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parental alienation syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Is It? And How to Cope

Children who have been trained to not like one of their parents are often seen in custody disputes. Such training, programming, or what some might call “brainwashing” can be labeled as parental alienation when its goal is to somehow strengthen the role of the abusing parent. Parental alienation becomes a “syndrome” when the child, having been programmed to denigrate the other parent, now plays a role at keeping the “targeted parent” estranged and alienated.

Parental alienation syndrome may sound clinical and technical, but it refers to an all too common occurrence during and after divorce: one parent who attempts to poison their children against the other parent—and who, through control or emotional abuse, succeeds in having the kids adopt and enforce this view.

Many of us recognize examples of parental alienation—your spouse tries to monopolize your children’s time. He* paints a one-sided portrait of you and your marriage (ignoring all the good parts), while reminding the children of how many times you’ve failed them. He tries to provoke you so that you’ll take him to court, and because he is convinced of his own moral high ground, he will relish in it when you do.

Your perpetrator will make you a victim and then turnaround and call himself one. He will say he’s trying to protect your children and “do what’s best for them”, but he is so focused on hurting you and your relationship with them that he’s lost sight of what is healthy, what is indeed beneficial to the children. His tactics inevitably result with your children becoming the worst kind of collateral damage.

What’s happening to the kids

When a parent is successful at turning the children against their other parent, the children’s respect for the targeted parent quickly erodes. For example, your children may begin to openly insult you, or they may demand to spend more time with your Ex. They may begin to act out, or shut down, and their academic performance may slip. If you and your Ex find yourself in an argument, your children may repeatedly (overtly or covertly) side with him.

Your children might adopt the language of your Ex, as they process the world through “his eyes.” This goes beyond the subtle (and perhaps not so subtle) manipulations of your Ex coming to fruition.

Your children are now choosing their other parent over you, yes, but they too are suffering for it.

With so much at stake, healthy coparenting means avoiding parental alienation at all costs and being conscious of good parenting skills.

However, an insidious dimension to the problem is that perpetrators of parental alienation often display behaviors associated with good parenting: meaning, they show up for school events and pickups. They are deeply involved in their children’s lives such that it looks like they are doing everything right as a parent. And yet their engagement is often tightly wound with control and personality disorders, like narcissism. They use lies and manipulation and power as their weapons. At the end of the day, what they really care about is winning.

So, how do we “fight” against parental alienation and its syndrome?

First, we must learn to recognize it. And part of recognizing it is accepting that we women are often the perpetrators.

Until the 1990s—when women were more often the traditional, stay-at-home parent—it was mothers who had more time with their kids and therefore more time to “emotionally overshare,” or to use their children as a sounding board for marital problems. And it was fathers who were more often the targeted parent. Today, as more and more men are the primary caregivers or at least sharing a greater portion of that responsibility, the traditional roles played out in parental alienation are shifting, too.

This said, the “stay-at-home” factor does not necessarily dictate who the perpetrator is. There are ample examples of the moneyed parent using his or her economic edge to offer “a more privileged lifestyle” to a child—resulting in the child favoring the privileged parent.

What is clear is that parental alienation can be perpetrated by either parent and by either gender, but the result always impacts the children.

If you are feeling the stress of a difficult marriage, or struggling with independence as a single mother, we encourage you to find a healthy place to vent and get support for the challenges facing you. It may be hard, but strive to speak respectfully of your Ex to your kids. In our work supporting women through and past divorce, we’ve seen all too often what happens when a woman ignores this advice: her children grow older, and as they eventually circle back to their estranged parent, she is held responsible for the traumatic breakdown of the past.

The remaining information is directed toward our female readers who feel they may be at risk or are currently suffering from parental alienation syndrome.

Distorted memories and perception

If you’re suffering from parental alienation syndrome, your Ex is likely a master manipulator—he’s so successful at this, in fact, that he can distort your children’s memories and perception.

Mom isn’t tired and overworked. She isn’t casual, or maybe, even a little bohemian. No, “she’s let herself go,” “she can’t keep a home,” “she’s a mess,” or “she can’t be trusted because she’s lazy, irresponsible” or “she never grew up.” Or maybe your marriage ended because of an affair, and when your children gather the courage to confront your Ex, he plants the idea that you may have been sleeping around too—or that you, not him, are the adulterer. You broke up the family.

Suddenly your children look at you and what “they know” differently. Men who do this tell themselves they are simply keeping it real or they “just want their children to know the truth,” but more often they’re projecting or downright lying—they are trying to lessen your role, connection, and significance.

Strained familial relationships

The sad fact is that if your Ex is truly successful at alienating you from your children, he’s likely successful at separating them from your extended family, too. The pain and disappointment your family feels from being barred access to your kids will be real and will heighten your pain, too. Your Ex might invent or bend truths to make your parents and siblings (your children’s grandparents, aunts, and uncles) look like strangers or worse, enemies. He’ll find reasons and excuses to keep your kids from being with your family because he’s “protecting them,” but really it’s because your family is an extension of you.

Low self-esteem

How we define our sense of self worth is complicated. If your Ex is targeting you, he’s teaching your children to view your traits and interests as negative. But your children, being part of you, likely share some of those traits and interests. Suddenly they might want to hide parts of themselves away. They might feel ashamed because they know they are part of you.

One of the worst parts about being a victim of parental alienation is that your children don’t usually realize what’s happening.

They don’t have the distance or maturity to understand it either. Even though they are feeling and suffering through all of the above, they will, still, often choose your Ex. It’s a toxic relationship in which your children are constantly seeking validation from the very person who is least likely to give it to them—or, more to the point—to the person whose validation is likely to be fleeting.

This is an abusive relationship: for the love your Ex is extending is conditioned on your children’s rejection of you.

Parental alienation syndrome and support

Abuse and parental alienation have become central issues in some divorce cases.

If you’re dealing with an abusive Ex (and, arguably, alienation in any form is abuse) then we suggest finding a lawyer who understands and recognizes an abuser when she sees one. Do not underestimate your Ex. Do not allow your positive, rose-tinted memories of him to sway your ability to do all you can to protect yourself and your children.

And because you’re here, reading this, know that if you are suffering from parental alienation syndrome, there’s a real chance your children are suffering with you, perhaps in silence.

There are research support groups and organizations nearby that will educate and empower you. Learn about parenting tools that can help you maintain healthy boundaries yet communicate essential information between you and your Ex. Relying on the old way you communicated never worked before, and confronting your Ex about his behavior won’t help either.  Let go of the concept of “coparenting” — the otherwise healthy approach to communicating regularly with your Ex. (because it’s in the best interest of your children’s development). And understand that your endeavoring to survive as an estranged parent. Know that trying to talk to your children directly about how alienated your feeling can backfire as well. Your children may be punished by their other parent just for engaging with you. Don’t give your Ex an invitation to stir things up and make your divorce recovery harder. You’ve got to keep going, working on yourself, because one day, chances are your children will circle back to you. When they do you want to be everything you can for them. Strong. Independent. Healthy.

