Friday, 29 June 2018

Starting Over After Divorce: How to Survive a Move to a New City

Starting over after divorce can be challenging, but starting over after a move to a new city and divorce is downright daunting.

Congratulations! Your divorce is settled and you’re officially in divorce recovery. It’s a dream come true for everyone: either the fantasy you hoped for or the nightmare you’ve dreaded. Win or lose, a new life looms ahead after divorce – new friends, new identity, and for some, a new home in a city far away from your old haunts.

Starting over after a move to a new city is daunting. “Move” is a four-letter word for a reason! It’s even trickier if you’re over 50, if the kids have left the roost, if your old job has evaporated and you’ll be looking for new employment, or if you’re newly retired, it takes courage and bravery to create a whole new life from scratch – especially after grey divorce. 

Be proud of yourself for embarking on this adventure.

Packing up and leaving has its own set of problems, but preparing yourself for the emotional challenge once you get to your new town is critical.

These tips will keep you sane while you make the transition in a new place. Keep this list handy in case you have to find a new therapist after your move to a new city.
Moving is hard. Yes, be excited about your new life – a fresh start is energizing – but be realistic, too. You’re making a major life transition.

Tips to Help You Survive Your Move to a New City

1. Be patient with yourself while you’re getting settled.
Beware of buyer’s remorse. Even though your marriage was miserable and untenable, it can start to look better – even desirable – when you’re desperately lonely and homesick after a move. Thoughts of “What was I thinking?” or “I miss my old Whole Foods Market” or “I’m all alone and no one cares” start to seep into your 3:00 a.m. gremlins. All of those thoughts are based in your fears and insecurities, and you’ll eventually get past them.

It takes time to start over. Plan accordingly. Be your own best friend for a while. It takes anywhere from six months to a year before people start including you on a regular basis. There may be a flurry of activity at first, as you’re the new person in town, but after a while it dies down and your social life gets quiet indeed.

You must learn to trust your decision to move. Give it two years before you judge it. By that time, you’ll be ensconced in your new place and you’ll have a hard time remembering the loneliness you felt at the start.

2. Don’t take it personally.

In his book, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, author Don Miguel Ruiz tells us that the second agreement to yourself for life contentment is “Don’t Take It Personally”. I suggest you write this on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror in your new digs – whether temporary or permanent. You’ll need it when these things happen (and they will):

  • Old friends don’t email you.
  • New friends don’t invite you to join them.
  • No one offers to help you.
  • The business contacts you counted on don’t come through.
  • Your neighbors don’t welcome you.
  • The people who are “the reason you moved there” don’t get in touch.
  • Your own kids are too busy to see you.

3. Be proud: it took real courage to move to a new city after your divorce.

People live busy lives, just as you did before you moved. Most of them don’t have a clue what it’s like to pick up sticks and start all over again, particularly after 50, 60, 70 or even 90! They don’t have the sheer guts you had to make your move. Be proud of what you’ve done. At the same time, understand that every locale has a dedicated following and its inhabitants think it’s the best place on earth. Smile when they tell you that Daisy’s Diner has the best fried chicken you’ll ever taste. Never mind that you’ve just moved from Atlanta where fried chicken is an art.

You’ve Made Your Move. Now What?

  1. Keep a journal. Write at least one short paragraph each morning while you sip your sunrise java. Your journal will become your best friend. You’ll be able to trace your growth in your new town, and soon you’ll look back, chortle to yourself, and say, “I’m so far past that, now!” It’s nice to have a gauge.
  2. Expect your circle of friends to change. I tell my clients who relocate after divorce this truth: The people you meet when you first move are available to be your friends for a reason. In other words, the neediest people always surface at first. This is not always the case, but it frequently happens. It takes a while to discover the solid folks because they have a life. You will discover them, however. Have faith.
  3. Say yes to every invitation once. Unless the group violates your personal principles, accept every invitation you get, at least one time. I know it’s hard. I know it’s a killer to have to walk in to the event alone. I know you hate strolling up to strangers and making small talk. I know you will spend the day prior saying, “I do not want to go to this.” Suck it up and do it anyway. You’ll meet at least one person you find interesting. At the very least, you’ll know what you don’t want to do. At the best, you may discover a whole new support community.
  4. Know that the newness will end. Your decision to move was the right one. Yes, there are some hurdles, but nothing you can’t handle.

After a Move to a New City, You’re Free to be Your True Self

The primary reason that you relocated is still true: you can start over as a new person. You have a blank white canvas in front of you, and you can paint in any colors for your new life that you’d like. These people don’t know you, so you’re finally free to be your true self that your marriage wouldn’t allow.

Here’s my best divorce advice about moving to a new city after divorce:

  1. Let go of expectations that new acquaintances will turn into BFFs immediately.
  2. Don’t take it personally when you don’t get holiday invitations the first year.
  3. Be your own best friend and explore your new home.
  4. Go into it all with eyes wide open.

Before you know it, you’ll be a townie yourself, and you’ll be saying, “I can’t believe I’ve lived here for five years!”


Thursday, 28 June 2018

Introducing children to new partners

After a divorce or separation, a time comes when new relationships start forming. For some this might start soon – even before the separation - but for others it can be years before they feel ready for another personal relationship.

Whenever it happens, it’s worth bearing in mind that new relationships can have an impact on your children and your ex. While it can be an exciting time for you, it might be unsettling for the other people in your life.

If you are the parent with the new partner

When parents start new relationships, it can be tough for the children. They might feel:
  • jealous that they no longer have you to themselves
  • sad that you and your ex aren’t getting back together
  • insecure about competing for your attention
  • frightened of losing you to your new partner
  • resentful of having to get used to more change
  • anxious about the other parent – will the other parent feel more alone? Will the other parent mind if you like the new partner?

Some children will of course feel very positive about new partners, seeing it as a sign that their parents are happier and getting on with their life.

See the final section below for tips on supporting children through a difficult transition.

If your ex has a new partner

If you and your children feel delighted or even relieved when your ex meets someone new, you can skip this section!

But if you are upset, shocked or surprised to hear your ex is seeing someone, you may need to call on friends and family to give you some support to adjust to this new development. You may wonder how the new relationship will affect the children. If you and your ex are on good terms, you may be able to talk through these worries together.

If you don’t have this kind of relationship with your ex, or if emotions are running high, the introduction of a new partner can be fuel to the fire. If one parent insists that the new partner should spend time with the children and the other parent doesn’t agree, successful parenting arrangements can fall off the rails.

If your children start complaining and criticising the new partner, or even if they just want to spend more time with you, or if they alarm bells can start ringing.

Your initial reaction might be to plough in and give your ex a piece of your mind, or even to make the contact conditional on the new partner not being there.

Take a moment to consider an alternative explanation. You’re hurting. Your children can see that you’re hurting. What do you think their response to this might be?

