expert online series

Clinical Psychologist Lois Nightgale, Ph.D.,
on Helping Your Children Survive Divorce




Dr. Lois Nightingale

Dr. Lois Nightingale is a Clinical Psychologist and the director of the Nightingale Counseling Center in Yorba Linda, Ca. She is also the author of My Parents Still Love Me Even Though They're Getting Divorced, a fantasy story/workbook to help children ages 5-11 learn about and cope with divorce. The book follows a mermaid and a knight and their four children through the challenges of divorce. Below, Dr. Nightingale discusses the most important strategies for helping your children survive the often-arduous journey of divorce while maintaining positive relationships with both parents.

Current Time: Fri Dec 5 05:08:13 EST 1997

MsgId: jcafe(1)
Date: Fri Nov 28 12:08:24 EST 1997
From:
At: 168.100.204.58


Stay tuned for this week's chat on Tuesday, December 2 at 12 Noon
Eastern Time. Our guest will be Clinical Psychologist Lois Nightingale,
Ph.D., director of the Nightingale Counseling Center in Yorba Linda,
California, and author of the children's book, My Parents Still Love Me
Even Though They're Getting a Divorce. Her topic: Children and
Divorce.
MsgId: jcafe(7)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:01:30 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Welcome to Divorce Central's Expert Online series. Today's guest is Dr. Lois V. Nightingale, clinical psychologist, who will be discussing Children and Divorce. Please hold your questions until 12:30 eastern time. Thank you for being with us, Dr. Nightingale.
MsgId: jcafe(8)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:02:49 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

Hi, I'm ready to start.
MsgId: jcafe(9)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:03:27 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Dr. Nightingale, one of the most difficult subjects parents must address when they have decided to divorce is how to tell the children. What are the important issue's parents should address with children as they go through divorce?
MsgId: jcafe(10)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:05:23 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

First, it's most important to be honest with children in an age-appropriate way. Issues of safety and being loved and how their lifestyle will change, and if they're to blame, are the most important issues that can be addressed...
MsgId: jcafe(11)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:06:32 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

Because children are egocentric, they believe that most significant life events are directly related to their behavior. It is important to reassure children repeatedly, in different ways, over the first two years, that divorce is an adult issue and is in no way related to what they did or did not do./ga
MsgId: jcafe(12)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:07:53 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

What are some of the feelings children experience after they have been told that their family will no longer be united?
MsgId: jcafe(13)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:09:50 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

Grieving, fear, and feeling that life is out of control is often common. Sometimes children do not have an adequate vocabulary to describe the complex and sometimes conflicting feelings they may be experiencing. Parents can help children by modeling verbalization of specific feelings they are experiencing, and also by reading to children about how other children have expressed their feelings during divorce./ga
MsgId: jcafe(14)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:10:57 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

What are some things parents can do to help their children if they are divorcing?
MsgId: jcafe(15)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:12:54 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

One of the most important things that parents can do is allow children to experience and express the feelings they are feeling. It is often hard for parents to hear that their children are in distress, and their first reaction is to try to talk children out of feeling the intense feelings they are experiencing. But it is very important that parents allow the expression of fear, rage, grief, relief, and hopefulness...
MsgId: jcafe(16)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:14:45 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

Children need to know that the divorce is not their fault. They need to know that however the respond to the divorce is all right. They need to be reassured of personal safety, and told in advance about moves, changes in school, and changes in schedules. Children also need to know that it is normal for them to want their parents back together again, even though this is a remote possibility. Children need to not be shamed for their attachments to extended family and new significant others...
MsgId: jcafe(17)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:15:30 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

Children need to know that the divorce is not their fault. They need to know that however the respond to the divorce is all right. They need to be reassured of personal safety, and told in advance about moves, changes in school, and changes in schedules. Children also need to know that it is normal for them to want their parents back together again, even though this is a remote possibility. Children need to not be shamed for their attachments to extended family and new significant others...
MsgId: jcafe(18)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:18:26 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

It is important that children are not triangulated in parental disputes or are in earshot of negative things being said about either parent. Children need to not be responsible for carrying messages and support checks back and forth, and they need to not be responsible for negotiating visitation schedules, pick-up times, or locations. Adults may need to vent about their ex-spouse. It is important that this is done with other adults and away from children...
MsgId: jcafe(19)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:19:36 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

The most devastating aspect of divorce for children, outside of total abandonment, is being triangulated between parents. When children feel they need to take sides, they may withdraw, or become dishonest or depressed./ga
MsgId: jcafe(20)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:21:51 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

One question that will inevitably come up is "Why are you and Daddy/Mommy divorcing?" What is the best way to answer this question? Should parents be absolutely truthful?
MsgId: jcafe(21)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:26:25 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

When children ask why the divorce is occuring, usually their question is indirectly addressing their fear that it is their fault. Children need to be reassured that they did nothing that impacted the divorce. Answers such as "we cannot live together anymore" or "we have decided that we no longer can get along together" are sufficient answers to give children. Any answer that implies fault or belittlement of the other parent should be avoided. If one parent has a chemical dependency or other addiction, the concept of disease and a 12-step program are appropriate, but from the disease model, blame and fault and moral depravity are not an issue. Children can be reassured that both parents did the best they could with their understanding and capabilities. Divorce can be treated as any other tragedy that might befall a child during childhood, such as a parent losing a job, or a parent having a chronic illness, etc./ga
MsgId: jcafe(22)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:31:22 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Isn't it possible, though, that as the children grow older that the children will no longer accept this as the answer, unless the divorce was a mutual decision?
MsgId: jcafe(23)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:33:40 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

