Sitting in the den curled up on the taupe couch with a cream blanket I read my book by the light of a silvery crackle finish lamp next me in the dim room, the soft light permeating from it's pale gray shade… the flat screen television, it's volume low, played the local weather update on it's screen. Snips of a conversation my children were having with their father in the kitchen went high and low intermittently in the background. As I turned the page and tried to continue reading, something said distinctly jumped out at me from the next room in their conversation. I heard their father say darkly over the phone… "I'm not smiling right now. I don't have a smile on my face."
I paused, glancing up, craning my neck to see my children gathered at the pale table at the far end of the kitchen. Beyond them on the dark gray wall hung a huge oversized canvas that read 'Bless Our Home, Family, Food' in quaint lettering. Under the bright kitchen chandelier they looked perturbed and although I had missed whatever had been said by the children that had in their father's mind made him lack a smile on his face… inward I cringed.
Once again he was making
them feel responsible for his feelings.
It wasn't their job to make him smile or not.
It wasn't their job to make him happy.
It wasn't their job to keep him that way.
I bit my tongue and with a deep breath exhaled, continuing to read my book but once again that scenario showed that as parents we all need to be very aware of what words we use when we speak to our children.
There are common phrases used by people with Personality Disorders toward their children. These phrases are used to invalidate their children and their feelings. It actually highly ups the chances of creating a child who will later go on to become an adult with a Personality Disorder. With awareness we can subscribe to a healthy way to relate to our kids so we don't set them up to be deficit in relating to others and then continue the cycle of disorder for future generations.
1. Shutting down the child and his/her feelings. "Don't feel bad", "Don't be sad", "Don't be angry." "Don't cry." All of these phrases are uttered by a parent who is either too uncomfortable in dealing with a child's upset or hurt or doesn't want to take the time to adequately address it. So they shut the child down and don't allow them to express themselves in a healthy manner as they should.
2. Comparison of siblings. One of the worst things a parent can do is compare their children (even step kids to biological, etc) to one another. Each child has his or her own strengths and weaknesses and comparing them only serves to tell your child: "You're not good enough", "You don't measure up", "And I'm disappointed in who you are." It kills the child's confidence and instead breeds low esteem.
3. Comparison of a parent. Telling your child (especially if you're divorced) that they are "just like your father!" or "You act just like your mother!" only serves to label the child as another person in the family. It invalidates the child as his or her own person and inhibits their growth in who they are meant to grow up to be of their own accord.
4. Asking "WHY?!" during times of distress. If your child is crying, the best thing to do is #1 COMFORT. Once the moment has passed and he or she is able to think logically a parent can say: "I can see something upset you. Would you like to talk about it?" Demanding to know why someone is crying when in the midst of it isn't productive. They are hurting and won't be able to accurately relay what exactly the issue is until they've calmed down.
5. Basing your feelings on their behavior. "I'm not happy right now." Really? What does that have to do with the issue at hand? Instead address your child's behavior: "I need you to treat me with respect. The words you are using toward me are not nice. Would you like to discuss this calmly?" This is a positive way to address the child (modeling healthy relational skills) and their behavior instead of twisting and spinning it back to be about you as the parent. No one cares if you have a smile or not, and a child who is acting out can be certain to not care… it's not their job to make you smile. Alternatively, when your child is sad or mad it's not healthy to tell them: "What do you need to do? Smile!" A parent is then basing their own mood/happiness on whether their child has a smile plastered on their face. This ruse may be used under the guise of "But I'm just trying to raise a POSITIVE child!" But it will backfire down the road.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
some names have been changed
or omitted in this post
"I still remember the night Jeremy told me he had ADHD..." I told her as I walked the busy park trail with her. The weather had been waffling between thirty degree days and then temps in the sixties or seventies; little spurts of radiating warmth that was incredibly welcoming because of the icy winter season we'd had. Everyone was out... women jogged by with babies in strollers, men ran with their four legged companions on leashes and kids skateboarded by with their friends.
