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What is active listening and why is it important? Most of us have heard the term or even have learned the concept at some point. It is a skill that can be learned with practice for anyone, and a necessary skill for positive communication in any relationship. Active listening is making a conscious effort to hear and understand the words of another - It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice. As identified in an article from Topornycky and Golparian (2016), some key feature of active listening are: Neutral and nonjudgmental Patient (periods of silence are not "filled") Verbal and nonverbal feedback to show signs of listening (e.g., smiling, eye contact, leaning in, mirroring) Asking questions Reflecting back what is said Asking for clarification Summarizing The basic attitude of active listening is trying to see the world from the other person’s eyes. You’re trying...

There are so many posts on social media and in the mainstream media regarding the isolation of people while we are told to "Stay Home" during the Covid 19 crisis. All of us are being asked to limit our contact with loved ones and to place physical distance between ourselves. In Canada, we live in a culture which values physical touch as a sign of love and affection, as such, being asked not to hug or come near is placing an unknown toll on many. But perhaps this crisis has brought something to the forefront that is long overdue - awareness and gratitude for those we love. We are now stopping our busy lives and connecting with elderly parents and grandparents on a daily basis. We are thinking of those who are homeless and that they can't "Stay Home" as they have no place to...

In Ontario, we face an unprecedented public health crisis due to a novel coronavirus, or Covid-19.  For families who have experienced separation and divorce, co-parenting in this environment can be stressful, particularly if communication is already a challenge.  At present, both the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice have reduced operations but remain available to preside over urgent matters. In addition, on-site family mediation and information services have been temporarily suspended.  At the direction of the provincial government in Ontario, all non-essential services and businesses have been directed to close which impacts parents’ ability to access alternative dispute resolution and other family law professionals.  So, what is a parent to do? 1.  Parenting Plan as Usual Regardless of emerging parenting plan issues, parents are discouraged from using any public health emergency as an attempt to alter their parenting plan.  Current examples of this may be a parent returning from a March Break holiday with...

Over the years, I have conducted hundreds of counselling sessions with couples.  Many of these relationships have weathered a variety of crises, loss and transition.  Some couples have endured a lot through over a short time, while other couples have struggled through many years of a long relationship.  Unfortunately, one of the common features by the time couples enter counselling is the desperation with which the couple struggles. I want to send a message to all couples out there, which is, attend to your marriage.  There is a reason for my deliberate choice of the word "attend". As defined by Mirriam-Webster, attend is a verb meaning, to be present at, to pay attention to, to look after, to take charge.  For any person in a committed relationship, the key to success is to be present and pay attention to your relationship before you feel the sense of desperation.   Here are...

I have been asked multiple times to present at the Mandatory Information Sessions for parents in the province of Ontario. These sessions are described on the Attorney General of Ontario’s website: Mandatory Information Programs (MIPs) are available at family court locations across Ontario. MIPs provide attendees with information about separation/divorce and the legal process, including: The effects of separation and divorce on adults and children Alternatives to litigation Family law issues The Family Court process Local resources and programs for families facing separation and/or divorce If either spouse/parent has started a family court case, both spouses/parents must attend the MIP as the first step in the case. There are some exceptions to this rule including: Parties in cases that are proceeding on consent (where both parties agree to the order that is being requested) Parties in cases in which the only claims made are for a divorce, costs, or an order incorporating...

At the point of separation, many parents reach out to a family law lawyer for advice on property matters as well as custody and access issues. Parents are filled with fears – fears of what the future will hold, where they will live, how they will financially manage and how to remain an active part of their children’s lives. The fears manifest themselves into defensive behaviours which often includes a legally supported position that a parent should not leave the matrimonial home until there is some kind of custody and access plan in place, no matter how long that takes. This is all well and good in relationships that end amicably. Imagine for a moment a couple who has done nothing but argue for years. Or where one person has had another relationship outside of the marriage and their spouse has just become aware. There are many examples of separations that...