All posts by Deena Stacer, Ph.D.

Dr Deena Stacer specializes in educating parents involved in child custody fights, and struggling to manage their coparenting relationship. Dr. Stacer is nn International crisis management and Conflict Resolution Consultant, Dr. Stacer offers online coparenting courses to help parents learn to reduce their conflicts while protecting and connecting more closely with their children. She offers online and in person parenting classes for parents involved with divorce with children . Reach Dr. Stacer at or 800-980-0434.

Effects Of Divorce On Children

Stop Your Conflict From Negatively Affecting Your Children

Parents often worry that their children will negatively suffer from a divorce or family breakup.  However, researchers have found that it’s actually not the divorce in and of itself that makes kids suffer; it’s the ongoing conflict that parents engage in that causes children to act out, misbehave, withdraw, and disengage from their family unit.

When both parents are distracted by fighting, the ongoing conflict can create permanent problems for children.


  • Feel pain 100 percent more than adults feel it;
  • Experience all emotions at more intense levels than adults;
  • Become overwhelmed with the trauma of conflict and often go numb or act out;
  • Attempt to intervene in arguments in order to reduce their own anxiety;
  • Often feel useless, inadequate and depressed because they lack the ability to control their pain and end the conflict;
  • Believe their family life is chaotic, unpredictable, and very scary;
  • Often are unable to create solid emotional connections with either parent when in high conflict situations, along with distrust for all adults because they cannot get their needs met.

Conflict creates a very uncertain, uneasy environment for the family.  When parents are in conflict, it is difficult for them to calm down and focus on the children.  Conflict affects children because they experience higher levels of anger, sadness and worry because they cannot get reassurance from their parents that everything will be okay.

Children also have difficulty concentrating in school and are often unable to complete assignments.  They may withdraw from friends and not be emotionally present in school.

As parents in high conflict often just go through the motions, they become desensitized to their children and miss the fact that they are spiraling downward.  Both children and parents feel hopeless and inadequate because they cannot change their circumstances.  You can change that starting today, however, by following these simple tips to get back in control of your lives and to start saving your children from becoming permanently damaged:

  1. Stop trying to work with or “coparent” with the other parent starting immediately.  You have my permission to start disengaging from the fight and the other parent.  Trying to “coparent” always keeps you in the battle mindset.
  2. Take a “time-out” from communicating with the other parent.
  3. Every time you hear the other parent’s voice or see their face (in any form such as email, text, face to face, telephone calls or through another person, such as your attorney), you cannot calm down for approximately 72 hours.

This means each text will spin you out of control for 3 days.  Several texts with the other parent in one day and you will be out of control for a week.  You must stop responding to daily texts and phone calls in order to get calmed down and start focusing on your children.  Daily interaction with the other parent means that you are not emotionally available for your children.

This means each text will spin you out of control for 3 days.  Several texts with the other parent in one day and you will be out of control for a week.  You must stop responding to daily texts and phone calls in order to get calmed down and start focusing on your children.  Daily interaction with the other parent means that you are not emotionally available for your children.

