Post Separation Thoughts and Behaviours Really Matter

Let’s consider why we think we may have a difficult time co-parenting with our ex-partners:

  • She/he has an addiction and refuses to get help.
  • Who knows who she/he will have around my child?
  • She/he has repeatedly lied and betrayed our trust.
  • We keep arguing.
  • I feel completely disrespected by my ex-partner, so why should I cooperate?
  • She/he has shown no interest in the care of this child!
  • We didn’t get along before so …

And BREATHE! Now that we have let all that out (and I’m sure we can express quite an extensive list of additional thoughts and feelings associated with our broken relationships), let’s consider just a few of the benefits of effective co-parenting:

  1. Children will feel more secure, relaxed and confident growing up with two involved and cooperative parents;
  2. Enhancement of children’s social, physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional development;
  3. Parents actually improve their health and development as well;
  4. Positive examples and role models for children by working together through difficulties;
  5. Both of us have the pleasure of being cooperative, compassionate and mutually involved parents;
  6. Extended family members are able to remain more involved;

In his extensive review of the literature on the impact of separation and divorce, conducted for the Department of Justice Canada 2001, Ron Steward highlights  “a study of 51 families with an arrangement for joint physical custody, Steinman et al. (1985) identified a list of factors that lead to successful joint physical custody. Families who successfully maintained joint custody had the following qualities:

  1. respect and appreciation for the bond between the children and former spouse;
  2. an ability to maintain objectivity about the children’s needs during difficult periods of the 
divorce;
  3. ability to empathize with the point of view of the child and the other parent;
  4. ability to shift emotional expectations from the role of mate to that of co-parent;
  5. ability to establish new role boundaries; and
  6. show generally high self-esteem, flexibility and openness to help.” 

Separation or divorce can be an extremely difficult time for parents, and the children and extended family members involved. Feelings are hurt, people often choose sides (even though there are no sides in a family), distance is created (which is a normal part of any separation) and the emotional intensity and practical logistics of separating can inhibit parents’ attention to co-parenting for some time.

Co-parenting does work and is more likely when parents dig deep to develop the qualities listed above. With appropriate training, coaching, planning and practice, both parents will have the opportunity to create amazing lives for themselves, their children and extended family.

To improve your co-parenting by learning the how to strategies – book an appointment with us today!

“New Dad… Nobody Asks Me What I Think?”

I spoke with a young girl today and we were discussing the excitement and anticipation of Christmas. It was approaching fast and this year appears to have gone by so quickly. This was not a counselling session; just a casual conversation with a young friend.

A lot happened in your life this year.

Yah! I guess.

What did you like the most?

Summer time and my birthday pool party.

What didn’t you like so much about this year?

[A lengthened silence prior to her response]

Like… I’m happy to see my mom happy, but I don’t like that she got engaged. I like it but I don’t. I like him, he’s nice. But I don’t know what this means for me. I hear all these plans being made and no one asks how I feel. I’m happy I get to decorate my own room when we move though. Do I have to call him ‘dad’? What about my dad? Now I have two dads?

Sometimes parents attend to their own needs for love and companionship without having open communication with their children. This is especially true when parents determine their children are too young to have these types of conversations. Although we may attempt to keep our children’s best interests top of mind, when selecting and bringing a companion into their lives, it is still important to talk with our children, explore their feelings and concerns along with their positives.

When significant events happen in our lives, the strength of a co-parenting relationship can allow for the entire family to understand and celebrate special times. When the entire family takes part in open conversations, we foster improved understanding of each others’ view points, strengthen our connection as a family, and make adjusting to new members go more smoothly. In other words, we prevent frustrations and potential problems in advance.

Merging families sucessfully and enhancing co-parenting is best done with coaching from professional counsellors.  After twenty years of working with families, experience helps families cope with and adjust to difficult life changes. At Jeff Packer MSW & Associates, areas of support include the following:

  • Helping couples cope with separation/divorce, grieving and adjustment issues
  • Family structure assessment and re-establishing effective roles and rules
  • Establish a co-parenting communication plan and strategy
  • Identify goals for raising children in the most healthy and appropriate manner
  • Create safe and healthy boundaries between co-parents
  • Develop positive relationships with co-parents’ romantic partners
  • Improve communication skills; specifically, conflict resolution and problem-solving
  • Assist with crucial conversations in a non-blaming and accepting environment

Call us today to improve post-separation adjustment and co-parenting relationships. Why? Because you and your children are worth it!

Managing a nuclear family (most often composed of mom and dad and their offspring), is hard enough given the responsibilities and challenges of every day life. We are all aware of how our world has evolved in culture and diversity and the ever changing variety of family types as well. The balancing act required when new family members are introduced (additional “parent” figures, aunts, uncles and grandparents too) can become quite overwhelming

Being in a relationship with just one person is almost impossible. Our focus on developing a bond may at first be towards the person of interest; however as time goes by, we share the holidays with each other’s families, we celebrate birthdays, and attend family and friends’ weddings. We are no longer in a relationship with just one person—our love extends outward to the people that our new partner loves as well.

