Kid’s Clothes and Divorce: Dirty, Clean Mixed With Dirty, or Missing!

Kid’s Clothes and Divorce: Dirty, Clean Mixed With Dirty, or Missing!

They either come back, dirty, clean mixed in with the dirty or, missing. How I solved the kid’s clothes and divorce saga.

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Negotiating Holiday Gift Giving After Divorce

Negotiating Holiday Gift Giving After Divorce

The best gifts you can give have nothing to do with price tags and are all about time and love.

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Adult Children of Divorce and Thanksgiving: The “Giving” Never Ends!

Adult Children of Divorce and Thanksgiving: The “Giving” Never Ends!

I’m not sure why it happens, but I know many grown children of divorce who still feel this way—make each parent happy first, deal with your needs second. And, still, it’s never enough.

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Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children

Maddie’s Story: How My Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children

Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children

 

In part one and part two of my story, I discuss how I no longer feel responsible for his behavior and, how I found it so easy to fall in love with him. Today I want to discuss how my covert narcissist destroyed our children.

I guess I should say, nearly destroyed because, thankfully, for them, I was always there to guide them through the damage he did to them. Even with my guidance and love, the damage is there and will last their entire lifetime.

There is nothing more heart wrenching than having no recourse against someone who is doing grave emotional harm to your children. If a stranger had done what their father did, I would have had recourse. But, since it was their father, the family court system turned a blind eye to his behavior.

It started from the beginning, the very beginning before I even knew there would be a divorce.

I’m sharing this information in bullet points in order to keep my thoughts straight and not running together. We’ve been divorced for nearly 2 decades, there is no way I can share the entire story but, these are issues I remember as being the most damaging.

How My Covert Narcissistic Ex Nearly Destroyed Our Children

  • He made the decision to divorce without a discussion with me. One day he was there, the next he was gone. Here is how he told our children before he ever told me. He went to our older son’s school and checked him out of school. He told our son, to not ask him any questions, to get in the car and he would explain after they picked up our younger son. He then went to our younger son’s school and checked him out. Once they were all in the car, the boys in the backseat, he turned, looked at them and said, “Your Mom and I are getting divorced. I’m leaving and never coming home.” Needless to say, our sons became very emotional. They thought they came from a happy home and family. He had just dropped a bomb on them. They begged and pleaded for an explanation, but he refused to look at or respond to their questions and evident distress. He pulled up into the driveway or our home and told them to get out. He left them standing in the driveway, crying with our youngest who was six at the time, writhing on the ground.

 

  • He didn’t see the children for a month after that and when he did, he was only interested in spending time with our youngest. When our oldest son, asked him why he never invited him to visit his father told him, “because I have a deeper bond with your little brother. “I think I love him more than I love you.” I told him he couldn’t take one without taking both, that I would not allow him to ignore the needs of our older son. So, he began visiting with both boys. The problem? Both boys had questions about why he left, why he was doing what he was doing. He refused to answer their questions or allow them to ask questions. He said, “I won’t have my time with you marred by unpleasant conversation.”

 

  • Our oldest eventually stopped going on visitations with him and requested his Dad join him in therapy to work through their “relationship issues.” His Dad refused therapy together but said he would see our son’s therapist on his own when he had time. When asked by our son why he didn’t want to go with him, he responded with, “I don’t owe you anything, not my time, not my feelings, NOTHING.” That’s when our oldest son gave up on his father.

 

  • It’s been 14 years since he’s had a conversation or spent any time with our oldest son. My ex has a DIL and granddaughter that he has never met and, given his actions must not have an interest in meeting. He also has a grown son who is in therapy to deal with the damage done by a father who abandoned him.

 

  • My ex continued to visit with our youngest son. He saw him once a month. No phone calls, email or contact between those once a month visits. Our younger son would email and text him, but he never got a response. He asked his Dad to call on Tuesday nights to help him study for spelling tests. His father refused. He asked his Dad to help him build a car for the Boy Scout’s Pinewood Derby, his father refused.

