What you can do to help your child deal with divorce
Different kids deal with divorce differently. Some kids saw the divorce coming for years and feel relief when it finally happens. Other kids feel confused by the divorce and hold out hope that their parents will eventually get back together. Other kids have strong feelings of grief and sadness followed by emotional outbursts and acting-out behaviors. Although you may feel like there’s nothing you can do (you certainly can’t change your spouse’s behaviors or undo the divorce), there’s a lot you can do to help your child cope with your divorce.
Don’t use your child as a confidant
You may not have realized it at the time, but you relied on your spouse a lot as someone you could share secrets, vent, and discuss your problems with. Everyone needs someone that they can share their thoughts and feelings with, and when that someone is gone, their is a void. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for divorced parents to then turn to one of their children as a new confidant. Your child may seem like they enjoy this new role and the special relationship they now have with you, but it is damaging. The child confidant tends to suffer from more depression and low self esteem. Children aren’t as well equipped as adults to listen to other people’s problems and have a tendency to feel responsible for these problems as well. These children are also much less likely to go to their parent when they themselves are experiencing problems. When you talk with your kids, who is the conversation for? Is it for your benefit or your child’s? When you use your child as a confidant, the message you are really giving is that you care more about your own feelings than their’s.
You might not be purposefully using your child as a confidant or be confused about what’s “too much information”. Something I’ve heard parent’s say to me is “I tell them about it because it affects them” or “they have a right to know”. My answer to this is that it is affecting them because you told them about it, and children have a right to be protected from harm and this includes the harm of being exposed to their parent’s stresses. If you are confused about what you shouldn’t be sharing with your child, the general rule of thumb is anything they can’t do anything about. This includes your finances, divorce settlement, new boyfriend/girlfriend, your feelings towards your ex, your health problems, or your sex life. If you’re still not sure, you can ask yourself “who is this conversation for?”. If it’s for your benefit, save that conversation for when you are alone with other adults.
Don’t bad-mouth the other parent
Remember when you were a kid how mad you would get when another kid would make fun of your mother? Just because you were married to her for ten years doesn’t make it okay for you to do the same thing. When you insult a child’s parent, you insult the child. Even if you believe that what you are saying about the other parent is true and the child already knows it to be, refrain from saying anything negative whatsoever about the other parent. And if you can’t think of anything positive to say, don’t say anything at all. Maybe your child doesn’t seem to mind when you do this and may even join in the bad-mouthing or bring it up on their own, but this still doesn’t make it okay. As I wrote earlier, the child may be engaging in these behaviors because they like having that one-on-one relationship, and you may be inadvertently reinforcing these behaviors by responding positively to it. However, I am yet to have a child tell me in private that they like it that their parents trash each other, and overwhelmingly my experience has been that children are secretly (or not so secretly) deeply hurt by it. This person, whom they are supposed to look up to and use as a role model, is being called a “dead beat”, “awful parent”, and “&^#*$@”. Even if what you are saying is true, your child’s parent is still their parent and it hurts to hear them being spoken about like that.
Aside from the psychological damage it causes children, at it’s very core, it sets a bad example. Parents should be models of restraint and respectful behavior. Do you want your child to call another kid a “&^*$@” at school? Or to grow up to have a relationship style where they yell and call their partner names? Your child deserves to one day be in a happy marriage.
Don’t elicit information from your kids about your ex-spouse
As stated before, when you are using your kids as informants or confidants, it puts them under stress. They may seem to be willing participants, but that is probably due to the special attention they get from you when they participate. When kids are visiting the other parent, they should be able to feel at ease and relax. The other parent also has a right to set rules and discipline them while in their custody. Maybe you didn’t agree with their parenting style while you were living together, but so long as the other parent isn’t abusive or breaking the law, they have a right to parent in the manner they see fit. The partner also has a right to date or remarry whomever they choose. If you do have an issue with what’s going on while visiting the other parent, you should share your concerns with your ex in a controlled respectful manner. This is a great example for your children and is a much more effective mode of communication than by using your child as the go-between.
