MEDIATION CAN HELP MINIMIZE EMOTIONAL DAMAGE TO CHILDREN OF DIVORCING PARENTS

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Does mediation help minimize the emotional damage children can experience when sharing in their parents’ divorce? You bet it does.

America has the highest divorce rate in the world, and it continues to climb. More than half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce. The rest end in annulment, or by death to one or both of the spouses. Not much of a choice. Divorce is the preferred method by most.

People who divorce experience many deep emotions that are associated with grief and loss. They suffer from anger, unhappiness, worry and wonder, among others, and these negative emotions can actualize during different stages at different times of the divorce.

Children of divorcing parents can be affected more than they might let on. A divorce of parents can present itself as a crisis in a young child’s life. It can be a jolt in routine and a time of unfamiliar transition and the child could have a difficult time adjusting to that new life’s situation.

Children can suffer serious consequences from their parents’ divorce, including behavioral, psychological, and emotional problems. Research has proven, for instance, that children with divorced parents are twice as likely to seek mental health treatment. They are more susceptible to depression and twice as likely to have behavior management issues. They will act out. Children who have experienced their parents’ divorce are also at risk for increased stress and tension factors.

When children are involved in divorces, they find themselves at risk for a kaleidoscope of emotional issues which can be traced directly back to their parents who are having problems dealing with their own emotions. The most common and complicated emotion experienced by both child and parent during divorce is anger. Ph.D, researcher and mediator Robert E. Emery calls this “a common reaction to grief and loss.” The theory is that if parents aren’t processing their emotions in a positive way, they are negatively affecting their children. They are causing more conflict and tension in the transition for the children who can become confused and upset about what is happening as their lives spin out of control around them. They have been overwhelmed by their unfamiliar circumstances and negative emotional experiences.

Experts write that the stress associated with divorce causes mood swings and triggers anxiety in children. In his book, The truth about children and divorce, Dr. Emery writes about divorce posing a challenging transition for the children to adjust to. But there is a way to avoid a lot of it. In response to concerns over the psychological well-being of children of divorce, researchers have also concluded that after being involved in divorce mediation, parents suffered from decreased levels of distress and anxiety, which directly benefited their children.

MEDIATION BENEFITS CHILDREN FOLLOWING THEIR PARENTS’ DIVORCE

Studies have proven that families can benefit by promoting the positive involvement of both parents in a child’s life following a divorce. This is where a good divorce mediator comes in, someone who can positively involve the parents and children in the divorce mediation process and beyond, to help communicate with each other re managing family conflict.

Research by J.B. Kelly shows that mediation can be helpful in resolving emotional and agreement issues in family conflict, which could have a positive impact on children’s adjustment to the divorce. A good mediator can help both parents and children in learning better skills to manage their emotional problems as they learn to deal with their new life situations.

The mediator can help you realize that as you proceed through divorce you will become keenly aware of and concerned about the affects your divorce is having on your children. You will come to understand that the most damaging aspect to your children is when they personally witness the exchange of hostilities and conflict between you and your spouse.

Research has proven that children who live with parental conflict have adjustment problems as they get older, which materializes in their lives whether or not their parents actually go through with the divorce. The bottom line is that it’s not the divorce itself that does harm to the children, it’s the parental conflict you play out in front of them. Under no circumstances should you argue or demean your spouse in front of your children.

FAMILY LAW MEDIATION IS GOOD FOR CHILDREN OF DIVORCING PARENTS

Brianna L. Nelson, BSW, LSW, presented a Clinical Research Paper entitled, Divorce Mediation and its Impact on Children, to the faculty of the School of Social Work at St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota. In her paper Nelson concluded that divorce mediation can be helpful and beneficial for families when resolving emotional and familial conflict, which could decrease the negative effects divorce can have on children. She came to the same conclusion many experts had reached before her. Family law mediation is good for children of divorcing parents. “Mediation is a confidential and voluntary process that helps the parties in conflict come to agreements without the use of the court system and expensive legal services,” Nelson writes. The mediator will be the one to facilitate the negotiation process.

https://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1242&context=msw_papers

Family law mediation is most common in divorce and child custody disputes, and to assist in the decision-making process regarding finances, parenting, and the division of personal and real property. The key advantages of mediation over litigation is in avoiding the stress, expense, and family divisiveness. Mediation should be less time-consuming and a more humane way to deal with your conflict resolution. Mediation focuses on resolving the conflict, where litigation focuses on stopping it.