Parental alienation syndrome is real and coping with it may be a long and lonely battle—and indeed, it’s a battle that may not even be possible for you to truly win. Divorce, as with much of life, isn’t that black and white. But don’t give up. Find regular time for self-care with a therapist trained and experienced in parental alienation. Cultivate a support system with other parents who understand how isolating your experience is right now. They can give you perspective and help guide and protect you during those hours you feel your most alone.

If you already find your children slipping away from you, leave room in your life and in your heart for the possibility that they will one day come back because we’ve seen it all, my friend—and it’s not all tragedy. Sometimes we do get our happy endings, but we have to play the long game, to let go of the idea that we are in control of the where and when.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and re-creation. Now you can secure female-centered support and smart next steps coparenting and rebuilding your life with Paloma’s Group, our virtual group coaching program for women post-divorce. To learn if Paloma is right for you, schedule your quick 15-minute chat now. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited. 

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

References: Clawar, S. S. and Rivlin, B. V. (1991), Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. Chicago, Illinois: American Bar Association.

Coping with Divorce like a modern woman

Not Your Mother’s Divorce: How to Cope Like a Modern Woman

Coping with divorce was not on my list of goals as a happily married mom of three. But my husband of twelve years had a different list, one he shared with me just weeks before Christmas.

He asked me to join him at the dining room table, where he sat with a piece of paper and two fingers of scotch in front of him and read the words he’d prepared: He’d been unfaithful for more than ten years, and he was leaving me for someone he’d met and known for one day in Las Vegas.

I remember sliding off my chair onto the floor as he walked out, leaving me alone with the kids sleeping in their beds.

When I finally got to my feet, an image of my mother flashed before me and I felt weak with shame. How could I be here, in a situation so similar to what she had faced with my father? How was it possible when I had done everything right? I had chosen my husband so carefully, certain that I could never be fooled by an unfaithful man.

Let the ghosts out

I dreaded telling her, certain that she would make the inevitable comparisons and that my experience would invite more dad-bashing.

But my mother only cried with me. A lot. I felt the depth of her pain through the phone line, and I was soothed because there is nothing in the world like crying to your mother. I believe it waters some dry patch in us that, as adults, we tend to overlook, intent instead on staking up our Proven-Winner lives.

Here I had believed my life was in full bloom. I had vowed to do everything differently from my mother, different from all the divorced women who came before me. My mother didn’t know how to write a check when my parents divorced. She had never handled her own money. I may have been a stay-at-home mom when my husband left, but I had a college degree and I knew how to run a Quickbooks spreadsheet. I was part of a new generation of smart women.

But the helplessness, the sense of doom, that my mother must have felt flared in me, and I understood it in a way I never could before.

In a session with my therapist, I cried, “I don’t want to be like my mother, alone and bitter!”

“That’s one picture,” he said. “But there are others.”

Those words would become a lifeline for me: there are other pictures, other ways of being. I didn’t have to become my mother. Now that I’d been thrust into the same situation, I felt the anger and judgments I’d carried toward her dissolve, replaced by a resolve that I would do all I could to feel powerful again after divorce.

So I created a new list:

Refuse to repeat the past

I found ways to ground myself in the present, even if that meant constantly repeating the obvious to myself: I lived in a different city, had a different education, personality, and support system than my mother. I could move on and choose a new future simply by deciding to.

Break the rules that need to be broken

During my divorce process I was told what to do by a variety of experts, including lawyers, mediators, vocational counselors, judges, and even other divorced friends. When I decided, on my own, to move myself and my kids to a cheaper apartment, my lawyer warned me to get permission from the court first. Instead, I trusted my gut and calmly explained that my move would save everyone money, including my former husband. My lawyer shifted gears so enthusiastically that I almost thought it was his idea!

Put yourself first

I learned that coping includes not only setting boundaries but stretching them too. I trained myself to tell my Ex-husband, “Sorry, that won’t work for me.” That was it. End of sentence. I stopped adding explanations and entertaining objections.

And then I went dancing. I took every lesson I’d always dreamed of taking, enduring the embarrassment of being up close and personal with strangers or stepping on someone’s toes. Dancing would become one of the unexpected gifts of my divorce. And when I knew enough to hold my own, I invited my mom to a jazz club, where we tore up the dance floor and had a blast.

I saw that we had very different ways of moving, both on the dance floor and through our divorces.

My divorce wasn’t my mother’s divorce. It was mine. And it was perfectly orchestrated for me to become my best self—past, present, and future.

 

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards. Tammy writes regularly about creativity, the writing life, inspiration, and spirituality. You can find her blogs on Huffington Post, SheKnows, GrokNation, SheDoesTheCity, and more. Connect with her at TammyLetherer.com.

Best coparenting skills

8 Skills for the Best Coparenting

Figuring out the best coparenting skills while dealing with your Ex isn’t always easy. After divorce, routines are disrupted and then pieced back together. Emotions are strained. Energy levels are low to nonexistent. And while kids bounce back quicker, on some level, they may be sharing some of these feelings too—a breeding ground for the sort of emotions that cause children to act out or hide themselves away.

The good news is that the some of the best coparenting skills are similar if not the same as those parenting skills you were practicing before your divorce. The key is to not let them fall to the wayside after divorce and to brace yourself and your children for the ways in which your lives are about to change. That sort of honesty and vigilance will shield you from some of the worst of your post-divorce recovery.

Below are eight of the best coparenting skills we wish to share. Keep these in mind as you navigate your divorce and post-divorce journey with your children’s other parent.

Putting your children’s interest first, always

This might sounds simple, but it’s effective—you might not always feel like you’re making the right choices, but if you’re making decisions with your children’s best interest in mind, then you’re already doing your job as a parent. When faced with a tough choice, take a deep breath, push petty concerns out of your mind, and place the image of you children center stage. Just focus on doing right by them because the rest of it is outside of your control.

Communicating with your Ex without using your kids as messengers

Children often become middlemen when it comes to divorce, but in today’s world, there’s just no excuse for it. With cellphones, email, websites, and court recommended apps like Family Wizard, there’s no shortage of ways to speak to your Ex without actually having to hear or see him*.

Using your children as messengers places an undue burden on their shoulders—a burden that becomes even heavier when those messages are nuanced and weighted. Your children may forget to pass one along, or they may be scared of how you or your Ex will react. To avoid this, it might help if you use a professional tone when you speak with your Ex. Make sure you listen even when you disagree, and keep your conversations focused on your children.

