A Child Centered Divorce

A Child Centered Divorce

Most of our divorcing clients with minor children are worried first and foremost about how the divorce will affect their children.   When starting the divorce process clients often ask how to best tell the children about the divorce, how to protect them from emotional trauma, and what a co-parenting relationship will look like going forward. Here are three things to consider when walking through a divorce with minor children.

Remember You Love Your Kids More Than You Hate Your Ex. 

This shouldn’t be a hard concept to navigate – but when you get in the weeds in the divorce process, we find it often is.  We remind our clients continually of this concept.   It is especially difficult to remember in relationships where one spouse has been taken advantage of or is resentful at the other person. This is commonly seen in cases where the spouse has been unfaithful and/or where there has been financial abuse or neglect   There will no doubt be a lot of compromise and tongue biting. Keep in mind this is not for your (ex-) partners benefit, it’s for your children.

Just because your marriage has ended, your relationship with your children as their parent has obviously not.   During and after a divorce you may constantly have to remind yourself that your children are innocent bystanders of the divorce.  They did not ask for this.  They did not cause this.  No matter what has transpired in the marriage, you must censor and self-edit your spoken words and reactions to your now ex or soon to be ex-spouse. It’s imperative that your kids never hear disparaging comments about their other parent. Your children unconditionally love both of you. When they are faced with bad mouthing and fighting, they can feel torn to pick a side. This would naturally cause distress to the children.

My cell phone photo of my ex-husband is a photo of my child with her father.  It reminds me she has a dad who is a very different person to her than he is to me. It helps me put her above any feelings I may have regarding his past or present behavior.   This is the best thing I can do for my child and for myself as well.

In divorce coaching we work on presenting one’s best self to our children. This includes walking through a parenting plan to set expectations and discuss fears/concerns.   Further, the more my clients are aware of the choices they are faced with, the more they can emotionally prepare for mediation or litigation. In divorce cases involving minor children, knowledge absolutely is power!!  Working with a divorce coach on what to expect and how to cope with the decisions you must make may save both you and your children a lot of emotional turmoil and fear.

Don’t Let the  Divorce Influencing You Parenting Choices

As a coach and having been through my own divorce, I realize this can be hard. However, for the sake of your kids, it can’t be overlooked.   If your gut reaction is to make the other parent pay for the situation you are in or trying to “make them see what they did” – it can really hurt your children (and you, and it  just doesn’t work.)

Do you remember what it was like to parent your kids before your divorce? Were you working as a team at that point? That’s exactly how you should proceed now.      Ultimately, you want your kids to feel loved and accepted at both houses.  My clients are encouraged to process their emotions while looking out for the best interest of their children. This means overriding your hurt and frustration to make sound choices based on your children’s needs.   As I mentioned, I’ve experienced this situation firsthand. For example, one rule my ex-husband and I put into place was that our children could decide to visit the other parent even if it didn’t fall on a visitation day. If the other parent agreed, we would make it happen. The one exception was that if the child was angry at either one of us, they wouldn’t use the other parent as an escape.

Can You Create a Better Life Now Than Ever Before?

My clients love this question because it allows for creating strategies for this new lifestyle, they now have the opportunity to focus on the kids without the other parent’s approval. There is one less person to take into account, clean up after, and compromise with on daily routines. This can lead to more quality time, establishing new parenting ideas, and even creating new traditions.

I’ve coached many clients who feel refreshed on their non visitation days. They often feel guilty for the break. Single parenting is hard work. You’re on the clock 24/7. There is absolutely no reason to feel bad about the need to decompress and enjoy time alone when the kids aren’t home. This actually helps you be a better parent when the kids do come home.

A child centered divorce isn’t easy. It’s about constant and consistent compromise, but you can do it! This is an effort that will pay off in the long run. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 50% of first marriages end in divorce. If or when you decide to remarry, and you choose someone who also had divorced parents, the failure rate goes up to 80%. Consider how intentionally creating a child centered divorce can and will affect your kids.   You get to decide what kind of divorce legacy you and your ex-spouse are passing down.

