Episode 122 – Children & Divorce – Dr. Erica Ellis

In this episode I speak with Dr. Erica Ellis.  We cover some aspects of how to deal with the Divorce process if you have children.


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Michael 5:44
Joining me today is Dr. Erica Ellis. Erica, you've been on the show before so we're just going to jump right into this. How do you tell kids that a divorce is happening? And so I guess this is sort of a two parter. Does the age of the child make a difference in how you tell?

Dr. Erica 6:02
Well, first of all, great to be back. It's been a while and that's great. Great to see you. You know talking to kids about a divorce might be the most important conversation you ever have with them. Because in so many ways, it's going to lay the foundation for everything that's going to happen going forward. People could do this conversation really well. And and set a tone for the whole divorce and what happens afterwards, or they could do it really poorly and create a nightmare. And unfortunately, I've seen it go in that direction. And I'll give some examples of things not to say but but again, the goal is to is to create a positive foundation and based on that, the first thing that I think is so important, if at all possible. Is that the parents do this together. And that can be really difficult if it's very contentious and conflictual between the two people. But I think sitting down together with the kids with this conversation basically says we are still here together as your parents, were still going to be working on your behalf. And you could count on that no matter how hard it is. So doing it together is really the ideal and if at all possible to make that happen. It's hugely important to not lay blame on each other. And this is where I see the mistakes happening. You know, if your mother hadn't been sleeping with Joe, we never would have been getting divorced. Or if your dad wasn't such an asshole or so mean or such a horrible parent, this never wouldn't be happening. That may not be an immediate need for you. But it is going to be devastating for your kids. And it's going to start things off in a way that the kids are going to be stuck in the middle and they will be stuck there forever. So trying to do it together. Trying not to lay blame, you know, to say something like we don't love each other anymore the way a mom and dad should, or you've noticed that there's more arguing going on in the house. And if we're not happy, you guys aren't happy. And because of that, we've decided to split up and get a divorce. And to speak to your the second part of this question. Clearly the age of your kids matters, right? I mean, a younger kid is not going to understand it in a way an older kid is and often I will suggest to people, if there's a big age difference, talk to your kids separately. You know, like if you have a four year old and a 12 year old, it's a very different conversation. So I think it's really helpful to do it separately if there is a big age range and then talk to your kids in an age appropriate way. You know, you know little kids you could you could say you know, you know you've had friends that you might have arguments with and you're not getting along anymore and you decide that you don't want to be friends anymore. Sometimes that happens with Mommy and Daddy's you know and they're just not getting along and they they they can't live together anymore. In the same way. You can't be friends with somebody. So, you know you tailor it at the level that a kid could understand. I think that timing is super important. Also, you know, parents often say like, what's the perfect time to tell my kid there's no perfect time. But it's kind of that Goldilocks thing like you don't want to you know, not too little not too late. You know you want to there is kind of a sweet spot. And I think if you tell your kids like six months in advance that we're getting divorced and then you're together for six months before anything happens then you actually make a physical split. There live. Everyone is living in this limbo, right. They're always waiting, wondering when is it going to happen? I think if you tell them the day before your somebody's moving out, that also doesn't give them enough time to process it and be ready. So I usually say to people like a month. I mean, obviously it's not in stone, but you know, four weeks gives kids time to process it, to ask questions to try to understand it to come to terms with it. But it's not too much time to be sitting with it. You know, I also get the question, Should I do it? You know on a Friday night, as opposed to a Sunday afternoon? Yeah, I mean, you know, if you could give your kids a couple of days to process it before they have to go to school. That's great. You know, if he could do it, you know, at some point that there's a there's a long holiday weekend, you know that there's even a little more time before they have to get into their life. Again, you know, I think to be sensitive to to giving them you know, time to process it. I also just did this blog about you know, should you wait till after Christmas, right? It's kind of timely now. Right. And, you know, actually January is the month that that parents adults most seek out a divorce attorneys because they tend to wait till after the holidays. But you know, in terms of the timing of that I would say if you can't do the holidays in a peaceful way, and it's going to be a hellish last memory of holiday together. Do not stay together for the sake of the children. Tell them before and have separate celebrations. If you could do it in a peaceful way, and you know, it's not constant fighting, then wait and give your kids one last, you know, peaceful holiday. So I think there are all kinds of you know, timing issues. about this. But

