Archive for May, 2011
икониBy Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Imagine going through your divorce with billions of people around the world following your every move. That’s the reality Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger are facing as they explore the options that lie ahead for their family.
For the Child-Centered Divorce community, this very public marital crisis reminds us of a crucial point. Fame, money and power in no way shield a family from the hurt, fears and insecurities that come with a pending separation or divorce. Our focus moves to the children and how they can best be helped to survive and ultimately thrive after a marriage is dissolved.
In the Schwarzenegger family, those children are teens. Often divorcing parents put all their attention on helping their younger children cope while assuming their teenager will understand and adapt. Unfortunately studies have shown that in many cases teens will deal with divorce in more self-destructive and dangerous ways than younger children. Don’t be misled by their seeming independence and self-sufficiency. Behind that mask can be deep insecurity, anxiety, mistrust and fear.
Typically teens fall into one of two areas of concern – internalizing and isolation or acting out and aggression. Some teens turn inward, hardly talk to you, lose interest in school, start exploring drug or alcohol use and demonstrate a detached, “whatever” type of attitude.
Others start getting defensive, develop angry outbursts, curse and talk back. Pushing you away and “leave me alone” responses or physical reactions such as punching walls or throwing objects can create great tension and fear in the home.
These children need and are craving more attention as well as structure and supervision in their lives. They see the chaos of the divorce as an excuse to express their frustration and repressed anger. How you respond will play a big part in creating more positive outcomes.
Here are five important steps you can take to bring your family closer together during these challenging times if you have teenage children:
1. Allow your teens to be teens. The complexities of divorce are hard enough for adults to handle. Don’t use your teens as confidants or therapists. They are not emotionally prepared to carry the weight of these issues. It also creates guilt, shame, anxiety and other emotions that are difficult for teens to bear. It’s tempting to vent to your teen about their other parent’s infidelity, addiction or other abusive behaviors. But don’t do it. Seek out counselors, groups and friends when you need them. Minimize details with your teen, reminding them this is an adult matter that you are taking care of with the help of your adult support system.
2. Maintain family routines. Try as much as possible to keep up with school, sports, clubs, curfews and other routines that were part of your teen’s life. Having meals and other experiences together helps to cement the bond. It can remind them that we are still a family and care about one another.
3. Reinforce your love. Remind your teen, just like your younger children, that the divorce is in no way their fault or responsibility. Tell them how much you love and value them and that you will always be there for them. Teens are often embarrassed to talk about their feelings. Open the door to conversations and when your teen does talk, be sure to listen rather than lecture.
4. Be a true role model. When you respond thoughtfully rather than react emotionally to a challenge you are modeling healthy ways to handle tough situations. This is valuable for your own well-being and demonstrates positive ways of processing your feelings. Above all, never bad-mouth their other parent or try to turn them from a relationship with a parent they love. The results are always destructive.
5. Create positive new experiences. Encourage your teen’s friends to come over for pizza and video nights. Redecorate a room together. Adopt a new pet or take a mini vacation together to a family fun spot you haven’t visited before. This sets the stage for new beginnings and happy memories post-divorce as your family starts a new chapter in their lives.
The Schwarzenegger teens seem to be very mature and appear to be taking the breakup in stride. That may be the case, or they may just be repressing a volcano of feelings that can erupt at any point.
Never underestimate the impact of divorce on your children – especially your more independent teens. Behind their reassurance might be a deep well of untapped confusion and pain. Be there … watch … listen … and observe your teen while modeling the best behavior you can.
Divorce is never easy. But it can be a positive life lesson for everyone in the family when handled from that perspective. The more responsibly you behave, the easier it will be for your teen to adapt to the changes and challenges of your divorce.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a relationship seminar facilitator and author of the internationally acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! The book provides fill-in-the-blank templates for customizing a personal family storybook that guides children through this difficult transition with optimum results. For free articles on child-centered divorce, divorce coaching or to subscribe to her free ezine, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com
By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT
Hear a short interview of Rosalind Sedacca on this subject at:
One of the most difficult conversations any parent will ever have is telling their children about their pending divorce. I know first-hand because many years ago I went through the experience. I fought and faced the overwhelming emotions. The deep gut-wrenching fear. The continuous anxiety. The incredible guilt. And the oppressive weight of shame.
My son, after all, was innocent. A sweet, gentle soul who loved his father and mother dearly. He certainly did not deserve this.
