Children Coping With Divorce – Do Kids Get It As Bad As We Think?

Is Divorce Bad For KidsAs I have mentioned many time on my blog, children suffer the worst in divorce. While the emotional anguish a man after a divorce feel is incredibly difficult to deal with, children do not have the sort of maturity to understand and process what is happening. However, I read an article recently that challenged this view and indicated that children might have no long lasting issues due to divorce . So what is the truth of the matter? Is divorce really bad for kids or not?

The article states this:

Divorce affects most children in the short run, but research suggests that kids recover rapidly after the initial blow. In a 2002 study psychologist E. Mavis Hetherington of the University of Virginia and her then graduate student Anne Mitchell Elmore found that many children experience short-term negative effects from divorce, especially anxiety, anger, shock and disbelief. These reactions typically diminish or disappear by the end of the second year. Only a minority of kids suffer longer. – (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=is-divorce-bad-for-children)

I really question the methodology of this survey. They do not elaborate very much on how they came to the conclusion that kids do not suffer very long, or that it does not effect them further into adulthood. There is no mention of how big the sample size for this is either – though perhaps the book they are taking this from goes into more depth. MY personal opinion is that there is a LOT of damage that a BAD divorce can do to children in the short and long term. While children are very good at bouncing back from many of life’s troubles, how many times have we heard of men and women who have serious issues that come from buried memories and emotions they could never get through as a child. No survey can go that deep unless they are doing some serious psychological profiling.

Now, it does clarify that children coming from divorces that are extremely bad are going to suffer the most, while those who divorce well lead to happier children. That seems a no-brainer to me. However it goes on to state this which has me worried about the message and methodology again:

These findings suggest that only 15 percent of adult children of divorce experience problems over and above those from stable families. No one knows whether this difference is caused by the divorce itself or by variables, such as poorer parenting, that often accompany a marriage’s dissolution.

Cute Kid DivorceSo what they are saying is they do not consider the quality of life and the parenting patterns after divorce to be a part of how divorce affects children? How can it NOT be a part of this equation. How do they measure this? 15% seems too low to me, but it shows that it certainly does effect children long term and this is a MINIMUM number as I am certain they did not dig deep enough to find more problems.

Now, I do not want to scare men recovering from divorce about the state of their children. In fact I am encouraged that there are signs that children do bounce back fast from divorce. It also re-enforces my point about good co-parenting that is essential to minimise the impact of divorce. Good management of your divorce with as little conflict as possible seems to be the way to mitigate the worst of divorce fallout on your children and it may lead to a good recovery for them in the long term. I hope that is a spot of light if you are worrying about the mental health of your children.

It also states that is a marriage was so full of conflict before the divorce, then a separation might actually be more beneficial to the child. So if you were in an abusive relationship it could be a better outcome that you split as well, but only as long as you continue to manage parenting them well.

but what about me ebookMy eBook on Men After Divorce is mostly about helping men get through the struggles of being a divorced man and dad very often. However I am not a child psychologist or expert on children apart from being a father myself – I will not pretend to be an expert. One person that Is an expert however is Wendy Mollah the author of a really cool children’s book called But What about Me?. If you are looking for a way to help your kids understand the divorce so you can be a good father and help them while you are helping yourself through the hard emotional slog of divorce, then this might be a good way to help. Check out her site here if you are looking for some help in this area, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it might be right up your alley too.

www.HelpingKidsThroughDivorce.com

Co-Parenting For Men After Divorce

coparenting for men after divorceCo-parenting after divorce can be a major hassle, but it is in the very best interests of the child to do so. For those not familiar with the term, it basically  means that you work together with your partner to help raise your children, rather than working separately to raise them which is often called parallel parenting.

Parallel Parenting

The problems with parallel parenting are manifold. You are both parenting in different styles, different times, and conflicts will happen. Children are much happier when there is consistency in their lives and divorce breaks that to start with – then parents doing very different things will break it even further.

In fact, the less you talk and plan with your ex about how to be parents to your children, the more problems you are going to have with your ex, your kids, and possibly the law as well. Children of all ages simply will not understand how parents can divorce and then seem to become such different people with different rules afterwards. Children of parallel parenting also learn very quickly how to play each parent off against each other to get what they want and the habits they from here will stay with them for long into their adulthood – especially the bad examples set by parents who cannot work together and solve problems.