Michael 12:15
what about the scenario where you're the one that is shouldered with telling them or? Yeah, I guess it'd be your you're the one who you know, Mom splits that splits. How do you handle that? What do you mean I know you don't want to bad mouth the other party, the mother? And then you know, in the case of my audience, but or the majority of my audience, but what do you say like what do you say if mom splits

Dr. Erica 12:47
and you don't have the opportunity to sit still get to sit together and talk about it? Correct? Yeah, I mean, I think in that situation, that the biggest challenge is not to bad mouth for mom. Right. But I think if if the mother is still somebody that's going to be in the kids lives, you know, you want to try to protect that relationship and not you know, the kids are going to be devastated enough that the mother has disappeared has split. Right. And, you know, I think you could acknowledge to your kids how hard this is. Wow, I you know, I wish we were able to have this conversation together. But you know, mom isn't here. So I'm going to do the best I can to explain this to you. You know, we haven't been happy things haven't been good. And maybe the way things ended hasn't been the best. You know, I think you could say that rather than you know, I can't believe the the horrible way your mom has handled this. You know but to acknowledge the pain of what they're going through, without lowering yourself to, to being in the position of bad mouthing her because they see they see what happened, right? They're gonna, they're gonna draw their own conclusions. If you draw that conclusion for them. They're gonna get angry at you.

Michael 14:07
Yeah, yeah, it's it's a tricky sort of line to toe. But I think the truth always comes out. Usually, you know, in various ways, but it always comes out it doesn't. I think it's worse if it comes from you. Right? Let them figure it out. Especially you know, whether even if it's when they're adults, eventually they're going to figure it out and see the evidence and put the pieces together. And so it's not upon you, I don't think to to point out what will become obvious anyway.

Dr. Erica 14:38
I absolutely agree. Because if you do, they're going to be resentful towards you. Right? If they if they figure that out, which it's not hard to figure out if mom's disappeared, right. But it's still their mom and they, they are going to be defensive if it comes from you. Yeah, sure. You know,

Michael 14:58
so once you get that piece done, there's obviously the question of dating. And, and I want to first approach it with a question of how long before you're dating someone, should you introduce your children, and then we'll get to some of the other Messier stuff but that one's a pretty easy one a seemingly easier one than some of the other scenarios what how long before you're, you have a person and you've been dating, what period of time before you introduce the kids?

Dr. Erica 15:27
Well, I think the the basic rule should be that kids should not be introduced to new significant others until that relationship, and we can talk about how you define it, but until that relationship is long term, and and committed. Because the last thing you want for your kids is to have multiple people coming in and out of their life when it doesn't work out. For you. Right. You know, you're dating somebody, and you know, you think it's going well, and like a month in you're like, Oh, I'm ready for my kids to meet them. And then three months later, you're like, yeah, that's not really what I thought it was gonna be. And now the kids have another loss, right? There's so much instability that they're already dealing with, with, you don't want to give even the slightest chance of them having to deal with more loss. So, you know, I mean, people say how long is that? You know, is it is that six months? Is it a year? I mean, some people put that in there, you know, divorce decree is a stipulation, right? You know, you have to wait six months. But to me, it's it needs to be long term and it needs to be committed, and there can't be a revolving door of people coming in and out and I also suggest that you don't start introducing new people until you're actually divorced. Like, kids, especially older kids who understand that, like, wait a minute, you're still married to to dad, like why are you dating somebody else? And people don't like that. That rule. You know, because often marriages end because there's somebody else in the picture. They're anxious to have that new person in their kid's life. But I think I would be super super cautious about bringing somebody in before the divorce is actually final. And it's also going to infuriate your ex, which is only going to further antagonize any relationship that you still have and further compromise any ability for the two of you to co parent right. So we're trying to maintain that relationship as much as possible, hoping that these you know the parents are able to go forward in some positive way. So I think the tight the slow piece is super, super important.

Michael 17:58
So let what if you're the other side of that equation, and mom is churning through guys, I'm not saying it to be antagonistic or you know, it happens, but it happens. So what do you do to provide stability or, you know, how do you how do you handle that?

