March 4, 2015

Kane County Divorce: Approaches to Healing: the Unexpected Divorce

One aspect of my practice is helping my clients manage what can be one of the biggest traumas in life....an unexpected divorce. As a divorce and child custody attorney, I am not involved in the practice of therapy, but any experienced and dedicated lawyer in this filed understands that one has to be mindful of the traumas and difficulties our clients face in managing an unexpected divorce. Part of this caring and management involves coaching, support, caring, and, for some, a referral to a skilled clinician for therapy.

Canadian therapist Justice Schanfarber just published an interesting article on the healing process that can be undertaken when the trauma of a divorce arrives:

" The end of a relationship or marriage can feel like death. Grief is an appropriate response. This means anger, sadness, denial might all arise.

It’s visceral. Breathing is hard. You can’t sleep. For the person being left it can feel like the end of the world. You wonder if you’ll even survive. To say you’re hurt and confused or angry is too little. It feels much bigger; like everything has been turned upside down and shaken, like the ground has disappeared under your feet.

Along with negotiating urgent practical matters like finances, housing and parenting, you might also come face to face with abandonment, rejection and self-esteem issues, some of which may have been dormant and are arising for the first time.

This is a very, very tender spot to find yourself. It’s immensely uncomfortable. In my work as a counsellor I notice patterns and common tendencies in my clients. I’ve also identified opportunities and choice-points for moving forward in a healthy way. Here are five principles that can help –

1. Feel what you feel
Feelings aren’t negotiable. They can’t be wrong. They simply are. It’s important to feel what you feel. When we deny uncomfortable emotions they come back to haunt us, or they drive our behaviour from underneath consciousness, without our active consent. Rule of thumb – there’s no need to either encourage or deny feelings. Notice them, name them (“I feel sad”) and watch them change over time. Note – Anger is a feeling. Fear is a feeling. Sadness is a feeling. “S/He’s a control freak” isn’t a feeling. More on that later.

2. Take thoughtful action
We don’t necessarily choose our feelings, although we choose how we act on them. As much as noticing our feelings is important, it would be a mistake to act on them without consulting our rational, thinking self. The trouble is, when strong feelings are present we don’t have much access to the part of our brain that makes well-considered choices. Take some time. Let feelings settle before you make important decisions around child custody, financial agreements or emails to the inlaws. Breathe.

3. Get support, but not from your (ex)partner
The person who is leaving the relationship is almost certainly not the person to help you cope with the pain you feel. You might feel extremely needy or drawn to this person right now. Do not give in to the urge to seek comfort there, especially if it is not offered. If you are holding out hope for reconciliation, say so, but then get support elsewhere. Seeing you pick yourself up, brush yourself off and take support from others is the most attractive thing about you right now in your (ex)partner’s eyes. Turn to friends, family and community for support. Tell them what helps, and what doesn’t. Find a counsellor or therapist that you trust.

4. Stay open, even when it hurts
When we feel hurt and angry we look for an explanation. We want to understand. We assume we shouldn’t feel this way, that it’s a big problem. And so we search for a reason. The reason we find is almost always some version of I’m bad or They’re bad or The world is bad. What these three positions all offer is a way out of the confusion. Assigning cause (blame) does relieve some tension. The problem is that each of these three beliefs locks us into an adversarial relationship – with self, with other, or with reality (the world). I’m not saying that your relationship ending wasn’t caused by you or them or the unfairness of the world. But getting too fixated on any of those causes makes you rigid and closed to possibilities that might be just around the corner.

5. Help others
This piece of advice was given to me by a friend over a decade ago when a relationship was ending and I was in deep pain. His simple and wise words led me to the act of writing this for you now. Helping others gets us out of our own head and puts us in direct contact with the universal experience of suffering. Everybody hurts. Help someone. Share their pain, and feel your own soften. "

February 27, 2015

I reviewed an interesting article this morning on men, and how men fare in society in light of divorce and changing roles in life in a man's middle aged years.

Divorce is difficult and traumatic for both men and women, but it seems some women have a resiliency that allows them to move forward in life more successfully than men, generally. The article points out that women traditionally have been better suited to forming relationships with other people, and have certain social skillsets that many men lack in middle age.

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Further, the majority of women in divorce are awarded the residential custody of children, leaving some fathers in middle age without a household of children to wake up to, without a partner to look after, and without the funds to explore other activities.

