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The Big Lie About Co-Parenting

photo by greekadman via PhotoRee

Joseph Nowinski, PhD, has written a compelling article for the Huffington Post about whether or not co-parenting is actually in the child’s best interests. This is something I think about whenever I hear fathers of breastfeeding infants demand equal parenting time. While I appreciate the desire to be an integral part of your child’s life, I can’t help but wonder how the father plans to breastfeed his infant during his custodial time.

The idea of co-parenting between ex-spouses who are able to treat each other with respect, communicate in a healthy and adult manner, and work together to raise their children is brilliant.But what about a four-month-old breastfeeding infant? Is it in that child’s best interest to spend 50% of the time with dad? Probably not. What if, during marriage, Dad was responsible for 75% of child care while Mom worked full time and supported the family? Does it make sense, in the wake of major life changes (such as one’s parents divorcing) for the children to suddenly find themselves in Mom’s care 50% of the time? I can’t answer that question because it really depends on the child, the child’s age, the parents and their relationship after the divorce. From the article:

My personal bias is to try to roughly match initial visiting and custody arrangements with each parent’s level of parenting experience. For example, if reality shows that one parent has had 75 percent of the parenting experience described in the above questionnaire, while the other has had only 25 percent, after the divorce children should divide their time between the parents in roughly the same proportions, at least initially. Such an arrangement can easily be written into a divorce agreement, which might place a time limit on the 75/25 split.

Over time the less experienced parent should be given opportunities to “catch up” in the day-to-day parenting; for example, by taking the child or children to pediatrician appointments, by cooking family meals, and by supervising bedtime preparation. Then, as the less experienced parent begins to catch up, living schedules can gradually move toward a true fifty-fifty split. This gradual increase avoids making the child or children anxious and avoids having to separate a great deal from the parent who early had done most of the parenting.

What do you think? Would co-parenting work in your family? Have you tried it and had success? Or have you tried it and discovered that it’s not all its cracked up to be? Read the rest of the article here and share your opinion – we want to know what you think.

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Psycho Ex-Wife Has A Selfish Ex-Husband

It’s all over the blogosphere: Divorcé Anthony Morelli, author of the blog “Psycho Ex-Wife” was ordered by a judge in the Bucks County family court to take down his site, citing the emotional damage the blog could cause to Morelli’s minor children.

Morelli insists that his blog serves as therapeutic catharsis rather than vindictive crusade.

“I tried to provide a forum, where, through [the] collective experiences [of my readers], we could help minimize the conflict in our lives, and choose better ways to deal with our high-conflict ex-spouses–be they men or women,” he said.*

Though he complied with the court order and removed the site, Morelli has filed an appeal. This is, in my opinion, a classic example of a parent putting their own interests before that of their child. Supporters say that Morelli is practicing free speech, but it doesn’t count as free speech when it’s child abuse. Which, in my opinion, it is. That may sound harsh to you, but then I suspect you’ve never known the child of a divorce where one party or both routinely said terrible things about the other parent in the child’s presence.

I believe that if Morelli wants therapeutic catharsis, he should hire a therapist. When you speak badly of your ex, you speak badly of your child. When you post cruel words online about your ex, you are posting cruel words about your child. No matter whether or not the things you say or write are true in your mind, it’s child abuse. Your children are half you, half your spouse. You think your kid is smart enough and mature enough to handle hearing the “truth” about their other parent? You’re wrong. They’re a kid. Let them be a kid. Read the 11 Inalienable Rights of Children. Print it out and tape it to your bathroom mirror where you’ll see it every day. Protect your child from wagging tongues – including your own.

*Article cited: The Psycho Ex-Wife: Free Speech Fight Over Divorce Blog.

Breaking The Cycle Of Divorce

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Have you ever noticed a continuing trend of divorce in families? Sharon Brooks, an adult child of divorce herself, interviewed over 400 other adult children of divorce over the course of twenty years. She was determined to find the cause for divorce being passed down through the generations. In the process, she discovered a pattern of four destructive relationship behaviors that were abundant and gender-neutral.