Children worry that they are betraying their other parent if they accept a new partner. One way of proving their loyalty to you is to say they don’t like the new partner. These loyalty conflicts are particularly bad if parents don’t get on.

They might want to spend more time with you because they are worried about you.

If you are worried about the impact a new partner is having on your children and you are sure that they are not telling you what they think you want to hear, then ask to speak to your ex.

If you are the new partner

Meeting and being your partners’ children can be daunting – getting involved in their lives even more so. You will want to support your partner’s relationship with the children and hopefully get along with them too. It can be a minefield. The following tips can help you tread the right path:

  • Allow the relationship to develop slowly. Don’t expect the children to love you or even like you initially. Aim for a relationship where you respect each other and treat each other fairly.
  • Be prepared to accept a back seat when the children are around. Accept that your partner’s first responsibility is to the children.
  • You are not a substitute parent. Be supportive but don’t expect to take on a parenting role.
  • Don’t criticise, complain or even joke about the other parent in front of the children.
  • Remember that part of being a good mum or dad is having a good co-parenting relationship with the other parent. Accept that there will be communication between your partner and their ex about the children.
  • Try to understand the loyalty conflicts your partner might experience and offer an empathetic ear when your partner feels stuck in the middle.
  • If there are disagreements between your partner and their ex, remember that you are only hearing one side of things.

Best tips for helping children with new partners

  1. Try to avoid introducing new partners straight after the separation. Children need time to adjust to their parents being separated first.
  2. Only introduce children to someone you want to be part of your everyday life.
  3. Take it slowly at first and be sensitive to your child’s reactions. Just because you think your new partner is great doesn’t mean that your children will agree.
  4. Tell the other parent about your plans before this person is formally introduced to the children. Reassure your ex that the children are still important to you, and be prepared to have a conversation about your new partner’s involvement.
  5. Make sure you and the children have some alone time without your new partner. This is especially important if the children don’t live with you.
  6. Be clear that the new partner is not a substitute parent. A new partner should behave as any responsible adult would towards children but this is very different from taking on a parenting role.
  7. Support your children in adapting to the reality of life moving on. Answer their questions but respect their wishes if they don’t want to talk about the new partner.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Don't Start A New Relationship Until You've Done These 4 Things

Within six weeks of my marriage ending, I found myself gallivanting all around Colorado with a much younger man.

He was an instructor at my yoga studio who, through his intoxicating looks and 20-something prowess, helped me temporarily forget that my life was actually in complete shambles (I had suddenly become a 40-year-old single mother of three without any plans for my future). We’d go on long hikes, spend afternoons wrapped in my bedsheets, and travel to hidden hot springs and tropical beaches enmeshed in the physical comfort of each other.

t was a delicious distraction, but once it came to an end, I was left to face myself. I had to deal with the raw emotional pain that would trap me until I dealt with it. I knew I wouldn't be able to move on to a fulfilling relationship before I did that.

Over the next few years, I attended support groups and coaching sessions, shed tears over past choices, spent nights reading personal growth books, and tried to make sense of the madness of this new frontier. At some point, I realized I was done. I had faced my demons. And while my past would always be a part of me, I was truly ready to move forward. Here are most important lessons I learned about finding true, lasting love:

1. Stay single until you can be sure you're starting a relationship for the right reasons.

A truly loving, committed relationship is about sharing life experiences, learning and growing with someone who is self-aware and free of the "pull" of past hurts, and being open and willing to doing the work it takes to create and exist in a safe, drama-free space together.

To reach this place, we must first commit to learning the lessons we have to learn on our own. That's the only way to escape the ending of our last failed relationship. Dig in the dirt. Let yourself fall apart and know that it’s OK not to be OK for a while—maybe for a long time. The grieving process can be lengthy and painful. But there is so much necessary growth waiting for you in the time after a breakup. You can't skip the hard part and go right to Phase 2. This is the task you have to complete before leveling up.

2. Love yourself more than you ever thought possible.

You’ve heard the sentence "No one will ever be able to love you more than you love yourself." Take it from me: This is 100 percent true 100 percent of the time. We attract people who will treat us only as well as we treat ourselves. If we believe ourselves to be unworthy or unlovable at a deep level, no matter how pretty the package of our prospective partner, we see them as our salvation only because we know little enough about them that we can project our own ideals onto them. Over time they will begin to reflect our own limitations and flaws.

Self-love needs to happen consistently on the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional levels.

Physical self-love:
Begin by listening to, then responding to and respecting the needs of the body. Create a nurturing inner sanctuary where you feel safe. Learn what your body requires through exercise, diet, and rest to maintain balance. Commit to giving it the nutrients that it needs to thrive.

Mental self-love:

Kick out the roommate in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, beautiful/handsome enough, young enough, or wealthy enough to have a wonderful, loving, and supportive partnership. Replace self-deprecating thoughts with thoughts that affirm your wholeness, such as, "I am awesome and deserve someone who knows my worth," or "I am completely lovable just the way I am," and "I am deserving of great love."

No matter what happened with your ex, you have the power to rewrite the conversations that affirm the truth of who you are.

Emotional self-love:
Bring deep self-compassion and kindness to your wounds. Understand how you contributed to the relationship's dissolution. Examine the pain that arises from your childhood. Get therapy or divorce coaching.

Spiritual self-love:
Develop and maintain a deeper connection to your spirit by recognizing and honoring the voice of your intuition. This can be accomplished through meditation, journaling, and spending quiet moments in nature.

This inner guidance will let you know when you are truly ready for a relationship and whether someone you meet is right or wrong for you.

Create the life of your dreams by connecting to a vision that reflects your worthiness and lovability. Know your passions. Find confidence in your purpose. Make a commitment to follow those passions, no matter what (or who) comes along.

Committing to self-love and our life’s work before committing to a romantic relationship is the key to fulfillment and wholeness. When we commit to a life of service to ourselves and others, we have made the vows that must precede (and that enable) a commitment to another person.

3. Learn what a healthy relationship looks like, and take your time.

After being married or in a long-term relationship, it’s easy to idealize the next person you date. Because we have already been deeply connected to—or maybe married and had children with—our past partner, we may easily project scenarios onto people we have just met, fantasizing about the role they will play in our lives without knowing much about them.

But the truth about dating after a breakup is that the real measure of an appropriate and desirable partner goes well beyond whether or not they will be able to fit into the same role as an ex. It's about knowing who we are and what we want and then truly getting to know someone over time.

There are wonderful resources that can help clarify what a healthy relationship requires. Commit to the process of understanding what it takes to communicate and build a solid structure for a relationship before jumping in.

Healthy relationships start off slow—as friendships. Commitment, then intimacy, comes only after a physical, mental, and emotional connection has been made and consistently demonstrated over time.

