Confidante and Co - Episode 3: How To Help You To Help Your Kids
Confidante and Co - How To Tailor Your Separation/Divorce To Make It A More Positive Experience
Monday, 4 October 2021 - 37 minutes
In episode 3, Christina McGhee, a divorce parenting expert, joins Carly James to talk about how parents can deliver the news of a change in the family dynamic to the children in the best possible way, how to help children to cope with those changes and how to co-parent well.
Breaking news to the children about a separation is almost always the biggest worry for parents. In this episode, Christina shares enormously helpful information which parents can implement immediately to help their children deal with changes in the family, whatever stage they are at. Christina provides excellent ideas, tips and great resources for parents and children.
About Confidante and Co – the podcast series
Clients often believe that they are resigned to the legal or court process when they are facing a separation or divorce but this is not necessarily the case. What clients don’t always appreciate is that they have more control that they think and as long as both parties agree, they can bespoke their journey by using other services to complement the legal process. Counselling can be used to promote a more amicable separation, Mediation can be used to help deal with issues in dispute, and there are resources and experts available to help parents co-parent better/well.
By engaging the help of other services or resources, the cost and time it will take to navigate the legal process may be significantly reduced and there is an increased chance of keeping relationships intact.
With that in mind, Carly James was eager to invite guests onto the series to give couples experiencing relationship breakdown a deeper insight into how their respective services can help. We tackle common questions, debunk some myths and aim to educate listeners so they can make fully informed decisions about whether or not to engage such services.
Whilst Carly chips in along the way with a legal perspective if she thinks it is helpful to do so, the podcast is not designed to tackle the legal process, instead it focuses on the holistic and practical side to relationship breakdown.
Carly believes that the more couples make use of the other services available to them, the less traumatic the experience will be.
Confidante and Co Episode 3 – Transcript
This is Confidante and Co with Carly James - new perspectives on family law.
Carly James: Welcome to the third episode in a four-part podcast series called Confidante and Co. I'm Carly James - family lawyer and founder of Confidante, a law firm which specialises in helping people with family law issues such as divorce, separation, and children disputes.
The inspiration to record this podcast arrived from a desire to showcase, to people experiencing relationship breakdown, what other services and resources are available to them beyond the legal process. What people often don't appreciate is that these other services and resources can be used to complement the legal process. They can have a myriad of potential benefits, not least to promote better relationships with your former partner or spouse. And obviously, even your children. One of the greatest worries parents have when they are considering the end of a relationship is the impact this may have on their children; parents fear that their divorce will have a detrimental effect on the kids. And this fear can sometimes keep parents in an unhappy relationship. But a change in the family dynamic can be managed carefully and in a way that limits any negative impact on the children.
And with that in mind, I'm delighted to introduce my third handpicked guest, Christina McGhee, who joins me down the line from Texas to share her wisdom in this area.
Welcome, Christina. And thank you for joining me on the podcast.
Christina McGhee: I'm delighted to be here.
Carly James: Christina is an internationally recognised divorce parenting expert, speaker and author. She has spent most of her career educating parents and professionals on how to minimise the impact of divorce on children. And over the years, Christina has featured on television, radio, podcasts, and in print around the USA - and further afield. Christina has even taken part in a BBC documentary, ‘How To Divorce Without Screwing Up Your Kid’. I've watched it – and Christina, it is insightful. And it can be found on YouTube for anyone who's interested.
Christina, I'd like to break this episode down into four sections: Firstly, to talk a little bit more to you about you and the work you do to deal with the preparation for, and delivery of, the news to children about a change in the family dynamic. How to deal with children in the immediate aftermath and longer term, and how parents can co-parent well.
A bit more about you, Christina, you are clearly very knowledgeable and experienced in this area. And having read a bit about you, I can see that one of your core beliefs is that divorce doesn't make you a bad parent, rather it makes you a parent going through a bad time. And your passion is to help parents get through that bad time.
What made you get into this area of work - and what makes you so passionate?
Christina McGhee: Like a lot of people in the field, it wasn't in my design to become a divorce coach.
As a matter of fact, when I started this work, the field wasn't really defined very well. It was a new frontier in many ways. And I got started educating separating parents because there was kind of a collision between my professional life and my personal life.
