Helping Children Through Divorce

Report
Divorce & Children:
What to Know,
How to Help
Durham County Health Department
11/08/2012
Barbara Lowe-Greenlee, PhD
Licensed Psychologist
www.greenleepsych.com
[email protected]
919.824.5743
Objectives
1. Name 3 common ways that divorce can impact
children and/or adolescents
2. List 3 characteristics of a co-parenting
relationship that are pro-child
3. Identify 3 primary characteristics of a High
Conflict Custody Divorce (HCD)
4. List 3 characteristics of Parent Alienation
Syndrome
5. Name 3 interventions for families going through
separation or divorce that are pro-child
Road Map
A. Divorce and Family Impact
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Paradigm
Clarify Terms
Statistics
Stages of Divorce
Individuals Differences and Risk Factors
Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, Children, Adolescents
Children with Special Needs
B. Post Divorce/Separation Parenting
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
High Conflict Divorce
PAS
Children Who Resist Contact
Parallel Parenting
Co-Parenting
C. Special Consideration: Domestic Violence and Abuse
D. Prevention, Intervention, and Resources
E. Selected Sources
Divorce and Family Impact
Paradigm
(Bronfenbrenner, 1979)
Use of Terms
Broad Definitions
Family
Marriage/Couple
Children
Statistics: Divorce
– The current rate of divorce is estimated at
approximately 50% (Various)
– Higher rate for families with children with
special needs (Marshak & Prezant, 2007;
Various)
Statistics: Our Changing Family Structure
– 2008, 6.8 million couples living together, increase of 800% since
1960s (Browning & Artet, 2012).
• Percentage of couples doubled from 1980 to 1998
– In 2011, 69 percent of children ages 0–17 lived with two parents
(65 percent with 2 married parents), 27 percent with one parent,
and 4 percent with no parents (America’s Children in Brief: Key
National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012).
– Among children living with neither parent, more than half lived
with a grandparent (America’s Children in Brief: Key National
Indicators of Well-Being, 2012).
– Seven percent of all children ages 0–17 lived with a parent who
was in a cohabiting union. A cohabiting union could involve one
parent and their cohabiting partner or two cohabiting parents
(America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,
2012).
Statistics: Our Changing Family Structure
– The percentage of all births that were to
unmarried women more than doubled between
1980 and 2009, with the largest increases for
women in their twenties (America’s Children in
Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,
2012).
– In 2010, 40.8 percent of births were to
unmarried women (America’s Children in Brief:
Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2012).
– Stepfamilies are the fastest growing type of
family in the U.S. (Browning & Artet, 2012).
Statistics: Our Changing Family Structure
Trends Child Research Brief, www.childtrends.org
Families at Greater Risk for Divorce
– Previous Divorce
– “Cohabitation Effect”
– Unmarried Parents
– Children with Special Needs
– Lower Income
– Lower Education
(Browning & Artet, 2012; Hetherington & Stanley Hagan, 1999).
Why is Divorce Stressful for Children
1. Loss of family structure,
routines, and “the family I’ve
always had”
2. Loss of/changes in primary
attachments
3. Fear of abandonment
4. Absorbing hostility between
parents
Short Term Impact
Many children experience challenges for months
after the divorce
(Hetherington & Stanley Hagan, 1999).
–
–
–
–
Increased Depression
Increased Anger; Aggression
Increased Anxiety
Increased Demanding, Noncompliant, and/or Antisocial Behaviors
– Decreased Cognitive Agency and School Performance
– Decreased Self-Regulation
– Conflict in Relationships
Over Time….
• These problems diminish over time as the family
reorganizes and stabilizes; nonetheless the
research shows that children from divorced
families demonstrate less social, emotional, and
academic adjustment then there peers from
non-divorced parents.
• Sometimes problems appear later.
• Children who, move from conflictual abusive,
and/or neglectful homes into stability because of
divorce can demonstrate benefits from divorce
(Hetherington & Stanley Hagan, 1999).
Factors that Impact Child Outcomes
RISK
PROTECTION FACTORS
Divorce:
Risk and Resilience
•Younger age of child
•Male gender child, especially when
young
•Family SES stressors
•Low involvement by one or both parents
•High conflict between parents
• Other added stressors (moving,
changing schools, parental remarriage).
•school.
