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Some of My Life’s Lessons…

Here is some of what I have learned with 35 years of practice, working with people of all faiths, colour, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation and age:

  • There are good and bad people everywhere;

  • Most people are good;

  • We typically all want loving relationships;

  • We typically all want for our families to be well;

  • We typically all want healthy children who grow into responsible adults;

  • We are typically concerned/worried when we are threatened;

  • Lack of resources can pit people against each other;

  • It is important to learn to share;

  • Virtually all faiths when practiced well demonstrate concern, love and compassion for others;

  • Children with angry hateful or abusive parents are at risk of growing up with all sorts of social problems including perpetuating their parents’ attitudes;

  • Hate and anger does not provide a remedy to hate and anger;

  • While accountability is reasonable, punishment as a means to bring about accountability typically only brings resentment which fuels negative behaviors;

  • Even when told by a loved one, what to do, at times it is just necessary to hear it from someone else;

  • There is no discounting good manners, even in a loving relationship. Good manners always matter;

  • Racism, bigotry, prejudice must be called out for what it s, lest it flourishes;

  • Violence cannot be tolerated, lest it flourishes;

  • It is reasonable to distance oneself from harmful people and relationships;

  • Children are far more influenced by what goes on at home that most parents realize;

  • Love does not conquer all;

  • We live with actual behavior, not one’s intentions;

  • Behavior is best when it matches good intentions;

  • It is necessary to speak out against violence and hate;

  • It is necessary to show love and compassion, to all and especially to our partners and children.

That’s the short list.

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. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Separated Parents in Dispute: Eight Questions Before Running to Court….

Let’s say to are heading to trial to settle your differences. You each have lawyers at the cost of between $3,000 to $5,000 per day of trial. (This doesn’t include pre-trial preparation.) The trial is set for 5 days. That means you both have to budget at least $15,000 – $25,000 or cumulatively, $30,000 to $50,000. This of course will be on top of some $5,000 to $10,000 each spent ramping up to trial.
 
Now, let’s say that the judge is getting over a cold; had a bad day, lost their dog; recently broke up with their partner, etc.
 
Now let’s say that throughout the trial, both parents did their best to undermine the perspective as well as the character of the other.
 
Now let’s say at the end of trial, you win!
 
Ask yourself these questions:
 
  1. Have you thought about the fact that your judge was born human?
  2. Have you thought about the fact that your conflict is your lawyer’s income?
  3. How will the other parent feel about your win?
  4. How will the other parent feel about the co-parenting relationship where you have won and they were trashed in the process?
  5. What will the ongoing parenting relationship be like?
  6. What is the likelihood that even with a court order, the other parent will follow through meaningfully as ordered?
  7. What is the likelihood that the other parent’s resentment may show up in poor behavior either to yourself and to you through the child?
  8. How long before you think the other parent will try to undo the court order by seeking a retrial or by waiting while gathering more evidence to return to court?
 
When you think about winning, you must also think about the consequences of winning.
 
Very often parents have a unrealistic view that winning resolves matters. This just isn’t necessarily true. More to the point, winning may make matters worse.
 
For all the above, the cost of a trial, financially, emotionally and in terms of ongoing and escalated conflict, going to court may be a poor decision.
 
A joint budget of $30,000 to $50,000 goes a long way towards mediation or collaborative law where the processes don’t rely on the parties trashing each other to win at the expense of the other. To add, rarely are there these kind of expenses unless going to trial. These and other peacemaking approaches to settling disputes are available where in the end, people are left feeling intact. Because the agreement is achieved jointly, you both have buy in and thus both are more likely to follow through and maintain whatever agreement is achieved.
 
My dad used to impress upon me, “You can win the battle yet lose the war”. You can win at court and still lose in the long run.
 
In the end seek an outcome that can foresee a life-long relationship with your kids where they can grow up less affected by the parental conflict able to take on life’s responsibilities. Seek an outcome where your kids can feel good about themselves because they recognize they are part of both parents.
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Do that and then you may have happy kids.
.

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. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Protection for Mental Health Professionals

From time to time I receive emails from mental health professionals seeking to protect themselves in the context of their work with difficult clients or clients in difficult situations.

Consistent in the mix of issues is someone who threatens or may threaten the service provider or has posted spurious complaints on rating websites.

