Tips for Coping with the Challenges of Divorce

Over one million marriages end in divorce each year, which is a staggering number to say the least. The civil war that sometimes happens between married couples can potentially have a huge negative impact on children. Caught in the crossfire, these children can become emotional casualties of a divorce. They often struggle from adjustment disorders in addition to other psychosocial/mental health issues. Divorce can be characterized as an emotional, legal, psychological, financial, familial, and physical divide that can be difficult and even traumatizing to everyone involved. Despite the challenges that come with this, there are many things you can do to help ease the process for your children. For couples going through a separation or divorce these tips and strategies may help you navigate through the challenges that come with the process:

  1. Do not act on feelings of anger/aggression. Acting on feelings of anger may lead you to do something regrettable and without recourse. Finding outlets, whether it is journaling, exercise, therapy, or support groups can help you manage/express your anger in a healthy way.
  2. Ask a professional. Consulting with a professional such as a lawyer, therapist, divorce mediator, etc.… can help you find out what your options are. Taking a multifaceted approach to challenges can help you and your loved ones sustain a healthy quality of life during and after a divorce.
  3. Make a plan for the future that reflects the big picture. Even if the marriage is coming to an end, your role obligations and personal goals do not have to go to the wayside. Investing in long-term goals can be conducive to moving forward so that you can focus on aspects of your life that are in your control.
  4. Be sure to engage in self-care activities that promote wellness and good health. A divorce can leave a void in both partners that has the potential to cause feelings of isolation, emptiness, rejection, low self-worth/esteem, and social withdrawal. For men, it can be very emasculating which can cause feelings of guilt, shame, anger and resentment. Being proactive tends to be the key whether it’s in the form of therapy, exercise, spending time with friends/family, or a combination of activities.
  5. Remember that others are going through the same thing and you are not alone! There are support groups and mental health professionals that can help you cope with and adjust to the stress/unpleasant emotions that come with divorce.
  6. Learn anything and everything there is to learn about the divorce process. There are a myriad of resources and information you can get online or from your divorce attorney. They can connect you with services and other professionals whocan help you and your family during this difficult time.
  7. Regardless of what happens, you are still a parent. Do not force your children to take sides and remember their innocence. Children tend to blame themselves when parents separate, so they are highly susceptible and vulnerable at this point. Find a therapist who specializes in adolescents/family therapy/divorce to help them manage their own feelings of guilt/sadness. Therapy can help children maintain healthy relationships with both parents in addition to promoting healthy relationships outside of the family.
  8. Be sure to spend time with your children and help them navigate their feelings throughout the divorce process. A divorce has the potential to destabilize their world and effective parenting/support can help them find stability and help prevent social, academic, psychological issues.

By Jimmy Passe, MA, Ed.S, LPC, LCADC, CCS, NCC

The Throes of Addiction

The Throes of Addiction: What does it mean and what can we do about it?

Written by Jimmy Passe, LPC, LCADC

In my experience as a mental health professional, I have worked with a lot of people that have been impacted by the disease of addiction. As you may know there is an epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose which has taken the lives of so many of our youth. Many people (especially adolescents) use licit or illicit drugs without knowledge of the long-term consequences that they come with. The potential consequences can happen quickly with devastating results which makes awareness & education key components to preemptively address drug/alcohol problems before they become much worse. Addiction is described as a relapsing brain disease meaning that it has direct influence of our nervous system and can run rampant without the support and treatment needed to create a foundation for the recovery process. With progression, individuals can develop a psychological and physical need for the drug/substance referred to as dependence. In essence, drug addiction is a war from within that pits competing values against each other and negatively impacts multiple areas of an addict’s life.

Many people start using alcohol and drugs for the most common reasons (e.g. to fit in, to cope with emotional/physical pain, avoid stress, peer pressure, to enhance their social experience, experimentation, etc.…). Many addicts are not ready to change until they hit “bottom”. In most cases, there is an underlying issue (history of trauma/abuse, mental illness, genetic predisposition, etc.…) that can be the root cause of addiction or contributing factor to relapse. Helping individuals develop a value system, formulate treatment plan goals tailored to their needs, develop coping strategies/skills to improve quality of life, and educating/counseling families is part of what I do to help. Despite the destruction that addiction can cause, there is still hope.

Here are some useful links that might be useful to those of you that have been impacted by addiction:

http://naranonofnj.org/

http://www.nj-al-anon.org/

http://www.na.org/

http://www.aa.org/

https://ca.org/

http://www.njgroups.org/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/

http://www.njkidsonline.com/directory/activities-class-guide?d_subcategory=mommy-me-nj

https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

 

Calm Down Strategies- Kids and Teens Reveal Their Top 10

IMAGERY

1.Think of a “happy place” or relaxing scene. I often ask kids to think about where they have been that they enjoyed, or what familiar places make them feel comfortable and at ease. Some choose vacation spots like particular beaches or campsites, while others say their own beds or another relative’s home. I love when kids are able to get very creative and come up with their own imaginary scenario. I encourage them to use all their senses trying to imagine what they see, sounds they hear, things they smell and taste, as well as what things feel like. One of my favorite examples is a boy who imagines his mother riding a fuzzy pink unicorn under a rainbow while he sits on a couch and plays video games with his best friend :)

ENVIRONMENT

2. Find an actual safe place either in the home or outside. Sometimes kids need to be able to walk away and self soothe. Some like to hide under their beds, and others have a favorite tree in their backyard they can climb. It’s an important skill to know when to walk away and take some time to think before a conflict escalates. Allow your child the space to be able to make this decision on their own.

