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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.

Parenting Through Divorce is not a cake walk

Parenting Through Divorce: 8 Things NOT to Do

Being a parent always offers a healthy dose of challenges, but parenting through divorce means facing challenges on a whole other level. Throughout your divorce, you may feel a surge of emotions—from anger to bitterness—but it’s ever so important to cope with them. Despite the impulses you may feel, these are some things you should not do to lessen the impact of divorce on you and your children.

1. Don’t aim to seek justice through the court system

Do everything to avoid court by getting educated in advance. Learn what your legal choices are and how you want to go through the divorce process. Talk to a divorce coach to understand your choices based on your needs, your story, and to help you take the next steps. Going to Family Court is a last resort. You want to negotiate and reach an agreement before then. Negotiating will save you months in court and thousands of dollars—plus it can result in a more harmonious coparenting relationship.

2. Don’t make your children choose sides

It’s important to recognize that your children do not have the same relationship with your Ex that you do. With some exceptions, children naturally love both their parents. Respect your children’s bond with your Ex by never asking your children whom they want to live with or who’s the better parent. If your children share unprompted thoughts about parenting arrangements, listen and ask your divorce coach, attorney, or mediator how they can be taken into consideration as decisions are made.

3. Don’t complain about your Ex in front of your kids

Pay attention to how you speak about your Ex in front of your children. Do you demean him or her? Do you get angry? Even your body language or tone of voice can send confusing and painful messages to your children. Over time, the hatred or bitterness you feel toward your Ex can dissipate, but these emotions will leave a lasting impression on your kids. Even if children and teenagers don’t verbalize their thoughts, hearing you complain about their other parent does affect them.

4. Don’t keep the kids from your Ex

Studies show that children can develop mental health issues when there is a disruption of a parent-child relationship. Do what you can to support your children’s relationship with their other parent. There are special circumstances, however, where you should keep your children away from your Ex, like when there has been a history of domestic or substance abuse. In these cases, supervised visitation is the best way for your Ex to have contact with your children.

5. Don’t coach your children

Coaching your children to say what you want is a big no-no. During the divorce process, you may deal with a judge and possibly a custody evaluator—both are trained specialists and will know if your kids are repeating lines they’ve heard from you. Not only will this make you look bad, but it will put your kids in a terrible position. Divorce is a difficult situation for them, too, and coaching your children could confuse them more.

6. Don’t go to court with your children

If you become involved in a custody battle, it might seem like a good idea to take your children to a court proceeding to sway a judge’s decision. But this could backfire. A courtroom is no place for children and dragging yours along could make you seem manipulative or irrational. If no one is available to care for your little ones while you attend Family Court, many courts offer children’s waiting rooms.

7. Don’t make false claims

If you do go to court, making false claims about your Ex is one of the worst things you can do. Lying under oath and fabricating statements are considered perjury, a crime punishable with fines or jail time.  Getting caught making false claims is also likely to affect your request for custody; you could even be brought back to court to have a final order changed. To avoid these and other sticky situations, always acknowledge the truth of events.

8. Don’t leave the state with your children (or break other standing orders)

Some counties have standing orders that go into effect when a divorce is filed. Other counties issue standing orders when requested. A standing order will come into place to ensure that you and your Ex refrain from any actions that could disrupt the lives of your children. Taking your kids out of state or enrolling them in a new school without permission from your Ex may violate your standing orders. Be sure to carefully review your court’s standing orders because failure to comply could make you guilty of contempt of court, an offense punishable with jail time or a fine. If you wonder if you can or cannot do something as your divorce coach or legal counsel. Getting divorced can be a scary and lonely path. Educating yourself on the do’s and don’ts of the process will make you feel more empowered and less intimidated. With the right mindset and knowledge, you will avoid making mistakes that will impact your family and begin to parent through divorce in the healthiest way.

This article was authored by Karen Lopez, writer and researcher at Custody X Change, a custody app solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans, and schedules.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the often times complicated and confusing experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Schedule your 15-minute chat now to learn if this education is right for you, and where you want to go.

Coparenting with a narcissist

Coparenting with a Narcissist

A person with narcissistic personality disorder has a veneer of generosity and kindness, but after marrying him*, when you really get to know each other, you discover that’s not who he is at all.

A narcissist controls and manipulates his spouse. But at first, this behavior seems so at odds with the person you thought you knew, that you feel confused, convincing yourself it’s nothing. Once the convincing becomes harder to do, the anger settles in.

Day in and day out, he dismissed your truth in favor of the “truth” he made up for you. Then he blamed you for how your “truth” made him feel.

Even after treating you poorly, he was confused when you didn’t feel like putting on a smile and happily meeting his needs. And that was on a good day.