As we continued our way along the path... taking in the view of the murky water below that ducks glided across I spoke with a grin "I look back on that night now and see the irony in the situation... he's standing there telling me he has ADHD and Idistinctly remember thinking to myself.... 'Oh, that's that thing where you're distracted'... then I was off on the next thought!" I laughed.
"You never told me this..." She shook her head with amusement "Really? You?Distracted? That doesn't sound like you at all!" She teased me then asked "What on earth distracted you?"
"Oh, heck... I have no idea! It could have been any number of things! Maybe a bird flew by the window, the air conditioner came on, him.... who knows!" I laughed aloud... "but it's absolutely hilarious to me now because who knew I had it too! I get more entertainment from ADHD related life situations!"
She chuckled at that and nodded, "At least you can see the humor in it!" She acknowledged.
Seeing The Humor…
Seeing the humor in our situations in life is one of the most important things we can do whether we have ADHD or not. It keeps us from viewing everything too seriously and humor can often be linked to grace... when we acknowledge, admitting, in humble awareness that we were wrong, handled something incorrectly, or just missed the mark unintentionally in a situation or shared experience... it does something great... it allows you to give yourself likely much needed grace and anyone else that needs it too.
Missing the mark however unintentionally happens a lot when someone has ADHD. Oftentimes people think we are going around intentionally engaging in less than stellar behavior when we truly aren't doing it on purpose. In fact, it may not even be on our radar. When our non-ADHD spouse asks us to please fetch them a glass of water from the kitchen and an hour later goes by... Hello, Facebook, Pinterest, Yahoo!, etc.... they then believe we must be angry at them for whatever reason or most likely believe us to be uncaring because we can't seem to or don't wish to follow one simple request.... they get grouchy and sulk, complain, gripe, etc and then we feel bad, we feel huge guilt because we know that wasn't our intention. We don't mean to come across as detached at times. We don't mean to come across as not in tune with or uncaring toward the one we married... when in fact people with ADHD are some of the most caring, creative, romantic and passionate people you'll ever meet. So while our spouse is simmering and feeling ignored we begin feeling huge guilt... giving ourselves the internal all too familiar grueling pep talk of "You've gotta try harder! You've gotta stay more in tune! More focused! More in the moment!"
Not Being So Hard On Yourself…
Yeah, that's all good maybe if you're on medication but the reality is... sans medication telling yourself "just try harder" may only serve to frustrate you more. It's often more pressure, more expectation and more stress put upon yourself.
Often people who don't have ADHD can't comprehend why ADHD has such far reaching effects on people in their lives and how on earth something could cause such difficulty. But it truly can and it's capable of inflicting a lot damage to your marriage if you don't both have strategies set in place and most importantly if the non-ADHD spouse is not understanding. A spouse's ADHD can affect everything, even your spouse believing you just don't give a rat's rear about them because you're hyper focused on a project that could be either work related or a hobby.
The person with ADHD often wavers back and forth between being distracted and not in the present moment to the other extreme... hyper focused on something like scrapbooking from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., leaving your spouse looking at you like some freak of nature as you amazingly assemble a handmade scrapbook for the kids complete with embellishments, captions and photos that would have taken anyone else weeks to months to complete in small increments of time. Then there is the possible risk of your budget being negatively affected if the one with ADHD impulsively spends money that's not figured in the budget or takes extreme risks to their health and safety like on the road or skydiving... all of this and more can add up to the relationship you have with your spouse being not so great.
The Reminder Relationship…
A partnership between two should ideally stand on equal ground instead of turning into a parent/child or "reminder relationship".... because what happens over time is the non-ADHD spouse begins to feel they must overcompensate or bring to light the ADHDer's potential slack. They feel as though they have to be a walking calendar and alarm system for the person with ADHD... "Did you pick up the so and so?", "When is your next dentist appointment?", "Did you call back so and so?" In turn it gets to be equally incredibly annoying(!) as someone with ADHD when you have someone continually making remarks that only serve to further impress upon you that you're lagging behind on what's on the calendar (sometimes before you've even had the opportunity to forget something) and they are behaving superior.