Imagine the complexity when our partner has a child. Even if the relationship between our partner and their co-parent is cooperative and working well, a lot of work is still required to keep parenting unified and consistent. This is even more of a balancing act when the parents decide to develop a romantic relationship with someone else.

As parents, we may be subtle in our pursuit to find a partner. However, when we feel we’ve found a suitable sidekick, it takes strategic planning to introduce this new person to our children. We may start to ask ourselves and others: “Do we say this is just a friend? Do we slowly start to include this new person into family occasions? When is the right time and best way to go about this? How long does or should courting take place before we introduce them to our children?”

In addition to these questions, parents’ negativity or stinkin’ thinkin’ can also get in the way. “What if we break up and this person has created a great bond with my child?” “If I couldn’t make it work with my last spouse, how do I know how to get along this time? My partner doesn’t have children, how can I ever trust that he/she knows what to do?

Let’s also consider the new partner’s stinkin’ thinkin’. How can I really be a parent to a child when there are two healthy parents already? What if my relationship ends; does my relationship with this child end too? How can I provide input into the well-being of this child, without stepping on the parents’ toes? I’ve never had a child before, how do I know I can be a parent to this one now?

Associated with these thoughts are feelings of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. Cognitive behaviour therapy suggests that with the rise of our negative thoughts and feelings, negative behaviours won’t be too far behind.  The related negative behaviours (e.g. grumpy, impatient, withdrawn, blaming) can severely disrupt parental unity, making it almost impossible to establish effective co-parenting plans (with ALL adults involved). Family systems approaches also guide family decision-making, structure and day-to-day adjustments using a non-blaming and teamwork perspective.

Seeking help in co-parenting assists parents with significant life adjustments and transitions such as finding healthier ways to introduce new members to the family. Counselling also is beneficial with helping family members create individual and group rules, expectations and goals as part of forming a new family configuration.

Our registered, professional counsellors , here in Durham Region, provide parenting coaching and family counselling that incorporates the children’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as well as parents’. When the entire family attends, (all adults whenever possible), this models for the children the importance of forgiveness, acceptance, love and thoughtfulness. 

To receive supportive assistance with your “balancing act” and to receive helpful tools to manage your family relations more effectively, call us today!

Accusation or Acceptance?  Anguish or Forgiveness?

How many times in our lives have we expected something to happen or someone to come through on a promise or commitment. Maybe we have expected to be recognized for having done something a little special? When this doesn’t happen, how do we respond? I know I’ve been upset, let down and even angry on many of these occasions. Of course, with heightened emotions our behaviour can also become less than optimal making a frustrating situation even worse.

We have the whole wide range of emotions for a reason. There are no “bad feelings” like I thought growing up. It is, rather, how we choose to express our emotions can either be helpful or hurtful.

And what about the expectations we have for ourselves? All too frequently the goals, aspirations and targets we set can be thwarted, unreached or underachieved. Perhaps we fail to put in the required effort or decide the goal was too lofty or not worth the effort? At those times, negative thoughts can easily arise in the back of our mind, contributing to excessive emotions and negative behaviours. Some of us over/under eat, others over/under talk and still others turn to addictive habits (e.g. smoking, drugs, sex, exercise etc.).

As we learn, grow and mature, I like to think our expression of feelings and reactions improve.  The advanced ability to address upset with humility and grace, however, is not an automatic right of passage or a quality one develops by aging.  Through reading, education and practice we stand the best chance to improve. How we think about ourselves and others, when expectations are unmet, is central to both our emotional and behavioural response. When disappointment and upset surface, we can adopt positive attitudes that foster empathetic reactions.

“We are all human and are learning all the time”… “How can I do better next time?” “Some goals you reach… focus on those”

The next time you don’t reach a goal you set or someone you placed confidence in doesn’t follow through, dig deep inside your mind for an attitude or acceptance that fosters a balanced emotional state, and subsequently, wise and healthy behavioural choices. Additionally, it is important to take ownership for letting ourselves or others down, finding creative ways to reconcile the relationship.

Let us remember, healthy relationships are constructed, built up, maintained and enhanced over time. When efforts don’t match expectations we can still be polite and respectful.

Keep Personal and Professional Separate? Not Always

Ever consider bringing some of the skills you learn at the office home, into your marriage and family life? It is quite common to struggle with communication in our personal lives; to become quickly frustrated, abrupt and even downright hurtful at times. Yes “potty mouth” or what I sometimes call “verbal diarrhea” can easily become part of the argument when fighting escalates.