When I got married, I married a man with two very young children. And I instantly became a ‘bonus mom’. And I had no idea what I was doing!
So, like any good social worker, I dug in and started doing research that even though I'm a child from a divorced family, I grew up with divorced parents, I didn't really think about the impact of divorce on my life, or really have any great lessons learned about how to guide these children who were going through this or how to make it better.
I was clear about what I didn't want, but not so clear about what we wanted, or what we could do. And so I set out on this journey. And before I knew it, I was teaching courses for separating parents. And that's kind of where my journey began. From there, it's been a wild ride. I've had all these opportunities to do things in the media and to write a book to educate parents. I also work on training Family Lawyers, and other divorce professionals about how to really approach this from a child-centred perspective.
Carly James: A really important area of work. And, I think for a lot of parents, they think that there isn't support out there or they don't know where to go for support. And sometimes parents will come to their lawyer and ask their lawyer and their lawyer can help them to a certain extent, but they're not experts in this field. So, it's great that there are resources out there for parents and I think for some parents, they just don't know where to look in Jersey.
We've got a great course called ‘Keeping Children In Mind’. And that's run by a centre over here called The Bridge. But it's not running all the time. And it's a group session. And I think that can sometimes put people off. So, it's great to know that there are people who can offer parents on- on-one coaching advice through this really difficult time.
Christina McGhee: Sure. And it is hard to know where to turn, you know, because we've got Google, there's a lot of information that's out there, but how do you decide what's a fit for you? And so sometimes looking for help can be just as challenging as the problem you're dealing with, just not knowing where to turn. But I can tell you that the defining difference between families who just get through this, and those that get through it, well, really has to do with information and support. And so as soon as possible in the process, it's helpful for parents to get connected to support. And that can be a coach like myself working one-on-one, it could be a group, it could be an online forum, it could be a book, it could be a course, like you're referring to in Jersey, although I'll say that because of the stigma that divorce carries, there are a lot of parents that are really uncomfortable sitting in a small room in a community where they might know the person across from them talking about their situation. And so sometimes working with someone one-on-one, or getting some remote help, can feel more comfortable, because you've got that kind of space, and you're not so worried about confidentiality, or you know, what you're going to say or how you're going to say it.
This is Confidante and Co with Carly James
Carly James: Now, dealing specifically with preparing for, and delivering the news to, children. How can parents prepare for that conversation?
Christina McGhee: I think the first key issue is parents really need to develop a plan. We don't want to have an impulsive conversation with kids, you really want to think things through. And so, I recommend that parents avoid falling into the extremes. Because in my work with parents, I find that either they get into the trap of saying too much - just overloading kids with lots of information or saying too little and kids get like a two to three sentence description of what's happening in the family. And neither of those approaches really serves kids well.
So, what you want to do is really think through what do kids need to hear? So before talking, parents sit down, go through the basics, explaining what divorce means. What's going to change? And what's going to stay the same? Think through what are some things that are really going to be important to your kids that you're going to need to address like, how are they going to be spending time with each parent? And when is this big change going to take place? What about the other important people in their life, so addressing those big-ticket items, and I think it's important for parents to realise that having this conversation isn't just hard for kids, it's also hard for parents. And so, you want to make sure that you kind of sort yourself out so that you can responsibly manage your emotions when you're having this conversation with your kids.
Carly James: And if you could advise parents to do at least three things to make the delivery as child focused as possible. What would they be?
Christina McGhee: I think the first one is to really think about the timing of the conversation. We want to make sure that we're giving kids some space to take this all on board emotionally. And that doesn't happen quickly. So, while talking about divorce is an ongoing conversation, this first talk is a particularly important conversation.
You want to make sure that you give your kids some time to take everything in, I recommend a lot of times that parents plan to talk to their kids, like on a Friday, and then not schedule anything for the weekend. Make sure that both parents can be available to the children. So, if kids have questions, or they want to talk about things, because different things are going to come up for them after the news lands, right, they're going to have time to think about it and feelings are going to show up. You want to be available to them. And you don't want them to have the pressure of having to deal with others outside of the family right away. That's a lot. “Oh, we're going to tell you and then let's go to Sally's birthday party”, you know, or “I'm going to drop you off to school” and I have had parents you know, that have told their kids in the car as they're driving to school. And then the kids are left to deal with this big news at a time that's just simply not convenient or helpful. I think timing is really, critical.