On a bad day, he had a temper when you didn’t do what he thought you should. He would emotionally attack, verbally abuse, and possibly even get physical with you if you weren’t behaving the way he expected.

And the time suck! Your Ex demanded your attention regardless of the space you needed or what plans you had. He wanted every minute of your time to be spent with him or on activities he approved of.

Living with your narcissistic Ex was hell. And divorcing a narcissist is never easy. But that’s over. Now you’re on your own.

Yet your Ex isn’t completely out of your life. You still need to interact with him because you have children together. But coparenting with a narcissist isn’t easy either.

But there is some good news . . .

Now that you’re divorced, you’re not with your Ex all the time. You have some space to breathe and think without the persistent and all-consuming fear of how he will react.

You can choose to use this separateness to your benefit. Maybe this breather can give you perspective, so you can work on making yourself strong and becoming realistic about how your Ex is going to continue to behave.

He isn’t going to change—unless he embarks on an arduous and lengthy journey of healing.

It’s important to keep in mind how his personality is affecting your children. When your kids spend time with their other parent, whom they yearn to love and be loved by, they’re stepping back onto a minefield.

Coparenting with a narcissist means that you have to be the calm, reasonable, and affectionate parent. Narcissism prevents your Ex from reliably being an empathetic and nurturing parent. Your Ex’s focus is on his own experience and not your children’s.

As you continue thinking about coparenting with a narcissist, you’ll find yourself asking some serious and important questions:

How do you coparent effectively knowing that your Ex is always out to discredit and blame you—even in front of your children?

The truth is coparenting with a narcissist isn’t possible in the truest sense of the term “coparenting.” A narcissist is incapable of the collaboration and respect required to successfully coparent. He will always be looking out for his own interests regardless of what your children need. And because he isn’t able to put the children first, a narcissist can’t coparent.

The only way to share parenting responsibilities with a narcissist is to let him do his own thing while you do yours.

You must also be ready to help your children deal with the confusion they will have after spending time with or even just talking to their other parent.

Which brings up another great question . . .

How do you talk about your Ex with your kids?

This may be challenging, but when you talk about your Ex with your kids, you need to keep your opinions and experiences out of it. Focus on empathetically listening to your children and allowing them the space to come to their own conclusions and guide them into having the healthiest relationship possible with their other parent.

You may need to remind your kids that you are always available if things get to be too tough with their other parent. And you’ll also need to be aware that children are very good at getting what they want. Be on the lookout for your children trying to use your concern for them inappropriately.

How do you model “taking the high road” for your kids?

There’s greater pressure when you’re “coparenting” with a narcissist than if your coparent didn’t have a personality disorder. Not only do you have to deal with a narcissist, but you must be the model parent, so your children can learn what it means to deal with difficulty—how to deal with their other parent, how to be resilient, and how to be a well-adjusted adult.

This means that you aren’t getting sucked into drama with your Ex. That’s not the easiest of tasks since he knows how to play you like a fiddle, but you can start by setting clear boundaries.

When you know what you will and won’t tolerate, you can communicate that to your Ex. Then, when he disrespects those boundaries (as you know he will), you can firmly, calmly, and dispassionately let him know his behavior is unacceptable and that you will now take the appropriate and necessary action to remedy the situation.

These are just some of the questions that will come up with you attempt the court-required coparenting with a narcissist. One of the governing ideas to keep in mind as you continue raising your children together-ish is that your children’s other parent is all about himself.

His behavior and what he says is all about gaining the advantage over you and your children. The more you disengage from him, the more he will struggle to maintain control. However, by persistence and refusing to rise to the bait, you can successfully “coparent” with a narcissist and raise amazing children despite your Ex.

*For the sake of simplicity, in this article, we will refer to your spouse as “him” or “he” even though we know same-sex marriages exist and your spouse may be a “she,” or you are a man reading this article and your spouse is a “she.”

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the unexpected challenges they face navigating and recovering from divorce. Now, wherever you live, you can secure female-centered support, information, and next steps if you are thinking about/dealing with divorce or recreating your most meaningful life … post-divorce in our virtual divorce support groups for women. Classes start again in September. To keep the space safe and confidential, space is limited. Visit here for details.

Who Moves Out in a divorce?

Who Moves Out of the Marital Home During Divorce, and When Do They Leave?

A question that comes up over and over again in my line of work as a divorce attorney is “When can I move out?” Or put differently, “When can I get my husband to leave?” Maybe the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Maybe your children are experiencing screaming matches followed by long bouts of silence. You may find yourself unable to think straight—to figure out what your next steps should be and how to begin a new life. Or maybe, there are even elements of abuse in your relationship. I get it. You want peace. You want answers. And finding out who moves out of the marital home during divorce can seem like the first step toward solving these problems.

