High Conflict Central hears the most from parents when it comes to finding or working with a parenting consultant or parent coordinator. These people are so hard to understand, even lawyers and judges can have trouble with the role. We will admit that we struggled to understand their decisions and behaviors until our fearless leader, Susan Carpenter, made things more clear.
We have never met anyone who understands Parenting Consultants as much as Susan Carpenter does. Never. Of course many highly experienced PCs understand their role, but some of the newbies may not. Either way, they don’t share what is going on with you. Why? They figure your lawyer will. Unfortunately, on the flip side, lawyers think your PC will. Well, this leads to where nobody will. Lucky for you, we will. Susan will, too.
Children need their parents. This is particularly true during times of transition, such as divorce. The most challenging thing about going through divorce is to manage your own pain so that you can be the support your child needs. Divorce is a critical time for a family. Emotions are high. Sometimes parent conflict is extremely high to the point of insanity. If you are feeling so much stress and upset, just imagine what your children are feeling. They need their parents to reassure them that everything will be alright, but if you are not sure of that, it is hard to make them believe the words you tell them.
Many parents seek out help from lawyers or mediators to get through the divorce process. Some will even turn to a therapist. Those are good professionals to turn to, but the problem is that you may hear different things from each different player. A therapist is going to validate your feelings while a lawyer is going to tell you your feelings don’t matter. Everything will feel like it is tied to money when it is supposed to be about your children’s best interests.
Have you ever thought about seeking help from a coach-mentor? High Conflict Central has been involved with parents in conflict, especially parents going through divorce or post decree issues. We not only have a collective 21 years of experience in the process divorced parents have to go through, but also have experienced the pain. A requirement for our coach-mentors is that they have been through similar things to what you are going through. We can understand what you are talking about and help you understand the upside down and backwards experience of what it is like to go through family court in a way that your lawyer or therapist will never be able to do. We also understand the reason behind Family Court and what seems like insanity in their thinking and we want to help you understand, too. There is nothing that feels more like eternal darkness than trying to navigate a system that you are not prepared to navigate and do not understand.
High Conflict Central tries to be the link to connect all the pieces for you. While you may not want to spend money on coaching when you have high legal bills and concerns about your future, our clients will tell you that coaching helped decrease their lawyer bills and the number of interactions with court professionals like judges or parenting consultants. It will also help you feel supported and in the strongest possible position to help your child. Contact us to learn more about coaching services at High Conflict Central, a trademark of Susan Carpenter Coaching and Consulting.
What happens when you lose your focus? If you focus too much on the wrong things or if unexpected life events rob you of your energy and time, you will find that your other responsibilities get neglected. When that happens, everything can become very chaotic.
Sometimes losing focus cannot be helped. For example, when my aunt became sick I had to put some things on the back burner, but she was my mom’s only living immediate family member so I thought it was important to take my mom to visit as much as possible. My aunt lived out of town so we took time every weekend to visit her, including one weekend that we stayed for four days because she was not expected to live through the weekend. She did make it through and actually lived another couple of months. What a fighter she was! It was worth neglecting things on the home front. Since then, both she and my mom have passed and I can look back without regret. Imagine if I had decided that housework and yard work were more important! Yes, during that time some things were ignored. Laundry piled up, the dust gathered, and the yard work did not get done, but I had my priorities straight. It was important to spend the time with my aunt and meet my moms needs, too. I knew that the chores could get done later. No big deal. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do.
What about times when you lose focus on what is important and then the important things get ignored? For example, I have a friend who obsesses over what her ex is or is not doing. She needs to clean up certain aspects of her life that are causing her grief, but she never gets around to cleaning those things up. She has a boyfriend, who thinks she is fabulous, but instead she alienates him by talking about how much she hates her ex husband. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on building this new relationship rather than lamenting the past? Consider where it is you want to put your energy and who you want to put your energy into. Exes are exes for a reason. The past is the past. Leave it there and live in the here and now while you plan for the future you dream about.
I know a man who has a wonderful family, but he is a workaholic. His employer could live without him there 60-80 hours per week, but he thinks he must work that hard to get rewarded. Truthfully, companies rarely reward you with more than your salary. Ask anyone who has been laid off. Companies will always act in their own best interest when push comes to shove, and to hell with the employees. Especially when the economy is bad! The workaholic is missing out on his children growing up and being the kind of man that his children can count on to be there when they need him. As it is now, when his wife needs him or his children need him, he is never available. He is always at work. I don’t know what his future holds, but what I do know is that if his life were to end, his wife and children would most likely wish that he had given more to himself than to the company, or maybe, this is sad to say, but maybe they wouldn’t miss him much. If they are not used to having him around, the days after his death may be just a return to business as usual. When it comes to your family, don’t take them for granted. Be the kind of person who leaves a huge void when you are gone. Nothing is more important than family. Trust me, I work with people who have taken things for granted and lost them. It is a hard thing to watch someone go through and even harder to be the one going through it.
