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How To Deal With Children’s Difficult Questions About Divorce

children's difficult questions about divorce

 

“Can you and daddy get married again?”

“Why can’t I stay with you”?

“Do you and mommy still love each other?”

“Whose decision was it to get a divorce?”

 

Children in divorce often have questions; they can come at the least expected moment.

For parents struggling to adjust to the challenges of single parenting in a two-home family, such questions can strike at the heart of their own emotional vulnerabilities and trigger uncertainties regarding their relationship with the other parent, their own parenting, and the wellbeing of their children.

However, such questions, if responded to thoughtfully, can be valuable opportunities to help children adjust to real changes and instill hope and confidence in both parent’s continued commitment to listen, guide, and give comfort.

Deal With Children’s Difficult Questions About Divorce

Be prepared before questions arise. Understand that:

  • Children often ask questions when and with whom they feel safe and consider it as a sign of the strength of your relationship with your child.
  • Children’s questions can be about needing actual information, but they can also be about a need for deeper understanding or simply a bid for a parent’s reassurance.
  • Younger children often ask questions that have to do with changes and anxieties about their daily lives. They often need simple, brief responses that reassure their fears regarding the change.
  • Older children may ask direct questions about their parent’s relationships but are actually seeking reassurance for themselves. They may need reassurance that they can continue being children and do not have to care for parents, take sides and can continue their focus on independent goals.
  • Older children may also ask questions about their parent’s relationships in order to form their own concepts and expectations of their future romantic relationships and their concepts of love and family.
  • Don’t confuse intellectual understanding with emotional understanding in children. Intellectual maturity comes well before emotional maturity. Don’t give children inappropriate adult information.

When questions arise:

 Center:

Take a deep breath and calm yourself before responding.

  • Resist the attempt to avoid the question due to fear or sadness regarding your child’s pain- Children are not immune from grief and sadness.
  • Recognize your emotional reaction regarding the divorce, yet put it aside- you can process any feelings later with your own support.

 Listen:

  • For younger children get on eye level and pay full attention
  • For older children give signals that you are listening but know that a little less direct approach or a little activity may make older children them more comfortable- you be the judge.
  • Ask open-ended, neutral questions to get a fuller understanding of their experience before offering a response:

“You sound worried/sad/mad is that right or is it something else?”

“That’s an important question, tell me more”

Understand:

Ask yourself what they are really expressing/wanting/needing.

  • Are they primarily expressing emotion-do they need comfort/reassurance?
  • Are they asking for basic information that they have a need to know?
  • Are they asking information to gain a deeper understanding?

Respond with care and follow with comfort:

  • If the message is an emotional bid for comfort/reassurance, answer the question with a brief, direct response:

No I will not leave, both daddy and I will always for you even if we live in different houses”

  • If they are asking for information that is helpful and not hurtful to them or their relationship with either parent, give an honest, simple and neutral (not blaming to either parent) answer:

“No mom and I are not going to get married again, but we both love you and will always be here to take care of you- we will always be your parents”

  • If they are seeking a deeper understanding and the answer is not harmful, first help clarify their deeper question and give honest, brief and neutral information:

“I think you’re asking if you were made from love- you were. Even if dad and I care for each other differently than when we were married- our love for you will never change”

  • If the answer to their question is possibly harmful or “adult business”, reassure them that it’s okay to ask but that their job is to be a kid- not be involved in adult issues:

“It sounds like you are asking if anyone is to blame. I know you want to understand, but marriage and divorce is adult stuff and we are okay.  Know that we love you and you don’t need to worry or take care of either of us”

  • If the question is “adult business” but for the older child, really about their own future, first clarify the question and provide an answer to that rather than giving inappropriate adult information:

“I wonder if you are really asking if because we got a divorce that you question if love lasts. Every relationship is different and you will get the chance to make your own choices about love and who you marry”.

Children’s ability to navigate the shifts of daily life and make sense out of the bigger questions are essential parts of healing in divorce.  With each question, children begin to build a framework of understanding and learn what divorce changes and what it does not change.