Are there solutions to the post-divorce middle age crisis for men? Terry Real, a psychologist and the author of How Can I Get Through to You? Reconnecting Men and Women, thinks the time has come for men to readjust their sights. Our culture’s masculine code, he says, dictates that “men don’t need relationships, men don’t need to be connected, men don’t need to be heartfelt”.

The answer, Real says, is to understand and then reject that old, outdated part of the masculine code, which gave a sense of entitlement, a sense that men can “go home, rip open our belts, pop open a beer, belch and be loved. We just don’t get away with that anymore.”

The answer may be that men need, during the process of divorce, to be coached and educated on how to navigate the world post-divorce. How to set expectations, and to re-engineer one's outlook on life. As one person in the article described, it's going to take more changing than merely buying a Harley-Davidson. The change needs to come from within, and thankfully, the resources and coaching exist to help men survive divorce in those middle aged years.

February 16, 2015

Illinois Divorce Lawyer: Abuse and Neglect: Healing

In my work in Divorce and Custody Law, I have been involved, as well, with a number of Abuse and Neglect cases in Juvenile Court. Some of these cases arise out of an initial divorce filing, and a finding is made that there is active abuse or neglect occurring within a family environment. My law school alma mater, the University of San Diego, conducted a study that examined the efficacy of law intended to protect abused and neglected children.

From the study:

" Laws intended to protect children from abuse and neglect are not being properly enforced, and the federal government is to blame. That's according to a study by the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, which says children are suffering as a result.

The numbers are grim. Almost 680,000 children in the United States were the victims of abuse and neglect in 2013. "

In my practice, identifying and remedying abuse or neglect situations is a first priority. I also feel it is important to be a resource for treating clinicians that can help families and children recover from abuse, as well as adapt to a changed family structure as a result of divorce, or abuse. Modern science now understands that a history of childhood abuse is not a neurological or psychological "sentence." The brain has an amazing plasticity, meaning that it can be trained to respond in more healthy patterns even when a patient presents with PTSD, anxiety and/or depression.

Bessel van der Kolk MD has written anew book that addresses this issue, and illustrates new body based protocols to address PTSD. Dr. van der Kolk shows how these stress damaged brain areas can be reactivated through innovative treatments including neurofeedback, mindfulness techniques, play, yoga, and other therapies. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score offers proven alternatives to drugs and talk therapy—and a way to reclaim lives:

" It's about becoming safe to feel what you feel. When you're traumatized you're afraid of what you're feeling, because your feeling is always terror, or fear or helplessness. I think these body-based techniques help you to feel what's happening in your body, and to breathe into it and not run away from it. So you learn to befriend your experience."

January 9, 2015

As part of my law practice, I track interesting articles relating to BPD and NPD. My clients are often benefited by having some coaching about these disorders and the best strategies for dealing with high conflict and toxic spouses. Here's one article today from PsychCentral of interest:

How are Complex Trauma and Borderline Personality Disorder Related?
By Sara Staggs, LCSW, MPH

" I’ll admit that when I hear that a client has borderline personality disorder (BPD), my first thought is, “Oh, this person is a trauma survivor of some sort.” And while not all people with poor emotion management, impulsive and destructive actions, intense fear of abandonment and an unstable self image have a history of complex trauma, it gets me to a non-judgmental place where I’m able to be very open to hearing someone’s story. And people can sense when you approach them with the assumption that they are very strong and are doing the best they can, as opposed some other attitude.

Some therapists won’t work with people who have borderline traits because many of the symptoms can be high maintenance for a therapist to deal with, especially if they aren’t prepared. Specifically, working with clients who self-harm, have intense mood swings, and are impulsive are not things that all therapists are equipped to deal with. Personally, I find clients who have these traits highly engaged and I usually enjoy working with them. When a clinician says “I don’t work with borderline patients,” they’re also saying they cannot work with people who have complex trauma. Because while the population isn’t the same, there is too much overlap to consider them completely separate populations.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed by Marsha Linehan as a treatment for borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder occurs much more often in people who have a history of childhood trauma, particularly sexual abuse and incest, and many people, including Marsha Linehan, believe that BPD is caused by attachment trauma. Attachment trauma and complex trauma both include symptoms of disruptions of trust and attachment, difficult with emotion regulation, numbing and dissociation.

