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News Parenting Through Divorce

10 Questions To Ask Divorcing Parents To Create The Best Outcome For Their Kids!

By Rosalind Sedacca, BA
Divorcing parents not only face challenges that are emotionally and legally complex. Many of those issues have long lasting consequences. Especially when it comes to the children. ??
Deciding on the type of post-divorce parenting — whether it is some form of joint parenting, co-parenting or parallel parenting ? is a crucial decision. The outcome is closely based on how well both parents get along before, during and after the divorce.
Geographical proximity, the age of the children and economic tension are additional contributing factors. Every decision made will affect the children — and the impact can be detected in children?s behavior, attitudes and levels of self-esteem.
To help parents co-parent more effectively I?ve created a variety of questions that I use during coaching sessions with divorcing or divorced clients. In most cases they work equally well not only before, but long after the divorce. If you ask and discuss these questions during mediation, it can help clients identify challenges they face, mistakes they can avoid, and stress triggers that need to be addressed to assure a better future for everyone in the family.
The more honest clients are with themselves and their former spouse, the easier it is for their children transition successfully following the divorce.
It?s advantageous when both parents discuss and answer these questions during a session together. If that?s not possible they can bring the questions home to reflect on the consequences for their children if they choose conflict over cooperation with their ex.
If the other parent doesn?t want to cooperate with your client in answering these questions, there?s still value in sharing the questions with one parent.

  1. How can we show our love and compassion for our children as they move through challenges they did not ask for ? or create?

All children of divorce are innocent victims. They deserve extra love, compassion and conscious attention to their needs, especially emotionally and psychologically. Let your kids know they matter. Be there for them with a smile, kind word, attentive time spent together and parental support either with or without your co-parent. ?

  1. How can we make life better for our children after the divorce than it was before?

Very often, changing the family dynamic after divorce opens the door to more peace and less conflict in the home environment. Can we step up as parents and be more relaxed, calm and less agitated around the kids than in the past? Can we give them more focused attention? Can we reduce their stress and find ways to generate more joy in their lives? They deserve it!

  1. What can we do to boost their sense of security, self-esteem and well being during the transitions ahead?

Are we making decisions that foster goodwill, harmony and cooperation in both parent homes? Are we reducing conflict around the kids and providing activities and communication that support the children in feeling safe and cared about? Are we watching the kids to notice behavior or mood changes that need our attention?

  1. How can we best contribute our non-financial assets ? physical, emotional and spiritual ? to create harmony, good will and a sense of peace within the post-divorce family?

Divorce changes the form of the family but need not mean the end of the family from the child?s perspective. Talk to your co-parent. As much as you may disagree about some issues, for many co-parents loving your children is a strong mutual agreement. If that?s the case, discuss ways each of you can help create a happier future and support good will within the post-divorce family in the months and years ahead.

  1. Who can provide the best home environment for the children ? and for what percent of each day, week, month and year? Can we be flexible as the kids age and change stages in life?

Parenting plans can seem intimidating. Be authentically honest in creating your child?s future. No one knows your family better than you do. Put aside your anger/resentment for a while and talk about who really is best to parent the children at different times/days/stages of their life. It?s the children who will benefit from the best quality of parenting they can get.

  1. How can we best support our children ? and minimize the emotional and spiritual damage inflicted upon them as a result of our divorce?

If your children experienced tough times before and during the divorce, now is the time to change that reality in their lives. Apologize when it?s appropriate. Ask them how they?re doing and really listen to their responses. Talk about what you can change at home to make life better. Give them permission to express their frustrations or anger in appropriate ways. Seek out a coach or support group for yourself and/or the kids to uncover new directions/options for solving problems.

  1. Am I burdening my children with responsibilities only an adult should have to bear?

One of the biggest mistakes divorced parents make is letting their children parent them. Are you using your children as confidants, sharing information only an adult should know? Are you asking your kids to be messengers for you with their other parent? Even worse, are you asking them to spy for you about what?s happening in the other parent?s home? Giving children these responsibilities robs them of their childhood and their innocence, even when teens. Be very careful with your words and expectations for your children at all times.

  1. Would I make this same parenting decision if we were still married ? or am I allowing my anger/hatred/hurt to affect my judgment and clarity?

Parenting is hard enough in any family. After divorce it?s more complex. Ask yourself this vitally important question whenever a parenting decision comes along. Understand the consequences for your children if your parenting decisions are influenced or colored by the desire to hurt or get back at your former spouse.

  1. Will our children respect us when they?re adults for the way we handled the divorce?

It?s hard to believe right now, but your children will grow up one day. As adults they will judge, appreciate or criticize you for how you handled the divorce from their perspective. Did you take their feelings into account? Did you shame, guilt or lie to them? Were you the role models they can acknowledge and respect you for? How can you give your children a ?happy ending?? Start thinking about that today.
And last, but most important of all ?