Dr. Erica 18:17
Well, I think that you don't handle it by telling your kids Oh, I can't believe your mom is doing this. But she's got another she's got another boyfriend. You know, I think the one thing to remember is, one is enough like if only one of you does things in an appropriate way. One is better than not. Right? So because the mother is doing that. Don't take that as permission for you to do that. And I think that often happens, right? But she's doing it so what the hell you know, I'll you know, I'll introduce the kids and at least you have an opportunity to be a role model for doing something more appropriate, rather than lowering yourself to the same level of how your ex is doing it. Right. Yeah, so I you know, I think at all costs to avoid the bad mouthing to at all costs to avoid lowering yourself to the same level and and be a role model of better behavior.

Michael 19:21
Can we talk specifically about what what happens to a child when you badmouth the other parent like what what is that like, as specific as we can get? Everyone's different and all that kind of stuff in every scenario and gender and age and all that, but what what is it that occurs in a child's mind? That is damaging when you badmouth the other parent?

Dr. Erica 19:42
Yeah, I mean, that is such a great question because everybody says don't do it, but you know, maybe really understanding what what the potential damage is. I think the damage is that it's an absolutely impossible situation for a child to have to choose between two parents that they love. And when a parent is bad mouthing the other parent, they either need to accept it as truth. And then they're, then they then they feel like they're angry at the other parent for what, what they're being told they did, right? Or they don't believe it's true. And there's the risk of the parent who's giving them that information, being angry at them. For not accepting it. So they're in this no win position of no matter what they do, one of their parents is not going to be happy with them. And it's the most impossible choice for a child to make when they have two parents that they love. And two parents that love them. And bad mouthing puts them in a place asking them to keep secrets puts them in that place. Right. You know, this is another scenario of what how people often do like the dating introductions wrong, you know, they'll they'll keep running it every time the parent goes somewhere with the kid. This woman shows up right like, oh, look, we ran into Mary again at the mini golf. Or we ran into Mary at the ice cream and and, you know, the, the dad doesn't say, Oh, this is my new friend. It's like, Oh, what a coincidence that she keeps showing up, right? But but then the kid has this information. The kids are not stupid. They're like, Oh, I wonder who this woman is. I wonder if this is dad's new girlfriend. And then they're like, oh, but do I tell Mom Can I you know, so, the kids become a secret keeper. You know, the parents are sort of inadvertently asking the kids to keep a secret. Or even sometimes, you know, the parent will specifically say, Hey, here's this is my new girlfriend. Don't tell mom. Like how was that? Oh, uh, when you're the kid like, what do they do? What happens when mom says, Hey, Annie, have you met any of your dad's new friends? And now what is the kid do? Right? If they tell the mom the truth, that's gonna be mad. Right? If they lie there the risk of mom being mad. Right? So they it puts them in these no wind positions that no matter what they do, one of their parents is going to be mad at them. And that's horrible. Horrible.

Michael 22:30
Yeah, yeah, I just it's makes me stop and think about how difficult it is not only not only for obviously the people that are going through it if it wasn't your idea, but but how difficult it is for the children. Like there's just there's no feels like there's no winning but I'm sure we'll kind of get to some sort of success stories and things of that nature. Or at least, you know, some of the positive maybe that can come from this but sometimes it just feels like a no win all the way around for everybody. And honestly think even for the ones that decided to leave like I think they think that it's a victory or success or whatever, but I don't think it's that simple. I think there's no winners, no divorce.

Dr. Erica 23:08
Well, it's never easy, but you could do it well, and you could do it really poorly. And, you know, if you do it well, there's a chance of that that everybody's resilience is going to pull them through but if you do it poorly, that resilience is getting knocked down every day. You know. And I you know, I love acronyms. Like I came up with this acronym for for the whole introduction thing and I came up with this thing that's called Stop s t o p p. Okay, so the first is slow. We talked about go slow. The habit the tee is tell your ex. Now, people balk at this right? Like why would why do I need to tell them so to their business? Well, you need to tell them for a couple reasons because it's gonna get the kids out of the position of having to lie. True, right? They could become an ally in helping the kids adjust. And they're gonna want the same thing or you're gonna want the same thing when they start dating. Right? I mean, if if the wife the ex wife starts dating, I would say 99% of the ex husbands are going to want to know, right? So I think you know, imagine yourself in that position, so go slow, tell your ex. The Oh is only share what's important. Like don't overshare there has to be a boundary between adult business and Kid business, right? You don't have to tell them every detail of every date and oh, well, you know, while you were your mom's she slept over like well the first P is when you start dating. Make sure you preserve quality time with your kids don't have every visit that they come over to spend time with you with the new girlfriend. Your kids will resent her. They will be threatened by it. They will feel like they're losing you. And you don't want to do that. And the second key is to be patient. Like you love this person. By the time hopefully you introduce the kids, but their choose a stranger to them. So give the kids time. Don't push it. Don't force it. You know, be patient that it's going to take time for a relationship to develop. So that's sto PP thing can be very helpful to just have a framework right? To go slow. Tell your ex only share what's important. preserve quality time and be patient.

