Dr. Steven Lazarus is a Psychologist with a specialty in Divorce. This site is a resource for adults and parents going through a divorce. It focuses on effective ways to heal from a divorce and how to help children during a divorce. Dr. Lazarus is a Psychologist with a specialty in divorce. His office is located in Littleton, CO.

When Loss Strikes: What is Normal and When to Seek Help

For better or worse, loss is a part of life. Not only is it inevitable, it is necessary—if nobody ever died, we would simply run out of room for new life to be born. However, this does not make the process any easier, especially when the loss is someone whom you love dearly. When does grief become something else, and when should you seek help? Read on to find out!

Immediate reaction

One of the best ways to think of immediate loss is of devastation. Whether you have lost a loved one unexpectedly or after months of declining health, the final realization that they are gone can be rough. It is normal to cry, feel sad, or even feel angry—at the person who is gone, at yourself, and at the whole world. Your emotions may feel overwhelming, and that’s okay. Allow yourself time to feel these emotions and seek the support of others in your life.

Signs you need help

While loss is difficult to bear, there are some signs that you should seek professional help. If you consider harming yourself or others, you should always call 9-1-1 or visit your nearest emergency room.

Short-term

For a few weeks or months following the loss, you can expect to still feel pain quite vividly. You may notice that your pain subsides somewhat, or that it “rears its head” with vengeance every now and again. Reminders of the person you have lost, such as their clothing, favorite TV show, or perfume may bring back vivid and unsettling memories. However, at this stage, you should be able to start recovering and moving on. Try thinking of the positive memories you have of this person and what they would want for you—chances are, they would encourage you to keep living your life!

Signs you need help

Immediately after a loss, it is perfectly normal to “shut down” for a few days. However, if weeks or months have passed and you still find yourself unable to go to work, maintain hygiene, or feel happiness or enjoyment, you should seek the help of a grief counselor in Littleton. Loss can take a huge toll on relationships as well. Your partner might not understand your grief, or why you’re so sad, and attending Littleton couples therapy sessions might help you to see eye to eye.

Long-term

After a few months, you may feel guilty that you do not think of your lost loved one that often. Don’t despair—this is a normal part of moving on. In addition, you may find yourself doing great most days, but receiving an occasional “blow” when something reminds you of your lost loved one. This, again, is perfectly normal. Holidays and anniversaries tend to be the hardest, but you can turn these moments of sadness into moments of celebration by honoring the lost person’s favorite activities and sharing them with others. The person you lost will always be a part of you.

Signs you need help

If you still feel the same intense pain as you did when you first realized your loved one was gone on a daily basis, or if you still feel limited in your work, social life, or personal life because of the loss, you may benefit from working with a therapist. While there is no “time limit” on grief, it is important to differentiate grief and loss from depression. In addition, working with a trained professional can help you to clarify your feelings and values and develop effective coping skills to keep yourself going.

While your loved one may be gone, you know he or she would never want you to get “stuck” as a result. Live your life to the fullest and give Dr. Lazarus a call if you’re feeling stuck!

5 Important Factors to Consider When Moving on From a Divorce

Moving on after the breakup of a long-term relationship with a significant other is very difficult, and it requires a healing and recovery period. Dealing with a divorce can be disorienting, confusing, and lonely, but during this time, it’s important to remember that your primary goal should be letting go and moving on. As sad as it may be to let go of a relationship, it’s a necessary part of the process if you want to lead a healthy and full life in the future.

1. You Will Experience a Full Spectrum of Emotions

Although we may not always think of it as such, a breakup is a loss, and it’s normal to experience a wide array of changing feelings as you come to terms with that loss. After a divorce, you can expect to experience:

  • Denial
  • Frustration and exhaustion
  • Anger and confusion
  • Grief and sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Resentment and relief

It’s important that you give yourself time and permission to mourn and grieve the loss of your relationship, your friend, and the life and dreams you shared together. As with any loss, overcoming grief and pain is a process, and you can’t expect to wake up one morning and have everything be back to normal.

2. Support from Others Is Integral

Just like you sometimes need help carrying in groceries when you have a full carload, you also need emotional support when you’ve got too much on your plate. Talk to your friends, family, and loved ones about how you’re feeling and coping, spend time doing fun things together, and don’t be afraid to get out and meet new friends. If you need a little more help, seek out a support group or talk to a therapist who can help you manage your feelings in a healthy and productive way.