3. Pet animals or pets at home. Pets can be soothing and comforting as well. They often sense when someone is upset, and petting them is very therapeutic. Your child can focus their energy on helping to feed, groom, or walk a pet. This can give them a sense of mastery for contributing to household tasks while helping them to calm down.

GROUNDING TECHNIQUES

  1. 4. Count to 10, then keep going!. One of my favorite variations is rhyming along with the numbers. (1 fun, 2 blue, 3 tree, etc.) This will distract your child from the conflict, and has the potential to make them laugh as well! Count anything and everything as a distraction. It can help tune down the emotional arousal in your body.
  2. 5. Use the five senses as a grounding technique. Describe one thing in the room in detail with the 5 senses. You can also use the 5,4,3,2,1 method (name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste). This is a great technique for anxiety as well!

6. Calm down jars- Get a clear water bottle with a screw on lid. Mix water, glitter, glue, and add drops of food coloring. Kids can shake the jar when they are upset or anxious and watch the glitter swirl around the jar. This is a great mindfulness activity!

ACTIVITIES/BUILDING MASTERY

  1. 7. Read a book or watch a funny show or video. We all like to get lost in a fictional world sometimes. It gives us time to walk away from what is troubling us, and it can change our emotions for the better.
  2. 8. Toys/Artwork/Music- Using toys in a creative and imaginative way can provide a temporary “escape” from life stressors. Legos,sketching, coloring, paint by numbers, and any form of art encourages creativity while also providing an outlet for emotions. Music is one of the most commonly used coping skills for teens. I encourage them to play music that elicits the opposite to the negative emotion they are experiencing.
  3. 9. Start a journal. I often ask teenagers to keep a notebook on them in order to write down what is bothering them, dreams or nightmares they have had, positive affirmations to help them with difficult times, things they are grateful for, or random thoughts and feelings that they need help identifying and sorting out. They can use the notepad on their phones if they would rather do that than write on paper.
  4. 10. Hobbies/Activities- Every child has a different activity that they enjoy doing. One client kept a deck of magic cards on her at all times and learned a new trick every week. Other clients have done origami, knitting, sketching, makeup, nail art, gymnastics, dance class, sports. All of these things are distracting, soothing, and help build mastery which can increase self-esteem.

Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions

The start of a new year brings with it the hopes of a new beginning.  This is the time when many people dream about how their lives can change for the better, “This year, I will…”  Often, our resolutions are created from our regrets, missed opportunities, or a resolution that we did not stick to from the previous year.

How can you be sure this year will be different? According to some statistics, 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions yet only 8% are successful in achieving their resolutions. Chances are that at some point you have made a resolution and then not followed through.

We often allow distractions and minor setbacks to discourage us or pull us away from what we want to achieve. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are not supposed to be perfect, and that a setback does not have to steer us completely off of our course. By taking responsibility for your focus and efforts while allowing for the occasional “slip up”, making a clearer picture of what you want and creating a road map to navigate your course, you will greatly increase the likelihood of achieving your resolution.

Being Resolute with your Resolution

First, give yourself a break from past unrealized resolutions.  Let the past go.  Just because something hasn’t been done in the past, doesn’t mean it is impossible NOW!  Let’s focus on specific steps to make your 2016 resolutions a reality.   

Step #1:  Be Honest  – Ask yourself, “Why do I want to achieve this?”  Is this something you truly want or is it something you think you need to do in order to secure the approval of other people?  If we create goals for ourselves based on what others think we “should” do, then we are not getting down to what will make us truly happy and what we “want” to do. Your desire for change must be authentic, that is, you need to want it for yourself.

Step #2:  Cope Ahead – Brainstorm potential obstacles, “What might get in the way of me achieving my resolution?”  Create viable options to overcome each hurdle. This could include calling a friend for support, positive self-talk and affirmations, maybe even creating a vision board as a visual reminder of your end goal. Be steadfast in the pursuit of your resolution.

Step #3:  Stay on Track – Create a tracking system that will help you record your efforts and progress.  Your tracking system could be as easy as a check mark on your calendar or you can download one of the many tracking apps for your phone. (Try Kwit to stop smoking, Noom for losing weight, Happify or Pacifica for improving your mood)

Step #4:  Be Kind – Remember that not every day is going to be easy, and that sometimes we all have setbacks. (Maybe you have a family event and just can’t resist that chocolate cake. Perhaps you have a stressful day and lose your temper despite your goal to have more patience). The key is to forgive yourself and move on. Realize that each day is a new beginning, and that one minor setback will not keep you from achieving your end goal if you are determined. Research shows that you are more likely to succeed with changing a behavior if you practice being kind self-talk as opposed to being critical of your own mistakes. Try it and see how much better you feel!