Posts Tagged Family

Getting Divorced? What to Tell your Spouse Before You Tell the Kids!

By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT

Ever go on a vacation without making plans in advance? The consequences are usually disastrous. If you fail to plan ahead regarding newspaper and mail delivery, feeding your pets or watering the plants, knowing where your destination is and reserving your accommodations, your vacation is likely to be filled with disappointment, frustration and even heartache.

What about preparing your children for your pending divorce? Do you have a plan – or are you going to wing it without any prior thought? For children, divorce is a monumental life experience for which they have no preparation. The very foundation of their security – their love for Mom and Dad – is being thrown into turmoil. Everything they knew and accepted as part of routine daily life is going to be affected in one way or another.  They don’t know what to expect and have little source of comfort other than their parents who are announcing the devastating news.

How can you help your children through this process? First, sit down face to face and talk to your children’s other parent, as if their lives depended on it. Regardless of your involvement with attorneys or other legal resources, this should be a conversation between two parents who love their children and want the best outcome for them.

Agree to set aside the emotional drama of your feelings for one another at this time … the hurt, anger, resentment, jealousy, competition, frustration, regret … and focus on just one issue: How will we tell our children about the divorce?

Put yourselves in your children’s shoes.

Picture each of your children and talk to each other about how each child is likely to feel and react to the news. Put yourselves in their shoes and feel their emotions with deep compassion. You know your children. Discuss their ages and personalities. Are they likely to blame themselves … erupt in anger … beg you to stay together … want to run away and hide? Find a place of agreement and be prepared with the most comforting words and reassurances that will resonate with each child.

Remind them they are not at fault.

Many children feet responsible in some way for their parent’s relationship problems and divorce. They need reassurance, again and again, that the problem is not about them – even if you’ve been fighting about parenting issues. Assure them it’s not their behavior that caused your conflict – and there is nothing they can do to make things different. You can say something like, “Mom and Dad have been having problems. We don’t agree about certain key issues and that creates conflict. So we are going to make some changes, but none of this is your fault and never was.”

Reassure them that Mom and Dad will always be their parents.

Your children need to understand two things at this time. Mom and Dad will always love them – and will always be their parents. It is important to emphasize that no matter what changes occur over the weeks, months and years ahead, Mom and Dad will still always be their real parents and no one else will replace them. Tell them you both will always be there for them, no matter where you live or how things should change.

You can say, “No matter what happens, no matter what changes occur, one thing is for certain. Mom and Dad will always love you. That will never change. Regardless of where we live, what we do and how old you get. You can count on that. And don’t ever forget it.” Make sure you live up to that in the arrangements you will be making.

Focus on change, not on blame.

Divorce is a scary word. It is wise at this time to talk to your children about change as a natural part of life. “Everything in life keeps changing. You grow bigger, stronger and smarter every year. The seasons change. You change grades and schools as you get older. Change means things will be different in some ways. It doesn’t mean things will be bad. Often change can make things better, and that’s what Mom and Dad want to do.”

Explain that it can take time for us to get used to changes, like starting a new grade with a new teacher. Other times change gives us a chance to do things in a new and better way, like trying a new sport or a hobby you grow to love.

Mention that the changes in our family are not about who’s right or wrong or who’s good or bad. “Mom and Dad both tried their best to resolve our problems. The old way didn’t work for us and now we will be trying a new way for our family to live so there’s more peace, calmness and happiness for us all. Let’s think about how we can see the changes ahead as a new adventure — a brand new chapter in our lives. It may not only be different – it may be better!”

Be confident and consistent.

Children are often frightened when faced with new experiences – and divorce is a monumental challenge for them to grasp. Keep reminding your children that everything will be okay. “Mom and Dad are working on all the details so you don’t have to worry about anything because Mom and Dad have it all under control.”

 This isn’t the time to go into a lot of specifics. You may not have many answers yourselves. Keep the message very generic. “We’ll have new ways of doing some things … some new responsibilities … some differences in our schedules. But life will go on. We will get used to the differences. Some of them we may even prefer. And after a while, we’ll look back and say, life is different than it used to be, but it’s all okay. Mom and Dad are okay, you’re all okay, our family is okay and we still love each other.  And that’s most important of all!”