While there are important boundaries to be maintained between the office and home, there are multiple skills and strengths that can be used quite well in either environment. Why not practice a strategy or two from the office in your family life? For instance, in business we tend to schedule times (staff meetings etc.) to discuss more serious or important issues or challenges. We might even give out the agenda items in advance (when we’re well organized) allowing people time to consider their opinions, ideas and solutions prior to the meeting. This approach gives each person a chance to prepare, thus helping to keep conversations calm and solution-focused.

Some organizations have problem-solving protocols, conflict-resolution guidelines and emergency plans. The first may include the following very important principle; “When you have a problem with someone, first address the issue with that person directly”. Only after doing so, and being unable to resolve the matter, would you go outside for help (not for complaining or gossiping).

Imagine how many fights and arguments might be avoided by bringing just a few professional communication strategies home? Additional skills may include negotiation and conflict-resolution skills such as; keep emotions calm or minimized; one issue at a time; stay current or present-focused; structure the meeting well (e.g. be as brief as possible and begin and end with encouragement-positives).

Well, maybe not boardroom to bedroom, however, it is important to transfer positive skills and solutions both from office to home and visa-versa. Yes we may do well to bring something like teamwork back and forth. Thinking of the family and couple as teams, no different than sports teams and work teams, reminds us we are to work together toward the same goals; toward health, wealth and happiness.

For teamwork to be successful, there is no place for judgement, blame or grandstanding, whether at the office, shop, arena or at home. When things get difficult, and one teammate is not doing well, it is precisely then that others are to move in and help out.

Want to improve your teamwork at the office or at home?  Contact us today

 

 

Sometimes a new diagnosis for your child may release certain feelings: guilt, shame, embarrassment, or regret. We might tend to push these feelings aside and focus on the “main concern,” that being our child. Getting counselling or therapy help for our children is great, yet, this is not necessarily the only strategy for our family’s overall health and improvement.

Family systems theory points to the interconnectedness of all family members. We don’t always feel connected so how is it family members are connected? This “umbrella” theory suggests that we are connected by the vast array of rules and roles members have in the family and also by the emotional intensity so apparent in family relationships. Following this, one person’s diagnosis then impact us all, thus, is actually kind of a diagnosis for the whole family. 

This is a very positive and optimistic perspective that implies a change in one part of the system or family member will actually change all members. A difficult concept given all the negative press or thinking that states you can’t change other people.  False!  According to the science behind family systems theory we can. In therapy or counselling, when one person comes in to improve (thoughts, feelings and behaviours), we can expect to gradually also see a change in others in the family.

Rather than just wanting one person to get help, we may want to include as many family members as possible in the counselling or coaching process. Thinking systemically requires us to acknowledge that a health diagnosis, major event or situation can and will have an impact on the entire family.

We at Jeff Packer MSW & Associates Inc. encourage all family members to join counselling sessions when and where appropriate, while also understanding one person can begin the process.

Why?

  1. By addressing the impact of the diagnosis for the entire family, it provides a better understanding of each member and the role they play in their family system.
  2. The more family members work together on solutions, the faster and more effectively we can adjust and/or improve.
  3. Increasing the communication of the diagnosis can create a stronger support system for the person diagnosed.
  4. Because family members have a profound impact on each other’s thoughts and feelings, learning how to cope with the negative thoughts and difficult feelings will create unity and promote teamwork.

Invite as many family members as you want, yet be ok to start the change process on your own. Remember, change is happening all the time. Our decisions influence the direction of change; either toward better or worse relationships. To change for the better... contact us today !

Hurtful arguing, fighting and conflict stresses children and parents, severely limiting effective functioning.  This frequently unnecessary stressor can easily disturb sleeping, disrupt digestion and gastrointestinal systems and result in regression in routine behaviours at home, in school and at work.

Whether parents are still residing together, separating/separated or already divorced, hurtful arguing is simply a poor choice.  There are so many options for effectively resolving differences, positive strategies for communicating concerns and feelings effectively, and resources to assist people. So why do so many parents choose to be hurtful?

Is it really a conscious choice, a learned behaviour or merely a lack of knowledge, training or coaching on how to get along?  It can be one of these or any combination. Regardless, we can get along well and argue more lovingly even when under stress and distress. The picture above is just one of thousands of resources that are designed to help parents who are struggling. Contrary to the age old axiom “children don’t come with a manual” they actually do; thousands of parenting books fill store shelves and web bookstores.

Counsellors have made it their job to read many parenting books, be aware of helpful local resources and provide training and coaching to assist parents when situations are beyond their normal capacity to function well. Our counsellors in Oshawa help parents in the GTA (now even worldwide via video-based web coaching) so that their ability to “Get Along” quickly increases. In doing so, parents effectively reduce stress in the family, increasing all family members’ happiness and quality of life.

When we sincerely want better for our children and families we will humble ourselves, accepting our inability to get along on our own.

Then we will reach out and find solutions to help us get along now!

   Contact us today

Baby Steps