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Parenting Strategies To Help Children Thrive Through Divorce

Many of us who grew up in the ‘70’s ended up children of divorce. Divorce rates took a jump from around 25% in the ‘50s and ‘60’s to as high as 48% in 1975. When looking back and talking to friends about that time, everyone had a different take on the experience. Some were miserable and felt abandoned by one parent, others thrilled to get an overload of attention from parents feeling guilty. Instead of both parents being constantly exhausted, dad would swoop in on the weekends full of energy and take them away on fun-filled weekends while mom got to recuperate. Fortunately, we made it through that difficult time relatively unscathed and most have gone on to have thriving families of their own. However, the one thing that really resonates with all of us is the memory of how we were told about the divorce. It’s a moment that is never forgotten regardless of if we saw it coming, or were completely shocked by the news. In some families, the parents told the oldest child first and waited to tell the younger ones until right before the physical separation. In others, mom told the kids while dad was away at work. And in some situations, the parents told the kids before one last vacation away together.

What is the best way to tell your kids you are getting divorced? Years of research shows that it’s important to be together when you tell them and try to stay in the same home for at least a few days afterward so they don’t feel immediately abandoned. Some other important parenting strategies to help reduce the pain include:

1. Set a well thought out time to tell them the news together. It’s best not to do it right before school, an organized activity or bedtime. Leave enough time to answer their questions, cuddle them and resolve tears.

2. Keep it simple and clear. Don’t discuss any of the sordid details but instead present things in a positive light. Be sure to explain that it wasn’t an easy decision but that each of you will be happier and it will ultimately be better for everyone. Reassure them that it has nothing to do with them and they will continue to be loved. There will be two separate homes, but at each home they will be cared for, have all the things they need to feel comfortable and they will get to spend a lot of time with each parent. If possible, reiterate that they will continue going to the same school, have the same friends and that their daily life won’t change that much.

3. Listen and pay attention to their reactions. Have an honest discussion and don’t blame either parent for the divorce. It’s a joint decision that you both agreed on. Leave plenty of time to comfort them and don’t end it until they are ready to move on. Be prepared to continue answering questions for weeks to come as your kids absorb the impact it will have on their lives. Be watchful for increased anxiety, stomachaches, withdrawal, and changes in sleeping habits.

Move forward on a high note that this will not break your family. Things will stay as consistent as possible, mommy and daddy will continue to be at their school functions and after school activities and that they will be safe and cared for.

Parenting Skills For Positive Change

Parents, grandparents and caregivers with children of any age can always benefit from taking a parenting class. Raising kids is a tough job and sometimes we are left wondering if we’re doing the right thing. We all have those days when we question the decisions we made, are regretful of how we responded to a naughty child, or just know we could be doing things better. One mom commented today that her 10-year-old twin boys have become increasingly disrespectful to her and she doesn’t know what to do to rein them back in. So where to start? Just resolving to be a better parent isn’t enough. It takes work to learn new skills or alter the ones you have and then commitment to implement those tools to make positive change.

There are some basic points that most psychologists and researchers agree help parents to take a step in the right direction.

1. Walk the Walk. Take a look at your own issues (sometimes from childhood) and learn to manage them. If you are stressed, anxious, fearful or angry and take it out on others, you can’t expect your kids to learn to behave appropriately. You are the role model in this picture so take the time to show your kids empathy, treat others with kindness, live honestly and speak respectfully. They are watching everything you do including how you handle the pets, how you treat their teachers, if you are on time to things and how you respond to people that make you mad.

2. Help your kids to learn emotional intelligence. Take the time to listen to their point of view and let them know you are aware of what their perspective is and accept it. Although you may not agree with it, giving them a forum to talk it out helps them gain confidence and a safe place to process their emotions. Empathize with their feelings and explain to them the flip side of things so they know how others might feel.

3. Listen closely and set clear consistent rules and repercussions. Your kids are acting up and you can’t take another minute! Before responding with screaming and anger, look beyond it to figure out what is motivating it. Is the child tired or hungry? Has she or he been bullied at school? Ask questions to figure out what is going on and then respond in a calm way since you’ve already learned that yelling doesn’t get you anywhere. Provide suggestions on how they could have handled the situation more appropriately and then impose the consequences.