Co-Parenting

So, instead of parenting without the other persons involvement – the better way to handle things for your own sanity, and the mental health of your children is working together and developing a co-parenting plan. This basically means you must meet with your ex and create a plan that you can both stick to when it comes to parenting and get their absolute buy in on the idea for the sake of your children. Some tips to help make this happen:

  • Treat this like a business partnership. Do not go into emotions, or legalities, or anything else. Be as logical an unemotional as possible and always be matter of fact and calm when working out co-parenting. Keep a formal tone as if it was a business transaction not two ex lovers talking.
  • Negotiations will happen. When you are living together and are married you will have made concessions to allow your partner her way sometimes, and she would hopefully do the same for you. Your lifestyle, and your parenting styles would be similar but still different – but the proximity and willingness to make it work would simply happen as you both try to be good parents and partners. After a divorce though,most people want to get their own way as they change their lives and this can come into conflict with your wants for parenting. So in line with treating this as a business partnership, you must also negotiate things with a bit of give and take. You cannot demand anything – but you cannot be walked over either – you must be flexible.
  • Be kid focused. When you talk about co-parenting do not get sidetracked onto anything else at all. Keep the focus of your arrangements and talks with your children as he only topic of conversation. If she tries to drag it away from kids just ask her to concentrate on the parenting side whenever you are engaging in a talk about co-parenting
  • Listen. I know the LAST thing you want to listen to is your ex-wife. It can be painful and grating especially if they are unkind. However, if you keep your talks kid focused you need to listen and not just switch off because you need to know what is going on in her life and household as it related to the kids.
  • Schedule everything. Get organised and get a schedule going. Put all agreements down on paper and digital form and make sure you stick to it, and make sure she does as well. Children who know what to expect and when are happier and less prone to anxiety and outbursts.
  • Update your parenting plan an schedule each year. Kids get older, circumstances change, stuff happens. If your pans and schedules are old and outdated to what is happening now, then you are going to have to revise it. Sometimes you might do this every 6 months, or if a big change happens such as moving away, remarrying and so forth. But at least once a year reorganise your co-parenting plan.

It might be easier said that done – especially when you are trying to cope with post divorce life yourself, and not doing too well at it. However, this is a fundamental piece of the puzzle of divorce that will grant you much greater satisfaction with your life because you know you have done the right thing by your children.

Surviving Valentines Day For Men After Divorce

surviving valentines day after divorceMy Ex-Wife was big on valentines day. She would leave little clues and hints for weeks before Valentines day just in case I might forget, or get her the wrong thing. I remember it was stressful, irritating, and time consuming – but on the day things always turned out well. Despite our differences, even in the strained later years of marriage Valentines day’s are ones that I can now remember fondly as something that was indeed special. However, surviving Valentines say for men after divorce before you have reached the stag when you can look back without anger, depression or worry is very difficult. The first Valentines day is always the worst as well as you might well imagine.

My first Valentines day alone was probably typical. I remember actually feeling really good in the weeks leading up to it ni fact. I would see all the roses and pink toys all over the place. I would laugh at the overprices flowers and chocolates and the worried looking men rushing around trying to get something to impress, or just stave of an attack for forgetting. I felt GREAT that I was not being nagged about this seemingly inane day designed to sell cards. All was well – so I thought.

Then the day came. I had forgotten about it actually and went about my life as usual – until I went to work and it hit me. I could see it, the romantic couples kissing, the flowers being given, large banners on bridges declaring undying love. It seemed the entire world had gone lovey-dovey and I was ghosting through it like some lonesome restless spirit. I did not fare well. The work day was hell as people insensitively asked me what I was doing that night. Some forgot I was divorced and some assumed I was dating again (I was not), but the effect was all the same. I struggled through the day trying not to think – until I went home and it hit me. All the memories of past Valentines days. The surprises, gifts, the nights in front of the TV curled up in each others arms. I lost it and cried bitter tears as I had not done for months since I thought I found some stability.

I nearly made the mistake of calling her then. I was lonely and angry. I picked up the phone and held it nearly dialing for it seemed like an hour before I put it down and went to bed to forget. I am glad I never called but it hurt like hell.

So, this little trip down memory lane was not to indulge myself – but to prepare you for Valentines day, especially if it is your first as a divorced man as you can survive this day better if you choose to. Below are some tips that can help.

