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When You are Feeling Out of Sorts

People tend to take their own experience and then believe that others feel the same. For instance, if you grow up in a home where a parent drinks excessively, you may have thought at least while growing up, that all parents drink similarly.
 
To add, if you hang out with people whose experience is similar to your own, it reinforces the view that those experiences are the norm. Indeed, we do tend to hang out with people similar to us as the familiar is usually our comfort zone. One’s comfort zone though only has to do with what if familiar. One’s comfort zone doesn’t actually mean that what one is experiencing is healthy – just familiar.
 
That comfort zone and shared experience may be about one’s faith or hobby or activity or habit or behavior.
 
For instance if your parent(s) and extended kin all drank excessively, you may have come to believe that everyone drinks that way. Or, if you experience a series of abusive parents and stepparents, you may come to believe that abuse is likely to be a function of all relationships. If you are a member of a faith group and socialize primarily within that faith group, you may come to believe that most persons share your faith too.
 
Really, it isn’t until one steps outside of one’s comfort zone and exposes themselves to other experiences or views or new ways of getting along that one can truly evaluate their own experience and what they though was the norm.
 
Counseling is about gaining perspective on ones experiences, putting them in a larger context and discovering how your norm may not have been the norm of the larger group or community.
 
This is particularly helpful when one feels out of sorts with either oneself or others. Gaining insight into your experience and being able to put it into a larger context – a larger understanding – is freeing. It helps people make more informed decisions about how they want to live their life.
 
New perspectives lead to new behaviors.
Counseling can help you with that.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

Managing the Frustration of ADHD

Many parents are frustrated with their children who have ADHD.

The frustration is often most palpable in the evening when the medication has worn off. They try scolding, lecturing and punishing their kids when the kids don’t do as told and then when the kids push back with rude behavior out of their frustration there is concern for violence and aggression.

Scolding, lectures and punishment do nothing to address the underlying issue – ADHD.

Imagine if your child only has a gas pedal and no brake. The engine is always revving, ready to be unleashed. With no brake, they really can’t even stop long enough mentally to take in the lecture and demands. They can’t even contemplate what they are being told.

Medication gives them a brake pedal.

With a break pedal, they can stop long enough to concentrate on a task and make sense of expectations and information and actually use it – but only during the time the brake pedal is available.

To add, during the day, even though they may have a medicinally induced brake peddle, it still requires more psychic energy by them to concentrate. By the time they return home from school, with the medicine fading and the fatigue setting in, you have the perfect storm for a gas pedal out of control.

Some parents find it helpful to give the kids a snack and rest period after school knowing that fatigue intensifies the impact of ADHD. This doesn’t mean the child is sent to their room, but they can lie down in front of the TV to watch a show (not a video game which is stimulating) or read a book or enjoy a simple activity of their interest.

In the later evening, the children will simply require more attention and gentle guidance. Like the dog whose attention is diverted by the squirrel, so too the child’s attention is easily distracted. It is important for parents to remember this and it is true that  parenting a child with ADHD is absolutely exhausting.

The real challenge however is for the parent to remind themselves that their child didn’t ask for this either.

Keep that in mind and perhaps it will help you manage your frustration. With that you may go from anger to compassion. Compassion will better serve your child in the evening.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

Sexual Abuse

When people think of sexual abuse, their mind may go to someone being sexually exploited in a violent situation by a person unknown. That is not the usual case.

Sexual abuse is more often perpetrated by a person known by the person being abused. That person would likely be in a position of trust either by virtue of the relationship or older age.

The process of abuse would start far before any overt sexual behavior. The process more often starts by the perpetrator forming a special and trusting relationship with the child they are seeking to exploit. Over time, the person would isolate the child from others and then gradually and insidiously increase their sexually inappropriate behavior.

Because of this gradual grooming process, the child does not recognize how they got into the situation they find themselves in and can therefore be caused to believe they are somehow at fault or at least complicit.

This is the great harm of sexual abuse.

It messes with the child’s mind.

Sexual abuse creates confusion as to what can be a trusting or exploitive relationship. It creates confusion where the child come adult feels they can no longer even trust their own judgment. Because of the seemingly positive attention paid in the process, the child may be confused about their role in and even possible enjoyment of the attention. That confusion can follow the child into adulthood.

Children and adult survivors of sexual abuse often need help and support to understand the dynamics of the situation they were caught up in; how their feelings at the time were normal in view of the whole situation; and how they are not at fault for what transpired.

No child consents to be exploited beyond their awareness for someone elses sexual gratification and to have their mind messed with to think they were somehow or other complicit.

