Monday, May 19, 2014

Divorce with kids

The current divorce rate in the US is 50% - in fact, 2,400 divorces occur every day!* While couples with children are less likely to get divorced than couples without children, thousands of parents do choose to get divorced every day. Since this issue affects each of us in some way (chances are, all of my readers have in some way been affected by divorce - either you are divorced yourself, your parents are divorced, or your siblings or friends are divorced), I thought it would make sense to devote a post to divorce. However, while I am a child of divorce, I am not personally divorced. So I interviewed my amazing sister who is divorced, and is a wonderful single mom to two awesome kids - a 12-year-old boy and an almost 10-year-old girl.  

Q: Tell us about you and your family:
A: I am a divorced single mother of two children - a daughter who is almost 10, and a son who just turned 12.

Q: How long were you married, and how long have you been divorced?
A: I met my ex in 2003, and we were married in 2006. We were married for three years, separated in 2009, and our divorce was official in 2013.

Q: Tell us about your current relationship with your ex:
A: We try to remain civil to each other. We only talk when it is referring to the kids, but we make a conscious effort to be polite to each other.

Q: What is your custody arrangement? How do you think it works for your family?
A: We have a true joint custody arrangement. We live close enough to each other that this works well. We both have our children for two set days per week and we rotate every other weekend. I think that it is fair for our situation, because it is completely 50\50. We live only 2 streets away, and the kids can attend the same school and keep the same friends. Also, they can walk to the other parent's house anytime if they want to, as long as they walk together. They both walk to their dad's house every morning before school because I have to be at work earlier than my ex.

Q: How old were your kids when you got divorced?
A: At the time of our initial separation, our children were 5 and 7; they were 9 and 11 when we were legally divorced.

Q: How did your kids handle the divorce? Did you see any behavioral or emotional issues? If so, how did you handle them?
A: It is difficult for any child to understand. We decided to offer counseling services and lots of support to help guide our children through. We also used artistic and sports team outlets. We did have some difficulties and I believe we will face more issues as time goes on. Our biggest issue has been the confusion and hurt that our kids experienced from the adults speaking badly about each other. My daughter even threatened to run away once because she was so sick of hearing bad things about me. My ex and I have made a very mindful decision to stop any bad talk about the other parent, and I really try to stick to that. I let my kids vent if they need to, but I don't add anything to the discussion. I don't think that happens consistently at the other house though, so the issues continue.

Q: How do the kids handle things now?
A: Every day is different. However, I believe they are handling things much better now.

Q: Did you read any specific books or see a professional regarding how to handle divorce with kids?
A: I've read many books/blogs about divorce, single-parenting, starting over, and dating - snippets of this and that. It is helpful to get an outside opinion; however, because every circumstance is different, you have to follow your own path eventually. This book has been helpful, and I do read it every once in awhile as issues crop up.

Q: What is your support system? 
A: My support system consists of family and friends.

Q: What advice would you give parents going through a divorce?
A: Breathe! This is going to be difficult at times. It will not be perfect. It will not be a complete disaster. Find a good support system. Find a good outlet to keep sane. Personally, I enjoy exercise, playing music, cleaning, and perhaps a nice glass of wine to keep my head on straight. Focus on your love of your children. Divorce is difficult enough without children involved. Remember to not lose sight of being a loving parent, first and foremost. Guide your children, and let your kids be kids. Be mindful of the fact that they are impressionable and don't need to be part of the divorce.


Monday, May 12, 2014


Nothing can make mom or dad go insane faster than a lack of sleep. Unfortunately for parents (and kids!) sleep issues can continue for years, even after reaching the highly sought after "My baby is sleeping through the night!" stage. Sleep is so important for our health and happiness (and sanity) as parents, and it is even more important for little ones who need adequate sleep to grow and thrive (not to mention to be less likely to drive us insane). I have done a lot of research on sleep issues and strategies to try - you're too tired to do research, right?! So, read on, and happy sleeping!

1) Bedtime resistance (e.g., "I'm not tired!" "I don't want to go to bed!")
  • Create a bedtime routine, and stick to it as much as possible. I recommend beginning a predictable routine as early as possible (i.e., infancy) so that you have fewer struggles as your children get older. For older children, creating a visual chart outlining the routine may be helpful. For instance, your routine might be Dinner, Bath, Brush Teeth, Put on Pajamas, Read a Story, Go to Bed. Next to each item, you can put a picture to illustrate the step (such as clipart or an actual photo of your children completing the activity). 
  • If your child still says he can't sleep, allow him to look at a book quietly in bed. If you notice that he is awake long after bedtime, look at his daily schedule to determine if his nap is too long or if there is a more appropriate bedtime.
  • If you know your bedtime is appropriate, and you stuck to your routine, ignore any further protests. You don't want to accidentally give your child a reason to continue this behavior - getting your attention! So, be firm and consistent...and boring!
2) Bedtime avoidance (e.g., "I just need one more drink of water!" "I need to go potty again!")
  • Requests for water - allow one drink before getting into bed, and make it clear that it is the last drink. Ignore any requests after that.
  • Requests for the potty - Children should feel free to get up during the night to use the potty if they need to, but you don't want to encourage bedtime avoidance. So, be sure your child uses the potty right before getting into bed. If he needs to go later, allow him to go on his own (without your attention). 
3) Gets out of bed (at bedtime, or throughout the night)
  • Be quiet - there is no need for a big discussion. Just lead him back to bed, saying nothing or only, "It's time for bed now."
  • Be boring - don't give any extra attention right now. 
  • Be consistent - follow these steps every time, and you will see a decrease in your child getting out of bed.
  • When your child stays in his bed all night long, give lots of praise in the morning!
4) Scared of the dark

  • Reassure your child that he is safe. Be sure to have a night light in your child's room. You can even choose to let him help you pick it out at the store. If you don't have a night light, you can leave the bedroom door open and the hallway light on.
  • Try to make the dark a more positive thing for your child. Get some glow in the dark things (like those star stickers that go on the ceiling), or explore with a flashlight.
  • If he is still scared, you can linger in the doorway until he falls asleep, or turn on more lights. Gradually fade these supports over the next few nights until your child falls asleep by himself with a night light.
5) Bad dreams
  • In the middle of the night, all you can do is try to make your child safe and comfortable again. For some kids, they might need to sleep in your room; for some, they might just need a hug. Try not to talk too much about the dream at this point so they can move on and go back to sleep. Talk about only positive things.
  • Eliminate any "scary" TV shows or movies if you are seeing more and more bad dreams (especially before bedtime). Remember that even kids' movies can be scary to young children! My kids loved watching "How to Train Your Dragon" but they kept waking up from bad dreams about scary dragons, so we put that movie on hiatus. 
  • Before saying good night, talk to your child about what he wants to dream about that night. Make sure to focus on positive, light things!
6) Wakes too early
  • For younger children (still in a crib), allow them to entertain themselves in their crib if possible. You may place some books or quiet toys in the crib the night before. For younger children who climb out of the crib or get out of bed, just quietly lead them back to bed (again, being quiet, boring, and consistent). 
  • For older children, lead them back to bed as well. You can also try a toddler alarm clock (we had this one) or even a regular alarm clock to provide some structure on when it's OK to wake up. 
  • Gives lots of praise (or even stickers) in the morning if your child stays in bed until an appropriate time!
  • If your child continues to wake too early, make sure your bedtime is appropriate.
Things to remember:
  • Be prepared for sleep issues to re-occur when your child is sick, overtired, going through a growth spurt, teething, or pretty much at any time! Just be consistent, and you will get through it!