When you love yourself, you can be open to many alternate resources for creativity and love and support. That allows you to avoid relying on a partner to give you something you lack. Even if you were in a codependent or unhealthy relationship, you can—and will—change these patterns by honoring yourself, knowing and sticking to your standards, and requiring (in a healthy and loving way) that others love and honor you as much as you love you.

4. Have fun.

When you do decide to date again, approach it as an adventure rather than a burden. Prepare yourself as much as possible, then let go, have fun, and trust the process.
You get to choose whether you will date a little or a lot. Learn what you might want in a future partner by meeting people and having fun. More than anything, dating is an opportunity to be exposed to new thoughts, environments, and lifestyles.

In asking and responding to questions about one another’s lives and core values, we create the opportunity to authentically communicate about ourselves with others. We can approach dating as a fun challenge. How can we get to know what really makes the other person tick?
Most importantly, we can enjoy the process of noting how we feel when we are around this person. Is there a lightness and joy or an anxious pit in our stomachs? Is there ease or awkwardness? Are there feelings that something is just "not right"? Practice nonattachment, rely on your personal support system, and stay curious about other people's worlds. 
Learning how they fit in with yours can be a joyful process rather than a painful one.

Now, after three years of healing from divorce and casually dating, I'm in a new relationship. I can attest to the fact that entering into a long-term commitment isn’t the endgame—it’s just the beginning. It will bring up our vulnerabilities and fears like nothing else can. When we enter the arena with an arsenal of self-love, high standards, and an understanding of the process, we can create and enjoy the ride of a relationship at a much deeper level.


Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Oatmeal Exchange - Seven ways to get through a divorce when you have small children.

I married a guy with the most arresting blue eyes I’ve ever seen. To be clear, that’s not the only reason I married him. I also married him because he was smart and decent. And I liked his sense of humor, which is so dry as to be nearly undetectable. But five years after the “I dos,” we were miserable—unable to agree on so much as a grocery list, much less on where or how to live a life as loving and mutually supportive partners.

Our single successful joint venture was making babies: two in fairly rapid succession. And even then, success had its limitations. Coming up with a name for our second child proved nearly impossible. It was only at 2:30 a.m., nearly seven hours after I went into labor, that we grudgingly reached a compromise. That time.

More often, there was no compromise to be found, not for a thousand miles. On March 24, 2015, a judge signed our no-contest divorce papers.

The fact that we couldn’t make our marriage work, especially given the stakes, is one of the hardest and most painful truths I’ve ever had to face. But our divorce has worked out much better than I thought it would. That is not to say I have the qualifications to give advice—I don’t. All I tell you is what helped me.

Boggle. There’s always a point about halfway through Boggle when the only words you can see are the same ones you have already written down, over and over and over again. It’s maddening. But if you turn the Boggle board 90 degrees, you see the same letters from your opponent’s perspective, and an amazing thing happens. You find new words—and often, they are your opponent’s. It’s the same thing with divorce. Turn the board around, and suddenly, there are your ex’s words, spelling out a different story. You will never come to a mutual narrative embrace about who is most at fault and for what. But you will find new words—and with them, an entirely different way of understanding and loving your ex.

Discretion. Don’t tell a lot of people about the breakup until you can summarize it in an anodyne elevator speech that feels true and is likely to remain true. For months, my ex and I told only our immediate family. We continued to wear our wedding rings. We monitored the kids. We got used to living apart. And then, slowly, we told concentric circles of friends and acquaintances, at which point there was nothing new or murky about our situation—it was just reality.

Dignity. You are a human being. You need an outlet for your true, unmitigated, and sometimes nasty feelings about what is happening. Feelings that are not printable even in Slate. Rely on a close circle of confidants to whom you can say these things with full confidence that you are screaming down a well. Refrain from confiding in your kid’s teacher, your co-worker, or a playdate mom. Your feelings about your ex may be short-lived. People’s memories of what you said about your ex will not be.

Perspective. At first, everything seems like a federal case. Almost nothing is. In fact, your divorce should not be a case at all. If you litigate your divorce in a courtroom, it will end in disaster, both financial and psychological. Use an attorney only to help you negotiate and divvy things up. On custody, most courts will default to a 50-50 split—fighting over particular weeks or holidays is not worth it. You will make other plans and start new traditions. Fighting over money is not worth it, either. You will spend three times that amount in the process.

Rules. When you get a provocative text or email, it’s all too easy to respond with your own rapid-fire missile. Don’t do it. Picture every one of your self-righteous tirades printed out, put in an exhibit binder, and given to a family court judge. Or forwarded to your former mother-in-law, confirming everything she always thought—and told your ex—about you.

Ex Sex. When two people decide to get married, they forsake all others for the benefits of monogamy. I call this the Oatmeal Exchange. Before your marriage (theoretically at least), you could have anything you wanted for breakfast. After your marriage, you could have oatmeal for breakfast. Period. Sure, sometimes you got sick of oatmeal or just didn’t feel like it, but usually, it was satisfying and reliable. When children are involved, a good divorce should have bright-line boundaries designed not to instill false hope. By that I mean no more oatmeal. While it may feel awesome to have all of your breakfast choices back—pancakes with strawberries and whipped cream! Bagels and lox! The Hangtown fry!—you should also prepare yourself for a time when you crave only one thing, and it’s the only thing that isn’t on the menu. You should also prepare yourself for what to do if you see someone else eating your oatmeal. Quite possibly, you may be seized by an urge to rush over and snatch the oatmeal away. But you have to accept that it isn’t your oatmeal anymore and that you may need to skip breakfast for a while.

Jedi Mind Tricks. Divorce is not a linear process. There are dark days. I have developed a coping mechanism for those days. Find a picture of your children that reflects their beauty and spirit. Stare at that picture until it is burned into your brain. The next time your ex infuriates you, squint until his face blurs out of focus. Replace that image with the picture of your children. Finally, remember what my beloved mentor—the judge I clerked for straight out of law school—has so often told me. “You are a jewel.” I am a jewel, I often tell myself, even when I don’t believe it. But I keep saying it, and so should you. Like the stone in your engagement ring, you can be salvaged. Reset. Saved.


Monday, 25 June 2018

Divorcing parents could lose children if they try to turn them against partner

Measures being trialled to prevent ‘parental alienation’ feature penalties including permanent loss of contact with child

Divorcing parents could be denied contact with their children if they try to turn them against their former partner, under a “groundbreaking” process being trialled by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass).

The phenomenon where one parent poisons their child against the other is known as parental alienation, the ultimate aim of which is to persuade the child to permanently exclude that parent from their life.

Cafcass said it had recently realised parental alienation occured in significant numbers of the 125,000 cases it dealt with each year.

