Friday, February 5, 2010

Avoiding The Disneyland Dad Problem

Recently divorced dads are prone to feeling insecure about their relationship with their kids, and when that happens they are likely to do things that they think will please their kids and gain their acceptance. They get caught up in the "disneyland dad" syndrome of doing, going and buying, thinking that if their kids have a good time they will look forward to coming back.

The truth is that children don't need lots of "stuff". They just need a dad that loves them and spends quality time with them. The reason divorced dads tend to feel insecure about their relationship with their children very likely stems from unresolved feelings connected with the divorce, and from having less contact.

After a divorce, non-custodial dads face a difficult adjustment when they go from being around their children every day to seeing them once a week or once every two weeks. They often find it hard to strike a balance between discipline and expressing love. In some cases they may try too hard to be the child's friend rather than just being a parent.

Here are some ideas that can help you avoid the Disneyland dad syndrome:

*Maintain a regular routine with bedtime and meals. Avoid letting your children stay up later than usual, set limits on sweets and snacks between meals.

*Maintain contact between visits to ease the sadness that you and the kids feel when they go back to mom's house. Encourage them to call you between visits. Make an agreement to call them one or two nights a week at a certain time, and stick to it. This type of structure helps children feel secure.

*Make arrangements to visit your child's school. The more frequently you see them, the better you can maintain the bonds between you.

*Suggest that your children come up with ideas about what to do, ideas that are fun and inexpensive.

Remember that the Disneyland dad syndrome stems from your feelings of sadness, guilt and anger connected with the divorce, regardless of who initiated it. Divorce is a major life-changing experience, and you need support for yourself. Doing so will help you make an easier adjustment.

When your children are with you, give of yourself and your time. This is what they want most of all.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Divorced Dads Who Disappear

Has the father of your child been out of his or her life temporarily or on a long term basis since your divorce ? If so,you and the child have double the problems to deal with. Children can feel abandoned after divorce even when both parents are still in their life. They often feel that divorce had something to do with them,and that they are at fault somehow.

If these are the normal reactions of children to divorce,imagine how a child feels when one of their parents is truly absent, temporarily or on a long term basis. They will experience double the pain, sadness and feelings of abandonment that comes with divorce.

You can help mitigate these feelings by reassuring them that the other parent loves them, even though they are not in contact. You can also reassure them that it isn't their fault, and also let them know that you don't know why their dad is not calling or seeing them. Even if you know the reason, don't tell them. Children need to love both parents, and anything you say that puts the parent in an unfavorable light can be harmful to their self esteem.

Here are some things you can do to help your child cope with the feelings connected with this. Encourage him or her to write letters (with your help)telling dad they miss him, including a brief description of what's going on in their life. Even though they may not get a response, it will give the child a feeling of connecting with dad, even though temporarily. If dad has an email address, encourage them to communicate that way.

I would also suggest that you email, write or call dad to learn if there is some way to work around the issue of why they are not seeing the child. They may have some lingering anger or pain connected with the divorce that makes it difficult for them to be in contact with you when they pick up the child.

If so, you might arrange for a trusted third party to be a go-between, picking up the child and dropping them off at dad's house. Another possible reason for the problem may be dad's new romantic interest, or second wife who may have some jealousy issues. That may sound trite, but it happens. In fact, it happened to me.

If you call or email dad, offer to send him a schedule of the child's school or sport activities. When you talk with him, try to be as business-like as possible. This will help you avoid falling into a guilt trip or expressing your anger about them being absent.

Divorced parents who are not on good terms can often attend their child's activities (when held in an auditorium or gym) with a relative degree of anonymity. There are lots of people there, and dad can come and go without having to talk to you.

One of the issues you may have to deal with is your own anger at dad for not maintaining the relationship. It hurts when you see your child suffering, and it's a natural response to want to protect your child. Get support for yourself. Talk to a close friend or family member, or get counseling.Another possibility that could help your child is Big Brothers/Big Sisters, an organization that provides adult friendship and support for children of the same gender.

If dad has been absent for long periods of time, find a good family counselor who can help you and your child cope with this problem. The more support and reassurance you can give your child,they better they can adjust to this situation without lasting scars.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Divorce and Addiction

Does your ex-spouse (or soon to be ex-spouse)have a problem with addiction ? If so, you have double the issues to deal with. It's very likely that the addiction problem existed before the divorce, and you tried everything you knew to cope with that person's drinking or drugging. Here's some news for you: there is nothing you can do to stop another person from drinking or using drugs. You may have discovered that by now. If not, give it time to soak in.

At this point,I want to share something with you that could be a tremendous help. It's called THE THREE C'S:

1)You didn't cause it
2)You can't control it
3)You can't cure it

If you make these a part of your daily routine, you can gain some much needed peace of mind. Now, this brings us to another issue: what do I tell my children about their mom/dad's addiction ?

The first and most important thing they need to know is this - it has nothing to do with them. That parent has a disease that is causing their behavior. They are not acting that way because they are a jerk, or because they don't love you.
Tell them about the THREE C'S. This is also the core issue of divorce that children need to understand.

The next most important thing you need to tell the child is strategies for keeping safe when they are with that parent while he or she is under the influence.
Encourage them to call you when the other parent is drinking or drugging and they feel uneasy. Knowing they can call you anytime can give a child a feeling of security.

Encourage your child not to argue,nag or plead with their drinking/drugging parent. This just creates more frustration for him or her. The best responses they can give are minimal and to the point.

