Divorce

Protect Your Kids During Divorce

Divorce takes a child’s normal and flips it upside down. There is more research today available about the impact of divorce on kids than when my parents divorced when I was 10. “Helping Your kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way” is THE best resource I have found for parents as they navigate their way through parenting after divorce.

Many parents worry about the kids and want to do what is best for the kids, but they struggle with dealing with their own emotions about with the changes in their lives.

David John Berndt reminds us that “parenting is a lifelong job…you don’t divorce your kids.” If you are considering divorce, going through one, or know someone who is, we suggest you read this week as we share tips that will help your kids deal with real and/ or imagined problems they face going through divorce.

 Stay Consistent

Kids going through divorce are dealing with a world of change. It is important for you to minimize some changes to help them feel stable.

Simple things that are easier to stay consistent with are: bedtimes, meals, chores, daily routines, etc. Also be sure to discipline and reward your kids the same as you did before the divorce. This will help kids know that YOU haven’t changed just because you got divorced. It feels safer to them to have things feel familiar.

Some change will be out of your control. Moving, school changes, and splitting time might be inevitable. But do your best to reduce the amount of change, at least in the beginning to help them establish a new normal.

Also be sure not to lie to your kids about upcoming changes because you don’t want them to worry. If you aren’t sure, or aren’t ready to tell them, simply say, “I don’t know what all the details look like about that yet, but I will let you know as soon as I have it figured out.” Also don’t make promises you can’t keep. This will cause trust issues for your kids, which will create more instability.

Read tomorrow for more ways to protect your kids during a divorce!

Source: David John Berndt, Ph.D. www.divorcesource.com

 

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC
Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri does virtual therapy for residents of Indiana and Florida using videoconferencing technology. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling and adolescent counseling.

Summer Book Recommendations- Teri

Imagine Hope loves a good book! So this week we are sharing a few favorites. Enjoy some of this week's books pool side over the summer! Teri's Book Recommendation: Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way by Gary Neuman

I am a child of divorce, so reading through this reference book for parents tells me a lot about myself and what I went through growing up. I wish this book and all the research it is based on was around for my parents.

Gary Neuman's book is a gift to any parent going through a divorce or even considering it. This book is based on real research from the Sandcastles program for kids of divorce. It gives parents a REAL understanding of what their child feels, thinks about, and struggles with at all different ages from infants to 17 year old as a child of divorce.

It covers vital topics that parents need to be overly informed on in order to do the least amount of damage to kids throughout the divorce process. It digs into co-parenting, how to tell your kids about the divorce, moving out, visitation, dating again, and step families.

I know that not every marriage can be saved, but if at all possible RUN to a professional for help if you fear you will be heading toward divorce. Your kids will have a much different childhood if you can go through the healing changes needed for a healthy relationship.

But if divorce is your reality. Buy this book. Use this book. Study this book. Keep this book. Use it through the years to help guide you in doing what research says is best for your child.

Taking the time to read this book and do what it says will be a gift to your kids. Someday your kids may look back and be thankful that you did!

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri does virtual therapy for residents of Indiana and Florida using videoconferencing technology. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling and adolescent counseling.

8 Ways To Screw Up Your Kid – Ask Them to Solve Your Problems/Put Down Their Other Parent

This week we are looking at ways to guarantee your child will struggle with their emotional health.  So often we talk about what you should do as a parent-validate, be consistent, set boundaries, etc.  This week we are coming at it from a different (and yes, a little sarcastic) angle.  If you want to ensure your child will be screwed up, follow these simple rules: #3 Ask Your Child to Solve Your Problems

Who needs boundaries?!  Feel free to share all of your problems, concerns, worries, and frustrations with your children.  Ask them for advice when you need it.  Tell them about your money problems, your stress at work, and share the latest gossip with them.  Share details about your sex life (or lack thereof).  This surely won’t cause them any additional stress or anxiety.