As of 2018, children are becoming more involved in the family law mediation process. It provides an opportunity for the children to be heard, which is important for they are the ones most negatively affected by separation and divorce. Divorce mediation provides an opportunity to assess a child’s basic awareness of their parents’ divorce, and to help them resolve their issues in dealing with it.

Just like communication between spouses, mediation can increase communication between child and parent and it can improve the co-parental relationship, which all benefits your children. That’s why if you divorce, and you can communicate rationally with your spouse, you’re going to want to find an experienced specialist in family law who can mediate your divorce related issues. You’ll want to find a divorce mediator who can educate you about common concerns you and your spouse share regarding your children. Find a mediator with exceptional communication skills who can help you brainstorm your issues and resolve them. Find someone who is sensitive to your family members’ feelings of grief and loss. Remember, the whole purpose is for you and your children to be able to utilize the feedback received through mediation to help your family build a healthier and happier tomorrow.

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KIDS CAUGHT IN BETWEEN IN DEPENDENCY COURT

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There is no question one of the toughest jobs ever is raising children.  They have minds of their own, and sometimes those minds head in different directions than those we might advise.  As a parent, raising children can be like a roller coaster:  up and down, swinging all around, thrills and breathtaking near spills at every turn.  But at the end of the day, all that really matters is, How is everybody doing?  What is the state of being between parent and child?

How is the child really doing, and is everybody’s best interests being served by the exchanges between parent and child?

And then there are those children who have no real parents, or at least not the kind that gave birth to them.  These kids are removed from their homes.  And then they’re moved again, probably from home to home, trying to make things work with perfect strangers, always searching to fit in, seeking connectivity, yearning for higher understanding, guidance, and, if at all possible, maybe even a little love.  Many of these kids are now under the control of a governmental system that is failing them badly, that is if you believe what Los Angeles Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash has to say.

In an OP-ED piece recently appearing in the Los Angeles Times, Judge Nash expressed his deep concerns regarding the systemic upbringing of children through the state’s system and courts, where the futures of young people in foster care are decided.  Nash expressed discontent over the swelling of the caseloads the judges are being forced to carry.  There is not enough time, the judge believes, to properly focus on the needs of the children whose futures he decides.

In Los Angeles County, each judge carries a caseload of roughly 1,350 cases at any given time.  Often, matters of serious consequence must be heard and decided in a matter of minutes, this, even if the case urges major deliberation.  In other words, children’s lives, fates, and futures must be decided in a matter of moments, if not split seconds.

On an average day, Dependency Court judges might handle cases that decide how much and what type of medication to authorize for a child; whether to remove children from homes after allegations of neglect or abuse; and whether to place them in the hands of strangers or relatives, or return them to unsteady parents.

Judge Nash feels that budget cuts are only part of the problem facing these kids these days.  He feels county social workers’ judgment, or lack thereof, when determining whether to leave children with their parents or to remove them from their homes might be the most critical factor of all.  And his concern is that those charged with protecting the children are operating out of fear of being second guessed by the judgmental media and/or an unforgiving public.  So more often than not, out of fear, the children are removed, young lives are disrupted, and an already overloaded court system is burdened even further.

And what happens to those kids?

They are placed in society’s margin at best, falling through the cracks of an antiquated system.  Through no fault of their own, many of these ‘institutionalized’ children have suffered through personal traumas and dramas involved in difficult upbringings, and they have developed emotional and mental imbalances.  They are then placed in the hands of medical and/or psychological “professionals” who often prescribe drugs to cure the child’s imbalances.  This usually leads to more emotional, physical, and mental difficulties for the child to have to overcome before ever reaching the age of majority.

