Sunday, 18 August 2019

I Interviews

Interview: Tammy Daughtry

The Center for Modern Family Dynamics, a Nashville-based family counseling center that operates in conjunction with Co-Parenting International, has announced the national launch of a new multimedia resource aimed at supplying strategies for successful co-parenting and raising healthy kids.  One Heart, Two Homes: Co-parenting Children of Divorce to a Positive Futurefeatures 32 guest experts, including Dr. John Trent, president of Strong Families, Dr. Tony Wheeler, president of The Institute for the Blessing, and former NFL Quarterback Jeff Kemp, vice-president of FamilyLife.
 
The new resourceaddresses the complexities of co-parenting between mom's house and dad's house. “We want to address the need to treat the complex journey of co-parenting kids after a divorce," says Tammy Daughtry, co-founder of the Center for Modern Family Dynamics, which recently celebrated the opening of its new facility in the Donelson-Hermitage area of Nashville.
 
In addition to co-founding the Center For Modern Family Dynamics, Tammy Daughtry, the author of Co-Parenting Works! Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce (HarperCollins 2011), launched Co-Parenting International in 2003 to help divorced parents raise healthy kids. She is a nationally-recognized expert on the topic of co-parenting and frequently speaks at national conferences and has been featured by national media outlets including Focus on the Family, Live The Promise with Susie Larson, Life, Love and Family with Dr. Tim Clinton, American Family Radio, and Moody Radio. She recently talked with me about her experience as a single mom, the challenges of managing a blended family, and how to help your child through their first holiday between two homes.
 
MN-Tell me a little about the organization that you founded, Co-Parenting International.
TD-Co-parenting International is an organization that helps kids of divorce have a voice and gives divorced parents a healthy road map parenting. It has been a true joy to work with parents and help them find solutions that protect their children and even give them a more peaceful life after their divorce.
 
MN-You definitely have the knowledge and experience to invest in such a project since you were at one time a single mom. How hard is it to focus on helping your children through the aftermath and it¹s affects when you have been affected as well?

TD-One of the toughest things for parents when they are separated and going through divorce is to remember that their children are hurting too. Many times parents are angry and are using much of their energy to "get even" or "get back at" the other parent instead of thinking about what their children need and how important it is to actually allow their kids to grieve and to feel their feelings. The best thing a parent can do is let their kids express their sadness, their anger and even their frustration but to not let it trigger their own pain. When parents have their own support system (healthy adult friends to talk to, a counselor, a support group) then they can more effectively help their children. It's like the airplane analogy - we want to put on our own oxygen mask first and then we can have the strength to help our children. 

MN-I have seen children adversely affected more so after the divorce due to how troubled the post-divorce relationships are. What are some suggestions you have for making the transition as least traumatic on a child as possible?
TD-One of the most important decisions to make early on is to never discuss co-parenting business at the "hand off" in front of the kids or when the kids can overhear. It's very common for parents to stand at the door and talk (or argue) about child support and schedules and that is hard on kids. Instead, we encourage all parents to plan "co-parent meetings" to talk about all the parenting decisions that have to be made. These can be done in a public restaurant, a coffee shop or as a conference call over the phone, but again never with the child listening or aware of the details. This is a protective decision that I made 14 years ago and we have never talked about these details at the handoff - never! We also don't talk about these details at our daughter's school events or child-related gatherings. That is a huge relief to me as a mom - I don't have to feel any stress or anxiety when I go to my daughter's volleyball games or concerts because we have our hard talks at the co-parenting meetings - never at the child-related gatherings. This decision has been a blessing to my daughter but it has also been a huge blessing to me as a mom.

Another suggestion is to keep kids in the same school, the same extra curricular activities, the same church, the safe after school program and with the same friends. The more familiar the child's life routine is the better. This will help reduce stress for kids.

Give kids permission to love both parents. When parents decide to actually support the idea that "kids need to love both" it has a very healing and restorative impact on children. Even saying positive comments to the child before they leave to go with the other parent will make a big difference for kids. Saying (with a positive tone), "I am so happy you are going to see your dad because I know you will have a great time with him. I am happy you will be seeing your stepmom too." If kids feel like they have your permission to go to the other house and enjoy the people there it makes the impact much less traumatic.

The #1 thing at risk for kids after divorce is "inter-parental conflict." The level of on-going conflict between parents will drastically impact the child's ability to transition and adjust to their new life routine. Parents that stay angry and use the child as a pawn will only damage their child's heart and will create wounds that never heal. Parents who make an intentional and sincere commitment to allow their child to love both will help their children heal and adjust through the transition.

MN-You hear that ex’s bad mouth each other frequently in front of the kids, as well as speaking to them with contempt or in anger while the kids are around. Are there some practical ways to stay focused and resist doing so “for the children’s sake”?
TD-I always tell parents to use the "I am ____" method when they say any words about the other parent. Kids know they are from both mom and dad. If something is wrong with mom then kids may think something is wrong with them. Same goes with dad - if they are constantly told that dad is a loser then they will internalize those comments as if they are being said about them, that they are a loser. So if you want your kids to struggle with self esteem and question their identity choose hurtful and negative words about the ex. If you want your kids to have a strong self-esteem and to have a solid sense of worth they choose not to say negative words about the other parent. I actually challenge my readers, clients and class attendees to not only NOT say bad things about the other parent, but to actually pick 3 positive words to say about the other parent and say them often. Example: "Your dad is great with money and people look up to him at the bank." The child will internalize strong positive words about their dad and about them self!

