by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghAugust 29, 2016 co-parenting, counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, divorce, educational, marriage counseling, parenting, psychology, psychotherapy, therapists, therapy0 comments
6 Tips for Harmonious Co-Parenting, Children of Divorce
As they say, parenting is the hardest thing one may ever have to do, this statement becomes two fold when parenting as a single parent. According to The American Psychological Association, being a child of divorce or raised by a single parent is also associated with many risks to long term emotional health, and even poorer academic performance, poor view of marriage and relationships. We offer the following guidelines for parenting situations where both parents are non-abusive, an entirely separate list of guides should exist for situations where there has been a history of any form of abuse.
Lovingly Encourage The Time Your Child Spends with The Other Parent
When we as parents aren’t actively encouraging our child to love and interact with both parents then we are injuring the child and his or her relationship with the other parent. What does it mean to lovingly encourage? It means that if your child comes home from a weekend or evening with his or her other parent that you treat she or he with positive regard. Do a check in, and ask with enthusiasm what were the highlights, follow this up with an encouraging statement. This is not doing investigative work and trying to learn details about the other parent. Or on the other end, some parents may be non-communicative with the child after he or she returns from time with the other parent. Children can be subtle creatures, when we fail as parents to embrace with positivity the relationship our child has with others they will likely end up feeling guilty about their relationship with mom or dad. This lays the ground work for Parental Alienation which damages not only the other parent but most importantly the child.
Never discuss custody details or visitation arrangements within ear shot of the children
Even if you and the co-parent have an iron clad custody arrangement there may be times when the need for alterations may come up, it is imperative that these discussions happen away from the children as these are adult discussions. When a child hears mom or dad crying that the other parent wants to have them over Christmas they will most likely feel a sense of guilt. Children hear and see much more than we imagine and it is injurious when they see and hear their primary custodial parent crying or complaining about time with the other parent. This means that they will feel guilty or uncertain about time spent with that parent who is outside of the home and this too carves the pathway to a lifetime of guilt and shame, this too is also often a contributing factor in both long term emotional damage for the child as well as parental alienation.
Genuinely assume your child’s co-parent has good intentions and is an asset to your child’s life.
This is hard, all of these are hard! There are likely huge differences between you and your child’s other parent, some of them leading to the reasons your own romantic relationships failed, It’s important to keep in mind that your child is a product of both of you. To assume good intentions means that if your child comes home crying and complaining about reading time that mom or dad made them do that you don’t sigh and complain to the child about “no good mom or dad.” Instead even though you may encourage other activities to your child that you sooth the child and support those parenting efforts by the other parent, recognizing that your co-parent may have some talents and interests to offer to the child that are separate from yours.
Do some honest appraisal of what may or may not benefit the child and separate that from what you want.
This means that the vacation that mom or dad wants to take the child on which falls on your visitation may be something positive for the child, while we may not want to give up that day or weekend with the child we must do an honest assessment of what is in the child’s best interest in each situation. This may mean exposure to family time, activities, interests and places that are unfamiliar to us and at times inconvenient yet we do this in the name of the child’s health and wellbeing.
Gifts and the part-time parent
The sad truth is that many of the emotionally injurious acts that happen in co-parenting situations happen veiled in the guise of love. More often than not, both parents love the child and want to spend time with he or she and fear the time spent away from the home with the other parent. It may be natural to envy your co-parent’s gifts and spending power but reducing time or putting unreasonable limits on each other’s capacity to relate to your child in a way that nurtures and enhances them must be the primary goal. Also, it is easy to feel that the non-custodial parent comes in and gets to enjoy the fun times of long weekends and adventures with the children while the challenges of the day to day living are left in the home, this is a space where it is helpful to separate your feelings from what is good for the child.
Do your emotional homework!
Divorce and separation leave a long line of emotional reactions from hurts, sadness, anger, abandonment, confusion. These feelings must be worked through and resolved to the best of your capacity, they will not vanish on their own. The single most important piece of advice that can be offered is to deal with the emotional aftermath in a way that supports your ability to truly offer supportive parenting to your child’s experiences with the other parent, whether this is by seeking counseling or therapy or some other means, do your emotional homework
Sharing love and time with children after a divorce or separation can be a huge challenge for parents, it is particularly dire that this be navigated in a sensitive way that mutually supports and respects the love and parental rights of both parents. When parents fail to create an atmosphere of parental collaboration it can have long lasting effects on the child’s mental and emotional health as well as concept of relationships later on in life. By following the suggestions above, we make it more likely that these effects can be lessened and we become an example of a successful divorce and co-parenting family.