DBT addresses four areas:

emotion regulation
distress tolerance
interpersonal effectiveness
mindfulness

Trauma therapy aficionados will notice that there is no processing component, so DBT works best as a phase 1 treatment: establishing emotional and physical safety, and building up coping skills. " http://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2015/01/how-are-complex-trauma-and-borderline-personality-disorder-related/

December 22, 2014

Divorce Loneliness during the Holidays: 10 Ways to Help

I have written in the past during the holidays on the subject of creating new traditions; the idea is that during or after divorce, creating new activities and places to celebrate the holidays with yourself and the children, versus lamenting the loss of past traditions. Trading lamentation for adventure takes work, just as working oneself out of a sense of post-divorce loneliness during the holidays takes effort. I found this article on PsychCentral today on 10 ways to combat the sense of loneliness...this article may be particularly useful during these holiday periods for people going through a divorce or separation.

" Have you ever been lonely in a crowd? Have you ever been perfectly content all alone? Me too. And I have also suffered from loneliness.

Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that has at its base a powerful emotion that has survival value for children. All of us have experienced some degree of abandonment, if only for a short time, and remember the painful and scary feeling that goes along with it.

Whenever we are reminded of this feeling or anticipate it in the future, we get a twinge of abandonment distress that we experience as loneliness. This can happen among a crowd of friends or even after making love. It can be pretty confusing and can put you off your game if you don’t know what’s going on.

Here are some tips for recognizing loneliness for what it is and dealing with it in the healthiest ways.

1. Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. When you are feeling lonely, it is because something has triggered a memory of that feeling, not because you are in fact, isolated and alone. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and that includes painful scary feelings; therefore loneliness gets our attention.

But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling. Why am I feeling this way? Is it because nobody loves me? Because I am a loser? Because they are all mean? Theories about why you are feeling lonely can become confused with facts. Then it becomes a bigger problem so just realize that you are having this feeling and accept it without over reacting.

2. Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking that you are a loser, an outcast. You might react by withdrawing into yourself, your thoughts, and your lonely feelings and this is not helpful. At its best, anticipation of loneliness might motivate us to reach out and cultivate friendships, which is the healthiest thing to do if you are sad and alone. When you are a child, and your sadness causes you to cry, you may evoke a comforting response from others. If you’re an adult, not so much.

3. Notice your self deflating thoughts. We often create self centered stories to explain our feelings when we are young, it is not unusual for children to assume that there is something wrong with them if they are not happy. If they are lonely and sad, children may assume other people don’t like them when this is rarely the case.

Victims of bullying may well have fans and friends, but they often aren’t aware of it because the shame and loneliness get more attention. Habitual assumptions about social status continue into adulthood and if you are looking for evidence that the world sucks, you can always find it.

4. Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness. If you realize you are dealing with an emotional habit, you can make a plan to deal with loneliness. Since healthy interaction with friends is good, make some effort to reach out to others, to initiate conversation and face time even when your loneliness and depression are telling you not to. Yes, it is work, but it is worthwhile, just like exercising is worthwhile even when you are feeling tired or lazy.

5. Focus on the needs and feelings of others, the less attention on your lonely thoughts and feelings. I can walk down the street thinking about myself, my loneliness and the hopelessness of it all, staring at the sidewalk and sighing to myself. Or I can walk down the street grateful for the diversity of people I get to share the sidewalk with, silently wishing them good health and good fortune, and smiling at each person I meet. The latter is more fun, even though I sometimes have to remind myself to do it on purpose.

6. Find others like you. Now days there are more tools than ever before to find out where the knitters, hikers or kiteboarders are congregating so that you can get together with those who share your interests. This makes it much easier to identify groups with which you will have something in common, a natural basis for beginning a friendship.

7. Always show up when meeting up with others. You don’t have to run for president of the knitters society at your first meeting. But you do have to show up. I have been telling others to practice yoga for 20 years and promising I would do it myself for just as long, but except for the occasional coincidental yoga offering at a retreat, I didn’t take the trouble of finding a class I could attend regularly until a month ago. Now I am enjoying it and it wasn’t that hard. I have put a reminder in my phone to resign from the procrastinator’s society.

8. Be curious, but don’t expect perfection or applause. Each time you show up is an experiment, a micro adventure in social bonding. If you are curious about and interested in others, they will be attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So you will get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from those painful feelings that tend to make you hide and sulk.

9. Kindness goes a long way. “There’s nobody here but us chickens.” This is one of my favorite lines from The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Underneath the impressive facades of the high fliers are the same set of emotions we all are born with. Celebrities suffer from stage fright and depression too.

