Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Value of Grief: Part One

Grief is positive; it’s part of healing. If you bang your toe and it bruises or bleeds, your physiological reaction is part of the recovery process. The pain you feel is a signal to be tender with your toe—not to test it.

Swelling tells you that your immune system is taking charge, and bruising reminds you that it will take time to heal.

You know that if you bandage your wound properly, keep it clean, and allow nature to do its thing, you will heal, and you’ll heal well.

What is true for physical wounds holds true for emotional wounds. Grief is our psychological immune system at work—it allows our spirit to nurse itself back to life. If you are the “leaver” in a divorce, you may feel relief and elation. Your grief may be minor. There is a good chance that you were doing some grieving while still in an unhappy marriage. I counsel you to be pragmatic for the sake of your children; they are going to need your attention and care. If you are running around, too elated, or deep into a new relationship, they may feel abandoned. Hold tight and help your kids through this.

If, however, you’re the “leave-ee,” the one who has been left, you’re probably holding a bag of resentment, hurt, and maybe even fear. You’re swollen with emotion, and in response, you may want to sleep and avoid, or simply attack. In my experience, there are really no words to express just how wounded you may feel.

This is all part of the grieving process, and ultimately, it’s all for the best. Just be conscious to be there for the children, regardless of how tough it is for you.

Grief is the natural, psychological response to the loss of a marriage, and you need to go through it in order to come out of your divorce healthy and strong.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Know Thyself

"There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self."

Ben Franklin

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Balance, Divorce and Health

The following image is what The Intelligent Divorce: Taking Care of Yourself, proposes for you: balance and a clear identity.

By taking charge of your life, you’re more likely to be healthy and happy, and your kids will follow suit.

I admit that this isn’t easy. But once you get started, you can begin a positive feedback loop—one that continues to yield returns. The better care you take of yourself, the more likely you will feel good and continue to take good care of yourself. The more your children feel parented in a solid way, the easier it will be to parent them next time. Goodwill counts for a lot with kids. Trust with your ex-husband or wife leads to more trust and better co-parenting. And setting good limits, when required, lets a difficult ex know that they have to think twice before misbehaving.

One parent can make a difference, and your good decisions work for everyone.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Despite the Divorce, Take Charge of Yourself

Take a look at the diagram below:

The image above depicts something you see frequently in divorce—individuals whose personal selves are crowded out by that which surrounds them. I am quite certain that anyone going through a divorce can relate to not having enough time for herself. It also makes sense, there are so many competing demands and very often, just one parent instead of two. But this type of life just cannot hold up – you have to take charge of your destiny.

Smart parents find time for themselves. They schedule in time to be with friends and family, time to exercise, time to eat right and time to sleep. And this can make all the difference in the world. If you feel tended to, you will overreact less often and have a more even tempered approach to your ex and to the kids.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Taking Control of Yourself

Take a look at the diagram above. Unless your ex-husband or wife disappears and is no longer involved, you, your ex, and your kids are in a dynamic relationship with each other, and will be for years to come. What he does affects you directly and indirectly through the children.

And you are the one person in this system over which you have the most control.


Wisdom is not a 21st Century commodity—it’s been around for thousands of years. Plato, considered one of history’s greatest thinkers, had a simple saying written on the entrance to his academy in 4th Century B.C. Greece:

"Know Thyself"

This is a good motto for you, too.

When you know yourself, you know how much you can handle—when to say yes and when to say no. When you’re centered, you can deal with almost any ex, even the most difficult one, and you’ll be better able to parent your kids. They need to know that you’re there for them. And you can only be there for your kids if you are taking good care of yourself.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marriage and Money

New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, tells us something interesting in his November 6th article, entitled Our Banana Republic. Apparently, new research points to increasing divorces occurring due to the stress of poor economic times. This should surprise no one, but it should alarm us all.

Love makes marriage work, but stress — like a wayward child, mental illness, or the loss of a job — can undermine the glue that holds a couple together. There are a number of reasons for this.

First off, there is the blame game: "I never signed up for this!" Many women are outraged that they may have to support their husband when he cannot come through like he was "supposed to." You can understand this. We all make assumptions as young people about the roles we play in relationships, and those expectations (like financial stability) can lead to big disappointments. She may look at her friends who are still shopping at fancy department stores and feel wronged. And while this may sound a little one-sided, it’s not limited to women either.

Secondly, there is the depression and anger that anyone may feel when he or she is out of work. Men (as well as some women) forge their identities around their careers. And when it is taken away, they can spin out into grief and anger. If — and when — you take this pain out on those around you, remember that love can only tolerate so much.

Finally, there is the stress of watching every penny, and not knowing when, or even if, things will ever get better. Unemployment or foreclosure is a serious change to anyone’s lifestyle, and it eats away at people like acid over time. The antidote is to accept where things are, make a plan to improve the situation, and, ultimately, love each other and remain a team through such hard times. And while I know this may not be an obvious strength of the baby boomer generation, this is our challenge to accept.

There is wisdom in perspective and awareness. Be aware that you may carry resentment towards an unemployed spouse. Be aware that depression and anger are understandable, but counterproductive if you have lost work. And remember that love can prevail — a love based on supporting each other through thick and thin. Our grandparents and great grandparents had the Great Depression to get through together, and we have the Great Housing Crash of the past three years.

Divorce may be an answer for some. But it isn’t always the answer. Remember that divorce often opens up a whole new set of problems that only add to the economic ones that you already have.

You can view this, and other articles by me, at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Divorce: Taking Care of Yourself

Divorce has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Whether you’re just starting the process or are in the thick of it, rest assured that there will be an end. When you have reached that clearing, you want to be proud that you handled the divorce to the very best of your ability.

Joe and I were married for twelve years. I thought we were solid. We had two beautiful children, Sara and Regan, and lived the kind of life I always hoped we would.
To make a long story short, we started agreeing less and less on even the littlest things. We moved into separate rooms in order to ease the tension. Before I knew it, Joe wanted a divorce.
I found myself totally overwhelmed. I didn’t know where to turn first. I asked everyone for help and advice—my sister, my dad, and my friends who were attorneys.
I researched custody laws and put all of my financial information together.
One day, someone asked what I was doing to take care of myself. It was then that I realized I had taken no time for me. I had gained weight, I was sleeping a lot, and I found myself yelling—all the time. I forgot that my life was not wholly defined by this divorce.
So, I promised myself to do one thing I loved every week. It didn’t change everything, but I felt like I had a better handle on who I was, which allowed me to calm down and work through issues as they arose with more confidence and assurance.
Rena, age 40

Like Rena, when you take proper care of yourself, everything else has a better chance of falling into place. My book, The Intelligent Divorce, is about moving one step forward in the right direction every day. It’s about handling your feelings better, tending to yourself properly, and saying the right things to your kids. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Japan and the Hague Convention Treaty

The Hague Convention treaty was originally signed by over eighty nations on October 25, 1980. The treaty was a breakthrough in international family law; it protects children from international abductions. Now, thirty years later, Japan has agreed to sign this important treaty.

Obviously there are internal politics that dictate how Japan has dealt with this matter. But I would like to understand what has taken them so long. Whatever reasons Japan may have, those reasons, surely, cannot compare to the effort of all civilized nations coming together to protect the unprotected. How we treat the unfortunate and the weak – kidnapped children, for example – is a measure of a society’s integrity.

I, for one, am very pleased that the Japanese government has finally agreed to sign the Hague Convention Treaty. Let’s hope Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Tunisia are next.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"We Remain Best Friends"

A few days ago, Courteney Cox and David Arquette announced that they would be undergoing a trial separation, and they have been quoted as saying all the right things: “We remain best friends and responsible parents to our daughter and we still love each other deeply.”

This sentiment is precisely what we hope to hear from any couple considering divorce — they continue to care about each other despite the circumstances.

The hard part is what comes next, should they proceed with a divorce. They have to put it all on paper — who gets what, and who gets time with their daughter and when. If they can avoid the typical power struggles, then their daughter wins. And if she wins, then everyone wins.

When it comes to an amicable divorce, the devil is in the details. Neither party is going to get exactly what he or she wants, and bickering over small battles only prolongs the larger war. The couple should understand that there is far more at stake than just the spoils.

