned them and that he was mean and horrible to her mother for taking her to court.

Second meeting was shrouded in total silence for the entire hour or so.  His daughter did not utter one single word – but she didn’t get up and leave either – which was an option open to her.

Two things are for certain here:

Firstly, this little girl will never be able to accuse her father of not looking for her or for abandoning her.  He has every single record of his searches, reports etc to show that he consistently made efforts to find her and be a dad to her.

Secondly, this little girl is growing up and at some point in her life she will realise just how much of an effort her mother made to deny her a father  – something she will never thank her for.

So if you are in a situation where you are literally holding your child/ren hostage from their other parent for no good reason (except where there is abuse, violence towards them, neglect etc in which case social services should really be involved) then just take a moment and stop.

Put yourself in your child’s shoes, this is not an easy exercise but oh so very necessary.

  • Will they ever, ever thank you for your actions?
  • Who is benefiting from your denial for contact?
  • Do you realise that you have control over them now but that is very short lived – they are growing up and they will require answers.  Start preparing.

If you are not sure how to go about it all, speak with a family mediator who will be able to work with you and your ex-partner to put together a parenting plan that will work for you.

Co-parenting doesn’t come in one size, there are so very many ways that you can go about providing your child with consistent care from both of you.

If you need to sort this out urgently and allow yourself to provide your child/ren with this space to grow and heal then call me and let’s get this sorted –  07850 85 60 66.

Soila

 

Children’s reaction to Divorce – After the You’ve Told Them.

children's reaction

Once you’ve told your children that you and your partner are separating, you will need to be continuously aware of what is going on with them so be prepared for and watch out for the following:

  • Questions, questions and more questions.  These could come straight after you’ve told them of your intention to separate or it might take some time but children will ask what they need to know because they need to make sense of the situation.  The thing to keep in mind here is that you need to answer their questions but do not promise them anything that you know you will not be able to deliver.  Please don’t avoid answering their questions as a means of saving them from hurt or pain.  If they ask any questions it’s because they are thinking about that particular issue. The risk you’re taking by not answering is that they will use their own imagination to “solve” that “mystery” and as we all know, children can be very creative!  Always have that door open.
  • Do ask them if they are alright when you see that they may not be.  Well, not every 5 minutes as that would just be annoying but once in a while.  You are your child’s expert so you will know if there is something disturbing them then and in the next few days.  If their response is “nothing”, do acknowledge that but do let them know that you are aware that things have changed for them and you are there to talk about it if and when they need to.  Keep in mind that children can have the worst timing ever so just as you are about to drop them off at school, the questions can come – stop, answer them as best as you can at that moment.  Follow on when you see them again.
  • If your children show anger when you tell them, know that it is normal and that it is a reaction to a sudden change in their world as they knew it.  It’s not about you yet it may very well be directed to you.  Contain their fears, anxieties and any other emotions that they show at that moment.  If they cry, let them, don’t tell them to stop crying because it will be alright.  Just let them cry, sob, wail if they need to and tell them that it will be alright.
  • Depending on how old they are, you might find that they immediately want to go and phone a friend, very common with teenagers.  Let them .  Whatever happens don’t tell them to keep it to themselves, “for now”.  That would not be fair to them at all.  You might find that they will turn to those whom they feel closest to at the time and that might very well not be you. Do tell the school as they will need to be looked after both at home and at the place where they spend most of their waking hours.

If you are concerned about your child and would like to speak with me – then contact me here or give me a call on 07850 85 60 66

Not a journey to be taken alone.

Soila

Explaining That You’re Not Be Getting Back Together.

children's reaction

It is really very common that children try and bring the parents back together after a divorce or separation.  It is their way of repairing their world and bringing it back to the way they knew it – familiarity brings on security.

They can be very creative in ways of doing this.  They can, for example, create situations where the parents end up spending extra time together.

I know a child who would send lovely text messages from the dad’s phone to mum’s and she was only 7 at the time while  another  would tell mummy that daddy said he loves her.

For others where a new partner comes into the picture, especially very soon after the break-up, separation or divorce, they can spend a lot of time attempting to sabotage the new relationship sometimes with success.

This is very normal but can be heartbreaking for the parents and the question I have often been asked is how to deal with this.

First of all, don’t panic.  It really is very common.

Thing is this “phase”  can last for a while and unless addressed it can cause a lot of long lasting pain and stress within the family.  The need and wish to bring the parents back together doesn’t happen one day and then they are done – it can be a sustained effort.

