WE HELP FAMILIES RESOLVE CONFLICT PEACEFULLY


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What should you tell your child about your Evil Ex?

My oldest daughter and I have found a TV show that we both can agree on: Disney's Phineas and Ferb (new episodes Fridays on Disney Channel, and available on Netflix Instant Watch).  The basic plot of the show is that two boys, Phineas and Ferb, create an unbelievable invention in each episode and have an adventure, while their older sister, Candace, tries to catch them in the act of doing something dangerous.  There is a side plot in most episodes involving their pet platypus, Perry, who also happens to be a secret agent foiling the plot of Dr. Doofenshmirtz, an inept evil scientist.

Dr. Doofenshmirtz
(as seen in Phineas and Ferb)
The reason the show also appeals to adults is that the characters are well rounded and experience everyday situations in addition to the incredible plot adventures.  In the episode I Scream, You Scream, for instance, we find out that Dr. Doofenshmirtz has an ex-wife, Charlene Doofenshmirtz, and a daughter, Vanessa Doofenshmirtz.  Vanessa is a teenager who doesn't enjoy spending time with her father and would rather be with her friends (shockingly typical).  In this episode she tries to explain to her mother that her father is evil and is always trying evil schemes while she is with him (admittedly a little less typical).

Vanessa is in fact right and Dr. Doofenshmirtz, although inept, is evil.  However, Charlene, Vanessa's mother, assures her daughter that her father is not evil.  This episode proceeds with an attempt by Vanessa to get her father busted for being evil, while at the same time Candace is trying to bust Phineas and Ferb for their latest adventure.  Of course, they both fail.

But when Vanessa fails to have her mom catch her dad in one of his evil schemes, I was left wondering whether her mom already knew.  If Charlene and Dr. Doofenshmirtz were married surely she would be aware of his evil schemes.  In fact those schemes, and all the money he must spend on them, were probably the basis for their divorce.  Why would she pretend not to know and assure her daughter that her father wasn't evil?



As a divorce practitioner, I have experience working with couples trying to co-parent and have heard all kinds of stories about "evil exes".  However, in every case involving children I always give the same advice regarding what to tell the children.  Tell them simply that both of their parents love them, and they will both continue to be involved in their lives.  I tell my clients to "Say only nice things about your ex to your children, even when you don't believe them to be true."

Children's identities are tied to both of their parents.  As part of growing up we eventually learn of our parent's fallibility and mortality, and those are difficult lessons because they force us to face those same traits in ourselves.  For children of divorcing and divorced parents, they are forced to learn that their parents (and therefore themselves) can fail at relationships.  This is why children grieve the marriage just as adults do, even though they grieve it in different ways.

If you also insult or tear down that child's other parent, you are forcing them to experience even greater loss and doubt during an already difficult time.  Any action that damages a child's opinion about their parent, also damages that child's own self-esteem, especially at a time when they are already vulnerable to doubt and confusion about their identity.

Wanting your children to be healthy and self-confident, therefore, requires building their confidence in both you and your ex.  In the episode I described above, Charlene could have agreed with Vanessa that her father was evil, or at the very least quite weird.  In fact, it probably would have been more honest.  But instead she tells Vanessa "your father isn't evil, we just didn't get along.  We wanted different things."  She doesn't explain further, she simply insists that Vanessa still spend the weekend with her father.

One of the things I enjoy about Phineas and Ferb is how well the show models behavior for children.  Phineas is always upbeat, creative, inventive and whenever someone is rude to him he responds with kindness.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see the show model such great behavior for adults as well.  Many divorcing parents could learn from Charlene Doofenshmirtz's example.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Where do the candidates stand on DOMA?

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been held unconstitutional by both the 1st and 2nd U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals.  While we wait to see whether the Supreme Court will review these cases, you may have heard that there is an election coming up.  Whether or not the Supreme Court overturns DOMA, congress has the authority to repeal the Act if they so chose.  Since the major party presidential debates ignored this issue, you may not be fully aware of the party platforms on this issue.

Each of the following parties has a presidential candidate running for president in 2012, and below we have excerpted their platforms' references to DOMA, same-sex marriage, and discrimination based on sexual orientation (click the links to read the entire platform):


2012 Republican Party Platform excerpts:

"Defending Marriage Against An Activist Judiciary
A serious threat to our country’s constitutional order, perhaps even more dangerous than presidential malfeasance, is an activist judiciary, in which some judges usurp the powers reserved to other branches of government. A blatant example has been the court-ordered redefinition of marriage in several States. This is more than a matter of warring legal concepts and ideals. It is an assault on the foundations of our society, challenging the institution which, for thousands of years in virtually every civilization, has been entrusted with the rearing of children and the transmission of cultural values.

A Sacred Contract: Defense of Marriage

That is why Congressional Republicans took the lead in enacting the Defense of Marriage Act, affirming the right of States and the federal government not to recognize same-sex relationships licensed in other jurisdictions. The current Administration’s open defiance of this constitutional principle—in its handling of immigration cases, in federal personnel benefits, in allowing a same-sex marriage at a military base, and in refusing to defend DOMA in the courts— makes a mockery of the President’s inaugural oath.  We commend the United States House of Representatives and State Attorneys General who have defended these laws when they have been attacked in the courts. We reaffirm our support for a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We applaud the citizens of the majority of States which have enshrined in their constitutions the traditional concept of marriage, and we support the campaigns underway in several other States to do so."


