I work with couples around affair recovery, perpetual conflictual interactions, and help them develop emotional and sexual intimacy. I treat couples and individuals for orgasmic difficulties, disparate and low desire, body image issues, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, painful intercourse, and lack of emotional intimacy during sex. I work with couples to help them experience marriage to its' fullest potential: as an intimate, secure and passionate emotional and sexual relationship.
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Divorce Magazine eNewsletter | Atlanta Family Law Attorney Robert G. Wellon
Don't be shy. Each parent potentially provides something for a preschool child: male and female role models; the stability that is necessary for the normal separation process to occur, enabling children to move beyond the family arena; resolution of the Oedipal conflict, which is dealt with between three and six years of age; and the powerful presence of two parents to reinforce discipline codes and behavioral expectations, leading to more mature moral development.
Rules are absolute at this age and, to the child, consequences are unrelated to intentions. Therefore, "If Daddy can leave Mother because they weren't getting along very well, Mother might leave, too, unless I'm really, really good! Many begin "hanging around" the remaining parent, keeping a desperate eye on the situation, even getting up in the middle of the night to see if the parent is still there. They may become too eager to please in order to avoid the imagined abandonment.
When this happens, children are said to become "relationship oriented. Implications for later situations involving peer pressure are obvious. Play behaviors are often negatively affected, and these children show a marked inability to play creatively, to verbalize out loud during their play, or become involved in free expression with art media.
There is a double danger in a child's decreased interest in expressive play; in this age group, play functions as a way of expressing emotions, something these children need for discharging the tension of the crisis they are undergoing. Defense mechanisms are commonly used by preschoolers. They often regress to some behaviors common in an earlier, more comfortable stage in their lives. Some will spend inordinate amounts of time engaged in solitary play with toys they played with earlier in their development. Thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, wetting or soiling their pants, throwing temper tantrums, and prior eating problems may reappear, adding anxiety to the burdens already being carried by parents.
Children at this age may refuse to play with other children, expressing their anger in more hitting and kicking. Understandably, they may indicate increased preference for adult companionship or comforting in favor of playing with their own age-mates. Elementary Age Children. Profound sadness and longing to have parents reunited are characteristic of children in the middle years of childhood. They often harbor hope that they can convince their parents to reconcile— and work hard at doing so. Crying is common. These children are also frequently angry but are "wise enough" not to confront their parents directly about the source of their anger.
There is a sense of not being able to control important events in their lives. They tend to express this anger in whining, extreme mood shifts, physical complaints, fears, and significant drops in school achievement or an overfocus on school achievement. It's hard to concentrate on the 3 Rs or something the teacher is talking about when there are more important things to deal with: being ashamed of what's happening in your family — If I play in the concert Friday, will both my mom and my dad be there?
Will they fight in front of everybody? Even if the divorce itself took place earlier in their lives, these children deal with it all over again because of the dramatic changes that are taking place in their thinking. They are becoming somewhat more sophisticated in their ability to understand complex reality and to handle their unhappiness, feelings of loss and rejection, and the helplessness and loneliness that preoccupies them most of the time.
They try hard not to think about the situation at all. Some do this by getting involved in vigorous activity. They are more able to verbalize their now-conscious, intense anger They tend to move toward establishing blame in one parent and intense loyalty toward the other one who is perceived as more virtuous.
Despite these newly emerging coping skills, children in the middle years still experience the pain of having their own world turned upside down, not having enough information about what is happening in their lives, and trying to construct a workable concept of what their family life is going to be like. It is a myth to believe that the pain associated with divorce is not as great as it once was, simply because so many families are divorcing.
These children cannot connect to that; they only know that their parents are no longer going to be married to one another. Because children in this age group must widen their world to include peer involvement, homework, and extra-curricular activities, the necessity of having to schedule a "social time" or visitation with a non-custodial parent may be costly in terms of friendships with other children, completion of homework assignments and leisure time that is normally available on the weekends to just "mess around.
Children in the middle years are prone to misconceptions. Information they gain by eavesdropping on telephone conversations or screening the mail tends to be inaccurate. Also, they often misinterpret the importance of other adults in their parents' lives: a date or a phone call is perceived as the first step toward a stepfamily situation or the end of their fantasy of getting their parents back together.
There is widespread misunderstanding about the effects of divorce on adolescents. Despite their increased access to support systems outside the family — peer groups, parents of friends, school counselors, etc. According to information about the timing of divorce, parents of adolescents are the second fastest growing group of adults seeking a divorce. Marital satisfaction is frequently reported to be at an all-time low in the period where families have teenagers.
