Be on the same page.

I am often being approached by one parent enquiring on what their rights are regarding a Parenting Plan, because their co-parent’s lawyer is sending them a Parenting Plan that must be signed by a certain date.

This is nothing short of bullying.

A parenting plan is first and foremost a document developed, negotiated and agreed to by the parents of a minor child, and approved by the court.

A parenting plan may address issues such as the child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being, and must include a time-sharing schedule.

A Parenting Plan is the subject of regulation in ss 33 to 35 of the Children’s Act and must comply with the best interest of the child.

To be blinded by emotions towards your co-parent and struggling to envision a co-parenting future can be understood and it can be managed and resolved with some co-parenting coaching, but when an attorney nudges you to ignore the fundamental need to be on the same page as your co-parent, it is bullying and not acting in the best interest of your children.

When it comes to the children, unless the one parent is clearly and undoubtedly reported as a danger to the child, parents need to remember that their children instinctively identify with both parents. Children need to love and be loved by both parents. Parents, therefore need to remain on the same page.

Ultimately, what is in the Best Interest of the children is to Value the other parent’s Relevance and Role in your children’s lives.

So, if you are a parent being presented with a Parenting Plan which you were not part of to develop, negotiate and agree on, then seek Mediation as a means to develop, negotiate and agree on the Parenting Plan, in the best interest of the children.

The Law doesn’t Raise Children. Parents Do!

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Child Maintenance

Legally, both parents have an obligation and responsibility to support their children. This financial responsibility includes both direct and indirect costs such as education, medical, food, transport, clothing and accommodation.

Child maintenance is then calculated bearing in mind the parents’ financial situations as well as the realistic needs of the child.

The Maintenance Act creates a platform for one parent to apply for a maintenance order against the other parent to allow the first mentioned parent to contribute appropriately towards their child’s expenses when the parents’ earnings are not equal.

So why are so many parents fighting and even defaulting on their responsibility towards their children? What must we understand from such a behaviour? Though not every parent thought about all these financial implications when choosing to have children, it is general knowledge that having children is costly and a very long-term commitment at that. So, what changes when parents separate? Is it possible that their anger towards their ex loses them into forgetting about their parental role and responsibilities?

If this is so, it is of utmost urgency to regain back that responsibility.

The perception that parents must cough up thousands in child maintenance because of divorce is a very skewed perception. Parents are already paying, every day, towards their children’s needs and spoils. Before a divorce happened, you were paying for your children to eat, to be clothed, to go to school, have a roof over their head, to be spoiled with going to the movies, get their video games, be equipped for their favourite sports … the list goes on. Where does it say that this is going to be any different after a divorce? When do parents think it is going to be any different after a divorce?

A divorce is certainly costly, especially if you go the litigation route i.e you engage in this process with a mentality to fight to win … but to win what exactly? More money? Unless you are divorcing from a celebrity or a business mogul, it is likely that you are a normal working family where your pay check will pay the bills and have a bit left for this and that. Yes, a divorce will incur extra costs as parents need now to plan each for their own accommodation, but the children financial needs before, during and after a divorce remain the same, so what suddenly motivates certain parents to contest their children financial needs?

While some amounts paid over to the other parent may be contested because it is claimed to not be spent towards the children, when a parent stops paying school fees, medical aids or any direct costs that are meant for the children, it is a deliberate disregard to their responsibility towards their children’s financial needs.

In this perception of maintenance, it is most likely that fear plays an important role. Splitting a family comes with its challenges and the unknown of moving forward can be very daunting. The financial strain that will be felt with high attorneys’ fees is real and will impact your immediate budget which needs to be carefully allocated.

To this I say:

Seek Mediation to keep costs down and to engage in a process that will be mindful of everyone’s needs while supporting everyone’s emotional state. In finding that your fears can dissipate because Mediation offers a platform where you can safely, carefully and responsibly address your fears and needs, you regain back control over your situation and most importantly you can embrace that you are, in fact, not building a case around how much you need to pay for your children, but instead how you can best manage 100% of your responsibilities when your children are now sharing 2 homes.

