Putting Children First, JoAnne Pedro-Carroll
This has become my go-to book suggestion for divorcing or divorced parents. The author brings in her vast experience and joins it with relevant research as she touches on what parents can do to best help their children during and after their divorce. I’ll offer a brief outline of the book, and I encourage all co-parents to read it cover to cover.
“The vast majority of children are resilient and do well after a breakup…Divorce is unquestionably painful for children, but long-term negative outcomes are not inevitable.”
Children’s initial concern is usually “what is going to happen to me?”- “if their parents are unable to explain what is happening in ways they can understand, young children often fill in the blanks with their own fears and fantasies, which are often far worse than the reality.
Other common worries that children have:
- A parent will “disappear”- physically or psychologically
- Invisibility- no one really sees them or is aware of their feelings or needs
- Worries about the future
- Worries about money
- Anxieties about loyalty
- Concerns about parents’ well-being
- Fear of losing a parent’s love
Kids needs your empathy- all feelings are okay, even when all behaviors are not okay. Your goal isn’t to fix their painful feelings, but rather to hear, acknowledge, and accept them.
“Research confirms that children need and want two responsive parents in their lives. One of the best predictors of children’s well-being in marriage, and after divorce, is the psychological adjustment of their parents and the quality of the parenting they provide.”
The BIG message to your children, which will be communicated in many conversations over time:
- “Whatever changes take place between Mom and Dad, one thing that will not change is our love for you. We will always be your parents and we will continue to take good care of you. Both of us love you very much, and the kind of love we have for you is the kind that will never end.”
- Our problems have nothing to do with you- you didn’t cause them and you cannot fix them or change them.
- This is what will happen next…(some specifics….)
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for this first conversation- the important thing is to keep communication lines open in the long-run
“Fostering a good relationship with the other parent is not a favor to your former partner, but a lifelong gift to your children.”
The author outlines what children in each age range need, and provides suggestions for what to tell them in an age-appropriate manner. She then discusses various “parenting plans,” and provides ideas for arrangements that have worked for other divorcing families.
“The schedule is an important tool, but regardless of how it is structured, research repeatedly reveals that it is the quality of parenting, the parents’ commitment to their children’s developmental needs, and their ability to contain conflict and work together that contribute most to children’s adjustment to living arrangements.”
Factors that reduce stress:
- Minimal distance between households
- Knowing the schedule
- Positive preparation
- Having special things at both homes
- Letting children take belongings back and forth
- Allowing children access to each parent through phone calls, email, and texting
- Containing conflict during transitions
- Creating opportunities for healing
- Continuous open communication with children
“Sustained anger and rage hinder good judgment, rational thinking, and problem-solving- all of which are necessary for negotiating plans and parenting in ways that will positively impact children’s lives. So even though it may be tempting to see your former partner as the enemy, it is better for your children if you can find ways to communicate with civility. Your children will benefit enormously if you are able to manage your emotions in ways that help you work toward a reasonable plan for parenting for resilience- your and theirs.”
“Ongoing conflict is a destructive force in parents’ lives. It erodes your ability to provide attentive and effective parenting…As a result, the warm, loving and attentive parent-child relationship…deteriorates.”
Aspects of conflict that are linked to the greatest difficulties for children:
- Witnessing or overhearing parents’ aggressive or violent conflict, whether verbal or physical
- Feeling guilt and responsibility for parents’ problems because of child-related conflict
- Hearing one parent denigrate the other with sarcasm or criticism of their character or mistakes
- Being caught in loyalty conflicts that require them directly or indirectly to side with one parent and against the other
- Being used to carry hostile messages or convey a parent’s anger
- Being forbidden to mention one parent in the presence of the other, either expressly or tacitly
Skills that promote resilience and emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness (ability to identify and express one’s own emotions in healthy ways)
- Empathy (awareness of and sensitivity toward other’s feelings)
- Self-regulation (ability to anticipate the consequences of choices, manage strong emotions, and control impulses)
- Ability to solve interpersonal problems
- Zeal and persistence
- Hope for the future
“Early and often, they need to hear the message that they did not cause the marital problems and cannot change the divorce, but they can change their feelings and aspects of their lives by how they think and what choices they make.”
“Quality parenting is one of the best predictors of children’s adjustment when their parents are married, and it remains equally if not more important after divorce. Loving, authoritative parenting is strongly related to academic success, children’s ability to manage their own behavior, reduced incidents of emotional difficulties, and increased long-term well-being…An authoritative parenting style includes warmth, emotional support, effective discipline, and age-appropriate expectations…at a time when so much may seem beyond your control, it’s especially important ot remember what a powerful differences your own parenting behavior can make for your children, even if your former partner does not share your views, or is unable to parent effectively.”
10 Emotionally Intelligent Parenting Practices that Promote Children’s Well-Being:
- Find time, make time
- Create one-on-one time
- Establish new family rituals and traditions
- Express appreciation and gratitude
- Convey hope and healing
- Listen beyond the words and respond with empathy
- Maintain household structure and routine
- Point out resilience role models
- Encourage spiritual experiences
- Engage in a community
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
I loved this book, I found myself smiling throughout this inspirational read about creativity, and living this human life well. I especially enjoyed mulling over the paradoxes that she presented- if we can hold onto to two opposing, yet true, ideas at the same time, well we’re on our way creative living beyond fear (as the subtitle reads). Here’s a taste of what the book has to offer:
“I don’t demand a translation of the unknown. I don’t need to understand what it all means, or where ideas are originally conceived, or why creativity plays out as unpredictably as it does. I don’t need to know why we are sometimes able to converse freely with inspiration, when at other times we labor hard in solitude and come up with nothing. I don’t need to know why an idea visited you today and not me…All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life– collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand. It’s a strange line of work, admittedly. I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.”
