Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

The Impacts of Divorce On Children

December 21, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
The Impacts of Divorce On Children
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
More Info
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
The Impacts of Divorce On Children
Dec 21, 2023
Attorney Billie Tarascio

Discover the startling truth about the long-lasting psychological effects of divorce conflicts on children in this eye-opening episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast. Did you know that as many as 1 in 4 children of divorce endure these profound consequences? This is a staggering statistic, especially when compared to just 1 in 10 children from non-divorce families facing similar challenges.

Join our host, Billie Tarascio, as she dives into this crucial topic with special guest, Dr. Karey O'Hara, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. Dr. O'Hara shares her groundbreaking research findings on the mental health of children following parental separation and divorce. The insights she provides are not only enlightening but have far-reaching implications for divorced parents everywhere.

In this fascinating conversation, you'll discover:

  • Practical steps and strategies parents can take to support their children through these challenges.
  • How divorce can influence parents' life choices and relationships.
  • Why Dr. O'Hara believes this issue has become a national health concern.

If you're a divorced parent or know someone who is, this episode is a must-listen. Dr. Karey O'Hara's ongoing research project, Project Brain Team is still open to participants ages 9-12. You can connect with her on LinkedIn if you'd like to have your child take part. 

Show Notes Transcript

Discover the startling truth about the long-lasting psychological effects of divorce conflicts on children in this eye-opening episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast. Did you know that as many as 1 in 4 children of divorce endure these profound consequences? This is a staggering statistic, especially when compared to just 1 in 10 children from non-divorce families facing similar challenges.

Join our host, Billie Tarascio, as she dives into this crucial topic with special guest, Dr. Karey O'Hara, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University. Dr. O'Hara shares her groundbreaking research findings on the mental health of children following parental separation and divorce. The insights she provides are not only enlightening but have far-reaching implications for divorced parents everywhere.

In this fascinating conversation, you'll discover:

  • Practical steps and strategies parents can take to support their children through these challenges.
  • How divorce can influence parents' life choices and relationships.
  • Why Dr. O'Hara believes this issue has become a national health concern.

If you're a divorced parent or know someone who is, this episode is a must-listen. Dr. Karey O'Hara's ongoing research project, Project Brain Team is still open to participants ages 9-12. You can connect with her on LinkedIn if you'd like to have your child take part. 

We hope you enjoy this episode of the Modern Divorce podcast, but first, an important message for our listeners. 

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast. I'm your host, Billie Tarascio. Excited to be joined today by a very interesting guest. It's Dr. Karey O'Hara. She is a professor, a psychologist, and a researcher passionate about understanding how to help children adjust after stressful times in their lives, i. e. divorce. She conducts research on risk and protective factors that predict how children adjust after stressful events, like divorces or parental death. [00:02:00] So she also works to design interventions that are informed by science, easy to use, and effective in promoting children's mental health and well being.

Dr. O'Hara, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be here with you today. 

So I'm so excited to have you here today. Um, that, that is a lot. And you know, I'm a divorced mom and almost anybody who's a divorced parent wants to know how to protect their children. Before we get into the protective factors and what we can be doing to protect our children and help them, how did you get into this field?

That's a good question. So I have been, I've really been in this field since I started as an undergraduate. I just, um, you know, got in, in touch with a professor who was doing this work. She was actually studying, um, intimate partner violence in the context of divorce and separation. So she was really focused on the adults in the situation.

Um, and as an undergraduate [00:03:00] research assistant, I found myself in the basement of the. Courthouse in Tucson and was looking through files collecting data for my professor's research project and I just found myself just honestly the one thing the thing that I remember so clearly is just sitting there reading through these documents and thinking what's it like to be a The kid in this situation, I mean, we're seeing sort of the, the, um, the filings go back and forth between mom and mom and dad.

Um, but, and the child, the children are talked about a lot in the court. files

, um, from my, from my vantage point at the time, but their voice wasn't really there, so I had to just think about, like, what is this like for them? And I remember one particular case that, um, that the youngest child in the family, this, the court case had been going on almost their entire life, which is about, I think that kid was about 10 years old, and the court case had been going on [00:04:00] for about nine 

years, and so I thought, wow, what a, um, what an interesting experience to grow up your entire life.

in the family court, essentially. 