PARENTS DO NOT SHARE CHILDREN.

PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR CHILDREN.

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The Blueprint Challenge

So, I don’t usually jump on internet trends and fuel up with my own 2 cents and I certainly was not going to do it with the Momo Challenge! However, an article from KAREN HOPE BLACHER made me choose to act otherwise for the only reason that it is a brilliant article which actually offers a solution instead of digging further in a fear based propaganda. [The link to this article will be provided at the end of this article.]

People are very quick to react and join in a collective fear, anger or ineffective behaviour. This mass uproar sure brings some level of awareness, but hardly any sustainable solution! While some people join in to shout a loud message of “Something has to be done”, few actually “Do something about it”.

So how do you do something about it? How do you find and offer a solution?

This article is brilliant in that it aligns itself with my teachings of getting to know one’s blueprint. You see, it’s not enough to understand and be able to state that everything begins with you, one needs to be able to implement it, not as occasional events challenge your behaviour, but as a second skin. Your blueprint is you. If you do not understand who you truly are and how to be truly you, as opposed to what society has worked hard at designing for you, making you believe who you should be instead of who you already are, you will remain hostage to many news like the Momo Challenge.

All we ever receive is information. What we do with this information is up to us, and no, it is not the information that makes us behave in a certain way, it is our very personal idea about the information that makes us respond in the way we do. Why do certain people, upon seeing a spider will scream and start making some very interesting dance move at the very sight of that spider (that is me by the way) and others will see a beautiful animal which needs to be removed from being exposed to a dangerous erratic human and released back into a natural environment to remain safe from a certain death? It is not the spider which is causing you to feel fear. It is your perception which creates meaning to the information you are receiving.

Danger is all around us and a lot of our fight or fly behaviours serve a purpose which is to protect us, but when a perceived danger is being addressed with a consistent response to run and squash the spider, when upon closer look it turns out it is a plastic spider, the problem is no longer the problem, the problem is our attitude to the problem.

Children are the products of their environment and it is our responsibility to discipline (which by the way means to teach, and not to punish) them about the very environment they live in. We know that our beautiful world is not perfect and that this amazing human race is also not perfect. Disciplining (teaching) our children into fear of our imperfect world is not going to allow our children to learn that they actually have power over their perception and action. As parents, we have the huge responsibility to help our children mould their Blueprint and not just teach them to join in with the mass who is disconnected from their Blueprint, from knowing who they really are, or just impose on them our own ill understood fears and anxieties. When we do so, we rob our children from knowing that they have power to self-reflect and look beyond a problem to create a solution. Fear based information will only teach your children to join the mass who is very good at screaming, “something must be done” rather than looking within, check in with their Blueprint and take action to do something about it.

The choice is yours.

You can read the article I refer to HERE.

If you are interested to learn about your Blueprint or become fluent in REALity Parenting discipline, take the Blueprint Challenge. You can reach me at nadia@innerminds.co.za

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Broken-hearted this Valentine’s Day? Rule No 1: Don’t call your ex!

There are many ways to get through Valentine's Day if you're lonely and single. None of these involves calling your ex, say divorce experts.

Image: ISTOCK

12 February 2019 – 11:27BY NIVASHNI NAIR

Source: Times Live

There are many ways to get through Valentine’s Day if you’re lonely and single. None of these involves calling your ex, say divorce experts. 

You may be tempted to contact an ex this Valentine’s Day. Don’t make that call.

SA relationship experts say exes are best left in the past.

“While it is very tempting to call your ex when you’re feeling lonely, bear in mind the reasons why this relationship ended. These reasons are telling you that this person is not right for you so making that call means you are willing to settle for less than you really deserve,” professional matchmaker Kas Naidoo said.

Her tips to avoid contacting a ex on Thursday include getting physical.

“No, not that – go for a walk. Exercise releases endorphins, which are a ‘feel-good’ hormone,” she said.

Phone a friend.

“Tell them beforehand that when you call, it means you need a distraction fast. Whether it’s a trip to the mall, the gym or just hanging out with a movie and some popcorn; it will help tremendously to have some company and not give in to temptation,” Naidoo said.