Michael 25:48
Yeah, all challenges but all doable, right and all important. Because at the end of the day, you know, I think the most important thing is to preserve the children and their mental health as best you can. Obviously this is challenging, so why heap any more challenges on that said, sometimes the challenge is most often probably or the other side. And I've seen and heard, you know, I run a Facebook group for men going through divorce. There's seven. I have helped 7000 men in this group. So I see and hear a lot of different things. And you know, that's obviously one side of the story, but sometimes I see things like the ex or soon to be ex wife has a new boyfriend already. Perhaps because that that was what you know, was the wedge that led to divorce or whatever. And sometimes the young child will be sort of persuaded, pressured to call this new partner dad. And obviously this is done for nefarious reasons. Nothing good is coming from it. But when you're in that position, and let's say it's a I don't know a five year old, a six year old and they say Yeah, Mommy and my new dad or something of that nature. I haven't had that happen. My ex did date for a little while with someone fairly serious. That didn't work out. didn't break my heart any but what what do you what do you do in a circumstance like how do you obviously you don't want to Well, how do you handle it? I mean, there's things not to do but yeah, movie cover those two but what how, you know, what do you do?

Dr. Erica 27:30
Well, first of all, I that's terrifying, right? I mean, and it's heartbreaking for any parent to hear that. And, you know, I think I would tell every person who's listening to this, but the most important thing is to remember, no matter what your kid is calling some other person who just came into their life, that nobody is going to take your place. And that is such an important thing to hold on to. Right. I mean, you don't want anybody with that title other than you. But that title doesn't automatically produce the relationship that you have with your children. So I think that's the most important thing. To start with. I mean, obviously trying to have a conversation with your ex that's child focused, you know, not so much like, you know, what the hell is wrong with you for doing this and you know, being contentious about it, but let's talk about how confusing this is gonna be for for Sammy, you know, like, you know, to try to have that conversation and maybe also say, and what's it going to feel like for you when they start calling my new significant other mom. I mean, you know, hopefully you're not going to do that out of spite because that gets back to the one is better than none. But to sort of, you know, try to try to get it that perspective for your ex but, but just to talk about it from a child centered perspective like this is going to be so confusing for the kids. And to be able to, you know, to not to acknowledge that having a relationship with that person is going to be important for your kids and that you're not It's not that you don't want them to your kids to have a relationship with that person. Right and sometimes you don't, but I think it is important to accept that. It's going to be in your kids best interest to have a relationship with your ex wife's significant other, it is going to be in their best interest. It's going to be in your best interest to get along with that person too. Right. But you know, to be able to say this isn't about my not wanting your new person to be in Joey's life. I want Joey to love them and to have a relationship. But the dad thing is just it's really hurtful and I think it would be for you and I think it's gonna be really confusing for the kids.

Michael 30:02
Yeah, what do you say to the child like, what? What do you say? What don't you know? Don't do you say like, you know, I'm, I'm the only dad that you have, you know, Don't call him that. Like, how do you handle that? Well,

Dr. Erica 30:15
I think there's that's a really fine line. Because I think that's putting the child in the middle because their mom is telling him to do one thing, you're telling them to do another thing, then it's a no win for them. Yeah. You know, you know, I would maybe talk to them about like, what is what does that feel like for you? To be asked to call somebody else dad. And you know, if your kid says it's really hard, but Mommy wants me to do it. I might encourage your child to say, why don't you try to talk to mommy about that? And then I think if if you have any kind of relationship with with your ex for you to try to have the conversation in that non conflictual way, but as CO parents trying to say, our kid is struggling, what do we do? How do we make it better?