Being patient

Patience is a virtue any day, but you’ll have to stretch this skill a lot during your divorce recovery. When we aren’t patient, we can snap like rubber bands. Sometimes that looks like an eruption festering inside us: we sulk. Sometimes it bursts out: we shout. But research shows that yelling at your children actually makes their behavior and your relationship with them worse not better. When you shout at your kids, they can feel a sense of rejection which might result in low self-esteem and self-control.


Read: What to Do When Your Child Acts Like Your Ex-husband


Rather than berating yourself for lashing out at your children (even when you told yourself you wouldn’t), try to come up with a strategy to use next time. Part of your plan might be giving yourself some distance from the situation, if possible. Take a short walk. Get some fresh air. You might also do your best to put yourself in your children’s shoes—what’s really upsetting them? Is it the divorce or something else? Could you have played a part in it, even unintentionally? What can you do to make sure your children feel seen in this moment?

Creating a sense of consistency

Yes, you and your Ex live in different houses and spend time with your kids on a different schedule. But when it comes to “the rules” and how to discipline your children, attempt to develop consistency. When’s bedtime? What constitutes a healthy meal? Is snacking okay? How much screen time, if any, is allowed? If necessary, what’s an appropriate punishment for breaking these rules?

When one parent has to bear the burden of being “the fun one” or “the strict one,” it’s never a good thing. Your children need to understand that they can’t take advantage of either of their parents or play them against each other. You are all on the same team even though you live under different roofs.

This is one of those best coparenting skills that you’d likely been practicing before your divorce, but after, the discipline needed to keep it up increases. Which brings us to our next point.

Respecting the differences between you and your Ex

Maybe your Ex loathes watching movies but loves the outdoors, or maybe he’s soft-spoken when it comes to the small stuff but great when it really matters. These aspects of your Ex’s personality may be different from yours—and while that’s okay, your children may go through an adjustment period when they realize that who you and your Ex were as a couple and who you both are as individuals might not look exactly the same.

So if your child comes home complaining that Dad took her hiking. Again. Or that his idea of a home-cooked meal is always some variation of meat and potatoes. Remember that this is not an opportunity for you to buddy-up with your child, chiming in with, “I know, I always hated that about him, too!” For overtly or subliminally badmouthing your Ex will only backfire in the long run. Instead, try using this moment as an opportunity to explain to your child that every person is different and that every experience is valuable. Your daughter might not appreciate hiking now, for instance, but when she’s older, she’ll likely look back on these memories fondly. Differences can be fun too. Together, you and your children can have “your own thing” that’s unique to your relationship.

Making the transition between visitations smooth

When you and your Ex pick the kids up from each other’s homes, are bags packed and ready to go? You can keep certain basics at both homes, like toothbrushes, underwear, or hairbrushes, to cut down on the amount of packing that needs to be done each visit and to make each place truly feel like it’s “theirs” rather than a place they only sometimes occupy.

When they arrive in your home, give them time to adjust to the atmosphere and expectations that exist under your roof. It’s different from your Ex’s house—and kids need time to adapt. At the end of your visits, are the kids really prepared to leave—have they made their goodbyes and had a proper meal? Try to create a sense of calm around these arrivals and departures. When children are rushed out the door abruptly, it feels more like they are being torn away from their parent rather than merely saying goodbye for now.

Speaking positively about your Ex

In fact, we’d take this one step further. If you hear your children talking about your Ex negatively, try to communicate your displeasure (obviously this does not apply to situations involving abuse or neglect, in which you should 100% listen to your children). Put on a frown, and encourage them to put themselves in your Ex’s shoes. Each and every one of you is going through a difficult time—a transition period—and being kind to one another is one way you can help see each other through it. And respect for each parent is important.

Children can quickly get in the habit of using you as a sounding board to complain about their other parent, but it’s a habit you should try to curb as soon as possible. Your kids need to understand that you and their other parent are not enemies.

Being boring, when the time calls for it

Research shows that children need time to do regular things with both of their parents and not just stuff that’s entertaining. That’s true whether you’re married or divorced. For one, boredom can even lead to creativity and self-sufficiency. It also keeps expectations realistic.

When your divorce is still fresh, for instance, it’s easy to get into the habit of wanting all your time with your children to be fun and exciting. You might try to fill up each and every moment so that time passes by faster and there’s little to no time for dwelling on the past (or the fact that one parent is now missing from these activities). This type of non-stop action doesn’t lead to the natural pauses in conversation—ones that might in turn lead to parenting opportunities—or allow your children to develop a normal routine. You start to become less of a parent and more of a friend.

Your relationship with your coparent doesn’t need to be antagonistic (although we understand if you’re past finding ways to get along and more focused on how to simply get by). Together, you can develop a plan that benefits both you and your children. These may be some of the best coparenting skills, but they’re even more tools to add to your coparenting utility belt out there. There’s no way for you to master each of them all at once, but with practice, you can get there.

If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice. 

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Bad divorce advice

8 Terrible (But Common) Pieces of Divorce Advice You Should Definitely Ignore

It’s a rare skill to listen to someone without offering up your two cents, and divorce advice is no different. Each and everyone one of us does this. For women, especially, it’s only natural to want to help our loved ones. So we dole out our well-meaning advice. We try to fix whatever’s broken. But we don’t know what we don’t know, and when it comes to someone else’s marriage, there’s just so damn much we don’t know. Will never know.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of this “well-intentioned” divorce advice, just know that you’re not alone in this. Most of it comes from a good place, though much of it is terrible. Here are some of the more common pieces of divorce advice we’ve come across and why they often miss the mark.

Wait until the children are out of the house, for their sake

One of the most common pieces of divorce advice is simply to not get divorced at all. At least, not until the children are old enough to live on their own. This, the advice giver says, is what’s best for your children. But the research shows that’s not the case. Getting divorced and removing your children from an environment filled with tension and uncertainty can be better for you children in the long run.

In this case, the advice giver skirts around everything left unsaid: teach your children that it’s more important to be miserable than happy, to do what’s easy rather than what feels right, to pretend that everything is okay rather than bare your mistakes to the world, to make fear-based decisions instead of taking risks and being brave.

Get it together already

Harsh. But it’s tough love, right? The problem with telling someone to get it together is that it implies there’s a time limit on how long each of us has to wallow in our emotions. To just be. To process the end of a relationship. But sometimes all we feel up to on a given day is planting ourselves in front of the TV and watching When Harry Met Sally on repeat. Yes, Netflix, we are still here.