You have the power to offer loving kindness and generosity of spirit to all you come into contact with. It isn’t instinctual to be kind to strangers or people who scare you. But it is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus and Ghandi used intentionally. And in the long run it is a winning choice. The alternative, being mean or stingy with those you don’t know well, can get you a reputation as a Scrooge.

10. Be persistent even if a particular group does seem to be a dead end for you, try another. AA and AlAnon recommend that everyone try six different groups to find one that suits you best. If you are persistent, challenging the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, and showing up and being curious and kind to others and more and more groups, the odds are in your favor.

And once you have a friend or two, nourish those friendships with time and attention. Don’t be too cautious about whether you are giving more than you are getting at first. If you make more friends and some of them are takers, you can choose to spend more time with the friends who reward your friendship.

Credit: Brock Hansen, LCSW – Visit his website at Change-for-Good.org

December 21, 2014

6 Qualities of a Narcissist: Illinois Divorce Blog

Kelly O'Brien is a Wellness Expert at MindBodyGreen, Freelance Writer for multiple publications including Wellness Revolution, Cafe Truth and a host of wellness chronicles. She shares some compelling insights about unhealthy narcissism in the context of relationships:

" Most of us have been in a relationship with a narcissist. Perhaps you've been sucked in by a self-absorbed family member, a spouse, a boyfriend, a co-worker, or a friend.

Perhaps you thought it was your fault when the narcissist left you feeling diminished and full of despair.

The truth is, your only "fault" was getting involved with the narcissist in the first place!

Learning to spot this toxic behavior before it hurts you is crucial to your health. A huge part of wellness is surrounding ourselves with healthy people and healthy relationships. If we have unhealthy relationships, we need to assess whether or not they can transform, or we must find the strength to walk away.

So, let's talk about how to spot a narcissist and how to walk away from one.

Here Are 6 Qualities of a Narcissist:

He or she rarely takes responsibility for problems and instead blames them on everyone else.
The narcissist expresses little emotion, particularly during conflict with you. When you do express emotion, he or she blames you for doing so. It's a subtle form of abuse.
He or she drains you, but thrives on your energy. Consider how much energy you are expending on this relationship... my guess is that it's your effort keeping the relationship alive. You're most likely exhausted emotionally and physically because you do all of the planning, all of the apologizing, and all of the work to 'fix' what is wrong.
This person is charming, often a flirt, and thinks very highly of himself.
This person is irresponsible with his finances, career, drinking, and/or keeping his home in order.
Jekyll & Hyde: This person is so incredibly endearing, but when you say one thing wrong, she snaps at you. You walk on eggshells wanting to do everything right.

Once you have determined that you are with a narcissist, the wisest thing to do is to walk away.

Why?

There is no reasoning with this individual. You will inevitably lose every single argument and end most conflicts thinking everything was your fault. You will end up apologizing. You will end up in counseling and you will be the one to end up losing your self-esteem.

You can avoid all of this!

Here are 5 Steps to Ending a Relationship with a Narcissist:

1. Distance yourself emotionally and physically from this person.

If they are a co-worker, do not accept their invitations anymore. If it's a boyfriend, take a step back to get your bearings so you can walk away. If it's a family member, this may be more difficult, but there are numerous ways to distance yourself from a person like this.

2. Realize that the problem is not you.

You need to explore why you attracted this personality type, but that's the only place where you need to put your focus. Anything this person said or did to you is their challenge and not a fault of yours. A narcissist will never blame himself.

3. When you are ready which I hope is quickly, walk away.

It will be painful but walk anyway, and quickly. Do not argue with them or provide long explanations as they will attempt to bait you into staying. Walk and don't look back. You will be glad you did. If it's a spouse or boyfriend, narcissists move on quickly. Within weeks or a few short months, they will be in love with someone else.

People may wonder how you let such a "charmer" get away. Stay true to yourself and do NOT worry about what others think. Trust that any intelligent person will go through the same situation and will walk as well.

4. Free yourself from needing others approval.

Often, people who need approval are the ones who attract this abusive personality type. Do not look to another person for 'approval' because you will never feel fulfilled. If you look to a narcissist for approval? You will fall into feeling completely abused and you will regret.

5. Love yourself and surround yourself with people who genuinely love you. "

Credit: mindbodygreen.com

October 19, 2014

False Allegations of Domestic Violence in a Child Custody Case

The State of Arizona considered recently an addition to its list of factors in determining the award of custody to a parent in a divorce case. This proposed addition addresses an issue that I have seen many times in my many years of managing high conflict custody cases: the false allegation of domestic violence in a contested custody case.