  1. Begin organizing one simple activity with your children.  Involve them in the planning of the event together, which you will do over a period of time.
  2. When you involve your children in the planning and implementation stages of creating a simple activity together, your children will begin to feel important to you.  You will feel important to them too.  You cannot pay attention to your children when you are always engaged with the other parent because you are responding to their silly and upsetting gestures toward you.
  3. Give your children an opportunity to have a “voice” and a “vote” in the planning stages of the activity.  This will create positive anticipation in their mind and you will notice how quickly it calms you and your children down.
  4. The power of planning an activity together will generate more than positive anticipation for both of you.  It will also bring a closer connection to your children.
  5. When you “string out” the planning of the activity as well as set a date off into the future, you generate hope that both of you will be together for a long time since children feel that tomorrow is a long time away.
  6. You create a positive and healthy excitement between you two that has not existed since the conflict began.  (Adrenaline addiction can also be an excitement, but it is not positive or healthy) and it is due to the conflict not the children.
  7. Positive anticipation is one of the most magical concepts you can develop with your children.  You can end the conflict with your children almost immediately and you can protect your children from bad effects of divorce and ongoing conflict.  It is so simple that most people miss it.
  8. Planning activities and implementing them with your children over a long period of time will create a very close connection to your children.  It will also help you as a part to stop reacting to the other parent.  It is really an amazing opportunity and it works!
  9. As you create a powerful bond with your children the other parent may ramp up, trying to get you to reengage with them over silly and minor comments and actions.  You will begin to see this for what it is, and you will be able to stop responding to the other parent’s attempts to get you to play war with them.  This may not happen overnight, but you will notice it quickly.
  10. Planning activities together will give you and your children a chance to get your life and your family back the way you wanted before the conflict took things out of proportion.
  11. Activities you can plan together may be as simple as making breakfast together the next time you will be with the children on a weekend.  For example, discuss the ingredients you will need to get together for pancakes or eggs and bacon.  Write the ingredients down and plan on going to the store together to get the ingredients the next time you are together.  You want to “string out” the activities that will lead up to making breakfast together to get the maximum excitement from your children.  You will invite your children to participate in every part of the planning and implementation stages in order to get into their imagination and expand their sense of curiosity, wonder, and excitement about making breakfast together.  Any activity will work that you plan together.

I call this concept “Stringing Pearls with your Children.”  You can learn more about this concept by watching my videos on Stringing Pearls and reading more of the blogs that describe it.

Understand that you can string pearls with your children every day with the activities you normally do for them, but often parents do not realize that involving the children will connect you to them in a way that will immediately end your conflict.

More examples of ways you can “String Pearls with Your Children” include:

  1. Planning a picnic to a park in a few weeks;
  2. Building a club house together in the backyard which will take several weeks;
  3. Planning a birthday party which will be a month away;
  4. Planning a secret dinner for someone in the family that will happen several weeks away;
  5. Organizing the garage together to make room for crafts and supplies you will be making together;
  6. Setting up a corner in your home for their artwork, stories and awards;
  7. Decorating the children’s bedroom;
  8. Working together to create a “family business” that engages the children in talking about money, responsibility, planning, organizing, researching, and creating positive anticipation.

Get started right now ‑ think of something you want to do with your children.  Think of all of the activities that must be completed to create the event.  Then write them out and start engaging the children in the planning, researching and implementation stages of the event.  Go have fun and note what happens to your own excitement level with your children and your ability to disengage from the craziness of the fight!

Dr. Deena Stacer is an International Parent Educator for parents involved in child custody conflicts.  Parents can take online coparenting classes at  The courses can be taken online at any time 24/7.  Parents can spend time taking the courses online for as long as they want each time they login.  A certificate of attendance is available after the parent has attended the course.

Dr. Deena Stacer can be reached at or by calling 800-980-0434.

Parallel Parenting Takes Your Children Out of the Middle of Conflict (Part 1)

The biggest issues in a divorce or family breakup situation is coming to terms with parenting the children and removing them from the middle of the conflict – finding peace with the separation and being separate individuals again while maintaining a calm, peaceful family unit.

Up to this point in divorce or family breakup situations, the focus has been on coparenting the children together.  In a non-conflictual divorce, the new task is to decide how the children will be raised in two separate homes with similar rules and expectations.

In high conflict situations where two parents cannot be in the same room or carry on a conversation with each other, mutual agreements is nearly impossible and this conflict puts the children in the center of the fight.  These situations, where coparenting becomes conflictual, most often cause both parents to be emotionally unavailable for their children.  A new strategy needs to be implemented – Parallel Parenting.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel Parenting means both parents follow their own rules on their own time as parents, without getting the other parent’s approval.  With Parallel Parenting, parents do not communicate with each other about minor issues concerning the children, such as bedtime, meal time and how the children manage the homework and school work on that parent’s time.  Important issues requiring decisions from both parents such as health, education, and safety of the children may need the help of a professional who will keep both parents focused on decision making related to the welfare of the children, even if the professional has to step in and make a recommendation.  High conflict couples often require a court order to solidify these decisions too.

