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.
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:
- Feel a sense of security. Children who maintain a close bond with both parents and are more likely to have higher self-esteem.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.”
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Respect your teen’s need for autonomy and relatedness. Dr. 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?
More From Terry
Let’s work on making holidays better for children of separated or divorced parents.
The post 4 Tips to Help Children Enjoy Their Post-Divorce Holidays appeared first on Divorce Magazine.
According to Alan Kemp in his book Abuse in the Family, domestic violence is defined as “A form of maltreatment perpetrated by a person with whom the victim has or had a close personal relationship.” (Kemp, P.36)
Furthermore, the clinical and textbook definitions and categories of child psychological maltreatment found in Table 3-1 of Alan Kemp’s book, Abuse in the Family, on pages 72-77, can easily be applied to show it as a horrific form of domestic violence via psychological maltreatment.
This book is just one of many textbooks used to teach students and professionals about psychological maltreatment and the categories that make it up. Whether one believes in the term parental alienation or not, the following criteria help to show that certain behavior perpetrated by a parent can cause a child to withdraw their love from the other parent. For the sake of this article, we will term this abuse as aggressive parenting.
9 Signs of Aggressive Parenting:
- Rejecting (spurning)
- Denying essential stimulation, emotional responsiveness, or availability
- Unreliable and inconsistent parenting
- Mental health, medical, or educational neglect
- Degrading/devaluing (spurning)
An Explanation of the 9 Signs
By deliberately isolating the child from other family members and social supports, isolation is occurring. The whole premise of aggressive parenting is to isolate and distance the children from the targeted parent or any other individual who supports the targeted parent.
If the aggressive parent uses threats or denigrating tactics, to force the child to comply, this can be seen as terrorizing. As well, verbal denigration, harassment and exploitation of the targeted parent is very prominent and a key indicator of aggressive parenting.
In addition, domestic violence includes the exploitation and use of the child for personal gain.
Thus in aggressive parenting, when the child is used to destroy the targeted parent by denying visitation or a relationship between the other parent and the child or is used for monetary gains such as excessive expenses beyond child support, they are in effect committing domestic violence. It is for these reasons that aggressive parenting or isolating the children from the Targeted Parent can be considered as a form of domestic violence.
Let’s take this a bit further in its application. When a parent rejects a child because the child shows any love or affection for the targeted parent that is a form of abuse. This is not only a form of rejection but terrorization. In fact, a child’s refusal to come to the targeted parent’s home for fear of losing the aggressive parent’s conditional love is fear and fear is terror.
When an aggressive parent refuses to comply with court orders and tells the child they do not have to either, this is corrupting. It is teaching the child that they are above the law and therefore immune to the court’s authority. When a parent files false allegations of abuse and convinces the child to do the same, this is corruption.
When an aggressive parent tells the child lies about the targeted parent, and that anything having to do with the targeted parent is illegal, immoral and disgusting, this is corrupting. In fact, this is a form of discrimination and prejudice, which corrupts the child’s minds.
Denying Essential Stimulation, Emotional Responsiveness, or Availability
By refusing to allow the children to have a relationship with the targeted parent, for no reason other than their own need to control the ex-spouse, the aggressive parent is denying them the basic elements of stimulation, emotions, and availability with the targeted parent. In fact, the targeted parent has little to no opportunity to defend themselves against false allegations.
Though they will have you believe that they or the children feared for their lives and that the targeted parent was abusive, this is usually unsubstantiated or proven by the courts to be a fabrication. With no basis for this denial, the aggressive parent refuses their child a warm and loving relationship with the targeted parent.
Unreliable and Inconsistent Parenting
Since the children have been denied a relationship with the targeted parent, they have also been denied a reliable and consistent parenting situation and the aggressive parent has proven that they cannot parent consistently and reliably in the supporting of a two-parent relationship with the children.
Mental, Medical and Educational Neglect
When an aggressive parent refuses to comply with numerous separate court orders for counseling, they are denying their children’s mental health. Thus mental neglect has occurred as defined in the DSM IV as Malingering.
If despite numerous court orders or requests and recommendations, the aggressive parent continues to insult, verbally abuse and denigrate the child’s targeted parent in front of the child, this behavior degrades and devalues someone the child once respected and loved and in most cases, secretly wants a relationship with.