Ideally both Mom and Dad should tell the children together and agree in advance about the messages you are conveying. If you’re having the conversation alone, you must stay neutral and not talk disrespectfully about the other parent that your children still love. Focus on your children’s feelings and reactions. Respond compassionately in the best way you can.

These core messages are the foundation your children will depend on when they are feeling frightened, sad or insecure. Repeat them often in your own words and your own style. You’ll be rewarded in countless ways as you and your children encounter and overcome the challenges of life after divorce.

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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is the author of the new ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook™ Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love!  Acclaimed by divorce professionals, the book provides fill-in-the-blank templates that guide parents in creating a family storybook with personal photographs as an ideal way to break the news. For more details, a free ezine, articles, coaching and other resources visit http://www.childcentereddivorce.com.

 

© Rosalind Sedacca 2009 All rights reserved.

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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

thanksgiving

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others. – Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That is how I feel as I read Sunday’s paper. On one hand, the dismal economic forecasts for 2009; on the other hand, the glossy slick ‘door buster’ circulars encouraging us to get up at 4am the day after Thanksgiving.

Our children are watching. We have an opportunity to fight the marketers back. A young mom putting her child into his Spiderman® pajamas said, “I have fought as much as I could, but he lit up when he saw them in the store. I loved watching the joy on his face and I had to get them.”

The desire to elicit joy comes from love. But as we approach the most difficult financial conditions any of us have ever experienced, we cannot do things the same way we have in the past. The need is pajamas; the want is Spiderman® pajamas. The instant gratification of that purchase is momentary and fleeting, for both the parent and child.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, be grateful for what you have. Are any of the items on the circulars glossy pages are among them? Sitting together at the table this Thursday, ask everyone to write down what they are thankful for.

Gratitude is a emotion that can get us through the most difficult times and put in perspective what really matters. Don’t respond to the ups and downs of a turbulent economy; instead be grateful for the people that matter in your life.

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Watering the Money Tree as we explain our Country’s Economic Woes to our Children

Brown legal size envelopes, edges worn with age and use would make their monthly appearance. Each outer label would indicate where the money would go. This is how I remember my father dealing with the family finances. In those days, people were not in personal debt the way they are today. They waited until money filled the ‘wish list’ envelope so they could actually afford what it is they wished for.

“I’m living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart. “ – e.e. cummings U.S. poet (1894-1962)

Exerpted from Because Kids Don’t Come With Manuals®

When asked to inscribe my book, it’s always the same, “Spend half as much money, and twice as much time with your children.”

Never has that been more true than today given the current state of the economy. Rather than feeling helpless, use this as an opportunity to teach your children an important life lesson – how to handle money.

As soon as children can understand, begin to discuss wants vs. needs. You can present that distinction during dinner; you need food, but you want dessert. “Happiness does not consist of having what you want, but wanting what you have.” – Confucius

Give children an allowance so they learn how to manage their own money. Be sure to setup a bank account in their name.

The family is a child’s first and most important experience in belonging. For that reason, make sure children have chores which you can find on Parental Wisdom.

Be a good role model. Teach your children how you manage the household budget and pay bills.

Instead of clothes or toys or electronics, consider family outings or time spent together as a way to reward children.

Encourage your child to select a favorite charity and to spend time and money on that charity.

Counter the overwhelming marketing of licensed products and walk down the aisle with your kids showing the different price of the plain notebook or the one with Hannah Montana®, High School Musical®, Cars®, etc.

Keep the change. A great way to demonstrate how pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters add up is to put the change from your pocket/pocketbook at the end of each day in a large jar. Don’t go to a bank where you dump in the contents and leave with cash. Instead, consider the old fashioned way of sorting and rolling the coins yourself. Make a guessing game of the total and then vote on what to do with the savings. Studies have shown the best conversations with kids happen during an activity.