Michael 31:12
And how, how important is therapy for a child throughout this process?

Dr. Erica 31:18
Well, I think it could be incredibly helpful. I mean, honestly, I think every kid could benefit from it when their parents are going through a divorce. And even in this situation, you know, when the child says to the therapist, this is the most horrible thing. My mom's asking me to call her boyfriend, Dad, I don't know what to do. Now you'd have a therapist that also could talk to mom and say, your kids really struggling here, and this probably is not something that's fair. To them to ask them to call somebody other than their dad, Dad. You know, so you have there's another advocate supporting your child. So, especially if it's if it's a relationship with the CO parents are not working well with each other and can't communicate well with each other. Having a therapist involved can be so helpful to bridge that gap.

Michael 32:13
Yeah. So in a sort of same vein, if there is a lot of negative comments, you're sort of getting back channel. You know, mommy said this or you know, mommy said you can do this or how do you handle those types of things like what do you what do you say to negative comments that are coming in from the other side? How do you handle that?

Dr. Erica 32:34
Well, I think it's the same basic rules, right? You don't want to put the child in the middle by making some nasty comment about their mother. You know, you might say something like what's that like to hear mom say that like to give them good?

Michael 32:55
Yeah, sounds like being curious about their experience is really, really important.

Dr. Erica 33:01
It's super important. It's super important to give them a voice, to give them a place to share what it is that they're feeling. And then you could hopefully take some of that information as, as a good co parent and share that as opposed to you know, sending out a, you know, our family wizard message like, What the hell is wrong with you making those kinds of comments to Joey right. But to be able to say, Joey shared with me today that he feels really stuck. And hurt and upset when those kinds of things get said. So, yeah, I think I think that's a great way to frame it, that curiosity and giving your kids a chance to talk about it, and not lowering yourself to that same level. It's so tempting. There's so much painful emotions swirling around that our emotions get us to do and see things that end up before our kids, right.

Michael 34:02
Oh, yeah. I've been guilty of making not to this extent that extent. I don't think probably micro aggressions or whatever like micro comments. I try my best but I'm sure stuff leaks out. But yeah, it's it's hard. It's all hard. I mean, it especially like, like I said, if it's if it's not your idea what you're doing, it's incredibly hard. But the outcome of your children is paramount and I see that you have making I've made many mistakes for sure. Especially in the beginning. Oh, I was angry. I was very very angry. Yeah, I I tried not to attack or outwardly like like, you know, like specifically or whatever, but I am sure that some stuff came out of it for sure.

Dr. Erica 34:54
I want to be perfect. I mean, you

Michael 34:57
know, no one is I want to talk about something something just popped in my head. Things like parent teacher conferences. I do mind separate. As I started that initially, because I was angry and now it's just I just feel like that's my house and that's her house and you know, she's going to do things her way. I'm going to do things my way. But perhaps I'm wrong in that. What do you how do you recommend those types of things doctor appointments? Obviously, I try to be at all those. But I think specifically parent teacher conferences with schools. How do you think that should be?

Dr. Erica 35:31
Yeah, is that with kids? There are kids not their kids not there. Okay. You know, if at all possible, I think it probably is better to both of you be there and hear the same thing. Because I think there's always room when when you've had two separate meetings to have two separate interpretations.

Michael 35:55
And I think that just happened with me. So that's kind of Yeah,

Dr. Erica 35:59
and you could walk away with two totally different conclusions and plans about what needs to happen. So if you're able to and you're able to hear the same thing, I think there's some benefit to that. You know, if it's hard to sit in the same room together without you know, bickering with each other and making snide comments, which may be at the beginning for you, it was and it was, you know, about her, but for me, yeah. You know, it's probably better under those circumstances to not do it together. Right. But I, you know, I don't think you're damaging your children by what you're doing. But there's, like you said, there's that you just saw it happen. There's a danger of walking away with a totally different interpretation of what you heard and what needs to happen going forward.