Let’s hope that Cox and Arquette can show us how to do this well, and can be an example for other divorcing couples through their friendship, and especially their love for their daughter. Their intentions are good. Now they just need to follow through.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Divorce and Going to the Movies IV


Seeing Eddie Murphy on the screen can’t but leave you with a smile. He’s bigger than life. He generates charisma, and he has a self-knowing warmth that extends from his days on SNL right through until Imagine That, his latest small masterpiece.

This is a movie about an everyday man. He’s that father who’s preoccupied with his job, the man who worked so hard to rise in the company, but he’s also the man who had a wife who couldn’t deal with it anymore so she left him. The problem is that he has a special young daughter named Olivia. She needs him, but Eddie Murphy will soon discover that he needs her more.

In this movie, Eddie Murphy is overly involved in his career. He’s a financial advisor who discovers that his daughter has predictive powers about stocks.

Does this draw him closer? Yes, of course. Is it for right reasons? No. He gets closer to Olivia because he wants to win at the game of money. This movie is a set up for the great drama that working parents have during a divorce. “I’m working for you,” but a child knows that he’s working for himself.

Imagine That deliciously documents how Eddie Murphy negotiates with his daughter, plays with his daughter, and finds the answers to the future. In doing this, Eddie Murphy realizes that the goal he really is searching for is in Olivia’s heart. This is a movie that every father and daughter should see together. I saw Imagine That with my 7 year old daughter to our mutual delight.

Imagine That.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Divorce - Respecting The Intergenerational Boundary

There is a boundary between generations which is called the Intergenerational Boundary. This is a fundamental truism that I operate on when I see a family. Parents need to know what to share with their children and what they should keep to themselves.

Oftentimes after a divorce, or even after a big marital fight you're depressed, sad, or angry. And who's around? Your children - they're soft, pliable, loving, they'll listen and they'll be there, but sometimes they just shouldn't hear what you have to say.

It's very easy to break the boundary and count on your son or daughter. You may count on them as a substitute spouse, friend, or even worse, a therapist.

Another way that this boundary can be broken is if you're so angry at your ex that you want everyone around you, including your children to know what a jerk he has been. Do they need to know this? It may give you pleasure and you may even feel at ease after getting it all off your chest, but to poison a child's thoughts of their father or mother may have major affects down the road. Just because he wasn't the best husband doesn't mean he can't be a good father.

Children need to figure out for themselves what their relationship with their parents is. After 10, 20, or 30 years, they'll get it straight. If you deceive them and put your feelings onto them, not only will they lose out, but they may blame you as well. Hearing words like "how dare you deprive me of this?" is probably not an experience that you want to have.

The Intergenerational Boundary is a line in the sand. Respect it, so by and large your kids will do better, and so will you.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Child Psychiatrist's Philosophy on Medication

Many people come into my office with some uneasy hostility to the process.

Their child is in trouble - she may have ADHD or depression, an eating disorder, or an anger problem. He may be oppositional or have a substance abuse problem; he may have separation anxiety, or struggle with Aspergers. They've been sent to me because somebody told them that this child may need medication. And the road leads through my office.

Truth be told, I would prefer not to medicate anybody. I'm a big believer in psychotherapy, family dynamics and in severe cases, placing the child in a better social environment to help them grow. You want to put as little foreign material in the brain as possible because the mind has its own way of healing.

Yet, I medicate all the time. The parents will come in and they may be upset. “I knew you were going to recommend medicine” (as if they were here for another purpose). “Can't we do it any other way?” The answer to that is usually no – not if they want it to be as effective as possible. Many of these parents have tried alternatives to medication, with unsatisfactory results. The problem here is that the child is really dysfunctional and medication may be the best way to help that dysfunction to the fullest extent.

I review the risks and the potential benefits of various medicines. But there is a risk that is intangible; yet a critical risk that parents need to know. It is the risk of not treating their child with a medicine that can help.