“The poet David Whyte calls this sense of creative entitlement ‘the arrogance of belonging,’ and claims that it is an absolutely vital privilege to cultivate if you wish to interact more vividly with life…The arrogance of belonging is not about egotism or self-absorption. In a strange way, it’s the opposite….Because often what keeps you from creative living is your self-absorption (your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgment, your crushing sense of self-protection). The arrogance of belonging pulls you out of the darkest depths of self-hated- not by saying ‘I am the greatest!’ but merely by saying ‘I am here!’”
“The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust- and those elements are universally accessible. Which does not mean that creative living is always easy; it merely means that creative living is always possible.”
“No shame, no despair- just a sense that it’s all very interesting. Like: Isn’t it funny how sometimes things work and other times they don’t? Sometimes I think that the difference between a tormented creative life and a tranquil creative life is nothing more than the difference between the word awful and the word interesting.”
“Perfectionism stops people from completing their work, yes- but even worse, it often stops people from beginning their work. Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place. The most evil trick about perfectionism, though, is that it disguises itself as a virtue…They wear their perfectionism like a badge of honor, as if it signals high tastes and exquisite standards. But I see it differently. I think perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear. I think perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat, pretending to be elegant when actually it’s just terrified…But we must break this habit in ourselves- and we are the only ones who can break it. We must understand that the drive for perfectionism is a corrosive waste of time, because nothing is ever beyond criticism. No matter how many hours you spend attempting to render something flawless, somebody will always be able to find fault with it…At some point, you really just have to finish your work and release it as is- if only so that you can go on to make other things with a glad and determined heart. Which is the entire point. Or should be.”
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver
I highly recommend this book that follows a family’s year-long journey to knowing where there food comes from. It was challenging, made me evaluate the way I approach feeding my own family… I’m excited to implement some do-able, baby-steps with encouragement and guidance gleamed from this book. And the writing was wonderful- I laughed and teared up, which were nice surprises.
Trauma Sensitive Yoga, David Emerson
This is a practical and wonderful book about how to integrate Trauma Sensitive Yoga in therapy. It makes yoga accessible and approachable to anyone, with the emphasis always on the internal experience of the client and not on achieving the proper form.
Research about trauma is discussed at length, with a focus on the effects in the body that largely go ignored. Participants “became increasingly able and willing to notice how they were feeling in their body and formed greater tolerance for emotional states and bodily sensations, as they could experience them in a safe way, rather than from the lens of past trauma.”
“Interoception centers on our ability to feel the activity of our interior self, that is, it is interoception to feel our heartbeat, our stomach grumble, or a muscle stretch…Research on the brain suggests that traumatized people do not have a reliable self, a feelable self, a foundation from which to safely experience themselves, relationships, and the world around them What is it like to live in a body that is unfeel-able and therefore unpredictable? I would suggest that living with an unfeel-able and unpredictable body is one valid way to explain what complex trauma is.”
“Trauma is not primarily a problem of what I am thinking but a problem of what I am feeling in my body; either not feeling anything or feeling stuck forever in a painful, tortured, broken body that will never change…Our work is to help people find ways to have new body experiences right now that can effectively replace the constant replay button of trauma.”
“With TSY, we focus on using the (therapeutic) relationship to give our clients a safe space to begin to feel their body again and begin to notice what they want to do with their body in a given situation. The facilitator supports their clients as they learn to trust what they feel, make their own choices about what to do based on what they feel, and take action based on what they choose to do.”
Women’s Ways of Knowing, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, Tarule
The authors interviewed 135 women in-depth, and this book describes why many women still feel silenced in their families and schools, and maps out the struggles and stages many go through in knowing what they know.
- Powerlessness, obedience to authority, survival, disconnected from self and others, feel “deaf and dumb”
- Received knowledge- listing to the voice of others
- Authorities have “right answers”, listen to others for truth & direction, can’t tolerate ambiguity
- Subjective knowledge- inner voice
- They see their “gut”, still small voice, usually had a failed male authority figure, room for more than 1 opinion, think of self as a knowing person
- Subjective knowledge- quest for self
- “walk away from the past”, sometimes the escape is an overly eager promotion of self at the expense of others; view of self is tentative and unsettled
- Procedural knowledge- voice of reason
- The voice is more humble, and powerful, than previous chapter; maybe silent, but it’s not a passive silence- behind it is reasoning; knowledge is a process, multiple lenses
- Procedural knowledge- separate and connected knowing
- Separate knowers- weed the self out, logic/reason-focused, take out feeling, just “a game” (doubting game)
- Connected knowers- empathy is at the heart of connected knowing- it’s a believing game
- Constructed knowledge- integrating the voices
- Integrating the voices; aware of truths colliding within; can tolerate ambiguity; no longer want to suppress parts of self; the answers vary depending on the circumstance/perspective; passionate knowers
The One Thing, Gary Keller
Here are the nuggets I took away from this helpful productivity book:
- Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.
- Willpower has a limited battery life, but can be recharged with some downtime. It is a limited but renewable resource. We act as though our supply of willpower were endless. As a result we don’t consider it a personal resource to be managed, like sleep or food.
- Willpower is depleted when we make decisions to focus our attention, suppress our feelings or impulses, or modify our behavior in pursuit of goals.
- Ask yourself, “What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
- Be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon.
- Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.
- Not everything matters equally, and success isn’t a game won by whoever does the most, yet that is exactly how most play it on a daily basis.
- Until my One Thing is done, everything else is a distraction.
4 thieves of productivity:
- Inability to say “no”
- Fear of chaos (the world won’t wait! Messes will pile up!)
- Poor health habits
- Environment doesn’t support your goals