When not focused on the right things, your life can spin out of control. You can also miss opportunities and events in your child’s life. You may miss important moments that you can never get back. To make sure you don’t, here are some tips:
1. Make a priorities list Take some time, whether an afternoon, a day, a week or whatever time frame you need to figure out what parts of your life are most important to you. Once you have set realistic priorities, live it. Short of a temporary emergency or out of the ordinary situation, stick to your priorities. You will be glad you did.
2. Put yourself at the top of your priorities Put yourself at the top of your priorities list. If your love or energy banks are depleted you don’t have much to offer others. Eat, get plenty of sleep, and put together a good support system. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling with something.
3. Set realistic goals. Whether you have big dreams or just daily life expectations, be conscious of what it will take to meet those goals. Remember that some things are accomplished by taking small steps and that is okay. Meeting the goal is the important thing, but you have to make sure that it is an attainable goal. When goals are too lofty, you can end up disappointed. At the end of each day, think about the progress you made and recognize even the smallest advances. If you did not make progress toward your goals, forgive yourself when unforeseen circumstances or emergencies get in the way and then get right back to it tomorrow. If you need to, break big goals into smaller goals that will lead to the same thing.
4. Take time to relax and have fun. This is something you really have to allow yourself to do. Many people deny themselves and believe they are not worthy of a break. It is not true. Life is about balancing what you need to do with what you want to do. The world will not fall apart because you took your eyes off from its desires for you for a short while and remember, you are not in control of the world. Worry about what is your responsibility and don’t take on something that is not your concern.
5. Don’t feel guilty! There really is nothing to feel guilty about. People who learn to say no usually get much more joy and fulfillment out of life than those who do not. If you don’t want to help your friend move, say no. However, if you want to help your friend and maintain the friendship, be confident explaining to them that you cannot do it that particular day, but maybe you could help in a different way. Maybe you help for a couple of hours or maybe on a different day (if they can arrange it). Maybe you offer to help unpack things and arrange things after the move. When you say no to people you care about, make sure they know that you are not saying no because you don’t want to help, you are saying no because you are not available at that particular time. If they are a good friend, they will understand. Try not to say no to your spouse or children though, unless it is an absolute must!
6. Use To-Do lists! It helps to write down the things you need to do and have a plan of action. It also helps to cross each item off the list when done. That way, you see that you have accomplished things and it keeps you motivated to do more!
7. Separate work from home life. Bringing work home with you, even if it is only the bad mood the boss put you in, puts your focus on the wrong things. You are likely not getting paid when you are not at work so why put your energy into that? Get rewards at home, such as the smile on your family’s face from receiving your full attention on them. Work is for work and earning an income to support your family, but home is where the heart is!
8. Schedule tasks that you don’t like to do, but know you have to do. Does the garage need a good cleaning? Pick a day and stick with that. However, the garage is part of the house so enlist family to help. You get to spend time together, sharing, while doing something that is a benefit to the family. It is also teaching your kids how to cooperate and share, even when it may not be the most fun thing in the world!
9. Balance together time and alone time We all should be making time for the important people in our lives, but we all need some time to ourselves, too. You may also want to spend time with friends and family as a group, to best utilize your time, but also, connect with each person individually as well. People need to know that you are interested in them as a person and if you only spend time with them in groups, it can create a wedge. Make time for you, for individuals and for group activities also, and do not forget how important couple time is for a couple who has children. Mommies and daddies need to connect without kids to keep their connection strong for sharing the kids.
10. Make it more about positives than negatives. Focus on what you have done, not what you were unable to get done. Focus on the few minutes you spent with your kids today, rather than the hours you did not get to spend with your kids today. Remember, tomorrow is another day and we never get to have every day go exactly as we plan or as we’d like! Before you go to sleep each night, reflect on what went right and what made you feel good. You will sleep so much better when you think in the positive!
