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“Who Packs Your Parachutes?”

Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, ‘You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down.

‘How in the world did you know that?’ asked Plumb.
I packed your parachute,’ the man replied.
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.

The man pumped his hand and said, ‘I guess it worked!’

Plumb assured him, ‘It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.’

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, ‘I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.’ Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, Who’s packing your parachute?’

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory – he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes. Friends, family, colleagues; Who packs your parachutes?

Mediation is Underused as a Genuine (stand alone) Option for Conflict Resolution

“Mediation is greatly underused in most areas in which it is offered because it is ‘intertwined’ with the adversarial process it is designed to be an ALTERNATIVE to. Mediation is usually an anomalously non-adversarial step within an adversarial process rather than an option available at any point in the life of the dispute, conflict or relationship breakdown available IN PARALLEL to and SEPARATE FROM the adversarial process and NOT a step within it. This ineffective application of the process makes it a ‘grab it while you can’ option and participants are often pressurised into accepting it at the point of offering (and because of the pressurising, are more likely to resist it), even to the point of some systems wishing to make it ‘compulsory’ – thus risking an undermining of their right of access to justice where mediation is an inappropriate option for the situation concerned . Where the availability of mediation is presented appropriately it is more frequently taken up and more able to be clearly recognised as a non-adversarial option which participants in a dispute can see as a genuine, participant-chosen alternative offering a step out of the stressful, often bureaucratic, debilitating adversarial approach which is the traditional ‘default’ option. #CAOSmediation
Alan Sharland

How to tell kids about divorce: An age-by-age guide

The news that Mom and Dad are separating hits a two-year-old and a 10-year-old differently.

Here’s how to help children handle it at any age.

Two thoughtful parents once sat their preschooler down to tell him about their upcoming divorce. Carefully and gently, they told him that Mommy and Daddy were going to stop living together and would now live in different houses, but he would still see both of them regularly. They finished with the most important point of all, that Mom and Dad both still loved him, and asked if he had any questions.

The four-year-old was silent. Then he said, “Who’s going to look after me?”

This little story, related by California psychologist, mediator and author Joan B. Kelly, provides a window into the differences between adult and child experiences of divorce. These parents had done all the right things. They’d sought professional advice and tried to give their son the essential information without overwhelming him. Yet they failed to get across this key point, which may have seemed obvious to them, but wasn’t to him.

Adults see divorce for the complex, multi-faceted situation it is. Young children tend to view it in concrete and self-centered terms. Big-picture reassurances will mean little to a child who is wondering, “Where will the cat live?” Understanding where kids are at, developmentally, can help you help them adjust to the reality of divorce.

How to talk to 0 to 5 year old kids about divorce: Key developmental issues

Babies and toddlers
• dependence on parents or caregivers
• no ability to understand complex events, anticipate future situations or understand their feelings
Preschoolers
• beginning to develop independence, but still highly dependent
• limited ability to understand cause and effect; still unable to think ahead to the future
• understanding of the world revolves around themselves
• line between fantasy and reality is sometimes fuzzy
• some ability to think about feelings, but limited ability to talk about them

When Nicholas Benson* and his wife, Lisa, separated last fall, their two children, Andrew, six, and Caitlyn, four, were already accustomed to being with Dad most of the time, since Mom’s job kept her out of town all but a few days a month. So when Lisa moved out of their home in Milton, Ont., it took a while for Caitlyn to understand the change. When the kids got home from their first weekend visit with their mother, Caitlyn said, “Mommy home?” even though they had just left her. It will take Caitlyn time and lots of simple explanations before she can understand.

What to watch for: Signs of distress in preschoolers include fear, anger or emotional instability, which may be expressed indirectly through clinginess, anxiety, whininess or general irritability. Preschoolers may also lose ground in their development. Tots who were sleeping through the night might start waking up more often, for example.

With their limited cognitive ability, three- and four-year-old’s can develop inaccurate ideas about the causes and effect of divorce, says Rhonda Freeman, manager of Families in Transition, a program of Toronto’s Family Services Association. “If Dad’s the one who leaves the home, they might think, ‘Dad left me,’ rather than ‘Dad left Mom,’” she says. “Children need to understand that the decision to live apart is an adult decision. It’s difficult for preschoolers to understand that.”

Parental priorities: Consistent care and nurturing give children a sense of stability and reassurance. So as much as possible, tots’ lives need to be anchored by their normal routines (meals, play, bath, bed) in the presence of a parent who is “there for them.” This, of course, is important to all children, but especially after divorce. As Joan Kelly notes, “If things aren’t going well at home, preteens and teenagers can escape by going to hang out with friends. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers can’t.”