Kids should also be encouraged to stop sharing information about what goes on at the other parent’s house unless it is serious. We all love a juicy piece of gossip and you might enjoy hearing how dysfunction your ex has become now that you’re not there to keep tabs, but this is also harmful to your kids in the same manner as discussed above. You also don’t know how accurate the information is. Because we are human beings and not machines, we miss-perceive things and don’t remember things very well. Kids often perceive speaking firmly or assertively as yelling, and naturally you become very upset to hear that “dad yelled at me all weekend”. Meanwhile they omitted their own misbehavior that prompted the “yelling” in the first place. Unfortunately, because you weren’t there, you don’t know the context or severity of what actually took place. And although no one wants to think that their child would ever lie to them, I have also had children admit to me numerous times that they purposefully play their parents against each other.
Encourage them to spend more time with the absent parent
Despite how you may feel about your ex, it is in your child’s best interest to spend quality time with both parents. Be positive and show enthusiasm when your kids have an upcoming visit. Do what you can to help your child have a positive experience. Make suggestions like “Billy really enjoys going fishing” or “If you’re too busy to have them over-night this weekend, maybe you can just take them out for a couple of hours?”. You may feel that you shouldn’t have to make the extra effort, but remember that this is for your child’s well-being. A 2008 study revealed that children that spent more quality time with their fathers had higher IQs and were more socially well-adjusted. The effects were found to be unrelated to the father’s own IQ or social skills, but rather to the individual relationship between father and child. Likewise, spending quality time with the mother has been shown to protect children from depression and mood disorders as adults. Don’t we all want our children to be smarter, healthier, and happier?
Hold family meetings
Provide opportunities for at home to allow the children to express their feelings about the divorce and subsequent changes to the family. Also, reassure them that their behaviors did not contribute to the divorce. They may have questions about the divorce. Provide answers for the ones you can and be careful to not give “too much information”. Also, don’t give answers for the other parent. Ideally your ex would be at the family meeting, but if not, it’s okay to say you can’t answer for them.
Don’t let your guilt keep you from parenting
You may blame yourself for the divorce and feel guilty for your kids, but you are still their parent and they need you to provide structure. Sometimes children react to divorces by having increases in negative behaviors such as tantrums, yelling, fighting with siblings, and breaking rules. However, they still need to be responsible for their own behavior. One of the best things you can do, is to show your children that life goes on. They still need to clean their room, do their homework, and treat others with respect.
I hope that you found this article informative and helpful to your family. As I offer e-therapy and coaching, I can help you no matter where you are located.
I actually had to stop myself from crying when I watched this video. Children are SO effected by divorce. It is one of the reasons as to why I am so passionate about helping couples fight for their relationship after infidelity.
You must understand, that a child cannot express his/her feelings. I will let the video speak for itself.
Sometimes, a divorce is the best option. Not all couples should be together. In these cases, the children are much better living in an environment with “Happy” parents (this view is supported by research).
The child may not say anything for the first few meetings, but then get ready for it! My clients who hold family meetings with their children report their children get totally involved, taking minutes, coming prepared with items to talk about, and best of all, they share their feelings.
The decision needs to be based on thoughtful assessment rather than emotional reaction.
Based on the results of a survey of 1,083 people whose spouses had affairs
How long after discovery was there a decision as to whether to stay married or get a divorce?*
56% – Less than 3 months
30% – Three months to a year
14% – More than a year
The fact that most respondents (56%) made a decision about the fate of the marriage in less than 3 months after discovery reflects the tendency to feel pressure to quickly decide what to do.
However, most people are so overcome with emotion during the first few months that any decision reached during that time is unlikely to be based on clear, rational thinking.
If at all possible, it’s better to remain open to either possibility (rebuilding the marriage or divorcing) until after spending time and effort getting more clarity about the prospects for the future of the relationship.
