Good Parenting Need Not Be a Casualty of Divorce

Parenting After Divorce

Parenting After Divorce

 By Cathy Neville, LPC, NCC

Oftentimes divorced parenting feels like parenting with a cartoon thought-bubble over your head:
As you tuck them in, the thought pops in, “Are they really going to be okay?”When you swing through a drive-thru after soccer practice, up pops the thought, “A ‘conventional’ family would have time for dinners at the table.”After weekend drop-offs at your ex’s home, in pops the worry, “Have I ruined them for their own future happily married lives?”Divorce affects your family. It changes your life and theirs. But it doesn’t have to spell disaster.You have the opportunity to show them how to build a successful future, whatever the circumstances.Try a few of the following strategies for raising happy, well-adjusted kids in a divorced household:

Provide Stability, Role Models, and Structure…as Usual.

Generally speaking: Letting go of their two-parent household is not easy, but your leadership helps ease the transition. Kids thrive in a safe, well-ordered home environment, divorce or no divorce.

Your kids need you to behave maturely, provide wisely, and protect them diligently in ways that are comforting, calm, and familiar. You’re still the boss and though they may say otherwise, they count on it.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by the solo responsibilities or depressed by divorce, consider counseling for yourself or your family, if necessary.

Practical tips: Maintain your family routine as much as you are able. Keep the bedtime routine. Continue weekend activities or family game nights. Show your kids your family life still matters and will go on.

Hold to Your Standards: Keep them Real, Realistic, and Reliable.

Generally speaking: Divorce is tough on everyone, but don’t let it transform your parenting, family, and future into something that deviates from your core values and beliefs.

Be who you are. Maintain your focus. Divorce need not change those things.

Show your children that though you’ve taken a detour, you’re still on the road together, headed to somewhere healthy, happy, and whole.

Practical tips: Don’t try to make up for the divorce with lax expectations or “Disneyland” parenting. Set boundaries for your own household; follow through with consequences.

Expect push back, but don’t excuse it. If good grades, chores and respectful interaction have always been expected, they should still be expected. Teach children that hard circumstances don’t dictate character, responsibility or success.

If your faith, family gatherings, or regular time with community groups are sources of comfort or support, don’t give them up now. Show kids that divorce is no reason to give up what matters most.

Acknowledge, Express, Communicate. Repeat.

Generally speaking: It might be tough to face your kid’s feelings, hear their concerns, and listen, listen, listen. Still, respectfully discussing issues concerning your relationships is vital.

Allowing them to put it all out there does 4 key things:

  • Lessens anxiety. Facing worry and fear steals a lot of their power to control you.
  • Increases understanding. Empathy, connection, and self-esteem will blossom.
  • Lays a firm foundation for an open, honest, trusting relationship.
  • Gives them the tools to manage their feelings in a healthy way.

Practical tips:

  • Communicate that you and their other parent love them very much.
  • Communicate that you still respect and care about the other parent, if that’s the case. Affirm his or her place in your kids’ lives.
  • Give children time to deal with the changes by communicating them clearly, setting clear limits, and providing acceptable means for expressing their feelings.

Finally, recognize that no family is an island.

Your divorce journey needn’t be one of isolation or prolonged grief.

Call on a therapist or support group to help steer your parenting.

Soon, you’ll find your way.

4 Predictors of Divorce



John Gottman is an author, expert and well-respected relationship therapist with a theory about what kills a relationship most effectively. For nearly three decades, he’s studied couple’s relationships and counseled partners looking for ways to preserve their connection. He’s found that certain behavioral patterns are predictors of divorce.  Scientific evidence indicates he’s right most of the time.  Gottman named these relationship patterns the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

When Gottman’s relational “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” come riding into your marriage, you and your spouse are in real trouble! This kind of trouble won’t blow over or resolve itself. These horsemen bring hurt, disconnect and divorce in their wake.

You’ll need to get to know your enemies and defend your love against them if you want your marriage to survive. According to Gottman, these four predictors of divorce are enemies of your happy relationship:

1. Criticism:

Thoughts and remarks to or about your partner deal the first blow to the safety, trust, and loving feelings between you and your spouse.  This is an attack on your partner as a person, rather than their actions and behavior.

When you begin to pick each other apart and continually voice displeasure with the other’s faults, hurt and resentment build. Soon efforts to repair the rift and refocus on the aspects you appreciate about each other become less prevalent and appreciation for each other fades.

2. Defensiveness:

This behavior is easy to indulge when you feel attacked. Very quickly, the emotional walls go up and tender feelings are barricaded behind them. Walls make hearing and seeing your partner clearly much more difficult. Emotionally-available connection is severed, misunderstandings increase, and miscommunication amplifies negative interaction.