Parallel parenting is the ability of each parent to create their own parenting style during the time the children are under their care.  Understanding the concept of Mom’’s World/Dad’s World means that what goes on in Mom’s World/Dad’s World is relevant in that world to the children.  The rules each parent makes are designed by the parent in charge.  When children say, “My Mom/Dad doesn’t make me do that when I am with them . . .” the parent can say, “That is in Mom’s/Dad’s World, but when you are with me, these are my rules.”  This eliminates discussion, fights, and keeps the children out of the middle.

Parallel Parenting provides:

  • Children the right to have a meaningful relationship with each of their parents;
  • Children the right to be removed from the middle of their parents’ conflicts; and
  • The parents the right to develop their own rules and beliefs for what they believe will provide a meaningful relationship with the children, without the other parent’s interference or disapproval.

In high conflict situations, practicing Parallel Parenting is in the best interests of the children.  Bedtime routines, homework rules, discipline, belief systems, traditions, etc. are no longer up for argument between the parents.  Each parent is making up their own rules, beliefs, decisions, and discipline for their children with the children.

Parallel Parenting Provides:

  • Little to no interaction between the parents;
  • Parents an opportunity to create their own parenting style with the children;
  • Each parent independence from the other parent’s approval and disapproval of them;
  • A specific, clear and extremely detailed child sharing plan that alleviates parental communication which leads to conflict;
  • Child sharing exchanges that are in neutral locations and occur after school, at daycare or after an extracurricular event so the children are not negatively anticipating their parents acting up.
  • Each parent the responsibility for getting their own information about the child’s grades, attendance, activities, school conferences and award ceremonies, rather than from each other.

Parallel Parenting is designed to reduce the interaction between the parents to negate conflict.  It allows each parent to focus on building a closer relationship with their children without the other parent demanding they comply with the other parent’s rules or parental demands.

Parallel parenting is a very powerful way to take your child out of the middle of the conflict between parents.  When you begin to Parallel Parent, you can calm down and start focusing on the children rather than keep trying to get the other parent to work with you.

Dr. Deena Stacer is an International Parent Educator for parents involved in child custody conflicts.  Parents can take online coparenting classes at The courses are available online 24/7.  Parents can spend time taking the courses online for as long as they want each time they log in.  A certificate of attendance is available after the parent has attended the course.

Dr. Deena Stacer can be reached at or by calling 800-980-0434.

Preparing For Your Family Court Mediation Appointment

As you prepare for mediation through the courts, there are a few rules you should be aware of:

  1. This is not an opportunity to do open warfare on the other parent. You need to focus all of your discussion on how you are going to support the children and the other parent’s (as well as your own) relationship with your children. The mediator/counselor is only there because you have children, therefore, your only job is to help the mediator figure out what is in the best interest in terms of child sharing for your children.  When you attack the other parent and do not have proof of what you are attacking them for, you look like an angry kid fighting with the other parent. If you do not have proof, you will not gain respect from the mediator.
  2. Focus on solutions for your child-sharing issues. If you are struggling with a child-sharing plan, show the mediator how you can offer to share the children to get the children out of the middle. Reassure the counselor that you are mature enough to care for the children without having conflict over them. Conflict, whether it is  in front of the children or is in a text or an email is still conflict. It distracts you from being “with” your children 100% of the time you are with them. Be ready in mediation with your proposal to present a fair child sharing plan of action and your reasons why your proposal is reasonable. Explain how your child-sharing plan will help to keep the children out of any conflict between you too and how it supports each parent’s relationship with the children.
  3. If you have a lot of conflict with the other parent, you will need to offer a child-sharing plan that will reduce as much contact and communication with the other parent as possible. For example, exchanging children before and after school means that there is only one parent picking up or dropping off the children. Eliminating face to face contact is critical so children feel safe during exchange times. Your children often dread exchanges where both parents will be present and both may misbehave in front of their friends or them.  For example, do not suggest exchanges occur at ball games, if you know there can be a potential conflictual situation. Sports equipment, team pictures, uniforms and attendance are all huge sources of conflict between parents. Your child will have negative anticipation during this time, because they are worrying about what might happen before, during or after the game, or if they are even going to play or be taken to the game, or if their uniform or equipment will arrive…  Eliminate the telephone contact, tighten up the court order to eliminate unnecessary communication that will erupt into warfare between parents.
  4. Show the Mediator that you are focused on doing everything you can to support the other parent’s relationship with the children. If the other parent is difficult, or has some significant parenting flaws, you still need to support their love and right to be a parent with the children. If your children are truly in danger during that other parent’s time, you will need to work on a proposal for that mediator that includes solutions to protect the children, while supporting the other parent’s relationship with the children.

  5. You should attend coparenting courses that teach you new tools to disengage from conflict. Bring your certificate of completion, (I am suggesting my online coparenting courses) and  attend individual counseling if it has been recommended, or you believe it will guide you in reducing your reactions to the other parent’s attempts to dismiss you or engage you in the ongoing custody battle. Read Divorce Poison, by Richard Warshak, if you are struggling a parent who is attempting to alienate you from your children. Learn how to stay focused on putting your children first, (which does not include berating the other parent even with significant flaws). It is important to manage your own case outside the court system with help from professionals than it is to keep duking it out in the family court system. You need to be filled with compassion, and at the same time outline your boundaries for behavior that will protect your children from further emotional or physical harm. (High conflict cases need additional help reduce conflict and more skills to strategize new ways to end the conflict besides just mediating).

  6. There is really only one thing that mediators will absolutely react too when it comes to conflict over the children, and that is when your child is failing in school. If they are truant, frequently absent from school, not turning in school work/homework or have poor grades, (and you can show these issues are totally issues that only occur during the other parent’s time), you may be able to get a child-sharing plan that supports you having more time with the children in order to square away these school failings.

If you are both at fault for these school issues and you have not worked directly with the teachers to help your children succeed (by getting them tutoring, improving attendance, making sure homework is completed and turned in… )you will also be blamed. You must work very hard to help your children succeed even on the other parent’s time, by figuring out creative ways they can succeed even if they are not with you in your home. If your only goal is to prove the other parent is defective in this area, you are not helping your children and you will be seen a destructive to your children too.

If your only complaints about the other parent are things like, they let the children see inappropriate movies, they let them stay up too late, they let them eat too much sugar, or you complain about the parent choosing to be in a new relationship with another person, you are wasting everyone’s time, because no one can prove these things are really  a detriment to the children. They just keep the fight alive. You cannot fix these issues, no matter how angry or tearful you become. There are a lot of things you can do on your time to overcome these frustrating issues, but know that the mediator will have no power and will not be interested in recommending that the other parent shape up according to your standards, even if, in the normal world, parents would be appalled that a child is being raised with these bad choices, the court system doesn’t have the energy or the time to manage the way parents parent.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * These ideas are only small piece of what you should know to prepare for your mediation. If you have a lot of serious issues or yu know that the other parent is in generally a bad role model for the children, you are welcome to contact me and we can specifically look at how to strategize your mediation presentation and your children’s child sharing future.

If you are not in San Diego, you can still meet with me via Skype or telephone. Email me at or call me at 800-980-0434 to decide what works best for a consultation with me for your case.

To learn more strategies on how to work with a high conflict coparent, take ongoing conflictual coparenting courses online. I look forward to helping you resolve your child sharing complaints and helping you learn how to manage your case so you can end the conflict and mediate your situation effectively.