Carly James: That's a great tip. And it seems so obvious in the cold light of day when we're talking about it. But when parents are emotionally charged judgement can go out the window. And that's why planning this conversation is so important. And you can't undo what you say or how you say it to the children, and this is a conversation they're unlikely to forget. So important to get it right and to plan together as well and deal with the conversation together if you possibly can, for sure.
Christina McGhee: …if you can. And to add to that, I would say if you've already had that impulsive conversation with your kids, and you can't unsay what you've already said, I do recommend to parents to consider circling back and have that conversation again. It’s okay to say to kids, “look, when we first talked about this, I was feeling a lot of really strong feelings. And I didn't really show up the way I wanted to, or I didn't really what I wanted to tell you didn't come out the right way. So I want to try this again, here's what I want you to know.” And kids will be very forgiving. I think it also sets a great example for children, that it's okay to make mistakes, that you're not always going to get it 100%, right all of the time. And when you don't, that you can go back and repair or circle back or have that conversation again. So don't feel like there's no hope. If you've said things to kids that you regret, or you wish you'd said differently.
Carly James: But better to address it, if you could recognise that you could have done better deal with it and replace the narrative with something more positive, and unexpressed that in a way that you know, after a bit of time has passed is a better way for the children to think about things going forward. One of the tips you gave was to think about timing, what are the two other tips would you give to parents?
Christina McGhee: Well, you want to keep it conflict free. And you want to - as I said before - manage your emotions responsibly. A lot of parents want to know if they should have the conversation together or apart. And I think it's ideal if you can have the conversation together, if you can plan together about how to talk to the kids. But the caveat to that is that you want to keep it tension free.
So, if there's a lot of strong feelings, or one parent is angry, or very committed to placing blame or not being cooperative, then you might be better off having separate conversations, it's certainly good if you can agree on a narrative so kids are hearing similar messages from each parent. But that's not always possible. And if it's not, then you may need to approach things in a different way.
Which brings me to my third tip, which is: don't play the blame game.
And that's a hard one, because when those emotions kick in, or you may feel strongly that one parent bears more of the responsibility for the marriage not working than the other. And it can be very tempting to want to lay everything squarely on the other parent’s shoulders.
But the truth is, is that doesn't help kids heal, and it tends to increase their anxiety and make things more confusing for them. When blaming happens, kids are more likely to feel caught in the middle by trying to decide who they should believe who's right and who's wrong, they might feel really pulled to pick or choose a side, which is not helpful to them. Because moving forward, we want them to have a positive relationship with both parents, or kids also can fall into the trap of feeling like they need to be emotionally responsible for a parent that they may view as the victim or the more vulnerable parent. And when kids are focused on taking care of parents emotionally, they're not paying attention to their own needs. And that is something a theme that can really follow kids throughout their lifetime.
Carly James: That's important advice. And I think we cover later the conflict I think a lot of parents face around, not oversharing with their children, but also trying to be honest with them. And that can be something difficult for parents to deal with. But just before we move on to that, Christina, how do you help children who are of different ages? Is it helpful to deal with the children separately? Do you deal with them and sort of briefly cover off what's happened? And then deal with them separately? What would you advise?
Christina McGhee: In families where you have children that are different ages, I think the first thing you need to think about is how wide is the gap. If you have really young children and you have older children, it may be important to have a separate conversation. So, you might want to talk with the older children first and break the news and explain to them how life is going to change and then have a family conversation that includes the younger children so that the siblings can support one another. Because, you know, research and study showed that siblings can comfort each other can support each other as they go through this and can be a great source of support. I think that when you can approach it in that way, it kind of sets that dynamic up.
Carly James: All right, and back to the honesty point. Parents will want to be honest with their children, but how honest should they be? Where do you draw the line?