 

  • Three years after our divorce my ex became seriously involved in a relationship with a woman who had an older daughter. That is when he completely cut off our younger son. He had no communication or face-to-face contact with your youngest or oldest sons for six years.

 

  • When our younger son was 16, he had a psychotic break. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with PTSD and Bi-Polar Disorder. His medical records state “Psychosis due to parental abandonment.” According to the Psychiatrist our son needed his father. The Psychiatrist called my ex and my ex told him that there was nothing he could do to help. That what was going on was my fault, not his. How could it be his fault because he hadn’t seen the kid is six years. The psychiatrist told him that, that was exactly why our son was having issues. My ex hung up on him.

 

  • It’s been another 8 years with no contact from their father. Since the day he left the marriage he has not sent a Christmas gift, Birthday gift, attended a graduation, wedding or acknowledge the important things in their lives.

I’m happy to report that both sons are flourishing. They are stable, ethical men. Both have great careers and one has a lovely family. The majority of their day-to-day lives are lived without thought of their Dad and what he did to them.

They both, however, are in therapy. One is on medication he’ll take for the rest of his life and neither will be rid of the scars left by a covert narcissistic father who discarded them as if they were dirt on his shoes.

The Family Courts and Emotional Abuse of a Child

You can protect your child via the courts if they’re being emotionally abused. You can request a custody evaluation, get a Guardian Ad Litem for them, or a psyche evaluation. There is nothing you can do via the courts to protect a child from abandonment by a father.

Google, “Legally forcing a man to visit his children” and you’ll come up with nothing. I came up with one article that said, “visitation is a privilege, not a legal responsibility?” Since a man who abandons his children isn’t breaking any laws there is no way to hold them legally responsible for the damage done by their abandonment.

That’s why I tell other mothers who are dealing with the damage done by such fathers that it’s up to them to clean up the mess to the best of their ability. It’s up to all us mothers who’ve watched a narcissistic father damage his children to do our best to cushion the damage being done.

We can’t fill the hole left by an absent father. That isn’t within our power. We can let our children know that we are their “ride or die.” We can promote their emotional wellbeing by enlisting friends and relatives to show them love and support.

If you’re lucky you’ve got a brother or father who can step in and take up some of the slack and become surrogate fathers. It still won’t fill that hole left by the father but, there is never too much love and caring given to children who’ve been abandoned.

I was thinking about the Catholic church the other day and how suits can be filed by people who were molested by Priests. My hope is that one day, adults who were abandoned by a parent will have the same right to sue that parent for punitive damages. It won’t make them whole again or undo the damage but, I can think of nothing better than legally punishing a parent who skipped out on their children.

Protect your children, Mamas! You are their lifeline. You are their hope. You are all that stands between them and their narcissistic father.

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Surviving the Holidays Without Your Kids

Surviving the Holidays Without Your Kids

Holidays without your kids during divorce feels awful. The holidays will be different this year if you are going through a divorce. Painful, maybe, especially without your kids. You can survive and it will get better. Here are four tips.

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How to Survive Thanksgiving if Your Ex is a TURKEY!

How to Survive Thanksgiving if Your Ex is a TURKEY!

Some fathers are irrational, misguided and unable to keep their children out of the middle of the conflict they have with the mother. It isn’t only during the holidays.

The post How to Survive Thanksgiving if Your Ex is a TURKEY! appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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efficient single mom

7 Habits Of Highly Efficient Single Moms

efficient single mom

 

There is definitely an art and a science to successful single parenting. Since I was raised by a single parent and raised two children solo for a few years, it’s worth mentioning that there is a silver lining to being a single mom. Fortunately, many moms gain self-confidence in their ability to handle challenges and their children become more determined and independent.

However, making the transition from married to single life won’t be easy for you or your children. It takes time to adjust to financial changes, expanded household and childcare responsibilities and being alone. It’s essential that you develop daily habits and routines to smooth the way for you and your children.

The key to successful single parenting is to reflect daily upon the importance of preparing for your new life and accepting that change is necessary. It will take time for you and your children to adjust to your new lifestyle but developing a positive mindset will help ease the transition.

