Child Centered Divorce – A Model for Cooperative Co-Parents

Shawn McGivern

Shawn McGivern

By Shawn McGivern

In September 2000, TIME Magazine invited renowned sociologists and mental health professions to weigh in on What Divorce Does to Kids.

While the issue presented a balance of perspectives, what took front and center stage for readers and experts alike were the late psychologist Judith Wallerstein’s doom and gloom predictions for adult children of divorce. Based on her 25- year study of 131 subjects, Wallerstein concluded that children of divorce “look for love in strange places” and “make terrible life partner choices.”

“Expecting disaster, they will create it,” she writes. “They will delay career choices, delay marriages and likely get divorced themselves.”


Both her book and the TIME exposé drew harsh criticism. Christy Buchanan, author of Adolescents After Divorce undercut Wallerstein’s findings stating that, “There’s some good research suggesting that many of the problems attributed to divorce are actually present prior to the divorce.” Penn State Sociology professor, Paul Amato effectively dismissed Wallerstein’s predictions, saying in Time, “What most of the large-scale scientific research shows is that although growing up in a divorced family elevates the risk for certain kinds of problems, it by no means dooms children to having a terrible life.”

Twelve years later, what seems logical is that the subjects whom Wallerstein began tracking in 1971 reflected the loss that can stem from children being raised in an unhappy intact home and then being subjected to “adversarial ” divorce.

The fact is, divorce, like death, is a profound loss of possibility for the child. To him or her, it is as if a once-whole beautiful egg has been shattered into two jagged pieces.

Divorce will likely interrupt the child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Studies show, however, that children can adjust and do better in the long-run when parents put their differences aside, work as a team, and model for the child the respect and collaborative spirit that informs a successful business partnership.

With 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce, it’s no surprise to find a plethora of literature on the how-to of divorce. For parents whose chief concern is their child’s well-being, however, some of the best thinking from judges, divorce mediators, attorneys and mental health professionals comes from The American Bar Association publications. My Parent are Getting Divorced: A Handbook for Kids and Co-Parenting During and After DIvorce: A Handbook for Parents offers concepts and codes of conduct between co-parents that aim to minimize conflict while optimizing the trust, autonomy, initiative, social interest, cognitive development, and capacity for friendship and intimacy needed in adulthood.

Tips for Cooperative Co-Parents

Kids’ fears and questions run rampant when parents separate. They may not have the language to voice their fears, but a typical interior diaglogue includes: What is divorce? Will I still see both of you? Where will I live? Will we still have enough money to do fun things? ? Am I going to have to leave my school, my teachers, my friends? This is embarrasing; what will other kids think? How will I buy Mom/Dad gifts for holidays or birthdays? If I’m with Dad on weekends, when can I see my friends?

Kids need assurance that it’s okay to be loyal to both parents. They hear criticism of Mom/Dad as descriptive of themselves. Often, when kids are exposed to parents fighting or negative comments about the other, they feel forced into the role of referree or caretaker. For this reasons, competent co-parents have disagreements in private. They discuss adult matters behind closed doors or with other adults. If and when they introduce a significant other to the kids, it’s understood that the child has input on where and when. Resilient kids are most often the product of two homes where warmth, acceptance, and open communications abide.

Language creates experience. Kids know “friends” are people who get together to have fun, enjoy the same things, laugh, and in times of difficulty turn to each other for emotional support. If you are true friends, kids already feel it . If what you mean by we’re friends is closer to “we’re not enemies,” however, try: “Divorce means that we will be living in separate houses. When it comes to major holidays, your birthday, things at school and other important events, though, we’ll get together as a family. There are going to be some changes for all of us, but one thing will stay the same forever:, your dad and I will always share our joy in watching you grown into the terrific person we knew you were the day we brought you home from the hospital.”

Family Advocate and many other child-centered divorce materials emphasize kids’ need for structure. Cooperative co-parents will ideally offer consistency in both homes with respect to times for dinner, homework, TV, internet,and bedtime.

In its Handbook for Clients, Family Advocate encourages single parents to exercise self care. When the kids are gone, make plans with friends. Join a support group. Let the housework go. Go to the gym. Take a class. Pamper Yourself . Relax.

