Failed Marriage Need Not Produce Failed Parents - 4/18/01
cmfce at his.com
Wed Apr 18 11:21:10 EDT 2001
subject: Failed Marriage Need Not Produce Failed Parents - 4/18/01
from: Smart Marriages
Many excellent keynotes, workshops, institutes and seminars at
the Orlando Smart Marriages conference will address issues of stepfamilies
and children of divorce - focusing on how to understand and improve the odds
for remarriages and for the marriages of children of divorce.
It's interesting that the article below lists support groups "just for
women" - one of the more popular seminars in Orlando will be the "Stepmother
Think Tank" based on the understanding that the stepmother is in a pivotal
role in predicting the success of a remarriage. "Being a Stepmother is
like setting your hair on fire and putting it out with a hammer!"....is the
opening sentence in the seminar description. Another popular seminar is
"Children of Divorce Unite" - which will focus on how these kids can
overcome the predictions and improve their odds at marrying successfully.
There are sessions on stepfamilies and play, step-parenting issues,
stepfamilies and money, stepfamily ministries, stepfamily techniques, moral
and spiritual development and stepfamily research. The Monday training
institute will equip you to teach the 'Stepping Together Program' - an
easy to teach educational course w/ workbooks and exercises developed by
John and Emily Visher, founders of Stepfamily Association of America.
If we count cohabiting stepfamilies, stepfamilies are already the largest
family form. We all - in churches, on military installations, in clinics
and private practice settings - need to be prepared to help stem the tide of
redivorce. - diane
> The following article was selected from the Internet Edition
> of the Chicago Tribune. To visit the site, point your browser
> to http://chicagotribune.com/.
> ----------- Chicago Tribune Article Forwarding----------------
> FAILED MARRIAGE NEED NOT PRODUCE FAILED PARENTS
> By Judy Marcus
> When actress Jane Seymour cheers on her teenage son Sean at school
> football games, she is not sitting in the bleachers all by her
> lonesome. On one side of her is Sean's father, David Flynn, Seymour's
> ex-husband and former business manager. On the other side is
> actor/director/producer James Keach, Seymour's husband. Kris and John,
> Seymour and Keach's twin 5-year-old boys, are perched contentedly in
> each man's lap.
> For most well-meaning parents-the ones who always put their children's
> interests ahead of their own-having such harmonious get-togethers with
> their ex-spouses can be tricky. Merely being in the presence of one's
> ex-spouse and, perhaps, current wife or husband can unleash a
> smorgasbord of negative emotions. Anger, hurt, confusion, bitterness,
> competitiveness, betrayal, sadness, frustration, anxiety and jealousy
> can be part of the spread whether one has been divorced 10 months or
> 10 years.
> And it doesn't matter if it's a football game or a major life
> celebration such as a wedding, graduation or christening-it's tough
> for formerly marrieds to survive a meeting with each other with poise
> and dignity.
> Sadly, for many divorced parents, creating an amicable relationship
> with one another is something, well, right out of a TV sitcom. Though
> most divorced parents say they want what's best for their kids, they
> don't always act on it. Marital counselors report that divorced
> parents who never put each other down in front of their children, even
> if only on a subconscious level, are rare. "It's hard not to do it,"
> admitted one expert.
> The Seymour-Flynn-Keach family hasn't always been the role model for
> post-divorce relationships. There was a time when Seymour and her ex
> watched Sean's games far apart from one another in the stands. One day
> Seymour simply made a decision that "this is petty, grown-up
> nonsense," and she and her brood joined Flynn.
> "Sean's face beamed. He saw that it was okay to love everyone at once.
> That was huge," said Seymour about that light-bulb moment. "After all,
> we were all there for the joy of the child."
> One divorced south suburban dad, recently remarried, said he is long
> past feeling angry at his ex. Together he and his ex-wife have
> participated in their daughter's birthday parties, bat mitzvah and
> medical school graduation. Still, he admitted that being in his
> ex-wife's company is just plain awkward. "I feel uncomfortable," he
> said. "I get through it, but there's always a chill in the air."
> Getting past that chill isn't easy.