If you, your partner or a child you know has been sexually abused, appreciate that they have been exposed to situations beyond their control and awareness. Adjustment takes time and often professional help.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

The Six Weapons of Relationship Conflict

If only we used our words, but unfortunately unresolved relationship conflict can come out in many ways other than verbal. Couples don’t even have to use the same weapons. One may attack with one while the other attacks with another. If you are using any of these as a weapon you may just want to find the right words to more appropriately talk about what’s going on:

  1. Household Chores: How are the tasks of caring for the home is divvied up. Who does what? Who does what the most? Is this by agreement? Are you carrying your weight? Are you deliberately shirking your responsibilities, leaving them to the other person?
  2. Finances: How you handling the money? Is there frivolous or selfish spending? Does one dictate where the money should go? Does one lay claim to the money or is it pooled and shared?
  3. Sex: How often does it occur? Are you both satisfied? Does it feel coerced or is it voluntary?
  4. Free time: Is there any free time? How is it spent and with whom? Are you doing things together or is one or both of you avoidant?
  5. Children: Do we have them? Who takes care of them? Who sets the expectations? How are decisions made affecting them? How do we talk of each other or represent each other to the kids?
  6. Substance use: Are you consuming alcohol or drugs in a non-prescribed way? Does your substance use create tension in your partner or children? Does your substance use interfere in any way with any responsibility? Are you preferring your substance use to time with your partner?

So many couples think that yelling or shouting, name calling or acts of physical violence or intimidation are the only ways couples fight. These six weapons of relationship conflict make for potent battlegrounds where one doesn’t so much as have to raise their voice in order to attack and have their upset felt.

If you find yourself using any of these strategies to let out unresolved conflict with your partner, then it is time to find the right words over weapons if you want to have some semblance of a satisfying relationship.

If you want to begin going in a better direction, you can start by simply telling your partner that you are upset about something. The challenge is to not blame, but explain. This may be a courageous conversation to start. If you have trouble beginning or continuing the conversation then seek couple counseling so the counselor can act as a facilitator.

If you want a satisfying relationship, please do find your words.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

Best Interests of the Child?

As soon as separated parents start bandying about the phrase, “best interests of the child”, there is a good likelihood of a nuclear dispute where those same parents don’t realize that their dispute is itself contrary to their child’s best interests.

I am not talking where there is real and substantial evidence of outright abuse or neglect. I am talking about situations where parents take their different parenting styles, approaches and values and magnify them into major differences.

It may help these parents to realize that from the courts perspective, as long as a parents are “good enough”, then both will have time with the kids and both are very likely to have input into decisions affecting them.

It may also help to realize that absent any real abuse or neglect, it is conflict alone that is most disastrous for a child’s development and well-being. So as they bandy about the phrase, “best interests of the child”, their conflict inadvertently creates the conditions for their children’s demise.

As for those parenting differences, it would do parents well to appreciate that kids are subject to different experiences all the time. One teacher has this style for managing behavior and the other teacher has that style. Kids learn to run in soccer yet walk on the deck at swimming lessons. They know which grandparent let’s them stay up late and which grandparent feeds them their favorite food.

Kids are subject to differences all over yet we don’t stand up and shout that is bad for them. We accept that children will adjust and know the differences between their various care providers, teacher, coaches and supervisors and carry on. We don’t run and take them to therapy for any of those differences yet if parents have different approaches to bedtime, cooking, meal planning or activities, this can be seen as terrible. What is terrible is the fight over these differences.

While parents may run their kids to therapy, the real need for therapy is an outcome of being drawn into their parents’ disputes. It is important to appreciate that this is more often the underlying cause of children’s distress, not the actual parental differences.

By letting children navigate the differences themselves, they then develop resiliency – the capacity to manage complex and/or adverse situations. Resiliency is necessary for surviving and thriving.

If you want to serve your kids best interests realize there will be parental differences in their care. Negotiate where you can or want and let go the rest.

Let both parents figure out what works for them and let your kids navigate the differences between their parents. Even in in homes where both parents get along and co-reside, this is the case.

Just as kids need to figure out how to get along with their friends, teachers, coaches and supervisors, so too they need to figure out for themselves how to get along with their respective parent. Just as you wouldn’t tell the teacher, coach or supervisor what to do, refrain from doing so with the other parent. Let your kid figure it out. Just as your kids may come home complaining about a teacher or homework, it remains their job to find a way to manage. So too with each parent. When we intervene we are taking away their opportunity to learn to manage. Bubble-wrap is actually bubble-trap.