For help navigating divorce with minor children please call us today to schedule a coaching consultation and look for more articles of navigating the emotional side of divorce at www.DivorceStrategiesGroup.com

 

Confidence in Conflict: Three Methods to Resolving Conflict Without Losing Your Cool

Confidence in Conflict: Three Methods to Resolving Conflict Without Losing Your Cool

In coaching we often suggest clients that they “keep Amy in the backseat” when you’re in a conflict. We are referring to your Amygdala. A tiny almond shaped structure in our brains. Although small, it is mighty. The amygdala controls the fight or flight response in our bodies and brains. Often it acts instinctually and without warning. This is especially true when dealing with a High Conflict Personality (HPC) partner. Our brain unconsciously takes over and we often respond in ways we normally wouldn’t. When we feel lack of control or vulnerability it’s nearly impossible to have thoughtful, well considered conflict resolutions.

There are methods to keep “Amy” in the backseat. Here are three communication tactics that can help you regulate, respond, and rise above conflict.

 

Regulate:

 

In divorce cases we see several physical responses that happen when we are faced feeling attacked. I want to focus on two that I see most often.

Approaching conflict with aggression. Aggressive communication is when you state your needs and leave little room for your partner to share theirs. Examples of aggressive communication would be an attempt to dominate the conversation, using humiliation, critical language, and “you” statements in an attempt to avoid your responsibility in the situation and negate feeling insecure about yourself. This method of communication is often seeing with HPC’s.

Fawning is a response that is very common, especially with clients that have suffered past trauma or suffer from PTSD. Fawning is a maladaptive survival response. It is ones need to avoid conflict at any cost. When a client is in a fawning response they often exhibit people pleasing behaviors, deny their truth for the sake of ending the conflict, and feel that they are unworthy and undervalued.

Approaching conflict with either response can is a recipe for disaster. One of you will surely walk away from the conflict feeling “less than”, unheard, and unloved. We can regulate our own physical reactions to regulate our bodies response to threats. Start with a deep breath. Taking a moment to center yourself and regulate your breathing can instantly change the bodies stress response. Take a break from the conflict, find a quiet place, and spend five minutes focusing on your breath, inhaling, and exhaling slowly. You are allowed to excuse yourself from the conversation. The conflicts you are trying to resolve did not develop overnight and they do not have to be resolved in an instant. When you feel your heart rate begin to rise and the walls feel like they are closing in, simply tell your partner you need a moment to gather yourself and acknowledge you will touch back on the topic when you are in control of your thoughts and emotions. There is absolutely no reason These simple tactics can you help you prepare for the response phase of the argument and knock it down to a discussion.

 

 

Reason:

 

Reasonable, well thought out responses to conflict help us to protect our mental health, self-worth, and sanity.

Now that you have taken a moment to gather yourself, it’s time to gather your thoughts. I encourage clients to take time to look at things from their partners viewpoint. Try to understand the issue and why it is so important to them. At times, the real reason may be convoluted by finger pointing and “you never” statements. For example, my client is angry that her husband forgot it was their anniversary.

She took time and made an effort to make him his favorite meal and buy him a card. How dare he not get her a gift? Is the issue the gift? Is it possible that the gift was the issue on the surface of the problem but really, she feels uncared for, unloved, and possibly unworthy? In true conflict, we must dig deeper to find the issue because it’s rarely floating on the surface of our relationships. Changing our perspective in turn changes our insight.

What if your partner can’t articulate the deeper issue? I suggest questioning them with curiosity. What are you upset about? Can you tell me why you feel like that? and my personal favorite, “what was your expectation of me in that moment?” Try not to interrupt them and stay on the actual issue at hand. Curious questioning does a few things. It gives your partner acknowledgement that you are open to listening and a willingness to let them articulate how they really feel. This can lead to a deeper understanding of their perspective, the opportunity to form a more informed opinion for yourself, and hopefully a resolution in the conflict itself.

How we respond to our partner can make or break the outcome of the conversation. You have the choice to respond in a non-confrontational manner once your partner has finished speaking. “I had no idea you felt that way, do you mind if I address this from my perspective?” or “I would like to avoid continuing to argue about this topic, how do we suggest we fix it?” The goal is to identify the issue, take responsibility only for our actions (if there is any), and stop the conflict cycle in its tracks.

