Tips for Parents

Tips for Parents

This page is for divorced and divorcing parents and the professionals trying to help them. The posts and handouts provide tips and strategies to manage parenting plans and the co-parenting working relationship and to prevent and heal damaged parent-child relationships. To read more tips and ideas, go to my blog. 

Should divorced parents respond to criticism?

Probably Not!

Receiving a “bad review” from an ex or an observer to their divorce is not a unique experience for most divorced parents.    At some point, deserved or not, divorced parents are likely to be upbraided or censored in an email or text or social post somewhere.  But should parents respond to their critics?  Read more to learn why Probably Not!


One of the hallmarks of divorce conflict is insufficient civility.  Everyday, angry ex’ send contentious, nasty emails and texts that they later regret or that come back to haunt them.  Even worse, divorcing spouses post diatribes on social media platforms for their ex and everyone to see.  The intent is clearly mean spirited: to cause hurt and embarrassment.  But who is really hurt?  The target of the diatribe?  Or the writer, now perceived as vindictive and immature?  Read more…

When the co-parenting relationship is broken

The power of apology

President Obama just facilitated an apology between Netanyahu of Israel and Erdogan of Turkey that enabled their two governments to resume diplomatic relations. But the power of apology is important to all of us, not just to states at odds.

Rejected Parents and their Children

If I’m not my story, who am I? 

This last week, Dr. Ben Carson, a presidential candidate, has been defending himself from allegations that he has not been entirely truthful about his youthful behavior.  His situation raises an interesting issue — one that mental health professionals and parents face in some cases of parent-child alienation.   Read more…

Be hard on the problem, soft on the person

Rejected Parents often have difficulty distinguishing between the problem and the person. Such confusion leads to tense interactions, misunderstandings, angry reactions, and lost opportunities to reconnect. more about separating the problem from the person.

Learning how not to forget

Rejected Parents often feel taken aback when their children deny recalling their fun times and loving experiences with one another. It is as though the positive never occurred, that the relationship was just one bad moment after another. If enough time passes, the children may say the relationship was never important.  It’s hard to more…

What’s a Rejected Parent to do?

In the event of damaged parent child relationships, many Rejected Parents don’t know what to do do when faced with their children’s opposition and disrespect. Whereas before they could correct their children’s behavior with a simple warning or restriction, now such consequences trigger further defiance and contempt. But tolerating their bad behavior seems like giving up one’s responsibilities as a parent. What’s a parent to do?

Rejected Parents: Get help!

Rejected Parents must contend with multiple sources of conflict–both with others and within themselves. Despite the complexity of issues they face, however, Rejected Parents are oftentimes reluctant to seek help until matters become critical or even beyond more…

Managing Your Parenting Plan

What do we do if we can’t reach an agreement?

When divorcing parents plan to make joint decisions as part of their parenting plan, they often wonder: “What will we do if we can’t reach an agreement?” It’s a good question. In fact, all divorced parents can anticipate that there will be times that they won’t see eye-to-eye on how to solve a problem….Parents still have options, however…read more...

Attitude Problems: It’s a matter of beliefs

In an earlier post, I suggested a way to overcome someone’s negative beliefs about you-relate in ways that don’t reinforce their negative expectations. I find, however, that divorced parents resist making this change when they have equally fixed negative expectations of the other… read more…

Going to the balcony

Roger Fisher termed the phrase, Go to the Balcony, to highlight the importance of stepping away from the hard emotions of a difficult negotiation. But there are other barriers to reasoned analysis – even on the balcony….read more...

Divorce and the holidays

Parents anticipating divorce worry that children will associate bad feelings and memories to the holidays if they separate during a holiday school break. These fears are realistic; children’s memories of the actual separation are often vivid and long lasting. Yet separating over a holiday period can make sense when handled well.  Consider how one couple managed their separation over the Winter Break….Divorce and holidays

If you are already divorced and want some tips about managing the holidays, check out this excellent article by Katia Hetter. Holiday survival guide for divorced parents

Making exchanges work for you and your child

A potentially difficult but common problem occurs for divorced parents when their children resist the exchange from one household to the other. Based on an informal survey of the parents with whom I work, the majority of children of divorce resist exchanges at some point. In most instances, children’s resistance is relatively infrequent and minimal: minor complaints and foot dragging (“I’m tired, I want to stay here”). But when the underlying issues are more serious, resistance….read more…

Managing participation at public events

Parents want to participate, at least as spectators, in their children’s academic, religious and extracurricular activities. Indeed, watching children score a soccer goal, play in a band concert, or participate in a scout cook-off is one of the most rewarding aspects of parenting. And divorce research indicates that the more children are involved in rewarding activities the better their adjustment after divorce. But parents undermine the benefit their children gain from these activities if…read more…

Managing contacts at school and medical settings

It is important to be fully informed and involved in children’s education and medical care. When parents manage their tensions well and collaborate effectively, joint meetings with medical professionals and school faculty are an efficient way to gather information and make decisions. But when tensions run high and parents have a pattern of arguing rather than collaborating, joint meetings can trigger rancor rather than cooperative effort. In these instances, divorced parents are advised to adopt…different guidelines….