Michael 36:49
What about birthday parties, things of that nature. Should you do joint ones can you do is it you know, I mean, I do we do separate but again, as time has gone on, you know, there's it's I think we've talked about my little one mainly she's nine talking about maybe next year, we'll do a joint one. You know, she she actually sort of brought it up and I'm okay with it at this point. I can be around her now and it's fine. In fact, she was in my own the marital home she left she was in what was it? Two days ago. I had to take my oldest somewhere clarinet lessons and she came and stayed with my little one because she was a little bit sick. So I'm past where I can't be around her. But But is that best practice so to speak, if you can, should you do those together?

Dr. Erica 37:42
You know what, I don't think it's necessarily best practice. I mean, if it's something that's super important to your child, and and you can do it in a way that's not going to be full of conflict. I think that would be great. I mean, I think the rule is always if if you're going to be exposing your kids to conflict, then you absolutely should not do it. Because the single greatest predictor of how your kids are going to fare is the amount of conflict that they're going to be exposed to. Right. So you want to minimize that at all costs. If you could do this together. Great. You know, if if your kids aren't asking for it, and you've kind of created your separate things, that's, that's fine. But there will probably be times that you will have to be together, you know, I mean, when your kids eventually get married, you know, or, or, you know, college graduations, I mean, there are times that you will be together and you know, I can tell you from my own experience, just you know, I went through this as a kid with two parents that hated each other and and never figured out how to work it out. My wedding was an issue, you know, like, and it was like 20 years after my parents were divorced. And they didn't want to be together. They didn't want to walk me down the aisle and they didn't want to sit with each other. That was an issue of who was going to be on the invitation. I mean, and then when my son was born, which was probably, I don't know, 25 years after my parents were divorced. I, I literally sent my father don't come to the hospital today because mom is here, and I don't think she's going to be comfortable having you there. Now that was that was so messed up for so many reasons that I was still protecting her. I still thought that was my role. I was taking one of their sides over the other like they both should have been there. And you know, I defended the you know, I was 30 hours and the C section but and I was still maybe delirious but that was like the craziest decision I've ever made. And it was because they never figured out how to be together in the same room. So is

Michael 40:03
that why you do what you do?

Dr. Erica 40:05
It is why I do what I do. Yeah. You know, it took me years in a therapists office to work through all the shit that they created for me. And I am committed and passionate about trying to help other parents not make the mistakes. Because my parents made them all. And they were loving, wonderful parents like they were great people. They weren't like narcissists or you know what I mean? They were they were great people. They loved us, but they there was so much pain by you know, in terms of how things ended. That they never worked on their own stuff. You know, they never healed really the all the animosity and pain just played out constantly. You know, every time I came home from college, it was like, you're gonna go to your dad's house. No, you got to come here. This is your wheelhouse, right, that kind of stuff as opposed to Yeah, you got two houses like go wherever it makes sense. I was 20 years old. You know, but I was still like stuck in the middle.

Michael 41:11
So that is it. No

Dr. Erica 41:12
mistakes that could take a lifetime to heal.

Michael 41:16
So I guess I mean, you know, you spent time working on it, you know, good, better and different. That was a position you were put in and then you've handled it. So I guess that that says that there are there are potentially good outcomes, like divorce. I guess maybe trying to give some hope to guys maybe even myself in some ways, because what I what I worry about more than anything, is that this is going to damage my children for the rest of their lives. And and I'm trying to do my best and I'm and I'm definitely you know, I'm getting better and I had a lot of failings early on but is is this? I mean, it sounds like you were able to work through some stuff but is this Can kids get up? Don't give up get over is the right phrase, but can they can they be okay after this or are they going to inevitably have their own relationship struggles and go through their own divorces and then Thus, you know, sort of perpetuate the pain?

Dr. Erica 42:19
Right? Well, I guess the best answer is, it increases the chances of them having long term problems. No doubt about that. But, you know, like I said, I got a lot of help, but I worked through a lot of that stuff, you know, and some, you know, children who go through a painful, contentious divorce may need help. And it goes back to your question, you know, is it good to have my kid in therapy? Yeah, because the help could start early on. But sure, there's hope I didn't my parents like screwed so many things up and I had a lot of challenges, but they were loving parents who I you know, I had that. You know, they were there for me in in so many ways. And, hey, I just celebrated my 34th wedding anniversary. Oh, thank you. So it's possible, right to go through all of that and still come out the other side and be resilient, but it makes it harder. And you could spare your kids a lot of angst and emotional turmoil by doing it. The divorce in a better way, doing it in a child centered way thinking about how is what I'm about to say going to affect them. You know, that it can't just be getting my needs met and expressing my anger. It has to be thinking about the impact that it's going to have on your children.