Many of these parents reported that since they felt they weren't getting any younger, their marriage was at such a low point, and their children were now fairly independent, it seemed the best time to make the break if one was going to be made. While it is true that some marriages are better off dissolved, it is also true that there doesn't seem to be a "best" time to divorce, at least where children are concerned. Teenagers often feel embarrassed and resentful toward parents who they perceive as giving their own needs priority at the expense of the family staying intact. Gary Neuman, a mental health counselor, notes that adolescents sometimes work hard to hide their sense of loss and grief, earning praise from others who see them as "so grown up" and "handling everything so well.
By refusing to focus on the situation realistically or talk about it, they may really be defending themselves against emotions that are overwhelming. Eventually, teenagers who cannot find a positive avenue for communicating their feelings may act out in unacceptable, destructive, and self-defeating ways.
Often, when parental divorce occurs in the adolescent's life, there is a press to grow up sooner and become independent from parents. This is usually more hurried in ruptured families than in intact families. Thus, the time the teenager needs to move back and forth between independent and dependent behavior is usually diminished significantly.
Also, the opportunity to use parents as sounding boards is decreased because parents are more preoccupied with their own needs. Researchers Wallerstein and Kelly Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce note that other family functions crucial to maintaining adolescent development are also weakened by divorce, including providing necessary discipline and control.
The result is that these youngsters are less capable of developing inner control, conscience, and an independent capacity to make judgments that they need in dealing with their peer groups. These adolescents reported that their parents' divorce "left them feeling vulnerable to their own newly strengthened sexual and aggressive impulses, and surrounded by the temptations of the adolescent world without the supports that would hold them on a straight course.
This perception contrasts with a relative invisibility of parental sex in intact homes. Part of the anger expressed by these adolescents is related to their age, but the divorce gives them new excuses for venting it. The adolescent may seek to align with one parent and be extremely hostile toward the one they view as responsible for the breakup. Regression includes playing with younger children or spending large amounts of time alone, disrupted school performance, and increased dependency on a parent. Remember that your children are depending on both you and your ex-spouse to protect them as much as possible as you deal with all the ups and downs your divorce will bring.
You can only shield your children if you resolve to put them first. Somehow, you need to find the strength to do that — to provide the love, guidance, and stability they need now more than ever. They will observe first-hand how adults they love can come through a series of difficult personal challenges and still emerge hopeful about the future — with their integrity and self-esteem intact. During and after the divorce process, children need as much continuity, geographic stability, and predictability as their parents can provide, according to the Center for Divorce Education.
Being uprooted and moved away from their original family home causes multiple emotional, social, and activity losses, which compounds the loss of one parent for them. Parents should do their best to maintain healthy and smooth environments for children. If at all possible, they should try to work it out so that the child stays in the family home, can continue to go to the same school, and keep their same friends and routines.
When children can maintain regular routines, they are less likely to be overwhelmed by the changes divorce brings. Children also need positive relationships with both parents. A child of divorce craves attention. One of the most important things we have learned through studies of divorced families is that children who have frequent and regular contacts with both parents fare much better after divorce.
They also benefit when they can continue to have contact with friends and relatives of both parents. This calls for both parents to stress the good points about the other one, to avoid name calling, or blaming the other parent for problems.
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The Children's Hospital Guidance Center in Columbus, Ohio, has identified a number of communication, behavioral skills, and perceptions necessary for effective and positive co-parenting after divorce:. Accept the idea that while your marriage is ending, you will be parents forever. The family is not ending; it is being reorganized. While you no longer share together as husband and wife, you do share love and mutual concern for your children. This is the basis of your new relationship with your ex-spouse.
Separate the children's needs and concerns from your own. Your child does not experience your former spouse the way you do. Focus on the strengths in your relationship — what you've done well together as parents — and build on those strengths. Limit your communication with one another to child-related issues. Be explicit and detailed about these issues when speaking to the other parent. Don't let marital issues into the discussion. If your former spouse can't keep old marital disagreements out of the conversation, suggest resuming it later.
Don't blame the other parent or cut him or her down in front of your child. Since children's self-esteem is strongly linked to the image they have of each of their parents, you diminish your child's self-worth every time you speak of your exspouse in negative terms. Speak in "I messages," not "You Messages.
It disappoints our children," rather than, "You never show up on time. I've had it! Be courteous and respectful, even if you don't feel your exspouse deserves it Be especially careful about sarcasm and your tone of voice. Richard Victor, a lawyer participating in the Oakland County SMILE program tells the story of the child who finished a phone call with his mother who was the non-custodial parent. The father, who felt that his ex-wife frequently put her work before the welfare of her children, was tempted to share his feelings and side in with his son's dissatisfaction. However, because he was convinced that his son needed to have as positive an attitude as possible toward his mother, the father suggested, "I know how disappointed your mom has to be.