In challenging times one can often feel hopeless and stuck in a downward spiral of negativity.If anything doesn’t go according to plan or it takes your time away from doing what you need or want to do, you go on the attack. Everyone is a target. You start finding yourself labeled as psycho, angry, disturbed, etc. If you are involved in a court battle you could be labeled as a bad parent or with a mental diagnosis like bipolar, histrionic, schizoid or other, even if you have no such diagnosis in any medical record. The courts throw these terms around at the mildest suggestion by an ex or a court authority. It is extremely upsetting for the accused when people who are not doctors or psychiatrists or therapists to start writing labels into your court documents. These labels will then stick. You may even start to wonder if they are right! If you haven’t been diagnosed outside of the family court arena, in most cases those labels are NOT right!
So what can you do? The courts view you as something you are not, your ex bad mouths you all over town. Sometimes your kids act kind of distant. You get upset about everything and everyone. Work becomes a hostile environment also. How do you have a positive attitude and stay out of the negativity trap?
First of all, take time to nurture yourself. When things get really intense, have a great workout, take a walk, do some yoga, ride a bicycle, or a motorcycle, go hang out with a friend, watch a movie, use some kind of distraction to separate you from your problems. Have you colored in a coloring book lately? Do this with your kids and see how creativity uplifts you. For just an hour or two, do not allow yourself to dwell on the negativity at all.
Next, make sure you are taking care of your body by getting enough food and drink and get the amount of sleep you need. A strong body supports a strong mind. If you’re not able to sleep without dwelling on your problems, sit and meditate, or listen to soothing song that makes you feel good. Take some deep breaths. Think of anything positive in your life. Make a list of positive things or goals. Think of how it will feel to accomplish those goals. Read some scripture. Pray. God is always on your side, even when you think no one else is! Then go to sleep on a positive note. This takes a lot of practice, but you can get yourself to where you can always pull yourself out of negative and into the positive thoughts anytime the negative tries to creep in.
Use good body language. Walk tall. Hold your head up. Have you ever tried it? It is amazing. If you stand up straight and wear a smile on your face, people will see you as confident and happy. Say, “Hi”, to people as you walk by. See the reaction. Don’t slouch, it comes off as the appearance of defeated, you don’t want to look weak or defeated, especially when you are dealing with the court or court authorities.
Use positive words. When I decided to go for sole custody, I used words like “when” i am granted custody, rather than “if” I am granted custody. “If” was not in my list possibilities. I use that when going on a job interview as well. I act as if I already have the job! This is very important. Believe in your ability to do whatever it is you want to do. If you are going for sole custody, know you can and will do it. Believe in yourself. If any doubters try to bring you down, let them know that you WILL prevail in court. You WILL do everything humanly possible to achieve your goals. Know that whatever happens in life, you will get through it. Negative times are temporary. A Positive attitude is permanent.
It may feel strange at first, if you have been struggling for years, but you will get the hang of it. If you need something tangible to hold to remind yourself, get yourself a good luck charm, either a necklace, bracelet, key chain or something that you keep on your desk at work or in your car. Find something that will bring you back to your focus if you start reverting back to the old negative ways. Retrain your brain to stay on some kind of movement forward in your life so that you are not stuck and you are not going backward.
Life is a balancing act. When you allow yourself to obsess over one part of life, while not allowing time for the good parts, you will feel hopeless and want to give up. Sometimes you will have to focus on the court battle. That will be unavoidable. For times when you don’t have to focus on those spirit draining things, don’t. No matter what. Make sure that you schedule time with a friend or doing some activity you really enjoy at least a couple times per week. That gives you something to look forward to and helps you move forward.
You don’t have to stay stuck. You really don’t. You can always think of something positive in your life if you really try. Focus on the good things and put the negative in a closet where you only let it out if you must. Get unstuck in life by moving forward. You will notice a difference and you will feel a new strength that helps you achieve all of your goals.
When hit with divorce some people decide that their life is over. They think that in order to be a good parent, they must make sacrifices. They decide that dating has to wait until the children are grown, or they decide that they must be alone FOREVER.
There are always those people who decide that “all men are scum!” or that “all women are man haters!” While it certainly feels that way as you try to heal the wounds of divorce, those statements are blatantly false. Just because one person hurt you, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a loving man or woman out there who has been hurt just as badly, and would love to find someone like you. Many people are looking for a decent, loving individual, with whom they can build a new life, but instead, they do not allow themselves to seek out a potential mate.
It is called fear, people. Fear holds them back from true happiness. Those who live in fear never get to live life to the fullest. They miss out on the joy life can bring. They miss out on sharing a life with someone wonderful.