•Pre-existing poor adjustment of the child
(Hetherington & Stanley
•(Residential) Parents’ ease in
adjusting to divorce
•Low conflict between parents
•Good parenting skills by both
parents: warmth, structure, discipline
•Agreed upon parenting strategies
across homes
Hagan,
1999).
•Pre-existing personality and
competencies of the child
(Browning & Artet, 2012; Hetherington & Stanley Hagan, 1999).
Stages of Divorce
Ricci, I., (1997)
Mom’s House, Dad’s
House; Making Two
Homes for you Child.
New York, NY: Simon
and Schuster
Stages of Divorce
Ricci, I.,
(1997) Mom’s
House, Dad’s
House;
Making Two
Homes for
you Child.
New York, NY:
Simon and
Schuster
Awareness Campaigns
http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/dont-divorceme-kids-rules-for-parents-on-divorce/index.html
Infants
– What the child understands
• Does not understand conflict, but may react to changes in parent’s
energy level and mood.
– Possible child reactions
• Loss of appetite.
• Upset stomach - may spit up more.
• More fretful or anxious.
– Strategies for parents
•
•
•
•
•
•
Keep normal routines.
Remain calm in front of the child.
Seek help from family and friends.
Rest when the child rests.
Maintain warm, safe contact.
Do not deprive the child of his or her favorite toys, blanket, or stuffed
animal.
Copied and Pasted from DeBord, K. (1997) Focus on kids: The effects of divorce
on children. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.
Toddlers
– What the child understands
• Understands that a parent has moved away, but doesn’t understand why.
– Possible child reactions
•
•
•
•
•
•
More crying, clinging.
Problems sleeping.
Regression to infant behaviors (back to diapers, thumb sucking).
May feel anger, may not understand why he or she feels that way.
May worry when parent is out of sight.
May withdraw, bite, or be irritable.
– Strategies for parents
•
•
•
•
•
•
Stick to routines.
Be reassuring, nurturing.
Allow some return to infantile behaviors, but set clear limits.
Try not to be in a hurry all the time.
Spend time alone with the child (cuddle, read).
Give the child time with another responsive adult (grandparent, close
friend).
Copied and Pasted from DeBord, K. (1997) Focus on kids: The effects of divorce on
children. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.
Preschoolers
– What the child understands
• Doesn’t understand what separation or divorce means. Realizes one parent is not as active in his or
her life.
– Possible child reactions
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Has pleasant and unpleasant fantasies.
Feels uncertain about the future.
May feel responsible.
May hold anger inside.
Feels that he or she should be punished.
May be accident-prone.
May become aggressive and angry toward parent he or she lives with.
May have more nightmares.
Experiences feelings of grief because of sudden absence of parent.
– Strategies for parents
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Encourage the child to talk.
Use books to help the child talk about feelings.
Set aside “child time” each day.
Tell the child repeatedly that he or she is not responsible for the divorce or separation and that he or
she will be taken care of.
Tell the child he or she will be safe.
Let noncustodial parent maintain a regular presence (a phone call several times each week,
messages sent on video or audio tapes).
Assure the child that he or she will be able to visit with the other parent.
Allow more unhurried time every day.
Copied and Pasted from DeBord, K. (1997) Focus on kids: The effects of divorce on children. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Service.
Elementary-aged Children
•
What the child understands
–
•
Possible child reactions
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
•
Begins to understand what a divorce is. Understands that her or his parents won’t live together anymore and
that they may not love each other as before.
Feels deceived and feels a sense of loss.
Hopes parents will get back together.
Feels rejected by the parent who left.
Ignores school and friendships.
Worries about the future.
Fears nobody will be there to pick him or her up from school.
Complains of headaches or stomachaches.
Has trouble sleeping.
Tries to recreate “what was.”
Experiences loss of appetite, sleep problems, diarrhea, frequent urination.
Strategies for parents
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
Encourage the child to talk about how he or she feels.
Answer all questions about the changes that are taking place, and keep lines of communication open.
Be sensitive to signs of depression and fear. Seek professional help if depression is prolonged or intense.
See if the school or community has special programs for children of divorce.
Plan special time together.
Reassure your child that everything will be all right, just different.
Keep daily routines intact.
Respect, but monitor, the child’s privacy.
Don’t dwell on adult problems. Encourage the child to say how he or she feels, but don’t use expressions such
as “be brave” or “don’t cry.”