A false allegation of domestic violence in a custody case often takes the form of an initial filing for an Emergency Order of Protection prior to, or at the same time, that a divorce is being filed. The parent filing the falsely alleged OP believes that he/she will gain an advantage in the divorce case by having the other parent removed from the marital home and estranged from the children.

I see these false claims in OPs being made by parents actively committing Parental Alienation.

Arizona tried to provide to injured parents a remedy for these kinds of false claims by including the following important factor for the Court to consider in awarding custody:

12. WHETHER A FALSE ALLEGATION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OR CHILD ABUSE
PURSUANT TO SECTION 25-403.03 HAS BEEN MADE BY ONE PARENT AGAINST ANOTHER IN ORDER TO CAUSE AN UNNECESSARY DELAY, TO INCREASE THE COST OF LITIGATION OR TO PERSUADE THE COURT TO GIVE CUSTODY PREFERENCE TO ONE PARENT

My review of the current Arizona statutes suggests that the Legislature was willing to address the issue of false claims of domestic violence, but that the statute now requires a conviction for filing a false claim in order for the Court to apply this factor. In addition, the Court may consider: "whether one parent intentionally misled the court to cause an unnecessary delay, to increase the cost of litigation or to persuade the court to give a legal decision-making or a parenting time preference to that parent."

A tip of the hat to the State of Arizona for this legislation. This kind of language in the child custody statutes may have a chilling effect toward a rational parent attempting to misuse Orders of Protection to gain an advantage in a custody case.

In my view, an irrational or pathological parent that is seeking to alienate children from a loving, healthy parent will alienate and file false claims of domestic violence, no matter the language of any statute. It's my job as your attorney to aggressively knock out these false claims, and to vigorously demonstrate to the Court that no parent that alienates their children from the other deserves to have the custody of the children.

October 8, 2014

Spousal Support in Divorce: The New Law in Illinois

A new law in Illinois as of January 1, 2015 changes how spousal support is determined for divorcing couples whose combined gross income is less than $250,000. This new law raises some interesting issues with respect to the global finances of divorce, so let's examine briefly the new law of spousal support in Illinois.

The law, which was developed by the Illinois State Bar's Family Law Section Council, creates a protocol for calculating maintenance based on the income of the parties and the length of the marriage. The law that has been in use for years essentially placed a high degree of discretion with the trial judge; parties to divorce sometimes had very little guidance as to what a given judge would award for maintenance, or if any award was to be granted.

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Under the new law, a maintenance award should equal 30 percent of the payor’s ( the one who pays maintenance) gross income minus 20 percent of the payee’s (recipient) gross income, not to exceed 40 percent of the parties’ combined gross income when added to the payee’s gross. Where the parties both earn higher incomes, there is a threshold percentage that "caps" the award at no more than 40 percent of the combined incomes. Longer marriages benefit from longer terms of maintenance; shorter term marriages see a lesser time period involved.

Sound complicated? The new law was intended to create a formula that judges could apply in maintenance cases that would allow for predictability and relative "fairness" from county to county. Judges still have some discretion in these matters, though I will expect that many judges will start to follow the formula by rote. Judges that use a lot of creativity in their discretion sometimes get appealed by the offended party, and so the nature of many judges will be to adhere to the new formula.

If you're considering filing for divorce, and have questions about the financial issues in divorce (maintenance, child support, division of property) contact my law office at (630) 232-2400 to make an initial consultation. I'll help you navigate the landscape of the new maintenance statute, and any other concerns you may have about your divorce case.

October 6, 2014

DuPage Divorce: Mediation

One of the interesting aspects of divorce litigation is the requirement that parents mediate their child custody issues, with the judge assigning a mediator in the initial weeks of the case should the parents not have an agreement as to legal custody (joint vs sole) and parenting time. In some cases mediation is beneficial. I am a trained mediator, but I can also say that mediation is not a panacea, it is not always a process that results in resolution. Many times, mediation fails. So, when the parents are bitterly oppositional, or when the issues are just not amenable to mediation, what should a parent do?

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One piece of advice that I give my clients is to be, along with a good spokesperson for their views, a good listener. Many divorces feature parents that simply don't want to talk to each other, and avoid interaction at all costs. Even when mediation is not likely to result in global agreements on custody and parenting time, it can be a time to listen to what the other parent is verbalizing to the mediator. New facts might be learned. Partially hidden agendas might be revealed. Concessions might be explored.