This disdain and disrespect for the targeted parent in front of the child is another form of psychological maltreatment as it permanently affects their view of the targeted parent, which transfers to their view of themselves. This creates a distorted sense of reality, of themselves and their ability to trust and accurately judge others.
When a parent deliberately sabotages a relationship with the targeted parent by refusing to allow visits, calls, or any form of healthy communication, with no evidence of abuse, this is called isolation. Furthermore, when a parent has initially allowed continuous contact with the children during the separation and divorce period, but reneges on this, refusing visitation, especially when they find out their ex-spouse has a new partner, this is isolation and abuse.
This is also called Remarriage as a Trigger for Parental Alienation Syndrome and can be further reviewed in an article by Dr. Richard Warshak, There is no doubt this is isolation and thus psychological abuse.
When a parent uses the children as pawns to get back at their ex spouse for not loving them anymore or to control them further, this is exploitation. When an aggressive parent uses the children and makes false allegations of abuse, terrorizing the children to state they hate the targeted parent, this is exploitation. When a parent uses the children for monetary gains such as child support, but yet does not allow the children a relationship with the targeted parent, this is exploitation.
When you add all these signs up, it is easy to see how Aggressive Parenting, can be classified as child psychological maltreatment in a divorce situation. When you put it all together, the DSM sums up the aggressive parent quite nicely under Cluster B Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder.
The aggressive parent willfully and without regard to the child or the targeted parent’s welfare, or the innocent extended family’s welfare, continually violates their rights and disregards their needs for a relationship. The aggressive parent callously puts their own desires, wants and needs above those of everyone else including their own child.
This all adds up to one thing, Domestic Violence in the form of psychological maltreatment. So why does Child Protective Services refuses to protect the children from this form of abuse when the signs and symptoms are so clearly evident?
The post Is Your Ex An “Aggressive Parent?” Here Are 9 Signs appeared first on Divorced Moms.
Second marriages that involve children demand more preparation than first marriages. Not only do you want to be happy in your new marriage, but you also want your children to be happy. For those reasons, there are many topics that need to be discussed and issues that have to be agreed on before blending your […]
Often people think they should feel a sense of warmth, togetherness, and gratitude on the holidays. By managing your expectations, keeping your situation in perspective, and choosing not to be victim, you can reclaim your power.
The post How to Heal Your Relationship With Your Divorced Dad During the Holidays appeared first on Divorce Magazine.
About 42 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce and in many cases young children are involved. Divorce is a stressful process and a time of change for all members of the family. Everything that once felt familiar and safe now feels unsafe and uncertain.
For adults, it means letting go of the dream to grow old together. It involves moving, splitting all assets and liabilities, adjusting to a new financial situation, getting used to being single again, changes in your social life, and dealing with all the emotions that accompany all these changes.
Sometimes, as a parent, you need so much energy to cope with the changes at hand, both emotional and material, that you may forget (or not know how) to explain to your children what is going to change for them and how this might make them feel. As a newly divorced parent, you may simply not be able to foresee what is going to change for your child (and yourself) yet.
Many parents have questions about how to approach their child(ren) regarding divorce-related issues. Sometimes parents don’t know how to talk to their young child(ren) about this sensitive topic. Sometimes parents have the belief that their child will not understand if they try to explain what is going on.
But are preschool children too young to understand about divorce?
The answer is NO. Even preschool children can understand more than you think when you talk to them in developmentally appropriate language. Young children can have intense feelings, but they don’t yet possess the words or the mental capacity to express how they feel. Even if children don’t talk yet, they feel something is going on and ‘speak’ through changes in their behavior.
Some children may express their distress and confusion by showing aggressive or noncompliant behavior. Other children may temporarily regress to an earlier stage in their development where they felt safe and sheltered. Parents and caregivers may notice more clinging or ‘baby-like’ behavior, bedwetting or soiling their pants (when a child was previously potty trained). Regressive behavior is a coping mechanism to deal with feeling unsafe or insecure.
Often adults don’t understand or misinterpret the behavior of a child who is going through the turmoil of a divorce. It is important, while parents are going through a divorce, to be aware of the needs of the children.
If parents fail to give children an explanation they can understand, children may fill in the ‘blanks’ by themselves. Young children often think it is their fault (because they were behaving badly) that their parents are separated.
Here are some tips to help talk to your preschooler about divorce:
- It is important to let children know what is going to happen (For example: “Daddy is moving to another house but you will still see him”).
