My Spouse or My Kids?

My Kids or My Spouse?

You married for love. You married forever. But you never expected your marriage would involve having to choose between your new spouse an...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kids Need to Have Fun after Divorce

Here's a tidbit I found that I thought you'd like. This article, by attorney April Jones, opens a new topic in the discussions about helping your children survive divorce. We've talked about how children of divorce need security and some tips for guiding them into a new future, but in this article, Jones addresses a little considered aspect of divorced kids - their need to have fun again after the trauma of their parents' divorce.

I hope you get some good ideas from this brief article. If you have ideas or questions, please feel free to contact me directly at - I'll be happy to help!


Helping Your Children Cope With the Pain of Divorce: The Importance of Having Fun

Children coping with their families being broken are often under more pressure than their parents realize. Everyone talks about how resilient children are but it can be a resilience obtained at the price of fun and whimsy and light heartedness. What appears to be resilience is often a defense mechanism that can essentially cost children much of their innocence and youthfulness. This is especially true when children have to navigate between bitter, angry, fearful or just plain sad parents who are mourning the death of the dreams they once had for themselves.

These children have to be resilient when Mom is too sad or tired to do laundry and cook because she's coping with her new full time job and battling depression. The children have to be resilient when Dad is too silent and too frustrated with his new single parent duties that include being both the provider and the listener. Try not to assume that your children will cope on their own. They still need the attention of each parent, they still need to laugh and feel heard. They need to know that they are still special to each of you.

Purposely taking time out for fun and relaxation is a must for families (the children AND the adults) in the transition phases of divorce. "Board Games Central" at is a really neat site that I love recommending to my clients in transition. The site has all the traditional board games we grew up with plus tons of other interesting games and party ideas. Games are great for kids and adults who need to relax and have fun. Check it out, get a new game and spend time with your children and/or friends laughing out loud. It will be good for you. One idea is get together with another mother/daughter or father/son team and plan a dinner mystery party for 3-5 other parent/child pairs. Teen girls love the "teen idol mystery party" dinner mystery game. The advantage of co-hosting a party is that you can let your friend do most of the work so you and your child can concentrate on enjoying yourselves and each other.

Original article link:  Children Coping With Divorce

April Jones has been a licensed attorney for over 19 years. She is a divorce lawyer with a family law practice in Denver Colorado. Visit Jones Law Firm, PC at

Friday, February 12, 2010

Death Therapy

In the movie, What About Bob?, Richard Dreyfuss threatens to treat his nutty patient, Bob - played by Bill Murray, with what he calls "death therapy." In that case, the doctor was referring to killing the annoying patient. However, I've found a much better (and much less fatal) form of death therapy, and I've used it in several support groups with a great deal of success.

I begin by assigning the group members to create their own death notice. Death notices include mostly personal memories and facts about the deceased person. The group members are to choose a person they have a conflict with. This is usually part of the stepfamily makeup, a stepchild, an ex-spouse, etc. Or they may be a parent, a biological child, an extended family member, or even a co-worker - anyone they are at odds with.

Then they are to write two death notices: first what they are fairly sure that other person (often referred to as their enemy!) will say about them if they die tomorrow. This brings statements such as "I never liked my stepdad, he was a jerk," or "my stepmom never had anything nice to say about me," or "I'm glad my ex is dead, he was a mean, selfish ..." - well, you get the idea.

The second death notice contains what the writer wishes their enemy would say about them. These usually are corrections of the first notice: "my stepdad was a real friend to me," "my ex started out mean and selfish, but later became a real help with our children and a great person."

Finally, group members are asked how they plan to move their subject from the first, mean death notice to the second, nicer notice. This is the meat of the exercise. In this discussion, the writer must brainstorm (with the help of the rest of the group) ways they can win over their "enemy." And it's here that we almost always gain some great lessons and ideas.

Here are some of the lessons we've learned from past exercises with our groups:
  • it's OK to use a pat answer to an angry chewing out - just say, "OK, I hear you. Talk to you later"
  • it takes a real change of heart to change a person's mind
  • you can't spend too much time with your kids or stepkids
  • sometimes it's OK to let "important" things like bills and chores go in order to bless your kids
  • you've got to take the lead in forgiving your ex - don't wait for them to start it
  • out live them! then they can't say bad stuff about you!
  • getting the last word in is seldom ever worth the pain it causes
  • just get over it! 
  • forgiving is fun - it is a relief to get over the anger and resentment of past hurts
My suggestion to you is to try this exercise with your mate. Think about what someone will say about you after you die. What kind of impression are you making on the people in your world - or on the world over all? How have you hurt someone, and how can you repair that hurt before you die? Where are you going when you die? What are your travel plans? Who are you taking with you?

What are your kids/stepkids going to remember about you after you're gone? You know, the memories you are making with them now will last the rest of their lives. Plant some flowers, don't burn down the garden.

I'll be happy to talk to you about this exercise or other ways of repairing your relationships. Email me directly at

God bless y'all!

STEPcoach Bobby C.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Cost of Procrastinating

I teach a class for divorcing parents on how to guide their children through divorce with as little damage as possible. As I point out in the lesson, divorce always affects children. Some are badly damaged, some are only lightly stained. But all are changed for the rest of their lives. Many are affected so that their own marriages later in life are damaged by their parents' divorce.

Last month in a divorcing parents' class, one of the attending moms told us that she wished she had known about our stepparenting support and mediation sessions before, because she was sure her family could have avoided the break up with some help. She went on to confess that she and her then-husband had talked about getting help, but they kept putting it off, hoping things would just get better, until it was too late.

Their cost included (among other things):
  • several thousand dollars for attorneys and court fees, 
  • the expense of his new apartment so she and their three kids could keep the house, 
  • a second set of utility payments each month, 
  • a second car payment, and 
  • counseling for their middle daughter who wouldn't quit crying about daddy leaving. 

And that's just the financial costs. Besides that is his broken heart, her failed dreams, their children's crushed hopes and ideals about life and love, each spouse's family's shared heartache, and one more breakdown of family in America.

All because they just kept putting off getting help through mediation or counseling. Just to save a couple hundred bucks.

Let me state clearly here: I am a licensed family mediator. I have, since 1996, helped hundreds of stepfamilies to settle their differences and stay together. I help couples figure out ways to resolve the little upsets that build into irreconcilable differences. I also help reconcile those differences. I am proud to be a Christian family mediator. I save families from divorce and disaster. 

Before you think, "let's just wait, maybe it will get better," or "surely he'll change," or "maybe she's just bluffing, it'll be OK;" before you wait, hoping the problem will go away on its own, email me or call me and let's talk about preventing a disaster in your family.

Your have your entire future in the balance. But that's OK. You're an adult and you can handle another divorce. But what about your children? Do you really want to drag them through that pain again? Do something before it's too late, because the cost of procrastinating is far more than they can afford.

God bless your whole family,
STEPcoach Bob Collins

Show your STEPfamily Pride!