3. Recognize the Difference Between Healthy Sadness and Depression

It’s entirely normal to feel sad and lonely after a breakup, and you can expect to experience changes in your activity level, eating habits, sleep patterns, and moods. What’s not normal, however, is for the grief you feel to persist without getting better. If that’s the case, be on the lookout for other symptoms of depression, which include:

  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness and feeling no hope for the future
  • Inability to feel pleasure from activities you once enjoyed
  • Loss of appetite or binge eating, and weight loss or gain
  • Consistently decreased energy levels
  • Feelings of extreme sadness that affect all aspects of your life

4. Learn How to Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself after a divorce or breakup is no different from caring for yourself when you’re sick. Take some time off work if necessary or lighten your workload if you can, take the time to rest and relax, stay active, eat right, take time to do the things you love, pursue new hobbies and interests, and don’t try to make any important decisions.

5. Use This Opportunity to Learn More About Yourself

The end of a long-term partnership provides an excellent opportunity to get to know yourself again. Give yourself time to be alone and single, and rediscover the person you were before you got into the relationship. This can mean taking up old hobbies, reconnecting with old friends, and taking a look at what makes you the person you are.

One of the best parts of having friends and family is that you can count on them when you need help, so don’t be afraid to reach out during this time. Focus your energy on processing the loss you’ve experienced and coping with the feelings you’re having, and allow yourself to begin a new chapter in your life.

Finding a Littleton area therapist to help throughout the healing process would be one. Remember, divorce affects not only you, but everyone around you. If you can’t cope, the people around you are affected as well. Dr. Lazarus, a divorce psychologist in Littleton offers proven techniques such as animal assisted therapy to help you or your family members through the divorce process.

 

Five Tips for Helping Your Kids Deal With Divorce

Helping kids deal with divorce

Divorce is something that affects many families, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy experience for anyone. Because divorce is about transition, stability is important: as children of all ages come to terms with the changes happening in their lives, they need warmth, love, support, and encouragement. Respect and open communication will also help make the transition easier, and will remind your children that they are still your number one priority.

  1. Tell Them the Right Way

The way children perceive a divorce can depend largely on how the news is broken to them, and this event can shape their outlook for years to come. Since every child is different and every situation unique, there is no single right way to tell your children that you and your spouse are divorcing. However, some basic advice that every parent should take into consideration includes:

  • Have a family meeting and allow the children to ask questions
  • Sit down with your partner beforehand to decide what you’re going to say
  • Avoid blaming each other in front of the children
  • Stay calm, cool, and collected
  • Set aside a time for a follow-up meeting
  • Don’t give your kids false hope: be clear that the divorce is permanent
  1. Be Reassuring

At a time when everything seems to be changing, children need to be reassured of many things. Most importantly during a divorce, they need to know that they are loved, that their needs will be cared for, and that they are not at fault for anything happening between you and your spouse.

 

Focus on all the things that will remain the same, and how someone will always be there in the morning, in the evenings, at bedtime, and at mealtimes. And while your words will reassure your children that everything will be all right, your actions will remind them that they are loved, that they still have a family, and that they aren’t to blame.

  1. Maintain Rituals and Routines

Another way to provide reassurance and security during this time of great change is by maintaining your family’s traditions and schedules. This can include things like bedtime story routines, Sunday dinner nights, weekday movie rituals, birthday celebration traditions, and even ordinary events like regular shopping trips together. Continue attending your children’s sports games, recitals, and meets as you always did.

  1. Cooperate and Communicate with Each Other

These are key elements for a family going through divorce. Cooperation and open communication are necessary between siblings, parents and children, parents, and other caregivers. Remember that this is a difficult time for everybody involved, and the more you communicate, the more you can help each other, and the more you help each other, the easier the process will be.

It’s also important that you don’t involve your children in parental disputes: don’t use them as messengers or to vent about their other parent. Instead, be civil and kind, and always make time to listen to your children about how they are feeling and what they’re thinking.

  1. Make Time Together Meaningful

Children who have two parents involved in their lives always fare better, and since you may have less time to spend together now, it’s important that you make the most of it. Engage with your children when you are together by asking questions, listening to what they have to say, participating in activities and hobbies that interest them, and staying apprised of what’s going on in their lives. If you cannot spend time together in person, take the time to write, email, call, and communicate in other ways.

If you follow these tips, you will be able to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible, and that your kids continue to grow and develop, in a healthy, loving way. Seeking out a child psychologist who specializes in divorce and blended families can be of tremendous help to both you and your child during a divorce.

Dr. Steven Lazarus, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

 

 

 

Dating after a divorce: How long should I wait to have them meet my child?

I am often asked as a child psychologist, “How long should a parent wait before having their child meet a new significant other?”

In speaking from the perspective of a child psychologist who has been working with kids dealing with divorce for many years, here are my thoughts:

1) Kids need time to adjust to the separation and divorce situation. They have a lot of different emotions they are going through. They need both parents to be present for them to help them understand and adjust to their new situation.