Tell your child they are your best friend.  Confide in them.  Since you are incapable of taking care of yourself, make sure to share the burden with them.  Blur the lines between being a parent and being a child.  That’s what they’re there for, right?

#4 Put Down Their Other Parent

Don’t ever show affection to your spouse in front of the children.  Criticize your spouse in private with the children and also out in the open for everyone to hear.  Alternate between appearing hot and cold with your spouse.  This will teach your children what a marriage really looks like.

Throw around the “Divorce” word at least once a week.  This will allow your children to feel as unstable as you do.  Since you need to share your burdens with them, they should be allowed to hear intimate details of your arguments.

If you are already divorced, continue to bad-mouth their other parent.  Remain distant, bitter, and resentful towards your ex, and blame them for everything.  Share these feelings with your children so that they may feel the same way towards their other parent that you do.  Be sure to send subtle messages to your children that you got divorced because of them.  They won’t blame themselves at all!

Continue to read this week as we give you more tips to guarantee you will screw your children up!

*Source: 8 Surefire Ways to Emotionally Screw Up Your Kid by Julie Hanks found on PsychCentral.com

Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW

 

Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group.  Christy enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling.  Christy also provides family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.

Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

7 Tips To Protect Your Kids While Dealing With Divorce -5

As we have discussed earlier this week-- Parenting is a lifelong job and you don't divorce your kids when going through a marital divorce. How do you safeguard your children while going through something potentially messy?

Spare your children the exposure to fighting.

This means, they should never hear disagreements between the parents.  Remember... kids are GREAT at picking up on things and experts at "listening in" on conversations that you might not think they are hearing.  Make sure that if you are having a disagreement, the children aren't in the home.  Take it outside or wait until they are not present.

Don't make your kids take sides between parents, and never make them a "go between" in a disagreement.  If you have something to say to the other parent, do it yourself (see above).

Don't ask them a million questions when they get home from the other parents house.  If you really need to know something, pick up the phone and ask your ex-spouse yourself.

While going through a divorce, one of the most important things you can do for your children is TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!  This doesn't mean you do this at the expense of taking care of your kids, but they need to know that you are their strength and that they will be okay.  This doesn't mean that they never see you sad, but keep this within reasonable limits.  You don't want them to be in the role of the parent where they are consoling you, and your children should never be your "confidant".  Taking care of yourself means eating well, trying to get enough sleep, exercising, not isolating yourself and having a good support system.

If you feel overwhelmed by the divorce process, or recognize that you are struggling with depression, anxiety or day to day coping, contact a professional therapist or a divorce support group.  There are so many resources out there to help you in the process and to realize that you are not alone!

Adapted from David John Berndt, Ph. D., www.divorcesource.com

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

7 tips to Protect Your Kids While Dealing With Divorce- 3

Tip #3 – Help Your Children Stay Connected If you are going through a divorce, or even contemplating one, think about the stress and anxiety you experience when you think about the changes that are happening in your life.  If you are feeling uneasy, worried, scared, and stressed, there is a very good possibility that your children feel similarly.  The less change right now, the better off your children will be!

If it’s feasible, don’t move your children away from their schools, friends, church, etc.  Like Teri mentioned earlier this week, divorce takes a child’s normal and flips it upside down.  Be supportive of your child’s interests, schoolwork, activities and try to maintain normalcy as much as possible!  The more stability you can maintain, the easier your children will adjust to the “new” normal.

If you do have to move your children to another school or away from their friends, make an effort (if possible) to allow them to see their old friends or have contact with them (Facebook, email, texting, etc.)  Also be encouraging as they make new friendships in their new school, and support them as they get involved in new activities.

Read tomorrow for more ways to protect your children.  As always, thanks for stopping by!      

*Source – David John Berndt, Ph.D. www.divorcesource.com

 

Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW

Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group.  Christy enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling.  Christy also provides family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.

Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

How To Get Over A Break Up-3

Participate in Hobbies Keep up a routine of participating in hobbies you already enjoy, or find some new ones.  Hobbies can help keep you from dwelling on your feelings and focusing on the negative.  Whether it’s gardening, a dance class, painting, volunteering, or a sport, these activities give you a purpose.  Make sure to not only participate in hobbies on your own, but also hobbies you do with friends or a social group.  Be cognizant that you are not overextending yourself with hobbies in order to avoid how you are feeling about the break up.  It’s important to find a balance that works for you.

Self Care

Take care of yourself!  After a break up, you may feel little motivation to shower, eat, or go out in public.  Make sure that you are continuing your normal routine, despite how you feel.  Get up, shower, get ready for the day, plan meals, go to the gym, and make plans with others.  Do things that make you feel good-whether that is getting a massage, pedicure, haircut, buying something new for yourself, taking yourself out to a nice dinner, etc.  You may have to push yourself at times, and it may take some extra effort, but try to keep things as “normal” as possible.

Source: How to get over a break up by Nathan Feiles

 

Written by: Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW

 

Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group.  Christy enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling.  Christy also provides family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling.

Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

How To Get Over A Breakup-1

Most people have experienced a hard breakup at some point in their life. The loss of the "norm" of being in a relationship can rattle you and cause strong emotional reactions. After all you are used to being connected to that person in some way, positive or negative, for a part of your life. Even when we know that the break up might be a good thing and healthy for us, or if you are the one breaking it off, there still is a grieving period as the loss settles in. You might notice emotional spirals, irrational thought patterns, and even depression after a break up.

Know that the emotional pain is normal and expected after a break up. But be careful to not loose yourself in the pain and find yourself at a deep emotional low if you don't push through the pain to the other side.

The Missing Piece Meets The Big O by Shel Silverstein is a great and simple reminder of what it means to be healthy in a relationship (by becoming a Big O) and stop trying to complete others by being their Missing Piece. Click Here to watch a short video of the kid's book.

Are you a Missing Piece or A Big O? After a break up, it is important to become a Big O and roll through life in a healthy way.

Keep checking in this week for tips to follow after a break up. Remember to work towards being ok being alone and become a healthy and complete "Big O"!

 

Source: How to get over a break up by Nathan Feiles

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri does virtual therapy for residents of Indiana and Florida using videoconferencing technology. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling and adolescent counseling.

Spring Book Recommendations- Joleen

The subject of ambiguous loss is a relatively new one to me, as it relates to therapy, but is one that we frequently see with our clients (as well as in our own lives!).  Pauline Boss' book "Ambiguous Loss:  Learning To Live With Unresolved Grief" is one of the most amazing books I have read so far this spring! What is Ambiguous Loss? 

Ambiguous Loss is when you have no closure with loss, or when loss is surrounded by uncertainty and ambiguity-- examples of this are divorce,  addictions, infidelity, dealing with an aging parent, coping with the loss of a missing child, dealing with a relationship breakup, just to name a few.  Unlike death, which has finality and an ending, ambiguous loss can be traumatic in that the survivors of this type of loss still have to deal with so much uncertainty in the healing process.  The two ways Boss explains this type of loss:  When a person is present physically, but is psychologically or emotionally absent (e.g., divorce, relationship break up, mental illness, alzheimer's disease)-- or when a person is physically absent, but is still psychologically or emotionally present (e.g., a missing child, a soldier who is missing in action).

This book not only explains ambiguous loss, but helps the reader to recognize how this type of loss is surrounded by fluctuating feelings of hope to hopelessness, while trying to make sense and find meaning in such loss. 

If you recognize an area where you might be dealing with ambiguous loss, this book is highly recommended!

For clinician's working with Ambiguous Loss in therapy, Pauline Boss' book "Loss, Trauma, and Resilience:  Therapeutic Work with Ambiguous Loss" is a great reference in working with clients, as well.

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

Myths About Love- It's Eternal

People love love. Romance can be like a drug to many. But the danger of this is that people don't truly understand what love is. They bring misconceptions about love into their relationship and end up with hurt feelings, confusion, and sometimes the ending of the relationship. Because society has such an impact on how we view love (and we know how twisted our society's lens of the world can be!), we want to help our readers understand the myths about love that could be doing damage in their relationships.