At times the service provider is also unsure as to their reporting obligations.

My guidance is consistent:

  1. If there is a minor child who has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed, mental health service providers are typically mandated to report to a child protection agency. The child or the parent does not have a choice in this matter. This is typically a matter of statute (law) which is binding on the service provider.
  2. Occasionally, the service provider is uncertain if the concern reaches the threshold required for mandated reporting and/or expresses concern that reporting may bring the risk of greater harm to the child. In such situations, I suggest that the service provider phone the child protection agency for a “non-disclosing consultation”. I advise that the service provider speak with an intake person and describe the situation without providing names. The intake person can advise of the position of the child protection agency with regard to the information provided. If intervention is required, a plan can be discussed to mitigate risk to the child. Please be prepared as you may be required to make that report formal.
  3. If the person who has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed is no longer a minor child, then there typically is no reporting obligation to a child protection agency. However the mental health service provider may wonder if there is an obligation to report to police. This is a trickery issue. I suggest that the service provider obtain a consultation from their own regulatory body and a ‘non-disclosing consultation” from the police. Much will also depend on whether or not the service provider or agency has a policy in place in the event of such situations. The client can be referred to a shelter or other place of safety.
  4. As for complaints posted to rating or complaint websites, very often there is little the service provider can do. However, it is advisable to not reply or respond to the web-based complaint as that may engage the person who posted the comments and incite additional posts.
  5. As with all clients, it is good clinical practice to document your work. The greater the concern for personal risk, the greater the need is for detailed documentation. Many mental health professionals now audio record and some video record all their client sessions and interactions. This may provide the only tangible evidence of the service provider’s actions in the event a client seeks to make a claim against the service provider of untoward treatment.
  6. Malpractice insurance is also a must. Given mental health service providers work with persons whose reality testing, attitudes or behavior may be suspect, mental health service providers are at risk of complaints to their licensing bodies. Defending oneself against a claim can be expensive and would be paid for by the malpractice insurance.

Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. If you are in a challenging situation do seek input from your regulatory body and/or police or a child protection agency and/or a lawyer who practices defense work even if a claim has not yet been made against you. You can also seek a consultation from a respected colleague.

Our work is valuable to the general public and our work carries risk. It is important for mental health professionals to be aware of laws governing their practice and to have access to resources for consultation.

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. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Dads, I’m on Your Side. Here’s how…

In my counseling practice, I frequently hear the men in young families tell me that they work hard all day and that when they come home, they should be able to relax. Meanwhile, their partner is stressed out and instead of pitching in, they explain to their partner how to be more efficient.

It can be a challenge getting through to the dad that mom is working 24/7 even if not engaged in a task in the moment.

Even if mom appears to get a break, she has to be primed and always ready for action be it a poopy diaper, a hand reaching for the stove, a food bowl about to be toppled or a dog’s ear about to be pulled. Think of this like being a firefighter. You may not have had a run that day yet you must always be ready for action. You are on no matter what.

To add, mom’s often can’t even go to the bathroom in private. There may be some little one seeking to hang on or inspect what’s going on.

If your division of labor is that one earns money and the other takes care of the kids, please don’t think for a moment that taking care of the kids is the easy part. That parent, most often mom, may make it look easy, but it’s not.

She doesn’t need executive orders or lessons in efficiency. She needs you to pitch by chaining diapers, grocery shopping, making meals, listening to her frustrations and being told you love her.

It may not be what you saw growing up, but I can assure you, while it won’t fix all issues or stresses, it will make life far more bearable and pleasurable for you both. You will also have kids who grow to appreciate seeing their parents as a loving mutually supportive team.

And guys, please don’t even think of dissing me and telling me I am not fair and that mom’s have issues too. I won’t be disagreeing with that, but please also know, that if you are not engaged as a parent and don’t support to your partner and use blame or deflection to minimize or dismiss or equivocate what I am saying, there won’t be enough water in any hose to put out the fire you will have started with your partner.

We must always take responsibility for ourselves and our role in a relationship and as dads. It should never be a stand-off where the good behavior of one is held at bay waiting for the good behavior of the other.

Go out of your way, be the stand up dad, not for her praise but for your being more than a breadwinner and raising your profile as an amazing dad and role model to your kids.

Be the guy she wants to adore. Go first and keep going. 

Need help with this? See me.

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.

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.