What NOT to do in Valentines Day Post-Divorce

  •  Do not ignore it. Trying to hide from such an event is impossible unless you go and live like a caveman for a few weeks with no access to media or society.
  • Do not indulge it. Do not try to relive it with a new girlfriend, or use it to try to get a new lady friend. This is not the time and you will be reflecting many things upon any new woman which is not fair on her or yourself.
  • Do not call your ex. NEVER call your ex on this day. Not even if you feel you are on friendly terms. It gives power to dark things inside both you and her.
  • Do not give in to hate. Some people get very angry at Valentines day as it seems to mock you at every turn. Remember, it is just another day like any other.

How to Survive Valentines Day As a Man After Divorce

  • Have a comment prepared. People may ask you your plans, so always have something to say – it is terrible to be hit with that and left speechless and emotional.
  • Remember that Valentines day is just another day. Only the human mind makes it more than another spin on the earths axis. The trick is realising this day holds no value to you at this point in time so ti does not create any further attachment and anxiety in your mind.
  • Prepare your day and night. Be prepared on what you are going to do, there are many things that could work, but it depends on your personality and situation. Some good ideas I have seen:
    • Organise an Anti-Valentines day party with any single friends you have who are tired of the day. Not a bitch fest, just hanging with yoru friends and pushing back against the expectations of the day by just having some fun.
    • Plan yourself a ME nigth and day where you pamper yourself. This might sound liek a women’s self help bit of advice but guys can use it too. Give yourself permission to indulge in whatever the heck you want and remember it is a gift from you – to you – to be enjoyed.
    • Spend the day with your kids if you have them. It is amazing how much fun you can have creating valentines days cards just within your little family unit of dad and his kids. You forget all the hype and just have fun if they are little enough.
    • Release your valentines sorrow. I would only suggest this if you are much further down the track of recovery and your heart is a dull ache not a stabbing pain. Symbolically let go of the memories of previous years. Some will burn an item to do this, others might pack them away in a box and store them. Others simply let the memories wash over them and visualise pushing them away into the distance. Symbols are very important and being able to let go of a symbol you can release its grip on your heart.

I hope that helped someone. Remmeber, Valentines day will eventually be a time for new loves, new experiences, and new beginnings perhaps. Until then you can stop this day from hurting you and make the best of it on your road to post-divorce recovery guys!

Recovery From Divorce & Domestic Abuse Againt Men

I just watched an inspiring video on the TED site about a woman recovering from a horrible situation where she was physically and emotionally abused for many years but finally could break free. Her name is Leslie Morgan Steiner and she talks about how even the most horrific abuse did not seem to make her leave her husband, and the question of why did she stay is answered.

I was thinking about how this sort of situation applies to men in abusive marriages also, if similar psychological factors make men stay in despite domestic violence, and what makes them want to go back sometimes! Watch the TED video it if you have time – article continued below.

What is Domestic Violence/Abuse?

This is a pretty broad spectrum actually, and I feel it is unfortunate that most people think of it purely as ‘man on woman’ physical violence when there is a LOT more to it. It is generally defined as these types of abuses:

  • Physical Abuse: The most commonly known one. This involves direct violent such as hitting, kicking, scratching, biting, or whatever can cause physical hurt and injury. It is also the THREAT of violence as well. Some relationships never get to physical hurt but the threat is so omnipresent it is just as bad. Women are just as capable of this if they choose and will employ this if they feel they can get away with it – or to provoke the man into a violent response deliberately so she can call the police.
  • Emotional Abuse: This is the broadest of all abuses and can involve a number of different methods all with the intention of making the partner afraid, have extremely low self esteem, and generally be emotionally crippled and left without support. Methods include:
    • Verbal abuse and yelling
    • Put downs and cruel remarks
    • Bullying
    • Rejection and isolation

This is probably the most easily employed type of abuse against men as it is the most subtle and insidious of abuses and can take many years to develop while the man is unaware to a large degree.

