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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Infant Care in a Family Breakup Situation

Infant Care Parenting Class at Transitions Family Program

Parenting is a challenging task for any parent. It's especially true when a parent has a new born and no experience with parenting.
When you add the stress and uncertainty of a custody/visitation dispute and family court involvement, the challenges for Mom, Dad, and the baby become overwhelming very quickly.
This class is designed to assist parents to address all the special concerns of the new parent with a very young infant to care for, and help them develop the strategies and skills necessary to get on track with infant parenting.
While this class can be a benefit to any new parent, our primary interest is in new parents who are integrating a new baby and a family breakup and/or custody/visitation issue.
What do infants need?
1 Both parents in their lives.
2 Opportunity to learn about themselves by exploring the world in collaboration with parents.
3 Parents who honor his or her contribution to the beauty of this new life.
4 Parents who embrace the responsibility to honor his or her choice to create that life.
5 A secure attachment to each parent, which is the single greatest protection a child can receive.
1 Health & Safety Basics of Infant Care
2 Developmental Stages & Tasks for Your Baby
3 Stress Management Tool Box for Parents - The Power of Parental Warmth
4 Answer to the question: “Is It Normal for My Baby To ...”
5 Understand Healthy Boundaries and Learn Techniques to Establish Positive Parenting Routines for You & Your Baby
6 Develop the Skills to Coparent Your Infant
Facilitated coparenting meetings are the final step in the infant class. Sometimes the other parent refuses to participate, and we will work to achieve at least one meeting.
Our goal is to help the parents come together with a focus on the child, not each other.
If you or a friend is in a situation like this, reach out today to learn more about the class and the facilitated coparenting meetings.
To get the conversation started, complete the online information form

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Transitional Coparenting

Transition is a word we all know. It means that something in my life is changing and I am in-between what used-to-be and what is-to-come. It means I don’t know how long I will be in-between.
Stress is a word we also all know. And most people understand that there is helpful/positive stress, and hurtful/negative stress.
Some transitions are a normal part of life and there are social/cultural rituals that support those transitions and the people going through them:
1 Birth of a child and every single thing that child learns to do for years to come!
2 Child starting pre-school and each significant transition through the academic years!
3 Engagement and marriage
4 Death of parents and grand-parents
Some transitions are unplanned, unexpected, shocking, and traumatic. These are transitions that do not happen to everybody.
These are transitions accompanied by a sense of isolation, judgment by others or fear of that judgment.
Divorce, separation, the break-up of a family…this is one of those unexpected transitions that don’t happen to everybody.
This is a transition that changes everything in our lives. Just the logistics can be overwhelming.
1 Someone has to move.
2 The legal system gets involved.
3 Extended family and friends take sides.
4 The division of labor in the household no longer exists – both parents become single parents.
This list is endless and truly includes almost every single aspect of who we are in our home, in our families, and in our communities.
Regardless of the trigger, transitions have three basic components.
T rusting
R eal
A nxieties
The fears and worries you have a real. Others may want to minimize them, to reassure you. Find people who understand that this transition is going to last a long time and you need to be able to feel the fears that go with that.
N eeding
S pecific
I nformation
Seek information from many sources! Don't just take that referral for a go-for-the-throat family law attorney because you are feeling afraid. Take a deep breath and honor yourself and your children enough to do some research. Find out everything that is available. Don't stop exploring until you are sure you understand all of your choices.
T o
I dentify
O ur
N ext
S tep
Once you understand your choices, it's time to make a decision. 
Don't try to solve everything at once. Just make a decision about the next thing you absolutely need to address. If you can take it just one step at a time, you will be less likely to make mistakes that will add to your stress.
Transitional coparenting often begins long before the household breaks apart into 2 separate homes. Tension, fighting, betrayal, fear – these feelings are usually part of the coparenting relationship even before the parents live in 2 separate homes.
Bad habits, automatic actions and reactions are created before either parent is even aware that it is happening.
Very few families break apart easily. New hurts occur in the process and intensify the old ones. This happens to everyone in the family. Unfortunately, the focus is all too often on the experience of the grown-ups. The parents are so focused on each other that neither is really protecting the children. More likely, the parents are competing to look as if they are protecting the children.
Sadly, both parents are probably focused on protecting the children from the other parent and not focused on protecting the children from the trauma of the parents not being friends anymore.
Transitional coparenting means:
1 keeping your own feelings about the other parent to yourself.
2 never saying anything negative about the other parent to or in front of the children.
3 reassuring children that both parents will always love them.
4 explaining that both parents have figured out that they just can’t live together anymore and it has nothing to do with the children.
5 saying “mommy” or “daddy” when referring to the other parent
6 communicating only about the children if the email or text is focused on coparenting
7 asking for support and change, rather than making demands
8 honoring the choices you made for the sake of your children.
Transitional coparenting is hard work. There will be many times when you want to explode or scream or rant in pain, hurt, or anger. You will have to delay, restrain yourself, and wait until the children have gone to bed or gone to be with the other parent.
Transitional coparenting means taking advantage of every moment you have when the children are not present, to take a deep breath and feel all the feelings about your marriage, your life, that other person who hurt or disappointed you.
Transitional coparenting means preparing for reuniting with your children every single time they come back. You want to be ready for them, welcoming, and as emotionally clear as you possibly can be.
You chose to create a child with the other parent…don’t hurt your child by letting them know that you have changed your mind. Reassure your child every day in every way that you love him or her just the way they are. Cherish the wonder of the child you and the other parent created and find ways to cherish the ways that child is like the other parent.
If you reject the other parent, you reject your child.
Find a support group for Moms or Dads of 2-home children. Start therapy. Take a coparenting class. Take a parenting class.
Bottom line: The transition of restructuring a family from 1 home to 2 homes takes a long time. And you are in this for the long haul, right?
Take care of yourself in some way every day, or you will not be able to take care of your children.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Family Breakup and the Power of Parents: Healthy Bonds OR Unhealthy Alliances?