Since I’ve always found paradigms and principles useful to setting goals, I will borrow habits from Stephen R. Covey‘s Habits of Highly Effective People and adapt them for single moms. In several cases, I borrowed his heading and in others, developed my own.

7 Habits of an efficient single mom

1. Be proactive: Get support for yourself and your children. This includes counseling, social outlets, and child care. Avoid playing the role of victim and remind yourself that things will get better over time.

2. Create a positive vision: Take control of your life and develop a clear picture of where you are heading. Decide what your values are for raising your children and start with setting three goals that are meaningful to you. Keep in mind that it can take up to a month to see any change.

3. Prioritize: Don’t sweat the small stuff and keep the focus on spending time with your kids and positive interactions. For instance, in our house we had pizza on Tuesday nights which gave us one weeknight to spend more time together when I wasn’t so focused on cooking and cleaning up.

4. Think win-win: Make peace with your ex and keep it that way. No matter how you feel about your ex, don’t bad mouth him or argue in front of your kids. Children pick up on petty fighting and may take it personally. So walk away or take on the role of peacemaker if tension is brewing with your ex. Otherwise, your children will feel forced to take sides, which may cause them to develop loyalty conflicts and possibly emotional problems if there is high conflict.

5. Seek first to understand: then to be understood: Open up the lines of communication with your kids. Be open and honest without giving them too many details or blaming your ex for the divorce. Even if you perceive that he was responsible they shouldn’t hear it from you. Take every opportunity to listen, support, and encourage them to talk about their feelings with you and/or someone they trust.

6. Ensure smooth transitions. Work with your children and possibly your ex to reduce stress in the lives of your children. Children often experience stress moving from parent to parent after divorce. Try your best to develop routines for their leaving and coming home. Be sure not to make them a messenger or ask them to report on the parent they just left. Attempt to be flexible yet consistent with the custody schedule. Keep in mind that as kids reach adolescence they may become rebellious about following the original custody schedule and need more control.

7. It’s Me Time: Take time to do the things that you enjoy. Set expectations for your children to do regular chores. This doesn’t mean overburdening them with too much responsibility. However, having high expectations for your kids will set the stage for making them more independent and will allow you to have more downtime.

How can you embrace this time of your life as an opportunity? First of all, it’s imperative that you focus on the things that are truly important and learn to let other things go. This involves making a commitment to helping your children adjust to your divorce and practicing amicable co-parenting. Working together with your ex and communicating effectively is ideal. However, if this isn’t possible, either because your ex is absent or adversarial, you can still become a successful single parent.

Be patient with your children – it will encourage their cooperation. Give your kids time to adjust to the news that their parents are no longer married.  Keep in mind that they will need time to get used to their new schedule and they may show signs of distress or withdraw at times. Reassure them that you are there for them and that things will get better.

At times, you may feel guilty about putting your children through a divorce but don’t let that stop you from setting effective limits and boundaries. For instance, allowing your children to stay up late or sleep with you may backfire because you both need your space and sleep. Be aware that kids play parents off each other and may say things like “Dad lets me stay up until midnight.” Even if this is true, you can say “Your dad has his rules, but in my house bedtime is at 9pm.”

As a single mom, it is of primary importance that you help your children cope with your divorce and develop a mindset of being a positive role model for them. In order to do this, you must take care of yourself. Parents who take control of their own lives, with courage and resilience, help their children do the same. Being a single mom draws on every ounce of energy from you, forcing you to become a more compassionate person.

Learn to trust yourself and embrace your new life by taking care of you. For example, sign up for yoga or an exercise class, eat healthy, and schedule in social times with friends. You will be a more effective parent if you are rested and feel connected to others. Counseling, coaching, or a support group can be helpful supports that will enhance your transition to your new life.

As a parent who is taking care of herself and gaining confidence, you are equipping your child with the best tools possible and the self-esteem to move forward with their life. Developing a sense of adventure and new rituals such as family game night or walks will help you stay connected with your children.

Your divorce can be seen as a transforming event, and you alone are responsible for creating a new kind of family for you and your children. You can choose to model self-acceptance and hope for your kids. Learning to laugh at yourself and focusing on the big picture will enable you and your children to make a good adjustment to divorce.