Preschoolers need simple, concrete explanations. Stick to the basics: which parent will be moving out, where the child will live, who will look after him and how often he’ll see the other parent. Be prepared for questions; provide short answers, then wait to see if there are more. Don’t expect one conversation to do the job; plan on several short talks.

How to talk to 6 to 11 year old kids about divorce: Key developmental issues

6- to 8-year-old’s
• a little more ability to think and talk about feelings
• broader, less egocentric view of what’s going on around them, but still limited understanding of complex circumstances such as divorce
• developing more relationships outside the home (friends and school)
9- to 11-year-olds
• more developed ability to understand, think and talk about feelings and circumstances related to divorce
• relationships outside the family (friends, teachers, coaches) are more developed and become a greater factor in planning the child’s time
• tend to see things in black and white; may assign blame for split

Erica Hallman* of Toronto recalls her daughter Jessica, then in kindergarten, trying to understand the conflicts behind her parents’ separation. “One time she asked me, ‘Why are you fighting? Is it because he deleted something from your computer?’” This misunderstanding was easily remedied. Yes, Dad had deleted something from Mom’s computer and they had angry words about it, but, of course, that did not cause the divorce. However, her daughter’s question made Hallman realize Jessica’s need to make sense of circumstances she couldn’t fully understand.

What to watch for: School-aged children may show their distress as fear, anxiety, anger or sadness, and some display more clear-cut signs of missing their absent parent. Some may have fantasies about reconciliation and wonder what they can do to make that happen. Freeman says, “Children who think that they might be able to bring their parents back together, or that they somehow contributed to the divorce, will have trouble getting on with the healing process. So they need to understand that those are adult decisions which they didn’t cause and can’t influence.”

Parental priorities: Stable care and routines are still important. Kids at the upper end of this age range are more able to talk about what they’re feeling. However, just because they can doesn’t mean they’ll want to. Approaching the topic indirectly can help; saying, “Some kids feel sad, afraid or even angry when their parents’ divorce,” is less threatening than asking directly, “Are you feeling sad?” Books about divorce can also help kids focus on their feelings.

How to talk to 12 to 14 year old kids about divorce: Key developmental issues

• greater capacity to understand issues related to divorce
• ability to take part in discussions and ask questions to increase their understanding
• beginnings of desire for more independence; questioning of parental authority
• relationships outside the family increasingly important

Eve Mirowski’s* boys were 10 and 12 when she went through a messy divorce from her alcoholic husband. The situation was so bad that, at one point, both parents were ordered by the judge not to discuss the court proceedings. It’s impossible to fully shield children from that type of conflict, but Mirowski did what she could. “I just tried to make our home a safe haven…regular mealtimes, regular bedtimes and my husband was never allowed in the house. When I left the boys to go out in the evening, I took my cellphone and told them to call me any time.” And call they did, often. Her eldest, Joe, started getting headaches and having trouble sleeping, Mirowski recalls. “I was worried that, given my stress, I couldn’t do enough on my own to give him the coping skills, so I got help.” Joe started seeing a counsellor who was able to help him enormously.

What to watch for: Irritability and anger are common, at either parents or the one who moved out. It can be hard to gauge how much of a young teen’s moodiness is related to the divorce. “Think about what your child was like before the separation and how their behavior or moods have changed,” Freeman says. “That gives a clue as to the cause. However, even if you conclude that the problem is not divorce related, that doesn’t mean you don’t address it.”

Parental priorities: Keeping communication open decreases the chance that emotional problems slip under the radar. Kids in this age group can be harder to reach, and sometimes they act as if they don’t want to be reached. But most teens and preteens still need and crave connection with parents. “Lots of kids have told me, over the years, that they were testing their parents to see if they really cared,” Freeman says. So keep talking, even though your child may seem to push you away; make at least some of the conversation about what they want to talk about.

Surviving the Split
Research shows that three factors help children of any age adjust after divorce: having a strong relationship with both parents (when possible and when the child wants it); plain good parenting (what experts call maintaining parenting capacity); and minimal exposure to conflict. No real surprises there. The challenge for parents is pulling it off.