2012 Democratic Party Platform excerpts:

"Freedom to Marry. We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.

We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

Gay Rights as Human Rights. Recognizing that gay rights are human rights, the President and his administration have vowed to actively combat efforts by other nations that criminalize homosexual conduct or ignore abuse. Under the Obama administration, American diplomats must raise the issue wherever harassment or abuse arises, and they are required to record it in the State Department's annual report on human rights. And the State Department is funding a program that finances gay rights organizations to combat discrimination, violence, and other abuses. "


2012 Green Party Platform excerpt:

"5. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In keeping with the Green Key Values of diversity, social justice and feminism, we support full legal and political equality for all persons, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity, characteristics, and expression.

a. The Green Party affirms the rights of all individuals to freely choose intimate partners, regardless of their sex, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

b. The Green Party recognizes the equal rights of persons who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, intersex, transsexual, queer, or transgender to housing, jobs, civil marriage, medical benefits, child custody, and in all areas of life including equal tax treatment.

c. The Green Party will be inclusive of language in local, state and federal anti-discrimination law that ensures the rights of intersex individuals and prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, characteristics, and expression as well as on sex, gender, or sexual orientation. We are opposed to intersex genital mutilation.

d. The Green Party affirms the right of all persons to self-determination with regard to gender identity and sex. We therefore support the right of intersex and transgender individuals to be free from coercion and involuntary assignment of gender or sex. We affirm the right of access to medical and surgical treatment for assignment or reassignment of gender or sex, based on informed consent.

e. We will pursue legislation against all forms of hate crimes, including those directed against people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, and intersex. Offenders must pay compensation to the LGBTIQ people who have suffered violence and injustice.

f. The Green Party will end all Federal military and civilian aid to national governments whose laws result in the imprisonment or otherwise bring harm to citizens and residents based on sexual orientation, or gender identity, characteristics, and expression.

g. The Green Party will enact a policy that the U.S. Government recognize all international marriages and legal equivalents, such as civil unions, in processing visitor and immigration Visas.

h. The Green Party would repeal don't ask don't tell, abolish security clearances denied on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and supports the rights of defense personnel and volunteers to serve their country openly without penalty irrespective of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

i. The Green Party would end security surveillance and covert infiltration of organizations that promote equal rights on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."


2012 Libertarian Party Platform excerpt:

"1.3 Personal Relationships

Sexual orientation, preference, gender, or gender identity should have no impact on the government's treatment of individuals, such as in current marriage, child custody, adoption, immigration or military service laws. Government does not have the authority to define, license or restrict personal relationships. Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships.


3.5 Rights and Discrimination

Libertarians embrace the concept that all people are born with certain inherent rights. We reject the idea that a natural right can ever impose an obligation upon others to fulfill that "right." We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant.  Government should neither deny nor abridge any individual's human right based upon sex, wealth, ethnicity, creed, age, national origin, personal habits, political preference or sexual orientation. Parents, or other guardians, have the right to raise their children according to their own standards and beliefs.  This statement shall not be construed to condone child abuse or neglect."


2012 Justice Party Platform excerpt:

"• End discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation
 • Support marriage equality"


2012 Constitution Party Platform excerpt:

"Family

No civil government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations, as affirmed by the 10th amendment, delegating to the people as our founders understood the family as necessary to the general welfare.

We affirm the importance of Biblical scripture in the founders’ intent as eloquently stated by Noah Webster: “The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitution and laws… All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts in the Bible.”

The law of our Creator defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The marriage covenant is the foundation of the family, and the family is fundamental in the maintenance of a stable, healthy and prosperous social order. No government may legitimately authorize or define marriage or family relations contrary to what God has instituted. We are opposed to any judicial ruling or amending the U.S. Constitution or any state constitution re-defining marriage with any definition other than the Biblical standard.

We call for an end to all taxation and economic formulas that discourage marriage, incentivize co-habitation and child bearing outside of marriage or authorize or provide government funding for policies and programs that further erode the jurisdiction of the family or parental rights.

We reject the notion that homosexuals, transgenders or those who are sexually deviant are deserving of legal favor or special protection, and affirm the rights of states and localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior. We oppose all efforts to impose a new sexual legal order through any courts or legislatures. We stand against so-called "sexual orientation" and "hate crime" statutes that attempt to legitimize inappropriate sexual behavior or stifle public opposition to its expression. We oppose government funding of "partner" benefits for unmarried individuals. Finally, we oppose any legal recognition of homosexual or civil unions.

We recognize that parents have the fundamental right and responsibility to nurture, educate, and discipline their children. We oppose the assumption of any of these responsibilities by any governmental agency without the express delegation of the parents or legal due process. We affirm the value of the father and the mother in the home, and we oppose efforts to legalize adoption of children by homosexual singles or couples."



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