Keep in mind...everything said in mediation is private and none of the matters discussed in mediation can be used in court.

Once you've stated your issues and concerns and goals, there's one more thing a parent might consider in mediation. Listening. Listen and learn, and if the case comes back to court, you'll be back in the court process empowered with a better sense of agendas, goals, what is in dispute and what is possibly resolvable.

October 5, 2014

Kane County Divorce: BPD Help

I found this post today on a BPD support blog, and it mentions Bill Eddy's landmark book on Divorce and BPD/NPD, Splitting. The gentleman writing in to the blog is experiencing the surreal and chaotic behaviors of a spouse conducting a distortion campaign against him. His questions may have some resonance with some of you.

_____________________

" I bought William Eddy's book on divorces and have read most of it.

I also talked with Michael Roe (who wrote the foreword to the book), but he doesn't practice in San Diego, -- he's in Illinois, but was very helpful to me in at least getting me to understand what I'm up against.

Maybe I will try contacting his office again, given how increasingly horrible things have become since that first contact.

One big question I have is how likely is mediation with a BP likely to actually work? I thought it was probably going to be nearly impossible because of what she is like, but maybe I am wrong? Also, what kind of security precautions do mediators take?

Frankly I wish I could video record my entire life to defend against her. The loss of privacy would be a small price to pay."

September 25, 2014

Illinois Divorce Law Blog Once Again Top Divorce Blog

Law Office of Michael F. Roe's Illinois Divorce Law Blog has once again, for 2014, been named a "Top 50 Divorce Law Blog" by Criminal Justice Degrees Schools, which annually analyzes and rates professional blogs.

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My approach to the blog is to inform my clients and readers of the blog, to educate other professionals in the field, and to illuminate important issues in divorce and custody. Some of these important issues include issues that arise in complex custody cases, cases with high conflict issues, and critical issues in some cases, like Parental Alienation or new legislation that affects financial issues in divorce.

The blog journals many compelling issues, but if you have questions or concerns about your impending divorce case, contact our office so that we can meet and discuss the details of your family concerns, and develop a strategy to manage these issues toward a positive outcome.

September 25, 2014

Kane County Divorce Lawyer: Managing Children in the Early Stages of Divorce

I had a conversation today with one of my new clients about how to manage the emotions of the minor children during the initial stages of the divorce. An article from Dennis Ortman is helpful and I have cited it below. I do feel that along with parents learning how to manage the worries and questions from minor children in the first weeks of a divorce, parents can truly benefit from reaching out to support groups for children through local churches, or accessing a therapist that works with children in divorce.

Divorce can be an emotionally and psychologically difficult process for adults, leaving the parents with few resources to channel to the children. In these cases, it's best to reach out to other resources in the community to provide emotional and psychological support to children, as well as to give them a forum, independent of the family circle, to process their anxieties, worries and concerns.

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HOW CAN I MINIMIZE THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF OUR DIVORCE ON OUR CHILDREN?
By Dennis Ortman

Recognizing that the disruption of divorce is difficult on everyone—yourself, your partner, and your children—there are things you can do to help during this transition time:

1. Avoid fighting in the presence of your children. The conflict will only increase their anxiety. Certainly, you will have disagreements with your partner, but keep them as private as possible.

2. Assure your children that they are not responsible for the problems in your marriage. Younger children normally think of themselves as the center of the universe, creating an illusion of control over their environment to compensate for feelings of helplessness. They may believe that you are divorcing because of something they did.

3. Frequently assure your children that both you and your partner love them and will never abandon them, even if you live apart. Children need to maintain an emotional bond with both parents. It is important that you and your spouse assure them with both words and actions.

4. Resist the impulse to blame your spouse for the divorce or elicit your children as allies. Children experience an impossible bind if they believe they must take sides in your dispute.

5. Do not burden your children with too much responsibility. Let them continue to be children. During the transition you may feel overwhelmed and need more help from them. Be careful not to overburden them.

6. Do not lean on your children for emotional support. That will overburden them emotionally and divide their loyalties. Seek your support from family, friends, and therapy.

7. Do not let your children manipulate you. You may feel guilty for causing them pain and want to make up for it by overindulging them. Your children need to know that you are still the authority in the family, even if you are feeling distress.

From the book by Dennis Ortman