In good health and love,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
Contributed by Nicole Monteleone LPC, NCC, NBCC
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
Reference: http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/cyf/divorce.aspxLearn More
by Stephanie McCrackenApril 13, 2015 counseling, mindfulness, personal growth, psychology, psychotherapy, wisdom0 comments
With the passing of the seasons, the moist dew draping the landscape, like just maybe the earth herself is crying for one of the many seasons departures. Typically the subjects I explore are things that I find intellectually interesting, topics which may be trending on the web. Today something different, in a recent reading about tapping into universal consciousness as a reader I was urged to follow synchronicity. Where are we noticing patterns? Those uncannily shared and observed sets of circumstances which arch across history and humanity? None may be more universal that the experience of grief and loss, a topic which has touched me personally during the last couple of months. The death of someone close or even far is extremely difficult, perhaps even harder than anyone could know lest they have experienced deaths dismal grips. The proverbial lights go out, we stand in darkness, we may tell ourselves, “hey lighten up, you are lucky enough to have made it through another bombastic winter and onward to the next season’s days, you’re still here you know.” In the being here, there are so many things to do, tasks of the living, so we may push away our feelings to move on with our busy tasks.
As therapists, counselors and mental health professionals alike we have our charts which makes explicitly tangible the grieving cycle, from immobilized shock and dismay, a dose of anger and denial, depression, and acceptance. The motions are not static, they are an influx of transitions greatly affected by personality, biochemical, and social variables. Coping skills can be assessed at each interval of the process. As counselors we are trained to understand what is within the normal range for the process of grieving, whether that loss is divorce, death, loss of unrealized potentials, among the myriad of other losses. Saying goodbye, the gravity of letting go can be paralyzing, yet as every great philosopher knows life is indeed about loss, we build up, we hold on, we let go, this is the grand procession of all things. In death of loved ones and even in divorce or a break up, we struggle with the paramount life questions. Concern over the deceased and what our spiritual views dictate. We may become vividly aware of a sense of aloneness, who has a touch or a word that sincerely offers comfort to internal anguish, we too may find comfort in spirituality and or those who grieve with us, comrades in grief, unity within our suffering. We at times may feel alone and not know where to unravel the depth of our sorrow as well intended acquaintances may or may not really want to know what we are thinking when they ask how we are feeling. Other bleak nuances and limitations sharpen focus in grieving, we know that we too will one day depart from our human form, a veiled and stupefying terror of our own death may emerge. It may at times seem herculean to continue delegating time and attention to the tasks which sustain our basic lives. The cycle of grief.
We sometimes may notice shortened attention spans, greater irritation at small things which normally wouldn’t bother us, we may begin to doubt ourselves. When reiterating this stringent knowledge I am reminded of a modern adage wherein a waiter is holding a bludgeoning tray of goods for his next table, his arm stands poised and for the first minute, succeeding erect posture, his elevated arm is steady. When asked “how heavy is the tray?” He replies haughtily “It is nothing!” Ten minutes later, when the examiner checks back to ask again, “how does it feel now?” Sweat beads a look of distress have contorted his face, his muscles twitch, “I can’t hold on any longer!” The burden of the weight changes equivalent to the length of time one holds on. The point is that even the most well equipped muscles buckle under the strain of holding a heavy load for too long. During times of loss and grief it becomes important to lighten our load in anticipation of exhaustion and irritation, to relay on others who will help us to get our orders to the table.
Within the span of an hour or day, a month or two life’s circumstances can change radically, few things offer such stark rotation to direction as saying goodbye. We struggle to understand these mournful changes, staring bleakly at our permanently gnarled family or friend tree, a hallowed and unrecognizable tone offers a faint “goodbye.” Letting go of the old and embracing the new are not often as easy for our human minds as the turning of a calendar page, despite the melting frosts and welcoming warm winds. Yes, the cycle of the grief but let’s too have compassion for our own suffering, let’s not expect too much from ourselves. It’s ok to look out the window and notice that the spring time has a dismal tinge this year. It is only by allowing the April showers to soak into the earth that our spring flowers burst most aptly, so yes let us not refrain from experiencing the depth of our sadness and anguish for fear of falling into a pit of grief, let the sadness soak into our heart, allow it to be felt deeply penetrating the core of the self. Yes, April showers, they do bring many things, a memory of tear drops, the promise of May flowers, replenishing the earth, and they will prepare for another seasons growth ahead.
In care and compassion,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Nicole Monteleone LPC, NCC, NBCC
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
*This is not a substitute for medical or professional advice, this article is for your mild consideration and intended to be an literary artistic musing, if you feel that you may be suffering from depression or sadness due to a loss of some other then please set up an appointment to meet with one of our or another mental health professional.Learn More
by Stephanie McCrackenMarch 4, 2014 counseling, couples counseling, couples therapy, marriage counseling, Uncategorized0 comments
Some incredible orator stated “Two broken wings won’t fly.” A healthy relationship or marriage is explicitly the product of the intentional and harmonious blending of two actualized psyches. True love and true life require wholeness and awareness. Self-help, self-talk, self-betterment, are all words of our time and just about everyone seems to be on the journey of self and relational growth, yet when it comes to the loves process we may be wondering what the notion of wholeness means. This may be particularly relevant when tracing the route through past relationships and recognizing that there is some naggingly similar quality to those in the rearview. Similarly, you may be married or in a relationship and wondering why you notice a certain je ne cest quoi ebbing into ether, placing you onto the familiar path of conflict speckled by a pervading sense of loneliness. Perhaps you are unattached but when your gaze falls upon the rearview you see lovers left to the wayside like mile markers off of the highway. All in all, its a fine moment to reflect upon wholeness. Not that the act of loving requires any encouragement to unfold, there is an powerful drive or instinct to experiencing love. The manner in which humans repeatedly attempt and often fail to sustain love is evidence of the intensity of this instinct, wanting to share our lives within the context of a meaningful and rich romantic bond. The heartfelt sensations which are a product of engaging in loves virtues and risks are certainly the most ebullient, ecstatic, soothing, and dually frustrating and disappointing! To love is a process by which the culmination of all of these sensations is inevitable, to love is a spiritual and complete act, yet it is also a specific skill set. If you sincerely believe that you have worked towards the mindset which embodies your best current version of you then you may be prepared to enter into a dance of this ancient and sacred heart song.
