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Archive for the ‘Divorce’ Category

At Affordable Relationship Counseling in San Diego, CA , licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Barbara Cunningham, often sees clients who present with issues of loneliness around the holidays. It seems that people feel a heightened sense of loss around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Television, movies, magazines, and advertisments seem to emphasize pictures of happy families that are a stark contrast to what people wish they had in their own lives. Often times burned bridges and broken dreams come into bold relief at this time of the year and make it most difficult for people to get through the days of gift giving, Christmas carols, and holiday mirth. Allowing people a safe holding environment to process feelings of vulnerability may be a beginning point.  It takes courage to begin the therapy process. Talk therapy is a proven way to begin. Research has shown that isolation is not good for one’s overall health. If one is not connected, or feels isolated, one is at risk for myriad health problems. Human beings are a social species.  Adaptation to loss can, over time, bring increased integrity and deeper meaning to life. To learn more about Dr. Cunningham’s strength based model of practice, call 619 9906203 or visit her website at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com to get more information.

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  In my private practice in San Diego, I work to provide quality services for marriage counseIing, relationship counseling, and individual psychotherapy. Oftentimes, I listen to young girls and women of all ages obsess about their weight, their appearance and their disappearing youth. I try to provide a safe holding environment as they work to relieve themselves of the overwhelming social pressures to be the prettiest, the skinniest, and the sexiest version of themselves they can create. I coach them to practice self care and take pride in themselves. However, I also coach them to make their life purpose revolve around what they can accomplish rather than merely upon a superficial and dangerous emphasis upon appearance and youth.

After talking at lunch with a close friend and colleague about the troubles of Demi Moore, I had a moment to reflect upon society’s demands to value appearance over substance. Magazines, movies, tv shows, and internet blogs seem to scream that “youth” trumps wisdom-that what we wear matters more than what we think. Some young women and many older women buy into this message so passionately that they kill themselves trying to meet these youthful, botoxed, skinny standards.

This week,  ABC News reported on Demi Moore’s downward spiral as reflecting her obsession with losing weight and battling against the clock as she approaches the big 5-0.  After public humiliation in the face of her estranged younger husband, Ashton Kutcher, betraying her with gorgeous, younger women, she seemingly dropped off her own psychological cliff. Demi appeared so emaciated in this week’s photos that she could have been mistaken for a cancer patient. Sad. Really sad. As she moves into a new decade, her refusal to eat seemed to say symbolically that she just could not swallow it. That she simply wants to disappear. 

Moore’s reported erratic behavior and alleged drug abuse sends a loud message to her daughters that adulthood is not fun and that aging gracefully must be for fools. She makes it appear that it is devastating to cross from youth to middle age. This woman’s daughters are learning deep lessons by watching their mother. Partying with their mother. Suffering as they watch their mother suffer. Wondering if growing older is really as devastating as Mom would have them believe. Moore reportedly gave an interview to Harper’s Bazaar and said, “What scares me is that I am ultimately going to find out at the end of my life that I am not really loveable, that I’m not worthy of being loved…that there is something fundamentally wrong with me.”

When daughters watch their mothers obsess about weight, worry about their changing appearances, be more ambitious about choosing their wardrobes than they are about the enduring consequences of their life choices and try to “hang” with and/or marry much younger men in an effort to cling to their own youth, they are receiving a devastating message. As mothers, we must realize that we are always modeling something–but what? In fact, the deepest lessons our daughters learn is by watching what we do, not what we say. So what are the lessons that we teach our daughters by our own actions?

