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On the last track we discussed 5 Steps for Day to Day Survival. As we discussed on track 1, the client’s goal for the first few months after divorce or separation are simply getting by from day to day. I find 5 steps which can help client’s out in doing just that. They are see a lawyer, plan finances, let people know, make a comfortable nest, and treat yourself.
In the case study used for the last two tracks, Carol didn’t have any children. However, does your divorced client have children? Would some guidelines regarding things to know and do at the beginning of a separation benefit your client?
On this track we will discuss being straight with the kids. This will include five considerations for divorced or separated parents. These are telling them what’s happening, reassure children with certainty, lifting blame, influencing a child’s development, and avoiding bad mouthing.
5 Ways to be Straight with the Kids
First, let’s discuss telling them what’s happening. In straightforward, concrete terms appropriate to the age and maturity levels of the children, clients with children might find it productive to tell them clearly what’s happening. Hal, age 35, didn’t know what to tell his children. Hal’s wife had left him and the children for another man. Hal stated, "I’ve just been telling them that mommy took a vacation. But I know I can’t keep up this lie forever." Hal understood that evading the truth was unnecessary.
Hal stated, "I don’t want to damage my kids, and me lying to them is unfair. I’m going to tell them because they have a right to know the truth about something so important to them." Has your client talked with his or her children about the separation or divorce yet?
Next, let’s examine how parents can reassure children with certainty. Hal was unsure how to talk to his children, though. I stated to Hal, "Reassure them that, even though mommy and daddy are separating, you still love them. A productive way to word it is that, ‘Mommy still loves you and Daddy still loves you.’ Also, you might consider explaining that their mother will always be their mother and you’ll always be their father."
Think of your Hal. Could using exact and absolute terms such as ‘always’ help provide your client’s children with at least some level of certainty?
In addition to reassuring them with certainty and telling them what’s happening, a third consideration is lifting blame. I explained to Hal that children regard themselves as causal. They have a tendency to see themselves as the cause of whatever happens around them. Therefore, would you agree that it is productive for clients to reassure children that the separation is not their fault; that something has gone wrong between mother and father, and it’s nothing that the children did?
Next, let’s look at how parents can influence a child’s development. Hal stated, "I’m very concerned that, coming from a broken home, my children will turn out badly." How might you have responded to Hal? I stated, "How your children turn out will be influence by how you and your ex-wife handle the separation. For example, it’s vital to try and ensure regular, consistent, dependable contact between the children and the non-custodial parent."
As you know, this can be a problem for parents who have children who live with only one parent, thus seeing the other parent at certain times. As long as those times are specified and predictable, however, the children should be alright. Research has shown that regular contact has positive long term effects on children. They turn out emotionally healthier and more secure. And, do you find that it facilitates relations between ex-spouses on practical issues of custody and support payments?
Finally, let’s discuss avoiding bad mouthing. I stated to Hal, who was extremely frustrated with his ex-wife much of the time, "You might consider avoiding bad mouthing your ex-wife in front of the children. No matter how angry or bitter you are, she is still the mother of the children. It’s tempting to point out your ex’s failings to the kids, but doing so just makes a hard time for them."
Hal responded, "You’re right. Why make them suffer for the inadequacies in my failed marriage?" Think of your Hal. Do you have a divorced or separated client who could benefit from listening to this track?
On this track we discussed being straight with the kids. This included five considerations for divorced or separated parents. These are telling them what’s happening, reassure children with certainty, lifting blame, influencing a child’s development, and avoiding bad mouthing.
On the next track we will discuss Four basic anger management techniques we will discuss regarding the divorced or separated client will be taking time out, finding harmless ways to release anger, talk your feelings out, and talking to the anger target without blaming or name calling.
Question 3: What are five considerations for divorced or separated parents regarding the children? To select and enter your answer, go to the Answer Booklet.
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