  1. Do I love my kids more than I may dislike or hate my Ex?

If the answer isn?t a clear, resounding YES, get professional guidance to clarify and shift your mindset. When anger, hatred, resentment and dark thoughts overcome all other emotions, we are not being the caring parents our children need to help them thrive after divorce. Putting your children first is a gift they need and deserve. It may not be the easiest path, but it will generate the best outcome for everyone in the family. And, one day, when your kids are grown adults, they will THANK YOU for doing your divorce right!
With these questions as guidelines, your clients are on a straight path to creating a child-centered divorce ? one that honors their children?s rights through cooperative, respectful joint parenting.


Rosalind Sedacca, coaches parents regarding divorce issues. ?She can be contacted at www.ChildCenteredDivorce.com and 561-742-3537.

Categories
Parenting Parenting Through Divorce

Chute & Ladders: Timesharing Plans When a Parent May Be Impaired

By Wendy Coughlin, Ph.D.
Family Mediator and Parenting Coordinator


We?ve all been there: Mom accuses Dad of being an alcoholic. Dad accuses Mom of being mentally ill. What to do? How can you best protect the child(ren)?


Parenting Plans (PP) must consider this issue, whether or not the accusation has been validated. You can best protect the child(ren) by building in safeguards that provide contingencies for if, and when, a parent appears impaired and unable to care for the child(ren). A well-constructed PP can eliminate the need for emergency hearings, temporary cessation of parenting time, and long waits for a judge or magistrate to rule on the obvious (impaired or not). Developing timesharing phases that are based on a parent?s abstinence, or proven capacity, accomplishes what would otherwise be left to lengthy (and expensive) court proceedings.


If you ever played the children?s game, Chutes and Ladders, you already have the concept: when you achieve a higher number (or more days of abstinence/capacity), you go up the ladder (more parenting time); when you land on a problem, you go down a chute (less parenting time).
Here is a basic outline:


Phase I:??????????? Supervised timesharing only.


Phase II:?????????? Unsupervised timesharing during the day in a public place.


Phase III:????????? Unsupervised timesharing in the parent?s home during the day.


Phase IV:???????? Unsupervised timesharing including overnights.


Phase V:????????? Optimal timesharing as stipulated in a settlement agreement.


The time it takes for a parent to progress from Phase I to Phase V is negotiable dependent on many factors; for example: degree of past impairment, legal status, age of the children, living environment of the impaired parent, etc. Progress from one phase to the next can be determined simply by calendar time when there is no evidence of impairment or it may be contingent on identified factors supporting capacity (e.g. clean urine drug tests, mental health evaluations, polygraph reports, etc.). Standard in all Chutes and Ladders? Parenting Plans is the contingency that any confirmed evidence of relapse results in the parent returning to Phase I and having only supervised timesharing. The advantage to this type of PP is that it immediately protects the child while maintaining the parent/child relationship. There is no need to suspend timesharing until a judge determines that timesharing must be supervised (which could take weeks and sometimes months); supervised timesharing begins immediately.


Determining if an individual is impaired due to alcohol or other drugs is a relatively simple matter for an addiction specialist. Multiple test options are available to check breath, saliva, urine, blood, hair or nails. Medical providers can order the tests to be completed through outside labs, courts often have testing facilities available, or certified addiction professionals may have testing materials in their office. The responsibility for getting the testing done falls on the accused who wishes to maintain parenting time. A best-practice payment strategy requires the accused to pay for the testing up front and absorb the costs if the tests confirm substance use and for the ?accuser? (parent requesting the test) to absorb the costs if the tests are negative. Some of these tests can cost hundreds of dollars; without this stipulation, an innocent parent could go bankrupt simply proving his/her innocence.


Other types of impairments are more difficult to assess and monitor. If the impairment is due to a health-related issue, consultation with the treating healthcare provider is recommended to establish signs and symptoms of parenting capacity or incapacity. With younger children, this is most important as young children do not have the ability to report concerns. Older children may be better able to report; however, they should not be placed in the position of determining whether a parent?s mental health is impaired or another factor is putting them at risk. It is best to provide monitoring details for all children. A healthcare provider can provide updates to both parents, a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), or Parenting Coordinator (PC) to confirm a parent?s stabilization from seizures, postpartum depression, mobility factors, etc. A mental health expert can assess recovery from a major depression episode, compulsive gaming, abusive parenting philosophies, etc. Mental health concerns are exceedingly complex and may require longer phases, more specific treatment requirements, and elaborate details to define capacity to parent safely.


The goal in providing a ?Chutes and Ladders? timesharing schedule is to provide everyone involved with a mechanism to insure the safety of the child(ren) while enabling them to enjoy ongoing timesharing with both parents. A Chutes and Ladders Parenting Plan provides a parent legitimately concerned about the co-parent?s parenting, defined tools to monitor the other parent?s capacity.? It also provides a parent whose capacity has been challenged defined criteria to continue timesharing and increase parenting time. Everyone benefits from addressing substance abuse and other impairment issues directly in the Parenting Plan.


By Wendy Coughlin, Ph.D.
Family Mediator and Parenting Coordinator