Little girls learn at an early age if Mom is more concerned with style over substance. Sadly, Rumor, Scout and Talullah may have learned that their mother believes that her greatest value is in her appearance–that her validity as a human being is wrapped up in what she weighs, how she looks, and whether she is still “hot.” In a mad effort to deny her own mortality, she hangs with young people and seemingly tries to deny she is turning fifty with erratic behavior and recreational drugs. If Demi’s daughters are fortunate, they will look at life and their own intrinsic value differently than their mother. They will try to make meaning out of their life in a way that honors experience and wisdom over youth and appearance. Instead of survival of the prettiest, they will see their survival as being rooted in resilience-in the lessons they can discover that are present, but must be uncovered, in each of their life challenges.  Hopefully, Ms. Moore will benefit from professional help so that she can turn her life around. As a woman and as a mother who is facing myriad challenges, she now has an opportunity to teach her children more about the meaning of life by giving new meaning to her own. She has the opportunity to show that there is no shame in stumbling if one picks themselves up from the fall. She can model the joy of recovery from all of the Sturm and Drang so publically displayed. She has the opportunity to review and perhaps modify her values that have privileged vanity over inner substance gained from a life well lived. She has the opportunity to bounce forward, not just back-because of, not in spite of, her recent adversities.

To learn more about Dr. Cunningham‘s strength-based practice, visit her website at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com or call her at 619 9906203 for a complimentary telephone consultation.

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Roberta M. Gilbert, M.D.  wisely observed that “Consistently responsible parents, attentive to their principles, their adult relationships, and connected to their youngsters, rear responsible children” (Connecting wth Our Children: Guiding Principles for Parents in a Troubled World, p. 36).  In marriages that are characterized by chronic conflict and/or increasing distance,  the odds increase that the children may become less and less responsible as they become increasingly symptomatic witnessing their emotionally immature parents bicker and battle in front of them. The children of warring husbands and wives can often get “caught” in the maelstrom of marital difficulties. Indeed, it is extremely challenging for children to witness fight after fight…to experience the consistent chill in the air…the ongoing and escalating tension between parents thick enough to be cut with a knife. The wounds that  are inflicted upon children as emotionally immature  parents continue their struggles with one another and move toward divorce are deep, longlasting, and can leave a multigenerational legacy. Children are often terrified as they watch their parents yell, trade sarcastic jabs,  and, ultimately, move toward the process of divorce.

Andrea Maloney-Schara defines divorce as “really just a legal agreement that grants some physical or emotional distance to two people who no longer understand each other.” What follows is a listing of some key ways to help your child survive your divorce:

As a mature and principled parent,  never allow your child to witness your rage at the other parent. To demean a child’s other parent is to diminish their own sense of self. Their sense of identity is, in large part, determined by how they view their parents. Do not allow this view to be tarnished by talking in a derogatory manner about their mother or father. Do not cast a net that allows your child to get “caught” emotionally in the bucket of troubles between the two adults.

Just as divorces can be chaotic, ugly, and drawnout, divorce can also be achieved in a calm, cooperative and reasonable way. As parents who are choosing to divorce, know that it is time to work diligently on increasing your emotional maturity. Edward Beal, author of Adult Children of Divorce, reports that it is not divorce that makes as much of a difference with children as the manner in which the mother and father divorce and the way the family reorganizes itself in the aftermath of the divorce. Do it conscientiously, carefully, and with as much self-regulation as possible. Get help with counseling to go through this process with as much integrity and maturity as you can muster!

Divorcing parents do better to avoid cutting off from one another and retaining an effective co-parenting relationship that is more than merely civil. This can be a challenge as well as an opportunity in the hard work of increasing one’s emotional maturity. This higher functioning in the face of challenge benefits all people involved. Create as positive a relationship as possible with your ex-spouse!

Never ask your child to be a message carrier between you and your ex. This places the child in the uncomfortable position of being caught in a triangle between the two of you and should be avoided at all costs!

Never discuss your ex to your child. Your child wants to be loyal to both of you.

Make it safe for your child to talk about unhappy, angry, confused or uncomfortable feelings about the divorce. You can encourage such discussions with young children with books such as Dinosaur Divorce. There are numerous books for older children with the theme of divorce. Shared reading can open a dialogue about emotions. Normalize, normalize, normalize!

Remember, you get but one opportunity to raise your child-there are no do-overs when it comes to responsible parenting. Be guided by principles that allow your child to see two people who may not have been able to make it as spouses, but who can and do work effectively and caringly as co-parents.

To learn more about Dr. Cunningham’s model of practice, visit her website at http://www.Cunninghamtherapy.com or call 619 990-6203 for a complimentary telephone consultation.

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