Kids Say the Darnest Things; Parental Controls of Your Divorce

This morning I, with toddler & iPad in tow, went to the salon to have my nails done for the photo shoot this coming Friday. article-1262377-08EEBE03000005DC-546_468x544

Just your normal morning; updating and getting updated with all the local and personal gossip, living the small town USA life. While my nails are getting done the toddler is playing on the iPad and the ‘Girls’ and I are happily chatting. Until somebody mentions something innocuous about a video they saw.

Muppet looks up from the iPad and inserts into the conversation. “Dad has 2 videos on his laptop”. We all look adoringly at Muppet and smile, oh how adorable toddlers can be. “He hangs up his undies and then dances with Shelly” follows while making a thrusting movement.

Jaws drop. Dead silence.

My brain goes a million miles an hour. How to handle this? Don’t destroy innocence. Muppet has no clue what was seen. I’m speechless, yet I know I have to say something to ‘save the situation’. Say something smart, say something witty, SAY SOMETHING………..

“I enjoy dancing, dancing is fun!” Yup, a failed comeback, but the best I could come up with.

This has been a consistent problem during the divorce, the children are consistently exposed to way too much. The oldest knows about motions and affidavits. I get questions using language that even I don’t know (“Sorry hun, let me look up that word before I answer you”. English is my 2nd language), let alone what is appropriate for a 7-year-old. It is simply not fair to a child to do so, it is putting adult issues onto innocence and demanding them to grow up too fast.

It is a lack of boundaries.

A child is not your ‘brother in arms’. To protect the child you need to take actions to protect them from being exposed to conflict.

Password Protect All Things Electronic

Computers, tablets, smartphones are part of society. Kids at some point will pick up your phone, will want to play on your tablet. You may be busy cooking dinner, or finally taking that shower. Murphy’s Law, you’re not looking, or it is a really inconvenient moment.

Don’t take the risk. It is so easy to set up a password.

Set Up Separate User Accounts with Parental Controls

In this day and age, you can’t deny access to computers and internet. They need it for school, homework, and social networks. All operating systems have the possibility to set up different users, which have access to different things on the computer and internet.

You really don’t have an excuse to allow children to see inappropriate adult content or things related to the divorce. Curious minds will read. Seeing the desktop files with ‘dadsucks’ ‘momisbad’ is inexcusable.

Don’t Keep Paperwork Laying Around

While we all may at times leave paperwork and bills out on the kitchen counter, when dealing with divorce related paperwork one should be really conscientious. Seeing a bill is a totally different for a child than seeing documentation that talks about your mom and dad breaking up. It rips a wound that should be healing over time, right back open.

Hold Divorce Related Phone Calls Out of Earshot

I’ve always had all my conversations outside, out of earshot, but with the children in my line of view. A couple of month ago the oldest wanted to talk to GAL. Walked right outside, right to where I always make my phone calls. I smiled.

Just remember “Little teacups have ears”.

Don’t Use the Kids as Messengers

This should be so obvious, yet time and time again I hear it in our household, and stories from others. Put on your big girl panties or be a man, if you have to say something to your ex, do it in person, or via a phone call, text or email.

As a parent it is your duty to protect the children from harm. Being exposed to conflict, being exposed to the divorce going ons is harmful. Cherish the young years your children have, they will thank you for it later. Be that safe haven, their rock, when all around them is changing.

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.

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.