Divorce marks the end of marriage. As Scott Peck wrote in The Road Less Travelled, however, “where there is love, there is healing.” And, with child-centered divorce, the healing can begin.


 Shawn M. McGivern LMHC

 Conflict resolution/divorce mediation

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First Parish to host weeklong forum on end of life issues


Front row:Marianne DiBlasi, Rev. Peter Boullata, Parish Minister, and Jane Eckert
Back row: Dorothea Bowen, Jane Beswick, Bill McKenney, Chair of the First Parish Board, and Marilyn Campbell

By Laurie Atwater  |

Question 2, the Death with Dignity initiative has been the most hotly debated of the ballot questions that Massachusetts voters will decide this fall. Because of its deep implications for one of the most profound human experiences, and its moral, religious, legal and ethical dimensions DWDA presents Massachusetts voters with complicated questions about a subject that most people would rather ignore.

Jane Eckert read an article on this question by Scott Helman in the April 2012 Boston Globe Magazine, and she was so moved by the story that she decided to bring an idea to her minister at First Parish in Lexington, Reverend Peter Boullata. “This is something that we never talk about,” Jane says, “that we don’t know how to talk about, and I thought, ‘wouldn’t is be great if we could do something on end of life issues at the parish?’”

They in turn presented the concept to the parish board. The result: an upcoming program called Choices at the End of Life: The Death with Dignity Initiative: A week-long exploration of personal, ethical and practical issues.

“I think that as a religious community,” says Reverend Boullata, “we are uniquely poised to have this conversation. Human mortality—that’s what religion does well.” And, he says, since First Parish is historically the “town church” it felt right to host this conversation with the town.

The forum is open. All are welcome according to Bill McKenney, Chairman of the parish board. “This is a natural fit for our mission.” he explains. “As Unitarian Universalists, we address complex issues with an open mind to seek information and learning. Our congregation really doesn’t have a position on this—if you talked to ten people here you’d probably come up with eight different opinions.” McKenney stresses the importance of “providing a safe and open environment” where he hopes people can disagree and disagree in a way that is respectful. “We want this to be a forum that is informative and supportive for discussing something as difficult as end of life.”

Reverend Boullata agrees, “It’s part of our calling as a faith community to be a venue for people asking questions which are spiritual issues as well as moral issues.”

Jane Eckert is particularly thrilled that they have been able to put together such a well-rounded week of informative sessions with an impressive list of speakers. “We’re hoping to have a diversity of perspectives represented—to see both the differences and the similarities. “Having lived through the past few years where there has been such rancor,” Eckert reflects, “We really want to nurture respect for differences and viewpoints here.”

Dr. Marcia Angell

The week will kick-off on Sunday October 21st with a panel discussion on the ballot question moderated by NPR health reporter Dick Knox. Dr. Marcia Angell who has been actively advocating for the ballot initiative will serve on the panel. Dr. Angell, who is a physician and served as the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, is currently a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Angell was the first of the original 14 petitioners to put the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act on the ballot in November and is a member of the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Coalition ( Also serving on the panel is John Kelly, a disability rights advocate and Director of Second Thoughts an organized opposition group ( John has been making the rounds of radio talk shows and forums (he spoke at Jay Kaufman’s last Open House) to add his special perspective to the opposition. Another opponent of the initiative, Mark Rollo, a physician in Fitchburg, Massachusetts will also serve on the panel.

The remainder of the week’s programming will focus on hospice and palliative care, legal issues around end-of-life, the Five Wishes program, talking with children and teens about death and finally the different religious views around death and dying. “We have been very fortunate with our panels,” Eckert says. We wanted to have a mix of professionals and real folk involved—not just people with a professional stake.”

BALLOT QUESTION 2 On Sunday October 21st the initial panel discussion at First Parish will take on the many issues surrounding the Massachusetts Ballot Question 2, Prescribing Medicine to End Life, or the Death with Dignity Act. The law would allow willing doctors to provide a patient with a prescription for drugs that when self-administered will end their life. Many patients have a DNR (do not resuscitate) directive or MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) orders in place. Both of these documents can direct hospitals, EMS personnel and other healthcare to withhold CPR, or intubation in cases of a life threatening event. Question 2 goes beyond both these instruments by allowing terminal patients to end their own life willfully and lawfully with a lethal dose of medication when and where they choose.

