Long Distance Parenting

 

Your marriage or partnership has ended and you or your partner/spouse has had to relocate. What to do?  The best you can.  There are a variety of ways to be connected when you can’t be with your children in person.  Be creative and keep the contact as predictable and frequent as possible.

  • Maintain a good co-parenting relationship to help ensure the availability of your children.
  • Get a good sense of their schedules and try to work with them.
  • Ask their other parent when the children are most likely to be responsive totelephone calls, facetime and email messages.
  • Arrange a visit or call to their teacher to learn your about children’s strengths andweaknesses as well as class trips and projects. You’ll feel more involved intheir lives and they’ll know you are really interested.
  • For younger children you can record stories, or conversation, on CD’s,to be replayed at their pleasure. Just remember to buy a CD player if they don’t have one.
  • Watch some of their videos or favorite TV so you can talk about them.
  • Keep them up to date on your side of the family if they are not available.
  • Establish, or continue, shared interests whether it’s sports, the arts, collections.
  • Walk down ‘memory lane’ about fun and memorable past times, even withsmall things.  They’ll know you remember and cherish those special moments.
  • Make a calendar, if they don’t have one, so they can anticipate when you will be together for a visit or a vacation.  Keep them involved and offer some choices when possible.

Don’t be afraid to be creative so you can be apart together.

Children’s Divorce Rights

 

Divorce is a parental decision when an adult relationship no longer seems viable to at least one of the parents.   Children have no say about the division of their family.  However, they are entitled to certain rights during their upbringing which will reduce some of the stress of their family coming apart.  Mindful parents will want to observe the following:

  • Children have the right to love both parents.
  • Parents will work to share time and activities with their children.
  • When both parents are present, they will be cordial.
  • Children are able to have pictures of the other parent in their room.
  • Children are not to be used as messengers or ‘spies’ between parents.
  • Parents will allow private phone calls with the other parent and not ask questions about their conversation.
  • Adult business [legal, business or financial dealings] will be private.
  • When transferring children, parents will keep it brief and peaceful.
  • Parents will not judge or criticize the other parent’s doings or choices.
  • When possible, parents will acknowledge good things about the other parent.
  • Parents will be flexible, when possible, to accommodate social or extended family gatherings for the children.
  • Parents will never drive the children if they have been drinking.
  • Neither parent will speak negatively of the other parent’s family to the children.
  • Neither parent will rewrite family history.
  • Both parents will feel free to share stories better family times with the children.
  • Children will be allowed to freely take their clothes and possessions [unless they are too large or cumbersome] to both homes.
  • Parents will discipline on their parenting time only.

 

Respecting the above rights for your children will ensure their well-being from now and in the future.

 

Remembering Love: Divorce and Children

Remembering Love: Divorce and Children

You may be thinking that the above are mutually exclusive. Coming apart is painful, whether you or your partner chose it.  There are likely a bucketful of feelings related to the dissolution of your relationship – anger, sadness, confusion and resentment, not so pleasant.  Add feelings of relief, discovery, freedom, independence, self-reliance and growth when we feel acceptance and resolution.

Valentine’s Day, coming soon, reminds us to celebrate our love relationships. Hopefully we do that more than once a year, even when there is no holiday.   Your children were likely created out of the love you both felt for each other in the past.  Even though you may not currently feel that love for your former spouse/partner, your children are a constant reminder of that partnership.  Consider offering them a former family picture for their room. It’s comforting for them to know, especially if they can’t remember back when, that there were loving, happy family times.  Remember to relate some funny or nice stories from that period. If the stories are told with both parents present, even better.

So, just remember that old love, even though you probably do not feel it now.  Consider forgiveness. Letting go of regret and past anger and actually frees you and demonstrates to your children that it is not useful to hang on to negativity.   We need to spread a little  more ‘love’ all over this world.

Happy hearts to all !

 

The Fine Art of Negotiating With A Pre-Schooler

Too young to negotiate? No way! Your three year old has likely already has begun the process. At bedtime, “I’m thirsty” [ie, not ready for bed], ” I need another story”. “I need to kiss you again”. Sound familiar? They have begun. Time to negotiate? Absolutely. They know their own needs and wishes and you have years ahead of you to deal with their desires and yours.

Here’s the good news: conflict is an opportunity for resolution and your child can learn an important communication skill. It helps not to see your child’s effort as decision-making NOT only as an attempt to challenge your authority (though that has it’s own meaning, to advance their eventual independence)  but rather to recognize it as a sign of sophistication, intellectually and socially.

At this age, children understand your saying “If you are quiet at the doctor’s, we’ll get ice cream after”. they get the “if…then” statements. Compromise becomes possible when children are able to delay gratification. Compromise is an important tool in life, in so many ways. Children who learn to negotiate in pre-school have an edge. When others want something of his/hers, they an say “I’ll let you play with this if I can use yours”, etc. Such children can more easily cope with the increasingly complex social interactions they face in school.  when they are able to express themselves, there is less likelihood of physicality.

You can encourage your child’s negotiating skills before elementary school. Encourage him/her to make decisions, within certain boundaries that you have set. For example, “Which of these 3 dresses would you like to wear”? [not the whole closet full]. Your child sees you value her opinion and she still gets to make a choice.

Of course, certain things are NOT negotiable [safety, etc,] though you can still deal….”if you let me strap you in, we’ll listen to your favorite music, etc.”.