Christina McGhee: I always recommend that parents are honest with their kids, but you want to be ‘responsibly honest’ and remember that you know, when you start talking about telling the truth, the truth is a very slippery slope, right? Because you need to remember that you know why things happened the way they did or the perspectives about the relationship or the change the divorce, there's always going to be at least two different perspectives about why things happened.
When you think about being honest with your kids, and telling them the truth, you need to think about whose truth you're telling. So, if parents aren't sure whether they should share or not share information, I think it's important for them to ask themselves some questions.
And those questions are, how is this information going to help my child? That's the first one.
The second one is, how might it hurt them? How will it impact the other parent’s relationship with the children if I share this information? And I think the last important question is, am I sharing this information because my kids should know it, or because I need to tell it. A lot of times when we're talking about the truth and being honest, it's because we feel we need to justify or defend or set the record straight. Again, that kind of pulls kids into this trap of getting caught in the middle and trying to figure out who should I believe. Now that doesn't mean that if the other parent is saying things that you clearly don't agree with, you have to rollover, right? If kids are getting information from the other parent that you don't feel is factual or true, or is a distorted perspective, it's okay for you to say, well, I don't really agree with what dad said, or I have another way of looking at it than mom does. But getting down into the nitty gritty and trying to tell your side of the story, again, traps kids in the middle, because once they get that information, what do they do with it, they go check it out with your parent, right. And so, then the other parent unloads a whole new set of facts and talks more about their perspective. And then the kids have that information. And they go back, right. And they're kind of caught in this back and forth, who's been straight with me and who's not.
New perspectives on family law. This is Confidante and Co, the podcast series from Confidante Law.
Carly James: The questions that you pose, it's great pause for thought for parents, because by asking themselves those questions, they are shifting the mindset to make sure they're guided by what serves the children rather than what might serve a different agenda. So those questions are important.
Christina McGhee: I think that they are - and you know, it's a tough call a lot of times, and sometimes parents also kind of distort the truth because they want to protect their kids. So sometimes parents don't want to use the word divorce. Or if parents are sleeping in separate bedrooms, they make up reasons that that's happening, oh, well, ‘Dad snores too much’, or mom has back problems, and we need to sleep in separate rooms. Well, that's not really being honest with kids. And when we're not giving kids a context for understanding how things are changing in the family, it's important for parents to understand that kids are going to make up their own stories, they're going to put things together, which often aren't based on logic or reasons, and kind of come up with their own idea about why this is happening in the family. So, with an instance like sleeping in separate bedrooms, I think it's important for parents to kind of come clean with kids and let them know that maybe they haven't made the decision to divorce. But right now, they're having problems. And they've decided to sleep apart for now, you know, maybe you need to talk to kids about the idea of separation, but you want to that's a time when you want to be appropriately honest.
Carly James: And when the relationship is at an end and you are having that conversation with children, what are the most common concerns children have? And how should parents allay some of those fears?
Christina McGhee: Well, I think that there's a lot of concerns that children have, but one of the biggest ones is that kids often wonder if it's their fault. And I think it's important for parents, a lot of times parents have a hard time believing that kids would ever think that way. But really, if you think about it like a kid, it makes perfect sense. So when parents aren't getting along, and they go through the process of separation and divorce, what do they spend most of their time fighting about? Usually, it's kids, right? What the schedule is going to be? How is time going to be spent? Where's that new shirt I bought? Why did Brittany make a B in math class, you know, that's all your fault.
And so there's just this myriad of things that parents have conflict over. And the way kids see it is all the arguments have to do with me or something about me, then it must be my fault. And that's another reason why conflict is so damaging for kids, because it can lock them into this idea that somehow, they're responsible for what's going on between parents. I think another one of the big concerns that kids Have is if mom and dad can stop loving each other does that mean someday they might stop loving me. And that's huge for kids. Because this idea of unconditional love is called into question when parents decide to divorce, right, and it makes sense. So kids need to be reassured that they are going to continue to share life with each of their parents, that the love that's shared between a parent and a child is a forever kind of love, that's not going to change, and that they're going to continue to be an important part of their lives, right, we're still going to be so the marriage ends, but the family continues, this is really important concept for kids to hear.