We get it, no one likes to see someone they love in pain, so when someone tells you to shut off your feelings, to “X or get off the pot” just to make them more comfortable around you simply explain to them that that is exactly what they are doing. You are sad, and that’s okay. If they don’t like what they see, they can leave you to it. Your divorce recovery journey is your journey, and no one but you gets to dictate what that journey looks like.

You just need to try harder

Divorce advice about you needing to “put in the work” almost always includes phrases like “to get that spark back.” Most of these people mean well, but being that they are on the outside of your marriage looking in, they can’t possibly know just how much effort you’ve already put into reconnecting with your partner and “fixing” whatever’s wrong in your marriage.

Working on your marriage is a complicated thing. It might be that all of this burden is being placed on your shoulders—or maybe it’s the opposite. On the advice of your loved ones, you’re constantly having talks with your husband* about trying more, making more time, changing his behavior, and now, he feels as though he’s walking on eggshells. That everything he does is wrong. This isn’t good either.

You and your partner should not feel pressured to perform a role that no longer fits, to be what someone expects of you rather than be yourself. Sometimes we try so hard to make our marriages work that we fail to see that we’ve become two mismatched puzzle pieces being forced together.

And then there’s the flip side.

It’s time to find someone better

It’s hard not to cringe when someone tells you this. Are they implying that you chose the wrong partner? That your Ex isn’t a good person? The truth is there are often a myriad of, and not just one, reasons that cause a marriage to come to an end. There is no winning or losing side. And in the months or even years leading up to your divorce, it’s quite possible that you painted a pretty one-sided picture of your Ex. It’s possible that your loved ones don’t have the full story.

After divorce, we each have our own lessons to learn. Could we communicate better? Be more patient and understanding? Are we being honest with ourselves about what we want out of life? Maybe your Ex was exactly who you needed in your life at a given moment, and now, for whatever reason, things have changed.

And if you have children who overhear talk of finding someone better, it’s possible that they’ll develop a negative view of themselves. After all, half of their identity has been formed by their father. If he’s not “good enough,” then maybe you feel the same way about them, too.

Next time, you’ll get it right

Here’s another cringeworthy piece of divorce advice. Marriage, children, the house—for so many, these are the markers of someone who has “made it.” Someone who’s successful and has it all. But now, your marriage is over. If you were once a winner, then logic says you’re now a loser. They (meaning all the people who are still winning, all the “happily-married” couples whose lives you are envious of) have gotten it and are still getting it right.

By now, surely you can see the problem with this kind of thinking. The logic is flawed. For one, there might not be a next time, and you might be perfectly okay with that. But more than that, marriage, and life by extension, is not a game. And you are not a failure for deciding to stop playing one way.

You need a rebound

You need to move on! You need to get “out there” and have some fun. You need to get under someone to get over someone. No matter how they phrase their words, anyone who gives you this advice is telling you the same thing: jump into bed with someone else—it’s the only way to let go of your feelings for your Ex.


Read: How to Avoid Rebound Relationships After Divorce


And hey, if this has helped you, then more power to you, but each of us is cut from a different cloth. There’s a time and place for casual sex, and while you’re recovering from divorce may not be one of them. Instead of helping you feel more alive and in control, it can make you feel even more alone and empty. At the end of the day, there’s that word “casual” attached to the sex. Casual as in no attachments, no feelings, and no promises. When you’re at your most vulnerable, sometimes you need to surround yourself by people who offer more stability than that.

You better dive back into that dating pool—you’re not getting any younger

It seems that for women our biological clocks never quite stop ticking. Our days are numbered in large, bold font with a neon arrow pointing to our expiration date for all to see. After divorce, we feel pressured to quickly find another of those plentiful fish in the sea. To snap one up and lock it down before the wrinkles settle in for good and we grow tired of covering up the grey.

And all this pressure? It puts you at risk of settling for someone who’s not really right for you and ignoring someone who might surprise you. It makes the whole dating experience more of a frantic frenzy than a journey that teaches you just as much about yourself as it does about any man. Give yourself the time you deserve to properly recover from your divorce before you start dating again. You can find happiness at any age, and anyone who tells you otherwise should be ignored. They’re projecting their own fears, but you know better than that.

Squeeze every penny out of that [insert insult here]

During and after your divorce, you’ll likely be experiencing many emotions, with one in particular often rising to the surface: anger. And your loved ones, who are also feeling angry on your behalf, might be stoking those fires rather than helping you put them out. But deciding to go after your Ex “for all that the’s worth” almost never makes those feelings go away. Instead, it prolongs your divorce proceedings. It creates resentment on both sides. It makes successfully coparenting nearly impossible.

In the moment, being angry might feel good, but in the long run, you’re giving both you and your Ex less resources to live your lives and raise your children with.

If you’ve gone through or are currently in the midst of divorce, we’d love to hear from you. What’s the worst piece of divorce advice you received? What “words of wisdom” do you wish you had ignored?

Whether you are considering a divorce, already navigating it, or are recovering from its upheaval, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do IT alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and divorce recovery. Experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free, 45-minute consultation to hear perspective, next steps and the best resources that will honor your life and who you are meant to be.

This article was authored for the all-women website SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

*At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

what to do after divorce

What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 16 Best Moves

There is no “after divorce” checklist because what helps one person move forward with her life doesn’t always work for the next. We enter and leave our marriages with our own unique sets of personal baggage. Even so, we find thinking carefully about what to do after divorce can help you feel more in control of your future. If you have children, what kind of parent do you want to be? What kind of relationship do you want to have with your Ex? How will your lifestyle change, and how can you rediscover who you are as a newly-single woman? Are you even ready to move on?

But more than simply thinking about what to do after divorce, you must take action. It’s the best way to start the next chapter of your life, to feel less like a victim of your choices (or your Ex’s) and more like an independent, strong woman whose life can be anything she wants it to be.

From the practical to the unexpected, here are 16 things to do after divorce. You may find that some of these ideas overlap.

1. Find a therapist or a support group

Find someone impartial to talk to, someone who will force you to ask yourself the questions you need to move on and better understand what “went wrong” in your marriage. There are several ways to go about this. You can get one-on-one help by finding a therapist, or you can join a local or virtual online divorce recovery support group. If you have children and are coparenting, finding an objective third-party to speak with—and potentially learn from, is even more important. It’s so easy to lean on your children and overshare, but doing so is never a good idea.

2. Find your support system

A therapist or support group might be a part of your support system, but it’s just one spoke on the wheel. Friends, family members, close colleagues—find your people. These are the people who you turn to on good and bad days, the ones who see “the real you” in a way a therapist or coach might never be able to. Your support system should be filled with the people you trust. People who might actually be able to get you out of the house or who can look at you and say “that sucks” when that’s really all you need to hear. Above all, these are the people who make you laugh. They remind you of who you are!

