Happy Easter! What’s in a Name?

Happy Easter!

goddessostaraweb

Easter is my favorite holiday! Winter is over (though this year I’m not so sure), and there is a whole new beginning.

Ostara is the pagan goddess of Spring, fertility and the Earth Mother. She symbolizes renewal after the death of winter. Or rebirth after the death and struggle of divorce.

Though very few people know about her, she is very entrenched in our society.

People used to celebrate her on the day of the Spring Equinox, which is pretty much the day we celebrate Easter. Her fertility is symbolized by the Hare, which always accompanies her. Today we call him the Easter Bunny. Rebirth is symbolized by the eggs.

Ostara has many names in the different regions of Northern Europe. In Old German she is referred to as ‘Ostara’, ‘Eostre’ and the month of her celebration ‘Eostremonat’ (Easter month).

Linguistically, not only the word Easter is derived from her name, but also ‘estrogen’; the female fertility hormone.

She has a beautiful lullaby that is sung to children, and which I hold dear to my heart;

“Sweet Child, sleep speedily
Do not cry

Truth forcefully
Fends off the murdering wolf

May you sleep until morning
Dear man’s son

Ostara for the child leaves
Honey and sweet eggs

Mother Earth for the child picks
Flowers blue and red

Bountiful the morrow sends
White little sheep

and One-Eye will protect, swift, hard spears.”

Enjoy your Easter Sunday. I hope it will symbolize to you too that there is life after divorce, that everything will renew.

 

Child Custody Battles; a Lesson from My Child at Dave’s & Busters

“Sometimes the most poignant revelations in life can come from observing the innocence of children.” — Unknown

Custody Battle

Last night we went for dinner at Dave’s and Buster, the kids were all excited and they were going to ‘win BIG and get lots of money’. I smiled and told them to just enjoy the games and if they won prices, that was a bonus and a gift, but not to have expectations. They ran off in excitement discussing which game to play first. Upon returning they were beaming; the oldest with lots of tickets, the younger with just a few, which were actually given by the oldest. We ate our dinner and they went to get their ‘prizes’, having high expectations. They returned with each a ‘nerd stick’. I hugged both of them and told the oldest how proud I am. The biggest winner assured that both came out equally.

Depending on whose research you read, about 80-95% of custody situations get resolved at least reasonably amicable. These parents are excellent candidates for joint or shared custody and their children have great long-term outcomes.

So in about 5-20% of the cases there is high conflict. Conflict is a huge detrimental factor in the wellbeing of the child. Researchers state that parental conflict is the biggest predictor of poor outcome for children. The most powerful determinant is the level and intensity of the conflict. Joint custody is just then harmful for the child. Continued exposure to conflict as a child, whether in a marriage or during/after divorce, leads to depression, low self-esteem, self-blame, acting out, poor social skills and poor relationships as adults.

Advances in neuropsychology have shown that when exposed to conflict, our brains release stress hormones that over time can actually change brain functioning.

That’s scary.

That is what you are doing to your child.

Bill Eddy of High Conflict Institute and many other researchers along with him, have repeatedly stated that in high conflict divorces there is at least 1, more likely 2 parents with a personality disorder. When there are 2 ‘normal’ parents, the issue, while maybe heated at first, will resolve, not maintain or intensify, like with personality disordered individuals. Thank heavens my personality testing came back normal.

A parent with a personality disorder will not stop. Even if they have full/sole custody, they want more, they want omnipotent control. Having physical possession of the child is not enough. They also need the psychological possession, so they will interfere with the relationship with the other parent. The DSM V now calls that psychological child abuse.

Just Googling ‘parenting capacity’ and ‘personality disorder’ will give you a host of links with the long-term detrimental effect of a parent with a PD on children. It is well-recognized that a PD parent is too self-centered to raise children.

A parent with a personality disorder keeps all the tickets and ‘buys the biggest price’ for themselves. It is about possession. The healthy parent may have more tickets, but realizes that a child is not a possession, their love is to be shared equally. The healthy parent must fight, as not fighting will result in loss or deterioration of the relationship with the child. At the same time the healthy parent realizes that ‘winning’ custody does not mean the other parent is out of the child’s life. Contrary, the healthy parent will share, the healthy parent will assure with actions that the other parent continues to receive the love of the child.

I’m still dumbfounded the judge in our situation faulted me for my willingness to share. She called me hypocritical for providing evidence that substantiated sole custody and at the same time being willing to share. Yes, while having a parent with a PD has long-lasting effects on a child, the child still loves that parent.   Having all the tickets, or being awarded sole custody, doesn’t mean I buy the biggest price. I can still share the love of the children.

So the kids bought 2 nerd sticks for $20, just like the expense of a custody battle does not affect the love of a child for their parents. The irony was not lost on me.

What Protective Parents Can Learn from WWII Resistance Fighters

Kristallnacht‘ or ‘Crystal Night‘, it sounds so beautiful, yet it was so disastrous.

-- Synagogue in Berlin the morning after the Kristallnacht

— Synagogue in Berlin the morning after the Kristallnacht

The night in which the German SturmAbteilung, or paramilitary, in a series of organized attacks destroyed synagogues, buildings, homes and stores belonging to jews. It was the beginning of the persecution of Jews in Nazi-Germany.

My grandfather was in Germany at the time, as a Dutch Officer. He left, he quit the military, he knew what was coming, he wanted no part of it. He moved home and fought in the resistance, like many other brave men and women, regardless of race, religion or political beliefs. Their courage should be an example for protective parents. Some fights just have to be fought.

