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What Should We Tell the Children About Our Separation or Divorce?

I was honored to speak with Dr. Joan Kelly, a clinical psychologist and internationally renowned expert on divorce, on The Smart Divorce on Divorce Source Radio. We discussed the important considerations when telling your children about your separation or divorce. This is a must listen to program for any parent who wants to know what to say to their children.

Our guest, Joan Kelly PhD., a Clinical Psychologist, is an internationally recognized expert on divorce and children’s adjustment and interventions designed to assist parents and enhance resiliency in children. Dr. Kelly has been studying the impact of divorce on children since 1968. She is an author, therapist, mediator, and parenting coordinator with four decades of experience working with high conflict parents who are separating.

Dr. Kelly shares her insights and wisdom on telling your children about your divorce– providing script ideas and important messages. She will guide you through the conversation and preparation you need to do.  Having this conversation is not one most parents want to have, as only 5% of parents actually sit down and explain to their children about this significant change in their life.  Yet, telling your children about separation and divorce is critical if you truly want to do what is in your children’s best interest, and minimize the negative effects of divorce on children.

To obtain more information on talking about separation and divorce and to purchase Dr. Kelly’s booklet: What Should We Tell the Children, written for the Association of American Matrimonial Lawyers contact

Topics in this program include:

  • Why is it so important to talk with your children at this time
  • Why do parents find it so difficult to talk with their children?
  • Preparing to talk with your children about the separation
  • What to say to your children and how do you say it?
  • What to say to your children about why you are separating

To hear this most informative interview, click on the link below.

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How to Find the Smarter, Sexier You Post-Divorce

As I began to rebuild my life post-divorce, I slowly realized that I had embarked on an adventure to some mysterious destination, yet to be determined. I was evolving from what I once was, as part of a couple, to being single, and the transition was fraught with both fear and excitement.

I felt awkward when I turned up at social events unescorted. I would laugh and pretend to be happy. But when people asked me about life and work, I could sum up a whole year in five minutes. If I threw in the details of my divorce, well, that could have lasted five hours. But that would have been a good way to isolate myself even further, as very few people want to discuss divorce at a party. I knew I was a good mother, a person with lots of interests, a loyal friend. But I felt different, rattling around in society with nothing to ground me in the events I was a part of.

I soon realized that I had choices, and it was up to me to build a good life post-divorce. I could choose to be a victim, or choose to move on. By opening myself up to new experiences, and being open minded, I learned that divorce is rich in opportunity to learn and grown from. Life is certainly different as a single woman in my fifties than it was when I was single in my twenties. I now have a sense of who I am. Responsibilities and worries that I never thought about are now a reality. I am much more mature, realistic, and comfortable with where I am in life. Introspection, and a desire to heal emotionally helped me to achieve this perspective. I consider myself to be very fortunate. Not only do I have three amazing children and an extremely supportive family, but also an incredible group of dynamic friends. I certainly did not have such a rich life when I separated. I gained it through a lot of hard work and a desire to be content and happy.

I now embrace my life with open arms. The difficulty I now have is reconciling who I am today with who I was during and even before my marriage. I now have long, straight hair, when before I had short, curly hair. There are fine lines around my eyes. I’ve changed. The changes are more than just physical, however. I have had so much more life experience. Not only am I learning to settle into the new me, but my parents, siblings and friends have had to adapt too. They find it interesting to relate to this newly reflective, assertive, smart, sensitive, and, dare I say, sexy woman.

As I reflect back, there were a number of things I did that helped me work through this transformation; strategies that helped me to get where I am today.

Here are the five things that can help you find the smarter, sexier me:

Move outside your comfort zone. Try new activities; get out there and socialize. You are not going to meet people by sitting at home alone.

Pursue your interests and passion. Connect with people who share the same hobbies and positive outlook. Do you want to become a runner, a potter, a great cook? Weave these activities into your life, and learning -you’ll marvel at how your life is changing and becoming more fun.

Work on your inner beauty. Feeling good about yourself and who you’ve become, will attract people into your life who have a similar positive outlook and energy

Include your married friends into your activities. Let them see the new you, and what you have to offer — an interesting, stronger, happier and independent person.

Be your own role model. Strive to become the type of person you admire. Make a list of the attributes you most respect, and do what you need to get there.

Above all, it’s important for you to think of yourself not just as a newly single person, or parent, but as someone who is so much more. A worker, a friend, a volunteer there are so many roles that you can play. You need to weave these other roles into your definition of yourself.