Michael 43:48
I want to shift a little bit. Again, things pop in my head all the time. In terms of custody, Ken, do you have recommendations or I mean, obviously, everyone shoots for 5050 but there's so many variations and you know we call me call to 235-279-4673 Jedi whatever. What is there and obviously age is a factor but can you speak to that you do those are recommended schedules that are our best?

Dr. Erica 44:19
Yeah, well, age is a huge factor right? I mean, I think the younger children need more regular contact with both parents. You know, like if someone would say that, well, we're thinking of doing a week on and a week off with our two and four year old I would say that's a horrible plan. Because a week for a two and four year old is like a month to a 10 year old. Right? So I think the age is huge. And the older the kids are, the more they're able to tolerate longer periods of time away, right. I honestly I beyond that. I think it's really important to take into consideration the realities of your life. Like, oftentimes, you know, parents are fighting for 5050 yet one of the parents travels all the time. So it's like okay, how are you going to do 5050 When you're gone half the time? Or you know, one of the parents is on call, like, you know, for a lot so I think you know, when making a parenting plan, you need to take into account the kids age, and the realities of your life and don't just get caught up in the it has to be 5050 Because that's what feels equal. But what's gonna actually work in your life and in the realities of your life, right. And, you know, if one of the spouses is a teacher and they're off all summer, you know, it makes sense for kids to to spend the day when the other parent is working with the parent, that's home. But But parents get kind of crazy about that sometimes, like, well, that's not fair. Right? Well, it might not seem fair from your perspective, but how about from your kid's perspective? Like, don't you think they'd rather be with one of their parents than in some, you know, daycare situation, if that's possible. So take that into reality into into account the realities of your life. And honestly, Michael, I think the most important thing about any visitation plan is that it's followed consistently. What whatever you establish, stick to it, whatever you decide is going to happen. Make it happen, you know, yes, stuff comes up and they're, you know, you can't 100% of the time. But you know, the kid you picture the kids sitting at the window and waiting for their mom to show up for a visit. And, you know, she shows up three hours late or doesn't show up at all, because the kid knows this is the time that mom's supposed to be here. That's devastating. Right? So whatever you agree to try to stick to it as much as humanly possible.

Michael 47:08
So for my own selfish purposes, I'm going to ask what at what age do you think week on week off as is ideal because I have a nine and 14 year old I don't think the nine year old was quite ready for week on week off and and because of my my work and my travel sometimes gets in the way and she's very flexible thank thankful Lord or Buddha or whoever Tom Cruise that she had she allows me to make up my time but it is it does become difficult from you know, from time to time. At what age is week on week off. Okay.

Dr. Erica 47:45
Yeah, I mean, probably for the 14 year old it is. Yeah. Oh, I think when they start to get to that teenage years, I would think a nine year old girl not seeing their mom all week would be really hard. But you know, there's also sort of intermediate steps right so you know, if you did one week on one week off to build in maybe you know, a dinner once or twice a week, you know what I mean? So I think there's there's ways when when the child is on the cusp of that starting to be okay, but might it still might feel like a little too long, you know, to just build something in midweek or you know, the mom could come to a soccer game and you know, and see the kid I mean, there's there's usually opportunities even, you know, if one parent custodian only has the kids sleeping at their house, you know, to see them at some point.

Michael 48:40
Yeah, that leads me to one more question. Then we'll get your final question and we'll touch on how to get in touch with you and find all your good stuff. Stuff like lessons, practices. You know, whatever it is piano, horseback riding, clarinets like, how, how important is it for, for parents to be at those things? Even if it's routine, like practice, like soccer practice or whatever? How important is it? Is it for me I feel like I've tried to be if I can be there, I'm gonna be there period. Like it's, that's just my that's important to me. But some folks think the routine you don't need to go to soccer practices. Now. You know, what are you you know, how do you view that?