To qualify to receive the life-ending prescription, the patient must have a medical prognosis of six months or less to live. They must be informed by the doctor of all treatment alternatives. The patient must be determined to be competent, the doctor must be willing to participate (doctors can refuse to participate) and the patient must make the request three times including once in writing witnessed by two people (one who is not a relative by blood or adoption). The patient must be capable of ingesting the medicine without assistance. The patient must be an adult and can change their mind at any time. There is a waiting period imposed between requesting the prescription in writing and receiving the script from the doctor. A similar law passed in Oregon in 1997 and Washington State in 2009. The language of the Massachusetts act is virtually identical to the Oregon law. Massachusetts would be the first state on the East coast to approve the measure if it passes which means all eyes are on Massachusetts as a test case for advancing the law to other states.

John Kelly

The Massachusetts Medical Association (MMA) is opposed to Question 2. They argue that the proposed safeguards against abuse of the law are inadequate. On their website ( the MMA outlines their opposing position saying, “Enforcement provisions, investigation authority, oversight, or data verification are not included in the act.” The MMA position paper ends with a quote from past president Dr. Lynda Young who states that “physician assisted suicide is incompatible with the physician’s role as a healer.”

Proponents of the measure like Dr. Marcia Angell disagree with the MMA position. In response to an email inquiry Dr. Angell wrote, “I think nearly everyone knows someone who has died a lingering, difficult death, despite state-of-the-art palliative care. Some of these patients would like the choice of ending their lives sooner and more peacefully. The Death with Dignity Act, which will be Question #2 on the November ballot, would give Massachusetts the same law that has worked well in Oregon for the past 14 years, and is now supported overwhelmingly by the public in that state.”

Dr Angell stresses the matter of personal choice, “It would permit dying patients in Massachusetts, with no more than six months to live, to ask their doctor for a prescription for medication that would allow them to die more peacefully, if — and only if — they choose, and if their doctor agrees. This would be an option, not a requirement, for both dying patients and their doctors. Most patients with terminal illness, of course, will not need this law, but some will, and I see no reason to require suffering patients to continue an agonizing, inexorably downhill course against their wishes.”

John Kelly sees the downhill course differently. I spoke by phone with John who is a passionate opponent of the measure. As a disabled person (a quadriplegic due to an accident early in life) and a disability advocate, John worries that independence, autonomy are equated with worthwhile quality of life in this argument. “We see this as a direct threat when the characteristics of our own lives are justification for state-supported suicide.”

Since disabled people are to varying degrees dependant on other people for their care, Kelly also believes that this characterization would send a dangerous message to the disabled. “This bill does not solve that problem. The real problem is that some people don’t get the care that they deserve or the social support that is necessary,” he says.

Critics of the bill worry about everything from incorrect diagnoses, callous profit-driven insurance companies, and cash-strapped families exerting pressure on sick family members because they can’t afford care or greedy heirs that may want to hasten their inheritance.

As part of their law, the Oregon Heath Authority has been required to do surveillance and to issue yearly reports. So far, Oregon’s data has not shown cause for alarm. The median age for those ingesting the medication was 71 in 2011. Most were white well-educated cancer patients; some had A.L.S. Only 1 person of the 71 was referred for a psychiatric evaluation. Doctors’ reports from Oregon indicate that people were most concerned with their quality of life, specifically the inability to participate in enjoyable life experiences (90.1 %), loss of autonomy (88.7%) and loss of dignity (74.6). Fear of pain does not seem to be a driving concern for those seeking the life-ending prescription. The data shows that remarkably few people actually take advantage of the law. In 2011, 114 individuals requested a life-ending prescription and 71 of those individuals actually died from the self-administered dose. However, use of the option has increased since its inception. In 1998 only 16 people died from the prescription they had requested. [Source:]

PALLIATIVE CARE & HOSPICE CARE For many in the medical community, the answer is palliative care and hospice not physician-assisted suicide. Palliative care and hospice provide for comfort and give the patient the ability to die at home. Most agree that there has been a tremendous amount of progress around the practice of palliative care which provides pain management, anxiety relief, psychological support and panoply of alternative treatments. All of these alternatives are designed to help the dying patient make the most of their last days with the least amount of suffering. This will be the topic of the Tuesday forum: Hospice and Palliative Care-What are they? The program runs from 7-9PM.