> "Dynamics in blended families can be very complicated. Ex-spouses may
> feel they got the short end of the stick. New spouses may know
> cognitively what they are getting into, but the reality isn't
> apparent. It can be jarring how difficult it can be, " said David
> Royko, Chicago psychologist and author of "Voices of Children of
> Divorce" (St. Martin's Press).
> Royko said that convening with your ex and your children can be a
> challenge for most people. "The bottom line is if parents can get
> along with each other, children benefit. If there's conflict and
> hostility, children are damaged."
> Seymour's three other children are Keach's son Kalen, 22, stepdaughter
> Jenni(Flynn's daughter by another marriage) 20, and Katie 19, Sean's older
> sister. The actress said she has worked hard to stay on good terms
> with all the parents and stepparents involved in her kids' lives.
> "It's what's best for the children. That's always been my first
> priority," said Seymour, whose book, "Two At a Time" (Pocketbooks),
> about her experience raising twins, was published this month.
> Seymour said she is able to separate any anger and resentment
> associated with her divorce from her feelings for the children. "It
> isn't always easy," she said.
> "But I want my children to feel they can be in the presence of each
> parent at the same time and feel good about it," Seymour added.
> But just how can parents and stepparents be civil to one another
> instead of starting a civil war?
> The first requirement for making sure there's no mudslinging is
> "You need to think about what's best long term for the children
> instead of what's best short term for you," Seymour said.
> Children, even adult children, don't want to be torn between their
> parents, Royko explained. Besides, there's nothing to be gained by
> creating a negative situation.
> Dale Johnson, a divorced father of two from Deerfield, agreed. "You
> have to respect the other person and be big enough to realize he or
> she has the same rights as you. When you have kids, you'll be
> confronted with situations that involve your ex until the day you die.
> You don't want to make it any more difficult for your kids than it is.
> Besides, if you're putting your kids through more mental anguish, they
> may not want you at their main events. You'll be the one to suffer."
> Do it for the kids
> Royko suggested that if a comfortable relationship between divorced
> parents hasn't developed, they should keep the conversation light and
> superficial when they do come in contact.
> "It's not the time to tell your ex that you're moving out of state or
> that you haven't received your child-support payment," he said.
> And if you can't do it for yourself, do it for your kids.
> "Talk about things you can agree on, things you have in common, like
> the child's accomplishments. `Didn't Joey do a great job pitching?'
> would be a great opener at a Little League game," Royko said.
> Seymour has made a rule. "I forbade myself to talk about anything
> other than the children."
> Royko added that even if someone says something insulting to you, let
> it go. "If it's something that needs to be addressed," he said, "do it
> later, away from the kids."
> He also said a person might want to try to imagine ahead of time what
> it's going to be like seeing the ex. "Prepare a script in your head,"
> he said. "If you feel like swearing at someone, do it the night
> And even if being around your ex-mate conjures up thoughts of AK-47s,
> there's nothing wrong with "putting on a happy face," creating a
> facade that everything's okay.
> "Acting is not only all right, it's essential," Royko said. "As adults
> in business, we spin things to an advantage, why not do it when it
> involves your children?"
> That doesn't mean you have to deny real feelings.
> "Just find a way to deal with them, rather than act them out," said
> Evanston clinical psychologist and life coach Sue Lafferty.
> She suggested that one way to do that is through journaling. "When you
> keep a journal," she said, "you don't have to pretend everything's
> okay. You can vent your feelings."
> If you're in turmoil, talking to a therapist or joining a support
> group can be critical. But in lieu of seeking formal help, Lafferty
> suggested "bookending," confiding to a trusted friend before the event
> and after it's over. "Someone [with whom] you feel safe
> discussing these matters."
> Kitty Hawkins of Markham and her blended family of children,
> stepchildren, ex-spouses, grandparents, stepgrandparents and other
> relatives, step or otherwise, join one another often for holidays,
> birthdays and other celebrations. Hawkins said she believes that all
> extended family members are important to children's lives and that the
> power of prayer helps her to keep things positive.
> "Worshipping helps me. You can't have a belief structure and hold a
> lot of animosity. Everything is not always hunky dory, but the Bible
> reminds you to treat people like you want to be treated," Hawkins
> Some find self-help books valuable, said Pam Tansey, a Glenview social
> worker and leader of the Marital Crisis Support Group at the Women's
> Exchange in Winnetka. "It can be beneficial just to reaffirm that it's
> okay to feel what you're feeling," she said.