Most kids who grew up in divorced homes never had the opportunity to learn what love looks like. Instead, they learned what love does not look like. They may have witnessed a lot of tension, chaos and instability in their home and this is what feels normal and familiar to them. Subconsciously, this is what they think love is.

For her full article and all four behaviors, click here.

The Myth Of The Tough Boy

photo by Sukanto Debnath via PhotoRee

Stereotypes classify boys as tough, and girls as sensitive. In some cases, superficial behaviors can uphold this generalization, but, as is with all stereotypes, it is usually false. Joseph Nowinski, Ph.D., examines the deep vulnerability of boys undergoing a parental divorce in his article Helping Children Survive Divorce: The Myth of the Tough Boy.

The right way for a separated parent to approach insecurity in a young child is, first, to read these behaviors for what they really are: insecurity. They are not attempts to manipulate you, or get special favors. Rather than trying to ignore a child’s insecurity in the hope it will go away, or else resist the child’s efforts to get additional comfort, divorcing parents need to accept it and provide the increased comfort and attention that the child is asking for through his or her behavior.

To read his complete article, click here.

Phony Fathers

Getty Images; Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

What do you do when your former spouse misrepresents time spent with your children? Facebook photos have become a pool of frustration for some parents having to deal with this deception on a regular basis. An interesting article by Joanne Latimer interviewed ex-wives of some phony Facebook fathers, as well as interviewing a father with partial custody of his children who doesn’t post pictures with them online, among others.

“It’s very grating for the custodial parent, which is often the mother,” noted Deborah Brakeley, a clinical counsellor and collaborative divorce coach in Vancouver. “It’s well known that exes, particularly moms, become resentful when their partner suddenly becomes a more dutiful parent, or at least appears so. They ask, ‘Where were you?’ They feel deceived and angry.”

The full article is available here.

How to Tell the Kids

By Lynn Louise Wonders, LPC, RPT-S, RYT

Q: My husband and I have decided to divorce. We want to be proactive in supporting our kids through this. Our children are ages 3 and 5. How do we tell the children? What can we do to help them through this? It’s a very difficult time for my husband and for me but we want to work together for the best of our kids.

A: Those last eleven words of your final sentence above need to be the touchstone that you and the father of your children establish, maintain, and return to again and again throughout this process.  In my years of experience counseling children and parents through the divorce process, and my training as a Child Specialist in Collaborative Divorce Law, I will tell you that though divorce can be a very difficult challenge for children, it’s all in the way you, the parents, handle it.  It will be essential at all times for both of you to focus on working together for the best of your children as you say you wish to do.

Read more…

Dr. Kathy Memel on Divorce (Part 4 of 4)

Dr. Kathy Memel is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a divorce, custody, and family mediator. In the fourth and final segment of this live recording from a recent Second Saturday Workshop, Dr. Memel discusses how children manage the complicated web of emotions they feel during a divorce, how parents can help them better manage their feelings, and what happens if they don’t.

For more information about Dr. Kathy Memel, visit her website at

Missed Parts 1, 2, or 3? Click HERE for Part 1, click HERE for Part 2, click HERE for Part 3.

Like what you heard? Subscribe to Ron and Robert on Divorce on iTunes.

How to help the kids survive the divorce

There is a lot we can do to help our children survive divorce. One of the single most determining factors as to whether or not a child will successfully survive divorce is how much their parents fight with each other after the breakup. If a parent wants to do one thing that will ensure their kids do well after their divorce, they should stop fighting.

Another contributing factor to the successful survival of divorce by children is the amount of steady contact they have with the non-resident parent. In addition, children are helped if they know and are assured by their parents that they thought through the decision to divorce thoroughly and at length. Parents need to be able to tell their children that the forthcoming divorce is not something that came about impulsively.

Parents need to go to their children and tell them how badly they feel about the decision to divorce. They need to offer whatever explanation they believe they have for the decision without placing blame on someone else. And they owe their children an apology for the breakup of the family. Even if you, the parent, knows the divorce is for the better, to the child it feels as if their entire world has broken in half. When you apologize to your child and empathize with their pain, you help them understand that the divorce is not their fault. Your honest apology releases them from intolerable guilt and a false sense of responsibility. They also find a positive role model in the thoughtful, considerate parent who is willing to take responsibility honestly, without compaining.

