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Help Your Kids Through The Holidays After A Divorce

This time of year can become especially stressful for newly divorced families. After years of traditionally spending the holidays together as a family unit, now the kids will be with one parent or the other. Children are creatures of habit and thrive when they know what to expect. With this in mind you might be scrambling to come up with something that resembles what they are used to. Regardless, it will be a big change not to have mommy or daddy at the table and might cause some emotional issues at some point during the day.

If it’s your year for custody over the holiday, the best thing you can do is be a strong role model by creating a positive, upbeat atmosphere in the midst of all the change. Maybe this won’t be difficult because you are thrilled to be on your own. However, if you are depressed and feeling lonely, do everything in your power to overcome these feelings in front of the kids, and use your friends as a sounding board to complain to! No matter how frustrated you are with your ex-spouse, don’t say bad things about him or her. Your relationship is not their responsibility and this will only make them feel burdened with your stress or sadness.

Be proactive and come up with a solid plan so you aren’t trying to put together a group at the last minute. As soon as the plan is established, let your kids know what you will be doing. This will give them time to get used to the idea of what their holiday will now look like and hopefully get excited about it. When a friend had his first Thanksgiving with his very young kids after his divorce and found out that his extended family was all going out of town to visit other relatives, he came up with a completely alternative idea of having a Luau. He went to a local dollar store and bought a bunch of fun items like pineapple shaped drink cups, little umbrellas to put in the drinks and fake leis and lots of pineapple. This way he didn’t have to compete with what they had done in the past and the kids had a blast dressing up in grass skirts, listening to Hawaiian music and making fun tropical looking juice drinks. Or, another idea if you don’t have family to celebrate with this year is to take the kids to volunteer and serve meals for the less fortunate.

If you are establishing a new traditional Thanksgiving plan, talk to your guests ahead of time to remind them not to discuss your divorce in front of the kids. You are trying to minimize the negative effects of the split up and they are listening and noticing comments more than you think! Instead, make a sincere effort to be kind and make a point of having your child call the other parent to let them know they are in their thoughts. The most important thing to remember is that your child should be able to celebrate and enjoy the holiday without feeling guilty about leaving the other parent alone or for having a good time without them.

Parenting During the Teen Years

Divorcing parents are court required to take parenting classes as part of the dissolution process in most states now. Because of this, we’ve been getting more and more calls from parents of teenagers asking if they can take our classes online to fulfill the court order, and if our programs address this age group. The answer is that many judges across the country do accept online parenting classes because they realize how difficult it can be to get to a weekly class when working and raising kids. However, we always suggest getting prior approval to double-check that it is okay with your particular judge or social worker. The second answer is yes; our classes are designed to address all ages and stages from the toddler to teen years.

Parenting a teen these days is no walk in the park. When our parents grew up, they were taught to be respectful to adults and to be seen but not heard. Punishments were often harsh and possibly physical and the children were almost never consulted in any decision-making process. Then in the 1960’s and 1970’s things changed as moms and dads realized they wanted to have closer relationships with their children and help them to grow up to be more confident individuals. The result of all of this is that today many teens have higher self-esteem and feel much more free to state what is on their mind. The negative side is that with this, parents and teachers also find themselves up against more disrespectful behavior than ever before.

As the parent of a teenager, it’s not only important to focus on raising independent thinkers and confident young adults but to also instill a sense of morals, empathy for others, and respectful behavior. A key factor in making this happen is to focus on your relationship throughout the teen years, just like you did when they were younger. And, to be a solid and constant sounding board to continue to help them distinguish right from wrong.

So, while you are letting them have their distance to begin to make their own decisions, some of the most frequent areas of conflict will include their level of performance at school, how much time they spend with the family verses their friends, their choice of friends, driving and curfews and alcohol and drug use. There are some things you can do as a parent to still stay close to your teen during these formative years and help keep them on track:

1. Make time to talk to your teen every day! This might be while you are driving him to an extra-curricular activity, over dinner and even late at night after they are done with homework. If you can’t seem to get your schedules together, try to participate in something they want to do like going for a jog, kicking the soccer ball around at the park or baking some cookies.