They develop a more flexible, durable, concept of family and love. Children’s questions can be hard, but listening and responding with care and gentle guidance is one of the most loving acts a parent can provide.

The post How To Deal With Children’s Difficult Questions About Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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4 Ways To Deal With The Divorce Process When You Still Love Him

divorce when you still love him

 

In my divorce mediation practice, I often work with couples where one party is still, deeply in love with the spouse who wants a divorce. In this article, we’ll focus on advice for wives who find themselves in this painful situation. To be honest, I’ve found it’s just as often true that it’s the wife who wants to end the marriage and the husband who is still in love.

In any event, these are heart-wrenching divorce cases and over the years I have given this topic a lot of thought. Here are my thoughts.

4 tips for dealing with divorce when you still love him.

1. Do not retaliate or act out

The momentary urge to “get even” or act on hurt feelings can be difficult to resist. Taking action in the midst of hurt or anger may be satisfying and feel good in the moment, but be aware that acting on this urge will have consequences.  In one of my early cases, I observed the consequences of a young wife and mother who acted on those feelings when she was angry at her husband whom she deeply loved. During a marital argument, he moved out and demanded a divorce.

In the midst of their argument, he had made a caustic comment about her haggard appearance and post-pregnancy weight retention. The comment was understandably deeply hurtful to her. Reacting to the pain of his callous remark and his decision to move out, she retaliated. She had a short fling with one of her husband’s close friends.

A few weeks later the couple patched things up and he moved back home with his wife and their two young children.  A few weeks later she discovered that she was pregnant (…the pregnancy was not the result of make-up sex with her husband).

They stayed together for a few more years rationalizing that since he was the one who had left, he really shouldn’t complain about her behavior during the breakup. Meanwhile, the husband’s former good friend was paying child support every month and had visitation with the baby. As you can guess, this arrangement just kept reminding the husband of his wife’s retaliation; eventually, the marriage failed.

So my best advice is to avoid taking any action which will harm the man you love or the marriage you say you want. Examples of what NOT to do may seem to fit a stereotype. Even so, I’ve found them to be very common in cases where the husband seeks divorce and the wife is still in love, but hurt and angry. (Could this same advice be given to husbands who still love their wife who’s asking for a divorce? You bet.)

 Here is a partial list:

  • Don’t bad-mouth him to your girlfriends or your parents. If you need to process your feelings, find a therapist or support group.
  • Don’t buy things for yourself which you have wanted but cannot readily afford. Divorce often centers on money issues. Racking up credit card debt or draining a bank account on an impulse purchase usually brings more grief than joy in the long run.
  • Don’t act out by damaging his car, destroying his tools or lashing out in any way. If you want to physically express your anger, take a brisk walk or enroll in a martial arts class. (Don’t even think about anything which would end up as a YouTube video!).

I do not mean to promise that he will come back to you, but I can attest that you make it a lot harder if you retaliate or act out when he delivers the news that he wants to leave.

2. Try not to escalate

If while still married you and your husband are fighting and he threatens divorce it is imperative that you remain as calm as you can. Yes, he may truly want a divorce and be committed to that path. However, it’s also possible that while he may have said that what he wants is a divorce, what he may truly want is to stop fighting with you.

Divorce may seem like the way to get the fighting to stop. He may also be yearning for the dynamic that existed in the early years of your relationship but not know how to reclaim it. When arguments escalate it’s common for one or both parties to say things in anger they later regret.

Of course, when the prospect of an unwanted divorce raises its head, it is wise to protect yourself and look out for your own interests, even if you still love him and would prefer to stay married. Depending on the circumstances, hiring an attorney at this stage may seem to be the best course of action.

Just keep in mind that hiring an overly aggressive lawyer may preclude a smaller step like one-on-one mediation. Being a divorce mediator, I may be biased, but I’ve seen mediation work wonders in these situations.

Remember that divorce attorneys make their money by litigating divorces. Mediators thrive by creating harmony through mutual effort to resolve conflict. Many men have told me they find divorce mediation far more satisfying than marriage counseling because it is focused on problem-solving, (often their strong suit) rather than therapy which is focused on exploring feelings (often their weak suit).