We can take our past experiences and let them continue to hurt us, or we could chalk it up to experience and hop right back on that bicycle and try it again. What I think people find through dating, especially when they are a little older and have been through divorce, is that they matter, and that they are more beautiful and desirable than they think they are.
The period following divorce can be a chance to learn about yourself. It can be a time to figure out who you are and what your interests are. You can try people on for size and it will help you find the right one for you. Just because the last one turned out to be the wrong one, that is no reason to give up and hide under the covers. I truly believe that there is someone out there for everyone. Just make sure that you have examined your part in the failed relationship and that you are emotionally healthy and ready for a new relationship before you get deeply involved with a new mate. It will save many headaches later if you get your act together!
I have another take on that whole “sacrificing for the children” belief. I think that when you swear off dating, you are robbing your children of a good example. Here’s why: Since you ended up divorced, that was probably not the best example of a healthy relationship. Did you fight? Was there chemical dependency involved? Was your ex physically and verbally abusive? Children learn by modeling. They observe the relationships they see and it leaves an impression on them. The kind of relationship they witness will be the relationship they seek out in their own lives and they will do so without even knowing they are doing it.
One day, they will choose a significant other and have a relationship just like their parents had. Why? Because this is what a relationship looks like to them. Do you want that? Would it be better to show your children how to date selectively and then hopefully find that special person with whom you can have a healthy, lasting relationship with? What a great model to give them, especially if all of the relationships around them haven’t always been the healthiest! Do this for you, but also for your children, and for that new person you have yet to meet, the one who is just as lonely as you are. You just might surprise yourself and find the right one. I know I have.
Keep in mind that there is another reason to open your heart and mind to love, and all of the possibilities in life. Your ex. While I would never recommend dating just to get back at your ex, I do think the best revenge on an ex is for them to see you blissfully happy and successful in life! Go ahead. Have the last laugh.
A common concern for divorced parents is what to do when their co-parent is deceitful and manipulative. You have to know when and how to respond to lies or accusation and when not to. Parent’s instincts can cause them to react defensively, rather than respond appropriately. Unfortunately, by getting defensive, you can make others believe that there is truth to what your evil ex is saying about you. The easiest thing to do is say, “That’s not true.” and move on. Most of the time, false accusations will not impact your parenting time, especially if you already have an agreed upon parenting time schedule or court ordered schedule in place. What can impact your parenting time is when you have extremely negative reactions to the lies and the games.
Professionals see these games all the time and for the most part, they do not simply take the word of one parent as gospel over the other. No matter what your ex says about you, do not let it change who you are or give them the reaction that they crave. Be confident in the truth and trust in professionals to see. It can sometimes take a while, but eventually they will see the truth. Remember, you were charmed or fooled by your ex when the two of you got together and over time, you found out who they really were. The professionals only get little glimpses into each of you so it may be hard for them to see. However, if you allow you ex enough rope, as they say, they will indeed hang themselves. You do not have to prepare the noose or grab the rope to show it to anyone. Leave your ex to falter with their own devices and do not take the low road that they do.
Truth stands the test of time; Lies are soon exposed ~ Proverbs 12:19
The following is my most popular post ever. It has been updated slightly. When I started trying to bring a new High Conflict Program to Minnesota, I removed the post out of respect for Our Family Wizard. They asked me to remove it, and offered to help me get the High Conflict program started in Minnesota. Normally, I stand behind what I write and what I believe, but at the time, I thought more people could be helped with the High Conflict program than could be helped by this post. As Family Court just keeps getting worse for families, I have decided that I need to re-post this. I think it is information that is helpful to people. That is what I am trying to do. As you will note, I do find certain portions of Our Family Wizard to be convenient. The goal when I wrote this back in 2011 was to help people stay focused on the reality that there is very little any Family Court tool can do to help you when you have a hostile co-parent. That is a sad fact of reality. Below is the re-post of sad realities.
*The following is a repost from A Day in the Life Blog of Life’s Doors Mediation from 12-15-11
Our Family Wizard is a communication tool that the courts often order families to use to manage co-parenting issues. You can email through our family wizard, keep a calendar/schedule for the whole family and scan receipts to have a record of expenses for the children.
The high conflict family will still have high conflict through Our Family Wizard. While OFW does offer discounts for military families and scholarships to some families, it will cost you $99 per year or $179 for a 2 year plan. That cost is for each parent. While there are some things about Our Family Wizard that are helpful and handy, it still is another money sucking entity for the court. You can do all the same things through email or a shared yahoo/gmail calendar, etc. The reason the court will order you to use it is because court authorities can log in and review what is going on with your family. For example, if you want your parenting coordinator/consultant to read some of the emails that your ex has sent to you, you can let them know that they should review the emails and the professional can log in, select your account and read through anything they’d like.
