A Guide to
Resolving Conflicts
and Meeting
Your Children's Needs
Philip M. Stahl, Ph.D.

"Parents argue a lot during a divorce and if they continue to argue after the divorce," says Dr. Philip Stahl, "their children will suffer." Stahl knows parents are not perfect, and he uses that knowledge to show imperfect parents how to settle their differences in the best interests of the children.

Here at last is a realistic perspective on divorce and its effects on children. Parenting After Divorce features knowledgeable advice from an expert custody evaluator. Packed with real-world examples, this book avoids idealistic assumptions, and offers practical help for divorcing parents, custody evaluators, family court counselors, marriage and family therapists and others interested in the best interest of the children.

Chapters include: Conflict, Competition, Communication, and Cooperation, It's Time for a Truce, Your Child is Not a Percentage, Your Child's Childhood, Talking to Your Children, Children Aren't Property, Parenting Responsibly on Your Own, Taking Care of Yourself, Resolving Parent Conflicts, Dealing with Special Problems, Dealing with the Courts, What Your Children Really Think (a chapter by children).

[from the back cover]

Stahl, Parenting After Divorce

About the Author

Philip Stahl, Ph.D. is a psychologist specializing in high conflict divorce in private practice in Dublin, California.

He conducts continuing education training for psychologists, attorneys, judges, and evaluators who work with these families. He has written extensively in the area of custody evaluations and divorce. His prior books include, Complex Issues in Custody Evaluations and Conducting Child Custody Evaluations: A Comprehensive Guide.

[from the back cover]

Table of Contents

Introduction      1


Conflict, Competition, Communication, and Cooperation      13
How Your Battles with Your Ex Affect Your Children


It's Time for a Truce      27
Parenting Plans Promote Peace


Your Child Is Not a Percentage      41
How to Share Your Child


Your Child's Childhood      55
Developmental Needs through the Years


Talking to Your Children      65


Children Aren't Property      79
It's Your Child's Life


Parenting Responsibly On Your Own      89


Taking Care of Yourself      99
...Or You Won't Be Much Use to Your Children!


Resolving Parent Conflicts      107
Parent Education, Mediation, Custody Evaluations, and Special Masters


Dealing with Special Problems      119


Dealing with the Courts      141


What Your Children Really Think      151

Appendix A -- Resources for Parents      165
Appendix B -- Sample Parenting Plan      169
Index      177

[from the softbound edition]


"A wise and practical book for divorcing parents..."

--Andrew Schepard, J.D.
Hofstra University

"An important read!"

--Phil Bushard, DPA
Past President, Association of Family and Conciliation Courts

"A treasure trove of practical, down to earth, easy to understand information."

--Hon. Arline S. Rotman
Associate Justice, Family Court, Boston, MA

"This is one of the best books ever written for separating or divorced parents who want to create the healthiest family life possible for their children to grow and thrive in."

--Rhonda B. Barovsky, LCSW, BCD
Program Manager, Family Court Services, San Francisco, CA

[from the back cover]

Read more reviews of this book on the website:
Parenting After Divorce:
A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and
Meeting Your Children's Needs

Parenting After Divorce on


It's critical for you to stop and think before you say things that might be damaging to your children. You know it is important to avoid loud arguments in front of your children, but you need to remember to avoid put-downs, derogatory statements, or other comments that cause problems as well. Be mindful of your tone of voice. Avoid using the divorce as an excuse for your child's behavior problems. Your words can be damaging to your child, especially when she is feeling caught in the middle of your conflict.

Ultimately, you need to talk to your children about responsibility. Encourage your child to talk about things that are frustrating to him, and offer to help him avoid getting caught in the middle of your conflicts with the other parent. Avoid blaming the other parent when problems erupt. Encourage each other -- and your kids -- to understand each person's individual role in the problems. Avoid placing blame, making negative statements about the other parent, and including your children in your conflicts. By doing so, your children can avoid the battle wounds.

Parenting After Divorce:
A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and
Meeting Your Children's Needs

page 22

It is important for you to separate your own wishes, feelings, and needs from those of your child. This is true for all parents, but even more important if you are divorced... The two key ingredients here are empathy and the ability to put your child's needs first.

Empathy is a process in which you put yourself in another person's place and try to understand his or her feelings. Having empathy for your child is an important task of parenting, as it enables you to understand your child's experiences and feelings, and act in a way to help your child feel better...