You see, children are a moving target. What you see at age 7 is different than at age 12. If a child has ADHD and hasn’t been treated within those 5 years, it can be extremely damaging. How many times has he been yelled at by his parents, how many times has he caused disruptions in school, how many times has he frustrated just about anyone? This is hard to deal with. These are precious years for the development of self esteem. So I tell parents that medicine may give your child a sense of competence during these years and sometimes it’s no longer needed when they’re older.

I want this child to feel good about growing up, good about school, good about experiences with family and good about his connections to friends. If medicine can help this along the way, so be it. You have to remember that not treating somebody is also a treatment decision, and not giving medicine that can help is a decision to deprive the child of something that can make things a lot better for them.

If you don’t have a good alternative, then you may be giving a child a bad experience for years that he may not be able to overcome. When parents leave my office, they’re sober in their choices and often decide to medicate their child. Years later they are usually grateful for the decision. It’s a heavy decision to use medicine with your child - but it’s a decision that can sometimes lead to a better life.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

What Children Can Teach Us About Prayer

Children know how to play. They also know how to pray.

A connection to the Divine comes naturally to children because they are open to the notion that they are not alone, and that there is a God in the universe that cares. Truth, be told, we adults can learn much about prayer by understanding our kids.

The human mind is a gift from God; a vehicle for the connection between us and our maker. Yet as we grow older and become encrusted with daily life and habituated to the miracle of existence, the mind serves to constrict that connection. It happens slowly to most of us.

Kids teach us to open up to life and to God. And that is what prayer is at its core: a call for the experience of a vital presence in one's life. When you feel distant from faith, it is difficult to evoke the experience of God by your side as you pray. When you have freed yourself up to your faith, there is a higher likelihood of a sense of the divine in your life.

Not all traditions require a living God in order to pray, and in these traditions (i.e. Quakers, Ethical Culture or Buddhists) prayer evokes a sense of being that quiets the mind in the midst of everyday chaos. But in the deistic faiths, the presence of the Divine can be quite personal and dear. In the midst of a divorce, an adult with a childlike openness can find herself transported to a place of reassurance and wisdom that is worth the effort.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vacation, Divorce, and You

Vacations and divorce: Summertime is here, and with it comes unique hurdles and real opportunities for families of divorce. Parents who are early on in the divorce process need to think carefully about their plans and tailor them for their children. What we want is fun for all.

The first summer after a separation is challenging for all involved–especially the children. As the season opens, and school schedules change, kids are often left with more downtime to spend with their respective parents. Vacations pose an additional need for adjustments for you, your estranged spouse, and your children. In keeping with the mantra of The Intelligent Divorce: your children must always come first. Make sure that they don't get stuck, yet again, right in the middle of their parent's issues.

Let's start with the positive: Vacation is meant to be a time for bonding and fun. For the non-custodial parent, it is a time to strengthen the parent-child bond, to connect in a deep way, and to make new and wonderful memories. For the custodial parent, vacation is a time when you don't have to check homework and you can be more relaxed and flexible on bedtime. It gives you a chance to enjoy your kids with less worry and fuss.

Timing: When planning a vacation, it is important to consider how much time has passed since the divorce. If recent, then a vacation–even just a week or two–is a long time for kids to be away from their other parent. Be prepared to manage your children's homesickness and/or separation anxiety, especially if you’re the non-custodial parent. Decide in advance when and how often your children can touch base with their mom or dad. If you are the parent of youngsters, you may need to be extra sensitive. A two-week vacation may be too much for your six-year-old, if up until this point she has not been away from her mother for more than three days. Do not feel rejected; your children are moving through the stages of grief at their own speed.

Location: We are creatures of habit, and as such like to go back certain places again and again. Forewarned is forearmed: traveling to the old family vacation spot will surely bring up happy memories for your kids when the family was intact, which will likely follow with sad thoughts about the divorce. I advise you start fresh with an unvisited place, one where new memories can be made, and old, fond memories needn't risk being tainted.

