Seeing the Divorce from your Teen’s Point of View

teens

Seeing the Divorce from your Teen’s Point of View

The teen years are difficult indeed, difficult for the child and most certainly for the parent of that child. But throw divorce into the mixture and suddenly things get much more complicated. After working, and dealing with the divorce issues yourself whether it’s the heartache, adjusting, the painful custody battles or the divvying up of assets, sometimes the last thing you think of is how to see it from your child’s perspective. But it’s really important to step a mile or two in their moccasins so you know how to approach them and can help them through this trying time. Teens just like younger children might blame themselves. They can feel betrayed, angst ridden and even lied to that their parents secretly promised to be together and provide a stable household for them and now that promise had crumbled. But oftentimes parents are so busy dealing with their own, albeit weighty issues and are so drained by the experience that these emotions are papered over by their teen, and they don’t notice them, or dig sufficiently to bring them to the surface. Yet, if these things are ignored, it can affect the teen’s self-esteem, grades and social life. Those teens not emotionally supported through a divorce can take part in riskier behaviors such as drinking and elicit substance use and abuse, riskier sexual behaviors, lower grades, trouble with the law and more. Instead, try seeing the divorce from your teen’s point of view so you’ll know how to reach them.

First, teens can feel betrayed. Let them know what happened. Let them know why the love between their parents has changed, but the love they both have for the teen hasn’t. Remind them that you two are splitting up because of issues between the two of you. Let them know repeatedly on different occasions that it has nothing to do with them and they are not at fault. Couch it not as a betrayal but that the situation has changed and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it. Don’t put teens in the middle. Do not confide in them like adult friends and don’t make them choose sides. It isn’t fair and you will end up scarring them and giving them far more stress and anxiety in their life. Maintain proper schedules, rules and patterns. Teens just like children of other ages need structure. Try if you can to maintain the same rules and consequences at your ex’s house as at yours. Do not badmouth your ex in front of your teen. Encourage a positive relationship between your teen and your ex. Teens can feel stressed, angry, upset, abandoned, guilty, worried, and afraid. Find out how your teen is feeling. Teens are often not forthcoming with their emotions. Bring them somewhere or spend some time with them in a way that they like, that makes them feel comfortable and in a way that you can bond, that gets their guard down. Then ask them how they are feeling about the divorce and really listen to what they have to say. Validate their feelings. Answer their questions. Let them know you will always be there for them. Show them, don’t just tell them. Always be there to support them, listen to them and love them and let them know it from your words but also and more importantly through your actions.

Some teens have difficulty traveling between two parents. This affects them both emotionally and socially. If you know anything about teens, you know that their social lives are often their number one concern. Both parents should be patient and flexible, allowing them time to see what schedule works best. If the financial situation has changed, don’t hide if from your teen. They’ll think you’ve gotten stingy or don’t love them as much if you aren’t spending on them as you used to. Instead, sit them down and talk to them about the financial situation and how things really are. If they know, they will understand and make allowances. But if you keep it from them, they will be angry with you, and then resent you for not confiding in them and this will put a wedge between you. Leveling with them however will draw you closer together. Once you’ve laid everything out for your teen, ask some things of them. Ask them to be fair. Remind them to keep in touch with the parent they don’t see as often. When there is a problem like who to invite to a graduation, you, your ex, your teen and everyone involved should learn to be civil, adult, mature and flexible in order to work things out and make the event as happy for the teen as can be. Tell them that they don’t have to carry emotional burdens on their own. It doesn’t have to be you if they don’t feel comfortable, it can be a trusted friend, the school counselor or a religious leader if you are a part of organized religion. But encourage the teen to talk to someone and not carry burdens alone. For more, pick up a copy of The Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor.

Dealing with Children Traumatized by Divorce

Father comforts a sad child

Dealing with Children Traumatized by Divorce

Children can be traumatized by divorce, especially if they are very young and/or if the divorce is particularly contentious. Children who have been traumatized by divorce are in a state of fear and alarm. They are anxious. They don’t respond well to non-verbal cues such as tone of voice, facial expressions or body language. These children have difficulty concentrating. These children may have difficulty in school or getting along with others. Being in a constant state of low-level fear, also called hyperarousal doesn’t allow them to relax and so affects cognition as well. They will have more difficulty learning, being too distracted and not being able to concentrate due to feeling afraid constantly. Here are some things you can do as a parent, caregiver or teacher dealing with a child who has been traumatized by divorce. First, often people tell children to take their mind off of the divorce or to stop thinking about it. The truth is, they can’t control it. Instead, encourage the child to talk about the trauma they’ve suffered. Don’t force the child to talk about it. You risk them clamming up even further. Instead, let the child bring it up. But don’t avoid discussing it with them. Instead, validate their feelings, clarify any misunderstandings, support them, comfort them and answer any questions they may have. Don’t overreact. Be honest with the child. Show them that you will be there for them whenever they want to talk and the effects of this will be positive, and long-lasting.