You know, I find most people’s perspective on divorce and how a divorcée should feel to be interesting. Many people have said to me, “Oh, you’re divorced; I’m sorry.” And my response has always been, “Don’t be sorry; I’m happy.” Living happily ever after–it’s not just my experience. I know many others who have achieved the same goal.
Copyright ©2011 The Smart Divorce® and Deborah Moskovitch
All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Deborah Moskovitch and The Smart Divorce.

Originally published on The Huffington Post


Is Your Home Broken?

I wrote this article for The Huffington Post.  It really touched a nerve with readers as it encouraged a significant number of comments, even to my email account.  Please feel free to join in, and submit your comments to this blog.

Thank you,


My home is run down, but it’s not broken…

The legal community and researchers often define divorce matters in technical terms: custodial parent, custody, access, primary residence, amongst others. I understand the reasons behind those terms, which help to describe and label the concepts in the legal arena to eliminate confusion. But a term that is often used, and in my mind, has little rationale, is “broken home.” In today’s society, there are so many different configurations of a “family” unit. But, when it comes to defining a family run by a single parent as “broken,” I wonder, where is the break? Perhaps I’m sensitive, but I don’t consider my children to be growing up in a “broken home.” When I talk to my children, we call ourselves a family, without any negative connotations, because that is what we are.

Many of my divorce consulting clients are so full of fear that their kids will be stigmatized because of their divorce, and worried that people will whisper behind their backs, “those children come from a broken home.” So I help them reframe their thinking and encourage them to banish those thoughts by sharing details about my own home as an example. We look at the physical and emotional aspects of my home.

The cabinet door in my kitchen has fallen off the hinge, the hot water tank just burst, the fridge door won’t close properly and, I need a new roof. Yes, my home is in need of physical repair, but it certainly does not need emotional repair–and there is nothing that can’t be fixed.

You wouldn’t believe how this way of thinking resonates with so many.

The reality is, we should not compare ourselves to more “traditional” families with two parents living at home. Divorce may change a family’s structure, but it’s still a family. All families–so-called “traditional” families and the rest of us–have challenges, no matter how our living arrangements are configured.

If you are able to change your perspective of what “family” is, your children’s outlook will be positive as well. As a parent, our challenge is to make life work for our kids. We need to ensure they don’t perceive themselves as disadvantaged or as “children of divorce.” They need to think of themselves as just regular kids.

I feel confident as a single parent. I may be a bit more frazzled than someone in a home with two parents living there, but that’s because of the practical everyday exigencies of life with three active children (and who really knows what goes on behind closed doors? Just because there are two parents, does that always mean both parents share all the responsibilities? Don’t compare!) When I glimpse into families with two parents living at home, my home often appears to be working wonderfully well.

Despite an incredible amount of multitasking and juggling, I’ve had to find creative ways to meet my children’s needs, which seem to converge at the same time, like having to be in two places at the same time. But, while I do it all on my own and don’t have a partner to share the responsibility, I find ways to make it work: carpooling, encouraging a child’s independence by walking or riding a bike to their activity. And, I can’t shirk my own responsibilities –I run a business, manage my personal affairs, and make time for “me.” So while I might be a bit more stressed, my children are growing up in a healthy and loving environment.

It’s a well known fact that effective parenting is paramount, especially when parents are separated; the need to maintain routine, structure and rules should be non negotiable no matter if there are one or two parents living at home. I have house rules, set curfews (although I have been a bit lax at times), my children must get their homework done, and I’m always there to kiss them goodnight and listen to their worries.

If you still consider a divorced family to be “broken” then think about a few things:

How about a family where both parents are living together, but constantly fighting?

Or, a family where both parents live together but one parent is never at home? Always working, always away on weekends and never around for the kids.

What about blended families? Does blending suddenly unbreak “broken homes”?

What about the blended families where the culture is more like oil and water?

So, what do my kids think of our family? A happy and loving household, a close knit family unit, and a life full of hope and promise.
Copyright ©2011 The Smart Divorce® and Deborah Moskovitch
All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Deborah Moskovitch and The Smart Divorce.

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The importance of dealing with your emotional baggage

Midlife Divorce: Blame It On Your Parents?