She'll feel pretty awful not to be there. I also know that she would have liked to have had you there to see her get her award. Lots of good things are happening all at the same time! Why don't we call up and order some flowers for her? What do you think we should put on the card? Parents should remember that court-appointed visiting rights are usually only minimal for supporting continuing contact for a non-custodial parent. Seeing children only several times a year or occasionally on weekends and holidays may lead to difficulty in knowing what your children's changing interests are or what to do with them during a visitation.
It's sometimes easy to spot the non-custodial parent and child at restaurants or amusement places. Parent-child interactions seems strained and somewhat unnatural because there's a getting-acquainted-all-over-again or a let's get-ready-tobreak-it-off-again component in these relationships that's missing in the custodial parent-child relationship.
In some cases, non-custodial parents and children lose touch altogether. This may be the result when a non-residential parent forms a new family, tires of dealing with an uncooperative exspouse, or begins to resent the financial responsibilities attached to continuing the relationship. No matter what the reason is, it's terribly damaging to a child. Joe DiMaggio, Jr. I never knew my father. My parents were divorced when I was little and I was sent away to private school, and my father was totally missing from my childhood.
When they needed a picture of father and son, I'd get picked up in a limo and have my picture taken. We were on the cover of the first issue of Sport magazine when it came out in , my father and I, me wearing a little No. I was taken to the photo session, we had the picture taken, and I was driven back. My father and I didn't say two words. I cursed the name Joe DiMaggio, Jr.
At Yale, I played football I deliberately avoided baseball When I ran out on the field and they announced my name, you could hear the crowd murmur. When I decided to leave college and join the Marines, I called my father to tell him. So I told him, and he said, "The Marines are a good thing," and there was nothing more for us to say to each other. When the non-custodial parent and child are able to spend time together, every effort should be made to have that time adequately balanced between structured, more intense activity and non-structured, laid-back freedom.
Instead of a restaurant meal, it might be a better idea to go grocery shopping together and cook the meal at home, even if cooking abilities are low-level. Instead of constantly being on the go, parent and child might want to spend a more relaxing evening playing a game both enjoy or just watching a favorite TV program together — unless the parent uses television as a cop-out for talking and interaction with the child.
In best-case situations where ex-spouses have agreed to focus as positively as possible on their co-parenting, the non-custodial parent continues to live in the same neighborhood so that children have optimal access to both their parents and are free to come and go in either household. Gary Neuman , author of Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce , has written a book filled with good information for divorcing parents.
He lists a number of important ways for both parents to help their children recover from their loss, including the following:. Hug them, touch them as you speak to them, looking them straight in the eye and saying, "I love you. Kids need both. One of the most important messages you can send your child is, "I value you enough to choose to spend time with you as opposed to spending it with other people or doing other things.
Don't put your child off throughout the day thinking you're getting other obligations out of the way so you can devote two hours to the ball game or the big dinner out. Children need consistent, continuous contact. Children crave structure, routine, and limits.
A predictable, structured home makes your child feel safe, secure, and loved. Show an interest in their day; get to know their friends; find out what's going on at school, whether or not you're the residential parent. Children of divorce often comment on how sad they feel when only one parent attends a school play, even if only one attended before the divorce. If your children are interested, invite them to share in your hobbies, learn more about theirs, or find something new that you can take up together, like cooking, tennis, or collecting comic books.
It's not enough just to love your child; learn to fall in love again, not with the babies they were the first time you laid eyes on them but with the persons they are today. Point out their good behavior and qualities, and be specific. Don't simply say, "You're a good person. You organized your evenings so you could give the material your full attention and you really mastered it. Listen and focus on their words and feelings without judging, advising, or teaching. Earn their trust by keeping whatever they tell you confidential, if they request. Never use anything your children share with you against them, your ex-spouse, or anyone else.
Support your children's participation in activities that enhance their sense of personal accomplishment learning to play a musical instrument, collecting, hobbies and those that give them a sense of belonging sports, group dance, scouting, volunteer work.
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Tips to help non-custodial parents and their children maintain closer relationships and communication include:. You may want to use stationery that is distinctive, either in color or design, so that your children will recognize it immediately. Tell them about your work and little daily happenings in your life to help provide a basis for future discussions and feel they know you better.
They are worth the cost of the calls. Phone calls allow you and your children to talk over special moments and problems. Hearing each other's voices adds a special dimension to your relationship. Short calls at frequent intervals can be better than long calls spaced at long intervals. Cassette tapes can allow you to talk about something more at length than you could perhaps afford to do on the phone. Your messages could include such things as reading or telling them a story or teaching them a new song or poem. This could work both ways, with their telling you a favorite story or joke, singing a song, reciting a poem, or taping how they're coming along on musical instrument lessons.