Wow. Okay. Yeah. Um, and so what have you found is the impact of, on children of growing up in family court? 

Yeah. You know, I think the thing is that the impact is not so straightforward. Um, if I had to boil it down to one word, I would say it depends. There's so much variability.

Um, you know, I think as a society, we've been asking this question for a long time, uh, you know, is divorce bad for kids, right? That's what it really boils down to. Um, we've been asking that question as a society, even as researchers for decades. And the answer is Not necessarily. You know, when this research first started in the mid 80s, there was this [00:05:00] preliminary research that was published that really created this alarmist view of the impact of divorce on kids.

So the researchers concluded basically that the children, you know, who experienced divorce go on to suffer a lifetime of troubles, particularly in their relationships. But the problem is that the research methods that were being used in those early studies were very, were biased in several ways, and so it really distorted the truth.

Um, but luckily researchers have kept at it, really trying to understand this question and all of its, this question and the answers and all of its nuance. So at this point, probably, we are now four decades later, um, after hundreds of research studies, we know that yes, divorce does indeed increase the risk of that children will have problems, but there's so much more nuance to that story.

Um, first of all, across studies, again, yes, you do find this consistent small in [00:06:00] magnitude gap in adjustment across domains of a child's life. So social functioning, mental and physical health, um, You know, academics, uh, anything you can think of, basically. Um, for children who experience divorce, yes, relative to their counterparts with continuously married parents, um, there is this overall smaller, um, er, there's this gap in, in how well that they do.

But the good news is that most children are incredibly resilient. It's one of my favorite things about doing this work, is getting to witness the resilience of children and families going through tough times.

We even know that some kids show improvement, but we also know that there is this subset, the best research will tell us that it's about 20 to 25 percent of kids, compared by the way with about 10 percent in the general population of kids will go on to develop long term problems.

So, the reason that I do this [00:07:00] work is because although that risk posed by divorce I would say is small in magnitude, it's considerable from a public health perspective, right, because it's so common. There's so many people that go through this. Okay, and I, I want to make sure I understood you. So are, did you, did I hear you correctly that 25 percent of children of divorce go on to have significant long term problems?

20 to 25 percent is the best estimates. Yes. Okay. Compared to about 10 percent of kids in the general population. Okay. And how do we define, you know, significant long term problems? What is that? It's a great question. Um, the answer is that it's all over the place. It depends on what the researchers measured.

Um, so there's been, we've, we have, um, as a field, the research has gone to look at things like Um, mental, mental health disorders, like diagnosable mental health disorders, physical health problems. A big thing that comes up, a lot of [00:08:00] people have, um, studied, uh, dysfunction in their own relationships or preventative divorce themselves, right?

Um, I would say, uh, in a large piece of the, of the literature, well, I don't know if it's a large piece, but an important piece of the literature is One researcher coined it painful feelings about divorce, so it was sort of this like, it doesn't rise to the level of dysfunction per se, there's not a diagnosable mental health or physical health disorder, but It sticks with them, right?

It impacts their life, impacts the decisions they make, impacts their relationships. Um, so I think that that's a really hard question to answer, um, because I think it's all of the above. And one of the re one of the reasons that I try to stay away from saying, well, first of all, there's nobody that can tell you.

Your child is gonna at risk for [00:09:00] this, this, and this thing. The thing is, is that kids, um, they go on to develop problems in different areas of their life, and we can't really predict what's going to happen. It's different for every child. It's different for every sort of age and stage of their life as well, um, so that gets really tricky, and then the other thing is that I'd like to just, um, stick with the, I guess, more informal understanding of of people who have these difficult experiences and maybe they don't fall under a certain label or into a certain box, but they're still impacted by it.

And I still think that that's important. I can tell you in my own research, I do, one thing I do a lot in my research is I talk to parents and kids, um, who have gone through this and I ask them about their experience and I ask them for advice. What would they tell other parents? What would they tell other kids?