But here’s how you can deal with it:

  • Don’t  give them false hope that you might come back together even where this is your wish too.  I knew of a man who would “empathise” with his son and say things like, “I know, me too, I would like mummy and I to get back together and maybe one day it will happen.  Let’s just see how mummy gets on.”  This not only made him think that there is a possibility that the reunion will happen but also makes mummy look like the villain who is breaking and keeping the family apart.
  • Acknowledge their efforts to bringing you two back together.  When you see and realise that this is what is happening just mention it to them by saying something like, “Sweetie, I can see that you really want daddy/mummy and I to get back together.  It must be hard for you and I know that because I can see how much you are trying to bring us back together.  I promise you, it will be ok.  Mummy/daddy and I will not be getting back together but I can promise you that we still love you dearly. None of that has or will ever change.
  • Acknowledge their need and wish to see you two back together.  If your are from “broken” home then just share with your child how you felt and that you too wished it never happened.  Let them know that you too wanted your mum and dad to get back together as much he/she wants that for you and your ex-spouse.
  • Acknowledge that their world has changed and you are sorry about this – it was never part of the plan but sometimes things happen that we didn’t plan and we need to keep moving on.  Again do let them know that you love them and add that it is not their fault in anyway.  You might have to repeat the later over and over again for a period of time.

When in doubt about how to handle this type of situation, try and see it from your child’s perspective, not always easy to do but not impossible, then you will have the correct answer.

Soila

Divorce – What Doesn’t Kill Us…

what doesn't kill us
You will survive this.

This is the second/third time that I am starting and re-starting this blog.

Why?

Because the other couple of times I had started by apologising for the title but then I asked myself, “Why are you apolgising for something so true?”

Thing is, like most traumatic experiences, divorce can be a very enabling experience.  As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us …”

It’s not just about getting over it or learning how to live with it,  it’s more than that, deeper than that and that is how it changes you from within.  What have you learned from that experience that has made you a better person, stronger person?

A quote from this month’s issue of “The Psychologist” by Terry Waite, who survived four years as a hostage in solitary confinement (quoted in Joseph, 2012, p.43)

“Suffering is universal: you attempt to subvert it so that it does not have a destructive, negative effect.  You turn it around so that it becomes a creative, positive force.

And if that is not enough to motivate you into making the effort to find and discover what psychological well-being can be gained from the challenges, hurt and pain of divorce read this quote below, from a woman who was caught up in a shooting in which her close friend was killed, and ask yourself what it is that you really want for yourself (again it’s from “The Psychologist.“)

“In the silent wee hours of the morning, I sat staring at their  picture and began to sob.  Through my sobs, I heard the real voice of wisdom I believe we all possess.  It was my voice, the voice that knows me best, but a voice that had become muted.  Guess what.  No one is coming to change the situation.  No one will rescue you.  No one can.  It’s up to you.  Find your strength.  I realised that as long as i remained a victim, I too made my family avictim.  My anxiety could only teach them to be anxious.  I was robbing them of happiness and positive outlook on the world.  I had to come to the intersection of intersections.  I could choose to end my life or I could choose to live.I needed to live for my family – and later I understood most importantly, for myself. (quoted in Joseph, 2012 p.142.)

Again, what do you want?  Not for your children but for you?

If you want to discover the hidden treasures of divorce, the ones that will help you not only move on but more importantly heal and truly grow from your experience then contact me and let’s find and discover them for you.

Lots of warm hugs,

Soila  (+44(0)7850 85 60 66)

P/S The book that I have quoted above is entitled, What Doesn’t Kill Us – The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth.” by Prof Stephen Joseph.

 

Divorce is not a License to Destroy

Divorce is not

Of course there are a whole lot of powerfully negative emotions associated with divorce.  There’s anger, there’s hate, and all the ones associated with grief.

But anger seems to be the most prevalent especially during the divorce process.  And the source of anger is usually hurt.  Someone gets hurt and wants to hurt back.

But despite all this, divorce is not a license to destroy.

Here’s why:

  • Because if anything and no matter what, you both played a role in the demise of your marriage.  If you don’t see it now, ask yourself these questions.  Did you say yes to marrying him/her?  Did you ignore signs, hints and/or red flags around you at the time of dating?  Do you believe that you are absolutely not responsible in any, any way for the end of your marriage?
  • Because, where children are concerned, it stops being about you and your anger.  Of course you can express it as you please because that is vital for the healing process that you do so, but you cannot do it in front of the children.  If communication has broken down, find another way of getting through to your ex-spouse but do not use the children as messengers.  Find your own way of expressing it but keep them out of it.
  • Because the relationship that the children have with the other parent is their relationship alone.  You can either facilitate it to happen and to continue or you can step away and let it take it’s course but divorce is not a license to destroy a relationship between the children and the other parent by holding them hostage because you’re not happy or due to lack of child support payments.   There is ample research out there that shows that children need both parents.
  • Because the sole act of destroying or the wish to do so, carries with it anger.  Anger is toxic.  Anger eats you up, not the person that it’s directed towards.  It literally eats you up from the inside because you operate with high levels of adrenaline and cortisol which affect your immune and cardiovascular systems.  Release the anger and you free yourself.  Yes, easier said than done but it’s definitely not impossible.
  • Because the emotions of divorce have a way of making you hold yourself hostage to a past and a person you wish to rid yourself off.  Those emotions become you, you carry them and identify with them.  And unless you can release them,  they will destroy your present moments and your future being.
  • Because in reality, no one can make you do anything you don’t want to.  This means that we are totally responsible for our actions, unless of course there’s a gun or some sort of threat involved.  But when we make decisions to behave a certain way, or do something destructive then that simply falls on our shoulders.  It’s all about taking responsibility.