3. Develop a financial plan

Putting together a financial plan may not be the sexiest thing you can do after divorce, but it’s plain smart. Finances affect divorced women in different ways. A few find themselves with more money than they know what to do with, while most find themselves challenged or even strained to make ends meet. Some women were heavily involved with finances during their marriage, while others feel like they are learning an entirely new language, suddenly forced to grapple with decisions they once left to their husband. Some women were stay-at-home moms while others held down jobs.

If you don’t understand a thing about your finances, or you are kinda shaky about them, figure out how you are going to take steps to learn. We love this financial class designed for women because the lessons are digestible videos you can take in easily. It also helps that the financial advisor teaching the class is a woman and understands our (emotional) relationship with money and what we spend money on!

No matter how your financial reality compares to other divorced women you know, you need to put together a plan and a budget, either on your own or with a financial advisor, to ensure you are taken care of.

4. Visit a social security office

Find out what your social security benefits will be in black and white figures so you can plan on what you’ll need for your later years. If your spouse earned more money than you, and as long as you do not remarry (up to age 60), you are entitled to up to 50 percent of his* benefits (regardless of his marrying again or not). Your entitlement to the benefits does not take anything away from him and his benefits, nor anyone else who may have married him after you.

Google the nearest social security office to your location and schedule an appointment, or go to the office (take a number and wait to meet with a social security rep), and get an estimate of the benefits you will receive starting at 62 as well as the optimal date for you to claim the benefits (70 or 67 years?).

You will need to take your ID and your hard-won divorce decree to show you are officially divorced. You will also need to provide your social security number and your spouses. (Look on the divorce decree!)

5. Put yourself first

Yes, we know this is a little vague, but everyone’s concept of putting themselves first differs. And if you have kids, then of course, you’ll come second until they turn 18 (and let’s be real—maybe even after). One of the perks of not having a spouse is that all of your needs and wants are suddenly the only priority. You don’t have to compromise or carefully balance your time to ensure your spouse feels supported. You now have time for self-care, and we want you to indulge yourself.

Do whatever makes you feel content—garden, take up yoga or pilates, go on a retreat or get a massage or a facial, develop a workout routine, set a weekly bubble bath date with yourself, go on a long walk. Practice (yes, “practice”) self-care. Be kind to yourself, and think of this period of your life as one of rediscovery.

6. Step outside of your comfort zone

Speaking of rediscovery, what about reinvention? Were there activities and interests you stopped making time for during your marriage? Or things you always wanted to do but never got around to? Volunteer in a program that turns you on! Or, maybe there’s a trip you always wanted to take, but you knew your Ex would never be up for it? Find your bliss. Take up rock climbing, start painting, pull a Mrs. Maisel and start a career in stand-up comedy. Create a new bucket list for a future without your husband.

7. Take a vacation

This is about more than stepping outside of your comfort zone. Take a vacation, and travel somewhere you have never been to before. Experience a different culture, a different setting, and maybe you’ll find yourself with a different perspective. Take a friend, maybe even travel with another divorced woman, and allow yourself to be spontaneous.

8. Read books

Books are great for so many things—they make you more empathetic, they teach you things, and they help you grow. You can read digitally, in-print, or listen to audiobooks so that reading becomes a routine habit, part of your daily commute or something you do while exercising. Try reading books by authors like Brene Brown or Ekhart Tolle, who can help you expand your mindset. But you can also turn to fiction like the writings of Elizabeth Gilbert, letting yourself escape into someone else’s world for a bit. Getting out of your own head is exactly what you need right now. Here are specific titles we suggest.

9. Take yourself out to dinner

Go to dinner alone and just let yourself experience the sounds, tastes, and sights. If the idea of being on your own terrifies you but you’re still feeling brave, then bring a book (see above) with you on your dinner date. That way you can still enjoy a night out while giving yourself a portable escape hatch for any potential awkward feelings on your part.

10. Dance—you guessed it—like no one else is watching

Clichéd? Maybe. But dancing is good for your soul. You can go out with friends, or simply turn on some music at home and start shaking your hips and getting lost in the beats. Dancing isn’t just about exercise. Sure, that rush of endorphins feels amazing, but it’s about reconnecting with your body. It’s about letting yourself get silly and letting your limbs loosen. It’s about reminding yourself that you’re still in control—you can flip on a switch and let music pour into your life, or you can shut yourself off.

11. Ask your kids what they want to do for the day

And then, as long as it’s within your ability, go do it. Throw out your schedules and plans. Allow yourself to be surprised by where the day might take you. Not only is this is a fun way to bond with your children, it’s a fun way to shake up your routine and make memories. Coparenting can be rough, especially at first as you and your Ex navigate your new lives, so it’s important to take pleasure in the moments you share with your kids.

12. Stop sleeping on “your side” of the bed

First, if possible, buy a new mattress, sheets and pillows. Then, spread out across your bed. Get a running start, and dive under the covers. Sleep sideways or diagonally. Use those two, or five or more plush pillows you’ve treated yourself to, and surround yourself with them on all sides. Your bed is truly yours now. You don’t have to sleep on one side anymore. Or be any one way anymore. You don’t have to stress out about waking someone up or “trespassing” on “his” territory. So get comfortable.

13. Have a girls sleepover

Remember those? Break out the popcorn, wine, and girly movies. Honestly, your friends will enjoy this as much as you—sometimes we all need an excuse to let ourselves act like our carefree selves and enjoy each other’s company. Take this time to catch up on each other’s lives and to strengthen your friendships.

14. Dress up for no reason

Throw on your favorite lipstick and those jeans that hug your curves in all the right places. You know the ones. Whether you’re staying in for the night or going out on the town, sometimes it’s nice to dress up for no real reason other than that it makes you feel good. Other times, a bit of dress up can help you achieve a new and improved look, and that kind of change might be nice at a time like this.

15. Try out new recipes

When you’re in a relationship, planning meals can be a chore even if you’re not the one cooking them. It can be hard to find common ground if your partner is a picky eater. So when you’re thinking about what to do after divorce, consider pulling out that list of foods you knew your Ex would never try and crossing them off one by one. It’s nice to treat yourself and develop some new skills at the same time.

16. Start a DIY project

This could really be anything—rehabbing a piece of furniture or planting a garden, for instance. Working with your hands allows you to fully immerse yourself in an activity and shut off your brain. Pinterest is a great place to find your next DIY project. Start small, with something you can easily achieve in a single day. You’ll feel accomplished and remind yourself what you’re capable of.