Sarah Parsons, the assistant director of Cafcass, said: “We are increasingly recognising that parental alienation is a feature in many of our cases and have realised that it’s absolutely vital that we take the initiative. Our new approach is groundbreaking.”

The new approach will initially give parents the chance to change their behaviour with the help of intense therapy. Alienating parents who do not respond will not be allowed to have their children live with them.

In addition, contact between the parent and child could be restricted or refused for a number of months. In the most extreme cases, the alienating parent will be permanently banned from any contact with their child.

Parental alienation is estimated to be present in 11%-15% of divorces involving children, a figure thought to be increasing. Other research has found that about 1% of children and adolescents in North America experience parental alienation.

UK judges are increasingly recognising the phenomenon. One wrote about a case where she was forced to transfer residence to re-establish a relationship between a child and an alienated parent. “I regard parental manipulation of children, of which I distressingly see an enormous amount, as exceptionally harmful,” she said in her summary

Parental alienation occurs on a spectrum from mild to extreme, all of which can be extremely damaging to the children involved. Experts admit they are only now beginning to understand the range of ways it manifests itself.

Parsons said: “We have reached a much clearer position on parental alienation recently, which we want to send a very clear, strong message about.

“The current, popular view of parental alienation is highly polarised and doesn’t recognise this spectrum. We want to reclaim the centre ground and develop a more nuanced, sophisticated understanding of what’s going on.”

Parental alienation occurs almost exclusively when parents are separating or divorcing, particularly when legal action is involved. It is, however, different to the common acrimony between divorcing parents and is internationally recognised as a distinctive form of parental psychological abuse and family violence, undermining core principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN convention on the rights of the child.

In the US and Canada, “parenting coordinators” are ordered and supervised by courts to help restore relationships between parents and children identified as alienated. In Mexico and Brazil, alienating a child from a parent is a criminal act.

Until now, cases of parental alienation in the UK have relied on Cafcass caseworkers recognising incidents on a case-by-case basis. Many parents, however, say their experiences of alienation have been missed or compounded by the social work and family court system, often leading to permanent estrangement from their child.

From spring 2018, all frontline Cafcass caseworkers will be given a new set of guidelines called the high conflict pathway, which will itemise the steps social workers must take when dealing with cases of suspected alienation. The pathway will spell out exactly when children should be removed from the alienating parent and placed with the “target parent”.

The guidelines, which will also affect how cases are dealt with in family courts, were sent out at the beginning of this month to judges, lobby groups including Families Need Fathers, experts, doctors and lawyers for a three-month consultation.

Alongside the guidelines, Cafcass has developed a 12-week intense programme called positive parenting, designed to help the abusive parent put themselves in their child’s position, and give them skills to break their patterns of behaviour.

A trial of it will start shortly, with 50 high-conflict families being sought across the country. After an evaluation in spring, the programme will be rolled out nationwide.

If it does not work, psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health experts will be brought in. If the alienating parent continues to perpetuate the abuse, however, contact with their child will be limited to supervised visits.

In extreme cases, care proceedings will be initiated and the parent will lose contact with their child. “Our priority, however, is to preserve the relationship with both parents,” Parsons said.

Jerry Karlin, the chair and managing trustee of Families Need Fathers, said Cafcass’s new approach was “very welcome news”.

“The demonising of a parent has long been recognised as damaging the child not only at the time of separation, but reaching into his or her adult life,” he said. “Parental alienation is identified as the single biggest issue among those who come to FNF seeking help.”

Case study – Robert (not his real name)

“I’ve lived through and witnessed the inexorable alienation of my older daughter over the past five years, which has culminated in complete loss of contact. I will not have seen or heard from her for three years this coming January. We had a fantastic, loving relationship for the first 12 years of her life.

“I know from what my younger daughter has told me that in numerous insidious and not so insidious ways, my ex-wife put an intolerable amount of stress on my eldest daughter. It eventually became too emotionally traumatic for her to see me. She eventually sent me a short email, saying she wanted to break off all contact with me. I’ve not heard from her since.

“The pain of being subject to parental alienation as a target parent is a truly soul-destroying thing to live through. In my darkest days, I can remember being out driving at night and thinking that maybe I just wouldn’t turn the wheel when I came to the bend with the high stone wall. This is a horrible form of child abuse that is struggling to get out from under the rock of prejudice and ignorance.”


Friday, 22 June 2018

After Divorce: 8 Tips for Reinventing Yourself

8 ideas to help you shape your post-divorce life.

It's over. You've signed the divorce papers, and the relationship you entered with so much hope is officially dissolved.

Everyone's divorce story is different. Maybe you had been married for decades, maybe just a year or so. Maybe you have children, maybe you don't. Maybe the divorce was your idea and maybe it was your partner's, or maybe you both agreed that separation was best. Maybe you're relieved, maybe you're heartbroken -- or a bit of both.

But however you got here, the question now is where do you go from here? And how do you figure out who you are and what you want as a newly single person? What is your new life going to look like, and how do you start moving in that direction?

Here are eight of the first steps:

1. Let yourself mourn.

Nobody gets married thinking, "I sure hope we can get divorced someday!" Even if, by the time you split, the divorce was something you wanted, a divorce still represents a loss.

"Whatever your marriage and divorce experience has been, there will be emotions that have to do with grief," says psychotherapist Florence Falk, PhD, MSW, author of On My Own: The Art of Being a Woman Alone.

"You may feel remorse for what you did or didn't do, or wonder what you did wrong. Don't dwell on those feelings, but make room for them," Falk says. "Loss is loss. There is an empty space where something once filled it up, even if that something may not have been desirable."

2. Work through your feelings.

Don't tote that heavy baggage from your previous relationship into your new life. Find a way to work through the lingering emotions from the demise of your marriage, advises psychologist Robert Alberti, PhD, co-author of Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends.
That may mean talking out your feelings with a therapist or focusing your energy in a healthy activity you enjoy. "It's common to sweep these emotions under the table, but you have to work through them or they'll pollute your life going forward," Alberti says.

If you find yourself resisting the idea of therapy, you might want to keep in mind that therapy doesn't mean you have a problem or that you're in crisis. It can be a way to work toward a better life, with someone who has no agenda but YOU.

3. Learn to like yourself.

That may sound cheesy and New Age-y. But the fact is that many people feel a lot of self-rejection after a divorce.

"You might think that there must be something wrong with you if you couldn't make this relationship work," Alberti says. "You have to work on getting confidence and faith in yourself and ability to believe in your own worth."

This is also something you could pursue in therapy, or through Tip No. 4:

4. Rediscover who you used to be.

Especially if you were married for a long time, you may have given up a lot of the things you enjoyed as a single person because they didn't fit with your "couplehood."

Maybe you loved to go out, but your spouse was a homebody. Maybe you always loved going to the theater but your husband hated it.