Um, because I'm really trying to understand, um, through this kind of merging of we have the [00:10:00] research, we have the academics, but also lived experience and how people, um, can describe their own experiences, I think can be really powerful. Um, And so, one of the things that I have noticed, um, is I, I will talk to parents, this has happened more times than I can count, where I'm talking to a parent, who them, they are the ones that are going through this process divorce right now with their child. Um, a lot of the families that I work with have, um, ongoing high levels of conflict between the parents. And that's been, that's one of the big stressors. And I have so many times been with a parent who is in tears, not because they are thinking about what's happening now, but because they're remembering what their experience was as a child, 20, 25, 30 years ago, whatever it is.

So I'm asking them, how do we help your child cope today? And they are transported back in time to their own experiences because so many [00:11:00] of them have also been through this as children. So to me, that's a testament to kind of what those long term effects can look like. Okay. So what I'm, what I'm hearing is very consistent with everything I've read and with every fear that every parent has.

Luckily, you have some tools and some advice for us. Yes. To make it. less awful. Yeah, I think the most important thing for parents to, to know is that there's so much variability in that, um, in how children respond. You know, because of this research, it's sort of led us on this search for trying to figure out, okay, who's going to adjust well, who's not going to adjust well, how do we, how do we predict this?

How do we intervene? How do we help? What we found [00:12:00] to sum it up is that it's not the divorce itself that hurts kids. It's the extent to which kids are armed with resources and tools that makes All of the difference in the world. And so that's actually really great news for parents because parents have so much power to shape how their children experience this life transition.

And we know that how children experience this life transition predicts how well they're going to do down the line. So even though it's, you know, Like you said, this, this is a really scary thing for a lot of parents. I've not met a parent yet, um, in this situation who doesn't want the absolute best for their child, who doesn't want to do right by their child, who, um, just wants to help their child through this.

Um, there's no variability in that. I've not found a parent yet who doesn't feel [00:13:00] that way. Um, and so, you know, the, the, the question becomes, what do we do? We know that divorce is not an avoidable stressor. It happens, right? And it happens for really good reasons. Parents have really good reasons. We know that, yes, the stress of divorce can put kids at risk for negative consequences, but the question really doesn't become, do we get divorced or do we not get divorced?

The question becomes, how do we combat the stress? That the kids feel as they go through it. Right? Um, and so that's one thing that I get so excited to talk to parents about because when I look at the research as a whole four decades of research setback, look at it. There are things that come out that it's like any research is not gonna tell you.

Do this and you will get this result. That just doesn't, unfortunately, it doesn't exist. But, um, there has, [00:14:00] there have been real consistencies that have emerged over, over those decades in terms of, um, what parents, what parents can do, um, to help their kids through it. So, I'd love to tell you about that. Yes, please.

Yeah. So, um, the three things that I think about, um, when I'm, when I, that sort of come to the surface for me, when I look at this research as a whole are coping, conflict, and connection. Those are kind of the three pillars, if you will. These are the three ways that parents can really shield their child from.

That stress of the divorce and the negative outcomes that are associated with that stress. So there we have research based backed strategies for parents to be able to do these things, help their children cope with stress, uh, reduce their exposure to conflict, that's a real tricky one. It's a really important [00:15:00] one.

And, um, I heard on, I was actually listening to another podcast a couple of days ago and they said, relationships are our greatest resilience. And I think that that's true. We find that in this, in this, um, research as well, that the connection between a parent and a child is such an incredibly potent protective factor.

So those are the three things that parents can learn to do that can make really all the difference and it seems simple. It's not easy to implement these things. I'm happy to share resources for parents who want to learn more about how to do that. But it is really that simple, you know, um, focusing on being very intentional about, um, having a warm and supportive relationship with your [00:16:00] child, practicing high quality parenting strategies, um, reducing their exposure to conflict, and then teaching them both by modeling and by coaching them how to cope with stress because this is not the first or the last time that they're going to cope with stress in their life, right?

And so if we can think of it as, okay, this stressful thing is happening to our family. Maybe we wish it wasn't, but it is. And so how can we use this as an opportunity to teach kids how to deal with stress in their life? Because again, that's, this is not the last time that's going to happen to them. And so can they come out the other side with some strategies that they can use to help themselves through tough situations?

Okay. All right. So all of that makes sense. Um, you are researching right now a particular course or video game? Can you describe this? Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So right now, um, [00:17:00] I, my, uh, I have a current project going on. It's called Project Brain Team and Project Brain Team is, um, a research study. Basically, we're trying to get at one of those pillars, which is coping.