We are sharing from Gerald Corey's book, "I never knew I had a choice", and how the thoughts we have about love might keep us from feeling loved. When we have false beliefs about love, they might block the ability for love to sink in.

Myth #1- Love is Eternal

The intense feelings of love at the beginning of a relationship can be awesome, but sometimes people believe that stage of love should happen all through the relationship.

When you believe that the love shown on chick-flicks and heard on the radio must be sustained, you set yourself up for disappointment. It is unrealistic to keep up the love struck feeling long term.

As a person grows and matures, we expect them to change, right? The same is true for a relationship. As a couple grows and matures in their relationship, their love will change.

The love can deepen through good times and through conflict. You can experience a richness that is much more intense than the beginning phases of a relationship.

Some couples struggle with the changes. They fight for the love struck feeling and end up growing apart in different directions. They miss out on the chance to experience the depth that love can change into by believing that love is eternal.

Make sure you adjust the expectation of love as you grow as a couple. It will be much more fulfilling in the long run!

We hope you are able to see how your ideas of love are impacting your relationship. When you view love in a realistic way, you are much more likely to get the love you need in your relationship. Check in tomorrow for more!

Source: "I Never Knew I Had A Choice" by Gerald Corey

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

Tips on Helping Your Child Cope With Divorce- Control

  • Give your child some element of control.  Kids feels totally out of control of their world while going through a divorce.  Try to find ways to let them make small decisions so they don't feel completely powerless in such a vulnerable time.  For example:  What color to paint their room in the new house, what to have for dinner, what recreational activity to do, etc.
  • If you see any concerns with your child's reaction to the divorce, seek professional help.  Counseling can be one of the greatest ways to give your child an uninvolved, safe sounding board as they are dealing with the divorce.

Some of the resources we recommend for parents as they strive to do what is best for their child during a divorce are:

Helping your kids cope with divorce the Sandcastles Way by Gary Neuman  (A must for kids of all ages!)

Was it the Chocolate Pudding?:  A Story for Little Kids About Divorce by Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo (for kids ages 2-6)

Mama and Daddy Bear's Divorce by Cornelia Maude Spelman (for kids ages 2-6)

This is Me and my Two Families: An Awareness Scrapbook/Journal for Children

Living in Stepfamilies by M.D. Evans (for kids ages 4 and up)

Ginny Morris and Mom's House, Dad's House by Mary Collins Gallagher (for kids ages 8-12)

Help! A Girl's Guide to Divorce and Stepfamilies by Nancy Holyoke (for girls ages 8 and up)

The Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor (for teens)

Thank you for joining us this week!

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

Caring For Your Children Through A Divorce- Impact By Age

Like Teri I am a child of divorce. I have a clear memory of my parents separation and divorce 32 years later.  I remember what thoughts ran through my head, what questions I had, which ones I asked and which ones I did not.  I remember looking to my brother for guidance on how to respond, but he is almost 8 years older than me.  He felt differently than I did.  He needed different information than I did. It is very important to know that while all children are impacted by divorce, it impacts children very differently at different ages.  Children have different stages of development and impact will vary depending on what developmental stage the child is in.  While all development is individual to the child, the following summary will help you and your co parent understand how your child my be impacted by your divorce.

Infant to 2 years old- Infants depend on parents for meeting their needs.  When their needs are met consistently, they are able to develop trust in others.  Toddlers form healthy attachments to caregivers during 8-18 months of age.  It is important during your separation that you keep routine as consistent as possible.  The toddler will feel the loss of a primary caregiver.  You may see your baby show sleep disturbances, clinginess, and crying.  During these times it is best to provide opportunities for both parents to provide physical comfort and consistent routine. Communication between co parents is essential at this stage since the child cannot speak for themselves.