I struggled with the anxiety for weeks in advance. When should I tell him? How should I tell him? Should we tell him together? And most frightening of all, WHAT SHOULD WE SAY?
How do you explain to a child that the life he has known, the comfort he has felt in his family setting, is about to be disrupted – changed – forever?
How do you explain to a child that none of this is his fault?
How do you reassure him that life will go on, that he will be safe, cared for and loved, even after his parents divorce?
And, even more intimidating, how do you prepare him for all the unknowns looming ahead when you’re not sure yourself how it will all turn out?
I needed a plan. A strategy. A way of conveying all that I wanted to say to him at a level of understanding that he could grasp.
Thankfully I found that plan. I came up with a storybook that told my son, in words and pictures, the story of how his father and I met, married and started a family. It explained problems we encountered that we could not readily fix, and the decision we ultimately made to get a divorce.
In my internationally acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children—with Love! I provide fill-in-the-blank templates that other parents can use to prepare their children for the many changes ahead. The interactive format allows parents to customize the story to fit their family dynamics. It also focuses on six key messages that are essential for every child to hear, understand and absorb. By sharing and repeating these six points to your children in the weeks and months following the initial conversation, you will enable them to better handle, accept and even embrace the challenges and changes they will soon be facing. Here are the six must-tell messages for your children:
1) This is not your fault.
Mom and Dad have been having problems. We don’t agree about certain key issues and that creates conflict. Even when some of the issues are about you, that does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child who we both love and cherish. It is not your fault that Mom and Dad disagree about your bedtime, where to go on vacation, how to help you with your homework or whether you should play soccer. We are not fighting about YOU. We are disagreeing with each other about issues that concern you and our family. But you are not in any way at fault.
2) Mom and Dad will always be your parents.
No matter what changes occur over the weeks, months and years ahead, one thing is for certain. Mom and Dad will still always be your parents. No one else will ever be your real Mom. No one else will ever be your real Dad. We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.
3) You are, and will continue to be, safe.
Even though there will be some changes ahead in our family, Mom and Dad will still be taking care of you. You are safe and there is nothing to be afraid of. You don’t have to worry about things. We’re making plans for our family and you are a very important part of every decision. So relax, and let Mom and Dad take care of things.
4) This is about change, not about blame.
Divorce is a scary word. But all it really means is that our family will be experiencing some changes. Change is okay. Everything in life keeps changing. You grow bigger, taller, stronger and smarter every year. The seasons change every year. Clothing styles and hair styles keep changing. You change grades and schools as you grow older. Change means things will be different in some ways. It doesn’t mean things will be bad. Change can be fun, exciting and new. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like beginning a new grade with a new teacher. Other times change gives us a chance to do things in a new and better way, like trying a new sport or a hobby you grow to love.
The change in our family is not about who’s right or wrong or who’s good or bad. Mom and Dad both tried their best to resolve our problems. The old way didn’t work for us and now we will be trying a new way for our family to live so there’s more peace, calmness and happiness for us all. Instead of worrying about who’s to blame, let’s think about how we can see the changes ahead as a new adventure — a brand new chapter in our lives. Who knows what lies ahead?
5) Things will work out okay.
We’re often frightened when we begin new things and face new challenges. Like the first time you learned to ride a bicycle, the first day of school or day camp, your first trip to the dentist. Things always have a way of working out, even when we’re scared that they won’t. Divorce will be the same way. Things will be new and different for a while.
We’ll have new ways of doing some things … some new responsibilities … some differences in our schedules. But life will go on. We will get used to the differences. Some of them we may even prefer. And after a while, we’ll look back and say, life is different than it used to be, but it’s all okay. I’m okay, our family is okay and, most important of all, we still love each other. That is a lot better than okay. It’s great!
6) Mom and Dad will always love you.
No matter what happens, no matter what changes occur, one thing is for certain. Mom and Dad will always love you. That will never change. Regardless of where we live, what we do and how old you get. You can count on that. And don’t ever forget it.
These core messages are the foundation your children will depend on when they are feeling frightened, sad or insecure. Repeat them often in your own words and your own style. You’ll be rewarded in countless ways as you and your children encounter and overcome the challenges of life after divorce.
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Rosalind Sedacca, Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, is the author of the ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! The book helps parents create a unique personal family storybook that uses fill-in-the-blank templates to guide them through this difficult transition with optimum results. For Rosalind’s free articles, child-centered divorce resources, coaching services and free ezine, visit to http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.
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