Let your children hear you negotiate with other adults. Be sure they hear you say, “Honey, you made dinner so I’ll do the dishes,.” Little ones repeat what they see and hear more than what they are told.

Let your child win some negotiations. There’s nothing like success to motivate them to try again. Enjoy and celebrate their new level of skill .

The New Year

Sharon Klepner Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The New Year

We hear about tossing out the old year and ringing in the new one.  We look forward to a new year, new friends, new experiences and challenges.  No matter one’s age, it can be exciting to go forward, not knowing who or what will pop up in our lives.  Especially if you have lived a long time [whatever age you think that is] and like surprises, the future is yours.

But, let’s not forget the old year(s) and all that it has provided us, moving into the future.  We are a product of our past, from way back to recent times.  Past challenges, problems and opportunities helped create who we are now.  There were experiences we learned from and we can use that ‘education’ living it forward.  Likely, there were mistakes made, offering us the opportunity to correct some of them or to reconnect with someone we may miss.  Apologies are about self searching and self-confidence and enhance growth .

Memories of old friends, homes, trips, music, etc. enrich our lives today as we recall some of those moments.  So, anticipate 2019 but don’t ‘toss’ out the past.  select and bring forward whatever will add to the new year and make it even richer.

Happy old and new year !!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas ‘Crankys’

 To young children, eight days can seem forever! The Yule pace has picked up at home and just about everywhere else. Parents are shopping, gathering, decorating, cooking and on and on….busy. They may be distracted, preoccupied and a little testy too. There is the excitement…or even a little stress [depending on the age and personality of a child]… of Santa coming down the chimney. “Will he fit? Can I hear him”?. Ads on TV, school presentations and projects, decorating the tree and the house, all add to the anticipation. “What will he bring me? I can’t wait”!!

 I have a little problem with some of the lyrics in ‘Santa Claus Is Coming To Town’…ta da ta da…” “You better not cry, better not pout” [good luck with that in any given day or week] “ He sees you when you’re sleeping”. Children are prone to ‘magical thinking’ so it why add a little paranoia at bedtime? What’s with “He knows if you’ve been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake”. Santa, NO bad kids! This time of year is especially hard for model behavior. What if they have been cranky and naughty and get presents anyway? Now there’s a confusing double bind message. Young children are literal and believe what they see and hear…and sing. So, maybe pick another classic to teach them. There are so many … : -)

When possible, slow things down and share your child’s wonder and glee of the holiday. That’s the best gift of all. Happy holidays to you all !

Post Divorce Parenting

 

 

Whether you are considering divorce or in the process, you need to think about how you and your partner/spouse will both parent your children. Unless your partner is unavailable or totally incapacitated, for any reason, you are in it together.  There are choices to be made.

Decide between you so no one else gets to mandate your parenting role, the most important job in your life.

  • Do you have similar parenting philosophies and styles?
  • Can you both work through different opinions?
  • Is there flexibility for the children’s benefit?
  • Is your communication reasonably good?
  • Do you trust each other’s parenting?
  • Can you both put the children before your own feelings?

If you can answer affirmatively on the above, than you are ready for cooperative coc-parenting. It is the best way for your children to flourish.  They learn that, although you do not want to be with each other any more, you are able to work together for their sake.  You will be good role models and add to your children’s sense of security and well-being.

  • Do you both have very different parenting styles?
  • Do you feel very strongly that you are usually right?
  • Is it hard to communicate without arguing, name-calling, etc?
  • Are the children ‘stuck’ between parents?
  • Are stalemates your norm with each other?
  • You both want to have relationship with your children.

If your answers are ‘yes’ to the above, than cooperative co-parenting is not going to work for you at this time [though, hopefully, that would change]. Parallel parenting is recommended in such situations.  When there is high conflict, parental contact needs to be minimized.  Your Parenting Plan would be more detailed so all (you and the children) know what to expect…a rigid schedule, no last minute changes and no direct parental contact.  Communication needs to be through texting, e-mail or notes, with just the facts, no emotion.  Think of it as a business message.  You all lose flexibility but gain peace of mind if parental contact is discordant.

If cooperative co-parenting is your choice, congratulate yourselves and keep it going!

If you are not able to co-parent in a cooperative manner, please make it a goal !  If you need assistance with that, I am available to help.

Partner/Spouse Communication

INSTEAD OF                                                       TRY 

Another business trip?                          I’ll really miss you.

You never listen to me!                        How can I help you hear this?

It’s your problem!                                  Let’s see how we can fix this .

You  put me down a lot.                         It hurts when you say that.

You don’t care.                                     I feel you are distant…am I right?

You’re always late!                               Can I send you a reminder earlier?

Stop yelling!                                          I hear better if you tone it down.

You deal with the kids now!                  I’m out of options…can you try?

You need to lose weight.                      Let’s exercise… together1

 

Separated/Divorced Parent Communication

 

Instead of                                                         Try

Where are you?  It’s your time!                  The kids are missing you.

You left them with a sitter, again?               With notice  I’m happy to cover you.

Mac Donald’s all week?                              I can share some healthy choices.

They spent All day on TV ?                           Let’s review some alternatives.

Their homework was not done.                      Here is our homework schedule..

They never call me from your house.            Let’s both have the kids call nightly.

You can’t speak to me that way!                    If you can’t stop, I’ll need to hang up.

There’s no supervision at your house.           Can we agree on some limits for him?

I’m not grounding Jack for you.                      We need to discipline on our own time.

I need a calendar from you!                            Here’s my calendar. Please send yours.