2. Listen and empathize with their feelings. Try to hold back from telling him what to do and how you think he should run his life, so he wants to keep coming to you with his daily issues.

3. Open your home to his friends. Welcome them with a smile even when they aren’t expected so they will want to hang out instead of going somewhere else.

4. Remember that when your teenager leaves the room in a storm, slams his bedroom door and hides out for hours, it’s not about you. It’s most likely about his own need for more sleep combined with hormones and the general angst of wanting to be accepted by his peers that teens are constantly facing. Don’t take it personally or let it break down your relationship. Find a better time to talk things through after a good nights rest, a good meal, or at a less stressful time.

Co-Parenting Tips For A Successful Two Home Transition

Divorce is a stressful decision to make in any parents life because of the worry of how the kids will react and ultimately be affected. There’s no question that it will mean a lot of change, something that most kids don’t like. While you may not be able to fix the marriage and get back together, you do have control over easing the transition as much as possible. One of the biggest fears that children face is what will their new life look like? They don’t want to leave their school and friends, or move to a new home. Sometimes all of this is unavoidable because of finances but once you do settle into your two new homes, there are co-parenting tips you can do to help them thrive in their new environments.

First of all, set up one home as the headquarters. This is where the child will receive all school related mail and phone calls. This will cut down the confusion of getting some information here and some there and losing track of it in between. Furthermore, even if the child only spends 1 night a week at our house, try to get a place that allows him or her his own room. A quiet place that they can decorate and personalize so they feel like they belong there and not like a visitor. This space should have some clothes, toys and books that stay put. However, it should also be okay to bring certain things back and forth between the two homes.

Most of us who went through divorce in our own childhoods agree that there are some basics that should be in each household to reduce panic and anxiety. They include underwear and pajamas, a pair of exercise shoes, jeans and a few t-shirts, a blow dryer for a girl, a brush, toothbrush and all the sundries like shampoo, soap, lotion, razors, suntan lotion. Realizing as you are getting dressed for school that you don’t have closed toe shoes because you came over in flip-flops is no fun. If the child is old enough for homework, there should be a dictionary, thesaurus, computer access and school supplies like paper, whiteout, and a stapler at each house so there is no excuse not to make the transition. In addition, the child can pack a special bag with additional personal items for each visit.

If possible, rules in each house should be similar but in some cases this just doesn’t happen. Although this might be totally frustrating to you, it’s really not the end of the world. Children learn at an early age that there are different rules for different places. For example, we act differently in a movie theater, a park, church or school. The key is to make sure that there are a few rules that are consistent in each home like doing homework right when you get home and no electronics during dinner time sets the tone that you and your ex are still working together in their best interest. If you start to hear that “Daddy lets us eat ice cream before we go to bed,” just be sure to respond in an understanding and confidant manner that those are daddy’s rules that are followed at his house but not in yours. Shutting this down up front in a clear and calm manner shows the kids that you won’t be pushed around.

Successful Parenting Tips To Ease School Morning Stress

We talk to clients on a daily basis who say they want to take a parenting class because they feel like things are unraveling at home. They are fed up with it and are looking for guidance on improved ways to talk to the kids to get better results. In most cases, the parent understands that he or she needs to learn how to better manage his or her own stress and understand what is age appropriate behavior so they can work towards creating a more productive and happier household. A popular solution is to take our 4 hour online parenting class at in the convenience of home and whenever there is free time.