Nurturing the bond
Loss of a parent-child relationship after divorce can happen when one parent drifts out of the child’s life, or when one parent (or both) undermines the other’s relationship with the child. Or it may be the child who pulls back, says Rhonda Freeman, manager of Toronto’s Families in Transition. “Some children have a temperament that makes it difficult for them to deal with the ongoing hellos, goodbyes and transitions.”
Parents can’t control these factors. What you can do, apart from maintaining your own ties with a child, is to respect his relationship with the other parent. “If you denigrate the other parent in front of your children, you are essentially devaluing their relationship,” Freeman says.

Good parenting
It’s hard to maintain normal, good parenting when you are grieving a lost relationship and preoccupied with lawyers and court dates. Do your best to keep the adult issues separate from your interactions with your children, and get outside help like counselling if you need it.
Both Freeman and psychologist Joan B. Kelly of California recommend divorced parent education classes. “Many parents think, ‘I don’t need this,’” Kelly says. “But research shows that separated parents who attend divorce education classes are the most confident.” To find classes, check with your local family service agency or information center, your lawyer or mediator, doctor or counselor.

Containing conflict
The ideal approach to post-divorce conflict is to stop it before it starts. Janice Weiss* of Calgary remembers unbearable strife when her own parents split. “I swore my kids wouldn’t go through that.” She and her ex-husband both agreed to follow the advice in Mom’s House, Dad’s House by Isolina Ricci. “It became like a bible and it really did help.”

Here are five ways to lower the temperature when conflict is high:
• Limit conversations when exchanging the children. Stick to the basics like confirming pickup and drop-off times.
• Don’t use children to send messages back and forth with your ex.
• Exchange important details in writing. Some parents use email; others use a book that goes back and forth with the children. If things are really tense, have someone else (a counsellor, mediator or friend) screen your email for inflammatory language before you send it.
• Respect the other parent’s time with the children. Be on time (or have children ready) for pickups. Make sure anything they need to take with them (homework, clothes, special equipment) is ready as well.
• Respect your ex-partner’s privacy. You have a different relationship now; you’re aiming for more of a business-type partnership. You don’t need to know as much about his or her personal life as you once did.

*Names changed by request.

Kids’ books about divorce
1. Dinosaurs Divorce: A Guide for Changing Families by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown (Little Brown, 1988). Helps explain divorce in a friendly and easy-to-understand manner. Ages 4-8
2. I Don’t Want to Talk About It by Jeanie Franz Ransom, illustrated by Kathryn Kunz Finney (Magination Press, 2000). This storybook explores the range of emotions that children are likely to feel when the subject of divorce is first brought up. Ages 4-8
3. My Mom and Dad Don’t Live Together Anymore: A Drawing Book For Children of Separated or Divorced Parents by Judith Aron Rubin (Magination Press, 2002). Allows kids to express their feelings through art. Ages 4-12
4. What Can I Do? A Book for Children of Divorce by Danielle Lowry (Magination Press, 2001). Offers resources to help children understand and sort out feelings they face over divorce. Ages 8-12
A version of this article first appeared online in June 2006.

NYSCDM 35th Anniversary Conference – In Review

The New York State Council on Divorce Mediation met for its annual conference in Albany NY, May 3-5 this year. It was the Council’s 35th Annual Conference: “Managingthe Delicate Balance”. And it lived up to anniversary status.

There were over 100 divorce mediation and affiliate professionals who attended. Attendees came from every corner of New York State from Buffalo to Long Island. Rochester, NY was well represented by ten members of the Council in attendance.

As President of the NYSCDM, I presided over the annual meeting, honoring all who serve on the board and committees. I also was one of the panelists in a discussion on attorney involvement in divorce mediation. This was a lively discussion with many different viewpoints shared and challenged.

Judge Richard Dollinger, also from Rochester, gave a presentation on “Spousal Support: A view from the bench”.

The annual conference is one of three conferences held yearly by the Council. We stress continuing education for all of our members. Accredited members need to complete a required number of credits to maintain their status with the organization.

When looking for a mediator, please be sure they are members of the NYSCDM and have accredited status. This will ensure your mediator is trained and values their continued education.

For more information on divorce mediation and the process, please call 585-269-8140 or email renee@mediationctr.com

Welcome to Second Saturday: What Everyone Needs to Know About divorce.

Divorce can be one of the biggest and most challenging decisions you will make but you don’t need to make it alone.

Second Saturday offers non-biased financial, emotional and legal advice from qualified local professionals, providing people with the knowledge, support, resources and trust that they need to survive the divorce process and move forward with confidence toward a new life.

It’s a matter of trust: divorce can be one of life’s most difficult transitions, emotionally, legally and financially.