Founder of the SA Divorce Support Association, counsellor, and mediator Nadia Thonnard said the end of a relationship is not the breakup point of one’s life.

“It’s a change of direction. Embrace your journey. The future isn’t written yet.”

“It is what it is. Just accept it. You have no control over others, but you can control yourself and how you react to them. You can choose to be mature about it or you can choose to be irresponsible about it. Your choice will determine the quality of your experience.”

Thonnard’s tips to avoid contacting an ex this Valentine’s Day are:

  • Be with people who make you happy. Whether family or friends, surround yourself with happy people and enjoy your time with them.
  • Be busy. Whether it is spending time in nature, catching a movie or rearranging your home, keep yourself busy with healthy alternatives.
  • Switch off your phone! Yep. That simple. If you do not trust yourself, disconnect completely. Allow yourself to grieve and if you need to be sad on that day, then be sad. Give yourself permission to feel every feeling.
  • Stock up on ice cream, settle in front of Netflix and nurture yourself with the understanding that the following day you will be ready to take on a new day, stronger, healthier and happier!

Parental Alienation

Everyone, by now, is familiar with the term Parental Alienation.

I am not going to write about what is Parental Alienation. The subject has been widely documented as it is. What I want to write about is how to prevent it.

Whether it is deemed illegal or categorised as a mental illness is not going to help find a solution.

What needs to be taken into consideration is that Parental Alienation happens mostly during and after a divorce/separation. It is fuelled by high and overwhelming emotions and if the parent who is spiralling out of control into these emotions is not given proper emotional support, no amount of court orders, restraining orders or aggressive lawyers is going to resolve the issue. If anything, it’s going to make it worst.

Parents who get blinded by such emotions to a point that they cannot see the harm they are causing the children, need emotional support first and foremost.

So how do we prevent it?

Separating parents need to acknowledge that Parental Alienation is a real concern and a real possibility in a divorce. So if you foresee that your relationship to your children’s other parent is reaching an end, do raise the topic of Parental Alienation as part of the news of your separation. You will be making some very quick decisions such as who is moving out of the home first, so you need to talk about the children too. Any parent who leaves a relationship without addressing concerns about the children and leaving them to be addressed in the divorce process and in the Parenting Plan will miss out on setting the tone for protecting their children from such emotional fiasco.

So yes, Parental Alienation ought not to become something that parents raise once they are being targeted. By that time, a lot of damage has been done already. Parental Alienation needs to be talked about before it happens. If you suspect, in your relationship, that a breakup is at risk to send your co-parent in a spiral of destruction, know that being mindful about the breakup is a priority. Take responsibility for your children by managing this life changing decision, the news and the way forward.

A potential alienator is a hurt person who is being controlled by their emotions instead of being in control of their emotions. Taking responsibility for laying a mindful foundation that will protect the children from becoming hostage of your unmanaged situation will spare much hurt for everyone concerned.

Truth be told, you know your co-parent well enough to presume if they would be capable or not of such retaliation.

If you are dealing with a co-parent whom you foresee being capable of becoming an alienator, it is your responsibility, in regards to your children, to do as much as possible to prevent this from happening.

If you are of the opinion this could be a possibility, then engage on the topic with your co-parent. After all you are the adults and you will be having conversations about your children and their wellbeing for the rest of your lives, so this is such a time where your children’s wellbeing require very serious attention.

Consider these points if contemplating a separation/divorce from your co-parent:

  • Understand that while a relationship is about love, a separation is about money and the children. A lot of consideration will need to be given to both in order for the separation to be as mindful a transition as possible. While you are responsible for your choices, your children remain dependent on those choices. Allow them to be spared as much as possible and not be thrown in the middle of the chaos. Both parents have to safeguard their children as a priority.
  • Take responsibility for your emotions. Going through a separation is really emotionally overwhelming, for both parties. Seek divorce coaching before anything else. No good decisions will amount from badly managed emotions.
  • There is no other word. Parental Alienation is abuse! And yes, you may have well meaning intentions such as: “my spouse hurt me so I will make sure they don’t hurt my children too”, (we are not raising here the implication of protecting them from a physically abusive parent) but alienating your children from their other parent, even if it was an absent parent during the relationship, is abuse.
  • Do not let your anger for your ex take over the love you have for your children.