We came upon a point in our beautiful afternoon walk where the sidewalk ended and now the path became rough and uneven... like life often does throwing us for a loop when not expected.
"I loved being on that Vyvanse for the most part..." I admitted to her "For the first time in my life I got to see what 'normal' or 'typical' is. It was awesome... I got so much done, it was unreal. The biggest drawback was the extreme weight loss which wasn't good. And at the same time I kept feeling like a part of me was missing while on it. ADHD doesn't define me yet is a part of who I am... I'm not real sure where it and I begin or end. It's weird... life is funnier off medication. Being on it life is much more productive but also much more serious. I truly believe one of the biggest factors with dealing with ADHD is having a sense of humor. If you and your spouse can't laugh about it there's trouble. I'm trying new medication to see how I do and yet in that I'm not looking for perfection. Just a bit of help... and whoever I'm with one day is going to have to be understanding... in that if I miss a day or two of medication they aren't threatening me with divorce. If we don't have compassion and grace for each other but instead treat our spouse as an inconvenience how can we ever have love?"
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
October 26, 2012
some names have been omitted in this post
Setting two dinner plates of fish sticks, macaroni and cheese and green beans with steam coming off them on the kitchen table I called the kids into the kitchen, "Dinner's ready!" Fresh cups of milk stood ready for them at their place settings and a bottle of ketchup sat on the table. I rounded the granite bar countertop that divided the eating area and kitchen to fetch parmesan cheese from the refrigerator. Two excited children came running in and slid into their parson's chairs, exclaiming happiness it was time to eat and affirming they liked what they saw on their plates.
As I rummaged in the fridge I heard a loud thud.
Turning to my left I see him. Standing there with a huge oversized suitcase on rolling feet beside him he'd carried down from upstairs. With a dejected expression on his face he looks past me as if I'm invisible to search out the children's eye contact across the room. They meet his and get up from their seats with curiosity to walk around the countertop. They stop short when they see him with the suitcase standing there with a forlorn expression.
"What's going on?" our son asks. "Where are you going?" He looks confused and likely wonders if he's forgotten about a business trip that was to take place that night. But there was no business trip planned.
"Mommy doesn't love me anymore and is kicking me out of the house." came the pitiful reply marked with a victimized voice of manipulation.
I stop short. I stare at him in disbelief.
He. did. not. just. go. there.
"Excuse me?" I say… but there's no response.
He doesn't look at me. He won't look at me.
I stand there and for a second, a split second everything is still. Then all hell breaks loose.
"What????!!!! She's what????!!!!!" came the cries and then the ugly glares at me from the two little people I love most. The most ugly, accusatory looks filled with contempt joined with pure screams of indignant "How could you???!!!!"
I hear a barrage of "What???!!!" and "Why???!!!" coming at me like mini torpedoes and I am engulfed by them... I can't get a word in edgewise. I try to speak and each time I'm cut off mid sentence, mid word. They hover by him and cling to his arms and begin mercilessly begging him to not go…
The scene painfully horrifically plays out before my eyes… and there's no way to stop it.
"Please don't go Daddy!" they cry out to him and I watch in horror as my son begins yanking the suitcase out of his father's hand, physically un-prying his fingers from the handle in a desperate attempt to keep him there.
Just. pure. evil.
What he's done.
"Mommy told me she doesn't love me anymore. She is kicking me out, guys. I have to go. I love you but I have to move out. She's divorcing me." the tone comes out as manipulatively sad and dejected.
"What??!!! Mommyyyyyy!!! How could you???" our daughter cried out.