Ages 2-4- Preschool aged children are developing more independence, have verbal skills to express feelings and needs and cam keep the absent parent in their minds to comfort themselves.  Children of this age may interpret the loss of contact with a parent as abandonment. They may feel responsible for the separation.  They often have fears about their needs being met (i.e.: who will braid my hair when I am at Dad's? or who will feed me my pancakes in the mornings at Moms?)  During this time your preschooler may show signs of regression (toilet training accidents, wanting older soothing toys like blanket, baby talk), anxiety at bedtime, fear of abandonment, will seek out physical touch from parent, and have more tantrums.  You can offer comfort to this age child by providing physical comfort like cuddling, hugging, or holding hands.  When regression occurs, be patient and non shaming.  The child will most likely return to age appropriate behavior after s/he figures out their new routine.  These children will adapt better through frequent visits with the other parent.  These visits need  to be as routine and expected as possible.

Ages 5-8- Early school aged children are developing peer relationships and making progress on their moral development.  These children may feel responsible for their parents' divorce.  They will very likely have fantasies of parental reunification long after the divorce is final and even after a parental remarriage.  These children have a fear of abandonment and a longing for the absent parent.  You may see your child show overt signs of grief such as sadness or anger.  They may feel rejected by the parent who left the home.  You may see changes in eating and sleeping patterns or behavioral problems.  This age child has loyalty conflicts as seen by taking sides, struggles with transfer during visits, and getting used to being back home after visits.  If this child is the oldest of your children, s/he may try to take on the role of the departing parent.  You can help  this child by providing opportunities to express his/her feelings and  reassurance that s/he is not responsible for the break up.  Give this child permission to love both parents.    You cannot accomplish this when you call the other parent names or blame the other parent.  Read books about divorce and feelings with your child.  Enroll the child in extra curricular activities to focus energy in a healthy way and detach from parental problems.  This child benefits from spending time with each parent.

Ages 9-12- This child has developed an increased awareness of self.  At this age, your child is trying to fit in with other peers.  These children tend to show anger about the separation.  They are likely to take sides and place blame on a parent who caused the separation.  They tend to think in black and white and think one parent is all good or all bad.  They also may feel responsible for the separation.  You may see your child show intense anger, have physical complains such as head aches or stomach aches.  They may become overactive or perfectionistic to avoid thinking about the separation.  They may feel ashamed about the divorce, or feel different from  their peers.  You can help these children by providing many opportunities to express their feelings.  Spend time reassuring them that they are not responsible for the divorce, give them permission to love both parents, allow them to become familiar with spirituality, and provide a neutral adult who they can talk to who is not related to either parent. Watch movies about divorce and talk about it with your preteen.  I like " Taking the Duh out of Divorce"   by Trevor Romain.

Ages 13-18- At this age, your child is establishing his or her identity and sense of self in relation to rules and regulations.  Teens may feel embarrassed by a family break up.  They may idolize one parent or completely de-idealize a parent they had once looked up to.  The later aged teen places peer needs ahead of family and may not want to visit the non resident parent.  You may see your teen withdraw from family, have difficulty concentrating, engage in high risk behaviors, or worry about their own ability to have successful future relationships.  To help your teen, be consistent with limits balanced with with more freedom and choices.  Let them have input about their visitation but do not burden them by having the responsibility to decide custody and or schedule.  At all ages, communication with the co-parent is key.  You may be tempted to disconnect from your former spouse and allow important parental communication to occur through your teen.  Resist this temptation because it often leads to child manipulation.  Teens need to trust that even though their parents are divorces, parents are still in charge.

The most successful divorces occur when both parents can co-parent well.  This is the case for all ages of children.  If you are having difficulty co -parenting or if your child is experiencing distress over your divorce, please call one of the therapists here at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Please check back all week as we continue to talk about supporting your child through your divorce.

Adapted from Liana Lowenstein's Creative Interventions for Children of Divorce

Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT

Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapyfamily counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield

 

 

How To Tell Your Kids About Divorce

I am a child of divorce. It amazes me the memories I have of the details of being told, the exact words used, where I was, and what I did after I was told. This moment changed my life forever. Because divorce has such a major impact on kids, we will be focusing this week on how to tell them, how kids experience divorce at different developmental stages, and various tips for parents to attempt to do the least amount of damage on a child who's life is being turned upside down.