"What were your hobbies and activities before the marriage? What did you defer in favor of the relationship?" Alberti asks. "Exercising your interest in those again is important to rebuilding yourself."

5. Discover a new side of yourself.

The life-changing period of divorce, though often difficult and unwelcome, holds a silver lining: to shake things up and try on a new lifestyle.

Maybe it's as simple as a pixie haircut after a lifetime of wearing long, flowing locks. Maybe it's trying a new sport, considering a different place of worship, or going back to college. 
Maybe you realize that you'd like to move to a new city or even spend a year living in Paris.

Of course, you can't just flit away and throw caution to the wind. Chances are, you have some very real considerations -- kids (if you're a parent), a job, and a budget (which may have been hurt by the divorce).

But chances also are that although you might not be able to do whatever your fantasy is, there may be other changes that ARE within your reach. So don't reject the idea of any change, just because you can't make every change.

"As long as the changes you make are healthy and constructive, these are very appropriate," says Alberti. "Think about who you want to be -- the person you were before the marriage, or maybe a new person? What are some of the things you can do differently?"

Look for changes you can say yes to, instead of dwelling on what's out of reach.

6. Dare to be alone.

Being alone doesn't mean being isolated and never seeing anyone. It just means not being coupled up, or in a rush to do so.

Society is much more accepting of singles than even a decade ago, when solo restaurant diners often got the hairy eyeball.

"There are more than 30 million people living alone in this country today," Falk says. "That's a lot of people, and there are a lot of opportunities for social connection. There are possibilities to pick up new friends and enter different kinds of groups that have to do with your interests. The social dimension after a divorce can be very rich."

7. Consider transitional relationships.

This isn't about rebounding. It's about considering dating (once you feel ready) outside your comfort zone -- someone who's not your type -- without thinking that it has to head toward a permanent relationship.

"For example, maybe you've always dated people from a certain socioeconomic background," Alberti says. "Or perhaps you always preferred sensitive musicians, or athletes, or the quiet, shy type. Turn your usual preferences inside out and stretch your dating horizons a bit."

8. Embrace your new roles.

Especially if you were coupled up for a long time, your partner probably handled certain aspects of life while you managed others. Now it's all up to you. And it's not likely to go perfectly, but that's OK.

"If your partner was always the one responsible for the money -- earning it, managing it, investing it -- suddenly you have a whole new realm of learning and responsibility," Alberti says. "Dealing with those can give you confidence in your own ability."

You don't have to figure it all out yourself. Look for help.

"Even if you make mistakes, like paying too much for a car, you can learn from that experience," Alberti says. "Mistakes give you life skills and teach you that you can handle being alone."


Divorce Is Your New Beginning

Just as a brand new year is upon you, after divorce you have a new life in front of you.

It’s true that you may be overwhelmed, stressed, sad, frustrated, excited, enthusiastic, full of anticipation... or all of the above.

There are some powerful ways to make the most of your new life and this new year, and I’m sharing several of them with you here:

1. Put out a BOLO.
It can be easy and/or tempting to dread what could come next. I mean, seriously, you’ve just been through quite an ordeal and it’s a challenge to put on some rose-colored glasses. I get it.

Instead, try expecting positive things to happen. BOLO is police slang for “be on the lookout,” as in “we put out a BOLO for the suspicious character.” I suggest choosing to put out BOLOs for miracles, magical happenings and positive outcomes.

2. Work it out.
Release the heavy baggage from your previous relationship and lean into your new life. Find a way to work through the lingering emotions from the end of your marriage by talking out your feelings with a therapist, divorce coach or support group, and focusing your energy on a healthy activity you enjoy.

If you find yourself resisting the idea of therapy or coaching, you might want to keep in mind that neither means you have a problem, something is wrong with you, or that you’re in crisis.
 Each can be a way to work toward your new and better life, with those who have no agenda but the agenda you set!

3. Learn to love yourself.
The idea of loving yourself may sound cheesy or ridiculous, and it’s a fact that many people feel a dip in self-esteem and lot of self-rejection after a divorce.

If you think there must be something wrong with you because you couldn’t make your relationship work, you’re not alone. It’s important to work on increasing your self-confidence and faith in yourself, and recognize you’re just fine and on the way to getting better and better.

Let this time, and this year, be the year you really fall in love with yourself.

4. Rediscover who you used to be, and discover who you want to become.
If you were married for a long time, you may have stopped doing some of the things you enjoyed as a single person. Maybe you loved to go out, but your wife was a homebody. Maybe you always loved going to the theater, but your husband hated it.

Make a list of the hobbies and interests you had before your marriage, and give them another whirl. You might find renewed interest in them again, or even discover new ones you like better. Both are important to rebuilding yourself after divorce.

5. Discover your new self.
The great news about a life-changing period such as divorce is this: you get to shake things up and try new things, go new places, and meet new people.
Get a new haircut, wardrobe, or occupation. Try new sports, places of worship, or go back to school. You might even be able to move to a new city, or spend a year living somewhere amazing like Paris or Tuscany.

You can’t completely just lose your mind, turn your back on real-life obligations, and throw caution to the wind (although that sounds fun and exciting, doesn’t it?). Chances are you have some very real considerations like kids, a business, and a budget {one that may have been seriously impacted by the divorce}.

I’m going to bet there are some real changes and opportunities that are well within your reach. As long as the changes you make are healthy and constructive, go for it!

6. Go it alone. For at least awhile.

Being alone doesn’t mean being isolated and never seeing anyone. It just means not being in a rush to get re-coupled up.

Many newly-singled folks jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. Without taking the time to get to know yourself again, heal your wounds, and find your new equilibrium, you run of the risk of finding yourself right back here {on the other side of a divorce or break-up} in short order.

Take the time it takes to find yourself again.

7. Meet new people ... of the opposite sex.
Just because you need to spend some time alone doesn’t mean you need to spend all your time alone.

This isn’t about rebounding. It’s about considering dating (once you feel ready) outside your comfort zone {try someone who’s not your type} without thinking that it has to head toward a permanent relationship.

Turn your usual preferences inside out and stretch your dating horizons a bit. Dating is supposed to be, and can be, loads of fun.

8. Embrace your new life, and this new year.
You are going to have the opportunity to learn new things, go new places, and meet new friends.

Married a long time? Your spouse probably handled certain aspects of life and even household responsibilities. Now it’s all up to you, and it’s likely to go less than perfectly. News flash: that’s a-okay!

If your partner was always the one responsible for the money, such as earning it, managing it, investing it, then suddenly you have a whole new realm of learning and responsibility. Learning something new can give you confidence in your own ability.

You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Create a team to help you make smart decisions and wise moves. If you don’t have a financial advisor and CPA, start there. Find new advisors or rely on the ones who have served you well in the past.

