January 13, 2018

Three Stories of Empathy

pexels-photo-669582

Empathy is the word for the capacity to understand another person’s perspective or experience without necessarily agreeing with it.  Empathy allows humans to be in synch and resonate with each other in spite of differences.  There is plentiful scientific and anecdotal evidence that humans crave the sense of being understood.  Feeling recognized and understood is one aspect of dignity and the belief that one has inherent worth as a human being.

From my experience, I would like to share a few examples of how empathy can lead to wise decisions during a separation or divorce.  A young woman with whom I have a professional relationship recently told me that the nesting arrangement she and her spouse were using to ease their children’s transition during their divorce had become too difficult to maintain.  She essentially felt homeless and ungrounded, moving from the homestead to a shared apartment when on and off duty with the kids.  Her take-away from this experience was deep empathy for the task children face when needing to transition from one home to the other.  She said, “I completely get why we need to each have all the things our children will need to be comfortable in both homes, and why we should not ask them to pack suitcases for a transition.  They will need our patience and understanding as they get used to this.”

Some parents with whom I worked on a parenting plan had empathy for the difficulty extended family members were experiencing as the holidays approached.  They recognized that people with whom they had been close didn’t know how to act, or whether to invite soon-to-be former spouses to events or holiday gatherings involving the kids.  In one case, a parent had misinterpreted silence as rejection, only to find that it was borne of confusion and sadness.  These parents decided to send a We Statement to both extended families, describing the respectful, collaborative process they were using in their divorce and the hard work they were doing to transition from a married couple to effective co-parents.  They said they welcomed questions and hoped for loving support for their children and for them as they made this transition.

My third story of empathy involves a teen and his parents.  He worried that his mom’s feelings would be hurt because he wanted to continue working out at the home gym in his dad’s house, and not with the equipment his mom had purchased while expressing the wish that work-outs could occur in both homes.  He appreciated her gesture, but knew that his dad was experienced in spotting him and managing the work-out sessions, and his mom was not.  He understood that his mom wanted something special to do with him too, and we came up with a plan for his mom to give him cooking lessons (another interest of his) because she was a wonderful cook.  His parents also showed empathy for their son’s dilemma, and when given this feedback told him he was free to spend time at either home to enjoy special activities even if it wasn’t that parent’s official parenting time.

The ability to be open and responsive to how another person thinks or feels is one of the gifts of being human.  It is also a healing force during times of distress and crisis.  Being empathetic demonstrates strength, and experiencing empathy is one of the foundations of resilience for kids.

Deborah ClemmensenABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Clemmensen
Licensed Psychologist

Deborah Clemmensen, M.Eq., Licensed Psychologist was a child and family clinician for many years before her discovery of Collaborative Team Practice in 2000 motivated the transformation of her professional role from therapist to Neutral Child Specialist. This work---hearing the voices of every family member during a divorce or break up, keeping children at the center and out of the middle, and assisting parents in the creation of developmentally responsive parenting plans---is both a passion and a privilege. Find out more about Deborah's work at www.deborahclemmensen.com

Tagged with:

January 6, 2018

The House Decision

Divorce has a way of completely upsetting one’s expectations for the future.  One day things are moving along just fine, and the next you are making decisions that will impact the rest of your life.  One of the big decisions Continue reading…

Tagged with:

November 26, 2017

Parenting in Divorce

  Children deserve the best, safe parenting they can get from both their parents.  This is a fundamental guiding principle for my work as a neutral child specialist.  It sounds intuitiveand obvious.  But in the context of separation and divorce, Continue reading…

Tagged with:

July 31, 2017

Holiday Traditions and Parenting Time

With the holidays upon us, most of us are getting ready for gatherings with family and friends and figuring out who is hosting which holiday.  Many families have traditions that may go back generations.  As parents, we may choose to Continue reading…

Tagged with:

July 24, 2017

Guiding Your Children Through the Holidays, Post-Divorce

Navigating the holidays post-divorce is a difficult enough task for adults, but it also brings out stress and anxiety in children, whether small or big (adult). We tackled holiday survival post-divorce topics like “finding your new normal” and “creating emotional Continue reading…

July 17, 2017

Teamwork in the Midst of Substance Abuse

About 3 and a-half years ago, a family in the Collaborative Divorce  process was working with the Neutral Child Specialist .   It was stated by my client that dad’s alcohol use was the primary basis for her seeking the divorce. She Continue reading…

Tagged with:

July 10, 2017

How to Avoid the Divortex – Part 3

In parts 1 and 2, we defined vortex as: 1) a whirling mass of water or air that sucks everything near it towards its center; 2) a place or situation regarded as drawing into its center all that it surrounds, Continue reading…

Tagged with:

July 3, 2017

The Delicate Art of Compromise

The Delicate Art of Compromise Compromise. It is the cornerstone of legal settlements. It is the foundation of civility. Yet it is not without its attendant difficulties. The most common meaning ascribed to compromise is an agreement or settlement of Continue reading…

Tagged with:

June 26, 2017

Friending Yourself

Throughout your life, and particularly through your separation or divorce, there may have been times when, even if you have an amazing support system, you realized that there is truly only one person that you can count on 24 hours Continue reading…

June 19, 2017

Considerations on the Cost of Divorce Part I

So, You Are Getting Divorced: Considerations on the Cost of Legal and Professional Services Part I In this two part series, I will address the Challenges in accurately estimating legal and professional fees in Part I, and will offer thoughts Continue reading…

Tagged with: