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Ten Tips for Focusing on the Kids During Your Separation

Ten tips to focus on YOU with the kids and not the other parent.

  1. Maintain a reasonable home schedule;
  2. Get the homework done;
  3. Have meals together;
  4. Ignore diatribes, intrusions and insinuations of the other parent;
  5. Know your children’s friends by name;
  6. Check in with your children’s teachers so they know you personally and not through the other parent;
  7. Remain gracious when referencing the other parent – never badmouth to others or the children;
  8. Remember to tell your children in words, you love them – frequently;
  9. Let your children transfer between you and the other parent peacefully;
  10. Maintain control of your own emotions and behavior without seeking to control others.

Why?

Because when we focus on the kids and not the other parent, we improve our relationship with them and their experience of us. Our behavior can be more determination of our relationship with our children then what anyone else says or does. Focus on that.

Here are some of the same tips presented more specifically for dads.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue.

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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.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Dealing with a High Conflict Personality? Three goals for survival…

Do you have a partner, a colleague, a friend, a loved one where everything is a challenge and every conversation becomes a competition; where if they don’t get their way, there is hell to pay; where they are relentless in their pursuit; where somehow or other they are always right; where if they lose, someone else is always to blame? Then that person may have a High Conflict Personality (HCP). They may be a High Conflict Person (HCP)

Coined by Bill Eddy in 2003, Bill is an American with degrees in law and social work. Bill realized that the standard personality diagnosis available in the Diagnostic and Statistic’s Manual didn’t convey some common features of this personality disposition. Although not an actually recognized diagnosis as per the manual on psychiatric disorders, the High Conflict Personality resonates loud and clear for those working in the field of human relationships, be those relationships be between intimate couples, separated couples, employees or employees and employers or managers.

Bill Eddy identifies the main features of the HCP as including;

  1. All or none thinking;
  2. Unmanaged emotions;
  3. Extreme behaviors;
  4. Blaming others.

All or none thinking is also referred to as dichotomous thinking, where the persons sees things as either night or day, good or bad. Everything is divided very simply in two, with one part seen as favorable and the other part seen as unfavorable. There is no gray area in this person’s thinking. You are either for me and my way of doing things or wanting what I want or… not. There is no real room for compromise, middle or creative solutions where both sides may come away satisfied. And whoa-be-tied if this person isn’t satisfied because then you will see unmanaged emotions.

Those unmanaged emotions typically come across as hostility, anger, bitterness and resentment. They are expressed clearly and often loudly. You will always know when an HCP is unsatisfied with an outcome and so will everyone around the person.

As for extreme behaviors, these are not just persons who vent their discontent, they seek to discharge their discontent overtly. These are the persons who will try to “out” you as somehow inferior, wrong or bad; let others know their view of you; try to influence others to their side and their projection of you as a terrible person. These are the people who will file complaints and if unsatisfied with the outcome of the complaint, may escalate the matter further by then complaining about the complaint process and those involved. They may suggest conspiracy theories and continue to seek to bring others to their way of thinking and seeing themselves as the victim.

The HCP lacks insight and cannot reflect upon themselves and their own behavior to appreciate their contribution to distress As a result, they externalize their upset by projecting blame on others. In Bill Eddy terms, they seek a target of blame.

Like a laser guided missile or a junk yard dog on a bone, they will zero in and not let go. They seek to not just hold their target of blame somehow accountable for misfortune originating with themselves, but to annihilate the person who they see as thwarting their objective. This is consistent with their all or none thinking. There can be no good in the person they are seeking to annihilate. Their target of blame is all bad and nothing that person has ever done could be good. Their solutions require their target of blame to not only lose with regard to the matter of dispute, but to lose everything either personally or professionally.

There are different degrees of HCP, but the underlying features remain. To add, each HCP will possess a different level of sophistication. As such, some people with HCP will be easily seen as the source of the problem, despite their complaints and projections. These are the persons whose behavior may be so extreme as to create trouble with the law or whose lies are so self-evident that other people can quickly see through them, or whose claims are so outrageous so as not to make sense on face value.

Then there are the ones who are more sophisticated, who are able to keep their behavior on the lawful side of the line, who may use more institutional structures to act out their discontent. These are the persons who will take to the Internet to post anonymous complaints and diatribes; who will make countless complaints to review boards; who will seek to undermine ones position or profession; who will continually seek to take things to courts at any level. These people can distort the truth and make their false claims appear plausible. These are the persons who are adept at lawful harassment and indeed may be more dangerous as a result.

Bill Eddy advises of a number of approaches to working with people High Conflict Personalities. One approach regards how to reply or respond to the diatribes and lengthy emails, texts and voice messages often associated with these persons. Bill speaks of BIFF – Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. The challenge is to not be inducted or defensive with regard to every point and issue raised by this person, but to stay true to the kernel of the issue at hand and only address that issue and to do so reasonably, clearly and with a friendly tone.

The other strategy Bill suggests, he refers to as EAR – Empathy, Attention, Respect. Bill suggests that any persons who he would identify as having an HCP may also have an underlying Narcissistic Personality Disorder. So while many HCPs may have a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, not all Narcissistic Personality Disorders are HCPs. Assuming an underlying Narcasistic personality Disorder, the EAR approach address the person’s need to be seen as extra special, unique and deserving of respect and attention, regardless of how you may truly feel about the person and regardless of that person’s actual behavior.

BIFF and EAR are all about management strategies to cope, get along with, negotiate with, etc. These strategies are not about changing the person identified as having a HCP, but only to co-exist, manage or survive.

Do BIFF and EAR always work? Absolutely not. Sometimes regardless of approach, the person with the HCP will just not like the outcome regardless of approach and will continue to rail upon their target of blame continuing to seek their desired outcome.

Therapy for the person identified as HCP tends to be of little to no value. Given a lack of insight, their inability to reflect upon themselves precludes traditional therapy.

If you are in a relationship with such a person, or working with such a person or exiting a relationship with such a person, get help and support for yourself. You can learn better coping and management strategies. This won’t necessarily make the associated issues go away, but it may at least provide some degree of relief.

As much as you may want to set the record straight, don’t bother. These persons will outshout you and your defense only creates the conditions for them to continue. The real goals are

  1. To be at peace with yourself;
  2. Seek outcomes that while not perfect, are bearable;
  3. And get on with your own life.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue.

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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.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Looking for Advice by Email?

I appreciate that I am well regarded and sought after for counseling, advice and my peacemaking services.

As such, I receive many emails daily, some quite lengthy from people in duress.

Persons sending emails are seeking advice on matters that are typically even more complex than appear in the email. Many relay tragic stories, difficult family histories and are often regarding challenging situations involving children.

People are hoping I will reply with advice or an answer or some guidance. Given the volume and at times length of emails and complexity of issues, I often cannot even read the emails through let alone respond. I have an active practice and must attend to those who seek to see me directly and then have time for my family life too.

I do feel for people in their circumstance and would be pleased to be of service.

If you are in a challenging situation and would appreciate my input, then please arrange to see me directly. If you live within driving distance (people do drive great distances to see me), we can get together in person. If you live far away, we can get together using Skype.

It would be my pleasure to be of service, but it must be in a manner that serves you well and allows for a good dialogue. Good, direct and well targeted advice requires more than an off-the-cuff email reply.

For information about my services, how to refer and fees, please go to my website. You can click on each service listed to learn more about it. For each service, you will see my sliding fee schedule to figure out costs. I try to be as informative and transparent as possible with regard to how I may be helpful.

Please check out my services here and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue. While on my website, feel free to read/watch and listen to articles, recordings and videos where some questions may find answers.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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

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Twitter

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.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationship

What Workshop Would You Benefit From?

Are you a therapist, collaborative family lawyer or mediator?

I am contemplating what workshops I would like to offer in the coming season and thought I would ask readers of my blog for input.

Most of the workshops I have provided have been sponsored by other agencies or organizations. While I will continue to offer workshops through other organizations, I was thinking about offering some workshops directly from my home office (two locations – Hamilton and Georgina) in small groups of no more than 8 to 10 people. Depending on interest, I could contemplate offering workshops through other peoples’ offices.

I was contemplating workshops for therapists and workshops for family law lawyers and mediators.

For all groups, I was thinking about workshops designed to facilitate your practice, to actually increase or improve one’s practice from a business perspective. I have found that therapists and family lawyers alike have difficulty attracting and keeping clients and as such, worry about developing a successful practice. There are so many ways to improve one’s practice and I do enjoy helping others to be successful.

The other workshop I was considering would be directed to therapists in private practice. I find that many private therapists struggle when working with separated parents in conflict. Many therapists worry about competing demands and how to be helpful to children between separated parents.

I was also thinking about offering workshops to all groups with regard to working with challenging people and situations.

These days I find there are so many workshops available to practitioners that there is a crowded market for continuing education. Rather than guessing at peoples learning needs, why not ask people directly. I also think that offering small group learning opportunities is a great way to maximize the learning experience.

Please feel free to email me privately or comment on this blog below or through my social media. I look forward to hearing from you and being of service. What workshop would you contemplate attending? It doesn’t need to be something I have mentioned above. In what area would you like to grow?

By the way, my workshops are always unique in that they are tailored to the learning needs of the participants – even when in large groups. I always begin by asking what people hope to get from the experience, what their learning needs are, what they are struggling with, what they hope I will address. Only then do I next deliver information and facilitate learning. That’s way all my workshops are evaluated so well. You can access many of my workshop evaluations here.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue. I also offer consultation services to family law lawyers and therapists. Feeling stuck or challenged? Give me a call.

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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.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Counseling the Child May Make it Worse!

It is not uncommon for me to receive counseling requests for children whose parents are in the midst of a separation.

In so doing, the parent who calls often advises of how distraught the child is and how the child’s behavior is out of control. I am then told how the other parent is brainwashing the child against the parent calling.

Assuming this is an accurate representation of issues, it would be reasonable that the child would be in distress. However, seeing the child in counseling is not the solution. More to the point, it may inadvertently lead to the child’s greater distress.