Step it on out of yourself! A loving relationship requires that we step out of ourselves to meet the needs of our beloved. Loving is most certainly not all about you! To love we must see beyond our own sore spots and insecurities to be present, empathetic, and understanding to the emotional, physical, and spiritual parts of those who are loving. This is no small feat, given the myriad of questions and concerns which arise as a part of a loving relationship or marriage. Often we will need to reflect upon our entire selfhood in relation to another and assess those things which the relationship, like a mirror, may show to us, this is at times startling to a psyche both well developed and those egos which may be in the midst of crumbling.
Love Song Birds Being whole requires attunement to the abundant social cues which are promenaded upon the faces of our fellow humans. Many people are perfectly competent to sustain friendships but when entering the unique atmosphere of romance our sore spots become stimulated by our mate’s. Our lover with their wants and needs and the intimate fact that to understand and accept, this is love in action. Why these sore spots? Remembering our first example of how to give and receive love and attention began as early as infancy. Messages internalized by the way that our mother or primary caretaker mirrored our expressions and responded to our cries, setting up and ever solidifying the evolving pattern of our being within the world. When your lover comes to you to say that she or he has had a terrible day, in that moment do you respond with equal concern and inquisitiveness? Do you launch into problem solving mode, speaking at length about how you can relate? Do you immediately become frustrated that you are stuck in dealing with their feelings or do you feel bad about yourself because you can’t fix it all for your love? So many highly personal responses to one elegantly poised prompt. Most often and simply when a lover comes to us in distress they are only seeking the opportunity to be heard and understood. In the very powerful act of giving that distraction free moment or ten we are filling our lover with the hypnotic sound of our loving song.
A touch of authenticity– It takes courage to be authentic especially with the person we love, it can be frightening to imagine their perceived judgment and fear. Psychological theorist Fritz Perl’s states that psychological distress stems from the proportion that a person lives inauthentically. All of those moments that you squash your verbal impulse to stay with the crowd or forgo offending your lover’s sensitivities certainly take an undeniable toll! Agree to attend the theater or the football game even though you loath it? Or perhaps you lie by omission in order to avoid a conflict? No matter the justification, being inauthentic stink the rot of decay. As Perls would say, you are being “phony” and it incurs a psychological cost, while it’s certainly important to make social trades and compromise its best to enjoy relationships which do not tax your dislikes too often and also make room for us to be authentic in representing our likes, values etc. Being phony runs the risk fanning the flames of eating the fiery venom resentment or making one into an inauthentic drone. One should also examine the part of his or her self which would continually betray one’s own essence for another person’s approval. Simultaneously if you are actually in a relationship with one who would sincerely limit or judge your solo activities then there may be even more questions which you could explore. In life and love must choose and act wisely. “Keep it real” express, fears, taboo, passions, with astonishing honesty and gusto.
Express Vulnerabilities – Love requires that we examine ourselves, own our emotional baggage and then we must feel safe to lay it upon the feet of our beloved, trusting that he or she will respond with tenderness and empathetic care. This can be a mountainous task for those who keep the pain of early or recent betrayals, trauma, heartbreak, or even for those who have never enjoyed the luxury of an open environment which lavished empathy and compassion upon pains. Lovers who were initially able to bask in the trusting atmosphere of a mutually nurturing atmosphere will still sometimes notice things falling off the tracks and wrecking into a place where less productive interpersonal patterns evolve. In this damaged place the expression of vulnerabilities becomes forbidden and is often replaced by defensiveness. This being said it is by allowing our lover into the areas of tenderness and softness that we develop trust and warmth the compassionate comfort which can only be produced by lovers who have navigated through many storms and basked through many summer suns together.
How can you apply these basics to your own love, if you are saying that you can’t really apply any of this they I would imagine that you may not be completely honest with yourself. The act of loving is one which is ever co-evolving and no matter how well or not so well we are doing it, there are ways which we can improve it.
In love and kindness,
Stephanie McCracken MSPC
Offering Psychotherapy and Relationship Counseling
Reviving Minds Therapy
1010 Western Ave Pittsburgh Pa 15233Learn More