One way to develop empathy is to learn to understand both your child's behavior and her emotions. Parents tend to focus more on their child's behavior, rather than her emotions, because it's usually easier to see. It's not hard to recognize when your child is bossy, but it may be more difficult to see when your child is afraid. Many children keep their feelings to themselves, and many children aren't aware of what their feelings mean. When you see your child acting in a way you don't approve of, set limits on her behavior, but also try to understand her feelings.

For example, when your child is bossy toward you, you might say to her, "it's not polite to boss others around. I won't be treated that way." Follow up by saying, "Have I done anything to make you feel bossed around? Is anything bothering you that you haven't talked about?" These statements give her the message that you won't accept her bossy behavior, but also that she should think about why she is acting that way. It's important for parents to think about the connection between their children's behavior and feelings, and to teach their children to recognize it as well.

As you work on developing empathy for your child, you will also want to learn how to put your child's needs first. Determine how difficult you want things to be. If you fight with your ex and ignore your child's feelings, she will have problems. If you have empathy for her feelings and put her needs first, she will feel loved and learn that even though her parents have divorced, her life doesn't have to change very much...

Effective parents
  • separate their own needs from the needs of their children
  • show empathy for their children and their children's feelings
  • put their children's needs first
  • allow their children to participate in activities chosen by the children, regardless of custody and visitation issues
  • allow their children freely to take toys, clothes, and "transition objects" (such as teddy bears) between each parent's home.

Parenting After Divorce:
A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and
Meeting Your Children's Needs

pages 84-85

When parents divorce and their children spend time in two different homes, it is easy for them to pit one parent against the other. Your child might do this -- maybe unconsciously -- to encourage you and your ex-spouse to be in contact with one another in the hope that the two of you might get back together. However, your child can also become mercenary at times, demanding things from each of you. By saying things such as "Dad will buy me that computer if I spend more time with him," or "Mom will let me go to the dance even if my homework isn't done," your child is, in essence, blackmailing you. While children of non-divorced parents may do this by saying things such as "Sally's mother is letting her go to the dance," it is easier for children of divorced parents to pit one parent against the other because these parents tend to be competitive with each other.

It's easy to worry that your child will love the other parent more than you. You might worry even more when you set limits and your child pushes those limits. Remember, if your limits are reasonable and consistent, your child's love and respect for you, and her sense of safety and security, will grow. Keep in mind that limit-testing behavior is to be expected and may not be related to anything that the other parent is doing. Your child may try different ways to get what she wants and, just as she might use her friend's parents as an ally, she may use the other parent in the same manner.

As a divorced parent, however, you shouldn't respond differently to blackmail associated with the other parent than you would with the parent of a friend. If you do, your child is more likely to use such blackmail in the future. Be firm, maintain your limits, and listen to your child. Just as you'd deal with criticism from the other parent, the best solution is to ignore your child's blackmail, while still paying attention to his feelings.

For example, if your son wants to go to the school dance, and you've set a rule that he can't go to the dance until his homework is done, it is important to stick to your rule. Since a school dance is a reward for responsible behavior, it makes sense that a natural consequence of not doing one's homework would be to miss the dance. At the same time, comments such as "If you like it better at your father's, you can go live with him," may cause the child to feel abandoned, and does nothing to enhance our authority. Don't even consider the other parent's rules and limits. If you've made a rule and set a limit, stick with it. If you're willing to negotiate with your child or restructure the rule, talk with him about it. Make sure your child understands why you've made this rule, encourage and support responsible behavior on his part, and work toward resolving your differences. You might ultimately allow your son to go to the dance if enough schoolwork is done, and he's promised to finish it in a timely manner. Ultimately, don't fall trap to blackmail just because it involves the other parent. Instead, if you try and work out consistent rules with your ex-spouse, blackmail can be eliminated.

Parenting After Divorce:
A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and
Meeting Your Children's Needs

pages 96-97

[from the softbound edition]

Read more about this book on the website:
Parenting After Divorce:
A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and
Meeting Your Children's Needs

Parenting After Divorce on

Parenting After Divorce:
A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and
Meeting Your Children's Needs

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A Guide to Resolving Conflicts and
Meeting Your Children's Needs

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Philip M. Stahl, Ph.D.

Learn more about this book also written by
Philip M. Stahl, Ph.D.:

Complex Issues in Child Custody Evaluations

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