We're trying to figure out, um, You know, people talk a lot about coping strategies, and we know a lot about coping strategies as a, you know, in the larger literature in child psychology and things like that. We have this whole kind of toolkit of, uh, of coping strategies that we know help people, um, deal with stress.

But the thing that we don't know is what exactly is helpful for kids in this particular situation, who are, um, navigating the stresses of of divorce and separation, particularly when there's conflict between parents. We know from lots and lots of research that children will tell you that the number one stressor is conflict between their parents, hands down.

And so we know that that's a big stressor and so we What we want to understand through Project Brain Team is [00:18:00] which coping strategies are really the ones that help kids deal with the stress when they're exposed to conflict. Because, I mean, look, we know that conflict happens. People are getting divorced after all, right?

Um, we know conflict happens. We know it's very stressful for kids. So again, how do we arm them with some of those, um, strategies that can protect them when they're dealing with the stress that comes with witnessing the conflict that happens in so many families because a lot of important decisions have to be made and parents are not on the same page for lots of good reasons.

Um, and so it happens when we know that that's part of the, that's part of this. Um, the extent to which we can reduce children's exposure to that is great, but we also know that we're not going to get it to zero. That's just not realistic. And What can we do to help kids as well? So in my work, we kind of work from both ends.

We help parents reduce their conflict, but we also help kids cope with the conflict. [00:19:00] Um, so Project Brain Team is a research study that where we're trying to test different strategies, um, to see which ones work best to help kids. And the way that we're testing those is that we have created a series of games.

Um, and in each game, children learn. Um, and then as they play the game, they learn the strategy, they start to, uh, practice that coping strategy in their life. We follow them over a period of time to see how well it's working for them. Awesome. Very cool. So can you, what are some of the coping strategies? So, um, can you tell us a little bit about the questions that we should be teaching our children?

Yeah. Well, I can't totally answer that question yet until Project Brain Team is done. But I can tell you what some of the contenders are. One of the ones that we think are going to, the ones that we're testing in Project Brain Team. And we didn't just pull these out of thin air, we pulled them out of the research literature that would [00:20:00] Um, and so in one game, we teach kids how to use their thoughts to help themselves feel better, um, when stressful things happen.

I know we've all had this experience where something stressful happens and our mind goes to the worst case scenario immediately, right? And we also know that that One isn't always true and two isn't helpful. Um, and so we teach kids how to, how their thoughts and their feelings are related to each other and how they can sort of watch their thoughts and make choices about which thoughts they really want to buy into.

Um, so that's one. That's a strategy that's used basically in every child therapy or child coping program that's out there. It's very, very popular. Again, we don't know. how well it works in this situation, but we do know that in general that's a helpful strategy. So that's why we're testing that one. The second one, um, is distraction coping.

Again, [00:21:00] not going to be a surprise to anybody. Um, one of the things that has come up a lot in this literature is that oftentimes when kids are, particularly when they're facing conflict, they tend to run away and hide, go to their room, listen to music and Unfortunately, in the research, that's been coded as something like avoidance when really it might just be distraction coping.

And maybe that's helpful, right? Maybe it's not such a bad thing to go hide in your room if you can reduce your exposure to the conflict and kind of help yourself stay calm. Because if you don't go to your room, then you're going to feel, you're going to get really, you know, activated and stressed. And that has not been well differentiated in the

Um, look at very carefully to see how kids are using distraction coping and, and in what situations it can be really helpful for them. Um, now we know that if you distract yourself from stress forever, that doesn't [00:22:00] always go well. Um, but it's like I said at the beginning, it's much more nuanced than, you know, maybe looks at first glance.

And so we really wanted, that's why we're doing this study to really kind of dig down deep and figure out. Okay, does this work? And if it does, how does it work? In what situations? Because we want to be able to give kids good advice. Um, not just this blanket, you know, try this, see if that works. We want to, we want to really understand what helps.

Um, and then the last one is again, not going to be a surprise, but it's relaxation training. So we teach kids how when they get really stressed and their bodies get, um, tight and, and, um, you know, activated, how they can help themselves relax and reduce those stress hormones and reduce that, um, that kind of stress overload feeling.