Read our Checklist for Divorcing Parents for more ideas on how to help your kids get through the divorce.

Themes of Experience, 2

Children feel pulled by love and loyalty during pitched battles between their parents. And parents regularly compete for their loyalty. Consequently, a step in one direction means risking the displeasure of the other parent as well as a betrayal of one’s inner loyalties. Some children bravely maintain their neutrality and suffer the sense of isolation from any source of parenting. Others find that so unbearable that they take sides, losing the affection of one parent for the sake of having at least the other.

Children of divorcing parents are also angry. Wallerstein and Kelly found that many children have temper tantrums and start hitting. Older children are more verbal about it. The anger is aimed at both parents. Its expression is given license by the shabby example of parents who exhibit loudly and clearly that direct expression of intense anger is no longer unacceptable in that family. And it is motivated by the children’s perception that their parents’ choice to divorce is a selfish act that failed to consider the children’s needs or wishes.

All of these emotions considered, the greatest danger faced by a child during the divorce of his or her parents is not the unhappiness he or she feels, or the measure in which he or she feels it. It is instead that the disruption of the family will inhibit the child’s steady development in life toward becoming a whole and mature person. This may happen either as a result of slowing the child down or speeding the child up. It cannot be attributed directly to or equated with unhappiness, however.

Unhappiness is a normal response to divorce. It should make you want to comfort your child, but it shouldn’t cause you alarm. True developmental impairment is reflected in depression and regressive behavior that endures over a significant span of time. Perhaps the children most vulnerable to impairment are those between the ages of three and six. Psychologists have learned that it is during this stage of life a person undergoes his or her most significant psychosexual development. The need for the nurturing presence of both parents for a child in that age bracket is so strong that the prolonged absence of either one of them can have devastating effects.

No matter how angry we are at our spouse or our ex, we’ve got to put our children first. What is best for the kids? What do the kids need? How can I make this easier on my children? These are the things we must ask ourselves when dealing with our own emotions. A divorce coach or other licensed mental health professional can help teach communication skills and provide other tools that will help divorcing parents maintain a relationship that is conducive to the well-being of the children.

Themes of Experience

Nearly every child whose parents split up experiences fear. Many children worry that their parents will abandon them. After all, if marriages can be dissolved, why not parent-child relationships? Fears like these can lessen a child’s trust in their parents and in human relationships in general, which is why must take care to put our children’s needs before our own during this difficult time.

Another common theme in a child’s divorce experience is sadness and yearning. Sometimes the sadness is so deep that children experience sleeplessness, inability to concentrate, disinterest in play, deep sighing, compulsive overeating, and various aches and pains. They yearn for the absent parent. A five-year-old who’s father has moved out will say, “I need a daddy. I don’t have a daddy.”  It doesn’t seem to matter at all how good a relationship the child had with the absent father. The child misses him and wants him back because his presence is important; what he represents in the child’s own mind and imagination is important. And the kid wants him back because that would heal the pain of their sense of loss and rejection. Substitutions, no matter how well intended, will not fill the great emptiness they feel.

Divorce is also a time of worry for children. They often — boys and girls alike — fret about their absent parent and the details of his or her life. But they also worry about the parent who didn’t move out — both in terms of that parent’s permanence for them and their needs, and in terms of their compassion for that parent’s own suffering. Kids also worry about money, about changing schools, about moving, and about their parent’s new friends.

Very often, children take the departure of a parent personally. He or she is rejecting them. In addition, some children, will identify with their departed parent so that they personally feel any criticism leveled at that parent by the other parent as if it had been meant for them.

Loneliness is another common theme. Children feel that both of their parents are slipping away from them — which is not unreasonable, since the remaining parent might be either off at work or hiding in the bedroom in a pit of depression. Adolescents are sometimes able to escape this torment if they are especially well adjusted so that they have an already-devleoped capacity to rely on their friends. But the reliance of teenagers on their equally immature friends can also lead to difficulties at home, at school, or even with the law.

Divorce can be confusing, frustrating, frightening and stressful for everyone involved. Click here to revisit our Checklist for Divorcing Parents, so you can help your kids get through this tough time.