2) Parents need time to work through the legal and emotional aspects of a divorce. They are doing themselves a disservice if they too quickly begin dating someone else. The research says that it takes 1-2 years for an adult, whether the one who choose to end the relationship, or the one who may have not had a choice, to heal, understand, and grow the ending of the relationship.

3) If the kids are now seeing each parent ½ of the time, this is a loss for them. If there is then another adult involved in their life, they are actually losing more quality 1/1 time with that parent.

4) When a parent starts dating another person and the child is exposed to this relationship, it is very confusing for them. They don’t know if they are betraying the other parent by not liking them, or by liking them and enjoying spending time with them. They aren’t sure what to call them. It also creates feelings of JEALOUSY and ANGER/ RESENTMENT because in their perception, they have picked that adult over them, or over the other parent. This put the child in an emotional conflict.

5) When kids are struggling emotionally, they tend to either keep it in, which hurts their self-esteem and may cause health and sleep problems. Other kids will act out. They may choose to act it out at home toward to other adult, toward the parent who is dating, or towards the parent at the other house. They may have a decline at school, or regress to behaviors they did when they were younger. They tend to also get CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the parents conflict, which has been shown to be one of the most harmful things that can happen to kids.

6) If a parent does choose to date someone else, there is nothing wrong with this. I encourage them to work through their divorce issues, and when healthy and ready to date, DO THIS ON THEIR OWN ADULT TIME. You have built in time now when you don’t have your kids, use this time to do adult stuff, work extra hours so you have more time with the kids, do errands so you can spend quality time with the kids, date others and do adult outings, build your adult support system.

 

Recommendations:

1) Don’t have a child meet a significant other for 6 months to a year after the legal divorce.

2) When it is clear that the relationship is strong and going to make it long term, slowly being to spend a bit of time with the child. Don’t overdo it, and perhaps make it their choice depending on their age.

3) BEFORE having the kid meet the other adult, it is polite and courteous to let the other biological parent know you will be doing this. Then they are not caught off guard when the kid starts talking about their weekend with the other adult/ and their kids.

4) Watch for warning signs that the child is not ready for these meetings. Increased jealousy, anger, emotionality, trouble at school, and especially becoming very clingy and anxious when not around the parent.

5) Build and continue to develop collaborative parenting. With young kids, you have a lot of years left of having to discuss and deal with your children. Learn to work together and keep your kids as your number 1 priority.

 

Dr. Steven Lazarus is a child psychologist in Littleton, Colorado. He has a specialty in working with children and parents before, during, and after divorce.

Parents Guide to Parenting Stepchildren

Blended families face many struggles. Suspicion, anger and expectations often prevent the family from bonding. There is hope, though. With hard work and time, blended families can find success together.

Tips for Kids

Stepchildren often feel resentment toward the new parent, anger at their birth parent and suspicion toward siblings. They must learn to respect and trust both parents while bonding with their siblings.

For starters, kids must accept that their new family won’t mimic their old family. Everything’s going to change, and they must accept their new reality.

The kids also benefit from being civil. Avoidance, withdrawal or rude behavior won’t build the kind of family kids want. To earn respect, they must show respect to their parents and siblings.

Tips for Parents

Building a family that’s full of love and affection is a process that takes time. Effective parenting requires consistency. Parents must shower love, selflessness and kindness equally on the biological and step children. There’s no room for favoritism.

Meanwhile, the family benefits from building relationships with each other. Each parent should spend personal time with each child doing activities the children enjoy, and the entire family should hang out and play together regularly.

Sometimes, discipline is necessary. Both parents must unite and agree on the consequences when kids break the rules. The biological parent should administer any discipline, though.

Parents must also be aware of splitting. Kids may play their biological parents against each other or try to get their biological and stepparent to fight against each other. When parenting stepchildren, the parental unit must be united and resist confiding in the kids or badmouthing the other parent.

Being a step family isn’t always easy. Relationship building takes time. Patience, communication, success, and negotiation are all effective parenting tools.

Helping my child during a divorce

When you’re going through a divorce, your kids feel strong emotions that are difficult for them to process, understand or express. They may act out or withdraw as they deal with their emotions. They may even try to get you back together. No matter what actions your children display, you can use several parenting strategies to help your kids cope with your divorce.

Explain the Changes

Because of the divorce, life as they know it is about to turn upside down. While you don’t want to keep the truth from them, don’t overwhelm your kids with all the messy details of your divorce. Use age-appropriate language to tell your kids that their parents will no longer be living together. If possible, have this talk before you separate.

Reaffirm Your Love

Your kids may fear that mommy and daddy no longer love them since they no longer love each other. Reaffirm your love in tangible way so your kids feel secure during the changes your family faces.