Provide structure for the child. Children need structure. Reliable patterns that happen each day or from day-to-day will help put the child at ease. Children want to know that those giving them care are in control of situations. Having a caregiver that isn’t in control, that is anxious or overwhelmed, will fill the children with anxiety. However, if you are just overwhelmed at this particular time, simply explain to the child why. Do so in a manner that they can understand and that is age appropriate, and their anxiety will subside. When it comes to telling them about the divorce it’s best if both of you, and if that is not possible one of you, sit down with the child if you are the parent or caregiver and let them know why it is happening. Repeatedly let them know that it isn’t their fault. Be honest with them and answer any questions they may have.  Make sure they understand the explanations and that they are delivered in an age appropriate manner. Make it clear and simple for younger children, and give older children more information and answer the questions of children at any age. Be there for them. Make sure you keep supporting them, giving them lots of love, attention and affection, but enforcing the rules all the same. Make sure the rules are clear and enforce them consistently as you would for any other child. Setting a sense of normalcy is important. Do it from the beginning and carry it on throughout.

Make sure you clearly answer all of the child’s questions and fill in all the gaps if and where necessary. Allow them to ask any follow-up questions and encourage it. Children who don’t know the whole story often fill in the gaps themselves, and the stories and fantasies they make up are usually far worse than what happened in real life. Watch closely how the child plays alone and with others. Do you see signs of re-enactment such as drawing and playing or signs of avoidance such as avoiding playmates and others, staying by themselves, daydreaming or being withdrawn? After a traumatic experience children often exhibit the latter behaviors. Comfort the child. Be aware of their emotional and psychological issues. Keep a diary and record their behavior. If your child takes part in a game or activity that makes them upset, cut off that activity immediately. Don’t let them watch movies, TV shows and the like that upset them. Let the child have choices. Give them a sense of control in their own life. Perhaps even seek out a child psychologist whom your child feels comfortable speaking with and that can reach the child. Look for services in your area. For more, pick up a copy of Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way by M. Gary Neuman and Patricia Romanowski.

Erase your Ex-Spouse from your Life

WOMAN-HAPPY-ALONE-BED

Erase your Ex-Spouse from your Life

Once the fights have stopped, the divorce is pending and you have moved out of the apartment or house, you can find it so hard adjusting to your new life. One thing human beings hate is change and the worst kind is upheaval. That’s what a divorce is. So of course you need time to deal with the trauma, grieve and adjust. The trouble is some people tend to wallow in misery. Brooding only creates a cycle of negativity in your life. You don’t want to dwell and be haunted by the shadows of the past. The best divorce advice for women and men is to erase your ex-spouse from your life. It’s of course easier said than done. Everyone’s heart takes some time to heal. But when you can’t lift the veil of negativity and sullenness, here is some advice on how to help you move on. First, get rid of all your connections to your ex and any memories associated with them. Don’t follow them on any social media sites. Unfriend them. Take all of the photos and things they got you and anything that reminds you of them and stash them away. You can keep them as mementos for when you are feeling better about the situation. It was a part of your life. You don’t have to destroy it or get rid of it. But you also don’t want to be reminded of them all of the time either. That can be torture. Start setting up your own routines. Decorate your place with your own stuff. Start to rebuild your life and make it your own and you’ll settle into your own routines and feel better.

It’s harder to forget your ex-spouse if you have kids. But start to erase from your heart and your memory all the good feelings you had. You are going to have to co-parent with this person. Pivot toward that sort of relationship. That’s a relationship filled with schedules, rules, and structure. You can interact professionally, in a distant, calculated manner. Do not drunk dial your ex and do not jump into bed with them. As much as you think it’s a good idea to have fun with no strings attached, or you just want to feel those feelings again, usually you just end up falling into the same negative routines and you have to disentangle yourself all over again, which can be heartbreaking. Don’t keep thinking about the marriage, the relationship and what you should have done, or how you could have saved the marriage. If it really broke up like this it was meant to be. Don’t beat yourself up. Forgive yourself truly to the depths of your soul. When your emotions have calmed sometime in the future you should reflect on your baggage and the negative things you brought to the relationship, only to learn from your past mistakes and not make them again in future relationships. This next one is difficult, especially for those who have trouble letting go. You should forgive your ex-spouse. That hatred, malice, resentment and anger only hurt you. They only infect your psyche. Your ex-spouse only sees you so often. You are with your own head 24 hours a day. So all that negativity will never hurt your ex as much as it hurts you. Let it go. Forgive. Find compassion, and peace will fill your heart.  