Copied and Pasted from DeBord, K. (1997) Focus on kids: The effects of divorce on children. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina
Cooperative Extension Service.
Pre-teens and Adolescents
– What the child understands
• Understands but doesn’t accept the divorce.
– Possible child reactions
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Feels angry and disillusioned.
Feels abandoned by the parent who is leaving.
Tries to take advantage of parents’ low energy and high stress levels.
Tries to take control over family.
Shows extreme behavior (good and bad).
Becomes moralistic, or becomes involved in high-risk behaviors (drugs, shoplifting, skipping school).
Tries to be an “angel” to bring the family back together.
May try to cut one or both parents out of her or his life if she or he feels rejected.
Feels like he or she will never be able to have a long-term relationship.
Feels like he or she must grow up too soon.
Worries about finances, including college tuition.
– Strategies for parents
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Continue to talk about each step of the divorce.
Maintain two-way communication.
Keep routines and maintain rules.
Remind the child that the parents “own” the problem, and free him or her from guilt.
Continue to monitor the child’s activities.
Don’t involve the child in parental struggles.
Don’t use the child as a replacement partner. (Don’t discuss adult problems with him or her.)
Consider joint counseling.
Copied and Pasted from DeBord, K. (1997) Focus on kids: The effects of divorce on children. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina
Cooperative Extension Service.
Children with Special Needs
– What the child understands
• Depends on the cognitive, social, emotional levels of
functioning
– Possible child reactions
• Children will demonstrate variance here according to unique needs
and developmental age
– Strategies for parents
• Address the unique needs of the child and interventions (e.g., using
visuals)
• Maintain as much stability and structure as possible
• Focus on what is not changing rather than everything that is changing
• See a professional who understands family transition and the child’s
primary disability
Post Divorce/Separation Parenting
Parenting Styles
Divorce with Children
High
Conflict
Divorce
CoParenting
Parallel
Parenting
High Conflict Custody Divorce (HCD)
“Doing it Wrong”
• In 1992, Janet Johnston described high conflict divorce
in these terms:
Ongoing high conflict is identified by multiple criteria, a
combination of factors that tend to be, but are not always,
associated with each other:
•
•
•
•
•
•
intractable legal disputes,
ongoing disagreement over day-to-day parenting practices,
expressed hostility,
verbal abuse,
physical threats,
and intermittent violence….
Those parents who met the multiple criteria of high conflict
at the time of divorce were likely to remain conflicted over a
2- to 3-year period.
• 10-25% of Divorces
(Dalton, Carbon, & Olesen, 2003; Hetherington & Stanley Hagan, 1999; Lebow & Rekart, 2007).
High Conflict Custody Divorce (HCD)
1.
2.
Research demonstrates that greater marital conflict, whether
within a marriage or following separation and divorce, is associated
with poorer adjustment in children, in the areas of personal, social,
and academic development.
Interparental conflict leads to children’s increased distress, anger,
and aggression.
a.
b.
3.
4.
5.
Parents under the stress of conflict may be less available to their
children in general.
Parents in conflict show less parental warmth, less empathy, and less
capacity to set appropriate limits for children.
Children learn and model the tactics and problem-solving strategies
that they observe in their parents.
Reduced time with a noncustodial parent is also associated with
poorer adjustment for the child of separation or divorce.
The court is called often upon to weigh these different sources of
risk and damage to the development of the children whose
conflicted parents appear before it.
Parapshrased and/or copied and pasted from: D a l t o n , C., Carbon, S., Olesen, N.,
(2003) Juvenile and Family Court Journal High Conflict Divorce, Violence, and
Abuse: Implications for Custody and Visitation Decisions; Fall Ed.
Children Who Resist Contact
• Frequency: Approximately 11 to 15% of
children resist contact with one of their
parents post divorce
• Gender: boys and girls are about equal
• Age: 8 to 15; adolescents more often than
younger children
• Favored parent: more often the mother
Children Who Resist Contact
• Developmental reasons for not visiting
– Ages 2 to 3: separation anxiety
– Preschool: way not to choose/loyalty conflict
– School-age: expressing anger
– Adolescents: rebellion, often against both parents
• Other reasons
– Fear of conflict that transition
– Resistance to parenting style
– Need to care for fragile parent
– Remarriage and stepfamilies
– Financial differential between homes
Copied from Brantley, H. T., Sort isio, C., Wagner, L. (2011) parent alienation or children who resists conflict.
