Parenting through Divorce

Tips on Parenting: Divorce
Divorce is difficult for the entire family.  Adults go through many feelings that they have trouble reconciling. You try to remain strong for your child.  I have many parents talk to me about trying to find balance in their life with their ex-spouse and do what is best for their child.  I have some simple tips on ways to reduce your anger towards your ex-spouse and keep your child’s best interest in mind.
First of all, it’s alright to be angry.  Once you have divorced, people go through the experience of loss.  Most people will go through the stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.  This is normal, even though it is difficult.  I see many parents going through these stages and trying to keep their children from seeing their feelings.  Understand that children pick up on things and are probably feeling the loss as well as you are.  I encourage parents to find a safe place for themselves to express their feelings without the child present.  Talk to a friend or family member who will listen and support you and don’t talk to them around your child.  Therapy is also a wonderful way to express your emotions without affecting your child.
When dealing with your spouse there are ways to check yourself to keep your emotions from taking over and getting upset.  You don’t want to bad mouth your ex-spouse in front of the children.  I have found that a few simple questions you can ask yourself will help you reduce your feelings of anger and keep your child’s best interest in mind.  
First ask yourself what your real reason for revealing any information about your ex-spouse to your children is.  If your reason is because you are frustrated with that person or want to get back at them, stop yourself from talking.  Your child does not need to hear you vent your frustrations, talk to another adult who will support you about this later.  
Second ask yourself is my child harmed by the behavior I’m about to criticize or will they be harmed if they don’t have the correct information.  It is hard to know what will and won’t harm your child.  I have found that the way a parent presents information is really what the child tunes into.  Suppose your ex-spouse is late in picking up your children.  You can get mad and say something to the effect of, “Your father is always late and never reliable.  What’s wrong with him, doesn’t he love you enough to get here on time?”  This is obviously a response based on anger and personal frustration.  However the parent could say something like, “It’s alright for your father to be late, sometimes grownups run late and can’t help it.  Let’s wait for him to get here, I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”  This is giving good solutions to your child about patience, which will also translate to you when you run late.  The child will also not think that there is a problem with them which forces the parent to be late.
Really, the best question you can ask yourself is, if I were still married to my spouse, and I wanted to protect my children’s relationship with them, how would I handle this problem.  Chances are whatever frustrating situation you are experiencing with your ex-spouse, you had to deal with when you were married to them.  You probably handled it with less anger and frustration.  If you want a healthy relationship with your child you cannot bad mouth your ex-spouse.  Think of ways to explain problems to your children with real world applications, you will have better outcomes with your ex and hopefully this will make them respect you in the same way.
Some of the ideas presented in this blog is from reading a book call, Divorce Poison by Dr. Richard A Warshak. I recommend it as a way to get ideas for parenting through divorce, especially when your ex-spouse is difficult to communicate with.

June 18th, 2011

Kidney Quest: 6/18/11
I had a wonderful experience with working with the Kidneys Quest Foundation on Saturday.  I have been running group therapy sessions now with the foundation for three months.  This week we had a new group of people to come to the session and talk.  I enjoyed talking with everyone and seeing the new interactions people have.
One thing really stood out to me during this session was the support.  I watched as people who had not met before this session talk about their experiences and offered help to each other.  One new member talked about her recent diagnosis of kidney failure.  My heart went out to her.  I could not imagine dealing with that diagnosis at such a young age and having to try to find ways to continue her life as normal as she can.  She was optimistic about her future and talked about her options.  
Immediately the other members of the group chimed in with their life experience and ways they have been managing their disease for years.  They talked to her about their limitations, but also the way they have found balance through kidney failure and how they are still able to work, play and socialize.  After people gave her their advice and experiences they started to offer up their support.  Each person talked to her about where she can go for information and how they were available to talk to if she had questions.  They even extended their kindness to her family, who might also have questions and concerns.  
Being able to talk to other people who have experienced what you have experienced is invaluable.  Here was a group of people who wanted to help and wanted to be there for a woman they had just met.  There are times in my life I am reminded of the genuine spirit which resides in people.  I see people who want to help, people who want to change and people who give their hearts to those in need.  I feel blessed to be around such people and to watch them connect and offer what they have to give.  

Parenting: Creativity

Tips on Parenting: Creativity
I remember when I was young and got into trouble.  My mother would ask me if I wanted a spanking or a creative punishment.  Oddly enough creative punishment was far scarier to me then the idea of a spanking and I would never opt for the creative punishment option.  Without realizing it, my parents were employing what I now consider to be a cornerstone of good parenting, creativity.
There is no one book out there that will give you all the magical answers to parenting.  There are so many styles between people, generations and cultures, how can one parenting technique be correct.  I don’t believe that there is a correct parenting style, more that people must match their parenting style to their child.  Now this takes creativity.  
New parents are going to make mistakes.  This is fine and part of the learning process.  I suggest to people to be creative with their children to find what works.  You might get advice from a friend or family member about ways to discipline your child.  I always encourage you to try the technique, you might find that it works like a charm, or on the flip side, doesn’t help your cause at all.  When something doesn’t work, get creative and try something else.  If at first you don’t succeed, try something else.  This is a great rule for parenting since each child responds to different things.  
Creativity will also come in handy as your child gets older.  You will find that your once obedient 10 year old changes as they enter the surly preteen years and on.  Here is the time to get creative and try some new parenting skills.  Children change each day of their lives and the parents need to adapt with their children.
Here are some great ways to work with your preteen.  Collaborate with them on the rules of the house and the consequences of not following those rules.  Set up positive consequences for behaviors which you would like to promote.  Listen to your child’s needs as well.  Teens often feel that no one is listening.  You would be amazed at how far listening to your teen can go.  Don’t be afraid to try something and explain to the child that you will try something with them.  Explain that if something doesn’t work that you will change it.  Your child will be grateful for the boundaries, even if they don’t express that to you directly