I stand in frozen horror as my daughter's sweet little face crumples into what resembles a wadded tissue and she begins wailing like a wounded baby animal hurting and lost in the wild. She glares daggers at me that hurt me to the core… like knives of pain…. like she had been betrayed by her own flesh and blood, me, the mother who had birthed her, then buries her wet face into his shoulder sobbing into his dress shirt.
Oh my God... my heart sank…
this. was. not. happening.
He looks at me now. Directly in the eyes.
With a steady dark-filled gaze and a curled lip
of triumphant satisfaction that silently says…...
"Too bad for you."
At the kitchen table my mother sits in frozen silent shock as this atrocious scene plays out and knows as I do this is not how it was supposed to go.
It had been discussed previously that afternoon he would collect his essential things needed and vacate the home quietly as stated in the papers before the children got home from school and we would decide how to tell them in a civilized manner together. Having a calm transition for the kids was of utmost importance to me but that unfortunately was not the way things would turn out. It had been hijacked and there was no turning back now. I decided right then I wasn't allowing this to continue. I wasn't allowing him to make me the fall guy… I'd had enough. It was enough to make your stomach turn and cause you throw up in your mouth.
"We need to sit down and discuss this." I spoke loudly but firmly above the chaotic fray trying to get everyone's attention.
Finally everyone settled down and tears rolled down cheeks silently, cheeks that were hot and ruddy… little noses dripped and sniffed as I wrapped my arms around them and gently rocked them.... talking about how some things had come to light and it was best that we not live together anymore…. that mommy and daddy needed to live separately… yes, we were getting a divorce, yes, it was for the best… and that it was not at all their fault… that they were loved. Questions came through sniffs and mumbled words…
My back stiffened and I spoke, "Maybe Daddy would like to answer that question." I replied pointedly turning to look at him.
Silence. Another steady glaring gaze at me filled with what one can only describe as dark hatred.
"I'm not taking the fall for this." I told him quietly but matter of fact. "Either you tell them…
either you be honest and fix this or I will tell them." I warned him.
Silence in return.
No eye contact.
"Daddy and I have had some issues..." I admitted to them. "And part of that has been him dating another lady. And when you're married you don't do that. That is why I filed for divorce." I told them quietly. I was not taking the fall for this. I was not allowing his agenda to continue. I was not letting them believe this toxic twisted package he had wrapped up with a bow and tried to pass off as legitimate was acceptable. It was beyond evil and sick what had just transpired and only further solidified I'd made the right decision to file for divorce.
Questions were asked and answered as best as possible… but there was no reassuring our son that Daddy was not leaving in the permanent sense but just going to live separately from us for awhile. The damage had been done. Before either of us could stop him he took off running, out of the house, through the open garage and out into the fifty degree night air barefoot… running… running… running as fast as he could down the dark tree lined street… I didn't know if it was the impulsivity of the ADHD or merely simple fight or flight kicking in out of fear, but as we chased him down I waffled between wanting to scream and cry. This couldn't be my children's life…. the destruction caused and the hurt inflicted in this night that could never be undone. Finally, later after physically bringing him back, him fighting like a baby cub, finally, after much talk and trying to stress how it truly wasn't their fault... what would change, what wouldn't, everyone calmed down combined with lots of reassuring and hugs.
When all was said and done and coming to an end he refused to leave. I busied the children, getting them distracted eating their long forgotten now cold dinner as he began lugging his suitcase back upstairs. I left the kids to their dinner and rounded the corner to the hallway… and hissed at him under my breath at the foot of the main floor stairwell,
"Where do you think you're going?" I demanded in a low tone.
"Back upstairs. I'm sleeping here tonight." He replied cooly toward me.
"Not up there you're not." I shook my head. "You can sleep on the couch downstairs. You're not sleeping in that bed!" I told him.
"It's my bed. I'll sleep in it if I want." He retorted, "You can sleep on the couch downstairs." He added smugly.