The bottom line is that the decision is best made based on the prospects for the future rather than being based on what happened in the past.
Any life crisis (and an affair certainly qualifies as a crisis) “changes the world as we’ve known it.” And it takes time to envision the world based on the new reality—and even more time to reach some understanding of what has happened and what to do about it.
Even if there is a decision to get a divorce at some future time (after investing a lot of effort in determining whether the marriage can be rebuilt), this does not mean that a decision to divorce should have been made earlier. That’s because it’s not just what decision is made—but how well you can live with the decision.
Those who divorce only after investing lots of time and energy into determining the possibilities for rebuilding the marriage are likely to be able to live with their decision, knowing they did all they could. But those who decide to get out too quickly tend to second-guess themselves and wonder “what if…” or “should I have…”—so they have more difficulty living with their decision.
Even if the final decision is the same, the process used to reach the decision makes a significant difference.
What was the decision? *
54% – To stay married
19% – To get a divorce
27% – Still undecided
Most people DO stay married.
There has long been an assumption that most marriages end when an affair is discovered. That assumption is related to the fact that the secrecy surrounding this issue leads us to only hear about affairs in those marriages that end. When couples stay together, they may never share the information about the affair, leaving the general public to falsely assume that most marriages end when there is an affair. This assumption is further strengthened by the fact that most people will say, “if my spouse ever had an affair, I’d get out.” But any such comment is meaningless, since nobody knows what they would do unless/until it actually happens to them. At that point, there are many factors, both emotional and practical, that come into consideration.
This program is intended for couples who are currently experiencing the trauma of an extra martial affair, or a relationship infidelity.
So much is at stake right now:
*Your children’s happiness & security
*The destruction of your family unit
*Long term depression for everyone involved
*Potential Loss Of Employment
*Loss of the time & energy you have put into the relationship
*Years of memory’s
*Loss of future with the people you love & love you
…and I am sure you can think of many others.
Right now, you are both exhausted and overwhelmed. Even if you were the one who had the affair, you did not expect to feel like you are right now. If you are the person who was cheated on, my heart goes out to you.
This is the worst moment in your living memory.
Who am I?
Let me introduce myself. I’m Savannah Ellis. I was born and raised in Sydney Australia, and was a child from a family torn apart by my Fathers affair. It breaks my heart to talk about this with you right now, even though my fathers affair happened when I was 16 years old. I loved my Father dearly.
To cut along story short, the affair devastated my family. I went into survival mode, and “just got on with life.” My Mother has never recovered from the betrayal, and has not been able to move on, even 26 years later.
My father, married the “Other Women” and she was the most evil person you could ever imagine. The stress she brought to my fathers life, killed him. My Father died at the age of 56 years old. The extended network of family and friends were shocked. They could never imagine my father being anything other than a “family man.” At his funeral, the church was so full of people who had come to pay their respect, that they stood around the side walls of the church, and out the church doors, continuing down the church stairs.
Stress killed him. The guilt of what he had done to his life and the family. A true tragedy.
I started studying Psychology at Monash University a few years prior. Originally, I wanted to work with Schizophrenic patients. My brother, had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia a few years after the destruction of the family. Schizophrenia can be brought on in several ways, and a traumatic life event is one of these ways. However, I quickly learned that a life time of working with Schizophrenics may just send me to the crazy farm too!
I was also preoccupied with having my own family. I was married young. On reflection, this is another fallout of the affair, my loss of my fathers guidance, day to day in my life at an age where I could easily make poor decisions. My husband and I had 3 wonderful children: Sara, Jacob, and Hannah.
I continued my post education while raising my young family, with degrees including: Masters in Clinical Psychology, Masters In Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Business Administration. I worked for large corporations, before starting a variety of businesses from Medical Clinics to Day Spas, and a medium sized Business Coaching & Accounting Firm.
In my clinic, what was clear from all this education, and practical application of theory, was that typical therapy does not help couples over come their relationship challenges. The training I had received could not help the couples I was treating. There had to be a better way, and as an entrepreneur and business women, I was determined to find a systematic way to solve this problem.