There are myths about how it works and I’d like to clear some of those up. I have known people who get very excited about the use of Our Family Wizard. They think that finally, someone is going to see how nasty my ex is and do something about it. If that is what you believe, the first thing you need to know is that these people see nasty. They see nasty family battles a lot. It is nothing new to them. Second, if your ex is nasty, what is it that you expect the parenting coordinator or consultant to do about that exactly? They really cannot do much.
There is a scare tactic to Our Family Wizard. The courts hope that since a court authority, including the judge, can look in and read your emails at anytime, you might decide to be civil and cooperative with your ex. Do judges look in and read your emails? I highly doubt it. They don’t want to see you in their court room, why would they take the time to go read nasty emails? Do parenting coordinators/consultants read the emails? Again, that is highly unlikely. They simply don’t have time. The system is not designed for them to read every email on every case that they are involved with. Usually, if you want your PC to read the emails, you would either need to call and tell them to do so, or send them an email and tell them to do so.
Our Family Wizard can be used for people who are not involved in the family courts, but is mostly court ordered for high conflict cases. Is it a bad thing? That depends. It will take more of your money. If you are already spending a fortune for attorney’s and parenting coordinators/consultants, this is just more money out of your kids’ pockets. Think of the things you could do for your child with that money. If it is a court order though, you have no choice. Well, you do, but if your ex will make a federal case out of it, you don’t want to risk contempt of court.
Does Our Family Wizard reduce conflict? Not so much. It may decrease some of the battles at first, but once you get used to it, you let your guard down. Communications get bad once again and now you have just moved the location of the battle, from yahoo (for example) to Our family Wizard. That is the only change, the location where the battle plays out.
Another problem with Our Family Wizard is that often, a parent will email the other parent, but will start writing to the PC and cc-ing the other parent. This is not the way it is supposed to go, but it often goes that way. The way disputes work in family court, one parent can make a request of the other, if the other parent says no, then you contact the parenting coordinator/consultant. This doesn’t always happen with the crutch of Our Family Wizard. As mentioned previously, one parent will start emailing the PC at any sign of dispute. They will add your name to the email as if you are an after thought.
Our Family Wizard may work well for you and your family. It’s hard to say, but you should definitely check it out before you have to use it. There are some other programs around so it doesn’t have to be Our Family Wizard, but you and your ex will have to agree to use a different company and hope your professional is OK with it. Most professionals will only go with Our Family Wizard.
Since your emails on Our Family Wizard are not private, you will need to be careful what you write. Written words are missing body language, facial expressions and emotion so in the absence of that, words can be taken to mean things that you didn’t intend.
Also, regarding the calendar, I have known some couples who use the shared calendar and if anytime the other parent forgets to add an appointment or send an email through Our Family Wizard, the other parent goes berserk. These things happen. It is very unfortunate and not what it is intended for, but you need to be aware that it can be used as a weapon.
Again, this can be a useful tool, if you use it as it was made to be used. Personally, I liked the receipt scanning ability. I could scan copies of medical payments when requesting reimbursement from the other parent. It is also fantastic to keep track of the kids’ schedule and appointments, clear up miscommunications, etc., but it can and is often another tool to use against an ex. If you have a high conflict person to co parent with, this will just end up like anything else, a battle field.
Over the years, different companies have popped up from time to time in an effort to compete with Our Family Wizard, but they typically go out of business pretty fast. Our Family Wizard has succeeded in making a name for themselves across the country and judges frequently court order the program for parents, as do parenting coordinators and consultants. There are some good things about Our Family Wizard, but if you think it will stop a bad actor, it usually will not. You also cannot force someone to sign up or use the program if they are not going to. Some people choose to be difficult and non communicative. If someone is acting in bad faith and wants to make your life miserable, there is usually little you can do to stop it, other than be courageous and strong in the face of the attacks from an unhappy person while spending your time focusing on the needs of your children. No matter what.
High Conflict Central has helped many parents on communication. We offer coaching and education for individuals and families. One of the most helpful things our clients gain is to remove the stress of emailing with a hostile co-parent. You know, the one who sends 25 nasty responses to a simple request. We’d love to help you, whether you use Our Family Wizard or not. Contact us for a free consult today and the best part is, working with us does not have to involve your ex. It will be your work for yourself and for your children. Contact us today.