Divorce, like every new year, brings with it the opportunity for amazing personal growth and transformation - it is just disguised as an awful period of time that seems to last forever. 

Hang in there, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and expected unexpected moments of fabulousness.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

5 Ways to Thrive Through Adversity

In this video I want to share my 5 top tips for thriving through adversity

Whatever the challenge you may be facing, I believe the same key principles and steps can be applied to help bring you through it successfully; whether struggling through divorce, or facing challenges in your business or personal life the same methods apply and will help.

If you're interested in learning more, and hearing thoughts on other ways in which we can tackle adversity and rise above challenge, I'd love to share with you my new podcast: Kintsugi Life.

You can access the latest episode and all previous ones on iTunes, at:

Dating after Divorce

Supportive friends, healthy self-esteem, and a little patience are some of the keys to get back into the dating scene.

The rate of divorce in America remains high, leaving many adult men and women alone, available and wondering how to maneuver on the playing field. After years of being in a relationship, putting yourself back in the singles market can be a daunting endeavor. Here, David A. Anderson, Ph.D., offers advice gleaned from his own research and that of other experts to help you get back into dating mode.

After 19 years of waking up next to the same person, Yolanda*, a marketing consultant, suddenly found herself greeting mornings alone. Recently divorced, she was overwhelmed by the mere thought of dating again. Yolanda's self-esteem was so damaged by her tumultuous breakup that she worried about her ability to start a new relationship, not to mention her rusty dating skills. And the pool of single men looked more like a droplet compared with the ocean available to her during her younger years. 

Yolanda may have felt alone on the playing field, but she was far from it. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately nine in 10 people will marry, but about one half of first marriages end in divorce. The number of women living alone has doubled to 14.6 million, and the number has nearly tripled for men, jumping from 3.5 million to 10.3 million.

With so many single adults out there, one might guess that there's also a lot of dating going on. Instead, it seems that the older we get, the less we date. In one study conducted at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, social psychologist Jerald G. Bachman, Ph.D., found that nearly 50 percent of 18-year-olds go out at least once a week, compared with only approximately 25 percent of 32-year-olds.

While it's true that some people simply choose not to date, others want to but don't know how to go about it or can't overcome their negative self-thoughts. So how can those who are struggling with these obstacles successfully and healthfully re-enter the dating arena? First, it's important to set appropriate personal standards. In particular, will you play hard to get or be an easy catch? I call the manifestation of these standards one's "social price." The more you have to offer in a relationship, the more you can expect in return, thus increasing your appropriate social price. Factors that help determine your social price include your ability to bring desirable traits such as inner strength, kindness, intelligence, and affection to a relationship.

Working with Shigeyuyki Hamori, an economist at Kobe University in Japan, I researched methods for estimating the qualities and contributions of marriage prospects. We hypothesized that singles seeking relationships assess unseen qualities in others based on social price as it is reflected in actions, body language, and verbal communication. We concluded that those exhibiting self-confident assertions of dating standards are perceived as holding relatively more promise as marriage partners. Conversely, those who appear insecure and desperate, call a love interest excessively or engage in sexual activity too soon, send signals that they hold inferior unseen traits.

So just as we tend to assume that expensive cars are better than similar, cheaper ones, we may also conclude that those demonstrating high social prices have unobserved qualities superior to those with lower social prices. But be wary: Overselling also occurs. For instance, individuals with a substantial income but little else to offer may exaggerate their social price. And as with any type of price misrepresentation, true quality eventually surfaces. In the dating market, this can translate into a broken relationship.

At the core, inaccurate social pricing is a by-product of low self-esteem and other negative self-emotions. "Fear absolutely devastates some people," says clinical psychologist Michael S. Broder, Ph.D., a former radio-talk-show host and author of The Art of Living Single. "It can be the fear of being hurt, rejected or involved, and it can stem from a history of having been hurt or of traumatic relationships. People can be very proficient in other parts of their lives, but the fear of dating can make them stay alone or pine for the relationship they left."
Others rebound or get involved in another relationship too soon. Their desperation usually stems from sadness, guilt, anger or anxiety about being alone. "You get this feeling that you're in the worst possible situation in your life," Broder explains. "Then you may do what you later consider desperate: a one-night stand, calling the ex or ignoring intuitive warnings and jumping into a bad relationship you would never choose if you weren't feeling reckless."
Fortunately, it is possible to avoid these and other pitfalls when seeking out a new partner. If you're ready to get back in the saddle again, here are five key tips to help you on your way.

1) Develop A (New) Support Group
It's natural to turn to old friends for support. They know and care about you, and they typically have your best interests in mind. But more often it's new friends who will better help you adjust to your new life. That's because friends shared with your ex often unwittingly take sides, and either alliance can prove a hindrance when introducing someone new into your life. Old friends may lack the proper interest or compassion, and they may even be jealous of your newfound freedom.

"My divorce split our extended families and friends," says Yolanda of her and her ex-husband. "But my new friends had a fresh perspective that helped my self-esteem. Those who were single had confidence that was contagious; that really helped me when I started going out again as a single person. And sometimes they offered good advice."

Do use discretion when listening to others' words of wisdom, advises Broder. "Solutions that worked for a friend may be a disaster for you. If you don't want advice, be assertive and let people know that advice giving is off-limits unless it's requested."

For the most part, however, friendship is a vital ingredient in the recovery process. "Facing things alone can take a toll on you," says Broder. "Friends can help you see that dating doesn't have to be so serious."

2) Assess Your Self-Worth
People with low self-esteem tend to create relationships with others who evaluate them negatively, suggests one study on self-concept done by William B. Swann Jr., Ph.D., a University of Texas psychology professor. If you're suffering from a negative self-image, it's vital you take steps to create a positive, healthy self-concept.

Begin by making a list of your positive qualities, then hang it in your home where you'll see it regularly, suggest Bruce Fisher, Ed.D., Robert Alberti, Ph.D., and Virginia M. Satir, M.A., in their book Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends. Sharing your list with your support group and asking for honest feedback will help you to work on clearing up any discrepancies between your self-image and the real you. Broder also recommends making a list of new beliefs and affirmations that you'd like to incorporate into your thinking system. Read aloud these new self-concepts often, regardless of how you're feeling, to help solidify them in your mind.

For Yolanda, a brief relationship five years after her divorce made her realize she had to adjust her mind-set. "I felt ashamed about all of the times I'd say yes when my answer was really no," she says now. "The consequences were painful, but I didn't believe I could completely change the pattern. Then I took the advice you hear about in 12-step programs and turned it over to God—my higher power. Moving forward and forgiving myself became easier."

People who feel victimized after a breakup may do well to develop a bold—or even defiant—attitude. Psychologists at the University of Washington and Canada's University of Waterloo recently found that feelings of resignation and sadness make people with low self-esteem less motivated to improve their mood. "When you feel defiant you become excited, confident, and ready to take action," says Broder. "You take care of yourself, making it pretty clear that you are not going to be ruined by divorce. It's a very healthy thing to do."