In other words, before you become a targeted parent and your children become hostage to a most toxic situation, do your due diligence on what the outcome of the news you are about to drop on your co-parent may unfold in and plan accordingly.

Everything starts with yourself!

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Who am I?

These 3 small words hold the key to unlocking your full potential.

As a keen Choice Theorist, most of my work is based on Choice Theory, the work of William Glasser, MD, and is the culmination of some 50 years of theory and practice in psychology and counselling. During the process of learning Choice Theory, one is introduced to the “Brain Chart” (see here).

To move beyond the intimidation and complexity of the chart, one needs to at least complete a Basic Intensive Training in Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management.

In order to apply this knowledge in my everyday Family Therapy Practice, I have deconstructed and reconstructed it in a way that I perceive meaningful to me and have, from there, designed what I now use widely in all my Counselling and Coaching work: The Blueprint – An exploration of human behaviour & how to create change, because in essence, everything starts with yourself!

This model will assist you to get along better with the people who are important to you and enlighten you in why you do the things you do.

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Mediation: A must for separating parents.

The end of your relationship has ended, and truth is, no one can really prepare you for the emotional turbulence that is about to be experienced. Sure, every separation is different, and the intensity of emotions will vary from person to person, but the ending of a relationship remains one of the most traumatic experience some people will encounter in their lifetime.

As we were growing up, we were most likely raised with certain life principles such as respect, kindness, acceptance, forgiveness … the list goes on, yet when facing a painful separation, all these principles seem to fly out the window. Suddenly, two adults who were seemingly well educated and good people, transform into relentless warriors where peace seems to be only foreseeable in the destruction of the other.

So here goes. It’s all fine if two adults make this choice and want to ruin their lives, but what about when those two adults are also parents? Who is thinking about the children then?

I like to remind separating parents that there are 3 kinds of separation/divorce:

  • The emotional separation
  • The financial division and sharing of children
  • The legal divorce

And they ought to be addressed in that order.

What does this mean? It means that your emotional separation is the most important part of the separation and if not given the priority it deserves, then the financial division, sharing of children and the legal divorce will be considerably ill addressed!

Everything starts with an emotion, and when we make choices based on raw emotions, the results are likely to be inefficient and/or irresponsible and sometimes even devastating.

Such devastating outcomes are often experienced in litigation, because litigation is all about making a point, regardless of everyone’s needs and no litigation has ever ended in leaving people moving on feeling happy.

Separating parents need to be on the same page moving forward as co-parents. They need to be on the same page not only for the best interest of the children. They need to be on the same page to agree that this is the right way that they will find happiness. If one parent gets to turn the page without such consideration, then the children will be left behind!

If after reading this, you are still unsure about Mediation, ask yourself: What am I trying to achieve that cannot be done in Mediation?

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Divorce/separation & Co-parenting

Image result for co-parenting

Most articles that I read on Co-Parenting refer to co-parents as 2 parents who have gone through a divorce/separation. They refer to co-parents as exes; ex husband/wife; ex lover; ex partner. Either way, the reference is focused on 2 people who are now apart after having been together and have had children together.

The focus is then on the many challenges these 2 people encounter when it comes to being separated/divorced parents. Some articles make mention of the ones who have natural friendships which continued after the divorce/separation, others mention the moments which got them to realise how much they were hurting the children and made a choice to change for the good of the kids, but most articles refer to co-parents as people who are now living apart, some easily, others less easily and subsequently the breakdown of the children’s home and family.

When one talks about broken families and broken children, it is important to understand that a divorce/separation does not break children. Parents who lose the notion of their role and responsibilities toward their family break their children’s family and home. Parents who separate make a personal decision and then, as co-parents, ought to now figure out living apart with the same roles and responsibilities towards their family – Their family being their children. To your children you will always be “their family”. You will always be mom and dad. It’s only fair to refer to it both ways.