4. Let your child experience disappointments. As parents, all we want to do is protect our kids from feeling hurt or sad. However, as long as he is physically safe, it is healthier to let him or her make mistakes. It’s part of the learning process and helps to build understanding, empathy and critical thinking skills for daily life. For example, instead of showing up at school each day with the lunch or homework they left behind, let them experience the consequences once in a while so they learn from their mistake.

5. Speak with them effectively. Angry, short-tempered responses only create more animosity. Instead speak calmly and let them know what you are feeling and don’t use words like “always”, “only” or “never”. For example, “When you won’t get into the car when I ask you to in the morning, I get worried that we will get stuck in traffic and make your sister late for school.” Explaining the effect of the child’s negative behavior on the family helps him to clearly see how it is hurting those around him.

Single Parents Can Learn Useful Skills With An Online Parenting Class

The last 3 weeks have been filled with calls from parents wanting information on both in-person and online classes to help them start 2015 on a better foot. Some are first time parents looking for general advice while others are newly separated working parents who are trying to figure out how to be the most successful single parent they can be. One mom recently broke down in tears after experiencing her first holiday season in which her children had to celebrate in two different homes. She had felt overwhelmed, exhausted and guilty for not being able to provide them with the traditional experience they were used to. And, she felt like she couldn’t outdo what her ex-husband had planned because his parents were taking them all on a cruise. She knew there would be bumps in the road, but there seemed to be too many, too quickly. The bottom line was that she was spending more time at home right now because of the weather and to save money, and she thought that it would be a good time to take an online parenting class while her kids were over at their dad’s house.

The fact is that this parent is not alone as about 1 in 4 children in the U.S. is currently being raised in a single parent home. The reassuring news is that there are specific tried and true co-parenting strategies that a mom or dad can employ to help manage the stress of this lifestyle and to help their kids thrive. They include:

1. Start out with building a community to help provide you both emotional and physical support. It’s key not to be hesitant to ask others for help because you are afraid of being a pest or burden. Instead, you’ll be surprised at how many people would like to help, especially if you offer to trade babysitting duties and take care of their kids in return.

2. Develop a new routine for everything from your day-to-day activities to holidays and vacations. Children do well when they know what to expect so keep mealtimes, bedtimes, and even down time fairly consistent. This is also your chance to do the holidays the way you would like, so establish new traditions that both you and the kids enjoy. Also be sure to set aside weekly fun time when you can devote all your attention to them.

3. Look for positive role models around you and incorporate them into your life as much as possible. This can be special teachers, friends and clergy who have a positive impact on your life and are able and willing to spend a little extra energy on your child’s well being.

4. Create a responsibility chart and learn to delegate. Things have changed and instead of driving yourself crazy trying to do everything yourself, lower your expectations a bit and let your kids help. Be specific about what their duties are, praise them lots when the job is done and let them know you value their efforts. This will actually work in their favor to build more self-sufficient and confident kids.

5. Live within your means. You might be living off less income than when you were married so don’t get caught up in trying to maintain the same level of spending that you were once used to. This will just drive up your credit card bills and create an unsteady future. Do your best to create a sound budget.

6. Take care of yourself! Instead of spending all your free time when the kids are at school or at their father’s house cleaning, doing laundry and errands, try to let it go. Use this time to focus on your needs including exercise, rest and enjoyment.

Teaching Your Children Adaptability Will Help Them Throughout Life

Have you ever noticed a correlation each year between spending time with extended family and friends over the holidays and the an uptick in the amount of advice you get on how you should be parenting? Everyone is indoors celebrating together at Grandma’s house and your child’s behavior and how you respond to it, is under the magnifying glass. How many times do you hear that they are “shy” or “too rough” or “picky” or even “stubborn”? It’s easy for other’s to step in and make judgments about your child’s temperament and how it should be handled, but more challenging for the parent who lives with it day in and day out. Many of our clients come to us after the holidays stinging from the criticism and looking for detailed instruction on how to become a better parent.  No matter how old the child is, it's never to late to brush up on new skills.