Remember, there are so many ways to help yourself move on after divorce. If your divorce recovery journey doesn’t look the same as other divorced women, don’t concern yourself. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of scenario. It’s okay if the ideas on this list don’t resonate with you. Don’t hesitate to do what feels right for you. And if there’s something that especially helped you, we’re sure our readers would love to know! Comment below, and share your favorite tips for what to do after divorce.

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and recreation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention post-divorce. Secure female-centered support, information, and smart next steps coparenting and rebuilding your life with Paloma’s Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

* This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband

What to Do When Your Child Acts Like Your Ex-husband

At last, you are finally on the other side of the longest, hardest life change you have ever experienced: your divorce. Your emotions are stabilizing and the coparenting arrangement seems to be working (for the most part). You are free from him* and ready to move forward. You are taking steps to advance your independence. You are beginning to rebuild.

Suddenly, BAMM! Your Ex’s expressions are plastered on your children’s face! Your daughter has the audacity to use a phrase your Ex may as well have coined himself. Your son grimaces and suddenly your reliving the past, remembering the sneers and the way your husband used to dismiss or disrespect you. You are blindsided, triggered, and instantly repulsed. You are so offended—how can your children be so insensitive? Doesn’t she know you used to HATE it when her father said those words? Doesn’t your son understand that you left your Ex because you decided to no longer tolerate any form of disrespect?

One client told me that every time her daughter responded to her with “gotcha,” it felt like a razor’s edge. For my client, “gotcha” was not an innocent word but a word that sounded like a parroting of her Ex when he was “pretending” to listen. And many women feel much the same. It’s not easy figuring out what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband.

You’re divorced but still haunted by your Ex

What now? You can’t divorce your children. Should you react by yelling at them to stop their behavior? The fact is, none of this—not your divorce and not the ways that your children remind you of their father—is your children’s fault. Your children didn’t choose their father, you did. Besides, have you ever been on the receiving end of a derogatory comment like, “You are just like your mother”? How did that make you feel?

In my experience as a family and teen coach, lashing out at your children and blaming them for your triggers could have lasting damage on your relationship. It could put your kids on the defensive, wanting to protect their father. It could impact their self-esteem because you are attacking your children’s character. And it could compound guilt your children may already be feeling about the divorce.

Yes, that’s right. Kids of divorce sometimes carry guilt because they often think it’s their fault their parent’s relationship didn’t work out. They might conclude this based on what they heard and felt during the events leading up to the divorce, which later manifests as guilt.

Figuring out what to do when your child acts like your Ex-husband is a part of coparenting you weren’t prepared for. While it may feel nearly impossible to contain your reaction in the moment, doing so will leave space to build an amazing relationship with your children in the long run and will help you heal and build immunity to these inevitable triggers in the process.

Manage your response when you feel triggered

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” is a well-known quote by Jim Rohn, motivational speaker and self-help guru.

Not only are your children genetically 50 percent of you and their father, but they are spending time with each of you, so it is only natural that they will pick up some tendencies and expressions from both of you.

Therefore, when your children do or say something to trigger you, the first step is to do a quick analysis. What about this bothers me? Is this my pet peeve or an actual behavioral problem that will affect my children’s personal relationships?

If it’s a pet peeve, use your emotional intelligence to guide your response: “My children are not my Ex. This is not personal. I choose to let it go.” Tony Robbins always says, “What you focus on expands.” Hence, if you don’t like it, don’t focus on it!

Confront behavioral issues

If it’s a behavioral problem, keep your relationship with your children in mind as you parent the behavior from a place of compassion and empathy, in an age-appropriate way. Remember, your children learned this behavior and can successfully unlearn it with proper parenting from you.

If you wonder what “proper parenting” looks like now that you’ve survived divorce and are on your own, consider joining a professionally-facilitated parenting support group for women to get the support you need as a mother to stand strong.

Make time for self-reflection

Finally, if the hurt and emotion you are experience is defeating you, it’s a glaring sign that you haven’t healed yourself. Maybe it’s time to lean in and clear the burden once and for all, for the sake of your relationship with your children and any other relationship you hope to have in the future. Take time to heal through self-help alternatives, or speak to a professional coach who can help you face, explore, and abolish those feelings once and for all.

The topic of this article was inspired by a beautiful client of mine who endured a horrific divorce and custody battle. She was still putting the pieces of herself back together when she noticed that sometimes, if her 9-year-old son was hurting or feeling bad, he would say hurtful or vindictive things to her, such as “You’re fat,” or “You have no friends.” Ouch! The pain went right to her core.

As her coach, I had so much compassion for her as she realized the pain her Ex inflicted could still reach her through her children. Through the power of transformational coaching, she discovered the solutions resided within her.

Today she realizes right away that those comments are not coming from her son but are behaviors that his father often models. As a mother, she can respond with compassion and empathy to disarm him and then let him know that while she understands his frustration, taking it out on her or others is not appropriate or acceptable. She is earning her son’s respect while teaching him an effective way to navigate his emotions and have a healthy, loving relationship, without once mentioning his father.

In closing, the next time your children act like your Ex, bite your tongue and remember that they are not their father. Your loving connection with them matters so much more than your past relationship with him.

Cindy Thackston is a compassionate, certified professional coach and founder of Rate Life a 10!, Youth and Family Success Coaching. She works with families with tweens and teens who are facing various challenges that are causing disconnection and a breakdown of the family unit. To learn how Cindy helps families reconnect and create a thriving family culture, visit her website at www.ratelifea10.com to schedule a free consultation.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

badmouthing your children

Why Badmouthing Your Coparent Hurts Your Child

Once we get married, most of us assume that we’ll spend the rest of our life with that person. We’re in love, we have kids and maybe even a house together—everything is perfect. But then something changes, and all our hopes and dreams are shattered. What are we to do? Do we file for divorce? Or, do we stay in a relationship that’s become toxic?

While this decision can be hard to make, you have to think about what is best for you.

Quite often, women decide to stay married for the sake of their kids. But think about it this way—how can your kids be happy if you and your partner are constantly arguing? Getting a divorce and coparenting might sound like a challenge, but the children should be your top priority. If your heart is in the right place, you’ll find it’s a challenge you’re up for.

Of course, you do need to keep in mind that even after the divorce, you will have to keep seeing your Ex if you decide on joint custody. It can often be difficult to maintain a civil relationship if there is still some lingering resentment. Finances, schedules, and lifestyle changes can all make it harder for you to coexist.

Unless your Ex decides to completely abandon you and the children, you should look for a way to include them in your kids’ lives. Maybe your Ex is a terrible husband, but a great father. Because of this, you’ll want to avoid badmouthing the other parent in front of your child as it can be quite harmful to their relationship with your Ex. Here are some more reasons why badmouthing your coparent can hurt your kids.