3) Plan Activities
You won't find a new mate—or even a new friend—while sitting on the couch, your television on, curtains drawn. Consider your post-relationship time as an opportunity to do the things you couldn't do while you were with your ex. Create a list of 20 activities you would enjoy doing with a perfect partner, then give the list a second look. "Rarely do people have more than three or four things on their list that they cannot do if they're not in a relationship," says Broder. "Be active; don't feel like your whole life is on hold."

Today's singles are finding luck—and love—in nonconventional ways. After her 17-year relationship ended, Lili*, a writer, re-entered the dating arena by joining a telephone dating service. Instead of meeting men for dinner, she invited them for daytime walks in a well-populated park. "They weren't dates; they were interviews," says Lili, who admits that taking the first step was difficult. "If I liked them, we went for coffee." Laura*, a financial adviser, also missed companionship after her 24-year marriage dissolved. "I don't sit with problems for very long," she says. "I knew what I wanted and went after it." Laura joined an online dating service and eventually met her soon-to-be second husband.

Joseph Walther, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication, language, and literature at Troy, New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, found that people who use Internet dating services such as may achieve more beginning-stage emotional intimacy than they do in face-to-face situations. Single surfers don't have to worry about common first-impression concerns such as bad-hair days and wrinkled clothes, Walther points out. Plus, they don't see body-language cues such as shrugging and smirking that can create barriers in communication. Currently, cyber researchers believe that as much as 33 percent of friendships formed online eventually advance to face-to-face meetings.

4) Curb Unhealthy Cravings
When we are in emotional pain, our feelings often don't coincide with our intellect and instead manifest themselves as cravings that can prove unhealthy and self-destructive. 
Cravings usually plague people who have zero tolerance for a single lifestyle and want to jump into a new relationship as soon as their breakup is final. Also susceptible are individuals with low self-evaluation who are convinced they can't make it alone. Fortunately, while such cravings may feel overwhelming and unavoidable, Broder asserts that they don't have to be.

Take Julie*, a middle-aged student in Southern California whose need for immediate passion led her to make decisions despite intuitively knowing they were unwise. "I kept going out with men who did not have the potential for a long-term relationship," she confesses. "One had problems with his ex-wife, another wouldn't marry outside of his religion. After getting hurt many times, I finally decided to be more careful when choosing men. I'm still prone to my old behavior, but I'm more apt to say no to men who are a poor match for me."

To short-circuit cravings, Broder suggests doing something that actively breaks the pattern and makes you approach the situation in a healthier way. Call someone in your support group, share your unwanted tendencies and ask that he or she invite you out when you fall into bad habits. And consider keeping a journal of the things that successfully distract you from your urges, such as renting a funny movie or going for a long walk, that you can turn to the next time cravings crop up.

5) Prepare for Pitfalls
Certain times of the year—holidays, anniversaries and birthdays, for instance—are harder to navigate than others because they are loaded with expectations and memories. After a separation or divorce, social configurations change, making feelings of loss and loneliness more intense. Perfectionists tend to struggle most during the holidays, according to Broder. High expectations lead them to dwell on favorite memories of their past and compare them with current situations.

Garrett*, an optometrist in his 40s, remembers that his first Christmas alone was a tough one. "Weeks prior to the holidays were extremely difficult because the traditions were highly disrupted," he says. "Not being in my own home and not having a closeness with someone was difficult, and I felt very much afraid of not finding someone again."

To cope, Garrett stuck close to his family. "You stitch together the connections that you have," he says. "It was piecemeal and patchwork, but it was critical for me. I also looked for other ways to divert my attention. I organized a staff party, participated in a musical and cooked at other people's homes."

Garrett got it right, according to Sally Karioth, Ph.D., R.N., an associate nursing professor at Florida State University and an expert on stress, grief, and trauma. Karioth points again to planning as the key to reducing stress and meeting new people. Don't be afraid to ask for help organizing new activities, and break tasks into smaller chores to fend off feelings of being overwhelmed. Broder also suggests avoiding holiday comparisons and focusing instead on the enjoyable aspects of current and future ones. "You'll get through, and then you won't fear it anymore," says Broder. "It may not be the best of your life, but it may not be the horror you thought it would be."

Ultimately, the best tip for re-entering the dating game is to explore various action strategies and choose those that are most comfortable for you. For some, getting into the right frame of mind before taking the leap is essential. For others, simply trying something new or even uncomfortable works. You know yourself best, so trust your inner wisdom. If you are ready to find new love, take heart: More than 40 percent of weddings in America are remarriages. But don't feel obligated to rush into another marriage, either—the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce. Now that you're single it's perfectly acceptable to remain so if that's what you prefer. As Broder says, "What you do with your life now is up to you."

*Names have been changed.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

How to Move Forward if You’re Getting Divorced But Are Still in Love

Your husband has asked for a divorce and you are blindsided. There have been moments of unhappiness in your marriage, sure, but nothing that you thought would ever make him leave you. You married for life, and never imagined that you would be signing paperwork to put an end to your time as a married couple.

And…you still love him.

He may have betrayed you with another. He may have fallen out of love with you and feels that there is no possibility of rekindling those loving feelings. He may be having a midlife crisis. In any case, his decision is final and there is no going back. You are left to heal your heart, a heart that still is connected to this man, despite him no longer loving you.
What are some ways that you can heal?

Acknowledge that this is happening

It would be a mistake to pretend that “everything is fine” or try to put on a happy face so that those around you think that you are handling this life change like the competent, strong woman you have always been. There is no need to be a hero during this tumultuous time. If you don’t show your friends and family that you are suffering, they can’t offer to help you shoulder the pain. Let it out. Be honest. Tell them you are shattered, you love your partner, and you need them to be there for you as you navigate this significant life event.
Find a support group

There are plenty of community groups where people going through a divorce can connect, talk, cry, and share their stories. It is helpful to hear that you are not alone in what you are experiencing. Make sure the support group is guided by an experienced counselor so that the meetings do not devolve into a series of complaints without any sort of solution-oriented advice provided.

Banish negative self-talk

Telling yourself “I’m an idiot for still loving him after what he did to me!” is not helpful, nor true. You are not an idiot. You are a loving, generous woman whose core is made up of love and understanding. There is nothing shameful about feeling love for someone who has been your life partner for many years, even if that person made the decision to end the relationship.

Give yourself time to heal

It is important to recognize that healing from a divorce, especially a divorce that you did not initiate, will take the time it takes. Keep in mind that you will, eventually, bounce back. Your grief will have its own calendar, with good days, bad days, and days where you feel you aren’t making any progress at all. But trust in the process: those little cracks you see on the horizon? There is light coming in through them. And one day you will wake up and realize that you will have gone hours, days, weeks without dwelling on your ex-husband and what he did.