If you need legal perspective, talk with a mediator with legal experience or call a lawyer from a town far away just to get some general advice. If you still love your husband and the marriage still has a chance of survival, jumping into litigation is highly unlikely to yield the results you seek.

3. Consider whether addiction is a factor and if so, get help.

One of the frequent coping mechanisms of couples going through the hard times prior to a divorce is to escape the pain of their lost romantic feelings using addictive behaviors. If your husband has shown any signs of addiction, then it is likely that you have reacted with your own countermeasures. Sometimes they are co-dependent behaviors like nagging, trying to shame him into good behavior, lying to cover up problems and so forth.

Whatever the details, when a couple is in this addictive cycle the marriage has almost no chance to thrive unless the addictions are addressed. If you have addiction anywhere in your marriage, then start with an honest assessment of your own reactions. If he has a problem behavior, and you still love him, there are proven ways to maintain your dignity and sanity in the relationship. Try Alanon or another 12–step program geared to support the friends and family of someone with an addiction problem.

4. Explore Your Deepest Truth

The hard truth is that I have seen cases where there are wives who love their husbands and there are other cases where the wives are attached to being married but seem to be indifferent toward their husband as a person. These might seem the same, but there is a world of difference.

Explore your deepest motivations about your relationship and your marriage because at some level your husband can probably tell how you really feel about him. If you are clinging to the idea that you love him but actually, deep down, you are insecure about not being married, that will tend to energetically push him away.

On the other hand, if you truly love him and that is the priority in your heart and soul, then living in accord with those emotions may have the effect of drawing him toward you.

What might this look like? Every relationship has its own qualities and dynamics; there are as many ways to put this advice into motion as there are couples. It takes some self-examination and wisdom to know what is a kindness you can genuinely offer without feeling like you are being taken advantage of or becoming a doormat. Healthy boundaries vary from individual to individual and relationship to relationship. This is definitely not a case of one-size-fits-all.

Here are a few approaches I’ve seen succeed in drawing a couple back toward each other rather than driving them further apart:

  • If you have children, and abuse is not a concern, consider allowing as much access as possible during the first phase of your separation. Show him that you value his role in their lives as a father even if he wasn’t the greatest dad before the divorce started. Invite him to visit with the kids in the home and be gracious when he shows up. Preparing extra food for dinner so he can eat with the kids is an act of kindness which he will notice and may appreciate. If the children are engaged in after-school sports, be sure to give him notice of all the games and ask him to sit next to you when he attends. Make an extra effort to include him in family gatherings and celebrations.
  • If he has moved out, you might provide him with a generous share of the linens and silverware, maybe even spare furniture so that he does not need to go buy replacements. Consider letting him store his big-ticket items in the garage rather than force him to move them to a storage locker.

It may be counter-intuitive but sometimes making it easy for him to leave, makes it easier for him to come back.  At the same time, only you can determine what crosses the line into unhealthy co-dependence and being overly generous for the situation.

Conclusion

Every case is different because every couple is different. If you still love your husband and he says he wants a divorce, you will have many opportunities to choose how you show up when whatever happens next unfolds. Over the course of my mediation practice, I’ve witnessed couples move toward reconciliation after one or the other, or both, initially thought divorce was inevitable. Of course, many couples do complete the divorce process, even when one of them really wants to stay married.

Either way, these four principles help provide the best chance of moving forward with a positive outcome. 1) Don’t retaliate, 2) try not to escalate, 3) if addiction is a factor, get help and 4) explore your deepest truth.

The post 4 Ways To Deal With The Divorce Process When You Still Love Him appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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4 Ways In Which Pets Can Help Children Deal With Their Parents’ Divorce

kids pet divorce

 

Divorce is always hard on those involved. A marriage falling apart is something no-one likes to see. Often though, the party most affected by it are the children. The sudden loss of stability, perception of weakness in their parents who otherwise previously appeared so strong to them and the general confusion at what the future holds can leave children with serious emotional consequences, some of which could last their whole lives.