It is also often the case in these situations that the parent calling wants me to see the child unbeknownst to the other parent. I explain to the caller that firstly, unless decision making authority is vested in one parent, the parent requesting service, it would be improper for me to see the child unbeknownst to the other parent. Notwithstanding, it likely wouldn’t be long before the other parent found out anyway. In finding out and assuming an antagonistic relationship between the parents, it could result in the child being questioned and even coached more on what to say in the context of counseling, if indeed the other parent even agreed for counseling to continue.

In situations where an antagonistic relationship persists between separated parents and/or where one alleges the other to be undermining the child’s relationship with a parent, counseling for the child is therefore contraindicated. While superficially counseling may be seen to be of value, a deeper look reveals the risk of further embroiling the child in the parental conflict which only makes matters worse for the child. Counseling for children in this context is a poor idea.

The solution, if there is one, if for the parents to hopefully resolve matters between themselves as it is those issues that are harmful to the well being of the child.

I frequently recommend closed lawyer-assisted mediation.

“Closed” means that whatever is said in mediation cannot be used for court purposes. The value here is that hopefully people can be more forthright about what is going on without the fear of things being said, used in a court process. By involving the lawyers in the process, it mitigates the risk of one or both parents falsely reporting back to the lawyers matters addressed in the mediation process. In other words, it lowers the risk of broken telephone at best and misrepresentation at worst. It also allows the mediator to address issues that may originate with the lawyers such as when a lawyer seeks to provide zealous advocacy.

These are not situations that resolve easily. They are typically expensive to resolve and while court  may produce a winner and loser, it also gives rise to the likelihood of the loser continuing to debate and litigate matters when unsatisfied with the outcome.

Counseling for the child? In these situations, spare the child. The parent feeling victim should go to counseling though to address their own stress and to learn coping strategies. Sadly, these are  situations where one has to prepare for the long haul. When a parent copes more effectively, then so too may the child.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

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.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

When Does a Mother Stop Being a Mother?

It wasn’t that long ago when my mother while wagging a finger at me asked, “When does a mother stop being a mother?”

Because she had the finger out, I knew the question was serious and getting it wrong could lead to a lengthy discussion.

I answered, “Never.”

She smiled, told me I was right saying, “A mother never stops being a mother.” She then demanded I call her after I arrived home from my drive to say I arrived safely.

She’s 92. I’m 60.

She’s still my mother.

Not all children experience such a doting and caring mother. Interesting to me as a therapist, when not experienced, it is something I see longed for from childhood throughout adulthood in the people I serve.

Given a mother never stops being a mother, if you are distanced from your son or daughter, if you feel there is bad feelings between you, consider picking up the phone and calling. Express your love now, even if not having done so ever or in a long time. Ease your child’s longing regardless of their age. Give them the gift of your caring now.

By the way, this is an equal gender issue and applies to dad’s too. A dad never stops being a dad.

Let your children know you love them. Tell them, show them. Don’t believe it is too late.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

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.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

When You Need to Know More Than What Not To Do

As a therapist I see many people whose upbringing was marked by domestic violence, parental alcoholism, abuse and neglect. I am deeply touched by those persons who as a result, made a conscious choice to not engage in the troubling behaviors to which they were exposed.

I am saddened however in that while many folks have decided what not to do, there are some who have a void, not knowing what to do. Hence while not being overtly abusive, violent or neglectful, they may not yet know how to be fully loving, caring, engaged and supportive.

These persons come to therapy feeling poorly about the outcome in their current relationships. They may feel guilty, blamed or shamed. They may feel unappreciated for the behaviors they didn’t do, not realizing what one doesn’t do of course wouldn’t be noticed by their partner.

In therapy I help the partner to understand and appreciate the actual efforts and choices made to resist harmful behavior. This frequently comes as a surprise and provides insight, empathy and patience for the person learning of this.

As to the partner whose efforts were unnoticed and who may experience a deficit in terms of knowing what to do, direct instruction is helpful. I can advise, teach, coach and educate on how to be reasonably expressive of one’s needs, appreciative of the others efforts and supportive with caring behavior.

One can learn to express and receive affection. In so doing, persons not only feel better about themselves but enjoy more satisfying relationships with their partner and even their children.

Recently I encouraged a man to sit quietly with his 14-year-old son the next time his son loses his temper. This is opposed to his previous strategy of out-shouting and out-controling the lad to force submission.

Rather than forcing submission and managing the young teen in a power paradigm, I offered the dad a caring and gentle strategy to help the lad feel safe and cared for. I simply have no doubt that as explained and demonstrated, this dad will experience success; the kind of success that builds pride and encourages feeling good towards each other.

So even if you are wise and able enough to resist the untoward behavior to which you were exposed as a child, it still may be of value to learn pro-social behaviors for facilitating engagement, cooperation and mutual respect and self-worth. Therapy may hold some value and your attending therapy in this regard only presents you as the caring person you seek to be.

Life is more than resisting that which is harmful. A good life includes knowing or learning how to be reasonably expressive, living and caring. Truly be all that you can be. Therapy may be helpful towards the you that you seek of yourself.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Please check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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

Facebook
Linked In
Twitter

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.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

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