Book Excerpts from The Truth about Children and Divorce

On working with divorcing families:

"I put myself in the middle in the hope of getting children... out of the middle. For I know with absolute certainty how important it is to get kids out of conflict and put them first in divorce. All of my research and all of my work with couples and families demonstrates that what parents do after divorce - how they parent, how they handle their emotions, how they relate to each other and work together - is the key to children's resilience in coping with divorce" (pp. 2-3)

On grief:

"People who experience divorce - parents and children alike - also experience grief, and it, too, has stages, but it is qualitatively different from other types of grief... One minute you are furious with your ex - about what, it doesn't matter. Once your anger is spent, you find yourself incredibly sad. Why is this happening? Perhaps as you climb into bed alone, you find yourself longing for a warm body or the sense of security of sharing a bed, a home. What you might not have realized, especially in the immediate emotional aftermath of divorce, is that these seemingly conflicting emotions really are connected. They all are a part of your grief." (p. 27)

On the different grief of the leaver and the left:

"The leaver and the left are literally in different places in their grief. They will both cycle through the same emotions of love, anger, and sadness, but they will never be in the same place in that cycle at the same time. Inevitably, one will always be more willing to let go and the other more willing to work it out. One will be overwhelmed with sadness while the other is consumed by rage." (p. 39)

On new boundaries with your ex:

"All that keeps you and your ex involved now is your joint enterprise: your children. They are your 'business,' and you two are 'business partners.' Accordingly, your relationship should be businesslike, which means cooperative, formal, polite, structured, limited, and somewhat impersonal, or at least a lot less personal than it once was." (p. 51)

On children:

"The opposing sides of the great divorce debate are both completely right and completely wrong. Many children are pained greatly by divorce, and at the same time most of the same children are resilient. So-called children of divorce are not children 'of divorce' - they are children of parents, of families, of communities. They are children first, and no more children of divorce than they are children of any other life stress or trauma." (p. 63)

More on children:

"As the father of five children, I was especially bothered by the last finding [that 28% of highly resilient children from divorced families reported wondering if their father even loved them]. Doubting your fathers' love is not a symptom of any psychological disorder, nor is it an item on a mental health checklist. However, a parent's love is the most valuable and lasting gift a child can receive... Life in many ways is about loving and being loved, and I for one would fell like a failure as a father if my children doubted my devotion to them." (p. 80)

On what a resilient child is NOT:

"In the context of divorce, resilience involves letting kids be kids. Resilience does not mean turning children into the family caretaker... particularly not making children the caretaker of their parents' conflicts or their parents' distraught emotions. Children in the caretaker role may look competent, but this is not resilience... Children who are caretakers are overburdened not so much by extra household tasks but by the developmentally inappropriate responsibility of caring for their parent's uncontrolled emotions." (p. 72)

On talking to children about a separation and divorce:

"A good, basic guideline is to talk to your children about your separation in the same level of detail as you would if you were trying to tell them about sex. You do not try to teach a five-year-old girl about reproductive biology... Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons often related to their own unresolved personal feelings about the divorce, a surprisingly high percentage of parents offer and inappropriate amount of detail - and worse - when talking with their children aobut their separation and divorce. [Scripts for how to talk with children of different ages follow] (pp. 110-111)

On legal negotiations:

"You already know that unmanaged emotions and parental conflict put the 'bad' in bad divorce. What you may not realize is how often 'legal issues' may just be your unresolved emotions in disguise... In fact, most good lawyers will tell you exactly this: 'You'll be far better off if you can work things out on your own instead of going the legal route'... Unfortunately, amid the emotional static, too many parents do not hear or heed that message" (pp. 134-135)

On NOT "getting over it":

"You will never get over your grief, and you would not want to. To get over your grief would mean abandoning your history, your love, your life. To get over your grief would mean losing the emotions that created your children as well as the feelings that ended your marriage. You do not want to get over you grief. Instead, you want your love, anger, and sadness to grow small enough to fit into a drawer in your heart, a place where you can put away your feelings instead of throwing them out." (p. 301)