Many of these children also end up in dysfunctional, sometimes violent foster homes that can destroy a child’s will, and exacerbate already growing emotional/mental issues.  Others end up on the streets, selling the very innocence they were never allowed to experience in the first place.  Child prostitution, child pornography, and child slavery become societal realities when a public system fails children in these kinds of ways.  And many thousands of kids are caught in the middle of this, right now.

That’s not to say there aren’t conscientious, passionate professionals out there, like Judge Nash, who are trying to make a positive difference.  But the problem is, there aren’t enough.  And there really isn’t enough time or money.  And the system is just too broke.  Just like the kids, and many of their parents too.

Many of the children have become ensnared in the situation because their parents have placed them in peril through their own destructive or problematic domestic behaviors.  Then, the parents become overwhelmed by the system, because the laws are too tough, too many, and it can be a very expensive process to try to overcome when the economy is sinking deeper than the Titanic.

If a parent can’t afford to hire an attorney to fight the system, which most can’t, then the court might appoint an attorney for them who is just as overwhelmed with a caseload that no ten people could reasonably have the time to give justice to.  Many of our children are being eaten up by a governmental system that is in desperate need of an overhaul.

More social services are needed for these lost children and their parents.  More judges and social workers with lighter caseloads, and more time to investigate and analyze each and every child and family’s futures are a necessity in any kind of healthy social system.  This system must be changed, before it’s too late for the kids, and their parents.

PARENTING IN CONFIDENCE CRITICAL TO CHILD’S/FAMILY’S WELL BEING

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As a parent, ever wonder what it would be like to raise a child who has the ability to grow up to handle life responsibly, one who can act quickly and decisively when a situation calls for it.  It takes work for parents to generate this kind of responsibility in their children, and parents really do have to know what they’re doing if they want to achieve these results.  However, according to school psychologist and author Barbara Minton by learning how to raise children who are prepared to face the difficulties life has to offer, who can make quick decisions, and then act on those decisions appropriately, a parent can help to build confidence in their children, and enable them to handle difficult situations responsibly.

According to Minton, building confidence in their children is not automatic for parents.  Many parents tend to over-parent their children, which can be detrimental to a child’s health.  As parents, we tend to find ourselves over-parenting our children in an attempt to protect them from painful experiences.  This might be based on the fact we, as parents, want a child to be happy and secure, so we try to shield them from any experiences they may find unpleasant or challenging.

In a family of over-parenting, the child is treated as the center of the universe, with all family activities revolving around him or her.  The parents allow the child to do whatever the child wants because telling him or her “no” might be an unpleasant experience for them.  The parents believe their child needs their continuous protection and vigilance because the world is a very difficult place to operate in.

Over-parenting takes place when mom or dad makes all the decisions for their children.  Choosing their children’s clothes, friends, and playtime are attributes of the over-parenting parent.  Over-parenters believe their children must be constantly indulged in order to grow up to be balanced, successful adults.

Over-parenting results when mom and dad solve their child’s problems rather than giving the child the chance to overcome their own problems.  It occurs when parents allow their children to avoid legitimately challenging situations so they are not inconvenienced and so they do not experience discomfort.  It can also occur when too much control or too much order is imposed on a child by the parent.

Over-parenting involves families of all socio-economic strata.  It is often seen in families that have experienced their own sense of trauma.

The over-parented child is often viewed as a spoiled brat.  They lack confidence and are often afraid to make decisions on their own or take risks.  They avoid new situations and hide behind their parents when challenges arise, because they have been conditioned into believing that their parents are the only ones who can make proper decisions.

In order to stop over-parenting their children, Minton says a mother or father must first achieve their own level of self-confidence.  They must learn to allow their children to make their own decisions, to use their spare time in their own way, to live life without mom and dad niggling in their ears, and to express a certain trust of the world and a confidence that everything will be okay.  When a parent exhibits a strong level of confidence, their children too will learn to be confident.

A parent could begin by pulling back on their over-monitoring.  Allow your children to walk to school on rainy days, or to get going in the morning without mom’s or dad’s assistance.  When the kids are faced with a difficult challenge, help them with ideas on how to deal with the challenge rather than allowing them to escape it altogether.  Help the child develop a strong, tough attitude toward fighting through problems.