Most coparents are aware of the challenges children have with coping skills when the conflict between their parents continues after the separation/divorce.

Some children feel caught in the middle of this conflict and feel pressured to choose one of their parents over the other one.

Coping with this loyalty conflict is a terrible burden for a child.

Some parents, most unintentionally in moments of extreme emotion, exploit the child's vulnerability to meet the needs of the parent. These parents exploit their child because the adult does not recognize or does not respect the responsibility of the parent as the authority figure in the relationship.


Parents have deficits. Things that did not go well for them when they were children. They may have had an overly permissive or an authoritarian parent. 

The permissive parent treats the child as if the s/he is an equal in the relationship, so the child receives no guidance, structure, or support for development. 

The authoritarian parent treats the child as if s/he is incompetent and incapable, so the child receives no opportunities to learn self-soothing and self-control.

The primary reason parents exploit their power over the child does not come from a deficit in loving. It comes from a deficit in the ability to parent.

A parent who IS adequately child-focused, and struggling to raise up a child who is feeling torn by a sense of loyalty to each parent, will try their best to reassure the child of several things:

1  You don't have to choose. You love both of us and we both love you and always will. Just go be a kid!

2  You are not the parent, I am. You don't have to take care of me. It's my job to take care of you!

3  Your Mom/Dad and I are working together to make good decisions for you. This is not your responsibility and it's a grown-up issue. Go play!

4  It's not your fault. You didn't cause it. Your Mom/Dad and I decided we would both be better parents to you if we didn't live together anymore. Let us take care of that!

5  I know it's hard learning to go back and forth between Mom's House and Dad's House, but I know you can do it and your Mom/Dad and I will both help you!

These 5 basic messages help create healthy bonds for the child with both of his/her parents. They support the child's need for reassurance and relief from grown-up responsibilities. They communicate that there is an agreement between Mom and Dad to cooperate with each other to take care of the child.  

The message is clear that both parents share the same interest in being supportive of the child.

A parent who IS NOT adequately child-focused, and struggling with a child feeling torn by a sense of loyalty to each parent, will covertly or overtly exploit the child's worry:

1  You want to mainly live with me now, right? We would still all be a family, if your Mom/Dad hadn't destroyed it.

2  I miss you so much when you are gone. I wish you didn't have to leave. It's really hard for me when  you're not here.

3  Your Mom/Dad is making things really difficult for us to be together. You need to talk to him/her and let them know that you want to spend more time with me.

4  I don't know why your Mom/Dad did this. Everything was going so well. I can't believe s/he would do this to us. I just don't think s/he really cares about us anymore.

5  I don't know how your Mom/Dad expects you to live like this. Nobody deserves this. I am so sorry that I can't make it stop. I don't know how you can possibly succeed when your Mom/Dad keeps doing this to you!

These 5 messages are used to create an unhealthy alliance for the child with one parent. They pressure the child to be loyal to only one parent and to withdraw from or reject the other parent. They communicate the need for the child to take responsibility for care of the parent and to feel obligated to that parent.

The message is clear that the only choice available to this child is either loyalty or betrayal. The message is also clear that only one parent is interested in being supportive of the child.

If you recognize yourself in the first set of messages, your child will probably be successful as s/he makes the transition through these family changes. You are working to enhance healthy bonds for the child in both homes which creates and nurtures opportunities for cooperation, collaboration, and resilience.

If you recognize yourself in the second set of messages, your child will probably struggle with the transition through these family changes. You are working to create an unhealthy alliance with your child against the other parent/home, which reinforces loyalty conflict, competition, and low self worth.

Your child deserves a chance for a bright tomorrow which can only happen if you, the parent, learn how to stop competing and start cooperating; and how to stop sabotaging and start collaborating. You deserve a chance to learn how to coparent in a way that supports your child AND supports you. You can do this by joining a support group, taking a class, or getting some personal coaching or therapy.  You owe it to yourself and to your child!