In those difficult times, children will often look for things to cling on to for comfort. One such comforting presence is a pet. Pets have proven themselves incredibly helpful to children going through any sort of trauma, including divorce.

When everything else around them is stressful and seems to be collapsing, pets can have a massive positive impact on a child as they try and deal with all of the problems that come with a parent’s divorce. Let’s take a look at the ways in which pets can positively influence your child’s experience of divorce.

Pets Can Help Children Deal with Their Parents’ Divorce

1. Consistent Love

Though the large majority of parents feel unconditional love for their child, in the stress and turmoil of divorce, children can feel ignored. There’ll be a lot of moments where it will be difficult for an adult going through this tough time to give their child what he or she needs.

“Having a pet, particularly a dog, gives a child a companion who, no matter what is going on around them, will be a constant source of love or at the very least the semblance of love that can imbue their lives with a needed sense of consistency”, says Ira Byrd, lifestyle blogger at LastMinuteWriting and Writinity. Having a pet there will allow a child to feel loved when they are uncertain about the concept itself as they witness their parents’ relationship fall apart.

2. Mental Health Monitor

It’s been proven that animals have the power to reduce stress in human beings. This phenomenon is what has bred the growth and embrace of therapy pets, animals that travel with humans who suffer from PTSD, anxiety, depression and other psychological problems.

Even if your child isn’t explicitly affected to that degree, the presence of a pet is therapeutic and can provide positive, soothing emotions for them as they try and cope with the divorce. It’s also a good motivator for exercise, as a lot of pets encourage children to run around. The proven benefits on stress and mood of exercise make this a bonus reason why pets are good for your child’s mental health in this difficult time.

3. Someone They Can Talk To

Even adults will catch themselves talking to their animals, it’s a common part of the owner-pet dynamic. For children, the sense that their pet is actually listening to them is elevated and so it can have an extremely strong effect on them. Children need to talk through things during a divorce and it’s often the case that they will feel unable to discuss anything with either of their parents. On the other hand, a pet will listen to everything in a non-judgemental way. “In a sense, a pet can be a bit like a therapist for a child.

They can absorb everything that the child is thinking about a situation in a non-judgemental, quiet way and not expect anything out of the child in terms of behavior or mood”, writes Myra Mcguire, psychology writer at DraftBeyond and ResearchPapersUK.

4. For Security

One thing that can be really frightening about divorce for children is feeling like they have been abandoned by their parents. Parents might change in their children’s eyes as they go through the divorce process and, with all of the stressful complications that can arise in divorce, parents might find themselves very busy, without much time to attend to their child. Pets help children feel defended and secure, temporarily making up for the lack of security from the parents.

Conclusion

Divorce is never going to be easy on a child and it will always leave a lasting impression. However, having a pet by their side during the process really can help to mitigate some of the hardest parts of enduring this traumatic family event and can help them recover faster after the fact.

The post 4 Ways In Which Pets Can Help Children Deal With Their Parents’ Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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8 Things You Can Say To Help Your Kid Deal With Your Divorce

help your kid deal with your divorce

 

Breaking up is hard to do. And, when there are children involved it can be harder still. The break up of a family can be traumatic and, studies show, that it is something that greatly affects children. But this distress can be minimized as we now know that it is not the separation itself that does the damage, but the way in which it is done.

If you can remain calm, keep any conflict away from the children and talk to them honestly about what is happening it can really go a long way in helping them cope with divorce.

Divorce can be devastating but how you handle it with your children can go a long way to buffering the impact. Dr. Judith S. Wallerstein, the principal investigator of a major study assessing kids of divorce  (California Children of Divorce Study), emphasizes the importance of this, saying:

‘It matters very much what happens in the post-divorce family’

Here are 8 things you should say to help your kid deal with divorce

1. It wasn’t your fault

Children often mistakenly believe that the fact that Mummy and Daddy are breaking up is something to do with them. Perhaps they were too naughty or said something wrong. It’s important to reassure your children that it is not their fault and nothing to do with anything they have done.