Preparation: There are several things you can do to make the family vacation more stress-free, most of which center around the important idea of effective communication with your ex. Make it a point to arrange your children’s schedule together with your ex, in order to avoid unpleasant surprises and fights over your kids’ time. Co-planning will lessen the awkward and unnecessary issue of one parent inadvertently (or otherwise) scheduling a vacation that interferes with a child’s routine. This includes the end or beginning of the school year, other summer activities, or an important time for the ex-spouses, like Mom’s birthday or Father’s Day. Above all else, remember: vacation is not a competition with your ex to see who is the ‘better’ parent. It’s a good idea to plan fun activities with your children, but don’t over-do it. Your vacation should be a chance for you and your kids to enjoy quality time together.

Introducing your “new friend”: Have you ever seen The Parent Trap (or any number of other movies) where the divorced parent brings a new girlfriend or boyfriend on vacation, against the wishes of his or her kids? In the movies, it is a plot device introduced to wreak havoc and chaos–which it almost certainly will in real life, too. Avoid making this common mistake by resisting the temptation to bring along your new flame. Especially after a recent divorce, your kids will not be ready. They may well resent the fact that this ‘new person’ is coming on the family vacation. Don't put them in a position where they may feel disloyal to their other parent, or where they feel forced into the acceptance of the finality of their parent's divorce before they are organically ready. You need to wait until some time has passed. I recommend one calendar year at minimum.

We know the summer months and family vacations can be stressful times, but they can also be fun times, the backdrop for new memories and new family traditions.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Divorce and Going to the Movies III

ET (1982)

Steven Spielberg’s classic film pictures a boy who has experienced loss. Where is the father in this story? It is reported that the story comes from Mr. Spielberg’s own experience with an imaginary friend when he was young. ET turned out to be a great friend to have. Being from another planet, he was both strange and kind; somebody that only a young boy named Elliot gets to know, and when threatened, somebody that Elliot can save as he saves himself.

Children have pets, they have stuffed animals, and they have imaginary friends. They project onto these creatures, beings, things, elements of themselves. By loving your dog or your teddy bear, or even that wonderful figment of your imagination, you are, in a way, loving yourself, taking care of yourself, and never really being alone.

The great psychologist Winnicott tells us that a child’s blanket is a much greater thing than we may think. It is what he calls a transitional object. That blanket contains a sense of mother or father, a sense of being loved, and a sense of connection. So when the 5 year old is alone in her room with her teddy bear and the 7 year old still holds onto that tattered blanket under his pillow, they can feel settled; they are comforted deeply and in essence, they are not alone. We take this into elementary school and even middle school; in imaginary friends, and for others, in books, movies and poetry.

Yes, Mr. Spielberg touches great truths inside, and like an artist of the first rate, he paints it with a picture that’s external; a being from a far away planet. But we know - we parents, students, psychologists - we know that what he’s really pointing to are not the stars, but a warm place deep in our hearts where we feel good.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Divorce - Going to the Movies II


This classic film was remade this year with Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. The 1984 version starring the recently deceased Pat Morita was one of my favorite movies when I was young. It's about a boy that grows up without a father. In the first movie, his mother picks him up out of Philadelphia and moves him to LA, while in the second movie she moves him from Detroit to Beijing. It almost doesn't matter where they came from and where they ended up. What's important here is the journey to manhood that this boy Dre Parker experiences.

Jackie Chan brilliantly portrays the same character we see in 1984 - moderately depressed, burdened, intelligent, and loving. He skillfully plays Mr. Han, the wounded hero who takes interest in a young boy who's all alone in a new place - a boy who's picked on by bullies who just want him to suffer. And of course there's a heroine (aside from a steadfastly committed mother). She is Han Wen Wen in the second movie and Elizabeth Shue in first movie, a slightly older girl with some maternal qualities who takes interest in this pre-pubescent 12 year old boy.

Karate Kid is about a coming of age with a starkly portrayed, childlike character of a boy. He's thin, small, and waiflike. His potential girlfriend is more developed so when he earns her love, it is the sweetest of victories.

But this movie is about bonding, like the bonding you saw in an Officer and a Gentleman with Richard Gere. This older man, Mr. Han, teaches a struggling boy the discipline of martial arts. Jaden Smith's character, Dre, grows, overcomes several obstacles, and in the final scene defeats the bullies who in turn honor Mr. Han as the true teacher and realize their own disgrace. This is about good and evil, but its essence comes from a boy who finds a father figure in the end.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to Deal with Separation Anxiety

Divorce can kick off a number of disorders - Separation Anxiety Disorder is one of them. The signs and symptoms include fears that someone is going to kidnap a child or their parents, inability to stay in bed, intrusive nightmares, and difficulty settling down for sleep. Sometimes it can be so powerful that a child will refuse to go to school, they will get stomach aches that will prevent them from going to school, or they will force the school nurse to send them home.