I didn't want to call the police and have him escorted out, especially in front of the children yet he was making this all unnecessarily uglier than it should have ever been. "I'm not sleeping on the couch!" I informed him. Eventually he agreed to sleeping in our son's trundle bed and vacating the house on the following day. But the damage had already been done. The children had been put through hell for no reason.
This is obviously a worst case scenario come true.
This is not the way to tell your
children you are divorcing…
throwing one parent under the bus.
This is an unfortunate reality if you are dealing with someone who is a narcisstic sociopath.
The personal agenda of a sociopath will always trump
what should be done in the best interests of the children.
10 TIPS FOR TELLING YOUR CHILDREN YOU'RE GETTING A DIVORCE:
Obviously as can be seen above things don't always go
as planned but in the hopes that doesn't happen to you here are some tips.
1. Make a plan together when the children aren't in earshot of you. Figure outexactly what you are going to say. I cannot stress that enough. Usually "We've grown apart", "As you know we've been fighting quite a bit more lately" or "We've tried to work on some issues and it's just not working, we believe this to be best for the family..." etc are good, neutral statements to use when talking to your kids. This doesn't place the blame on anyone but instead acknowledges that yes, there's been a issue(s) and this is the decision that's been made.
2. Do not use a self proclamation of pity and throw your spouse under the bus to earn sympathy points from your children. In the days following telling our children we had a counseling appointment in place for them. At the therapist's office I told the therapist what had transpired the night in telling the children. He looked horrified and turned to address my soon to be ex who in turn pointed out how I'd then told the children he had stepped outside the marriage. The therapist nodded and spoke "Well, yes, I guess she did since you threw her under the bus!" and proceeded to sternly reprimand him for what he'd done. As he spoke his eyes flashed with steely anger at him "Take some responsibility. You need to fix this. You need to man up and tell your children you handled this wrong... that what you did was wrong."
3. Get counseling in place for your children as soon as possible. They are going to need it and be sure to tell any close family members, babysitters, teachers etc. They all need to be aware of the divorce so they can be sensitive to your child's needs and any emotional fallout or acting out that occurs. Children's behavior does tend to worsen during divorce and even in the aftermath of it… for months on end… this is completely normal for them… they are trying to gain some control in a time they feel absolutely none. Continue to set limits and boundaries and rules as you would… like no hitting, no bad words, use your manners, etc… and with that make sure to give lots of extra attention and affection.
4. When you tell the kids do not under any circumstances leave the room. You can't be sure what will be said behind your back and you need to be fully present for such an important conversation.
5. If things get heated be the peace maker. Be the soft place, don't add to the chaos and fray. Be a comforter and focus on their hurt not yours. This is about telling them and focusing on how they feel not how you feel about it.
6. Have another person in the home, someone who is there but doesn't get involved, maybe stays in the next room but merely as a safe extra presence of comfort for your children to go to in their hurt.
7. If the person is abusive use extra caution. Another reason to have someone else there; if anything as a witness and to phone for help if needed. Make sure you have in your divorce papers that are served that they are to vacate the home. Get a protective order if necessary.
8. If you have children who have special considerations and needs like ADHD or are on the autism spectrum, etc be sure you have safety in mind. This is a time when someone may be a flight risk and bolt out of the house, run down the street and/or threaten self injury. As parents it's important to be prepared for the unexpected.
9. Your timing matters. Don't tell them the night before they have a big test, prom, graduation, any major life event or the week of their birthday, around Christmas Eve/Day etc. They will always remember "the day" they are told... don't cast a dark light on an otherwise positive event/day in their life.
10. Do not under any circumstances tell them you're divorcing unless you are 100% sure that you are doing this and you've made the right decision. The last thing you want is to drag your children through an emotional conversation of "were splitting up" then retracting it, creating lots of confusion and resentment. Make certain you are solid with your decision before you include them in this life changer called divorce.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2014
this was an extremely difficult post for me to write and with that why I've waited so long to write it… my hope is this helps others who are about to begin the journey of divorce start on the right foot and always, always put what's best for your children ahead of yourself.