So those are the three strategies that we are testing in Project Brain Team, um, and we are really excited to find out which ones, maybe all of them, maybe one, maybe two, we don't know, [00:23:00] um, which ones are going to be the most impactful for kids so that we can give the best advice we can. Are you still recruiting, um, for the study?

Yes, we are. Yeah, we are recruiting, um, children ages 9 to 12, um, and their parent, one parent at least, um, and we anticipate, um, recruiting probably through the end of 2024. So if parents are listening and they want to get involved, um, we can certainly get their information out. The thing to know about Project Brain Team is that Any family who approaches us, whether or not they're eligible for the study, whether or not they decide to participate in the study, they still get access to the games.

We just send the links. to everybody because we don't want to keep it. We don't want to keep them from anybody. Um, like I said, it's sort of based on the best available research that these are what we think is going to be the most helpful. [00:24:00] We don't know how helpful they are, particularly if they're helpful in this situation, but it is the best guess in terms of what could be, um, helpful for these kids.

And so we don't want to keep them away from anyone. Um, so we do see it as a resource to, um, If parents reach out, you know, we tell them about the study and some parents decide they don't want to participate, but they still get the games. Okay, and if somebody wanted to participate, what would they need to do?

Like, what is expected of them? Yeah, great question. So, um, what participation looks like? So, basically, it's about a six week study. Um, when they come into our study, it takes about six weeks, and what we ask is just a couple of minutes. two, three minutes a day, um, for parents to take a very quick, um, survey that tells us about their interactions with the other parent that day.

And then children, um, do a very brief, we call it like a daily check in where they just do a very brief survey, um, where they tell us about. the things that happened that were stressful that [00:25:00] day and the things that they did to help themselves feel better. We're trying to understand whether or not, what they do with their stress over time and, and with what they learn in the games, if that changes.

And if it does change, does it help? Um, and so those are, that's what they do over the six weeks. And then also once a week, um, children play a game. So they get, um, randomly assigned to play One, two, three, or all four of the games, uh, there's the three games that I told you about, but there's an introduction game as well, where they kind of learn some, um, just some interesting facts about divorce, interesting facts about how feelings work, that sort of thing.

And so they will play that game once a week and, um, they'll practice the skill that they learn. And then, let's see, the last thing is at the beginning, the end, and then three months later, we ask both the child and the parent to take a survey online that takes about [00:26:00] 30 minutes. It's a little bit longer, but we offer a 50 gift card.

e gift card for both parent and child each time they take that 30 minute survey. So families can earn up to 300 in total if they go through the whole study. And then also children along the way, they learn, they earn points when they do those daily check ins and they play the games. And then they get to redeem those points for fun games and prizes along the way as well.

Very cool, very cool. So, one question I know that people are going to ask is, well, what if the kids aren't with me every day? I share my parenting time, then what? Yes, absolutely. So, we work with every family no matter what the situation is. We do have to, in order for the parent to participate, they do have to spend at least 40 percent of time with their children in order for them to kind of, because we asked the parents perspective on how the child is doing as well.

So we had to set a kind of a cut off. So we do ask, you have [00:27:00] to have enough time with your child, which we've We've set at 40%. Um, and as long as you have that much time, it doesn't, with your child, it doesn't matter what their, what the parenting time schedule is like. We've had families who will say, you know, um, one parent wants the child to do it, the other parent does not want the child to participate when they're at their house, and so We just don't, we don't call them, we don't text them during that time.

Um, they give us their schedule and we just try to be as respectful of that as possible. Um, but we don't exclude anybody for that reason. Very cool. Very, very cool. Okay, so this has been fascinating. Um, we've got a few more minutes, so I'd love to take us back, and I'd love to know, you know, you have this insight from talking to children, and you probably get a very different perspective than parents do.

Can you share with parents, what [00:28:00] are children telling you? Yeah. Um, fortunately or unfortunately, it's a really easy one, uh, parents, kids tell me how scary and stressful it is when they hear their parents fight, um, when they get Um, of the fights, when they're being asked to, um, tell mom this, tell dad this, uh, be sort of the in betweens, when they're asked lots of questions.

I see a lot of parents who, they just, they have the best of intentions when their child gets home. They want to know what happened at the other parent's house and what their day was like or their week was like, and they ask questions, but. from the child's perspective, sometimes it feels a bit like an interrogation and they're worried.