Advocates of the Death with Dignity Act feel that palliative care and hospice can exist in harmony with the proposed law. Dr. Angell, who has been articulating the proponent argument around the state over the past few months often, turns the opposition argument on its head. When asked by local NPR host Callie Crossley why she supported the initiative, Dr. Angell said, “Why would anyone—the state, organized medicine—anyone be against it? You should let the patient decide when palliative care and hospice are over.”

Some experts feel that adopting the DWDA in Oregon has created better palliative care in the state because doctors want to make sure that a life ending prescription is truly a last resort for the patient.

A COMPLEX QUESTION A recent Suffolk University poll ( of likely Massachusetts voters indicates that 64% of Bay Staters are in favor of the Prescribing Medication to End Life law, or Question 2. Western New England University Polling Institute conducted a poll in May showing 60% in favor.

Anyone who has been following this issue knows that it is a big topic with many overlapping themes, emotional hot buttons, religious implications and medical and legal repercussions. What makes good social policy? Good law? If it doesn’t affect your personal choice, should it matter if others have the ability to choose differently? And what about mistakes? What is the proper role of religion in this discussion? Can well meaning laws have unintended social consequences? Is it ever morally acceptable to hasten death?

These are some of the questions that will be explored at the Sunday forum and it is your chance to ask questions and think deeply about this difficult issue right here in Lexington among friends and neighbors.

“One of the things we Unitarians do well is that we talk. We don’t always agree, but we talk,” says Jane Eckert. “Even if you don’t come to the first night, there’s so much going on during the week including a night on how to talk about death with children.” Bill McKenney says, “Our hope is that people will come out and join us so we can all learn together.”

“We need to puncture those bubbles—that taboo.” adds Reverend Boullata, “I am hoping that people will begin to have some sense of what it means to die well, to begin thinking ‘How do I want to spend the last weeks and days and hours of my life and what will it mean to be well cared for in that circumstance?’ Maybe in a small way this week of programming will help with that.”




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Falls Prevention- a Physical Fitness Essential

Front: (L-R) Fran Coscisa, Inez Zimmerman, and Beverley Ikier. Rear: (L-R) Pam Carle, Carol Goldberg, Lorraine Caron, Liz Sullivan by: Rick Karwan

By Beverley Ikier  |

Have you fallen lately? Have you fallen and fractured a bone? Are you afraid of falling?

If you have answered “yes” to one of the above, please read on and find out how you can turn your life around and be proactive in regaining confidence to do what you like to do.

Acrobats and gymnasts fall off the beam many, many times before they develop the skills to perform cartwheels on it; the artists of Cirque du Soleil think nothing of practicing one maneuver six hours a day until they “get” it. Of course, their life depends on it, but doesn’t yours?

The statistics around falls and fractures are increasing daily and the prognosis for rehabilitating from a hip fracture after the age of 50 is grim; mortality rates are high and a third of patients require long term care after a fracture, according to the International Osteoporosis foundation.

You are probably sitting to read this, but if you sit a lot because you are afraid of falling, then you are putting yourself MORE at risk for fracture because you are losing bone mass. By not placing a force on your bones from muscular activity, they stop new cell production. (Do not even cough!)

In the sixties and seventies, I was nursing in McGill’s busy teaching hospitals, the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Montreal Neurological Institute, daily offsetting the ramifications of the now- considered deadly- BED REST. To keep patients from falling flat on the floor after 2 weeks in bed for appendectomies, childbirth or any procedure that required 30 or more minutes of general anesthesia, we had to “dangle” them. That’s right, all doctors ordered “dangling” before walking as lying about caused gross imbalance; a given in conjunction with de-conditioning

So much has been learned about activity and health promotion we can hardly grasp the 180 degree turns in the treatment of many conditions. For example, arthritis? Then, it was “take it easy” and “save some steps.” Now, we know to strengthen and walk. The same is true for heart surgery. Post-surgery care was “bed rest.” Now, patients are put straight on a treadmill. And today, breaking news is that by exercising the balance system, it can be developed and strengthened just like a muscle.