 

Rise above:

 

“But Melissa, this just makes it seem like I’m being a pushover! By keeping my cool and not showing a reaction, the other person doesn’t know how much they have affected me with their words or actions.” This is precisely why these methods work. HCP’s are fueled by the ability to incite hurt, confusion, and lack of control on their target. If you have been with your partner for a while, they know exactly what buttons to push to get a reaction from you. They will rely on that pattern to gaslight, stonewall, and trigger you to get their desired outcome. How many times have you ended a conflict and come away questioning yourself, your involvement, and wondering if you really are at fault for the problem?

Let’s change that! By regulating your body’s reactions, thoroughly considering your responses, and responding without malice, you have taken all the control back and on your terms. You weren’t goaded into angry reactions and remorseful words that can’t be taken back. You maintained your dignity, bolstered your self-worth, and you can leave the conversation feeling good about who you are at your core.

This is not something you can learn overnight. High conflict relationships are volatile, and these methods must be practiced over time. After all, you are fighting your amygdala, its natural response, and it takes time to unlearn unhealthy communication. This is why so many of my clients continue with coaching even after divorce, particularly with co- parenting after divorce. These methods work and can be applied to any kind of conflict that needs resolution.

Divorce CoachAt Divorce Strategies Group, we offer mediation and coaching services for clients thinking about divorce, in the midst of divorce, and even co-parent coaching. If you can relate to this article, I’d love to talk to you. Complimentary Discovery Session’s can be booked directly through our website.

 

 

 

* If you are currently in a relationship and experiencing domestic violence, this article is not applicable. Please call/chat/text with an advocate by calling 800-799-SAFE or visit thehotline.org.

 

What is a Divorce Coach and How Can they Help You?

What is a Divorce Coach and How Can they Help You?

Divorce CoachAre you waking up at 3:00 AM, feeling overwhelmed and panicked by the uncertainty of your future?

Questions and worries run through your mind? “Can I afford to get divorced?” “How do I tell my spouse our marriage it’s over?” “What about our kids?” “How do I tell them?” “How will I survive?” “Do I have to share my retirement savings?” “Do I need to lawyer up?” “What lawyer do I hire?”

The questioning can be endless and in a attempt to find answers, you start Googling. Taking the first steps in a divorce can be terrifying and overwhelming. In researching, something pops up about “Divorce Coaching.” Like almost everything else related to divorce, this is a new term for you.

 

What is a Divorce Coach?

A Divorce Coach is a trained mental health professional who shepherds you through your divorce. Divorce Coaches have unique expertise in divorce, co-parenting, parenting planning, child development, the impact of divorce on children, and all other issues related to divorce. Divorce Coaching is not therapy. Instead, coaches specialize in helping you emotionally cope with divorce before, during and after the process.

 

Is Divorce Coaching Right for Me?

For most people, the prospect of a divorce is an overwhelming life crisis. You need to make big decisions at a time when you are emotionally overloaded. The demands and decisions can be confusing. Divorce can require the time and energy of a full-time job (when a lot of women already have full time jobs and are full time moms).   In the process, it can also be exhausting to get through each day especially when you are meeting with your legal team or financial advisors to discuss divorce related issues.  You don’t know what steps you need to take, how you can figure it all out, or how long it will take. If this sounds familiar, then a Divorce Coach can help. 

 

How Can a Coach Help?

A Divorce Coach can help you understand one of the first and most important decisions you will have to make. You will need to decide which of the divorce process options available to you will work best for your family: a do-it-yourself divorce, mediation, collaborative law divorce, or litigation. The process you choose will dramatically affect your outcomes and the process.

A Divorce Coach will walk the path with you, through the legal process you have chosen, to provide support and guidance when needed. Divorce coaches also offer post-divorce support, addressing issues like co-parenting, setting up a spending plan, and claiming your new life.

 

 

One of the first and most painful things you will have to do is talk to your children about the upcoming changes in your family. A Divorce Coach will help you (and often your spouse) structure and plan for this, telling your children what they need to know. The Coach will help you respond to their questions and concerns in age-appropriate ways.

A Divorce Coach will help you build or strengthen your skills to cope with your emotions, especially at meetings with professionals and your spouse. In addition, your Coach can help you develop and hold you accountable for implementing much needed self-care practices.  This is critical as they can help you feel more grounded and help you cope during this time of life changes.