According to clinicians, there are generally 9 different temperament traits that they examine when the child is responding to situations in a difficult manner. These include:

1. Disposition – Does he or she look at things in a positive or negative light? Is he or she moody?

2. Activity level – Is the child calm or always moving, fidgeting or doing something?

3. Approach to people – Does the child shy away from strangers?

4. Rhythmicity – Does he or she establish regular habits like going to bed at the same time each night and eating meals at certain times or is it all over the board?

5. Attention span – Can the child stick with a project or does he or she lose focus quickly? Does the child persevere to figure out a problem or give up?

6. Level of Reaction – Does the child respond passionately to a good or bad situation that arises, or does she react quietly and calmly?

7. Sensory – Is the child bothered by loud noises, certain food textures or smells, bright lights or speed?

8. Focus – Can the child shut out distractions and stay on task or is he or she easily distracted?

9. Adaptability – Does the child resist to change or make adjustments relatively smoothly?

One of the best things that you can do for your child is to provide the guidance they need to develop the character trait of flexibility. Some kids innately do well with change while others have a more stressful time, which can be amplified during the holiday season when your normal schedule is thrown off. To foster a positive attitude towards change, it’s helpful to start off by modeling the behavior yourself. For example, you are a vegetarian and get to grandma’s house for Christmas dinner only to realize that she hasn’t prepared anything you can eat. Show your child that you will make do without causing a stir by just having a larger portion of salad or by looking in the refrigerator for a viable option. When they see that you can roll with the punches, they will learn to look for solutions for a positive outcome as well.

If you know there is going to be a new experience coming up, talk to the child about the situation and listen closely to what the concerns are. Look for statements that include “never”, “always”, “everyone” or “no one” and help them rethink the situation with a more positive outlook. And, while we know that children thrive on structure and routine, it’s helpful to adjust things once in a while to show them that it’s okay to do something different. This way when they are at grandma’s house for the holidays and they don’t have their normal toys or electronics, instead of having a meltdown, they will learn to adapt and make the best of what they do have like a deck of playing cards, or a simple game of hide and go seek.  

Improve Your Parenting Skills With An Online Class This Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us and it’s a time when we’re all creating our “wish lists”, especially our kids. Whether you have preschoolers or teenagers, it’s a good time to teach gratitude. The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to reflect on how it’s not only fun to receive gifts, but to do so with a sense of appreciation. This season is about giving, and teaching children from a young age a greater awareness of the world around them and the importance of giving to others will stay with them their entire lives. Think back to your own experiences. I know that when questioned, our teenager can’t remember what presents she received 3 years ago, but she does feel a sense of contentment that she helped out that year collecting and distributing brand new pajamas to a local underprivileged community.

Modeling empathy and showing gratitude in your daily actions is the best way to teach this attitude to your kids. Of course this should be done all year long, but focusing on it during the holidays helps to reinforce the real meaning of the holiday. To start with, be a good role model by treating your family with kindness by saying “please” and “thank you” when they are considerate and helpful. Carry this over to the service industry employees you deal with everyday at the supermarket, Costco, the dry cleaners or movie theater. Watching this behavior will get your kids in this habit as well.

Have age appropriate conversations with your children about what is happening in the world. Ask them what it would feel like if they were often cold and hungry or disabled and went without receiving any gifts during the holidays. Take them to volunteer even just one day to help them understand how others live and show them how good it feels to help those in need.

If you have had some embarrassing experiences watching your kids rip open gifts in front of a crowd, only to exclaim that they don’t like it or already have it, try role-playing ahead of time. Set up the scenario and practice what they should say when they open a gift. “I know it was difficult to find something in my favorite color. Thank you!”

One lost art is the handwritten thank you card. We rarely see them anymore, but it is a thoughtful way to show your appreciation. Providing your kids with cards or making it into an arts and crafts session and having them watch you do it models the action. It gives them a chance to reflect on what they received and how much they appreciate the thought even if the gift wasn’t exactly perfect.

Talk about what you are grateful for whenever you have the chance. Some families take time during the dinner meal to have each person say one thing they were grateful for that day. Or, another good time to share these feelings is at bath time or before bed. Studies show that helping your children develop gratitude will help them to develop and maintain stronger relationships throughout their life.