But the question, when can a spouse move out, is not a simple one to answer.

If you have children, the upside is that I recommend you do nothing until you’ve spoken with an attorney. Unless, of course, there’s an emergency and you need to remove yourself from the situation for your safety. You don’t want to affect your claim to custody or marital property.

It’s complicated. Divorce laws vary state to state, but for this article, I will reference the laws of New York.

What does the law say about who moves out of the marital home during divorce?

New York courts are often reluctant to award one spouse “exclusive use and occupancy of a home.” In nonlegal speak, that means ordering one spouse to move out of the marital home—something the courts can do no matter which spouse’s name is on the deed or lease. The courts are especially reluctant to do so without a finding of violence or “marital strife.” When the safety of household members or property isn’t at risk, the courts require that your spouse has a place to live before moving out. That’s not to say that the courts oppose removing one spouse from the marital home. They often prefer spouses separate. With that said, the decision isn’t made lightly. Judges have seen it all. They haven’t succumbed to the popular belief that it is simply better to separate you and your spouse. They understand that what is best for one family isn’t best for all.

What if your safety is at risk?

But what if you can’t wait for your lawyers and the courts to battle it out? There has always been the understanding that in any divorce, separation, or annulment, the courts can’t require a spouse to move out during court proceedings unless taking such a drastic action is necessary to protect the “safety of persons or property.” To take action, courts require evidence, anything from a testimony to something physical such as photos, medical or hospital records, and broken items.

If your spouse has committed a criminal act and needs to move out immediately, you can get a temporary order of protection (in other states these are often called restraining orders) from Criminal Court, Family Court, or Supreme Court. In fact, what many may not realize is that a person isn’t limited to a single court when looking to get an order of protection. You can get orders from more than one court for the same act. If even one of the orders of protection granted is a “full stay away,” then your spouse won’t be able to live in the same home as the people listed on the order.

So, what if it’s your sanity (not your safety) that’s at risk?

Anger, resentment—they can chip away at any remaining civility between partners. The courts understand that staying together under one roof can be damaging for reasons that have nothing to do with violence. But again, you’ll have to provide evidence for “marital strife” (and your spouse will need a new place to live) before you can expect the court to make anyone move out. Before you provide evidence, you’ll have to file a petition in Family Court or a motion in Supreme Court for an order of protection in which you request a full stay away. In Supreme Court, you can file a motion for exclusive use and occupancy without requesting an order of protection.

And what about the children?

When it comes to children, how can fighting parents living in the same home be in their best interest?

In 2017, at least one judge addressed this concern. In one of the first judicial decisions to address the impact divorcing couples remaining together in the marital home has on their children, Judge Richard A. Dollinger of Monroe County found “that existence of a hostile home environment, during a divorce, runs contrary to the best interest of children.”

What is the benefit of having a court order your spouse to move out?

The obvious benefit is that you’ll finally have peace of mind and remove yourself from an otherwise difficult living situation. Some parties , however, often see a court order for one spouse to move out as a tool to gain an edge in custody battles. When both parents live together with their children, neither parent can claim to be the primary residential parent. When one spouse moves out, the parent who spends more time with the children will be entitled to child support. If you and your spouse share the children’s time equally, then the parent who earns more may end up paying child support to the other parent.

How do finances affect the court’s decision about who moves out?

The elephant in the room is the question of whether you and your spouse can afford to live in two separate homes. It is crucial that everyone involved reduces the effect of divorce on your children. Make sure you always work toward separating in a fair and reasonable manner. It can be more expensive and emotionally damaging for children to be in the middle of their parents’ fighting. To be assigned their own attorneys or go through forensic evaluations and therapy.

Divorce is complicated enough already. As a parent, it’s your duty to pick the battles you choose to fight with your soon-to-be Ex wisely. Who moves out matters less than how and why they move out.

Randi L. Karmel has had her own Matrimonial and Family Law practice for 19 years and been an attorney for 25 years. She practices in the Criminal, Family, and Supreme Courts in New York. Randi L. Karmel, PLLC focuses on matrimonial and family law litigation and settlements. Her practice consists of preparing and negotiating agreements from prenuptial agreements to stipulations of settlement: divorce, abuse, neglect and orders of protection matters, custody, parenting time, child support, maintenance, equitable distribution, and separation. She is also certified to represent children. For more information on how Randi might assist you with your concerns, visit her website or call 212.755.0224.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “Divorce can be on your terms.“– SAS For Women”

How Divorce Affects Children and families

Divorce and Children: The Not So Secret Way to Get Through Divorce Without Breaking up the Family

Divorce is complicated. Divorce and children? That’s when uncomplicating things really matters. A “normal” family dynamic looks different to all of us. But those relationships and routines—the warmth, safety, energy, and feeling of support a family provides—is something none of us wants to lose. The benefits of a close-knit family seem obvious when you look at your children and think about what is best for them and their future.