Sponsored by the Center for Cooperative parenting and the North Carolina Psychological Association.
Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
• Persistent denigration of one parent by the other
parent
• Child joins and the denigration and is
“programmed” to do so
• Mild, moderate, or severe levels
• Not applicable in child abuse cases
– Estrangement: occurs after abuse suffered or safety has
been an issue
Copied from Brantley, H. T., Sort isio, C., Wagner, L. (2011) parent alienation or children who resists conflict.
Sponsored by the Center for Cooperative parenting and the North Carolina Psychological Association.
Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
Examples of Alienated Child Behaviors
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
–
Unreasonable anger toward parent
Intense, negative portrayal of parent
Lack of ambivalence toward parent
Rejection of extended family
Empowered to make decisions
Use of adult language
Seemingly rehearsed material
Denial of reality
Controlling
vulnerability
Copied from Brantley, H. T., Sort isio, C., Wagner, L. (2011) parent alienation or children who resists conflict.
Sponsored by the Center for Cooperative parenting and the North Carolina Psychological Association.
Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
Examples of Alienating or Favored Parent’s
Behaviors
– Make subtle or blatant verbal remarks to the child
against other parent
– Directs subtle or blatant behaviors toward the child
against the other parent
– Externalizes and lacks insight into their own behaviors
– Project blame onto the other parent
– Exceeds anger
– Has poor self identity other than as parent
– Seeks revenge
Copied from Brantley, H. T., Sort isio, C., Wagner, L. (2011) parent alienation or children who resists conflict.
Sponsored by the Center for Cooperative parenting and the North Carolina Psychological Association.
Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
Examples of Targeted or Rejected Parents
Behaviors
– Passive, avoidant
– Rigid, harsh
– Emotionally absent
– Physically absent
– Inept at parenting
– Remarried
– Rejection of child
Copied from Brantley, H. T., Sort isio, C., Wagner, L. (2011) parent alienation or children who resists conflict.
Sponsored by the Center for Cooperative parenting and the North Carolina Psychological Association.
Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
Effects of Parental Alienation on Child
– High rates of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and
Depression
– Distortion of reality
– Difficulty with authority
– Poor peer relationships
– Difficulty with forming intimate relationships
– Entitlement
– Low self-esteem
– Poor coping mechanisms
– High rate of divorce (later)
– Feelings of rejection
Copied from Brantley, H. T., Sort isio, C., Wagner, L. (2011) parent alienation or children who resists conflict.
Sponsored by the Center for Cooperative parenting and the North Carolina Psychological Association.
Tribal Warfare
• Often there are many more players than just
the children and parents.
– Grandparents
– Stepparents
– Etc.
Copied from Brantley, H. T., Sort isio, C., Wagner, L. (2011) parent alienation or children who resists conflict.
Sponsored by the Center for Cooperative parenting and the North Carolina Psychological Association.
Parallel Parenting
“Doing it…OK”
Parallel Parenting
–
A process of parenting next to one another because parents
are unable to parent together
•
–
–
–
–
E.g., Children who play side by side
Can be used for high conflict divorce situations where coparenting interventions have not been effective
Each parent must be capable of or learn how to parent on their
own
Parents are disengaged from one another or learn how to be
disengaged
The child typically must learn how to adapt to 2 separate sets
of routines, rules, and parenting styles; one of mom’s house,
and one at dad’s house
Source: http://parentingafterdivorce.com/articles/parenting.html
Co-Parenting
“Doing It Right”
Co-parenting is a parenting relationship where
parents who used to be partners:
•
•
•
•
Parent together in a consistent and supportive manner;
Place their children's interests first in the relationship;
Refrain from engaging in behaviors or attitudes that are
harmful to the children’s relationships with the other
parent; and,
Share roles and responsibilities in a manner that seems
fair to both parties regarding the children.
Co-Parenting
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=josZkNl34NM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxdYDoTKGnc&feature=relmfu
Co-Parenting
As noted previously, with co-parenting
we see the best child outcomes
It Takes Two (or more….)
•
Sometimes one party is willing to co-parent and
the other is not.