Terry Gaspard on Facebook, Twitter, and movingpastdivorce.com

More from Terry

6 Ways to Mend Trust After Divorce

Building Resiliency in Children After Divorce

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negative post-divorce feelings

Negative Post-Divorce Feelings: One Day They’re Going To Get The Best Of Me

negative post-divorce feelings

 

I’m a divorced mom who has shared custody of an 8-year-old girl. I have a good job, great friends, own a house, and am generally happy.

However, I have personal issues that I am working on that I constantly hope will resolve faster. I own it, I mostly hate it, and I’m working through it.

I have guilt, I have entitlement, and I have anger. One day, one of those three things is going to get the better of me.

Negative Post-Divorce Feelings I Have:

Guilt. 

I want more for my daughter. I want her to have the happiest easiest life. I want her to walk to school and have friends and play and go to birthday parties and sleepovers. I want her to worry about kid things like her best friend has more scrunchies than her, or that she didn’t know who to sit with at lunch in the cafeteria.

I don’t want her to worry about which parent she will be with for the first day of school, or her birthday, or the holidays. When our neighbors have birthday parties for their kids, it might be a weekend she is with her dad. There is always a 50% chance.  She misses out, and I don’t want my beautiful girl to miss out on anything.

She has to worry about her homework and if her piano music got copied and sent to dad’s house. Are her favorite shoes at mom’s house? Because she wants to wear them to a party. It breaks my heart that I can’t give her the life that other parents can, by providing one home that she lives in and can thrive in, as opposed to two.

Entitlement. 

This is a big one. I endured a lot in my short marriage. Excessive drinking, lying, and infidelity. My ex-husband had an affair my entire pregnancy and left me to fend for myself. When he was around, he was not a nice person. He made his resentments very well known to me.

The night before my daughter was born, the San Jose Sharks were in the playoffs. I was to be induced the next day. I told him I was making a special dinner for us since it is our last night before the baby comes. He left work, stopped at the bar for a drink, and came home to find out that I had recorded the wrong channel. I recorded the news instead of the Sharks game. He had a massive tantrum, including yelling at me that I can’t do anything right, I am useless, and for God’s sake, I’m not even wearing TEAL.

I cried, and packed a bag and spent the night in a hotel so I could have a peaceful night before giving birth. After being induced, 72 hours of labor, hemorrhaging and needing emergency surgery and a blood transfusion, I had my baby. She was perfect.

So yes, shouldn’t I be entitled to have my own daughter on her birthday? Not every other year, but every year. Shouldn’t I get to raise her and love her and be with her daily? The law says that no, I shouldn’t. That his genetic material made up 50% of our daughter, so he gets 50% of her. On good days I am glad she has a good relationship with him. On bad days, I don’t think he even deserves the title of father since he was such a jerk during my pregnancy and her first couple of months.

I think I deserve more time with her. That am entitled to more. Did he have hyperemesis during pregnancy and was bedridden? Nope, that was me. Did he almost die during labor? Nope, me again. Did he party and binge drink, and sleep with another woman for months while I was sick and alone? Yes, he did.  Entitlement is a killer, and at times I think it eats at my soul.

Anger: 

I left my husband twice. The first time when my daughter was 6 weeks old when I discovered his long involved affair.  When my daughter was a year old, I decided to try a relationship with her dad again since he appeared so remorseful and made great strides in cleaning up his life. That lasted about 2 years before the binge drinking, blacking out, and other precarious outings with women started.

He was drunk driving quite a bit. His behavior was erratic. I wanted to fix up my daughter’s room by painting the walls and getting some cute little decals. He had a tantrum and said she wasn’t worth it, and he refused to spend the money and demanded I return everything I bought. The last night we were ever living together as a married couple, a policeman had to pick my little girl out of her crib in her onesie pajamas, and told me I had 5 minutes to get a go-bag since my husband was so drunk the police officer said he was not to be trusted.