Minton also says a parent can cut back on spending lavishly on material possessions for their children.  It’s our money, and a child must learn that we are allowed to spend our money as we please.  They must understand that our goal for them is to finish school in as strong a manner as possible, and to become financially independent, so one day they too will have the freedom to do what they want with their money.

A good way to help the child to earn value is by giving them jobs to do.  Chores help kids to build confidence.  They also provide the kids with spending money and a sense of empowerment.

The most successful parents are those who teach and support rather than protect and compensate when a child’s challenges come to light.  The stronger the confidence a parent can display in their child’s ability to cope and deal with the world around them, the more confidence the child will gain.  It’s important to learn how to discern when your child needs your help, rather then just jumping in right from the start, every time.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the school psychologist says the model a parent provides for their child is as important as the wisdom they dispense.  When a parent acts in a positive, decisive, confident manner in his or her own affairs, the child will surely follow suit.  However, there is a fine line to be toed here, one between fostering greater child independence, and placing too much responsibility on a child.

INVOLVED PARENTS HELP FAMILY BY HELPING CHILDREN IN SCHOOL

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Did you see that according to a study performed through three sociology departments at North Carolina State University, Brigham Young, and the University of California, parental involvement has as much impact as school choice as to whether a child will excel in school.  The research further determined that parental involvement is more significant in a child’s academic performance than what the school might have to offer.

Small tasks such as showing interest in homework and attending school functions were shown through the study to have an impact on how well kids perform in school.  The study concluded that parents need to be aware of how important they are, and they need to invest time in their children.  For a family to be successful from the children’s perspective, parents need to check homework, attend school events, and let their children know that school is important.

A CHILD’S RIGHT TO PRIVACY

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Parents who have custody of their child have the right to make many important decisions regarding their child’s life and life plans.  But did you know that according to the California Family Code, there are many instances in which children have the legal authority to make important personal decisions without their parents’ consent?  Some of these circumstances include:

  • When a child is 12 or older and seeks medical treatment related to a drug or alcohol problem FC §6929b)
  • When a child is 12 or older and seeks medical treatment for rape.  A medical care professional, however, shall attempt to contact the minor’s parents or guardian, unless he or she reasonably believes the minor’s parents or guardian committed the sexual assault on the minor. (FC §§ 6927, 6928)
  • When a child is 12 or older and seeks medical treatment related to an infectious, contagious, or sexually transmitted disease. (FC § 6926)
  • When a child is seeking medical care related to the care and prevention of pregnancy.  This includes birth control information and devices, and (if the child is deemed sufficiently mature) abortion or any other care, short of sterilization.

Family Code § 6922 makes it easier for youngsters 15 years of age or older to obtain medical care when they show that they are living separate and apart from their parents and managing their own financial affairs.  And of course there’s Family Code § 7002 which dictates that married minors, or minors who have joined the military or have received a formal court decree acknowledging their emancipation, need not confer with their parents regarding any decisions whatsoever.

So if you have questions about your parental or child’s rights, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced family law attorney, one who can help you deal with the law and important decisions involving your family’s well being.

VALENTINE IS FOR FAMILY

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It is our contention that Valentine’s Day isn’t necessarily for lovers, but for lovers of family.  The ability to interconnect at the heart level is one of the greatest gifts we have.  That’s why Valentine’s Day is the greatest day to forget about all the stress and the problems that plague our busy minds.  It is a day to remember the basis of who we are.

We are creatures of love.  And it is with this energy, the ultimate vibration, that we can begin, on Valentine’s Day, to not only change our own existence, but to work on tilting the universe into a higher frequency.  We can do this right now.  From within the heart of our family.  Just by putting it out there.  Wearing it on our sleeves, and in the words we share and the Valentines we give.  It is from the heart, like fire and molten lava, with no conditions attached.  Love of thy wife.  Love of thy husband.  Loving our children like never before.  And then, before we know it, we’ve begun to weave into our lives a frequency of higher love – into the collective we call family.  Right here.  Right now.  Forever.  Love can do that.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!