It often feels like the whole of society dedicates itself to family ideals, to the conventional, to sizing up our families and judging how they fit into the mold. But the conventional is not reality. Most families don’t fit into the mold at all, and yet they are wonderful in their uniqueness. Every family functions its own way. Whether you’re divorced or not, if your children know that their parents are there for them, then that is all it takes to make a family.

There are many ways divorce can affect a family, but thankfully, there are also many ways your family can continue to function after divorce. This is the time in your children’s lives when they need your support, patience, and understanding the most. Parents are not the only ones who go through a divorce, and the experience can be very confusing for children of all ages.

What children of divorce need

When it comes to children and divorce, know that your kids can come through the other side of divorce as stronger people. There are positive lessons to learn even in what seems to be an endless series of negative experiences. Divorce can teach your children a lot about life and help them become the capable young adults you want them to be.

Overcoming obstacles is a huge part of life, and divorce is full of life lessons for adults and children alike. The old saying “pull together in times of crisis” rings true. Your loved ones need to love and be loved even during stressful or uncertain moments in their lives (perhaps especially in these moments). A divorce may represent the first big upheaval and genuine challenge your children face—it’s important to help them get through it.

Tell your children that divorce is unfortunate but not unusual. That both you and your Ex love your children and that neither of you is going anywhere. No one is getting left behind. Tell your children that life is full of changes, and this is just one of them. It is no one’s “fault.” In fact, leave out the details altogether until your children are old enough to understand but do respect their right to know the truth—whatever you do, don’t outright lie. Lying is never a good example to set, and no one deserves to be kept in the dark when everything they are experiencing is confusing enough already.

Make sure that, when possible, you and your Ex are still present and involved in your children’s lives. Organizing regular time to spend with both parents and having similar rules for each household will help create stability for your children. Custody schedules can be a big help at this stage. While you and your children adjust to your new situation, it is better to minimize schedule changes, and if possible, avoid changing schools too. Consistency and routines are important. That doesn’t mean adopt a rigid parenting plan. You need to allow room for flexibility because no one is perfect. Just try to keep some form of routine until everyone can settle in.

Be prepared for changes

A big fear for many parents after getting a divorce is that their children will start to act out and show signs of bad behavior. It’s common for children of divorce to experience mixed emotions, stress, or anger—to feel hurt—just like you. If you notice these warning signs, you need to do the best you can to address your child’s emotions as soon as you can so that they don’t develop into behavioral problems.

If your children tell you they are okay, don’t automatically take their word for it. Make sure to check on how your children are behaving in school and speak to them as often as you can without being overly nosy. Create a safe space where your children feel they can talk to you about things openly. Speaking to an impartial person can also help your children so you shouldn’t rule therapy out. However, you shouldn’t force your children to go to therapy either. Extended relatives can be really helpful in this regard, someone close to your children but not too close for them to share time with. Children love and need every member of their family so try not to cut any of these family figures out of their lives.

That being said, be prepared for a variety of reactions amongst your extended family. It’s natural for family members to try to take sides, but this is the last thing you want. Children pick up on hostility, and it’s not fair to put them in situations where they may feel forced to choose a side. Talk to your in-laws, grandparents, and everyone else you can think of. Express your concerns and try to keep your disagreements with or prejudices against your Ex private. Focus on the positives instead.

Tell your extended families how you see yourselves moving forward together in the future. No matter your feelings towards your Ex or his family, your children don’t deserve a damaged relationship with him as this can be hard to overcome.

Divorce and children—what really matters

The experts don’t always agree about how much divorce affects families. The main thing to focus on is your children’s wellbeing in the wake of all these big changes. The end of a marriage often affects children of divorce the most, and you need to reassure them while respecting their right to their emotions. It’s impossible to completely protect children from everything. Children of divorce are stronger than you can imagine. Most children will not go on to develop problems after divorce but, like you, may have painful memories.

You, your children, and your Ex will always be a family. Your children need to realize this. It’s your job to make sure that they do. Every family is different and deals with divorce in their own way, but a family is still a family—there’s no changing that. The structure of a family can change over time, but that won’t stop you from growing together like all people in relationships do. Divorce can be healthy and so can the family relationships that blossom after it.

SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “Divorce can be on your terms.” – SAS For Women

This article was authored by Krishan Smith: senior editor and content specialist at Custody X Change, a custody software solution. Custody X Change provides software for developing and managing custody agreements, parenting plans, and schedules.