1. Chose your venue wisely.

My grandfather didn’t quit the fight, no, he changed venues. The military was aligning with Hitler and his chances of preserving civil liberties in the position he was in was minimal. He went home, and started an underground resistance group.

Going full-blown into the court circus can be very challenging. And financially very costly, not to speak of the emotional cost. You see people age right in front of you. Other venues are available to you; mediation, arbitration and if you’re remotely lucky you’ll actually be able to come to an agreement with your ex yourself. If not, then……

2. Fight smart, fight strategically.

The story of an attorney representing a protective mother versus a psychopath father will always stick with me. The attorney advised the mother to give the father lots of time, she was hesitant but eventually agreed. The father was too self-centered to actually parent and sure enough, not too long after the father was fed up with the responsibilities of caring for children and the mother ended up with sole custody.

Custody arrangements very often change over time. Depending on the nature of the situation your children are in, this may not be the best solution, but it helps to think outside of the box. Build the relationship with your children first, give that a good foundation.

WWII resistance fighters did not go on (many) suicide missions. They stayed hidden and low profile, but struck when necessary, they fought the necessary battle at the right time and the right place. It wasn’t till the end of the war that the Germans realized the extend my grandfather was involved and how he had systematically resisted them.

3. Realize you’re in it for the long haul.

In 1938 nobody knew how long this was going to take, or even realized the extend of all the atrocities to happen. Likewise, custody battles with personality disordered other parents will escalate over time. Most custody situations are not over till the child reaches maturity and when you are dealing with PAS, it may be a life time.

If you have some sort of access to your children, use it as quality time. Built strong bonds with your children without letting the battle interfere with how you interact with your children. The strongest bonds between child and parent are formed with quality time, even if it is very little.

4. Never give up.

I know I have been at the breaking point. Wondering whether it would all be worth it. I have observed divorces in ex’s family; they don’t stop till they have full custody and the ex-wife is destitute. I wrote that email to dr Warshak that I thought it would be better to walk away. His immediate and stern response was ‘don’t you dare, would you give up if there was physical or sexual abuse?’.

My grandfather knew he was the underdog, but that did not deter him, nor any of his fellow resistance fighters. Thanks to them, thanks to the men and women who fought for our freedom, whether allied forces or resistance fighters, the world was saved from Evil.

When your child is in an abusive situation, whether physical, sexual, or psychological, you have to fight the fight. The road is long, the road is hard, yet when the kids are adults you want to say that you did all you could. There is nothing more devastating to a child growing up believing that a parent abandoned them, whether it is true abandonment, or perceived abandonment due to manipulations of the other parent.

6 Things Your Child Needs to Hear You Say During the Divorce Process

No matter what people try to tell you, divorce is an adult centered process. The Child has little or nothing to say about the huge changes happening in their life. In a previous post, I mused about the impact of divorce on children. It is the duty of the parent to support the child and make the process, the changes as easy as possible. To conquer the challenges together.

I Love You!

I Love You!

1. ‘I Love You’

It seems like an open door. Of course you tell your child you love him/her, but this can be a time of extreme emotional turmoil for kids, especially young kids. They need the assurance of your love during this time. They need to hear it!

2.’It’s Not Your Fault’

Teenagers respond different to divorce then young children, but unless they are really young, at some point they are going to wonder if they are at fault for causing the divorce. Assure your children that they are not the cause of the divorce.

3. ‘Both Parents Will Stay Involved in Your Life’

Joint custody or sole custody for 1 parent should make absolutely NO difference, the other parent will always be the other parent and as such should contribute to, and be part of the child’s life. Sometimes children (and parents for that matter too) think that because there are 2 houses, 1 parent is less important than the other. They are not! Research has shown time and time again that it is not the amount of time a parent spends with the child, but the quality of the time. Assure the child the other parent is still important, regardless of living in a different house, regardless of how much time they spend with the child.

4. “It’s OK to Love the Other Parent”

Because there are 2 houses some children think they have to choose sides. Nothing is more damaging to the long-term emotional wellbeing of children then having to ‘split’. I recently read the book by Melissa Jesperson Moore “Shattered Silence“. She is the daughter of a serial killer and despite the horrific things her father did, she still loved him. I doubt your ex is a serial killer. Assure your child they can express love for the other parent.

5. “Talk to me about your Feelings”

Just like parents go through stages before accepting and moving on from the divorce, children have stages of grief to get to acceptance. It is the parents job to help them with this. If you are too absorbed with the emotions of the divorce, it can be helpful to get the assistance of a qualified therapist. Realize that kids may express anger with you and/or your ex. Make sure the child’s emotions are reality based and don’t cultivate emotions (negative towards your ex and positive towards you) that are unjustified.

6. “It will be OK”

Their lives are up-side-down, your life is up-side-down, and you’re supposed to tell them “It will be OK”? But it will, it will be ok after some time. You can empower your children! Take this opportunity that life gives you, to teach resilience. You can teach them to overcome adversity by modeling how the negative things in life can lead to personal growth and success. When they see you succeed, they are armed with resources to overcome what life throws at them. And it will be OK, it just may take some time.

In the tumultuous time that is called divorce, parents can be a source of strength and stability for the child. You can help your child, hopefully together with your ex. Even if your divorce is high-conflict, you individually can ease the pain of divorce for your child(ren). That is what being a parent is all about, help them grow.