Dr. Erica 49:37
Well, I think it it's the same for divorce parents is non divorced parents. You know, I think as much as parents can be involved and present and supportive in their kids. Lives, I think it's to their kids benefit. I think that's that's the way we show that we care and we're, we're concerned and we love them and we want to be part of their lives. You know, can we be there for everything now? But you know, I've had kids sit in my office and say, you know, my dad never cared about anything. They never showed up for a single game. And, and, and there's like a hole in their heart because of that, you know, so I think it's awesome. You do as much as you do, and I'm sure your kids. Kids feel that and you know,

Michael 50:23
I think so. I think so. I mean, I feel like there's never any comments like, Oh, you're you know, you don't come to this or you don't come to that. I feel like they see that, you know, I mean, I don't ask or you know, but I don't I don't ever get the sense that I get the sense that they're, they're glad that I come to all those things.

Dr. Erica 50:41
I can't imagine that they're not and if you have a parent on the other side who's bad mouthing you, but your kids have the evidence of what they see in reality. You know, you're you're leading by example. You know, if if the mother says, you know, your dad's a deadbeat, he never does anything with you, kids. Your kids know the reality. Yeah, true. Right.

Michael 51:06
Yeah, very true. I mean, that's why I feel and I assumed that that would that was the sort of, you know, that's the best practice but, you know, other folks have other opinions, but I always like to talk to folks like you that are, you know, you're trained, you're, you're, you're, you know, you'd have the knowledge and obviously the practice and that, to hear that from someone who knows what they're talking about means a lot more than some random person on the internet.

Dr. Erica 51:31
So, you're doing good Michael.

Michael 51:33
I'm trying I'm trying. So the last question as a no, no, it's been a while since you've been on but the last question I asked everybody is what words of wisdom would you impart to a man who's just starting his divorce journey?

Dr. Erica 51:46
Well, that it's not an easy process. It gets easier over time. And there are ways in which you need to take care of yourself, so you can best take care of your children and working on your own issues and not letting your own pain and your own anger get in the way is going to be the best gift you could ever give to your children.

Michael 52:10
Okay, I couldn't agree more. And I speak from experience that it's not easy but it is important to try and handle it as best we can. So how can people find you and you know get in touch with you and I know you have a I think you have a new website, if I remember correctly, and you have different programs if I remember correctly. How can people get in touch with you?

Dr. Erica 52:32
Yeah, so we've kind of rebranded over the last couple of years, and my website is now called to Healthy Homes T wo to healthy homes, which of course is the goal to create two healthy homes and the website honestly is chock full of so much information. There I put out blogs a couple of times a month. There are just pages and pages of of resources on there. In terms a lot of the stuff we've talked about today and way beyond that, like every kind of issue you can imagine. I've written something about so there's a lot of resources. And basically what I'm providing is all kinds of support in different ways. So I have parenting education. Classes. I offer help developing parenting plans, you know, rather than fighting it out with the two lawyers to sit with me, who is very child focused and trying to help the parents say okay, given our kids age and given the realities of our life, what's going to be in their best interest in terms of a parenting plan? So, you know, again, the one to one coaching, two to one coaching, you know, I do work co parenting work. So I'm just trying to offer a variety of resources to help people get through this in the best possible way and to do everything they can obviously my my greatest goal is to help protect the kids, but working with the parents to be better co parents is the best way to be able to help the children

Michael 54:12
agreed Well, I think you're doing an awesome service and and I highly recommend everyone check it out. Thank you as always, for doing this and doing it again. I really really appreciate it. We will definitely stay in touch and and and definitely have to do it again because these these questions and new things always come up. So thank thank you so much for

Dr. Erica 54:32
agreeing to do it anytime. All right.

Michael 54:34
Take care. All right,

Dr. Erica 54:36
Michael. He'd be well, you too. All right.

Michael 54:40
All right. Thank you that flew by. How long was that? That was almost an hour. Pretty sure when to stop recording recording stopped. Yeah, thanks again. It probably be two weeks. I've been back on doing them weekly but a ticket. Typically what I've been doing is I'll do an interview one and then I'll do a solo one and then I'll do an interview on I'll do a solo one because booking guests is really difficult sometimes just to coordinate schedules and as you can see, here I am in Virginia, but I'll definitely keep you posted and let you know when it's out and

Dr. Erica 55:19
you know, happy to do it anytime. It's

Michael 55:21
fun. Awesome. Yeah, it was a blast. Thank

Dr. Erica 55:22
you so much. All right, Michael, you take care of good to see you too.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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