Your parents’ divorce might be setting the stage for your own. This article recently appeared on The Huffington Post.  I would love to hear your thoughts

Shannon*, a 48 year old client of mine, recently explained her “aha” moment when discussing the issues behind her impending divorce. She married her husband because he “completed” her — masking low self-esteem and feelings of not being worthy of love.

It wasn’t until after therapy and introspection that she realized she had fallen into a relationship trap: Trying to fill a void of lost love left by her parents’ divorce, and the loss of a relationship with her mother, when she was just 5 years old.

eeking a rescue, not a relationship

Shannon considered her husband a real catch. She thought her knight in shining armor cared about her every move. He guided her through life, managed the finances and left all aspects of parenting to her.

In fact, this perfect partner repeated the patterns and disillusionments experienced in childhood. Shannon experienced controlling and emotionally abusive behavior, jealousy and an uninvolved husband. She felt this was ok: She’d grown up fearing abandonment and deflecting anger from her stepmother.

You see, when Shannon’s parents divorced, her mother left, with what seemed like no concern for her (the truth revealed many years later in adulthood when she regained a relationship with her mother); her father remarried, but this union did not provide her with the love and nurturing she so desperately needed. What happened in childhood then, has a significant impact on how romantic relationships are handled now, as an adult.

Although many children are resilient, and grow up thinking of themselves as just regular kids, not children of divorce, there are some children who are impacted emotionally in the long term. When a parent abandons a child, that child often believes that there was something wrong with him–or herself–and carries this belief into adulthood.

While the lack of a relationship with a parent can have a significant impact on romantic relationships for a child later in life, there is a debate amongst researchers on this topic. Some say, these individuals are affected for life. Others feel that with work, an individual can learn to come to terms with it, heal and develop rich and successful romantic partnerships.

According to Dr. Michelle Mitcham, a professor of counseling and a divorce expert, an individual’s self esteem is affected because they feel rejected. The loss of the parental relationship due to divorce results in a lack of trust.

“People have different cognitions [beliefs], and this leaves certain behaviors. If your cognition is on some level, I’m a bad person, or I’m not worthy, or at some level there is something that you think you did to deserve it, the lines get blurred. What messages are you giving yourself, even if they are subliminal?”

Dr. Mitcham helps her patients regain their self-esteem and trust, so that they are able to develop a positive outlook, and healthy romantic relationships. She helps her patients cope with the loss of a parent or a fragmented relationship with the parent, and to heal by working on these 5 significant messages.

1. Look to your family of origin for answers.

It is important to resolve any issues that could be playing out in your relationship and are undermining it. For instance, people get into a relationship looking for things that they were missing growing up. If the relationship looks attractive, individuals may leap into it hoping for nurturing and love for themselves without taking the time to really get to know the other person. Slow down and get to know prospective partners.

2. Stop repeating the same relationship mistakes.

People often marry, or get into a relationship for all the wrong reasons. They are looking to feel complete, because they haven’t resolved things in the past. Many times, they don’t feel that they are worthy. Then they find themselves in an unfulfilling relationship, not really sure why they are giving into that relationship. Figure out what you are looking for, and love yourself — you are worthy of love and respect, and worthy of a healthy relationship.

3. You don’t have to be less of who you are to be in a good relationship.

Write out the ideal relationship: What you need in someone that you are compatible with. You’ll know that you are leaning towards a good relationship when you don’t have to be less of who you are in that relationship. You have to feel complete and feel like you have to stand on your own two feet before you can be happy in that relationship. The other person doesn’t complete you because they are not the answer to your unresolved issues.

4. Normalize your feelings.

Uncover your issues and find out what you didn’t receive growing up. Then you can fix it and move forward, because you understand the why, and how this changes your reactions. Remember you’re not alone: Other people feel this way too.

5. Develop introspection and understanding.

You might want to work with a therapist or do some journaling to help you think through the issues, and what you need to do to fix them. Bottom line is you need to know that you are worthy of love and worthy of a nurturing relationship, and figure out what exactly that looks like to you.

If you rush into a relationship without understanding where you were, then you won’t know where you are going. Take time to understand what you have been through and why. There is hard work that needs to be done. While you may have lost a close loving relationship with a parent, you need to come to terms with that, and develop a loving relationship with yourself.

When you move in a positive direction from what you are used to, you very likely will feel some anxiety. Embrace it. It may sound clichéd but it’s true: You have to truly love yourself, before you can really love someone else.

* the name has been changed.

This article is exclusive