State of Plutoverse – 2012

2012 was both an interesting and personally difficult year for me. A serious illness in my family placed severe limitations on the time I could devote to my writing and research. As a result, Plutoverse saw few new posts, and I cut back on my contributions to the Huffington Post.

Nevertheless, the year saw significant developments both for the Building Family Bridges community and for greater awareness and understanding of parental alienation throughout the world. I was also privileged to provide professional services in two high profile celebrity cases, one behind the scenes and one as an expert testifying about factors relevant to children’s best interests when one parent wants to relocate with the child to another country. Continue reading

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Judith Wallerstein


Judith Wallerstein passed away this week. As is true for most people in my profession, I first encountered Judy’s work in 1976 through her pathbreaking series of articles, co-authored with Joan Kelly, on children of divorce.

I discovered these articles during an internship in a Child Guidance Clinic and relied on them as an oasis of clinical insight in working with children whose parents had divorced. Together with the work of Mavis Hetherington, another doyenne of divorce research, these research projects served as a foundation for my own studies in the field. In addition to expanding the inquiry to include father-custody families, my goal was to explore some of the hypotheses raised by Wallerstein & Kelly’s clinical studies by combining clinical research methods with the more rigorous scientific methodology that Hetherington introduced.

The publication of my studies, co-authored with John Santrock, led to the exciting opportunity to meet Judith Wallerstein in person. In 1983 I was honored to lecture with Judy at a two-day seminar, and then share a panel with her and other luminaries of the profession. Judy was very gracious in treating this young researcher/clinician as a peer and I remember feeling surprised and grateful that she had taken the time to carefully read and digest my articles.

When it was her turn to lecture, Judy was charismatic — just riveting. Her accounts of children’s responses to their parents’ breakups were compassionate and compelling. Along with others who appreciated her contributions, including some of her research associates, I had professional disagreements with aspects of some of her later publications. But I never lost my fondness for her personally and respect for her work. Her dedication to children’s welfare was inspiring.

Judy will be missed, but her legacy will continue to inspire young professionals to challenge accepted wisdom with new data. My condolences to her family.

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State of Plutoverse – 2011

In case you wondered, other projects have pushed my annual review of the year to the side for a couple of months. File this column under: better late than never.

Pluto Transforms Lives Across Six Continents

2011 saw the spread of Welcome Back, Pluto to six continents and twenty-one countries. The DVD continues to receive praise and gratitude from parents, counselors, attorneys, and judges. I hoped that the program would help children and teens overcome their alienation. What I did not anticipate was the impact Pluto has on college students who are estranged from a parent. Continue reading

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Parenting by the Clock: Is It Time to Replace the Best-Interest-of-the-Child Standard? With What?

At the end of a child custody trial, courts base decisions on the best interest of the child. Critics of this standard regard it as too subjective and have proposed various alternatives such as the primary parent presumption and a shared custody presumption. One proposal that may exert enormous influence is known as the “approximation rule.” The rule divides the child’s time with each parent according to the proportion of time that each parent participated in caretaking prior to the separation. Continue reading

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Six Tips to Give Children Better Holidays

Holidays can be times of great joy when families build shared positive memories. Holidays can also be times of great stress, blues, and depression. When parents live apart from each other, they need to make a special effort to work together to ensure that their children enjoy good holiday memories. These tips should help you avoid the pitfalls that detract from the pleasures of the holiday season. I know some of you face the unfortunate situation of dealing with a former spouse who will not cooperate. This makes it more difficult and maybe impossible to implement these tips. If this is true for you, consider using the Share/Save link at the end of the column to bring this material to the attention of your ex to help educate him or her about how to help the children. Continue reading

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Shaking the Holiday Blues Away

The winter holidays are fast approaching. Everyone seems happy and excited except you. Intense sadness or loneliness cloud any hope of enjoyment. To make matters worse, you reproach yourself for being unable to share the holiday spirit. If you see yourself in this description, you may be suffering from the holiday blues.

Holiday blues unsettle us more than other times of sadness because they contrast with the spirit of benevolence and joy that we associate with the holidays. These blues last from a few days to a few weeks around the holidays, but usually diminish when the season is over and we resume normal routines. When we understand where the blues come from and what they look like, we are in a stronger position to manage these difficult feelings rather than let them overwhelm us. Read the entire article on Huffpost including causes, warning signs, and top tips for managing the holiday blues.

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Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs: Think Different (unaired commercial)

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

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Divorce Poison (2nd ed) Now in iTunes and Kindle

The wait is over. Through some gap between my publisher and the Kindle folks, the downloadable edition of the revised edition of Divorce Poison never saw the light of digital day in 2010. Last April, when a reader expressed her disappointment in ordering the Kindle edition but receiving the older edition, I brought this to my editor’s attention. She kicked into gear. But that was the last I heard about it.

Well, while wandering around Amazon yesterday, I discovered that the Kindle edition of DP2 was released two months ago. I am pleased to make this belated announcement of the arrival of digital Divorce Poison, revised and updated edition. It’s also available through iTunes.

Nothing beats a digital book for instantly locating or bookmarking a particular passage. Don’t yet have your iPad? What are you waiting for?

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College Helps Renew Parent-Child Ties

Some time during my first semester in the men’s dormitory at Cornell (in those days co-ed dorms were mere fantasies), the guys on the floor began talking about their parents. The more we talked, the more we came to value all that our parents had done for us. Mix this new awareness with some homesickness and the result often was a letter or call home. (We had no phones in our rooms and cell phones were science fiction; we stood in line to use the one public telephone in the hall. The wait was not too long because long-distance charges were steep back in the day of regulated telecommunications.) In my case it was a letter. My parents saved the letter I wrote, re-reading it at times when my appreciation was not so evident.

Going off to college clearly stirred renewed affection and appreciation for parents. I have never seen or heard this phenomenon discussed in print or at professional conferences. But it was very real to those of us in Founders Hall, Ithaca, back in 1966.

I was reminded of this by a father who told me recently that his estranged son initiated more contact with him in the first two weeks of college than he had in the prior two years. The boy clearly seeks to reclaim his identity as a child with two parents.

Parents with estranged relationships with their children should take heart in this phenomenon. If your children attend college away from home, this may give you an opportunity to renew ties with them. Read the article on Huffpost.

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Steve Jobs Inspired By Atlas Shrugged

In April, when the film version of Atlas Shrugged: Part One was released, I posted a blog about Ayn Rand’s novel on The Huffington Post. I mentioned that many celebrities are Rand fans. (Click here for a list of celebrities.) Add Steve Jobs to the list of high achievers who found inspiration in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak had this to say in a Bloomberg interview about Jobs: “I think Atlas Shrugged was one of his guides in life.” Learn more.

Update: A Facebook thread reports that Steve Jobs attended the busy opening night of the Atlas Shrugged film. This seems to confirm that he is a fan.

Kindle Edition
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