And along with that, sometimes kids worry if they're going to lose parent, like, especially if there's one parent that moves out of the family home kids may really worry about the security of that relationship, and if it's going to endure if it's going to last. So, this is another reason why kids having free infrequent access, and regular and consistent contact with both parents is really critical. And then I think the last thing that's important for kids is what's the future going to look like? Right, especially for older kids, like how is this change going to impact my future. And I think that it's important for parents to really be sensitive to that.
Carly James: And important for parents to build these concerns into their conversation, because children might not be able to articulate how they're feeling, they may not even know what they're scared of so by addressing for parents to take the lead in to address these points and give their children really clear reassurance throughout this conversation, and further conversations they have will be a really helpful takeaway for the children.
Christina McGhee: Oh, absolutely. And, and again, it isn't a one-off conversation. Divorce is an ongoing conversation. And there will be times when parents can circle back, and they can touch on these things. But I think that the important component in terms of really staying focused on our kids is raising our level of awareness. And sometimes there are a lot of things that our kids are navigating behind the scenes that just don't make it on our parenting radar. So we really must to be vigilant about paying attention to our kids and thinking, where are there ways that we can minimise unnecessary stresses for them?
Carly James: And just touching on the last point you made around the common concerns. So what will the future look like if parents can't reassure their children because they don't have all the answers yet? How should they deal with that?
Christina McGhee: I think it's important for parents to know they don't have to have all the answers, right? There are going to be things that may come up that you just haven't thought of, or there may be questions that your kids ask that you're not ready or prepared to answer. And that's okay. I think what you can do is let kids know, you know, we haven't worked that out yet. We're still trying to figure that out. And when we do, you'll be the first to know, or you may want to tell kids, we really need to talk about that further. And we'll come back to you and then make sure that you do circle back with kids in a reasonable amount of time. So you want to wait days, not weeks.
Carly James: You've given a good structure there to parents. So how to prepare individually and together what to say what not to say how to deal with difficult questions and addressing children's concerns. And I think what that does for parents who are prepared in that way is it also gives them some confidence to deal with that conversation. And if they're feeling confident, then that's going to be relayed in their messaging, and that will be received in the most positive way by the children.
Christina McGhee: Oh, I agree. I think that's why having a plan is so important, because it helps you feel more confident going into the conversation. And it's a hard conversation to have, right? A lot of times parents don't know what to say or how to say it. So, it's important to think it through how will hearing these things impact your kids, and how can you approach it in the best way possible.
Carly James: Moving on to the immediate aftermath and beyond. Research suggests that in the first year, it's often the toughest for children and the reasons for that are obvious because they are encountering the most amount of change. But what can parents do in the first year to limit the strain on children?
Christina McGhee: I would say one of the most important things you can do is minimise the number of changes that your children have to deal with in that first year. And that means you know - can you keep them in the same school, the same neighbourhood, the people who are important to them in their lives like grandparents and aunts and uncles and extended family members, friends, that they still have continued contact with. If there are activities that are really important and contribute to your children's well-being then how can you continue to support that as co-parents.
Now, when I say minimise the number of changes this doesn't mean that that's a reason to limit a parent’s time with children. Well, because you didn't normally have the kids every Thursday night, you know, we can't, we can't make that change. That's not what I'm saying. Because kids do need consistent predictable contact with each parent, but you want to, you want to think about what was life like before the breakup, and what needs to continue after because even though your relationship has changed, your children's needs have not and everything that they needed before the divorce they're going to need after the divorce.
So really thinking about it from that perspective, how can we give our children the childhood they deserve, and the stability that they need to be happy, resilient, and secure.
Carly James: And beyond just minimising the number of changes, is there any literature or resources you can recommend to parents to support them through this difficult parenting stage and for parents to share with the children?
Christina McGhee: Sure, so this is going to sound a little bit like a shameless plug. But my book, parenting apart is a good resource for parents, because it's the kind of book you can dip in and dip out of, I wrote it, because I know that having the idea of reading a book is just so overwhelming when you're going through this, I intentionally wrote it so that parents could read it chapter by chapter is not necessarily an order. I recommend that parents go to the table of contents, read it through. And you know, think about which chapter really speaks to what's weighing on you right now and just read that one chapter. And then maybe down the road, there's something else that comes up, and you might dip back in to get a little bit of information there. But there's short, easy to read chapters that you can, that will help you act and make the best possible choices moving forward.