A Divorce Coach will help you begin to envision your life post-divorce, as a single parent and perhaps going back to work. The Coach will help you set goals and keep you accountable for them. This type of planning may influence your divorce negotiations. For example, if you need re-training to enter the workforce, this can be discussed as part of your divorce settlement.

Coaching will help you develop skills for the negotiations, which usually come after the information-gathering stage. With the help of your Coach, you will be clear about what is important to you in the final resolution. Identifying what matters most to you and where you can compromise is critical in divorce negotiations, and a Coach can help you do this with confidence.

Your Coach will help you understand and think through the many decisions you will be asked to make. A coach can help you feel brave, confident, and articulate in expressing what matters to you without being hijacked by emotions. This makes the process more efficient and cost-effective!

A Divorce Coach can help you build a new kind of parenting partnership relationship with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse. A Coach can work with you to establish good communication, boundaries, and strategies for dealing with issues that inevitably arise.

A Divorce Coach provides a safe space to emotionally let go, vent, breathe and heal.

 

 

How Do I Find a Divorce Coach?

At Divorce Strategies Group we offer complimentary Discovery Sessions to discuss you and your situation. This introductory call with Divorce Coach Melissa Provence allows us to learn about you and pinpoint your immediate needs. Let’s talk!

Mediation and Co-Parenting: Why It Works

Mediation and Co-Parenting: Why It Works

As difficult as a divorce can be for a married couple, it can be just as upsetting and confusing for the children of the relationship. Not only are you trying to cope with a major life change, but you are also responsible for inflicting as little trauma as possible to the children of the relationship. Parents want what is best for their kids and often fear the effects a potentially long, drawn out court battle can have -with good reason!! Battling parents in long litigation can be catastrophic for the family and for your little ones.

One alternative to a litigated divorce some families find success with, is divorce mediation. Through mediation, you can often talk through each aspect of your divorce agreement without needing to take things to court or work with multiple lawyers and at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional divorce.

Mediation also allows you and your spouse to set an example for your children by reconciling your differences in a healthy and mature manner.

Creating a Parenting plan, not a custody battle

 When it comes to deciding the specifics of custody and how each parent will spend time with their children, there are several options. One is fighting it out and going to court for a judge ultimately to decide what is best for you, your children and your family unit going forward.  Often, if things get ugly other professionals are brought in to give an opinion of you as a parent and the other parent – amicus attorney’s (an attorney for the children) and mental health professionals are common place in custody battles. The stress, personally speaking, is breathtaking and the fees add up quickly.  Many of these divorces can cost upward of $60,000, $80,000, and more.   The second option is through mediation and collaborating with a team of professionals  to determine what is best for your kids and your continued co-parenting relationship. Your mediator will work with both of you to create a parenting plan that works best for the entire family.   Mediation is about forward looking at what life will look like for all of you. What are your schedules?  What is most important to you?  What special needs, wants or issues need to be addressed around your children?  This is a place to really focus on the solution, not the blame game or the past.  You are getting a divorce. Emotions aside, there are important decisions to be made about your family. Mediation helps you do this in an effective, timely manner.

Save the dirty laundry for another day

 We often hear concerns that going to court will air all your family’s dirty laundry and past parenting mistakes. Unfortunately, this often causes damage to co-parenting relationships and can lead to anger and resentment. In mediation, the goal is not to place blame for past wrongs, but rather for both parties to focus their energy on working to raise their children in the future. The end result is the desire to preserve the family unit and make positive decisions about your child’s care moving forward.

Co-parenting for better or worse

 You may not be married anymore but you still must have a relationship with the other parent for years to come. Children have a base need to feel safe and secure. Healthy co-parenting during a divorce often involves a lot of self-editing, communication with your ex-spouse, and consistent rules and expectations for kids. Unless there is a valid concern or the wellbeing of a child is in question, there is no room for negativity. Family dynamics are going to change, but it should not be at the cost of your children. 

Mediators don’t take sides

 Most couples fear that the court system is biased and that a contested divorce can end up pitting one parent against the other to the detriment of the children. In a litigated divorce, a judge can ultimately decide your parental rights. Mediation allows for negotiations and more control over the custody agreement.