Things to remember BEFORE you tell your child:

  • Both parents should tell a child together. Both should talk equally. Plan this talk together before hand so you know who is saying what.
  • Don't "blame" each other. Keep the adult info to yourselves. Don't over explain the reasons.
  • Be in a mindset of love and not anger. You need to be the adult in the room for your child.
  • Tell your child in a private place, preferably at home where it feel comfortable and safe. Be face to face- not in the car.
  • Tell them at least 1-2 weeks before one person moves out. Do not move out right away.
  • Pick the day carefully based on your child. Some kids need routine and schedule to feel that somethings will not change, so telling them on a Thursday evening with them still going to school the next day would be good. Other kids need an extended time to let it sink in before they re-engage in their lives, so a Friday evening would be better.
  • Always let your child's teachers know what is going on right away, if not before. It would be good to set up a plan with the teacher and school counselor for when your child is struggling at school and review it with your child.
  • Pick the time of day carefully. Don't do it just before your child has something to do. Make sure they will have a few unplanned hours before an activity and bedtime. You want them to have an option to reach out to loved ones and friends if needed.
  • Studies say that you only have 60 seconds to tell your child the important points before they shut down and their mind starts to wonder. Use you time wisely. Don't ramble.
  • Tell them what will change for them (moving houses, schools, who is moving out and when, etc)
  • Give them a ideal schedule of what visitation will look like (maybe a calendar made out for them)
  • Reassure them that this divorce is between the parents- not the kids. It had nothing to do with them.
  • Reassure them of your love for them and that it will not change even when you don't see them daily.
  • Give your child a chance to talk about how they feel, ask questions, etc. Don't try to defend yourself or rescue your child from the painful feelings. It is appropriate for them to have negative feelings. Just empathize and support them.

Please take careful time to consider this life altering conversation for your children. Doing these things can help your child adjust better through the divorce.

Excellent Resource: Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce The Sandcastles Way by Gary Neuman- there is an entire chapter about telling your kids along with vital info for all parents to know!

Check back tomorrow as we cover different developmental stages and how kids experience divorce. Thanks for reading!

Written by Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC

Teri Claassen MSW, LCSW, LCAC is a licensed therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Teri enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Teri also does family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.

The Masks We Wear- Counterdependency

This week, as a tribute to the Halloween season, we are talking about masks.  Every day we can unknowingly put on different masks that hide us from various things we need in life:  intimacy, self-worth, love, belonging, identity, and freedom.  So far this week, we have discussed the masks of Shame, Codependency and Addiction.  Today we will talk about the mask of Counterdependency. What is the mask of Counterdependency-- what does it look like?

Counterdependents wear a mask that shows the outside world a "tough outer shell" with various traits that represent strength and success (though as you read through this, picture the parts of this "mask" as hiding or covering up a very insecure, needy and vulnerable person underneath).  Some of the main Counterdependent traits that make up their mask include:

  • grandiose, or overly confident (to the point of being cocky)
  • Presenting to others that they are "always right" ( Their way is the "right" way and they are "always right")
  • Controlling
  • Success driven, to the point of being a workaholic
  • Independent-- Not good at being vulnerable and "needy"
  • Non-emotional or emotionally cut off
  • Abrasive
  • Show anger as a main feeling
  • Very visionary-- Counterdependents have great plans for the future to make them more successful, but little follow through
  • Not in touch with their own limitations (Counterdependents aren't good at recognizing when they feel sick and taking care of themselves when they need to go to the doctor, sleeping when their body tells them they are tired, etc.)

How can this mask  impact a Counterdependent's life?