A life changing decision was made at one point which was to have children. Whether the parents decide sooner or later that they do not wish to stay, or can remain together, they can never go back to how they were before they met, because now they are parents. Co-parents. They have become a person with roles and responsibilities to another person. A separation/divorce will not change that. A divorce/separation does not change that. There should be no law to state it!

Divorces/separations have become a norm. It is time to understand that when, as part of that union, we have become parents, the 2 individuals who are now separating cannot separate from being parents and the norm ought to become primarily that the co-parents value the Role and Relevance of the other parent in their children’s life.

We do not need better laws, we need better emotional support. We need better emotional preparation in schools and we need a legal system which understands that a divorce/separation is emotional in essence and cannot find lasting resolution in litigation.

When some people go on to talk about a broken legal system, a system which does not do justice to families who are in distress or correct the ill doings of a parent over the other parent, surely it is easy enough to understand that it is illegal to not provide for your children and to not interfere with contact agreements, and that, ultimately, the Law doesn’t raise children. Parents do!

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Right or Wrong?

Related imageI see many parents that are in conflict, and some that can’t even be in the same room as each other.

People ask me how I remain neutral in those instances, that there must be one that is right and one that is wrong. Truth is, when in conflict, both are right and both are wrong.

I had a parent in tears once, begging me to believe their side of the story.

Reality is that it doesn’t matter to me who is right and who is wrong. We all have our own perception and that perception will drive our behaviour. Since I am here to assist resolve a conflict, I come from the position that to any problem  there is a solution. If a conflict sees no resolution, the problem is not the problem, the problem is the person’s attitude towards the problem.

You see, we always play a role in situation where we find ourselves involved in. As long as we play a role in the conflict, we are neither right nor wrong, we are contributing to the problem.

There are 3 distinct roles we play when we are part of a conflict. We are either the “blameless one”, the “good one” or the “right one”.

As long as we remain in either of these roles, we remain part of the problem and somehow are thriving to make a point.

So, yes, some people do behave wrongly, but the behaviour usually indicates how capable or incapable an individual is equipped to deal with a situation and it is here that the support is necessary to 1) reassure the fear which motivates our defensive behaviour and 2) redirect the need to be right which is translated with an inefficient or irresponsible behaviour. It is here that lies the opportunity to grow and do something different.

The end of the conflict will take place when we own our part in that conflict and move forward with the intention to make a difference. No law can achieve this. You, and you alone, hold the key to make that choice.

Are you trying to make a point or are you trying to make a difference?

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Is Mediation right for us?

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I often hear people tell me that Mediation is not right for them, to what I always answer: “What are you trying to accomplish that cannot be done in Mediation?

It is true that there are some exceptions to this rule where mediation may not be appropriate like in cases of domestic violence, for example.

The aim of mediation is to assist parties in resolving their disputes amicably through a negotiated settlement, without going to court. One of the motivations behind this is that the courts are over-flowing with cases as numerous disputes are brought before the courts daily and it can be months before your matter can be heard. Secondly, proceedings through the courts involve asking a judge to deliver a judgment on the dispute. Mediation removes this risk as the parties try to find a solution.

In facilitating discussion between the parties, the main objective of mediation is to assists the parties in identifying issues, clarifying priorities, exploring areas of compromise and generating options in an effort to resolve the dispute and ultimately preserve the relationship between the parties and promote healing, something which is not possible through the adversarial nature of our court system.

That being said, it is true that not all mediation are successful and can sometimes bring out emotions that are not always manageable at the time. When mediation is unsuccessful because of emotional turmoil it is not a logic outcome to move to litigation. Instead, parties ought to be encouraged to seek emotional support and coaching in moving forward and then return to mediation when emotions have been made sense of. You’ll be surprised what can be achieved with a clear head.

So if you are facing doubts about your mediation ask yourself first:

Why has mediation failed? Then,

  1. Write down each person’s argument.
  2. Find out what each person wants.
  3. Negotiate or reason with the other side until you reach an agreement.

Are you trying to make a point or are you trying to make a difference?

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