> Wedding bell blues
> But when a child of divorced parents marries, all the preparation in
> the world may not cut it.
> "Weddings can be a hotbed of everybody's issues coming out," Tansey
> Marrying off a child can stir up emotions for any parent. For a
> divorced parent, a wedding can open up old wounds at a time when major
> decisions need to be made: Who's going to pay? Who's going to be
> invited? Where is everybody going to sit?
> "It can be overwhelming," Tansey said. "But try not to put your kids
> in the middle. Take cues from them to find out what they want.
> Remember, it's not about you."
> If you and your ex just can't work it out without a family feud,
> mediation might be the answer. A professional mediator is a neutral
> third party, often an attorney or social worker, who helps parties
> work out problems. By setting up ground rules at the outset--no
> interruptions, no intimidating behavior, no foul language--a mediator
> strives to resolve conflicts in a business-like manner, without
> On a simpler level, humor also can help smooth the way, according to
> several divorced adults. Seymour and her extended family are able to
> joke about what other people must be thinking during Sean's games.
> Though some events are must-dos if you truly are keeping the interests
> of your child primary, sometimes it's okay to just say no. If there's
> an informal brunch after a wedding, you may choose to politely
> decline. If your child is performing in the school play for a
> three-night period, you can make plans with your ex to be there on
> different evenings.
> The important thing is to know your limitations.
> "If it feels like too much, it probably is," Lafferty said.
> Ultimately, though, parents who truly care about their children need
> to figure out how to get along in front of them, said Dr. Steven
> Yousha, clinical psychologist at the Josselyn Center in Northfield.
> "Parents need to appreciate how important the other parent is for the
> child. A child's sense of self is made of his own internalized
> feelings of his or her mom or dad. If a parent is castrating the other
> parent in front of the children, the children are going to suffer,"
> Yousha said. "Most parents would give their lives for their kids; why
> wouldn't they allow for an awkward situation?"
> SUPPORT GROUPS BUILD BRIDGES
> Support groups can be critical not only to the emotional health of
> divorced parents but to their children. Though most support groups
> charge a nominal fee, some are free or offer scholarships to those in
> need. There are many excellent support groups in the Chicago area.
> Here are a few:
> - Rainbows offers free peer support groups for children, adolescents
> and adults grieving a divorce, death or other painful transition.
> Headquartered in Rolling Meadows, Rainbows has more than 8,000 sites
> throughout the country. Phone 847-952-1770, e-mail info at rainbows.org
> or visit www.Rainbows.org.
> For women only:
> - Marital Crisis Support Group Women's Exchange, Winnetka, phone:
> - The Lilac Tree, Evanston, phone: 847-328-0313.
> For men and women:
> - Parents Care and Share Formerly known as Parents Anonymous, Parents
> Care and Share is a program of the Children's Home and Aid Society of
> Illinois. Support groups are free and available throughout Illinois,
> call 312-424-0200.
> Those interested in conflict resolution by an objective third party
> can call the Mediation Council of Illinois for a list of professional
> mediators in your area, 312-641-3000. Margaret Powers, past president
> of the council, said mediation averages $150-$450 per hour. Those
> charging on the higher end usually are attorneys. Mediation in
> Illinois, as in many states, is unregulated, so it's buyer beware.
> Powers suggested that when calling the council, ask for "seasoned
> mediators who have worked at least 100 cases" and had at minimum a
> 40-hour divorce mediator training course.
> --Judy Marcus
> ADVICE FROM THE KIDS
> The ultimate answers for parents may come from children. These tips
> for divorced parents were suggested by children who participated in
> support groups at Rainbows, a not-for-profit organization that offers
> peer support groups for children, adolescents and adults grieving due
> to divorce, death or other painful transition.
> - Don't make the children "negative-message carriers."
> - Don't ask a child to be the family spy.
> - Don't try to make children feel guilty for wanting to be in both
> their parents' lives.
> - Don't make the children weapons of anger directed at either parent.
> - Don't ask a child to lie or cover up for a parent.
> - Don't say bad things about the other parent.
> - Allow the children to openly express love to both Mom and Dad.
> Love kids unconditionally.
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