I’d like you to meet the home team-










And the opposing team, contributing to imbalance:

1. Medical conditions (Parkinson’s, low blood pressure, dehydration, inner ear pathology)

2. Medications (for high blood pressure, diuretics, barbiturates, mood altering and sleep inducing)

3. Dehydration

4. Fear of falling

Apart from inactivity, the above mentioned can seriously affect balance but will respond to balance exercises.

Exercises to Promote balance

These are best learned in a balance class under the supervision of a trained, experienced practitioner. However, the following exercises are safe and simple, offer some benefit, and will get you started. All may be performed seated. Anyone at a higher fitness level will require more challenging exercises.


  • Move eyeballs left and right, and up and down, following a fingertip.
  • Standing, keep your eyes on fingertip and turn around full circle.

Inner Ear

  • Turn head left and right, starting slowly and increasing the speed. If you get dizzy, stop and wait until it subsides, and try again.

Muscles – mainly of the lower body

  • Stand up from a hard chair. Sit down and repeat; gradually “stop the drop” a few inches above the chair. You may fatigue, but this is strengthening.
  • To stretch, straighten out you leg and push heel away from you. Hold this for 30 seconds.


  • Without shoes, apply foot to a tennis ball and roll, keeping the knee bent and the foot under the knee.
  • Take care of calluses and long toe-nails.

Walking safety- “Five for Focus.”

Practice this one starting now, and you will be amazed at the quick results. Take five seconds to view your terrain. What happens is your eyes send messages to the brain detailing the route you have chosen, including heights, widths, depths of obstacles you may have to deal with; lighting, noises, types of terrain and where it may change, for example, cement, grass, mud, puddle. Your brain then selects muscles to advise them of some upcoming performance, for example stepping up, pivoting, ducking down, turning right or left and puts them on “speed dial” for easy recall.

Now, when you start your walk, the calls go through, the muscles do their job, and you are safe. Without this five seconds to focus, you cannot expect your body to respond and perform safely in a new environment; even a familiar one, for that matter. Take “Five for Focus.”


64 oz is the recommended daily intake of water. Fill up your containers at the start of the day and begin infusing early. Caffeine and related products take water out of the cell,- so replace the water you lose throughout the day and carry on.

It is predicted that one out of three people over the age of 65 will fall once a year. Each fall causes increasing debilitative results.

You may start now; I just want to encourage you as these exercises and safety precautions can prevent falls, in spite of abovementioned medical conditions and pharmaceuticals. I have been working with 100 seniors a week for 15 years, and to date, we have defied ALL the odds regarding falls and fractures.



Please contact Beverley Ikier at:,

or 781-229-1967 for classes in falls prevention, or to have a program in your facility.


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Annual Walk to Benefit The Children’s Room

Annual Walk to Benefit The Children’s Room

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Arlington Town Hall

1:00 pm

Join our inspiring fall fundraiser and largest community event of the year!

We will walk our 3 miles – RAIN OR SHINE!!


Honor the memory of a loved one, and help keep this essential program in place to support grieving children and teens after the death of a close family member.

To register for the walk, visit, or visit and be connected through our walk page. Registration is $20 for adults and $10 for children under 13. Registration includes t-shirt, entertainment, and refreshments. As in the past, we will include names of those we walk in memory of on the back of the t-shirt. The deadline for submission of names is 9/20/11.


To help us reach our fundraising goal, we encourage all registrants to create a personalized fundraising page – it is easy to do and is a great way to spread the word about the mission of The Children’s Room. Once established, your page can easily be forwarded to family friends and colleagues – maximizing fundraising opportunities. Utilizing facebook and social media is a great way to expand your outreach and reach your fundraising target.


With the support of sponsors, 100% of money raised at the Memories Walk will directly support essential programs at The Children’s Room. We have a variety of levels of sponsorship and look forward to expanding our network of corporate and organizational support. Sponsorship information is available on our website,


Matching Gifts are a great way to make donations go further. As a walker or donor, explore whether you, a family member or friend is employed at a company that offers matching gift benefits.

For information or questions about Memories Walk 2011, contact

We are truly appreciative of your support, and look forward to walking with you on October 2nd!

The Children’s Room, Caring support for grieving children, teens & families

1210 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02476 781/641-4741

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