But more seriously, I want to help save your family.
You don’t have to have the same unnecessary ending.
Where to Start?
Each Step of the program needs to be completed. It is a tough program. Initially it is tough on the infidel, however as we move along, you will discover that both people will need re-education and training for their own self-improvement.
This program does work best when you have the support and encouragement from a Certified Infidelity Recovery Specialist. However, for reasons you feel comfortable with, you have chosen to take this course online. This is why your first Step is Commitment.
I will be guiding you through the program, every step of the way, with videos, audio recordings from clinical sessions with clients, JUST LIKE YOU (all couples have consented to the recordings, just so long as you never find out who they are), and exercises and activities that MUST be completed.
EXCLUSIVE TO THIS PROGRAM: Included in This Program
I understand that you may get stuck, or may not understand why I am asking you to complete a specific task. Or maybe you just need to chat to me.
I am here and available for you both. I am not here to judge you. The damage is done, and now we just need to move through this tough period as quickly as possible. This is the only way you can both come out of this black tunnel without significant baggage.
You will be given my personal contact details: Phone, email and Skype, for VIP Coaching.
After each Step, you are both to contact me. Once we all agree the step is complete, you will move onto the next step.
There is no extra charge for this personalized care. I am here for you! I know what you are going through.
Let’s get started,
The 7 Step Infidelity Recovery Program, is now available for couples to use at home in the Clinical Version.
To begin the Online 7 Step Infidelity Recovery Program please click the order link below
You will be taken to a payment screen. After payment, you can begin the program, and have direct contact with Dr Savannah Ellis, founder of The Infidelity Recovery Institute.
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If someone has an affair, his or her marriage is over.
For those who have not experienced unfaithfulness in their relationships, it’s hard to image enduring the pain.
The idea of waking up every morning next to the person who has hurt you so intimately seems like serving a life sentence. If a spouse cheats, then it’s over. Right?
Researchers have found that when infidelity occurs in a marriage, only 20 to 25 percent of those relationships end because of the affair. This means 75 percent to 80 percent of couples survive the adultery.
The short answer is that most people want to believe their partner is truly sorry, and they want to trust the person in whom they have invested so much of their lives.
This topic will be discussed in greater detail later, but it is sufficient to say that most people want to make their marriage work. If you have been hurt and are reading this, you are testament to that fact. If you are the one who has been unfaithful, remember to be patient with the hurt your spouse is suffering; your partner wants the relationship to be better as much as you do.
The real reason that couples divorce is that they feel distant from one another and do not know how to reconnect. Betrayal has much to do with that, but it is the lack of resolution that leads to feelings of alienation and separation, not the infidelity itself.
If you have experienced infidelity in your relationship and would like to have professional help in recovering ASAP, download “I Cheated: Affair Recovery Advice.” Savannah Ellis works with couples who are experiencing this challenge from her clinics in Las Vegas, Nevada and Santa Monica, California, and with couples across the globe via Online Counseling.
I was watching a recent episode of HBO’s hit drama “True Detective,” and I was reminded of my guardian ad litem (GAL) work. Essentially, GAL work is when a psychologist evaluates a divorcing family to help shape a parenting plan that serves the best interests of the children. Among other things, it’s an assessment of the formal divorce process that bleeds out of a deteriorated marriage (with children).
“True Detective” is about two cops – Rust and Marty – “working murders” together in Louisiana. Marty’s wife is Maggie. Throughout the show’s first season their marriage has ranged from “shaky” to “utterly severed,” and it’s in the most recent sixth episode (Haunted Houses) that the slow bleed finally gushes.
Over-simplistically, the problem is that Marty just won’t stop cheating on Maggie…you know, such a habit can really strain a marriage (cue sarcastic eye roll).