There's just so much going on in those little brains about like, well, if I say I had fun, is that going to make mom sad? Or if I tell her about this thing that was, you know, a little bit frustrating for me, is that going to cause a fight? And so it's [00:29:00] just this like balancing act that kids have to do to.

And so that's why I don't, you know, a lot of kids will say, I just don't say anything. Cause I don't know what to say. Cause I don't want to make things worse. You know, I think. Parents don't always realize how much children worry about them. You know, we're, as parents, we worry about our kids, but it's like second nature.

Um, we know that I only became a parent a year and a half ago, and I've learned, um, In that period of time that that's all you do, it seems like, as a parent, is worry about your children. Um, but they worry about us too, and I think that parents don't often realize how much is going on in those, in those little brains that are trying to grow and trying to, um, learn about the world, but it just really does take a lot of energy for them to figure out what to say, who to say it to.

Um, they just, you know, kids, generally speaking, they, they want to. feel safe and secure and they want to be able to love both parents, [00:30:00] you know, and it, it sounds simple, but I know it's really difficult to do in these situations. Okay. Any practical tips for what parents can and should be doing differently?

So what I, what I heard you say is, you know, don't interrogate your children, even with the best of intentions. Yeah. Yeah. Um, what else? Oh, so many. There's so many, uh, so many practical tips. I'd love to share. I've written a few, um, little lists that I'd love to share with you if you could make them available.

Um, but some of the things that come to the top of my mind are, um, Okay, so if we're thinking about the connection piece, um, one of the things that I hear a lot from parents is like, well, I, you know, we definitely spend time together. We spend time together all the time and with my kids all the time. Um, but one thing that I have found, um, working with parents So, um, [00:31:00] there's something so special and powerful about what we call family fun time, which is just one hour, once a week, you and your kids, only the people who live in your house, no phones, no screens, like just being together with that quality time.

Um, That can be truly transformative for kids. We've done research studies where parents have been taught that skill, and then we ask kids 15 years later, and that's what they remember about their, the time of their parents divorces, their weekly family fun time. And it might seem like, oh, well, what's, what does once a week do?

You know, one hour once a week, that's so Small with regard to how much time we have, but it makes such a difference. The key though, is that it has to be scheduled and it has to be predictable. You have to put it on the calendar and you have to keep it like the most [00:32:00] important meeting you have that week, because it is, and when kids can count on that, when they know I'm going to get your attention, I know we've, you know, kids.

They can see. We've, we've all got a million things going on. It's hard to have real quality time. You know, maybe you sneak in a few moments here or there, but if they have something that they can count on every single week, they know it's going to happen, then they don't have to wonder about that. And they get to, um, count on that every single week.

Awesome. That's awesome. Now, does that need to be kind of child led time or can that be a family game night? Family game night's great. The only, um, the, the rules, so to speak, that we usually talk about are no, no electronics. Um, so you actually have to talk to each other. So that means like not going to a movie.

Um, even though movies are great, movies are fun, like definitely do that. But that's not family fun, um, as it, as it is [00:33:00] defined, um, from our perspective. Um, it, it doesn't have to cost money. Um, game night, going for a walk, going for a hike, all those sorts of things. Like, um, And, and just having, you know, it's really just like it's at a time that they can count on, they know what's coming, doesn't matter how busy the week gets, they know they get your full undivided attention for one hour, and that's priceless to them.

Okay, so let's talk about the difference between like teens and younger kids. Any specific tips there? Yeah, yeah. I have led groups where we teach this skill and we'll see parents be like, there's no way I am going to get my 15 year old to do this with us, like put their phone away for an hour. No, not gonna happen.

Um, uh, it's tough, but I would say that the best thing that you can do is stick with it. Um, [00:34:00] so, um, I don't know, I don't know how to explain to them why it's important, um, make a deal if you have to, um, but stick with it. Um, I wouldn't force a teenager to stay, I don't, in my, I have a rule that I don't get into power struggles with teenagers or toddlers.

Um, it doesn't typically go well. Um, so. You know, but keep inviting them, keep it on the schedule, see if they show up, um, see if they engage, um, go at their pace, but don't just say, well, they're never going to do it, so we're not going to do this, or we did it three weeks in a row and it was a disaster, so forget it.