As children grow older they may have an understanding of the more complex aspects of the divorce. Especially if they themselves are encountering the personality traits in one or both parents that led to the divorce. But it is important that as they discuss these characteristics, that the topic remain in the present and the focus is how they are responding to those personality traits and that blame and fault are avoided. It is important that a parent does not model becoming a victim or a martyr./ga
MsgId: jcafe(24)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:35:14 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Could you give an example of what you mean by exhibiting personality traits of one of the parents?
MsgId: jcafe(25)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:36:47 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

I'm sorry, I meant "encountering" a personality trait of a parent.
MsgId: jcafe(26)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:36:49 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

Yes. A propensity towards criticism or excessive fault-finding, verbal abuse, or difficulties in maintaining employment, chemical addiction, or gambling, etc. As children grow they become more aware of personality traits that make it difficult for someone to maintain an intimate relationship./ga
MsgId: jcafe(27)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:39:32 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

What are some signs that children may be having difficulty with the divorce?
MsgId: jcafe(28)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:41:58 EST 1997
From:
At: 18.74.2.129

How long does it take to get a divorce and what's the quickest
way to get one?


MsgId: jcafe(29)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:43:17 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

A regression is the most common sign that children are having problems. A child that is potty-trained may revert to needing diapers. A child who has been sleeping in their own room may return to a parent's bedroom. School problems are also very common in children struggling with divorce. Children will often act out on the playground the kind of aggression they have seen between parents. It is important that teachers are informed of the family status to prevent children from recieving inappropriate disciplinary action rather than compassion from teachers. Children may also withdraw and isolate themselves. Eating and sleeping patterns may also change significantly. Excessive tearfulness and daydreaming; forgetfulness and overt hostility are also significant signs. Children may also tell other adults their true feeling and fears, and these may get back to parents/ga
MsgId: jcafe(30)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:43:38 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Thank you for your question. Dr. Nightingale will respond in a moment.
MsgId: jcafe(31)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:44:48 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

I'm sorry. Actually, this is not Dr. Nightingale's area of expertise. Please post your question about how to get a divorce on the legal bulletin board. Thanks.
MsgId: jcafe(32)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:46:05 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

What should parents do if their child/children are exhibiting these problems?
MsgId: jcafe(33)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:49:29 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

One of the best things a parent can do is read a book about divorce at an age-appropriate level with the child. This not only give a child the opportunity to see how other children have dealth with divorce, but also allows them to obtain a vocabulary to express difficult feelings. Another way is to have a child talk about one of their friends' parents' divorce. This will allow a parent to learn more about a child's specific perceptions and possible fears. Drawing pictures of how they remember the family,how things are now, and how they would like things in the future is also a good method of helping children express underlying emotions. If children's symptoms continue for more than a couple of months and are interfering in peer or family relationships or academic performance, or creating health issue, professional advice should be sought./ga
MsgId: jcafe(34)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:52:17 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Let me diverge for a moment to ask you a question that many visitors to Divorce Central have asked. That is, they are concerned that their ex-spouse is alienating their child/children against them. What would you say to these parents?
MsgId: jcafe(35)
Date: Tue Dec 2 12:56:47 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

This can be an extremely uncomfortable situation for a divorced parent. It is important that the mud slinging is not returned. The focus of conversation should be on how the other parent's verbalization makes the child feel. ie, "How do you feel when your mother says that?" or "What would you like to tell your dad when he is saying those things?" If this is a situation that you are currently experiencing, it is extremely important to have peer support and to feed yourself emotionally and spiritually. Remember, what goes around comes around. As children grow, they develop their own opinions. Eventually, children become afraid that a hostile parent will turn their hostility toward them rather than the other parent. Children feel emotionally safe around a parent who is not hostile and retaliatory. As children grow and need a parent with whom to confide, they will turn to the compassionate and forgiving parent, and are more likely to hide from and deceive a hostile and aggressive parent./ga
MsgId: jcafe(36)
Date: Tue Dec 2 13:00:04 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

I'm sure that answer will comfort many parents. We are just about out of time for today, but I'd like to ask you to discuss your book "My Parents Still Love me Even Though They're Getting Divorced." When is it appropriate to use this book, and for what age child is it intended?
MsgId: jcafe(37)
Date: Tue Dec 2 13:04:08 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

My book was written for children ages 5-11. It is very comprehensive, in that it covers many of the issues children face during divorce, including who will take care of me, what do I do if one of my parents breaks a court order, what ways can I express my anger, etc. The book is a fantasy tale about a night and a mermaid who divorce and the reaction and problem-solving skills of their four children. Each part of the book has corresponding workbook pages where children can write or draw or circle answers to questions about how they feel and ways that they would like to resolve their issues. The book is written in an optimistic, positive style, to build self-esteem and feelings of competency and safety in children. It is a great book for parents or any other adult to work through with a child facing divorce. For more information check out my website, www.nightingalerose.com or call 800 898 8426 /ga
MsgId: jcafe(38)
Date: Tue Dec 2 13:06:26 EST 1997
From: Dr._Nightingale
At: 208.212.69.164

Thanks for having me. Good-bye!
MsgId: jcafe(39)
Date: Tue Dec 2 13:06:35 EST 1997
From: Divorce_Central_Moderator
At: 168.100.205.178

Thank you so much, Dr. Lois Nightingale, for joining us today. Your discussion was most informative. Thanks everyone else for "tuning in." Next week our Expert will be Jack Feuer, author of "Do's and Dont's for Divorced Dads." Please join us next week, Tuesday, December 9th at noon eastern time.
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