This disorder usually runs in the family. Take a look to see if you or your spouse has any anxiety disorders running in your family backgrounds. Divorce is a breaking of trust for most children. They expected a family to continue forever and when it breaks some kids feel like the bottom has fallen out.

So don't be surprised if there's an increase in separation anxiety soon after mom or dad moves out. There is treatment for this issue and it includes supportive psychotherapy, reassurance, and occasionally, but not necessarily, medication. If a child is refusing to go to school, you have a serious problem on your hands that needs intervention. It's like falling off a horse - they longer you're off that horse or out of school the harder it is to get back into the swing of things.

In my experience, separation anxiety disorder is quite treatable, but it is something that parents often let go for too long. After a divorce, get help and take your own pulse as well - you don't need any extra anxiety during this time. Don't be too worried because your child should get better with a little bit of time and treatment.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Facebook, Divorce, and You

Imagine: you’re on Facebook and you see that one of your friends has changed their relationship status from ‘married’ to ‘single.’ It’s always complicated to let people know about your divorce, and Facebook gives you a way (for better or worse) to let everyone know. Isn’t that easy?

Think about how easy it is to put information on Facebook, transmit it, and show it off to everyone you know (or everyone with eyes and a computer, depending on your privacy settings.) Social networking sites, like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and even World of Warcraft are becoming the new way through which divorces often start and gather momentum. Photos, updates, and posts provide very concrete evidence of what you are doing, and the fact that you’re showing it off to the world may cause some pain to your spouse if you are the leave-er and he or she is the leave-ee. Privacy is important in protecting the other person's dignity - and there can be hell to pay when you hurt someone more than you have to.

Technology is redefining our lives and so it is with online social networking. Self disclosure in cyberspace is now being used as evidence in some divorce cases as proof that one spouse is at fault, lying, or less fit to be taking care of the kids. According to an article in USA today, research by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conveys that, over the last five years, 81% of divorce lawyers have either utilized or encountered evidence from social networking sites. Facebook is the most cited site, appearing in 66% of cases using subpoenaed Internet evidence.

Now, the problem here are not the sites themselves. Marriages break up for the most ancient of reasons, power struggles, lack of kindness, loss of love, hurt, money problems, infidelity and the like. The Internet doesn't cause marital problems (people do) but it can make matters worse. Infidelity is without doubt, easier because of the sheer access to so many potential lovers. Gambling takes on new forms (like a poker addiction) found in one's living room computer. But anonymity is not what one likes to think, because the Internet also makes it easier for the offending spouse to get caught. The double life you try to lead on the Internet might just come back to haunt you. Lawyers know how to find information you’ve posted on social networking sites that you thought had been kept hidden. Sage advice: Like driving a car, it is a good idea to know about the power of technology before using it and finding yourself in trouble.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Tiger and Elin's Divorce Does Right

The Tiger Woods/Elin Nordegren divorce has finally been settled, with a settlement that sets a new financial record. Ms. Nordegren, who has sole physical custody of the couple’s two young children, is due to receive $750 million, as well as the house the family shares. This record-setting settlement, the latest disclosure in what has been a very public divorce since news of Mr. Wood's first infidelity, is already triggering a lot of controversy. At the center of this debate is a part of the divorce process that is often the most controversial - who gets what?

Celebrity divorces have become a part of our culture (along with celebrity dating, celebrity marriages, and celebrity marital trouble, in our constant desire for every little detail about the rich and famous). As Tiger’s behavior shows us, the celebrity lifestyle allows one to go wrong in big ways. And Mr. Woods' secret life is not so uncommon, given the available funds and time away from home.