Just stick with it because part of it, part of the real point of it is to tell them, right, that you're there consistently in a predictable way. Um, and so just by doing it, even if they don't engage or they break all of the rules, you're still getting the point across. Awesome. Awesome. Um, any other things that we need to know before I let you [00:35:00] go?

Yeah, um, I would just say one more thing. I know, um, You know, especially around this time of year, uh, there's, it's a lot of stress, um, around the holidays and things, and I, I just want to bring parents awareness. I think one of the things I, I see parents do is they want the holidays to be so special and perfect for their children, um, especially parents who I have recently gone through a separation or divorce.

A lot of parents feel guilty, and they feel like they want to make up for it by having this perfect, you know, family time. Um, sometimes that involves more conflict with the other parent, and I just want to Encourage parents to think about, if you have to, if, if getting to sort of what you envision as the perfect situation involves more conflict with your child's other parent, [00:36:00] maybe focus on that, and that will be a much better gift to them than any perfect holiday party that you could imagine.

If you can give your children the gift of being able to love both parents, and by the way, that doesn't necessarily mean that they, um, you know, there are, sometimes there are safety reasons, safety reasons involved that parents, that kids don't have access to the other parent, but they still can be free from hearing negative things about their parents, from, um, feeling like Part of them is bad.

Um, and so there's, there are ways to allow your child to love their other parents, even if they can't see them, spend time with them, those sorts of things. Um, so just thinking really carefully about what gift you want to give your, your child in terms of their peace of mind, their, their emotional safety, um, and really [00:37:00] thinking about that conflict.

Remember that when we do. research over decades, the number one thing kids always say is that it's the conflict. That's the most stressful. Yeah. I mean, it really makes. You stop and think, like, is this battle worth it? Yes. Like, is the sports battle worth it? Is the friend battle worth it? Is the sleepover battle worth it?

Like, what, at what point, you know, is conflict worth it? Is the school choice issue, is the religion issue, when? And I don't, I have no idea what that answer is. Do you have any idea? It's hard. It really is hard. You know, one thing though that I think, I think one thing that we've gotten a little bit, I don't want to say wrong, but I wonder if we're not on the right track with is, it's not really about the conflict per se, it's about the [00:38:00] destructive conflict, right?

There are ways to disagree in a way that is constructive, that leads to problem solving, that leads to resolution, that doesn't lead. And one of the things that we actually pull from the, um, there's a, a very large literature on marital conflict, um, children who are exposed to conflict between parents who are married.

And what we find in that literature is that constructive conflict, like when people engage in disagreements, but calmly, With an eye towards problem solving, those sorts of things, um, kids actually benefit from that. It's not just like it doesn't hurt them, it actually helps them. Um, and so I think by telling parents don't have conflict, don't have conflict, in some ways it puts them in a bind that almost feels impossible because these are important issues that they, that they disagree about.

And that's perfectly reasonable, it makes [00:39:00] perfect sense, right? Especially when we remember that parents Again, every parent I've ever met has always wanted to do the best thing for their child. And so sometimes those battles are worth it because it's an important thing. But so if that's the case, can we change the battle?

Can we figure out a way to do conflict in a way that doesn't hurt the kids? And that's actually what I'm working on right now. I'm, uh, I have a new, uh, a new grant, um, that I just started a few months ago and we're trying to develop some, um, Some material for parents, um, to see if we can help them not, yes, reduce the conflict for sure, but we, we're not going to get to zero.

I mean, is there any relationship in the world that has zero conflicts, especially parents, parenting with someone? Um, I don't know why we would expect a divorced parents to not have any conflict when we certainly don't expect it. Married parents to have no conflict over parenting, that doesn't [00:40:00] make sense.

And so, um, stay tuned for that. I'm, I'm working on, um, some new research and trying to figure out how do we help parents just have those important disagreements and validate like, yes, this is an important thing to stand up for. But how can you do it in a way that also protects your child's emotional safety?

That's the tricky part. Yes, it is. Uh, thank you so much for coming on the show. We're going to make sure that everybody has access to the Windows 10 brain. Project Brains. Project Brains. Project Brains. Project Brains. Everybody has access to Project Brains. family law case. For the highest stakes litigation cases, we've got experienced family law attorneys who can offer you representation.

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