Creative Co-Parenting

One of the great dynamics that we participate in at our Divorce Mediation sessions at PeaceTalks is the age-old mantra “necessity is the mother of invention.” Once we’re able to establish a common goal for our couples in each of the areas involving conflict it’s amazing how quickly they discover resolutions through cooperation and creativity. By treating each situation and its possible solutions differently, according to the needs of the moment, people find a way to do what is best for the family, especially when it means making some unexpected “cooperative adjustments” in the schedule.

Adjustments will always be part of the daily plan but they will vary with the respective ages of the kids, as the issues will be different with each age group. I’ve put in a link to a very informative piece by a local authority on this subject and here are a couple of highlights:

Babies and toddlers tend to be the most challenging group for which to plan a reliable schedule. Babies need consistency, and even little changes in their schedules can put them in a state of distress. It is important for the other parent to see children at this age often—around 2 to 3 times a week for several hours. 

As your child gets older, it is a good idea to slowly transition into overnight visits in order to help your child adjust to an unfamiliar schedule. Alternating one full day every other week is a good way to see if your child is okay being away from their primary caretaker.

Teens and older children have less predictable schedules and are thus harder to accommodate. It is important to consider your child’s social lives and busy schedules when planning how to organize visits between parents.

While flexibility is essential when first trying out a new plan, it is important to eventually agree on a fixed schedule in order to help your child maintain stability in their everyday lives.

Leyla Balakhane is a distinguished and experienced mediator, facilitator, coach, and trainer in the Los Angeles area, specializing in high conflict divorce and family law.

https://www.mediate.com/articles/balakhane-effective-parenting-plans.cfm

Co-Parenting Before and After Divorce

From the time that the emotional separation begins on the path to a divorce there will be transition period while still sharing the house and marking the beginning of the co-parenting puzzle maze.

Professionals reiterate that that with the right effort, on both parts, this transition can be smoother and less disruptive to the kids. Setting up and following the same mutually agreed upon guidelines that will eventually be in place after the divorce is finalized can help. Here are a few suggestions that have common threads from all advisors about making the co-parenting process a supportive one from the real start of the emotional separation through to a new life after the settlement.

The first signs of the end of a marriage unleash anger, anxiety and fear. This is normal, and these feelings will subside. In the meantime be good to yourself. Research suggests that people taking care of their own emotional needs have an easier time managing the day-to-day difficulties of divorce.

It’s not a battle. Divorce mediation is often a better alternative to litigation and spending time in court. Research shows that mediation can be beneficial for emotional satisfaction, spousal relationships and children’s needs.

Talking with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse may be the last thing you want to do, but communication makes divorce healthier and easier for everyone involved. Wait until you’re feeling calm and write down the points you want to discuss. Use the list as your guide. It helps take the emotion out of face-to-face confrontations. . We suggest listening and presenting requests for the future instead of trying to find the blame or what went wrong in the relationship.

Parents can ease the child’s transition by keeping conflict away from the kids. Parental conflict increases the risk of psychological problems for kids. Come up with a mutually agreed upon plan and present it to the children together and keep the lines of communication open. Kids benefit from having conversations about the changes their family is experiencing.Kids also do better when they maintain close contact with both parents.

Tap into your support network, turning to family and friends for assistance and comfort.

Formal support groups can also help you cope with the many emotions of a marriage ending.

You may benefit from speaking to a psychologist to help deal with their emotions and adjust to the changes. Psychologists can also help you think carefully about what went wrong in your marriage so you can heal and avoid repeating any negative patterns in your next relationship.

If you think it’s time to talk to someone please contact my office and we’ll explore your options.

Co-Parenting: Your Own Way Is Best

Fortunately, most of the couples we see at Peace Talks are already focused on the common goal of an amicable agreement, the only choice that is always best for the children. One of the first things we do is help set up a structure for times and places and the necessary exchanges to be performed. There is still always work to be done as far as all the holidays, and vacations, that are in addition to the day-to-day coordination of school or day care handoffs. In order to solve just this part of the “Rubik’s Divorce Cube” it takes cooperation and patience, never mind the inevitable emotional twists that come with raising children in a house divided.

We see what has worked for some couples trying to do the right thing for the kids and hopefully, in our mediations, pass along those learned experiences. There are strong similarities in the suggestions and examples that experts point to in describing various positive co-parenting tools but it all seems to point towards findingyour own style. What works for you and your kids will always be best for the family.

Parents can usually sort out whatever comes up when they work as a team. When Flexibility, Consistency, Courtesy and Consideration are shown by both parents it creates a safer environment for resilient development on the part of the children. It also works to prevent playing one parent against the other, an almost “goes without saying”for nearly all children of divorce.