The gushing starts when Maggie catches Marty being unfaithful, yet again (it’s at least the second or third time, I lost count) via sex-pics on Marty’s cell phone. I suppose Marty makes the first “insane” step by ignoring his normally astute-detective instincts and leaving compelling evidence of his unfaithfulness out in broad daylight…an act that seems even more insane when considering all the hard work Marty did in the previous two episodes to repair the damage his “cheating” had caused. Well, now, it’s Maggie’s turn to take a step in this insanity dance.
She twirls, pivots and straddles Rust (as well as the line between sexual coercion and rape)…before Rust knows what’s hit him, Maggie has completed her one-sided affair and is smugly satisfied. She’s achieved her primary objective – hurt Marty so exquisitely that reconciliation, for him, is impossible (if you’re a cop’s wife it seems that sleeping with your husband’s partner is the most efficient means of severing a relationship).
Their insanity dance has whipped into a fervor. And while Marty and Maggie clearly have their issues, they’re more like the rest of us than not. If anything, I’d argue they’re slightly above average in emotional stability, intelligence and life success – Marty’s serial cheating not withstanding (this destructive pattern is the one thing that really puts Marty in rarified “pathological” air).
And their relative normalcy, prior to the dance of insanity, is my point.
Sure, there are plenty of marriages that are doomed from the start (either because one or both members of the relationship are too dysfunctional to create a stable partnership to begin with); just as there are plenty of marriages that end without dysfunctional fireworks.
But, again, what has surprised me about GAL work is not the proportion of divorces that turn ugly, but how ugly the ugliness gets, and how functional each partner seems to be in every other aspect of his/her life. In fact, I’ve ONLY seen situations in which both partners present as high functioning, and bring with them stories of happy beginnings….and very unhappy endings.
It seems to me that the real-world divorce process propel soon-to-be ex partners into the worst, most dysfunctional versions of themselves. It’s a form of insanity that emerges for a temporary period of time (the divorce itself) and remains within the ex-romantic relationship like an invisible toxic mist that distorts reality, blocks healthy impulses, and plays-up pre-existing character flaws.
I can recall a perfectly nice stay-at-home dad, for instance, who sheepishly admitted that he’d taken to pouring ice water on his wife’s side of the bed toward the end of their marriage. He did this, presumably, so that she’d be miserable. Don’t ask me why (I don’t think he even knew), or why she continued to sleep in the marital bed thereafter.
When it comes to divorcing couples, and the negative emotions/destructive behaviors they “fire” back and forth, this anecdote is merely the tip of the ice berg. I’ve listened to divorced couples recall every abuse under the sun – emotional-psychological, financial, physical, and sexual – and it’s all just so surprisingly dysfunctional. And while I can’t cite specific research on prevalence rates, these tragic allegations are either completely true, completely false or somewhere in-between. And whether an act of abuse actually happened, was subtly misperceived/exaggerated, or intentionally falsified, the point remains the same – two relatively normal people mistreated each other in abnormally nasty ways.
There are a few lessons to be learned from this ugly trend.
One, it speaks to the sheer intensity of pain that divorcing partners cause each other. Once you’ve loved someone, emotionally committed (developed expectations of a life-long story) and hitched your wagon to theirs (mortgage, children, etc.)…and that loved one betrays you by becoming rigidly unreasonable/overwhelmed (which, in turn, makes you rigidly unreasonable/overwhelmed), it’s a long fall from grace. On top of that, it seems to take divorcing partners an oddly long time to walk away from such a clearly miserable situation – Maggie needs almost a decade to cement her separation from Marty.
The lesson – don’t wait. Either seek couples counseling, mediation or a separation before too much wasted time and damage has unfolded.
Two, the ugly trend speaks to the sheer distortion in perception that a divorce context can create. The person you now view as a monster was once a loved one…this loved one wasn’t just a relatively healthy, stable, and reasonable person, he/she was someone you were so excited about that you gradually and knowingly built a life together.