What doesn't change with the tabloid headlines and the extra zeroes at the end of a paycheck are the difficulties which families must face going through a divorce, and the way that those behaviors are often reflected by the divorce settlement. When a spouse has been unfaithful, they are violating the marriage bond they formed with their partner. Marriage is a two way street and so is divorce. We do not know what went wrong with this marriage. What we do know is that Tiger Woods engaged in behavior that sealed it's end.

But now it comes to the children, and in this arena this couple is doing well.

News reports tell us that the settlement stipulates that Tiger Woods is not allowed to bring any woman around his kids, unless she is his wife. This is a very important point, and one that may curtail one of the major problems that crops up in this situation. His kids will be protected with this stipulation and it is not a bad idea. Let them grow older with less chance of being fodder for the paparazzi's lenses.

Naturally, everything is complicated by the Woods/Nordegren celebrity status. The large settlement looks like a trade-off: Tiger’s money for Elin’s silence. She can give no interviews or write any books about their relationship as part of the settlement. This is a good thing. Whether Elin got the money she wanted or not, her children need not be publicly exposed in a book or in any public statements. Over the years, it should be up to them to decide how much they appreciate or reject their famous mother and father.

Ultimately, in this and in all divorces, the children's well-being needs to take priority over any other factor.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Divorce – ADHD and You

ADHD can be found in approximately one in twenty kids. That is over one child per class and it is probably an underestimate. These kids are hyper, distracted, impulsive, poorly organized, and irritating. They are often intelligent, but have difficulty learning due to their distracted state of mind. Their hyperactivity can be so intense that their parents feel like pulling out their hair because they can’t keep up. This is a true medical condition that can be treated.

When the diagnosis is missed, the chance of children with ADHD becoming involved with drugs and alcohol (as teenagers) is heightened due to their impulsivity and the degree to which they feel rejected by everyone around them.

Divorce can make ADHD worse. This is not a biochemical process, it is a social process. In the midst of a divorce, parents are more distracted and kids are more emotional. If Johnny lives in two homes and has to bring all of his books back and forth, they just not make it and he’ll be penalized when he gets to school.

ADHD kids often have parents with the same disorder. Without help, the actions of the distracted child can be magnified by their distracted parents.

So what can you do? A lot.

First you need to understand that ADHD is highly treatable. Medications can help a great deal – they can aid the frontal lobe in its organization. Psycho stimulants are the most common type of medication for a child with ADHD, but there are others to choose from as well.

In school, kids should sit in the front of the class. Being in the back reduces the presence of the teacher and the likelihood of impulsive activity by the child becomes greater. If they’re in the front, they are less likely to be distracted by those around them and more attentive to teacher in front of them.

When you’re an ADHD parent – if you had this as a kid, it may be worse for you. Get some help yourself. You’ll be surprised how good modern medicine can be in aiding your attentiveness, and more specifically, your parenting abilities.

In a nutshell, pay attention to paying attention.

Divorce - Going to the Movies

Movies can be a wonderful way to connect to your kids as your family go through a divorce. The reason for this is because of a psychological relief called displacement. Let me explain.

When you directly ask your kids how they feel about the divorce, it’s sometimes difficult for them to explain. It’s too weird for them and the question is emotionally charged. If you ask, they may not answer, cry, go straight to their room, or say, “leave me alone.” Any of these responses means that they’re flooded with feeling and they can’t handle it.

A direct question is simply too much. Fortunately, there is a technique to handle this -it’s called displacement. With this, you can talk about a movie, book, or someone else’s life – use similar situations that aren’t your own as a proxy to talk about what they’re going through.

Good Divorce Movies:

In the 1998 classic Mrs. Doubtfire, Sally Fields files for divorce and gains custody of her three children. Faced with little choice, Robin Williams, the father, pretends to their nanny in order to spend time with his children. It is a hysterical and moving portrait of an American family dealing with divorce.

Liar Liar is a 1997 classic starring Jim Carrey who portrays a dishonest, newly divorced father who is terribly involved with his work (sounds familiar?) His child’s birthday wish is that he never lies anymore. This wish comes true, and sets off a series of events that leads to a warm reunion homecoming of sorts.