A reoccuring theme this week is how stressed out the school day mornings have gotten in the 2 months since school started. At first it was a tough adjustment but the kids were still excited with the newness of it all. Now that it’s pitch black when they have to wake the kids up and the rigor of the school year has settled in, it’s gotten even more difficult to get the day going on the right foot. If the morning has turned into a cranky, complaining race to get out the door on time, you are not alone! The good news is that there are certain techniques that parents can put into place to have the most successful morning possible. In fact, the success of your morning really starts the previous evening. Some key tips from researchers and doctors include:

1. Prepare as much the night before as possible. How many times have you dropped your children off at school to get home and find their homework or schoolbooks left on the kitchen table? Take the time to double-check that all homework is in the right notebooks and in the backpack ready to go. Check the weather and get outfits ready. Make lunches so in the morning all you have to do is grab the already made sandwich, bag of chips, fruit and drink and just put them in the lunchbox. Think ahead about what everyone will be eating for breakfast. If it’s a bagel and juice, you can have plates and cups out on the table ready to go.

2. Model a positive attitude about the day. Give yourself extra time by getting up a little earlier than the kids so you can get yourself ready. Show them you are dressed first before you eat breakfast just like they should be. Keep your complaints to yourself as you help everyone get ready for the day.

3. Create a routine. Children thrive when they know what to expect. Have a family meeting to explain the new order of events and that you expect them to follow this schedule so you can get them to school on time. After all, it’s a team effort. For example, get up at 6:45, get dressed and downstairs for breakfast by 7. Brush teeth and hair at 7:15. Put lunches in backpacks, get shoes on and everyone in the car by 7:30 – in that order. Keep things moving so there isn’t a lot of downtime to deviate.

4. Set up rules about technology in the morning. If your child is ahead of schedule, he or she might sit down with their IPad to watch a video, or start playing Xbox. If you allow this to become a habit, it eventually will derail the morning flow. You will start to hear “Just one more minute!” Or “Let me finish this game”. Instead, families who experience smooth mornings say that TV or technology is not allowed before school.

5. Pick and choose your battles. Fighting with your daughter about her choice of clothes or your son about brushing his hair every morning can send everyone off with a bad attitude. Either discuss the clothing situation the night before or let it go for the bigger issues that will inevitably arise.

Tips For Creating A Successful Parenting Partnership With Your Ex

Most of us would agree that going through a divorce when children are involved can be one of the most stressful things that adults go through. It is often filled with animosity towards the ex-spouse, turmoil, guilt and sadness and it can be very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. With this in mind, many courts across the country now mandate that divorcing parents take co-parenting classes to learn new ways to work together as business partners, if not friends. Working together to raise the kids is ultimately the best thing you can do for them for their overall long-term mental health. When parents model a healthy outlook about the new situation, their children are more likely to move forward in a positive way as well.

Some quick tips for the success of this new partnership and its impact on your children include the following:

1. Don’t blame, attack or put down the other parent in front of the kids. Confide in your close friends or family if you need to get your frustrations off your chest, not your kids. Avoid comments like “Daddy walked out on all of us!” Your ex is still your child’s parent and it only serves to make the child feel awful.

2. Don’t rely on your kids to be your companion or mediator because you are feeling angry or lonely. At work you wouldn’t ask a co-worker to talk to your boss about a problem you are having, you would do it yourself. The children shouldn’t have to carry that responsibility or burden.

3. Keep your conversations with your ex about the needs of the kids, not your own needs. Stay on topic.

4. Speak to your ex-spouse like you would a business partner at work. Regardless of how you feel about the person, you would never break down in tears, yell or use obscenities when discussing an issue. Instead, listen to his/her opinion, stay calm and be respectful.

5. Do your best not to alter the pre-arranged custody schedule. This shows that you are honoring the importance of the child spending time with the other parent and showing respect for that parent. Aim to always be on time for pick-up or drop-off. Children thrive on consistency and a routine helps them feel more stable in their world.

These points might seem obvious, but in the heat of the moment it’s easy to digress. Remember that your goal in all of this is to keep your children feeling as safe, loved and as stable as possible throughout this transitional time. You can give yourself credit for doing a good job if they maintain their friendships with close friends, they look and act like they always have, they keep their grades up in school, and continue to enjoy and excel in their extra-curricular activities. You will also notice that they feel comfortable to talk to you about the divorce and to ask questions. Role modeling this cooperative behavior will pay off in the end when your kids are thriving despite the divorce.