What’s going on here? I’ll tell you one thing, it’s not that the other person (or you) stepped in a puddle of toxic goo and transformed into the hulk. Well, maybe it’s a bit of that, who knows, but it’s mostly two things: a whirling cycle of co-constructed misery (Marty drinks-Maggie’s cold and mean-Marty cheats-Maggie gets verbally abusive-Marty cheats some more…you get the idea…), and stress overload.
Our perceptual filters are hardly full-proof to begin with, and we perceive our surroundings less and less accurately as the stressed accumulates. Life starts to feel like a war zone when the home front creates stress instead of stability, and the “battle mode” perception that gets created out of self-protective necessity turns the other partner into an “enemy.” Once you start perceiving/assuming/expecting an enemy…then an enemy, you shall get.
Lesson – seek couples counseling to sever the vicious cycle (Emotion-focused Couples Therapy specializes in severing such vicious cycles)…and get a reality check. It’s likely that your partner isn’t as bad as your mind is making him/her out to be. The mind can become a very distorted place when stressed to the max, and make no mistake, a divorce (especially a divorce from a long-time marriage with children) is an event that incites maximum stress.
Maggie used to be happy and healthy; similar to my stay-at-home dad client. And yet sexual coercion and ice-water pranks are par for the course in a souring marriage in which neither partner takes effective action.
For all the potentially divorcing couples out there, take note, temporary psychosis is entirely plausible.
It is without the slightest hint of doubt that everyone will agree to the fact that being married is absolutely challenging. The problems that you face in married life are not the kind that you can sleep off and wake up okay. Sometimes, it could be particularly hard to shake ill feelings off when you are sleeping beside who you have identified as the problem, and everywhere you turn has something that reminds you of that.
Married life is sadly not for everyone, especially for those who do spur of the moment decisions to walk down the aisle. Well, it could work out for some, but statistics support that a lot of these kinds of marriages just end in divorce. In the first place, divorce is not and should not be the primary recourse for marital problems. It should be the last option when every other option was already exhausted. Think about this: If people who waited and planned for their married life still encounter rough spots along the way, what makes you think that anything short of the right time and the right preparation will yield better results?
If you are thinking about getting married, this post is not intended to discourage you. No. This is meant to inspire you, to inform you about what lies ahead with the hopes that you will then take the necessary steps to ensure that the marriage that you are going to have will not be just another number to add to the surveys of those who tried but failed.
There is actually one aspect similar in all kinds of relationships that has to be particularly nurtured between couples, specifically married ones. This is the aspect of communication. As early as before getting married, assess your and your partner’s way of communicating with one another. Do the both of you talk in a constructive manner? Can you say the things you want to say without having to consider a million times before you actually do? What are communication patterns that seem to do more harm than good?
The way you interact with each other at present will determine the kind of relationship that you will have as husband and wife. Take it from a lot of licensed marriage and family therapists’ experience, a lot of the couples who walked in and out of their offices all had (or have) the same, prominent problem: dysfunctional communication. Do not bank on the hope that things will get better once you get married because you will face a lot of different—and difficult—problems with your spouse then. Working on having a way to resolve your issues through effective communication channels will spell a great deal in keeping the marriage together.
In case you are unable to make ends meet at present, do not lose hope. This does not mean that you are never going to get along. This is only evidence of how limited your knowledge is on how to resolve certain issues. Luckily, counseling is highly advised of two individuals who decide to get married. There are licensed marriage and family therapists who are available to guide you through the different methods of getting to know yourself and your partner more. Do not think of counselling as something that happens only when problems are already present and are getting out of hand. Think of this as a preparation, a phase of conditioning, and a declaration that you are taking the decision of getting married and what it entails seriously.
Though therapists have a lot to offer, they can only do so little when a couple has each decided to close their minds to reason and understanding. One long-standing barrier to communication is having no communication at all. Make sure that you do not reach the point where talking things over only makes things worse. Start assessing which areas of your life need to be worked on now and proceed from there. If you feel that something is beyond your capacity, seek therapeutic help. More heads are better than one anyway.