– Time
– Interventions
– Do what you can
•
•
Serenity Prayer
Trust the power of your example
– Resources
•
Therapy
–
–
•
Co-parenting Therapy
Child’s Therapist-broadening role
Literature,
–
e.g., Joint Custody with a Jerk: Raising a Child with an
Uncooperative Ex, A Hands on, practical guide to coping with
custody issues that arise with an uncooperative ex-spouse, by
Ross and Corcoran
Special Considerations:
Domestic Violence and Abuse
Domestic Violence
• Safety is main concern
• Keeping family unit intact may not be
appropriate
• Impact of DV on children
• Court-ordered supervised visitations can be
helpful
• Resource : The Batterer as Parent by Lundy
Bancroft
(D a l t o n , C., Carbon, S., Olesen, N., (2003) Juvenile and Family Court Journal High Conflict Divorce,
Violence, and Abuse: Implications for Custody and Visitation Decisions; Fall Ed.)
Child Abuse
• Safety is main concern
• Keeping family unit intact may not
be appropriate
• More complex treatment concerns
•
(D a l t o n , C., Carbon, S., Olesen, N., (2003) Juvenile and Family Court Journal High
Conflict Divorce, Violence, and Abuse: Implications for Custody and Visitation Decisions;
Fall Ed.)
Prevention, Intervention, and
Resources
What can we do as
professionals do?
1. Awareness
2. Prevention
3. Intervention
Paradigm Revisited
Prevention of Divorce
– Awareness: at-risk families
• Families with children with special needs
• Families with known risk factors
– Ask about Support
– Recommend marriage, family, and/or step family
therapy
– Remind to prioritize the marriage as well as parenting
children
– Resources Available
• Have available resource areas where parents can access
information on establishing and maintaining strong marital
and couple relationships
• See GPSS Handout
Prevention of HCD
– Direct Patients/Clients to
Collaborative Divorce Professionals
• Legal
• Mental Heath
• Financial
– Recommend Co-Parenting
Resources
• See GPSS Handout
– Recommend Co-Parenting Classes
• Community
• Court-ordered
– Recommend Co-Parenting Therapy
More Intense Interventions
Most Difficult Stages of Divorce, HCD,
and/or Child Safety Concerns
– Guardian ad Litem (Civil)
• Can be requested by parents, but usually is court-appointed
• Child-centered
– Parent Coordination
•
•
•
•
Trained Parent Coordinator (PC)
Can be family-appointed
Can be court-appointed
Role defined by court or and parent PC agreement
– Forensic Evaluations
– Court-ordered Supervised Visitation
Post Divorce Interventions
• Healing after trauma
– Individual Therapy
– Support Groups such as DivorceCare /DC4Kids
– School Groups for Kids
– Single Parents Groups
– Books for Kids
– Books for Parents
– See GPSS Handout
Road Map
A. Divorce and Family Impact
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Paradigm
Clarify Terms
Statistics
Stages of Divorce
Individuals Differences and Risk Factors
Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, Children, Adolescents
Children with Special Needs
B. Post Divorce/Separation Parenting
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
High Conflict Divorce
PAS
Children Who Resist Contact
Parallel Parenting
Co-Parenting
C. Special Consideration: Domestic Violence and Abuse
D. Prevention, Intervention, and Resources
E. Selected Sources
Conclusion
Survey
Questions?
Selected Sources
Brantley, H. T., Sortisio, C., Wagner, L. (2011) Parent Alienation or Children Who Resist Conflict.
Sponsored by the Center for Cooperative parenting and the North Carolina Psychological
Association.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The Ecology of human development: Experiments by nature
and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Browning, S., & Artet, E. (2012). Stepfamily Therapy: The 10-Step Clinical Approach. Washington
DC, American Psychological Association.
DeBord, K. (1997) Focus on kids: The effects of divorce on children. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina
Cooperative Extension Service.
Lebow, J. & Rekart, K. N. (2007). Integrative Family Therapy for High-Conflict Divorce With
Disputes Over Child Custody and Visitation. Family Process, 46(1).
Marshak, L. E. & Prezant, F. P. (2007). Married with Children with Special Needs. Bethesda, MD:
Woodbine House
Ricci, I., (1997) Mom’s House, Dad’s House; Making Two Homes for you Child. New York, NY:
Simon and Schuster
D a l t o n , C., Carbon, S., Olesen, N., (2003) Juvenile and Family Court Journal High Conflict
Divorce, Violence, and Abuse: Implications for Custody and Visitation Decisions; Fall Ed.

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