MN-Speaking of ³for the children’s sake, you read of couples divorcing after 25+ years of marriage because they wanted to stay together for the children¹s sake and wait until they were grown and on their own. Is this always the right answer? It would seem as if the adult children would feel as if they had been deceived after learning the truth.
 
TD-There is a rising trend of "empty nest divorce" and it is very true that many times the young adult then questions their entire childhood - they wonder if their family was a lie? What I say to those later divorcing parents is that your children may be grown but they will FEEL and experience the pain as if they are much younger in their childhood. They will have anger and sadness and experience deep loss when this happens and it will be very important to talk openly and honestly with them about the difficulty it causes and not try to sweep it under the rug. One of the most frustrating things for young adults is that there is no court-ordered document that dictates what to do on Christmas or how much time to spend with each parent; instead, the pressure is put on the young adult to pick and choose and there are often deep-rooted expectations that are completely unrealistic for the young adult. Parents should say to their adult kids, "It's OK for you to visit your other parent first. It's OK to visit them longer. It's OK if the time does not work out exactly fair. I understand that you are in a hard place and you feel like you have to choose. I won't get my feelings hurt if things don't work out perfect, especially the first Christmas or visit home. This will be awkward. You are going to feel caught in the middle and confused. I am sorry and I do not want to add any extra stress or expectation to this situation. I love you and I am here. I will not pressure you or watch the clock." (Trust me, so many young adults would say exactly this to their divorced parents - even those that have been divorced for years.)

MN-You have put together the One Heart/Two Homes series. What is that and how can it help parents provide a positive future for their children in spite of a divorce?
TD-One Heart, Two Homes is a multi-media resource that is formatted in 10 classes or 31 individual lessons. It is designed for parents to buy and watch at home or to enjoy in a small group setting. It can also be used in short seminars that are hosted by community organizations, churches or schools. It is a very in-depth and solution focused DVD series that addressed co-parenting from a many different angles. We interviewed experts and everyday moms and dads that are co-parents. We also interviewed teens of divorce and adult children of divorce who have invaluable insights to what works (and what doesn't) for kids after divorce. I sincerely believe our series is the most complex and life-changing resource on the topic of co-parenting. Our 31 guests brought incredible insights and even some humor that relates to the journey of single parenting and step parenting. I believe it can change the entire life of a child if their divorced parents will watch and engage with the content. Even one parent who "gets it" can make a radical change in the life of the child. I know many divorced parents do not have any cooperation or interest from their ex on being a co-parenting team. For the one that does care and is concerned for the welfare of the child I would say that the One Heart, Two Homes resource is the most life-giving resource you can experience for yourself and for your children!

MN- The holidays are here and that means many children will be torn between two families, two homes, two ways of celebrating. Any advice for helping a child through the holidays between the two?
TD-For the parents I first would say - it's not about you. Don't make the holidays extra stressful for the children because of your own expectations and complicated schedules. Always ask yourself, "What is best for the kids?" Sometimes that means opening gifts on another day or changing traditions to make it less stressful on everyone. When kids are 20 years later in life we want them to look back with joy and remember all the fun, not the stress and the arguments between their divorced parents. Many divorced parents use the holidays to try and out-do each other or be the hero. That mentality is a waste of time and only short-lived. What kids need most at the holidays and 365 days a year is for their divorced parents to never put them in the middle and to ALWAYS give then the freedom to love BOTH! Those are two "gifts" that are priceless and critical to all children with divided families. Kids need one whole heart between two stable homes.

Author Bio- Tammy G. DaughtryMasters Marriage and Family Therapy Founder, Co-parenting International-As a native of Denver, Colorado, Tammy has a personal passion for children impacted by divorce and remarriage. She is the founder of Co-Parenting International, an organization launched in 2003 to help divorced parents raise healthy kids. She is a national author of “Co-parenting Works! Helping Your Children Thrive After Divorce”(HarperCollins 2011) and has extensive media experience with radio, television and professional seminars on the matter of co-parenting and its impact on children. Personally, Tammy is divorced and was a single mom for many years; she has been a co-parent raising a daughter “between two homes” since 2001. She remarried in 2009 and is now happily raising a blended family that is her pride and joy! She is deeply vested in the Donelson-Hermitage area as she has lived here for over 17 years and is proud to call it home! Tammy is certified to administer the Prepare/Enrich Assessment, a valuable tool for pre-marital work and she is on the YMCA Board of Directors, the International Committee for the YMCA, the Program Director for the NAACC, a member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and volunteers for many local organizations that further community collaboration!

You can learn more about One Heart/Two Homes series by visiting the CoParenting International Website. You can also contact Tammy Daughtry through the website for more information regarding parenting after divorce and other similar familial related situations.

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