Managing telephone calls between children and parents

Phone calls are important links for children and divorced parents during scheduled separations. But phone calls are high on the list of problems that divorced parents bring to my attention: “Phone calls with the other parent are too long but my phone calls are too short.”  “The other parent calls all the time, but my calls are never returned.”  “The children are never allowed to use the phone.”  “The children use the phone too much.”  “The children are way too young to have cell phones.”  “The children need cell phones.”  And so it goes.  To effectively manage phone contact, consider the following guidelines...

The power of apology

Nothing works better than an apology when a co-parenting relationship has gone off the rails or when a parent over-reacts to a child’s oppositional behavior. Apologies can restore dignity, trust and a sense of justices. But remember….

 For the complete set of the above tips….click here.

Negotiating your divorce

Disputing parents divide the pie

When parents locked in litigation complain about legal fees draining their financial resources, I tell them a story related by Francisco Ingouville in his book, On the Same Side.

Setting precedents: It’s the principle of the thing.

Tradeoffs drive agreements. My neighbor borrows my boat to entertain her parents and in return I use her truck to haul off some debris. But tradeoffs don’t have to be limited to tangible items. We can trade favors, alter our respective points-of-view, or create important precedents. In fact, establishing an important precedent in exchange for giving up a tangible gain can often be a deal well struck. Let’s apply this to a parent negotiation…

Co-parenting after divorce: It’s a negotiation, it’s always a negotiation

Recent posts

Righteous conflict

Like political debate, divorce and post-divorce conflicts often have a righteous, moralistic tone: “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Individual moral judgments derive from a common set of moral bases, such as fairness, compassion for children, family and group loyalty, respect for authority and tradition, and individual freedom (Haidt, 2012).  Let’s consider how this concept might apply to the challenge of divorce.

Will you remember me?

It’s easy for divorced parents to identify the costs of conflict-but harder for them to identify the benefits. In no particular order, here are the ones I encounter most frequently…


Understanding one another’s interests is the first step to effective negotiations. Determining not what you want – but why you want it. The next step is to identify the full range of possibilities that might meet those interests. It’s the stage of identifying and creating options.  But when options seem limited or unsatisfactory, creating novel solutions can break logjams.  Consider one example: Options

It’s about the interests; it’s always about the interests

All negotiations, just like all sales, are about meeting interests. And the key element of any negotiation is identifying and meeting those interests – yours and the other party’s. What are interests?

Look behind positions to find common interests

Conflicts about positions usually reflect differing interests; finding common interests behind a position can break an impasse read more…

Challenging beliefs; Identifying options

Cognitive psychologists have identified an easy-to-use tool, called the A-B-C tool, that can be immensely helpful to divorced parents who want to understand why they become so undone by the other parent’s behavior. To learn more, click here.

Should divorced parents negotiate every issue?

Or are there other ways to resolve conflicts?  Consider one father’s more…

Absorbing States

If you find yourself bogged down in conflict with the children’s other parent, you may be in what’s called an “absorbing state.”

Negotiating with a jerk

Frustrated divorced parents often ask: Can I really negotiate with a jerk? Should I even try? Good questions. Particularly when the jerk more…


A divorcing father and mother came today to begin work on their parenting plan….So how did the session go?  …Not so well… 

When trust is overburdened

Relationships are key to successful negotiations. But when a working relationship is over-burdened by mistrust, the outcome will be frustrating and costly. Although articles about trust usually describe the mutual biases and tit-for-tat behaviors that build mistrust, a frequent cause is when one party behaves badly and the other does not…read more

Hoist with his own petard

In an earlier post, I listed six strategies that divorced parents can use when trust is low and persuasion doesn’t influence their ex to be more reliable. An additional strategy, somewhat counter-intuitive but often effective, is to sit back and wait rather than to act more

When Parents and Children have Damaged Relationships

Fail: To Succeed

Divorced parents alienated from their children often ask me: “I’m a good parent, I’ve done so much. How did this happen?” The answer is usually complex and the explanation rarely one event….read more…

Alienated Children: Knowing how they feel.

When a marriage ends, we often expect to see a clash of adults. It turns out, however, we often see a clash of generations….

Parent-child alienation: Terminology

It isn’t always easy to find the language that describes cases of parent-child alienation in accurate and understandable terms. To learn about one way to do so, read more… 

How do Favored Parents Contribute to Parent-Child Alienation?

An 11-year-old boy complained that his mother wasn’t coming to his soccer games. The father replied that maybe his mother was more interested in pursuing her career and making money than spending time with him.  The result? The boy sulked and isolated himself the next time he went to his mother’s home, angry and hurt at thinking his mother didn’t care about him... read more…

What’s in a name?

An alienated teenage girl calls her father by his first name and her stepfather as “Dad.” She explains that her stepfather is “my real dad” and her birth father is a “pretender.”  Her choice of names has not gone unnoticed. Her birth father frowns, her stepfather smiles, and the Judge scowls... read more…

Alienated Children: Strengthening Their Resilience

Not all children exposed to their parents’ high conflict divorces feel disillusioned or alienated.  …read more…

Coping with Divorce

Write a little, speak a little, leave it alone, repeat

Divorce is highly stressful for most spouses — but recent studies provide some clues about what helps foster resilience and recovery from a bad breakup.  …read more…