Once defensiveness becomes your go-to response, along comes blame and a lack of self-examination, which make apologies and reconciliation extremely difficult.

3. Contempt:

This predictor often spells certain doom in a relationship. Contempt is a lack of respect. It is cloaked in judgment, dripping with sarcasm, and full of negativity, conflict and resentment. A relationship without respect deteriorates quickly and painfully as you lose the ability to see anything positive or worthy of preserving.

Usually one or more of the following things are going on:

You’ve determined your partner isn’t worth much without your direction or commentary.
You’ve judged your partner’s behavior and character as generally negative and unchangeable.
Your communication has broken down into “you” language (you always…, you never…), personal attacks (you’re so clueless!) and universal characterizations (everyone knows you’re wrong).
You no longer acknowledge the emotions and needs of your partner. You actively invalidate them, alienate, ignore or put down his or her feelings, shutting down intimacy and breaking emotional ties.

4. Stonewalling:

According to Dr. Gottman, stonewalling is “when a listener withdraws from an interaction by getting quiet or shutting down.” This behavior, characterized by withdrawal and silence, is often a result of feeling mentally or emotionally overwhelmed. It’s an effort to regain a sense of calm and control, which is understandable, but a refusal to engage at all devalues the relationship and isolates you from each other.  Stonewalling sends an undeniably hurtful message to your partner. The lack of eye contact, disinterest and intentional avoidance say, “You’re not important and I’m not interested in moving our relationship forward.”

John Gottman offers these divorce predictors or “Four Horsemen” as a warning, but also a reason for hope.  If you know what to look for, you, your partner and an experienced relationship counselor can help defend your relationship against the subtle sabotage of the “Four Horseman.”  I’m a coach/counselor in San Antonio, Texas.  Call me to make an appointment if you need help with your marriage.


How Not To Be Depressed on Valentine’s Day

How Not To Be Depressed On Valentine's Day

How Not To Be Depressed on Valentine’s Day

By Cathy Neville, LPC on February 12, 2015.

It started after Christmas.

Jewelry commercials replaced toys on TV. ads started popping up on your iPad. Bags of messaged candy hearts and foiled kisses edged out the chocolate Santas and candy canes at the grocery store.

Here comes Valentine’s Day.

A celebration of romantic love and intimacy.

A day devoted to that romantic lover that you don’t have can bog you down in sadness.

For those already struggling with depression, this particular celebration can really get in the way of attempts to feel better.

All Valentine’s Day ends up doing is exacerbating the pain, emptiness, and disconnection that was already in your way.

Probably not what cupid intended.

So what do you do?

First, try to recognize that your need to love and be loved is perfectly normal.

Valentine’s Day really isn’t the problem.

Depression is.

You don’t have to spend the day stuck, sad, or ruminating on your singleness.

Consider these measures for surviving Valentine’s Day:

Step One: Treats are a must.

What’s Valentine’s Day without the sweets?

Go ahead and buy a box of chocolates. Have a few. It’s just one day.

Depression wants to keep your life pleasure-less.

Those candy hearts with the silly messages contain words you need to hear right now. Enjoy!

Step Two: Massages, manicures, and more.

While it’s not exactly a romantic experience, it does feel good to refresh your mind and body. Get a relaxing massage, allow for some hand-holding with a manicurist, or let a stylist run his or her fingers through your hair.

Step Three: Give yourself the perfect gift, love letter, or ensemble.

You know how you want to be appreciated. Value yourself enough to buy, write, or wear what makes you feel special. Be your own admirer.

Step Four: Go find love.

  • Put yourself out there. Allow yourself to consider a relationship you wouldn’t before.
  • Open your mind to online dating.
  • Reconsider the advances of the person who flirts with you at the gym.
  • Risk calling an old crush for a chat.

Step Five:  Celebrate all of your relationships.

Valentine’s Day does not have to be only about romantic love.  Whether you are part of a couple or not, you have a right to a full life and close, loving relationships.

Don’t isolate. Open the day up to all your relationships:

  • Celebrate your single status with friends. Go dancing or to dinner together. Watch romantic comedies and make fun of the fact that it took the characters two days to meet, fall in love, and promise to be together forever.
  • Offer to babysit your nieces and nephews while the grown-ups go out. Play board games; make heart-shaped cookies and strawberry smoothies. Be the “cool” adult.

Make Valentine’s Day a day you show family and friends how much you care about them.  Whether you buy them cards, chocolates or teddy bears, chances are they will be thrilled that you were thinking of them.

It really is true that when we give or do something special for others, we feel better, too!

Don’t make depression your valentine.  Make February 14th a day of remembrance, appreciation and gratitude for ALL the special people in your life!