Second Saturday believes the more information and support you have, the better decisions you can make for yourself and your children, and more hopeful you can be about your future. Be informed, be empowered.

Workshop topics:

  • The divorce process
  • Child custody and support
  • Legal and financial issues
  • Helping your family cope
  • Rebuilding self-esteem
  • Dividing property
  • Housing issues

Second Saturday workshops are offered locally each month at The Mediation Center in Rochester at 9:00 am. Our office is conveniently located at 95 Allens Creek Road, Building 2, Suite 123, Rochester, NY 14618.

For more information visit www.secondsaturday.com or call us at 585-310-7232 to pre-register. Walk-ins are always welcome!

 

NYSCDM 35th Anniversary Annual Conference

The New York State Council on Divorce Mediation met for its annual conference in Albany NY, May 3-5 this year. It was the Council’s 35th Annual Conference: “Managing the Delicate Balance”. And it lived up to anniversary status.

There were over 100 divorce mediation and affiliate professionals who attended. Attendees came from every corner of New York State from Buffalo to Long Island. Rochester, NY was well represented by ten members of the Council in attendance.

As President of the NYSCDM, I presided over the annual meeting, honoring all who serve on the board and committees. I also was one of the panelists in a discussion on attorney involvement in divorce mediation. This was a lively discussion with many different viewpoints shared and challenged.

Judge Richard Dollinger, also from Rochester, gave a presentation on “Spousal Support: A view from the bench”.

The annual conference is one of three conferences held yearly by the Council. We stress continuing education for all of our members. Accredited members need to complete a required number of credits to maintain their status with the organization.

When looking for a mediator, please be sure they are members of the NYSCDM and have accredited status. This will ensure your mediator is trained and values their continued education.

For more information on divorce mediation and the process, please call 585-269-8140 or email renee@mediationctr.com

 

The New York State Council on Divorce Mediation (NYSCDM) Celebrates 35 Years

The New York State Council on Divorce Mediation (NYSCDM) marks its 35th Anniversary this year. We honor the organization with our annual conference, May 3-5, 2018 in Albany, NY, “Managing the Delicate Balance”.

This year our pre-conference presenter and keynote speaker is David Hoffman, Esq. from Boston Collaborative Law LLC and lecturer at Harvard Law School. He will be presenting on “Getting to the Heart of Conflict: A Workshop on Practical Techniques”.

Other presentations for the three day event will be:                                  

  • Spousal Support: A View from the Bench
  • Navigating The New Tax Laws When Mediating Divorcing Couples
  • Update on the Law
  • Retirement Account Primer for Mediators (Session 1) and Navigating the Retirement Landscape (Session 2)
  • Addressing Diversity, Inclusiveness and Implicit Bias: Concerns Facing Mediators
  • Making the Case for Caucusing in Divorce Mediation
  • Debate: Is There a Place for Consulting Attorneys in Divorce Mediation?,
  • Trends, Resources & Techniques to Know When Mediating Domestic Violence Cases
  • Mediating Past Stereotypes
  • Breaking Through Stalemates: Understanding What Impasses are Really About
  • Converting Calls to Clients
  • What the Heck is HECM?

Continuing education of our members and networking are two main benefits that the organization provides.

The Council pulls from every corner of the state; brining mediators, attorneys and other supporting professionals together in our common goal of making mediation the preferred option for couples divorcing.   

As President of the NYSCDM and an Accredited Member, I support continuing education for all mediators as well as the statewide networking the Council offers.

Parents Need to Show Up

No matter how scared, hurt or angry you are, if you have children, and you are going through a separation or divorce, you still need to “show up” every day and be a parent.


Going through a separation or divorce is hard. Anyone going through the process is in some form of crisis and level of grief. Whether you are the leaver or the levee, you are experiencing a state of transition and upheaval. Life as you know it and had planned on is changing. There are many unknowns and the future may be scary.

What does “showing up” as a parent mean? It means putting your best face forward and being the best version of yourself and parent as possible. Managing your stress and still being able to get through the day to day operations of being a parent is critical to you and your family making a positive transition to redefining your family. Making the needs of your children a priority and placing their best interests in the center of the room and your process will have positive results for all of you.

Putting a good support network in place to help you through the transition is always a good idea as well. What is a good support network? A good support network consists of people who are there for you during this time as well as having activities you enjoy in place to provide outlets to stress. There are many social groups in your community of that offer opportunities to get out of the house and meet new people with common interests. Take advantage of those outlets and new connections.