Now is the time for focusing on yourself and your own healing process. Find positive ways to heal. Avoid drugs and alcohol, gambling, obsessive shopping and so on. That will only make things worse. Lots of people find journaling a healing experience. Yoga, transcendental meditation, exercise, a hobby, making a dream board, travel and community service are all ways to heal. You want to reconnect with yourself as well. Though a divorce is an end, every end is a new beginning. So instead of focusing on the end perhaps it’s best to focus on the new lease you have on life. What do you want to do? Who do you want to be? What do you want to work toward? Everything is open for you. For more on coping with divorce, read How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Peter McWilliams, Harold H. Bloomfield and Melba Colgrove.

Marriage Meetings

couple.talking

Marriage Meetings

Even the most loving marriages need a little reconnoitering now and then. But if you ignore the problems that pop up or don’t deal with them directly you risk letting them grow and take over your marriage. That’s why holding regular marriage meetings is important. Even if you are like best friends who almost never fight and your communication seems perfect, sometimes there are things you want to discuss with them, but you don’t want to bother your spouse with it. You think it’s nothing. But it is that very nothing that can rise up and cause damage to the marriage. Some couples come to the point where they ignore issues, problems, faux pas and other things. These things, while small issues in and of themselves, can pile up. Then as the pressure builds more and more, perhaps we even expect our spouse to notice what is happening and they don’t and this compounds the issue, sooner or later that volcano is going to erupt. Then what seemed like the perfect marriage is now filled with all kinds of problems and both members feel overwhelmed. What can a couple do then? How do you pick up the pieces, and move on?

The answer is having a regular marriage meeting. This is the time to bring up those problems, little missteps, issues, things that have been lingering, items that have been driving you crazy and more. Hold it once per week. It should be a place or location that both parties feel comfortable in. No distractions like the game, work emails, texts from friends and more should get in the way. Children should be shut out of this meeting. Though a family meeting may be needed to address other issues. Make sure never to skip a week. It should become part of your weekly ritual. Make sure both partners get a chance to speak uninterrupted. When one talks the other one listens actively, not sitting there trying to come up with a defense or brilliant retort. If there isn’t anything negative to be said, find something positive to share with your partner. You can’t not respond. Everyone has to share something every week. Always end on a positive note. Make sure to follow up on problems and give open and honest feedback. Communication without any obstacles is the number one objective to the weekly marriage meeting. Achieve that and your relationship will be so much stronger. For more on this topic, read Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted by Marcia Naomi Berger.

Almost 20% of U.K. Parents Consider Divorce after Summer Break

divorce-family-problems

Almost 20% of U.K. Parents Consider Divorce after Summer Break

Summer vacation, while often looked forward to, can end up being a stressful time for parents. But this recent survey out of the U.K. tells the tale like no other. Almost 20% of U.K. parents consider divorce after their kids finish summer break. The survey was conducted by Stowe Family Law and used 2,008 U.K participants.  All were adults and 1,244 were parents. Those who considered separation or divorce did so after the kids had been home for summer vacation. One reason was the financial burden that comes with having the kids around all the time. 46% of participants felt more pressure to spend during summer vacation. Senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe said that another reason is that the marriage was already on the rocks, but the parents didn’t want to ruin their children’s summer break by splitting up. Of this she states, “Our experience, based on the clients we see at our offices across the country, is that parents may give their marriages ‘one final go’ over the holidays, or delay any proceedings until the children are back at school because they don’t wish to spoil the family’s break. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I suspect that a relationship in trouble may be too damaged to be rescued by a holiday -– but can easily be broken by it.”

Another Swedish study also looked at what forces cause divorce or separation and found that those who commuted 45 minutes or more were more likely to divorce. Other research out of the University of Kansas found that those who argued about money, specifically when it was early on in the relationship, were more likely to divorce. Of course all of these studies are interesting. But they really don’t talk about the concrete forces that inhabit below the surface that cause a couple to drift apart from one another. Truly if a couple is connected, compassionate toward one another, committed and enthusiastic about the relationship, no amount of summer vacation or commuting can drive them apart. It really starts and ends with the couple. You have to decide to reinvest in the relationship and keep things fresh, or else you will drift apart. You both have to decide to let things go when they need to be let go, and forgive. Moving on over the rough patches, reminiscing about the good times, loving one another and taking the time to be there for each other makes your relationship strong, resilient and vibrant. It’s all up to you and your spouse and how you decide to perceive one another, and how you choose to perceive yourself and your relationship together. It starts and ends with you. For more advice on saving your marriage, read Divorce Busting: A Step-By-Step Approach To Making Your Marriage Loving Again by Michele Weiner-Davis.