Video cameras are more expensive but provide an even more personal experience. If your children are too young to operate a camera, perhaps the custodial parent could take the pictures for them. You, in turn, be sure to send them pictures of yourself. A photo album they could keep their pictures in would be a good gift idea.
You can carry along an instant camera on outings with your child and ask someone to take a picture of you together so that the child can include those memories of special times together in the album. Maternal and paternal grandparents can provide valuable emotional support and continuity to a child in the face of family dissolution. Growing numbers of grandparents even provide temporary homes for children or occasional child care. Other grandparents simply lose all contact with their grandchildren. The loss of interest and contact appears to be closely related to whether or not paternal or maternal custody is gained.
Grandparents whose own children gain custody are inclined to remain supportive and in contact. Occasionally, despite a grandparent's wish to remain supportive, a spouse may view an ex-spouse's parents as a threat. The feeling may be that grandparents will undermine a parent's authority or communicate a biased picture of the breakup to the child. As a result, grandparents' relationships with their grandchildren are often shut off abruptly. This significantly decreases a child's available resources during the crisis and adds to every generations' distress.
Children need adequate financial support and care as they are growing up, and both parents need to contribute to this responsibly and fairly. When a non-custodial parent's attitude toward loss of custody remains one of intense disappointment or anger, or the parent was unstable or a poor parent to begin with, it becomes easier to dump all of their parenting responsibility into the lap of the custodial parent You've got 'em — Now you take care of them! The result can be severe stress overload in the custodial parent due to overwhelming economic and psychological responsibility and a marked decline in any leisure time.
It also results in burnout in the custodial parent, not a good condition for rearing healthy children. The most unfortunate outcome is that children eventually perceive the inequity all by themselves. They sense the other parent's lack of support, and the result is usually a diminished respect for that parent. Besides reorganizing their own personal lives, the greatest task faced by divorced parents with dependent children is deciding custody arrangements.
Until , there was no question about custody in this country. Children were considered property and were automatically awarded to their fathers in the very rare event of divorce. In the latter part of the 19th century, however, what has come to be known as the "Tender Years Doctrine" emerged. Because of the rising influence of psychologists and child development experts, mothers were more frequently awarded custody of dependent children.
Today, that arrangement is still the most often selected one, though more states are allowing joint custody. For joint custody to be effective, the parents must be able to cooperate and communicate regarding the best interests of the children. There are two types of joint custody:. This means that parents will communicate and cooperate with one another and attempt to reach mutual decisions regarding major issues affecting their children. This decision-making process includes, but is not limited to: major medical decision, educational decisions, and religious upbringing, if any.
Seventy-five to 80 percent of cases involve joint legal custody today.
In these cases, children live with one parent part of the time and the other parent part of the time. This time does not have to be equal. The parent who has care of the children at any given time is responsible for routine decisions regarding the children. Almost 50 percent of cases involve joint legal and physical custody. Either the child rotates in and out of each parent's home or, in the case of what is informally called " Birdnest Custody ," the child stays in one residence, and the parents rotate in and out of the home.
Approximately 15 percent of divorced fathers now have sole custody of their children, and another 8 percent share full joint physical custody. Other arrangements made include sole custody with visitation , where the custodial parent alone is in charge of making decisions about a child. Occasionally, the court will deny visitation because it is believed that the child is not safe with the parent, that the parent is unable to care for the child, or that the parent is likely to say or do things that will negatively affect the child.
In other cases where the non-residential parent is not considered responsible enough to have the child by himself or herself, a judge will decide on sole custody with supervised visitation. Since children form bonds with both parents, the question needs to be asked in each individual case, "Who has been the primary psychological caretaker of this child and to what degree has each parent emotionally invested in the welfare of the child to date?
Child support is usually awarded to the custodial parent to help with the expenses in rearing the child. In most states, the non-custodial parent will pay 20 percent of his or her income depending upon ability to pay for the first child and 10 percent more for each additional child, up to as high as 50 percent of total income.
However, only about half of the women who are awarded child support actually receive it. A primary reason for non-payment is out-and-out refusal to do so. Often, a non-custodial parent begins to "feel like a wallet rather than a parent. Other reasons include a remarriage of the non-custodial parent to someone who resents income being paid to the former family; inability to locate a delinquent spouse; or financial difficulties of the non-custodial parent.
Legislation in some states now authorizes the Friend of the Court to call for payroll deductions in the amount owed, and states are more aggressively attacking the problem of non-support because of welfare reform. Often, the first court decision made with respect to custody is not the last. As children grow, they or their parents may have different needs. Also, one spouse may be highly dissatisfied with the original decision, feel cheated, or may use the situation later to exercise control over an ex-spouse.
Some couples bounce in and out of court, spending a great deal of their emotional and financial resources over continued custody disputes to maintain or alter , at all costs, the initial decision.