Time to concentrate on what is really at issue which may have more to do with the breakdown in the intimate relationship and/or the separation and/or the unresolved loss and grief associated with change.

Parents who work on their own issues tend to get along better than those parents who more squarely focus on the issues of the other parent. As parents take responsibility for their feelings, kids tend to do better.

The best interests of the child are served with good parental boundaries and personal responsibility.

Great role model for the kids…. That is in the best interests of the child.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I have been trained in Collaborative Practice, mediation and peacemaking. I attend additional training regularly and provide training to others. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

When Breast May Not Be Best

I was asked privately about breastfeeding.

The new mother felt pressured to continue despite terrible pain. She wanted to stop. Her partner wanted her to continue as did the people from whom she sought support. She felt cornered and guilty, stuck and upset. She sought my opinion.

To be clear, I am not a physician, lactation consultant and certainly not a mother. However, as a social worker I have interviewed several thousand mothers wherein I always obtain developmental histories about their children – totally at least 5,000 developmental histories over the course of my career.

Those developmental histories include gathering information about conception, pregnancy, birth, pre-natal, peri-natal and post-natal care, feeding, sleep, physical, cognitive and language development, health, as well as family and social circumstances throughout.

My experience mirrors that as shown in the study of “Adverse Childhood Experiences” which is to say that fundamentally more important than anything else to the successful development of the child, is a peaceful developmental experience. The degree to which the parent, most notably the mother, is distressed she is distracted from the care and nurturing of the child and the degree to which the distress to which she is subject spreads and/or intensifies, the child is at increasing risk of a poor developmental, health, and mental health trajectory.

As per my experience, those mothers who themselves had adverse experiences at least from the time of preconception to the child becoming a toddler (unremitting conflict, abuse, drug/alcohol issues either in themselves or a near loved one; abandonment; serious medical or mental health crisis) had more difficulty parenting and co-parenting and had children who were more likely developmentally off a normal trajectory. Their children had more issues with sleep, feeding and behavior as well as more challenges with health, physical, cognitive and language development.

As important as breastfeeding is and there is no arguing that mother’s breast milk is best, the distress at times created over a dispute to breastfeed can be more detrimental to the mother’s emotional well-being, her confidence as a parent, the relationship between her and her partner and subsequently the child’s well-being than ceasing to breastfeed.

While there is no argument that breast is best, one must also consider the context in which these decisions occur and the impact of any decision upon the well-being of the mother and by extension the child.

The bottom line is that for some mothers, the decision or even ability to breastfeed is a challenge. When strategies to support breastfeeding have been tried and the mother seeks to cease, she is best to be supported in her decision. Guilt, shame and coercion have no place in supporting a new parent. We educate, inform and support.

By educating, informing and supporting we also maintain a relationship with the new mother through which we remain available to help should other issues arise. This is in the interest of the mother and her developing child.

The issue for this mother from my perspective was less breastfeeding and more feeling isolated, alone and unsupported.

The recommendation was for counseling with a neutral non-judgmental person to help her and her partner resolve conflict and find peace between themselves to limit the distress to which the child was exposed.

This baby sleeps better now.

For more information about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), please see the study on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I have been trained in Collaborative Practice, mediation and peacemaking. I attend additional training regularly and provide training to others. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

A Successful Divorce Starts with Oneself

Here’s the truth of it, your divorce will cost you – BIG TIME. How big may be a thing of your own making…

Whether you are the person leaving, the one who is left or even if a joint decision, separation/divorce is costly.

That cost will be on several fronts: financial, emotional, psychological and in terms of relationships.

The financial cost of divorce is not only a function of your cost of living escalating, because all expenses related to living must now be duplicated, but also owing to the expense of resolving your differences. The equation is simple; the greater the conflict, the higher the cost.

If you find yourself fighting over everything, you may also find you are fighting over principles. Chief among those principles is fairness. In trying to set a balance on the issue of fairness, the cost of the dispute can be far greater than the matter of dispute. For instance, a fight over household items can be far greater than the replacement cost of the items in question You really need to ask yourself, is the price of fairness worth the cost?

There is also the emotional toll related to the dissolution of a relationship.

Those emotions will vary and will wax and wane over time, but commonly include: anger, anguish, sadness, elation and anxiety. Indeed some emotions may be experienced at the same time, even if seemingly contradictory. This can be crazy making, but it is important to appreciate that a mix of simultaneous emotions is uniquely human and not a signal that we have necessarily lost our mind. It is the outcome of the lost of certainty and entering into uncertainty that is so emotionally disheveling not to mention the grief that is often associated with the loss of things are they were.