There's also a lot of books out there for kids. And so, I always recommend, if you want to talk with your kids in a positive way about divorce are kind of develop a common language for talking about how the family is changing. Check out some books on my website, I have a list of resources, and I have some recommended books. But you can certainly check with any book retailer and read about some reviews on some books to see what other parents had to say about them, make sure that you're getting something that's developmentally appropriate for your kids. Another resource that I would highlight is a documentary film called Split, which was produced and created by my dear friend and colleague, Ellen Bruno.
Split is an excellent resource for children and parents. And it is a documentary film that shares the journey of 12 children who had parents that split up and how it impacted them. And it's a short film run times, like under 30 minutes, but it's just kids on camera, talking about how divorce really feels for them, what are some of the worries and concerns they have, and it is one of those films that is just so profound, terribly moving. And you also have, you know, these laugh out loud moments, you know, as these kids share their stories.
I would recommend, you know, parents check it out, I want to say it's important that before you share any resource with your children, make sure that you preview it first. Because not every resource is a fit for every family. And so, it's important to figure out, is this something that's going to be a positive resource for your kids? Does it fit with your situation before you introduce your kids, and that includes split, don't just pop it on, and sit with your kids and watch it because some of the things that those kids have to say can hit you really hard as a parent, and you don't want to put your kids in a position where they're wondering if you're going to be okay, so watch it first.
You're listening to Confidante and Co with Carly James
Carly James: I think it's great to make those recommendations and consider dealing with the change in the family dynamic so openly like that because it creates an environment which encourages the children to speak and speak freely and openly and honestly about their feelings, frustrations, what's making them angry, sad, or even making the process easier and hearing other kids so they can relate to that that's really helpful for children in what must sometimes feel like a really lonely experience. And that environment makes for a healthy way of dealing with challenges generally, because inevitably, it will make children feel more resilient, going forward and dealing with other life challenges that come along.
Christina McGhee: And I think that is kind of the silver lining to the dark cloud of divorce, right is that it is a hugely challenging for children and for parents. But it is also an opportunity where you can really help your kids learn some very valuable life skills, right because divorce isn't going to be the only challenging thing they're going to encounter in their lifetime. There's there will be lots of things and so this is an opportunity for you to I guess shore your kids up and let them know that while it might not feel like it right now, they can handle hard things. And you know that they are strong enough to get through this. And together we will.
Carly James: And by accessing self-help on the internet, you know, looking at documentaries and books and reading things, it's just helping people cope with difficult times. And so if another challenge is thrown up, people will be able to look online and find things that can help them get through something.
Christina McGhee: I think it's such an important component for all of us to know we're not alone, right. And even though divorces are very common experience for lots of families, a lot of parents feel very isolated, there still is a very persistent stigma that exists for a lot of parents, you know, feelings of guilt, or failure, or shame around this big change in what's happened in their lives. Same for kids, you know, even though there might be other kids that have families that have gone through this type of transition, there's still a lot of kids that don't feel comfortable talking about it. And so that's why I think things like split documentaries like that are so important because they can help break down that stigma, they can help change the conversation to where we look at this as a change in a family, not the end of the family. And so for anybody that's interested in taking a look at Split, you can find it at splitfilm.org.
Carly James: And Christina, moving on to co-parenting, how would you define co-parenting?
Christina McGhee: You know, a lot of times when parents think about co-parenting, they think about we must do everything the same, we must have the same household, we must have the same rules, we must have the same values. And that's not true. Co-parenting is more a philosophy about coming together to raise happy, secure resilient children and acknowledging that sometimes there are going to be differences between the two of you different parenting styles, different values, and allowing different to be different. But really staying focused on that. No matter how different we may be, we will always have one thing in common. And that's the love we have for our children. And so co-parenting doesn't mean you have to do everything exactly alike. But it does mean that you work hard at staying flexible at communicating with one another and supporting one another's relationship for the sake of your children.