Being successful can be a wonderful thing, but it can also destroy relationships if someone becomes so focused on success and a workaholic to the point where they aren't able to invest in their relationships.  A Counterdependent's difficulty with being vulnerable, expressing the full range of emotion, and allowing themselves to be in touch with even healthy needs, causes them to have difficulty with intimacy, which causes the partner of a Counterdependent to feel alone-- like they don't really "know" their partner.  It also causes a Counterdependent's children to feel a lack of authentic connection with their parent because the Counterdependent is often not present physically (often due to work), or might not know how to "let go" and have fun through play on their child's level.  Their abrasiveness, use of anger, and having to always be "right" and in control doesn't allow for mutual give and take in a relationship, can intimidate the people around the Counterdependent, keeps people at a distance from the Counterdependent, and doesn't allow relationships to be an intimate, two-way street.  Because of these traits, Counterdependents can often find themselves in the position where they lose many relationships and have relationships that are highly conflictual.  Not recognizing their limitations can cause premature death (not going to the doctor because they can "tough it out", when there is really a life threatening illness that eventually takes their life), burn-out, and a loss of relationships.

What Can Help?

It's important for a Counterdependent to recognize that the behaviors they have adopted to protect them early on in childhood, actually keep them isolated and many times, alone.  Addressing the fear that drives the counterdependent behaviors and learning how to be in touch with the full range of human emotion can improve relationships and help the counterdependent realize that they do, in fact, have needs.  Learning how to recognize their limitations and nurture themselves, as well as having intimacy and nurturing their relationships is imperative in their recovery process.  Also, acknowledging that the "mask" of Counterdependency is only just that-- a "mask", and realizing that they really are trying to protect themselves from feeling the fear, vulnerable, insecure parts of who they really are, is very important to moving past Counterdependent behaviors.  Many times, with Counterdependency, professional counseling with a therapist who has knowledge of Counterdependency is needed for healing and growth to begin.

So, which "masks" did you see in yourself from this week's blog?  We would love to hear from you!

As always, thank you for joining us.  Check back next week when we will be discussing body image and eating disordered behaviors (including food addiction).

References:

Counterdependency: The Flight From Intimacy by Janae and Barry Weinhold

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.

How Divorce Impacts Kids of All Ages: 13-18 Years Old

As we have been discussing, divorce has different effects on children, depending on their ages.  It's so important to be aware of this when a family is experiencing divorce, in order to help that child cope in ways that are most beneficial to their age group.  Today we will discuss how divorce impacts teens, ages 13-18. Characteristics:

  • Teens of this age range are working on solidifying their identity and establishing their sense of "self" in relation to rules and regulations of society.

Separation issues:

  • When divorce happens, teens of this age range may feel embarrassed by the family break-up and react by idealizing one or both parents.
  • This age group is more likely to place peer needs ahead of family and may not want to visit the non-resident parent.

Signs of distress:

  • Withdrawal from family
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors (sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol use)
  • Worry about own future relationships

Suggestions:

  • Set consistent limits that are balanced with more freedom and choices
  • Allow them to have input about visitation, but not so much that the teen is burdened by having to decide custody and access schedule.

If your family or a family you know is going through divorce, we hope this information has been helpful in making the transition period more understandable.  If you would like additional reading information, check out our resources below.  Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you next week!

Resources:

  1. Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce, the Sandcastle's Way by Gary Neuman
  2. Was it the Chocolate Pudding?:  A Story for Little Kids About Divorce by Sandra Levins and Bryan Langdo (for kids ages 2-6)
  3. Mama and Daddy Bear's Divorce by Cornelia Maude Spelman (for kids ages 2-6)
  4. This is Me and My Two Families:  An Awareness Scrapbook/Journal for Children Living in Stepfamilies by M.D. Evans (for kids ages 4 and up)
  5. Ginny Morris and Mom's House, Dad's House by Mary Collins Gallagher (for kids ages 8-12)
  6. Help! A Girl's Guide to Divorce and Stepfamilies by Nancy Holyoke (for girls ages 8 and up)
  7. The Divorce Helpbook for Teens by Cynthia MacGregor (for teens)

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.