If they have no choice but to ride in the car with that parent, emphasize the importance of seat belts. Make it clear to them to avoid arguing between themselves, or to avoid any behavior that would increase the stress level in the situation.
DON'T ROCK THE BOAT are the keywords in this situation.

As for your dealings with the former spouse, don't try to talk rationally when they are under the influence. If you have an issue to discuss with them regarding the children or child support, make notes ahead of time about what you will talk about. This will help you communicate in a business-like way. Avoid talking in person with them. Phone or email communication can be more objective than face-to-face; There are fewer possibilities of getting hooked into conflict.

One last but very important coping skill for you and your children is Alanon for you,and Alateen for teenage kids. Another good option is the How To Cope program that the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence sponsors. They have a 6 week program for adults and children with substance abusing loved ones that is very helpful and effective. You are provided with a workbook containing all the information you need to know about the disease of addition.

I would suggest family counseling for you and your children while you are going through the divorce, since you are dealing with very complex issues. Remember that you are going through a grief process regarding the loss of a relationship, but your grief process started long ago as your spouse's addiction began to be the focus of your family life. Allow yourself the time to feel sad and angry about the situation. Your spouse's addiction is not your fault. He/she made their own choices to drink or use drugs. You can't control that.

What you CAN control is your own emotional responses. Recognize that you are not a victim. You have choices. Avoid blaming the other parent. Blaming keeps us helpless and stuck. In order to go forward with your life, you need to DETACH from your attention on that person. The best strategy at this point for you and your children is to make a life that focuses on YOUR needs and goals.

You can, through reading about the effects of substance abuse on the family, gain the necessary knowledge that will help you GROW through this experience and come out a healthier, happier person. The following are suggested sites to explore.

www.http://healthyplace.com AND www.http://livestrong.com

Watch for my newsletter to appear on WizIQ

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Interaction Styles of Divorced Parents

Divorced parents generally fall into one of several categories of interaction that affects their children's ability to adjust to divorce. They can be collaborative, cooperative, foes, or downright enemies. These interaction styles can impact the way they handle their parental responsibilities, which of course do not end when they are divorced.

Cooperative parents are good communicators who deal with anger in healthy ways that allow them to effectively manage any conlicts that occur. They are able to separate issues with their former spouse from parental responsibilities.

Parents who still have anger towards their former spouse do not communicate well. They are not effective co-parents, and conflict leaks into the relationship with the children.

Parents who are foes or enemies cling to wrongs about the marriage, often distorting them due to pain and anger related to unresolved marital difficulties. These emotions adversely affect the children, who feel the tension. This often results in problems for them that include psychosomatic complaints, decreased school performance or conflict with peers.

In some cases disconnect between the spouses occurs when one parent drops out of a child's life for short periods, often for longer times. When this happens a child is devastated by the abandonment, and behavior problems develop with the custodial parent. When a child has nowhere to channel their pain and rage in these instances, they often strike out against the parent they live with, making parenting a struggle.

If you are in any of the latter categories,there are solutions. If the other parent is receptive, make an appointment to talk with them away from the child. Make notes before that time to organize your thoughts and help you present yourself clearly. Focus on the child's well being, and how cooperative co-parenting would improve that. Take a business-like, matter of fact approach.

If necessary, use examples of problems children have been having that are resulting from conflict, but do that in an objective blame-free manner. Take responsibility for your part in the conflict and suggest that you both need to do better.

When this option doesn't work, seek counseling for you and your child to strenghten coping skills for you and them. If one parent has disconnected or dissapeared, take time to frequently reassure your child that the other parent loves them, but we can't control him or her. A good allegory of this is the THREE C'S:

1) You didn't Cause it
2) You can't Cure it
3) You can't Control it

With counseling and continued reinforcment with these techniques, the effects of negative interaction styles between divorced parents can be mitigated over time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Divorced Dads and Visitation Problems: Three Things to Improve the Quality of Time With Your Children

Divorced dads who have visitation rights but do not share joint custody have an especially difficult time after divorce if their former spouses are not fully cooperative in adhering to the visitation agreement. For the first year or two after divorce, many divorced couples still have anger issues towards each other relative to problems that ocurred during the marriage.

This can result in the custodial spouse (mom) withholding visitation for various reasons, not legitimate. This can add to the anger and pain that dads experience. They don't have as much visitation as both them and their children need. Due to the increased financial burden of child support, divorced dads often don't have enough income to get legal help to enforce the visitation agreement.

They are then faced with the problems of erratic visitation, which is also hard on the children. They can develop low self esteem and trust issues that can impact the quality of their potential for forming intimate relationships in young adult life.

This may seem like a glum situation, but there are some solutions. The following information shows you three things divorced dads can do to improve the quality of time with their children.

I. FOCUS ON SIMPLE INEXPENSIVE TIME TOGETHER
* Play board games
* Take trips to local parks
* Ride bicycles together
* Watch educational videos and TV programs

II. MAINTAIN CONTACT BETWEEN VISITS
* Make phone calls, send cards or emails
* Attend their extra-curricular events: sports, hobbies, etc.

III. GET INVOLVED IN YOUR CHILD'S SCHOOL
* Attend school events that they participate in
* When possible, arrange to visit their special classroom activies
* Arrange to have treats sent to the classroom on the child's birthday

These are all simple things that any divorced dad can do to improve the quality of their relationship with their children when visitation is erratic and problematic. You can come up with your own ideas - anything you can do to stay involved in their lives will help. Recognize that it is not necessarily quantity but quality that is important for divorced dads to maintain a good relationship with their children.