When you are ready, rid your home of reminders of him

This will help in “casting off” your feelings of love. Remake your home to your own tastes. Have you always wanted a living room done in pastels and wicker furnishings? Do it! Make your home over to reflect you, and sell or give away anything that triggers those wistful thoughts of “how it was when the husband was here.”

Involve yourself in a new and challenging hobby

This is a proven way to feel better about yourself, and help you build new friendships with people who did not know you as part of a couple. Check local resources to see what is on offer. Have you always wanted to learn French? There are sure to be adult education classes at your local community college. What about a sculpture or painting workshop? You will not only keep busy but come home with something lovely that you have created! Joining a gym or a running club is a good way to work off any negative thoughts occupying your head; exercise provides the same mood-lifting benefits as taking anti-depressants.

Online dating can be a positive experience

Just flirting online with a wide range of potential dates can make you feel desired and wanted again, which, if you’ve been indulging in negative self-talk (“Of course he left me. I’m unattractive and boring”) can be a great lift to your self-confidence. If, after communicating online, you feel like meeting up with one or more of these men, make sure you do so in a public place (such as a busy coffee shop) and that you’ve left the details of the meeting with a friend.

The pain you are feeling can be used to create a better version of yourself

Take the sadness and use it to motivate you to get in shape, swap out some wardrobe items that should have been thrown away years ago, review and update your professional resume, change jobs…put this energy into living your best life.

Find the perfect balance of alone-time and friend-time

You don’t want to self-isolate too much, but you do want to carve out some time to be alone. If you were married for a long time, you may have forgotten what it was like to be on your own. You may find it uncomfortable at first. But reframe these moments: you are not lonely, you are practicing self-care. In order to love again, it is essential for you to learn to be fine with being alone. This will allow you to open up to another man (and it will happen!) from a place of stability, and not desperation.

It is normal to feel a sense of loss and sadness when the man you were in love with decides that he is no longer in love with you. But remember that you have now joined a large community of fellow-travelers who have survived, and ultimately thrived, in their post-divorce lives. Give it time, be gentle with yourself, and hold tight to the knowledge that you will fall in love again.


Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children

Undermining loving parent-child relationships as child maltreatment

What children of divorce most want and need is to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both of their parents, and to be shielded from their parents' conflicts. Some parents, however, in an effort to bolster their parental identity, create an expectation that children choose sides. In more extreme situations, they foster the child’s rejection of the other parent. In the most extreme cases, children are manipulated by one parent to hate the other, despite children’s innate desire to love and be loved by both parents.

Parental alienation involves the “programming” of a child by one parent to denigrate the other, “targeted” parent, in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child's relationship with that parent, and is often a sign of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple conflict and focus on the needs of the child. Such denigration results in the child’s emotional rejection of the targeted parent, and the loss of a capable and loving parent from the child's life. Psychiatrist Richard Gardner developed the concept of "parental alienation syndrome" 20 years ago, defining it as:

"...a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the target parent."

Children’s views of the targeted parent are almost exclusively negative, to the point that the parent is demonized and seen as evil.

As Amy Baker writes, parental alienation involves a set of strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose between the parents by means of threats of withdrawal of affection, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent. In my own research on non-custodial parents who have become disengaged from their children’s lives (Kruk, 2011), I found that most lost contact involuntarily, many as a result of parental alienation. Constructive alternatives to adversarial methods of reconnecting with their children were rarely available to these alienated parents.

Parental alienation is more common than is often assumed: Fidler and Bala (2010) report both an increasing incidence and increased judicial findings of parental alienation; they report estimates of parental alienation in 11 to 15 percent of divorces involving children; and Bernet et al. (2010) estimate that about 1 percent of children and adolescents in North America experience parental alienation.

There is now scholarly consensus that severe alienation is abusive to children (Fidler and Bala, 2010), and is a largely overlooked form of child abuse (Bernet et al, 2010), as child welfare and divorce practitioners are often unaware of or minimize its extent. As reported by adult children of divorce, the tactics of alienating parents are tantamount to extreme psychological maltreatment, including spurning, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting or exploiting, and denying emotional responsiveness (Baker, 2010). For the child, parental alienation is a serious mental condition, based on a false belief that the alienated parent is dangerous and unworthy. The severe effects of parental alienation on children are well-documented—low self-esteem and self-hatred, lack of trust, depression, and substance abuse and other forms of addiction are widespread, as children lose the capacity to give and accept love from a parent. Self-hatred is particularly disturbing among affected children, as children internalize the hatred targeted toward the alienated parent, are led to believe that the alienated parent did not love or want them, and experience severe guilt related to betraying the alienated parent. Their depression is rooted in feelings of being unloved by one of their parents, and from separation from that parent, while being denied the opportunity to mourn the loss of the parent or to even talk about them. Alienated children typically have conflicted or distant relationships with the alienating parent also, and are at high risk of becoming alienated from their own children: Baker reports that fully half of the respondents in her study of adult children who had experienced alienation as children were alienated from their own children.

Every child has a fundamental right and need for an unthreatened and loving relationship with both parents. To be denied that right by one parent, without sufficient justification such as abuse or neglect, is itself a form of child abuse. Since it is the child who is being violated by a parent's alienating behaviors, it is the child who is being alienated from the other parent. Children who have undergone forced separation from one parent — in the absence of abuse — including cases of parental alienation, are highly subject to post-traumatic stress, and reunification efforts in these cases should proceed carefully and with sensitivity. Research has shown that many alienated children can transform quickly from refusing or staunchly resisting the rejected parent to being able to show and receive love from that parent, followed by an equally swift shift back to the alienated position when back in the orbit of the alienating parent; alienated children seem to have a secret wish for someone to call their bluff, compelling them to reconnect with the parent they claim to hate. While children’s stated wishes regarding parental contact in contested custody should be considered, they should not be determinative, especially in suspected cases of alienation.

Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child; it has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate or fear the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child. Alienated children are no less damaged than other child victims of extreme conflict, such as child soldiers and other abducted children, who identify with their tormentors to avoid pain and maintain a relationship with them, however abusive that relationship may be.

Baker, A. (2010). “Adult recall of parental alienation in a community sample: Prevalence and associations with psychological maltreatment.” Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 51, 16-35.

Bernet, W. et al (2010). “Parental alienation and the DSM V.” American Journal of Family Therapy, 38, 76-187.

Fidler, B. and Bala, N. (2010). “Children resisting postseparation contact with a parent: Concepts, controversies, and conundrums.” Family Court Review, 48 (1), 10-47.

Kruk, E. (2011). Divorced Fathers: Children’s Needs and Parental Responsibilities, Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.