Friends and family can be a wonderful part of your network. The people who love and support you know you best and can be there when moments are difficult. As well-meaning as friends and family can be, many times professionals are needed to help guide and support you through your transition as well. People, who are experts in their field, unlike family and close friends, will give you sound advice in their field of expertise. This is not meant to underscore the importance of surrounding yourself with people you are close to.

Therapists and financial experts are two kinds of professionals that can be very helpful and alleviate many concerns and fears as you enter this new phase of your life. People you trust to help guide you with difficult decisions are essential in making good informed choices.

The mediation process offers you control over decisions that affect you and your children and keeps you out of court. This process combined with professionals that can help you with informed decision making is the best way to resolve the terms of your separation or divorce.

Contact The Mediation Center, Inc. today at 585-269-8140 for more information on how mediation is the preferred option when going through a separation or divorce

Mediation and Omelets

As I was making my morning omelet, I had a thought. Divorce mediation and the process of resolving family conflict within that framework of good faith, active participation and negotiation is like making an omelet.

You may be asking yourself, how is using mediation for a separation or divorce like making an omelet?

To make an omelet, you have to break some eggs and it is sometimes messy. There are many steps and things to think about. Remember to spray the pan so the eggs don’t stick. You have to get the temperature in the pan just right for the omelet to be successful and look like an omelet or you are going to wind up with scrambled eggs. The right “flip” is essential and then you have to decide what ingredients you are going to add to your omelet to create the experience that you want from the omelet; cheese, veggies, meat or a combination of all three.

I do not mean to trivialize the process of separation and divorce but rather to illustrate that like making an omelet and picking and choosing what goes into your omelet, in mediation YOU have the ability to decide what goes into your agreement. You are creating a new family structure.

The process of mixing things together to come out with a new creation; and you do the best you can. Following another family’s recipe does not always work for what you think is best. No two omelets look alike and no two mediated agreements look alike. The ability to customize your agreement to best fit your changing family is one of the benefits of mediation.

Divorce and separation can be messy and it is not easy to redefine your family. Many decisions (ingredients) have to go into your agreement. How you design that is up to you in mediation.

Making an omelet is hard. Divorce and separation is hard. Make it easier by choosing a process that gives you control over the decisions that will affect your family now and in the future, mediation.

Choose mediation and stay in control. Staying out of a court based process will save you time, money and heartache. Mediation allows you to make the decisions, keeps parents communicating and allows you to customize your agreement.

Call The Mediation Center at 585-269-8140 to answer questions or to set-up an initial consultation. Or email us at renee@mediationctr.com.

 

Court Based Process for Divorce: Avoid it if you can

A divorce case can be fairly simple if both the husband and the wife want to get divorced and they do not have any disagreements about their finances or children: this kind of case is an “uncontested” divorce. In these cases, mediation, a process option for couples separating or divorcing, can keep you out of court and the decision making with the couple divorcing.

However, a divorce case can also be very complicated. This happens if the husband and the wife disagree about financial issues and/or what happens with their children after the divorce is final. These divorces take a much longer time. People call this kind of case a “contested” divorce.

A contested divorce normally needs to be handled in a court based process. And, if you have ever been to court, you know that it is a place most people do not want to be.

In the case of separation and divorce, a court based process is expensive, lengthy, divisive and most of the time, unnecessary. However, when one or both spouses are unable to settle the terms of a separation/divorce and they need that process and the kind of support the court offers. As mentioned, if one spouse is unable to settle and needs “his/her” day in court, there is little you can do to avoid this process.

If there are mental health issues, personality disorders, or domestic violence, you may find yourself in need of the court process and their assistance with resolving the terms of your divorce.

Once you enter a court based process, your level of control decreases. The court will set the dates for appearances and the subpoenas, motions and orders will be drafted and exchanged with the attorneys. The process is lengthy and can last years, even when there are no children involved.

A minority of these cases actually go to trial, 2%-3%, with a majority of them resolved on the “court room steps” by the attorneys or in judge’s chambers.

Money that could have gone to the children and your family will be used up by the process. Children will be assigned attorneys and interviewed. Decisions can and will be made when you are not even in the room. These are just some of the negative side effects of a court based process for divorce.

When possible, utilizing mediation as a process option for couples with or without children together should be a first choice.

Call or email us at The Mediation Center and we can answer all your questions about process options for separation and divorce: 585-269-8140 or renee@mediationctr.com