Mediators are highly trained to act as neutrals in divorce cases. She/he will take both parents worries and concerns into consideration and work with you both to create a plan of action. If you and your spouse are willing to work together for the sake of your child, you can likely come to an agreement in mediation that you both agree is in the best interest of your child.  You are also able to help craft an agreement you are vested in.

If you would like more information about mediation and our collaborative process, please visit our site at www.divorcestrategiesgroup.com.  We offer mediation packages with a family law attorney and a financial expert helping you facilitate a win-win agreement for you and your family.   Please click here to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn more about how this may help you.

Married to a Narcissist

Married to a Narcissist

Many of the people I meet with tell me they are married to a narcissist. As cutting as this may seem, many people are divorcing someone with a personality disorder. One therapist we refer states many people who divorce have issues like narcissist personality disorder because the people who do not have this or other personality disorders are able to work through problems in the marriage and stay married.  So, if you are married to someone you think is a narcissist, know you are not alone.  Also know there is a way out of this with your sanity intact, it will just take a little extra effort.

What Is A Narcissist?

A diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder can only be given by a mental health professional.  There are signs and symptoms you can identify and read about all over the internet.  A general internet search will typically identify this as a disorder in which a person has an inflated sense of self-importance.  Narcissistic personality disorder is found more commonly in men. Symptoms include an excessive need for admiration, disregard for others’ feelings, an inability to handle any criticism, and a sense of entitlement.

Although understanding and recognizing the characteristics involved is helpful, this knowledge will not give you the help you need to divorce and save your sanity. It can be frustrating and emotionally draining.

It did not start out this way. They may have started out showing you how much they loved and cherished you. You believed it would always be that way. When did it change? Do you wonder if maybe they will change their mind and go back to loving and cherishing you like they used to? It is normal to hope for that, but it is likely keeping you frustrated and stuck. And, if you are reading this, it is probably not going to happen.

And Here’s Why . . .

If you are dealing with a narcissist, you have likely already tried everything! Not only does it get tiresome it can wear down your own self-esteem. It takes a massive amount of your time and energy with nothing in return!   Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., creator of New Ways for Families and founder of The High Conflict Institute has 4 Tips on How to Deal with a Narcissist Without Getting Stuck and Disliking Yourself:

Do not call them a “narcissist!”

As tempting as this is, it absolutely backfires and makes things worse.  Instead, they become obsessed with proving you are the one with the problem.

Do not argue with them.

You do not need to defend yourself because it is not about you.  It is about them and their personality.  They have no insight into their own behavior and see things in all or nothing terms.  They see themselves as the victims and they feel it is your fault.

Set limits on what you will do.

You have probably spent years trying to figure out how to placate a narcissist, right?  Bill Eddy has a saying he uses…”FORGETABOUTIT!” You are not going to change them so work on changing how you react to them.

Do get support and consultation.

Your self-esteem may be worn down from all the insults, criticism, embarrassment, and shame.  Bill Eddy suggests getting help from professionals like a coach or therapist.

How to Move Forward

You will need a step-by-step course of action. You may have to cut ties and build some distance emotionally. The key takeaway is you will need support and guidance on how to successfully navigate this difficult time. You will not want to do this alone.

Please reach out for your complimentary initial consultation.  We will give you the information and confidence to decide how to best move forward and have the life you deserve – a life of joy, love, and peace of mind.  Contact us today!

 

First Holiday Season After Divorce

First Holiday Season After Divorce

Your first Christmas or other major holiday after divorce can be tough, and it will no doubt be different. I still remember my first Christmas without my child.  I was able to negotiate having my child for the very first Christmas after divorce, but the second one was without my child, and it was a whopper.   The first holiday without our children provokes a special circle of emotions.  It was, frankly, awful.  However,  I am proof you can survive the first one and learn how to thrive for many more after.  The key is finding the tools which help you cope and creating new routines.

So, my friend, if you’re going through this, I really feel for you right now. It will get better (I know, it doesn’t feel like it, but it will) and hopefully these resources for getting through your first holiday after divorce will help.