Make it a practice for everything new that comes into the house, you remove something; preferably giving something to charity. “It’s possible to own too much. A man with one watch always knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.” – Lee Segall

Involve your children in purchasing activities. With their comfort level in navigating the Internet, you may be surprised how they can investigate the best purchases, especially when it comes to electronic purchases.

Discuss whether or not teens can handle a part-time job without neglecting schoolwork. Have teens set financial goals such as saving for a car.

Explain to students going off to college that credit cards shouldn’t necessarily be banned, but spending must be handled properly. According to a survey in USA Today, college seniors are more worried about debt than terrorism.

Despite conventional thinking you are not defined by what you do, but who you are and how you live your life. If you are at risk for losing your job, make sure you’re kids know that.

As always, the best lessons come from the wisdom of the past and nothing says this better than the following quote:

“The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced if the nation doesn’t want to go bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance. “

-Cicero, 55 BC

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The Promise of a New School Year

Each new school brings brand new sneakers, book bags and promise. Children start the school year with an A+; they have to keep it. Parents can help in a number of ways.

1. Plan ahead to reduce family stress
Whether it is the weekly meal menu, healthy lunch boxes, or having the school wardrobe ready, it’s always better to plan ahead. Include your children in the planning whenever possible. Rushing through the start of a day can easily spiral out of control.

2. Everything in it’s place
Keys, school papers, book bags, sports equipment, and musical instruments should all have a specific place in the house. Though parents can create the organization, kids need to maintain it. To help kids learn organization, consider purchasing Get Organized Without Losing It written for late elementary through middle grade. It has lots of kid-friendly humor and is written by Parental Wisdom advisor Janet Fox.

3. Set your children up for success
Studies continually show that children that each a good breakfast with lots of protein can concentrate better in school. Get them up a little earlier to start the day right.

4. Provide a study spot
a. Have school supplies in a place that is quiet and free from distractions.
b. Teach them about budgeting their time so projects are ready, not rushed.
c. Review (not do) their homework so you know what is going on at school.
d. Make sure you dig deep into book bags so you can read all school notes.

5. Don’t wait for a red flag or a bad report card before recognizing a struggling student. Contact the teacher before your child gets too far behind.

6. Encourage safety
a. If your child walks to school, make sure he knows how to obey traffic rules.
b. If she rides a bike, be sure she wears a helmet.
c. If he rides the bus, make sure the school district has installed seat belts.
d. Children can only learn if they feel safe. If your child is being bullied, discuss the situation with school officials and insist school programs that teach tolerance and inclusion such as Operation Respect. They offer free programs to schools.

7. Don’t let over-scheduling take away your precious family time. Limit the number of activities you allow your child to participate in.

8. Have dinner together every night. Use this a way for your family to stay connected and to let your children know they belong. Read more about Family Day, which is September 22nd. Pay attention to which subjects and teachers your child talks about. Often those are the teachers that have the most profound impact on your child. Write the teacher a note to let them know their influence.

9. Create an environment for lifelong learning, and teach your children that lessons can easily extend beyond the classroom. Extracurricular and family activities are good ways to help your child learn new things and gain confidence in his or her abilities.

10. Stay involved in your child’s school and participate especially when opportunities arise to meet your child’s classmates such as book fairs or school trips.

11. Keep in touch with your children’s teachers and let them know of any situation that may affect your child in school such as a family illness, recent move, job loss or divorce.

12. When your children challenge your family rules, as compared to their friends’ houses, such as no TV during the week, explain clearly but firmly that things are done differently in your house.

13. Routines are important to children as it helps them feel secure. Consistency is key when it come to bath time, reading and bedtime.

14. Remember you are preparing our next workforce generation. Be sure to instill the importance of showing up and not let your children stay home from school unless it’s absolutely necessary. In the same respect, make sure they understand that being on time is equally important.

15. Make learning real. Show how school skills are needed for such day-to-day activities as cooking from a recipe, balancing a checkbook and writing thank-you notes.

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