- Even if you don’t have a clear idea about the parenting plan yet, the child needs to be reassured that the other parent is not leaving him or her.
- Reassure your child that the divorce is not his or her fault.
- Explain that separation is your choice. You and the other parent didn’t get along, and both parents think this is better for all of you.
- Young children don’t need to know details about the reason for divorce.
- They do need to know that, even if parents don’t live together, they never stop being Mommy and Daddy. They keep caring for and loving him or her.
- Don’t punish children for regressive behavior and give them extra attention and reassurance.
For more information, check out Nina Has Two Houses. This illustrated children’s book helps young children and their parents, who are going through a divorce, adjust to the new situation. The book can help explain to the child what he or she may be going through. It can open up the topic of divorce while it gives parents the necessary tools to talk with their children about the situation and accompanying emotions. Many helpful hints for parents and caregivers are included in the book to help parents deal with important co-parenting issues.
Children’s book Nina Has Two Houses is available on Amazon.com in English and Spanish (Nina Tiene Dos Hogares). Like the book on Facebook and find helpful tips for parents on www.facebook.com/NinaHasTwoHouses
Follow Danielle Jacobs, LMHC on Twitter @75748135 for tips on divorce, parenting, and relationships.
The post Preschoolers and Divorce: Are They Too Young to Understand Divorce? appeared first on Divorced Moms.
Parenting can be difficult even in an in-tact household wherein even residing together the time spent together as parents, uninterrupted in thought and time for discussion, results in many discussions occurring through text, email and in passing.
Of course, the hustle and bustle of the world we live in as parents leave much room for errors in schedules, forgotten appointments, and confusion as to who is where. This is even more difficult for two parents who do not reside together yet share in one mutual goal- raising and being involved in their children’s schedules and lives on an equal basis.
Productive Co-Parenting Communication
Married or not, raising children takes a lot of communication. Unfortunately, communication in relationships that have broken down for one reason or the other is made even more difficult and can create a host of issues for couples attempting to co-parent absent a close relationship or any at all for that matter. As family law attorneys, we are often faced with questions, concerns and issues from our client stemming from the lack of communication, i.e. the other side not providing information or not being responsive.
Other times, the absence of communication is used to assert control and intentionally keep the other parent out of the loop. On the other hand, some parents utilize communication in a manner which is harassing such as incessantly texting, calling, or making things difficult. Either way, the reality is that communication in strained relationships can be incredibly difficult and as a result, children suffer by missing activities, homework assignments, family outings, etc.
Therefore, focusing on simple ways to communicate, absent the need to involve lawyers and judges, is the most productive and cost-effective way to co-parent when the relationship with the other parent is less than ideal. The reality is that the involvement of lawyers and the court’s not only costs thousands of dollars, but there is also a delay in resolution by virtue of the time needed for everyone to respond.
Therefore, it is simply not practical on any level to require the use of your lawyer to communicate about everyday issues regarding your children.
It is significant to note that communication is one of the primary statutory factors the courts consider in determining custody and parenting time arrangements. Moreover, just not getting along is not enough to prove that two adults cannot communicate in a manner which would cause a court to minimize either parent’s role.
In fact, the New Jersey Supreme Court has long held that joint legal custody is the “preferred” custody arrangement and that this requires sharing the responsibility for jointly making “major” decisions regarding the child’s welfare, developing a productive way of communication is key to the success of not only the co-parenting relationship but the children’s success overall.
That being said, family law attorneys, as well as Judge’s, are mindful of the difficulties parent’s may have communicating during less than ideal times. Therefore, the focus and trend have been to encourage the use of apps that parties can utilize to limit and focus the communication to just the issues versus the text message and/or email chains that seemingly increase in hostility with the back and forth involved.
For example, one method of communication often utilized by co-parents, either by way of agreement or more frequently now being Court Ordered, is Our Family Wizard. Our Family Wizard obviously cannot circumvent the use of communication as a weapon in contested or tension ridden co-parenting relationships, however, it is designed to assist parents by having categories that limit and narrow the issues and minimize the probability of misinterpretation of miscommunication.
Parents can download the children’s schedules, they can monitor parenting time changes in their schedules, and even scan in the children’s expenses, none of which can be altered if needed for use in Court. In other words, it is a protected forum which allows communication between parents about the issues relating to their children and provides clearer documentation in the event that communication (or lack of same) is the overriding issue.