Divorce is tough and can be ugly.  Destructive emotions run high, very high sometimes.  But it’s very possible to contain those feelings and stopping yourself from becoming either verbally or physically destructive.  There are so many ways.  It’s just a matter of finding what works for you.

If you’re in a place of anger, then call me for an informal chat (+44(0)7850 85 60 66) or email me soila@parentinglives.co.uk

Soila

 

 

When Love is Broken – How to Tell Children

how to tell children

Depending on the age of the child, realise that this moment might be something that they will always remember – the time you told them that you, mummy and daddy, were going to live separately.  It is therefore critical that the news is conveyed with caution.

Here is what you will need to keep in mind and to have in place when and while you are breaking the news.

  •  Chose the right timeYou know your children best so you will know when the right time is.  However, before bed is not usually a good idea as this means that they are left with their own thoughts through the night, not the best time to digest such news.  You want them to be able to come to you through the day with any questions they may have.  Of course they will still think about it when the lights are out and for a long time coming but let’s reduce the pain and stress as much as possible.
  •  Tell them together wherever possible.  This may sound obvious but I have heard of cases where one parent has taken it upon him/herself to talk to the children without the knowledge of the other.   This usually doesn’t work out well for several reasons one being that the children think the other parent has already left (if she/he hasn’t then why are they not here at that moment?) and this can change the whole dynamics of the ensuing conversation.  If you cannot tell them together for whatever reason, do let the other parent know what, when and how you are intending to tell the children and later as you tell the children, do let them know, from the start that their father/mother knows that you are talking to them.
  •  Agree on what you will be telling them and how you will be saying itAs we all know, words carry a lot of power and prepare yourselves for questions.   Some questions to anticipate:
  1. Why?
  2. Do you not love mummy/daddy any more?
  3. Where are we going to live?
  4. Am I changing schools?
  5. Will I still see daddy/mummy?
  •  Most importantly reassure them that it is not their fault in any wayReally make sure that they get this.  Contrary to popular belief, not all children blame themselves but it does happen, depending on age, and they may not necessarily do so right away so nip that in the bud as you speak with them.  You might have to revisit this with them again and again.
  •  Be honestIf it’s a trial separation then let them know, if it’s definitely going to end in a divorce then let them know that too.  Do not, under any circumstances, give them false hope.  It is not fair on them to have to relieve the whole thing again, once they realise that you will not be getting back together ever again.  Do not promise them ANYTHING.  If you don’t have an answer then let me them know that.
  • Tell them when you are both calm and have the time to sit through any questions or concerns that they might have.  Please don’t rush through it.
  •  Tell them when you are somewhere safe, somewhere calm and preferably somewhere familiar to themThis way there are neither new nor noisy distractions.  They can concentrate on what is going on here and now.  Don’t make it a “special” occasion i.e. take them to the cinema, get them whatever they want and then out to lunch in their favourite restaurant and break the news in there.  They don’t need any associations with the news i.e. they don’t need to always see a Pizza Express or a Zizzi restaurant and “remember the time when…”
  •  This is one of the times that you will need to be totally present with your childWatch them as you speak.  Watch their body language and their facial expressions.  They can tell you a lot about what is going on within them.  Are they fidgety, avoiding eye contact, fighting back tears, curled up.  Sometimes these and other behaviours will give you a cue on when to reach out to them physically.  “Come here Tom, you look like you could do with a hug right now.”  There are some children who might feel that they suddenly need to look after you – “Are you alright mummy/daddy?”  Don’t let them parent you this could just be their way of  avoiding hearing, processing and dealing with their own anxieties, fears and worries and displacing/transferring them onto you.
  •  Whatever you tell them make sure it’s age appropriate and use age appropriate words and language.  Little ones might not understand a whole account of what is going on while teenagers may need more information.  Be ready to explain what divorce means.
  •  Be prepared to have them come to speak with you at the most inconvenient time….yes, children have a way of finding the strangest time to want to discuss the most difficult things.  It could be when you are rushing to leave for work, when you are about to go have a shower or when you have friends over.  Bear with them.  The timing may not be the best for you but it is for your little one.

Do not, under any circumstances, tell the children to keep what is happening to themselves.  This is very heavy news for a child to carry.  You have off-loaded onto them, they should be able to do it too and to whomever they chose.  They need care, attention and support from you and others around as opposed to them looking after you and your secrets.  Anyway divorce and separation is like pregnancy, you can only keep it a secret for so long.

Call me if this is something that you are struggling with at the moment and wish to get it right.  We will also discuss how to continue taking care of your little ones and making sure they are alright in this changing world of theirs.

Soila