I was in such a hysterical state, that I packed my car with my daughter, our dog, and a bag filled with shoes. SHOES. Nothing else. That is how crazy an incident like that can make a person. I left him and went to stay with my parents and told him I would be back in one week and he better have found another place to live by then.

Do you want to know what this horrible human being did?

He went to rehab.

He started rehab 2 days after my daughter and I left. He has been sober for almost 5 years now. He has a great job, a house, two cars, a boat, and is president of the PTA. I can’t even make this stuff up. I am grateful every day that he is healthy and seemingly happy and has stepped up as a father. He wants to be involved in everything that our kiddo does. He drives on field trips, he takes her on vacations, and he has taken her to more playoff games for Bay Area sports teams than most grown adults have gone to.

So why am I so angry?

Because he put me through hell. I have sheltered my daughter from any of it so her father and I can sit next to each other at her dance recitals or gymnastics classes. I have bitten my tongue and sacrificed my daunting ego so that she has a loving relationship with her father.

The jerk who came to the baby classes drunk is now the head of the PTA.  He has a girlfriend of several years and they take my daughter on trips together. They take her to church. They painted her room at her dad’s house pink. She has a cute bedspread and a ton of toys, and a basketball hoop him the backyard at his house.

She loves her dad. Which on good days I am so grateful for. So when I have Christmas every other year alone watching Netflix, and eating copious amounts of ice cream, I get angry. Angry at him for being so great now, angry at myself for putting up with so much, angry at all the happy families that are spending Christmas together. Just plain angry.

My ex-husband and I still argue. We still have disagreements about custody and money. Our daughter has no idea, and we are able to sit together at school functions without clawing at each other’s eyes.  I am several years in as a divorced mom, but it honestly feels like this journey just started. Like I should be farther along than I am.

I should be happy for my ex-husband. I should be enjoying my free time more, I should be traveling, going out, laughing. Sometimes I am doing great; however, sometimes I am missing my daughter and I don’t know who I am without her. Everyone says it gets better, and sharing custody gets easier. After several years as a co-parent, I shouldn’t have so much guilt, I shouldn’t be so entitled, and I shouldn’t be angry.

But it is my process and my truth. And I can decide to let it get the better of me, or thrive.

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Take the High Road for Thanksgiving After Divorce

Take the High Road for Thanksgiving After Divorce

For children caught in the crossfire of custody disputes, holidays can become a nightmare, not a time of joy. Parents owe it to their children to do the right thing. It starts with recognizing the importance of holidays in children’s lives.

The post Take the High Road for Thanksgiving After Divorce appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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struggles of co-parenting

Do The Struggles Of Co-Parenting Ever End?

struggles of co-parenting

 

As a therapist and writer specializing in divorce, I’m often asked, “When does co-parenting get easier?” While there is no simple answer to this question, most experts probably agree that while families usually adapt to co-parenting over time, it never really gets easier. Most co-parenting arrangements, especially after an acrimonious split, can be exhausting and exasperating.

Put simply, the challenges change as children grow and develop. Consequently, it’s key for parents to keep in mind that the tools necessary to succeed need to be modified considerably as children age and mature.

Do The Struggles Of Co-Parenting Ever End?

Clearly, research by child development experts demonstrates numerous benefits to children when their living arrangements enable support from both parents. One reason is that parents who co-parent tend to experience lower conflict than those who have sole custody arrangements.

Studies show that conflict is what creates the most pain and anguish for children after parents’ split and that keeping parental disagreements to a minimum is a key aspect of helping kids become resilient.

Co-parenting, at its best, is a wonderful opportunity for children of divorce to have close to equal access to both parents – to feel it is okay to love both of their parents.  Dr. Joan Kelly, a renowned psychologist reminds us that the outcomes for children of divorce improve when they have positive bonds with both parents. These include better psychological and behavioral adjustment and enhanced academic performance.

However, few authors mention that while co-parenting is the best decision for children, it takes two special parents to navigate this arrangement over time. Interacting with each other at drop-offs, making shared decisions, or even speaking to an ex who you’d rather forget can be a challenge.