  • Economic Abuse: This is where one spouse controls the finances to such a degree that they cripple the ability of their partner to have any sort of economic freedom. While this might be more difficult for women as a typical household the man earns more – some women demand control of the finances and will sue any method they can to blackmail the husband, or stop him spending money on anything but what the wife says.
  • Social Abuse: This is about freedom of association, and controlling who and when you see people. Isolating you from your family and friends is one way. Insulting you in front of other people is another. Women are also very good at this often causing conflict deliberately to force the husband to side with his wife and not contact those involved any more.
  • Spiritual Abuse: Is the control of what you believe and how you believe. In religious households this can be extremely stressful – but it can also be conflicts between opposing philosophies as well where the controlling spouse wants to belittle the spiritual beliefs of their partner. This can be employed by women just as a easily as a man.

The first thing we can really see is that this is all about CONTROL. An abusive partner wants to control their spouse as often as possible, and as cruelly as possible. The abused partner becomes a whipping boy for the frustrations of the abuser as they take out any anger, fear, or grievances upon them. It is also about designing relationships where the abuser can always feel in control, always right, and always gets his or her way. It is nearly always planned and calculated also, not just random violence or abuse for no reason.

Men as Victims of Domestic Abuse

men as victims of domestic violenceSo what does this all have to do with men? Well the issue of domestic abuse AGAINST men is not very well known; that is a great shame. It is also something that plays very well into the hands of abusive women who are destroying good men’s lives because they can – and they know they can – get away with it. Men are extremely reluctant to report domestic abuse to any sort of authority, because they are afraid they will not be taken seriously, or that they will feel like they have lost any remaining sense of masculinity for doing so. This is well known by the abuser and used often to break the man’s self esteem.

Men are so vastly under represented, on this matter and while not directly linked to post divorce-life and recovery from divorce for men, I think it is an extremely important issue that needs more attention. Some men are held for ransom by their wives by a number of the means above. From the conversations I have had with men both divorced and not, I see a number of patterns. Most aimed two things specifically: Trying to cripple a mans self esteem through emotional abuse so he does not argue or fight back, and economic abuse in a different way – threatening to take him for all his worth if he DOES divorce her.

Abusers will use every tool at their disposal to control or destroy their plaything; it’s a horrible thing to see. I have known men controlled like this, and divorce for them was a blessing – but also a curse. Here is the link to post-divorce life.

Why Do Abused Men Still Want Their Wives Back?

There are stages in the cycle of grief we experience in divorce that we refer to as denial, and bargaining. We all go through these stages at some point, but those who have been through domestic abuse are even more susceptible to these stages even if the MAN was the one who initiated the divorce (probably because of the domestic abuse). The self esteem of a man subjected to long periods of emotional abuse cripples their ability to believe in themself. They can be unable to cope with living without their wife even though they were miserable with her. They can believe that they are still in love with them so strongly despite the emotional scars. The ex-wife may also continue to torment them after the divorce as well making life very difficult because there will be no support to stop them like there is against violent men trying to hurt women.

Men like this have been programmed to give in and sometimes grovel for forgiveness, or make any amends just to feel loved. The mental and emotional programming of their ex can extend well into the post-divorce years destroying the mans ability to be independent and break free of the illusion of low self-worth that was thrust upon them.

 Men’s Recovery from an Abusive Marriage

You can recover from divorce!This is where the hard work begins for many guys. Most men coming out of a relatively non-abusive marriage will have the stresses of living alone, being separated from their children, legal problems, financial problems, low self esteem, depression, and many more – but an abused man who cannot break free from that abuse will have all these plus they can be crippled emotionally, even more isolated from friends and family, have an incredibly skewed view of women, and will be tormented by the mind games of the abuser for many years.

While my eBook on Men After Divorce does not deal directly with domestic abuse (or spousal abuse as it is also known), the same principles apply to all men recovering from divorce. The same idea of rebuilding your life by understanding the emotional path, your own sense of self, and the scioence behind how the brain handles grief and the tearing apart of long term relationships still apply 100%

If you want to find out more information on this issue, here are some moe links that might help:

http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2012/07/19/3549006.htm – An excellent radio interview about men in domestic abuse as the victim

http://www.oneinthree.com.au/ – The Website of that interviewee which is a very good place to go for detailed statistics and information

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence – Not just in Australia, this is from the UK and I assume it would be similar in the US

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/scottishnews/3181055/Trouble-and-strife-in-Scotland.html – more stories from Scotland

http://www.ahlanlive.com/the-rise-of-domestic-violence-against-men-145848.html – Even in the traditionally patriarchal Middle East we are seeing signs.