  • Regularly spend time with each child doing an activity or hobby they enjoy.
  • Try to keep traditions like bedtime stories, weekly dinner out or birthday parties.
  • Act civil to your spouse and never bad mouth the other parent.
  • Take care of yourself so that your able to be the best parent possible
  • Keep adult issues at the adult level and never put your children in the middle
  • Use mediation as a non confrontational approach to resolving the legal divorce quickly

Encourage Communication

In the midst of the divorce, your children may be unable to express their feelings verbally. They may act out, though, with anger, aggression or withdraw.

Help your kids process the divorce with assistance from a child psychologist. He can use art, play and other tools to help your kids express their emotions in a positive way. He can also help your entire family heal emotionally and provide you with parenting strategies.

A divorce isn’t easy on anyone. You and your kids will get through it, though, as you exercise effective parenting strategies that help your kids navigate the changes.

Dr. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping children and parents work through divorce issues.

Do we need to see a couples therapist?

Couples therapy: Do we need to see someone?

Wondering if you need couples therapy? We all want healthy relationships with our spouse or significant other. When the relationship is good, we are happy, hopeful, feel like we are on the same page, and have shared goals and interest. But what happens when we begin to have stress or conflict. Often, we try to avoid arguing. Then things build up over time and suddenly we have a full blown terrible argument. Generally, this leads to what I call, “unfair fighting” in which the language and tactics we use make the fight worse. Couples therapy can help!

In their book, Fighting for your marriage, 3rd ed., 2010, the authors identify 4 patterns that are destructive in marriages and relationships and can cause more and more damage as they continue.

1) Escalation

2) Invalidation

3) Withdrawal and avoidance

4) Negative interpretations

Escalation is when a topic is brought up, perhaps in a positive or non-threatening way, and suddenly, things go very badly. Your partner may become very hurt or angry very quickly. Suddenly, your conversation has escalated into a huge argument, when that was certainly not your intention. The more this happens, the less you want to bring up topics.

The second pattern is invalidation. In this situation, when you bring up a topic, the other person says or does something that makes you feel like your opinion has no merit. It is not a valid point of view. Maybe only their point of view is right. This makes you feel terrible, unappreciated, and like you are not an equal partner in the relationship.

Negative interpretations occur when a topic is brought up, perhaps in a positive or non-threatening way; the other person takes it the wrong way. They may think you are attacking them in some way, or perhaps trying to bring up something old that they don’t want to talk about. In any case, the conversation does not go well and you feel like you have to back pedal. All of a sudden, you’re no longer talking about the topic, but about why you are so mean and disrespectful.

Escalation, invalidation, and negative interpretations lead to feelings that no matter how you bring up a topic, it’s not going to go well. We argue, we get angry, you feel terrible and blamed when you bring things up, and conversations are not productive and may be destructive.

The only strategy left then is one of avoidance and withdrawal. This may work initially. If we avoid talking with each other or spending much time near each other, we won’t argue. But then, problems are unresolved, build up, and there is an increased feeling of frustration and resentment. This then leads to escalation again but now you have a lot of issues that are all saved up and you are ready to explode.

Many couples in couples therapy have identified that they have all four destructive patterns and they think they are doomed. This is not the case.

If you begin to focus on creating fair fighting rules, communication skills, the ability to take a break when you are frustrated with your partner allowing you some space, you can have productive conversations. When you are no longer fearful that difficult conversations will result in big blow ups and hurtful conversations, you feel more trust and security. This can then lead to the ability for your relationship to grow and not stagnate. You will be able to work as partners through difficult life issues and come out on top.

Some people are structured enough to get a good couples book, schedule time to both read a chapter a week, and discuss with each other their marriage and how to improve it. They schedule a “business meeting” to work on their relationship.

However, most couples struggle to do this on their own. They don’t feel accountability or have a neutral third party (a couples therapist) to help them through the difficult issues.

Couples can benefit from a couples therapist in couples therapy when they have these destructive patterns present. A good couples therapist will provide a safe supportive environment in which both people can discuss and work through issues that are hurting their relationship.

There’s another group of people that also should consider couples counseling. This group is the couple that is considering moving the relationship toward a deeper commitment. Perhaps you are getting ready to move in together or get married. Although this group of couples may have little or few problems, research has shown developing these skills early in a relationship can serve as strength when there are problems. Couples who do this generally report happier healthier marriages and the ability to work out problems.

For those of you that have been in a relationship for a long time and now have those destructive patterns, don’t worry. Working with a couples therapist can truly strengthen for your relationship as well. People don’t want to argue and be in relationships that don’t feel good. You and your partner can create a strong and healthy marriage, partnership, parenting team, and friendship. You can break through destructive and unhealthy relationship patterns through couples therapy/ marital counseling. Couples counseling can help!

Reference:

Markman, Howard, Stanley, Scott, and Blumberg, Susan, John. (2010). Fighting for your marriage, 3rd ed. Wiley & Sons.