Imagine That, starring Eddie Murphy, is a 2009 heart warmer in which he plays a divorced father who reconnects to his daughter after a separation with his wife. Apparently his daughter has special powers which allow him to do his job better. However, Murphy was too involved with work, creating a major strain in his relationship with his family. Murphy’s transition from a workaholic into a loving father sends an important message – both endearing and wonderful for young children.

These movies allow you to sit down and enjoy some quality time with your child. After the movie, you can talk and allow them to express their reactions to it. The very fact that you sat together and enjoyed the movie shows that they have internalized what is happening in your household.

It’s important for them to know that they’re not the only ones and they’ll get through it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Divorce- Is truth always a good thing?

Truth is a great value, but it is not the only value by which we live. When it comes to kids, their health and well-being trumps everything else. We bring them into the world fresh and innocent. If you’re going through a divorce, your children were probably born into an intact family. This is what they know – a solid, caring team who loves them.

Much will change with a divorce. A child is no longer able to be with both of their parents at the same time, under the same roof. Their sense of security can be lessened and they must adapt to a new way of life.

Do you really want to tell them the truth? Should they know that their father had an affair and left their mother (and them)? Do you want them to know about their mother’s alcoholism, or that Mom and Dad haven’t had sex for the last ten years? I’m not so sure.
There is a lot in life that’s private. Kids need to have their innocence. This means that they need not know everything – explicit details are better left unsaid. In my mind, their mental health trumps truth.

This opinion is not always embraced by parents, particularly a parent who feels wronged or defamed. That parent wants the child to carry the same opinion about the other parent that they carry. Here’s something to remember, your children are not you. They are entitled to their own opinions.

So what about the truth? In most cases, it’s best to keep the full truth to yourself because it’s safe to say that the truth hurts. Obviously if a parent is violent, disturbed, or grossly mismanaging a child, their access needs t o be limited. That’s what the courts are for.

Children will ultimately come to their own conclusion about their parents. If a parent is a selfish narcissist who is always unavailable, the child will get it. It’s their call whether they have negative opinions about their mother or father, not yours.

At the end of the day, it’s their relationship. And that, my friends, is the truth.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Transitions, Transitions

Kids aren’t masters of communication; they learn new ways to associate with others in each stage of growth. What this means is that you can’t expect them to come to you with their problems. Younger kids may not understand what they’re feeling or have the right words to express their emotions. Older kids may not yet see the importance of talking things out and getting advice. So, what’s a parent to do? How can you know how your kids are faring if they won’t tell you?
Pay close attention to transitions. And no, we don’t only mean how your son or daughter is handling the divorce overall. We want you to attend to small details. Since the news of your separation, have you been finding it harder to get her up for school in the morning? Does he refuse to put away the video games and focus on his homework? Or, is your older child acting unlike himself and fathering his younger brother?
Transitions, even the small ones, can be difficult for everyone. But growing up is about learning to adapt, and if your child is acting out of the ordinary, it might be an outward manifestation of emotional upset. Your daughter needn’t tell you she is worried, you can probably see it in her eyes when she has trouble leaving for mommy’s house on Sunday night.
There is no need to scrutinize your child’s every move, but do be mindful of behavioral changes—you may get the very answers you’re looking for. If you have concerns, talk to your pediatrician. He or she can be a great resource.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Can Divorce Affect My Kids?

This question undoubtedly wracks the minds and hearts of those contemplating, or going through, divorce. You want to know how the people you care most about —your children—will fare with a disrupted family. You wonder how they will cope when everything they know and trust changes.
The answer is yes, divorce will affect your children. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and how they respond will depend on how you and your soon-to-be ex handle the situation. If you keep the fighting away from your kids, and if each of you provides them with a loving, stable environment in which to grow, they should do just fine.
Don’t focus on the statistics. They will tell you that children of intact families fare better than those of divorced families; we see this comparison as unfair. Intact families are not always happy or nurturing and divorced families are not always cold or torn. Stability is key, and you may be better able to provide this for your kids if you and your partner lead separate lives. There is nothing like having happy, loving adults to look up to as you grow.
So, instead of focusing on whether divorce can affect your kids, consider how the change can be positive for them. This will include understanding your children' needs at this time and learning how to deal with your ex effectively.

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