Tools to Cope

While it may sound silly, coping tools, in my experience, really do work.  I’ve tried many different tools and have found some to be more beneficial than other.

Self-Care

First, be kind to yourself.  This is a new affair and it’s tough.  If you notice negative self-talk tell that voice to kindly shut up, go away and leave you alone. That voice is a lie. You are a survivor. You have this.  You deserve a little self-care.  Bubble baths, naps, facials, massages, quiet time – do what you can to provide yourself with a little self-care on a regular basis.

Grounding

When circumstances around me are spinning out of control, grounding myself in reality is very helpful.  It provides a level of safety and security when I cannot control the circumstances or people around me.   I do this by connecting to my physical surroundings.  Standing in the grass barefoot and focusing on the feel of the grass, counting the number of legs on chairs in the room, focusing on the physical shape of objects or touching something hot or cold in the room are all examples of grounding tools I have used.

Journaling

Journaling is another tool I have used over the years which has proven helpful.  I had a special chair in my bedroom which was soft and comfortable during and after my divorce.  I would read an inspirational saying or daily book of quotes and then journal about how those quotes applied to me.  I would also just start writing some days.   When life was really stressful, I commited to journaling at least 10 minutes per morning.   Some days I started off by writing, “I’m having the feeling of…..”.  Journaling not only helped me unpack my emotions, it helped me sort through what I wanted and needed.  Some journaling entries were vents, some were profound, and some were just silly.

Breathing 

When I am in stress, deep breathing really helps.  I use the breathing I learned in yoga class – deep breathing in the nose and out of the mouth.  Count to 5 on the breathe in, hold for a count of 3 and then exhale for a count of 5.  I use my apple watch a lot which actually tells me when my heart rate is elevated and tells me to breathe.    If my watch is not on and I’m feeling anxious, stressed or scared, taking two minutes to breathe helps me relax, calm down and focus.

Good Friends

I would not have been able to survive divorce without my friends.  I had 6 women on speed dial and I called them daily for a while.   If all of your friends were from your married life, I encourage you to reach out to groups where you can make new friends.    There are multiple groups for divorce recovery, one is DivorceCare.org.  I personally went to this and found it very helpful. I also reconnected with friends from my past who I knew were single.  Lastly, Divorce Recovery for Women is another resource specifically for women after divorce to help them connect, learn and thrive.

Even if you have great friends, reaching out to others in your same phase of life for support and encouragement can be very helpful.  We do life better together and walking through one of the most difficult things in life is better done with others by your side.

Professional Therapy or Life Coach

Going to therapy or a life coach also has proven very beneficial in my life.  I went to therapy for 2 years during and after my divorce, and on and off since then.  I’ve received so many good tips tools and walked through how to build my own self esteem in therapy.    I also learned why I picked the men I did, and how to change my “picker”.

Healthy Routine

A healthy routine of eating well and exercise is another great coping tool.  We all know we should do it, but really doing it is important especially during stressful times.  I joined hot yoga when I was in the divorce process and it was so helpful. I have also joined other group exercise classes or just ran on mu own.  The best thing I found was to create a routine, so my body knew what to expect each day and when as far as working out, eating and working.

How to Share with Family, Friends and Co-Workers

Talking to your friends, family and coworkers about your divorce, especially if it is recent, is something you will no doubt have to deal with.  Be prepared for this.  Having a script prepared will allow you to present only what you want when talking about your divorce.  Decide what you do and don’t want to share, prepare a script and follow it.  I had a standard script for why the divorce happened, how I am doing and my thoughts on dating again.   These are the three main topics I was repeatedly asked about so I had a set script for each.  This helped me move on and avoid saying anything I would later regret.

Social media is inherent to our days, as much as breathing or drinking water it seems! So, before you post that rant or that picture…think long and hard about it! Make sure that you’re keeping your social media usage reasonable, so you don’t have to explain anything or show pictures to anyone that you don’t want.

I hope you find courage, peace, and joy in these tough times.  You can do this!  We are here to help. If you would like help finding a support group or getting your life in order contact us.  We are happy to help you.  We get it, we’ve been there.   If you are a women we also encourage you to check out Divorce Recovery for Women for helpful information, workshops and meet ups with other women in your life circumstance.