In sum, learning and finding a way to communicate is essential to raising children regardless of the status of your relationship. Utilizing applications such as Cozi, Our Family Wizard, Truece, and other applications which permit scanning, scheduling and limit the opportunity for emotions to supersede the issues is beneficial to everyone’s quality of life, especially and most importantly the children involved.
As an experienced Somerset, NJ divorce and family law attorney, I can tell you that the answer is yes, of course! But I don’t advise it, because when you and your ex alter your child custody arrangements on your own, you are creating more problems than you are solving.
Who suffers? Ultimately, your children. Read on to find out how you can best protect your children and your parental rights.
Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement?
The Child Custody Agreement
How a child custody agreement is reached varies by state, but in general, it is negotiated as part of your divorce and a court decree is entered setting forth the child custody terms. When parents agree on what living and legal arrangements are best for their children, the process goes smoothly.
When parents disagree, this is where the court steps in, attorneys negotiate, and a compromise is reached. Most often, compromise satisfies neither party and there are continuing ill feelings. But at least there is a court order in place, and either you or your ex could ask the court to step in if one of you fails to comply with it.
Generally, the initial child custody agreement will establish who has physical and legal custody, and whether there is joint custody shared between the parents or one parent has sole custody.
Physical vs Legal Custody
In most states, legal and physical custody are different rights. The child lives primarily with the parent who has physical custody. Either parent or both may have the right to make decisions for the child, and this is called legal custody.
When parents are married, both have physical and legal custody of their children. When married parents divorce, these rights must be either divided or shared.
Joint Custody vs. Sole Custody
These are what they say they are: where children live with both parents, this is called Joint Custody. In this situation, both parents as a practical matter often retain joint legal custody.
Sole Custody is the term for when one parent has both physical and legal custody of a child. Usually, for the other parent to lose these rights, there is a hearing and the judge will make that determination based upon factors that vary by state.
Asking the Court to Alter The Child Custody Agreement
Parents who change the terms of child custody through the courts are doing the most they can to protect their rights as parents because the court issues an order memorializing those changes. Thereafter, the new child custody terms can be enforced by the court should one party fail to keep to them.
Altering the Terms of Child Custody on Your Own
Of course, you and your ex can agree to change the child custody arrangement outside of court. It’s quick, easy (assuming you both agree), and cheap in that there no attorney fees or court filing fees. But beware of the following pitfalls of changing the child custody agreement on your own:
The court will not and cannot enforce your new child custody terms.
If your ex wakes up one day and decides not to stick to the new child custody arrangement, there is nothing you can do about it. Only a court order is legally binding on your ex. There is no way to enforce your informal agreement with your ex.
Your ex can get the court to enforce the terms of the original child custody agreement.
You might be acting in good faith and sticking to the changes you and your ex worked out. But your ex could still haul you in front of the judge and demand that the court enforce the original child custody order. That would be well within his rights, and the court would find that you are the party who violated the order.
Changes in child custody may work out at first, but if you allow one informal change, where does it end?
It is common for an ex to take advantage of the situation when you are willing to make informal changes, either planned or on-the-fly. Your life could become a hell of variables and resentment, with your ex constantly demanding little changes to the child custody schedule and you feeling powerless to say no because you allowed such changes in the past.
In short, making informal changes to child custody might seem convenient and harmless at the time but you end up laying the groundwork for future conflict between you and your ex. Didn’t you go through the pain of divorce to end that conflict? Your children also suffer, not only from the revived conflict between you but from the uncertainty in their parenting schedule. Parents who remain civil, a calm, stable environment, and a predictable schedule all help children heal from divorce.
Let the court help you and your children, and your ex, move forward in an orderly and predictable way by memorializing any needed change to a child custody agreement with a court order.
The post Can I Modify My Child Custody Agreement Myself, Without Going to Court? appeared first on Divorced Moms.
Interesting linksHere are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)
- Why Don’t Divorced Dads Turn To Each Other For Support Like Divorced Moms Do?
- Marital Compatibility: It’s About More Than Being “In Love”
- Vital Takeaways from Jeff Bezos’s High-Net-Worth Divorce
- Can Narcissists Really Move On Like Nothing Happened?
- Texas Court Includes Father’s Personal Injury Annuity in Resources When Calculating Child Support