2. We both still love you very much

Hand-in-hand with the common misconception that they are to blame for the divorce, children worry that the reason a parent is leaving means they don’t love them enough to stay. It’s vital to stress that you both love your children just as much as you have ever done. And that’s not going to change.

3. We’re all going to be OK

Children can react in very different ways on hearing about their parent’s separation and this varies according to their age. Some children show a lot of distress and ask lots of questions right away, others hardly seem to react at first and it is only later that they show any distress or anxiety. It’s important that they know that everyone will be OK. That you’re fine and you will help them adjust too.

4. We’re still a family

Things will change but one thing that will remain is the fact that you are still a family and you will continue to be one. Let your kids know this.

Paula Hall, a Relate family therapist says :

The important message to get across is this: Mum and I might not be married anymore, but we’re still a family. We might live in different houses, and life might be different, but our family still exists, and although we aren’t married, we are still co-parenting you, and you still matter to us more than anything else.”

5. Here’s what the plan is

Change is unsettling for us all. It’s even scarier if you’re not in control of what is going to happen. That’s why it’s important to be very clear and explain to your children what will happen and outline the plans you have put in place.

Address some of the major concerns your child might have, such as when and how they will see each parent, where they will go to school and how they will still keep in touch with other family members.

Very young children might need constant reminders of when they will see Mummy or Daddy next. Visual clues can help. JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, author of Putting Children First: Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce , suggests using a colour coded calendar to help them keep track of their week:

“Like preschoolers, early school-age children also benefit from a calendar with different colors designating ‘Mom days’ and ‘Dad days.”

6. It’s OK to feel sad and angry

Sometimes it is easier to show your child through actions that it is OK for them to not feel OK about the changes happening. Be patient and loving if they express anger, sadness or anxiety and make sure you give them lots of extra love and cuddles. Be aware of their behaviour and be available to listen to them if they need to ask any questions or talk about how they are feeling.

7. How do you feel about?

It can be hard for children to talk about how they are feeling. Especially if they worry that if they admit what they are really feeling it might upset Mum or Dad. So check in often with your child and ask them how they are feeling. Let them know that it’s OK to talk about anything to do with the separation. Including how they feel about going to Daddy’s house, if they feel sad when they miss Daddy or Mummy and if they have any worries.

8. Is there anything we can do to help make it better?

You can’t wave a magic wand and your children need to know that you won’t be getting back together but there are many things you can do to make the transition to your new lives easier. Ask your child what you can do to help. If they are struggling with staying over at either house maybe taking a photo of Mummy or Daddy to put on their bedside would help. If they are worried about the dark at a new house, maybe going out to buy a nightlight would help.

If they are just feeling a bit down maybe an impromptu day out to play on the beach and eat ice cream would go some way to cheering them up. Keep brainstorming ways you can help your children through the changes in little ways that can make a big difference.

Separation and divorce are never easy. But the way you deal with it when it comes to your kids can make a significant difference. If you can put your own feelings to one side and find a way to process them away from your children and present a united front when it comes to making sure your children are supported every step along the way, then it really does pay off.

There’s no getting away from how devastating a divorce can be but how you handle it in front of your children can make a huge difference. It takes compassion, communication, and kindness. If you can get those three things in place then you’re well on your way to smoothing the path to make sure your children survive it intact.

The post 8 Things You Can Say To Help Your Kid Deal With Your Divorce appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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Is Your Boyfriend Still Married? That Might Be a Deal Breaker!

is your boyfriend still married

 

Dear Christina,

I’ve recently met someone and we’ve fallen pretty hard for each other. Ben and I have so much in common, it’s crazy! We’re both in our 40s. We both have two kids in middle school: a girl and a boy. We’re both engineers. And we both love mountain biking. There’s one big difference, though. I’m divorced and he’s…well…not yet divorced. 

You see, I separated from my ex two years ago, and our divorce was final about eight months later.  Ben also separated from his wife two years ago (yet another thing we have in common), but neither he nor his wife filed.  Ever since she left him, he’s paid for his household expenses, she’s paid for hers, and they co-parent their kids without any drama. So, for all intents and purposes, it’s like they’re divorced, they just haven’t done the paperwork. 