Your kid will be adjusting to recent changes

When kids find out about their parents’ divorce, they will probably have a hard time understanding what exactly is happening. Depending on their age, they might cry, become isolated, blame themselves, or understand that this is truly the best option.

If you or your Ex move out, your children will have to adjust to constantly moving from one home to another. If one of you gets sole parental responsibility, the child will probably miss seeing you together and spending time as a family. Your children might also have to change schools. The last thing they need is to hear you complain about the other parent. This will make them feel even more confused and helpless, as they will not know how to act in this situation.

Your children aren’t your confidants or therapist

When you’re with your kids, try to find fun topics to talk about. Ask them about their day, what they want to read or watch, what they learned in school, etc. When the topic of their father comes up, try to stay calm and ask about their time together. Do not talk about your issues and tell them bad things about their parent.

You should not turn to your children to complain about your Ex. They do not need to know every single detail that led to your divorce. No matter their age, they are not your therapist, and you should not rely on them to make you feel better about your problems. Oversharing will possibly make them feel overwhelmed. If they have a good relationship with their other parent, you do not want to ruin this. So, if you need help, seek professional advice or talk to your friends.

The truth always comes out

The worst thing you could do is lie to your child about their other parent. If you spread misinformation, the lies will eventually catch up with you. Seeing as how your kid will still communicate with other members on both sides of the family, it’s quite possible that they will ask someone what the truth is. If they find out you lied to them, it can greatly affect your relationship going forward.

Your kids will feel forced to choose sides

Badmouthing your coparent—even when you’re on the receiving end of the complaints—makes your kids feel forced to choose sides. Even worse, they might develop a bad opinion about both of you, internalizing those feelings and becoming secluded.

This is especially true when children get older and become more self aware. It’s entirely possible that all those “bad parts” about your Ex that you list off are traits your children share, and you don’t want to offend or shame your children. Constant pressure and the stress of going back and forth between homes can often results in deteriorating health in the future, which is something you don’t want to contribute to.

There are so many reasons why badmouthing your coparent in front of our children is never a good idea, from making your children feel badly about themselves to ruining relationships within your family. No matter how you feel about your Ex, you should always try to stay civil and think of what is best for your child.

By Tanya Mayer for women. You can reach her at [email protected]

If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice. 

Coparenting through divorce

Coparenting Through Divorce: Drug Use, Drug Testing, and Family Court

Divorce isn’t easy, and the process can be even tougher where the case involves minor children. When emotions are heated, each parent may jockey for position in trying to gain an advantage with custody and visitation. In some situations, one may accuse the other of drug use – regardless of the truth of the matter. With trends showing that around 1 in 10 Americans have used drugs within the last thirty days, a court will most definitely take notice.

Once the issue is raised, it could have serious implications for your divorce case. Therefore, an overview on drug use and testing in divorce cases may be useful.

The Relevance of Drug Use in Divorce

Coparenting Through Divorce Infographic

In general, courts are concerned with a parent’s drug use in divorce because it affects determinations on child custody and visitation. Most US states require a judge to review the child’s best interests in making these decisions. Substance use and abuse are among the factors a court will consider.

Specifically, drug use impacts a judge’s decision on child custody and visitation in three areas:

1. Ability to Make Responsible Decisions on Child-Rearing

Parents must make decisions regarding important aspects of the child, such as education, extracurricular activities, religion, healthcare and others. It’s a shared responsibility when the family lives under one roof, and many courts will continue the arrangement when ordering joint custody.

However, a parent’s ability to make responsible decisions in these areas is affected by drug use. A judge may be unwilling to allow joint decision-making, and grant authority to the other parent.

2. Responsibilities During Parenting Time

Visitation is also a key consideration in divorce, and a court will usually allow mostly-equal parenting time between the parties. Most judges recognize that the child’s best interests are served by having a relationship with both parents.

When a parent is exercising visitation rights, he or she is 100 percent responsible for care, safety, and well-being of the child. Drug use interferes with these duties because it affects the user physically, emotionally, and cognitively. A judge may refuse equal visitation or could require supervised visits only. In extreme situations, the court may even deny parenting time entirely because the parent cannot be trusted to provide proper care.

3. Logistical Concerns

To a lesser degree, drug use may affect a court’s decision on custody and visitation because of logistical issues. A parent who is under the influence of controlled substances cannot legally drive, which could lead to disruptions with the parenting time schedule and the child’s activities. The child could miss out on sports, school, social events, and other opportunities because the parent is too impaired to operate a vehicle – not to mention presenting a serious safety risk.

Drug Use and Drug Testing in Divorce

There’s no legal requirement that parents automatically be tested for drugs with every divorce case that involves minor children. The issue will only come up when one party introduces allegations of substance abuse as it relates to custody and visitation. Usually, there must be more than a mere accusation. Judges know emotions are heated in divorce, and a party may make extreme, exaggerated statements in an attempt to sway the court.

Still, if there are verifiable facts that one parent uses drugs, a judge is likely to order him or her to submit to drug testing; the judge may even order both parents if there are competing allegations. A positive test could impact decisions on custody and visitation as mentioned above.Even if the court is convinced that the shared parenting is still an appropriate arrangement, that individual may be required to undergo random testing on a continuing basis. Under these circumstances, a positive test could lead to a modification of custody and/or visitation.


Related: The 10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce.


Drugs from the Court’s Perspective

Not all drugs are the same in terms of the effect on the user, and judges usually recognize this.

The court will likely look differently upon legal versus illegal drugs, prescriptions versus over-the-counter, and other factors. Plus, as marijuana has been approved for recreational use in some states, pot may be a lesser concern to a judge.

Other controlled substances will no doubt raise red flags in a divorce court, however. Cocaine can trigger addiction after just one use and may cause long-term brain damage. Heroin causes euphoria followed by an extensive period of drowsiness, and impairs mental function. Opioid use has reached crisis and epidemic levels in the US, so you can be sure that it will have an impact on custody and visitation decisions.


Wondering if and how your kids will recover? Read Will the Kids Be All Right? The Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children.


Resources for Drug Use and Testing in Divorce Cases

If allegations of drug use have entered the picture in your divorce, there are resources available to help you address the situation. Your divorce lawyer is a valuable asset, but you may also benefit from retaining divorce coaching and support services. It’s important for you to be honest with the professionals who serve you so you ensure your best strategy for moving forward in the healthiest way. These knowledgeable professionals can assist with your case and will have your back when you need it most.