Divorce Counseling is something that many couples have discovered as a helpful tool that also incorporates a team approach which, in turn, reinforces that sense of consistency.They find this sort of counseling helpful as it gives them a place where it is ok to talk, for the sake of the children, without the influence of the children”

One thing that isn’t often talked about, but it’s more important than parents may realize. When you’ve dropped your kids off with your ex, it means you have something few parents ever do: free time.This is the time to go out with friends or take in a grown-up movie. Taking some personal time can help you be the best parent possible for your kids.

Keeping sometraditions after the divorce takes work but it all seems to help everybody at some level. As we move into the holiday season if you have some questions about what may help your situation please give the office a call.

Kanye West’s Crazy World

Kanye West. Photo courtesy NBC

Hear Ye Hear Ye, but don’t believe “Ye”, as Mr. West now wants to be called by his fans, some of whom might be your kids. The untelevised pro-Trump rant, while wearing a red MAGA hat, will eventually be seen and heard and should be put into some sort of context. Whether single or co-parenting the dirty work of explainingunusual behavior by popular icons has to be done without foisting an opinion on anyone. Kids need to draw their own conclusions, and should, as long as they have factual material as an information source.

This is not about censorship. Even if you don’t agree with someone, it’s ok, as long as the disagreement is based in reality and not in “Reality TV”. Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see if Kim (Mrs. “Ye”) Kardashian, will be morebothered by being “Trumped” than she was while watching the show. Is this first celebrity Trump-related divorce in the making-who knows but is someone is designing aMake America Grope Again” hat?

This could be a rare opportunity for some effort to go towards an actual common goal, as impossible as that can be for some separated families. We stay away from politics for very good reasons but right now our futures seem to dictate that we stay clear on what we really want for our kids, and do whatever is possible.

Click here for a link to an article from the Washington Post by Amy D. Wang

More Sleep, Less Screen for Kids

I don’t know how to get the kids more sleep but this letter certainly presents a solid case for making it a cooperative priority whenever physically possible.

This response to an LA Times editorial about adjusting school start times to favor the biorhythms of students made a strong case but will face enormous resistance from the establishment.

I’ve added a link to getting a library card as most health professionals suggest avoiding electronic screens for thirty minutes or so prior to sleeping.

Get your library card here

To the editor: Your editorial, “It’s too early to move all California middle and high schools to a later start,” ignored the overwhelming body of research showing the definitive benefits of more sleep for students — something researchers have known for more than 25 years, much of which has been reported in the Los Angeles Times dating back at least to 1997.

Furthermore, the editorial contradicts itself, stating, on one hand, that “better sleep for teenagers is associated with improved mood, higher academic achievement and reduced rates of drinking and drug use,” while also claiming the research does not make a convincing case for delaying California’s middle- and high-school start times.

Although we know from hundreds of different school districts that students and communities benefit when classes start at 8:30 a.m., adult interests have prevented most local districts from acting on this knowledge for a generation. That is why California’s SB 328 is a landmark piece of public health legislation. It empowers every district to start at times that align with the biological sleep shift in the adolescent brain, enabling all students across California’s socioeconomic divide to obtain more sleep and, as a result, stay in school, do better academically and live healthier, safer, more successful lives.

Amy R. Wolfson, Ph.D, Baltimore
Judith Owens, MD, Cambridge, Mass.
Rafael Pelayo, MD, Stanford, Calif.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D, Severna Park, Md.

Wolfson is a professor of psychology at Loyola University Maryland, Owens is a professor of neurology and director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Harvard, Pelayo is a clinical professor at the Stanford Center for Sleep Science and Medicine, and Terra Ziporyn Snider is executive director of the group Start School Later.

Read full article here

Thanksgiving Briefer?

A lot of us will start booking planes, trains and medications in preparation for November 22 when we get reminded that we all were once, literally in the same boat(s), so to speak.

There have been a lot of stories about divided family gatherings back in November 2016 and now coming full circle to Thanksgiving 2018.

Of course given recent events there are reasons to believe that there will less vitriol from fewer people as most people now agree that the emperor has clothes but no clue. Still there will some differences of opinionand it will be to experience family disagreementwithout disengagement.

A friend sent me a piece from The Scientific American by Lydia Denworth that very nicely juxtaposes the atmosphere at the turkey dinnertable in 1976 with 2016. Maybe something in the piece will come in handy in avoiding discomfortor frustration before it really kicks into gear. In her words:

“Mixing family and politics has always been fraught. I know—my mother was a Democrat, my father a Republican. The night Jimmy Carter won the presidency, dad slept in the guest room. For the U.S., the bitter campaign that ushered in Pres. Donald Trump in 2016 was a lot like that of 1976 in my house. Many families were politically divided, and the calendar forced the issue: The cherished American holiday Thanksgiving came just days after the election.

Anecdotal reports suggest family feasts that year were less festive than usual, with many Americans struggling to sit across the table from relatives whom they knew had voted for a candidate they loathed. Now there is hard data showing political polarization caused quite a few people to skip the pie. A new study published this week in Science reveals families with mixed politics spent 20 to 50 minutes fewer at the table than politically like-minded groups.