My best friend can’t get past this technicality. She says dating him is wrong because he’s still a married man.  Plus, she’s totally hung up on the fact that he said he was divorced on OKCupid.  She thinks he was being untruthful.  I think he was just being practical. 

Do you think it’s wrong to date him?

Signed,
Head Over Heels in Love

 

Dear In Love,

I realize this happens all the time, but I think misrepresenting one’s marital status on a dating site raises legitimate questions about a person’s veracity. But at this point, that’s water under the bridge. The bigger issue here is not that Ben said he was divorced on OKCupid, it’s that he is in fact still married.

For reasons more pragmatic than principled, I am opposed to people dating before they are divorced. Simply put, dating has a zero percent chance of making a divorce go smoother, and a bazillion percent chance of making it more contentious. Even I can do that math.

I get that Ben has been separated for a couple of years and that it was his wife’s decision to move out.  And you might think that means his divorce will be smooth, simple, and unemotional.  But there’s nothing like a not-yet-ex finding someone new to make the person who wanted the divorce in the first place have second thoughts about splitting up.  And when that happens, it’s anything but smooth, simple, and unemotional.

Even if that doesn’t happen, a divorce, no matter how civil, is nobody’s idea of a good time. Sure, they’ve been living separately; but the devil is in the details, and no one has sorted through those yet. Is the house going to be sold?  How will they divide the proceeds?  What about the retirement accounts?  Will anyone pay child support?  Who’s picking up the tab for the kids’ braces?  Hammering out all of this can get messy.

Ben will be preoccupied with the twists and turns of his divorce at times – and that’s understandable. You will have opinions about how things are or are not getting resolved at times – and that’s also understandable.  As a result, your fun, new relationship with Ben will get bumped and bruised in the process of Ben’s divorce.  That’s wear and tear on your relationship that would never have happened if Ben had wrapped up his divorce before you two started dating.

So, yes, in a perfect world, people would conclude their previous relationships, paperwork and all, before entering into new ones.  But you’re not living in a perfect world; you’re living in Ben’s world. Since it’s not likely that the two of you will take a hiatus while Ben gets his divorce done, let’s develop a practical plan to get you through this.

Up until this point, Ben’s been content to let his ex-wife call the shots regarding their separation. She left him. She didn’t file. He sat on the sidelines waiting to see what she would do next. Some people (especially men) take this approach because they are holding out hope for reconciliation. Other people (especially men) think it will result in a kinder, gentler divorce.

But now that you two are involved, Ben needs to demonstrate respect for both you and your new relationship by taking the reigns on his divorce. Ben should talk to a divorce lawyer and figure out what constitutes a reasonable time frame for getting his divorce done. Then, he should commit to doing what he can to get things squared away within that time period.

And you should commit to staying out of his divorce drama. Don’t expect him to report to you on how things are progressing. Don’t weigh in with your opinions about property settlements, custody matters, and other details. Remember, if this had been done in the proper order, you wouldn’t have been around for any of those discussions, anyway. His divorce is his project, not yours.

The best way to protect your new relationship from any fallout from his divorce is by staying out of it.

If Ben’s divorce is not final within the time period that he commits to getting it done, you will then need to identify what the hold-up is. Were there unexpected complications? Is Ben dragging his feet? Or is his wife still calling the shots? Once you figure that out, you’ll know whether to stick around a little longer or cut your losses.

Best,
Christina

________________________________

Christina Pesoli is the author of Break Free from the Divortex: Power Through Your Divorce and Launch Your New Life.

This blog post first appeared on DivorceMag.com

The post Is Your Boyfriend Still Married? That Might Be a Deal Breaker! appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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How To Deal With Fear and Uncertainty During Divorce

How To Deal With Fear and Uncertainty During Divorce

It is possible to navigate your divorce well despite the fear and uncertainty and the use of your support anchors is a key strategy in your success.

The post How To Deal With Fear and Uncertainty During Divorce appeared first on Divorce Magazine.

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