As a late teen, Billie Tarascio’s parents divorced. She was very aware of the role that her parents’ attorney was playing in her life. She wanted to do that in a positive way for other people. After graduating from law school, most of the people who needed her help couldn’t afford her service. Her primary goal was to lower the cost of legal services for clients, and reduce accounts receivables for the firm. Her company Access Legal emerged.  Billie is passionate about her career and work and has made a difference in hundreds of clients lives. You can contact Billie through the following channels: Website: https://mymodernlaw.com/ Access Legal: https://accesslegaldocs.com

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. 

Communicating through divorce can be challenging.

Challenges of Communicating Through Divorce When You Have Kids

Problems with communication are often cited as a leading cause of divorce. Yet as a parent, getting divorced doesn’t typically mean that all conversations with your former spouse will cease. While your coparent might be far from your favorite person, finding a way to communicate through your divorce and beyond is non-negotiable when you have kids.

The methods you use to communicate can have an enormous impact on how successful your coparenting interactions are. If face-to-face interactions or phone calls continually prove to be non-starters, perhaps you’ll turn to web- and mobile-based resources like email or texting. The positives of text and email are obvious.

But if you’re struggling with conflict, text and email won’t make a difference if you’re seriously looking to improve your communication.

Some parents realize that text and email aren’t going to cut it so they ask others to get involved as messengers. But when parents choose an inappropriate third-party to serve as their messenger, this strategy can lead to much bigger issues.

For the messenger, the emotional burden of having to carry a message—especially if it’s not a particularly pleasant one—can be huge. This can be true if someone such as a child’s nanny, another family member, or a close friend is being held responsible for sending messages. And asking children to send the messages can create an even more dire situation for your family by putting them in the middle of potential conflict.

As hard as it can be to make communication work in coparenting, finding a healthy way to manage it for the sake of your kids makes it well worth the effort.

Set healthy boundaries as you communicate through divorce (and beyond)

So, what’s a positive first step to take towards lessening the challenges of communicating through divorce?

Instead of trying to communicate the same ways you once did, building a framework of healthy coparenting boundaries can significantly improve your efforts.

Commit to keeping your kids from being middlemen

Though it almost goes without saying, it’s absolutely crucial to protect your children. They should never be made to feel like they are carrying a burden because of your divorce. Even something as simple as asking one of your kids to relay a brief message to your coparent can be a potent source of emotional strain and anxiety. In doing so, your child must bear the responsibility of receiving the first-hand response to that message which, depending on the reaction, can be overwhelming.

As coparents, commit to keeping your kids out of the middle of your conflict and communications. Additionally, prevent others from acting as your messenger, including your child’s nanny. If you need a third-party to assist in your communication, enlist help from your attorneys or a neutral third-party professional such as a mediator or parenting coordinator.


If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice. 


Stick to your parenting agreement

Your parenting agreement should act as a guide for handling different aspects of raising your children as coparents. It will encompass everything from parenting time schedules and shared expenses to how big decisions will be made for your kids.

Sticking to your agreement can act as evidence that backs up different parenting decisions you make. This can curb conflict because parents are more likely to remain on the same page.

On top of details about your children’s daily care, your parenting agreement may lay out specifications for your communication plan. It can be critical to include specific guidelines, especially if conflict has been a recurring issue.

Give parallel parenting a try

If conflict becomes a chronic issue, switching to parallel parenting can be a great option.

In a parallel parenting arrangement, parents can disengage from one another while still playing an active role in raising their children. Backing off from one another—and from the constant disagreements that may have existed when engaged in more traditional coparenting—encourages a new level of calm in each household.

Disengagement in parallel parenting doesn’t mean that parents won’t be communicating at all. Instead, they will significantly limit their interactions to keep them business-like and entirely focused on their children. While some find email or text messages are equal to the task, they still present all the same opportunities for miscommunication that can lead to conflict.

Try a coparenting app

Coparenting apps are often recommended by family law practitioners to help resolve communication issues between parents. At their best, coparenting apps have built-in boundaries that promote efficient and straightforward conversations about shared parenting matters. Information is exchanged on the key aspects of shared parenting.

Apps designed to promote transparent and timely communication in a neutral environment can seriously support your efforts to improve your coparenting communication. Some of these apps include tools like shared parenting time calendars, expense and payments registers, family vital information banks, file storage space, private and shared journals, highly-documented messaging, and more.

Not all coparenting apps are created equal, however. While documented messaging is a crucial feature to have in any coparenting app, this alone won’t do much to help remove you and your coparent from the cycle of conflict in written exchanges. The right coparenting app should help to reduce conflict by providing you with specialized tools designed for every shared parenting situation you may encounter.

One such app, OurFamilyWizard, offers a full suite of tools that help you to focus your communication on the points that matter the most. For instance, instead of sending a message regarding a one-time change to the parenting schedule, parents will create this request directly on their calendar. Using the Trade/Swap function, you only enter the essential details regarding the change including the date and time, and a brief reason. If your co-parent approves the request, the calendar will automatically update to reflect the agreement. This cuts the need for updating the calendar later on, and a complete history of these requests is always maintained, leaving less confusion as to what was agreed upon.

It also cuts down on direct communication with your Ex, or negotiating with him*.

When a conversation must be had, the app’s messaging features provide a space for secure discussions while also offering analytical feedback. Integrated into the message board, ToneMeter™ is a function that will review the content of messages as they are written and flag any emotionally-charged phrases. This lets parents review the analysis and update their tone before sending the message. This function helps to promote mindful communication when messaging.

Many coparenting apps are subscription-based services, yet apps like OurFamilyWizard offer fee waiver programs to help make their tools available even to parents who cannot afford a subscription.

Keep learning 

The experience of your divorce, and what led up to it, is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself, to demonstrate to your children that you can be even better now, as their mom. You can promote honest communication, establish boundaries and fair “rules,” and take responsibility for your world.  Staying open to learning how others successfully coparent, what best practices are, or what new tools have been developed to support divorced parents lessens your burden and, more importantly, shows your children that you are doing your best to support everyone’s move into this next chapter healthily. For a lot of people, becoming a divorced parent and wanting to do right by their kids is a big motivator to getting educated on how to do it successfully and with heart.

Communicating through divorce when you have kids can be a significant challenge, even on a good day. Don’t expect that you’ll fall right into the best communication strategy immediately. The process of finding what works for your situation may take a little time. It’s imperative to keep your kids protected and out of the middle of conflict as you make this transition. Work to build healthy communication boundaries in your coparenting. Your boundaries will help to create a clear framework of how your interactions will take place, leaving less room for conflict and confusion.

Sara Klemp is a content manager and online marketing specialist for OurFamilyWizard. Since 2001, the OurFamilyWizard website and mobile applications have helped countless co-parents to improve communication and reduce conflict. Learn more at OurFamilyWizard.com

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.