In order to succeed at co-parenting, it’s wise to be realistic about the difficulties that may arise as your kids go through childhood and adolescence. For instance, it might be hard to differentiate between the impact of your divorce and normal adolescent rebellion.

For instance, my two children spent close to equal time with both myself and their father until they reached adolescence when they both protested their schedule.  When my daughter was thirteen, after her father’s remarriage, she chooses to spend most overnights at my home, while her brother started spending more overnights at his father’s house because it was located near most of his friend’s homes.

Fortunately, my ex and I agreed that it was in their best interests to revise their schedule. As a result, our kids thrived as they felt their needs were being respected.

There are numerous benefits of co-parenting for kids:

Children will:

  1. Feel a sense of security. Children who maintain a close bond with both parents and are more likely to have higher self-esteem.
  2. Have better psychological adjustment into adulthood. My research shows that adults raised in divorced families report higher self-esteem and fewer trust issues if they had close to equal time with both parents.
  3. Grow up with a healthier template for seeing their parents cooperate. By cooperating with their other parent, you establish a life pattern that they can carry into their future.
  4. Have better problem-solving skills. Children and adolescents who witness their parents cooperate are more likely to learn how to effectively resolve problems themselves.

The key to successful co-parenting is to keep the focus on your children – and to maintain a cordial relationship with your ex-spouse. Most importantly, you want your children see that their parents are working together for their well-being. Never use them as messengers because when you ask them to tell their other parent something for you, it can make them feel stuck in the middle. It’s best to communicate directly with your ex and lessen the chances your children will experience loyalty conflicts.

The following are suggestions based on my own experience and advice from experts. First of all, it’s paramount that you gear your parenting plan to the age of your children and that it is consistent. Try to develop routines for them leaving and coming home when they are young. As they reach adolescence, they strive to be more flexible and adapt to their changing needs.

Tips to help kids live happily in two homes:

For children under age 10:

  1. Reassure them that they have two parents who love them. If they balk at going to their other parent’s home, you can say something like “Even though mom and dad aren’t married anymore we both still love you and are good parents.”
  2. Maintain a cordial, business-like relationship with your ex so that your children won’t feel intensely divided loyalties. It’s important not to express anger at your ex in front of your children so they don’t feel stuck in the middle
  3. Help your kids anticipate changes in their schedule. Planning ahead and helping them pack important possessions can benefit them. However, keep items to a bare minimum. Most parents prefer to have duplicate items for their kids on hand.
  4. Encourage your younger child to adhere to their parenting time schedule – being consistent with their schedule will help your kids feel secure. Younger children often benefit from avoiding frequent shifts between homes.
  5. Show enthusiasm about their visit with their other parent. It’s important to put your differences with your ex aside and to promote your children’s positive bond with them.

For children over age 10 – to young adulthood:

  1. Allow for flexibility in their schedule. At times, teens may have difficulty juggling their busy life with school, extracurricular activities, friends, and jobs if they start working.
  2. Encourage them to spend time with their friends and extended family (on both sides). Avoid giving them the impression that being with their friends is not as important as spending time with you.
  3. Plan activities with them that might include their friends at times – such as sporting events or movies. Encourage opportunities for them to bond with peers at both homes.
  4. Respect your teen’s need for autonomy and relatednessDr. Emery writes, “Teenagers naturally want more freedom, but they also want and need relationships with their parents, through your adolescent may be unwilling to admit this.”

Keep in mind that communicating with your former spouse is going to be necessary for the length of your children’s childhood into young adulthood. This may include special events, graduations – and perhaps even weddings.  It’s important to keep clear boundaries so that your children wouldn’t harbor fantasies that you will reconcile.

For the most part, this means less personal sharing and focusing on exchanging information, cooperation, and make good decisions about your children.

Finally, modeling cooperation and polite behavior set a positive tone for co-parenting. When children are confident of the love of both of their parents, they will adjust more easily to divorce. Keeping your differences with your ex away from your children will open up opportunities to move beyond divorce in the years to come. Ask yourself this question: how do you want your children to remember you and their childhood when they are adults?

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com

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