Even the amount of the difference was partisan: Republicans left earlier than Democrats (some by more than an hour); Democrats were more likely not to go at all. The effect was three times stronger in areas with heavy political advertising. Overall, partisan differences cost Americans 73.6 million person-hours of family time that Thanksgiving, the study says.”

To read the full arycile click here

Some Co-Parenting Needs an Assist

One of the most frustrating constants we see in Divorce Mediation is that a surprising percentage of the children involved will have adjustment issues that will need to be addressed by a an outside specialist. It’s a difficult decision point to face as I can bear witness to in my own life.

Now matter how amiable the atmosphere may be, somekids are going to have a tough time with the divorce and its personal consequences.  These conflicts will continue so the tone that is set will be important in the years, and with the adjustments, to come as situations change.

The therapists I work with emphasize the importance of not hesitating to make a call, explore situational options, and talk to someone. It’s only through a dialogue that you will find the right person for your child and for you. Your insurance will dictate your institutional choices but there may be private avenues to explore that are accessible through personal connections.

If you’d like some suggestions for yourself or a friend contact my office about some associate referrals.

“Free-Range” Parenting

by Stephanie Maloney

“Free-Range” Parenting - Divorce Mediation - Sherman Oaks, CAIt seems that childcare and its “do’s and “don’ts” keeps coming up as one of the most emotional issues dividing couples that are co-parenting even with only one child in the mix.

I came across an article from the “First 5 California”* website that has some valuable viewpoints about this incredibly difficult and rather constant problem for a lot of divorced parents. *(First 5 California was created in November 1998 when California voters passed Proposition 10 to invest tobacco tax revenues in programs that would help improve the lives of children in California.)

“Recent headlines have prompted the question over what situations a child is considered independent enough to walk home unattended, play outdoors without supervision or be left alone in the home?”

“Free-range” parenting has been highlighted and criticized in recent months, due in part to, a Maryland couple recently cleared of neglect charges in one of two cases after allowing their 10-year-old and 6-year-old children to walk home unsupervised from a local park. 

On the flip side, a father in Tennessee used a drone to keep tabs on his 8-year-old daughter as she walked home by herself.

So, what is considered lenientor overprotectivewhen it comes to raising our children is a question to be openly discussed on a regular basis as they develop.

“We should also allow children the freedom to explore by teaching them to speak up(ensure your child can contact you or an adult at all times) and speak out -with respect and not defiance.”

This question about how much to be involved in parenting can often be a challenge when trying to co-parent. Parents can differ in their parenting style and want to impose it on the co-parent. Our advice is to balance the fight with what you are fighting for.

You can view the whole piece on their website: www.first5la.org/

Every Judge Is Not A Solomon

by Stephanie Maloney

Every Judge Is Not A Solomon Copyright: <a href="https://www.123rf.com/profile_stockbroker">stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo</a>There’s a lawsuit filed by the ACLU aimed at preventing families seeking asylum from being separated at the border. It’s a cruel tactic implemented to discourage refugees from coming to America and if you disagree with this decision there is a petition you can sign on their website to stop this practice.

Split Custody, as it is referred to in divorces with children, is very rare in general because of the potential harm but percentage of responsibility comes up in many court-driven divorces. When the judge decides how the financial responsibilities should be divided it is not necessarily done by “cutting them in half”. That court decision can have some seriously negative repercussions for at least one parent and ultimately for the children.

Maintaining control of the settlement process is one of the main reasons for utilizing a mediator and working towards a mutual agreement, rather than leaving it up to the court. You may not be risking custody but you might encounter what you consider to be a slightly “one-sided agreement” and end up in a financial bind. Let’s remember that the judge may also come up with visitation schedules that present logistical nightmares for vacation time and holidays. “Who gets the kids for Christmas?” is a question that you will want to decide when necessary not a third-party adjudicator.

I do encourage you to make your voice heard, if you are so inclined, to stop tearing families apart when they’ve come so far by staying together.

Temporary “Phonelessness” Is OK

by Stephanie Maloney

Temporary “Phonelessness” Is OKCo-parenting is tough enough without having to wonder if you’re one text away from that phone call from the Highway Patrol. Nobody wants to be the cop in the family even when it makes sense to everybody else.

We all abuse the privilege of using the phone while driving so it’s tough being tough on the kids without hearing “you both do it and you’re the only one that gives me grief about it”. Just what you don’t need-playing mom & dad off each other.

With 400,000 “distracted driving” related injuries recorded in 2015 the (growing) numbers are too much for parents or teens to ignore and teens are four times more likely to be unlucky.

There are no easy answers but I keep reading about families that set their own guidelines and act on the “honor system” when driving alone-parents included.