Carly James: And from a child's perspective, if they could ask for three outcomes, excluding reconciliation from their parents, when it comes to co-parenting, what would they be?
Christina McGhee: I think one of the biggest would be: don't make me choose. A lot of times kids feel like they need to pick or choose between parents, they're very worried about the concept of fairness. And a lot of times parents don't realise this, especially in the early stages, parents can get very locked in into what's fair, like we need to spend 5050 time it's not fair, I don't have 50% of the holiday, and you have 50% of the holiday. And it's important to remember that what feels fair for parents doesn't always feel so great for kids. And what is a better fit for kids is being flexible, you know, really supporting children to have the best relationship they can and making those transitions easy. And a lot of kids really do worry about you know, keeping things equal, and even between parents hurting a parent’s feelings, upsetting someone making them angry. Again, we talked about kids worrying if they're going to lose a parent, you know, all those are very real issues. So really sending kids a very clear message that you don't have to pick or choose. You can love both of us as much as you want. I think the other thing that's critical for kids is to show up for me, right and make it easy for me to have both of you in my life.
Sometimes I run into parents who don't want to see the other parent, so they don't show up to children's football games, or school plays or birthdays, because they're angry, or they're bitter, or they're hurt. And the truth is, is the thought really hurting the other parent, it's hurting your child, right? kids want it means a lot to them when parents can set aside their differences and really come together and focus on them for those special events. Because the truth is, even when your kids become adults, you're always going to be the only mom and dad they're ever going to have. And they're going to be important things that will happen in their lifetime that they're going to want both of you to be a part of. And so as much as you can do your very best to make that easy for them and conflict-free by really focusing on what your children need from you as a parent rather than your differences with your ex. And that can make the difference between co-parenting well and co-parenting badly.
I also want to add in that I realise you know that all of the listeners may not have a situation where they have a cooperative situation where they have a cooperative co parent, you yourself may be very interested in minimising the conflict and really focusing on your kid But you might not have a co parent that is, and it's Don't lose hope, you can still do a lot for your children, you can't control what the other parent does or doesn't do. But you can control how you respond, you can control how you show up for your kids, how you provide them a context for understanding what's going on, you can act and operate out of your co-parenting values, regardless of how the other parent behaves. And I will tell you that kids will fare far better if they have one stable, nurturing parent in their lives who's committed to minimising the conflict, then if they have nobody, like nobody gets it together, they have two parents that are fighting all the time, one parent can make a huge difference. So, if you're not in a situation where you have a co parent who's working with you, you can still make a very positive impact on your kids.
Carly James: Finally, you do some fantastic work with parents and offer coaching to them. What does that consist of? So, for any of our listeners who might be interested in reaching out to you? What would coaching look like for them?
Christina McGhee: For those parents who may be interested in working with a coach, but haven't had that experience yet, coaching is very action oriented. It's different than counselling or therapy, what I do with parents is really help them focus in on what's working and what's not working. So, with the things that are working, how do we do more of that, with the things that aren't working, less. It’s helping to gain the skills and strategies and insight that you need to get you from where you are right now to where you want to be.
I work with parents exclusively on co-parenting issues from the very beginning stages to years down the road. So sometimes parents come to me because they are in a situation where they have an uncooperative co-parent, or their kids are struggling, and they're wanting to know how to support them in the best possible way. Other times, it may be parents that are starting out in the very beginning stages, and they want some support around how to have that beginning conversation. One of the differences between therapy and coaching is that coaching is very future focused - so ‘how do we get you to where you want to be?’ And I help parents develop a plan of action, so that at the end of a call, and I work with all parents all over the world by phone, so we both get on the phone together to mutually agreeable time. And I get very clear with him in the beginning of the call, what's the focus? What do you want to work on? And at the end of the call, given the context of what we've discussed, what are you willing to do now? What's the action you're going to take between now and the next time we talk and so really help parents kind of have a plan for moving forward.
Carly James: Christina, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I'm sure you've enlightened lots of parents who are listening and given them real food for thought going forward. So, thank you for coming on.
Christina McGhee: Oh, it's been a pleasure, Carly, thanks so much for the opportunity.
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