Psychologically, people wonder what next; why me; will I find happiness; will I land on my feet; what of my children? These are the existential questions that arise when contemplating one’s fate.

Perhaps the biggest cost though, is in terms of relationships.

So many relationships change the result of a relationship’s ending. There are changes in the relationships to one’s partners’ kin and their friends. Relationships may also change to one’s own kin and friends.

And then of course there’s the big one – the relationship with one’s own children.

At the very least, the time spent with your kids will change. This often creates the greatest struggle for adjustment. Given the struggle of adjustment, many parents fight over the time the children spend between them. While the fight is typically couched in what’s best for the kids, underneath that struggle more often is the pain of loss and having less time with one’s very own children.

Given the tremendous losses associated with separation/divorce, why is it that some people seem to breeze through while others have just a miserable and sometimes disastrous time of it? What can we learn from those who seemingly adjust better/faster?

Here’s the short of it: Those who concentrate on loss and blame tend to fare far worse than those who focus on moving forward and take as much responsibility for their own lives as possible.

That old adage, it takes two to tango is only partially true. While it is true that if you are connected to a narcissist or a bully or someone with a serious mental health or physical health issue you will have a harder time of it, it still remains that how you manage yourself, come to terms with your situation and develop reasonable expectations of your circumstances will have a big impact on the outcome for you.

Here are the strategies of the more successful people at managing the move to their next stage of life:

  1. Successful people don’t get hung up on the principle of fairness. The end of a relationship has nothing to do with fairness. It is about hurt, disappointment, disillusionment; despair, anger and anxiety. Very often people seek to balance those feelings through money, household items, time with the kids, etc. Things won’t be fare. Things will rarely be balanced as everyone will bring different issues and concerns to that equation. Instead of looking for fairness successful people think in terms of what they can live with – minimally. So instead of thinking, what is the most I can live or get away with, they think, what is the least I need in order to survive and move forward.
  2. Successful people get help early on. As the saying goes, many people are penny wise and pound foolish. In other words, they won’t spend a bit up front only to wind up spending large later on. In this regard, successful people invest in themselves. They will actively seek support and input early on to address their loss and grief such that those emotions don’t get confused in with their settlement needs. When emotions go unchecked; when emotions escalate; when emotions get entrenched, people then find themselves seeking to redress their bad feelings through the settlement process. This leads to longer and more costly disputes which in turn only creates more hardship. Successful people think in terms of dealing with their own feelings so they don’t take out those feelings on the former partner thus escalating matters.
  3. Successful people can differentiate between what they may wish for and what they may realistically obtain. They tend to have a more realistic appraisal of their situation and what can be achieved in any settlement process. When one has that realistic appraisal, then you can choose to settle, maybe not loving the agreement, but realizing it is within what may otherwise be achieved. Even though coming to terms with the loss or change to relationships, particularly one’s own kids, successful people know that the kids will continue to have a relationship with both parents, albeit differently than when the parental relationship was intact.
  4. Successful people will actively grieve. They don’t shy away from the upset of their changing situation. They acknowledge it and don’t hide behind a veil of feeling fine. By actively grieving, they acknowledge the pain of their situation versus seeking to avoid it. They can thus come to terms with the many upsets that this life alteration imposes.
  5. Successful people tend to live not just in the moment, but in the future. Instead of trying to manage or minimize losses, they consider how to invest in the next day and the day after that. They are planful, seek to develop resilience (the capacity to overcome adversity) and they seek to take responsibility for their own well being.
  6. Successful people strive more towards peace and value peace over things. They also have an appreciation that peace alone is one of the greatest gifts they can offer their kids, even at the expense of time with their kids. Thus successful people can prioritize the needs of the kids as measured by peace, over one’s own desire for fairness however that would be measured.

Don’t think that for a moment, successful people don’t struggle.

While some may look as if they manage with ease, for others it takes considerable conscious effort to be successful in one’s separation. Those struggles are are made easier by seeking and accepting support. Success won’t be measured by time or money, but peace. Success will be a function of finding one’s way with whatever one’s former partner has to throw at you and managing oneself over the other in the process.

As a wise person once told me, “It’s bad enough when someone knocks your head against the wall. Its even worse when you knock your own head against the wall.”

Grieving, learning to cope, managing one’s own emotions and being realistic are the keys to a more successful separation. Need help? Get help.

Separation/Divorce is costly. Now it is up to you to manage you.

(Download and print this article for a friend.)

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. I have been trained in Collaborative Practice, mediation and peacemaking. I attend additional training regularly and provide training to others. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

Facebook
Linked In
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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.