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For the Kids: 4 Steps to a Kinder Divorce

April 28, 2015

By Amanda Alpert Knight

For the Kids: 4 Steps to a Kinder Divorce | It's tough to stay kind and civil through a divorce, but this mom shares tips she's learned while going through her own divorce that can help you and your partner team up for your children. | A young girl looks at her father as he and her mother each tug one of her arms.

I never thought I would get divorced. I never thought I would be in a position to write an article like this.

How do you divorce kindly? How do you divorce in a way that ensures your children are okay, or even better than okay? How do you divorce in a way that each parent can maintain their sense of self, their pride, their personal well-being, and their ability to be the best parent they can be?

I’m not an expert—my divorce and parenting through it is a work in progress. But through the process of separation and divorce, I’ve learned a lot about what to do, what not to do, and what we can do to not only put our children first but to ensure that the process allows each parent to remain whole and to be set up for success. That is the key to ensuring the livelihood of our children. As my ex and I make our way through this process, I see a bright future for both of us individually and for our children thanks to these four key things we’re focusing on.

  1. Don’t give up on therapy during the separation and divorce process.
    Even after you both decide to divorce, continue to see a therapist or coach to work through issues. This process should focus not on the past and who did what, but on the present and what is happening. This professional is a neutral figure who can help significantly along the way. They don’t take sides and they don’t try to solve or figure out how you got to where you are, but they can help you figure out how to strategize moving forward.
  2. Continue communication.
    Because your children are involved, you can’t stop communicating with your ex. Figure out what the best methods of communication and scheduling are for each of you and be willing to compromise. You each might have different ways of doing things and you need to find a happy medium. There are several shared calendar apps available, like Google Calendars. Use technology to assist in scheduling and communication but stay consistent.

    Agree to share all information about the children (schools, childcare, afterschool programs, friends, etc.) with one another. No one should be left in the dark. There is no advantage to one parent trying to be the “superior” parent. And when other parents see you, as exes, being cooperative and supportive of one another, they gain so much respect and admiration for you.
  3. Keep a family dinner night.
    While I don’t know that this will last forever, we have informally continued to have family dinner nights one or two times a month with just the four of us (my ex, our two kids, and me). I hope we continue this tradition to show our children that we are still a team—we are co-parents who support and love them.

    As our children get older, it will also show them that they cannot pit us against one another. We work together as parents—we aren’t silos. This will not be an easy task if and when other partners come into play, but it’s a lofty goal that I hope to maintain.
  4. Express gratitude.
    Thank you goes a long way. I was really bad at this in the beginning of the separation. But it’s important to be thankful for what the other parent does, not only for the children but also indirectly for you. Swallow your pride and say “thanks.” 

It takes a lot of strength and determination, but parents can work together to make divorce kind and civil for the kids. Show compassion, cooperation, and support despite this life-altering event.

As an educator and a parent, I’m struck by all of the stories I hear about divorce. I think it’s time for a movement toward Kind Divorce—a movement where we don’t forget that life is short, childhood doesn’t last forever, and what we are teaching our children now will last them a lifetime.

Marriage is difficult and divorce is even harder (as it should be). So put in the effort to make it kind. Your kids, friends, and families will appreciate it.

For a holistic approach to parenting well-adjusted kids, check out our YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books, now available on Amazon


How to Remain Strong Parents Through Divorce

March 17, 2015

By Nely Bergsma

How to Remain Strong Parents Through Divorce | By modeling positive behavior, being honest, and keeping a united front, you and your parenting partner can remain strong parents during your divorce. | A young girl looks at her father as he and her mother each tug one of her arms.

When our children were 6 and 12 years old, my now ex-husband and I decided to divorce. It was not an easy decision for us by any means, and is very personal and unique to any family going through it. While some moments were more difficult than others, we remained positive, honest, and always put the healthy development of our children first. Now that our kids are 17 and 24 years old, I feel I have a good perspective of how our divorce affected them during various stages of their development. As you work through the dissolution of your marriage, keep these things in mind for your children.

Sharing the News
It’s difficult to tell your children that they may not be seeing one parent every day, or that they may be going from one home to another. There are a few key strategies to remember when you talk to them:

  • Remain honest.
  • Keep your explanations simple, direct, and age appropriate.
  • Whenever possible, address any concerns and fears your children may have together as parents.
  • Both parents should agree to share the same explanations with your children to avoid confusion.

Modeling Behavior
As challenging as it can be at times, parents should always remember that they model their own behavior to their children. If children witness arguing, they may become argumentative. If they witness anger and sadness, they may become angry and sad. Such emotions put them at risk of acting out, making bad choices, and becoming involved in toxic friendships and relationships. Both parents should try to model positive behavior with their children.

Keep a United Front
While you may have begun to build lives apart from each other, your children will always see you as “their” parents. Their level of understanding of the choices you made or will make as parents can depend on several factors. Their age and maturity may require different methods of communicating with them. Regardless, maintaining a positive and unified front when it comes to parenting will allow children to positively grow and develop successfully within all aspects of their lives.

Just as it is important for two people to parent together within a home, it becomes equally—if not more important—to remain in balance during and after a divorce.

If you have gone through a divorce with children, what was the biggest struggle you faced? What was the best strategy you used? Tell me in the comments below.

If you're struggling with how to model positive behavior during a difficult time, learn how to promote healthy relationships in the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. 


Dangers of Prescription Medication

February 18, 2015

By Amelia Orozco

Dangers of Prescription Medication | How to talk to your teenager about prescription medication use and overdose dangers. | A teenage girl, looking depressed, stares at pills sitting on her bed.

Today’s drug scene looks much different than what many parents may have been schooled on. It is wise to assume that our children must know more than to “Just Say No” nowadays, but to also know why they should refuse drugs in the first place. Aside from the typical street drugs, they should know about prescription medications and why they should only take those prescribed to them by their doctor.

To begin, it is essential to refrain from accusing your son or daughter of any wrongdoing without clear evidence. Doing so may alienate them, which may be difficult to remedy. Instead, be a role model when using medications, and make time for this important conversation.

It is best not to even start.
One good piece of information to share with your son or daughter is that the younger a person starts using any type of drug, drinking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes, the tougher it will be to break the habit later in life. In addition, many of these drugs—which may be seemingly harmless to them—are known as gateway drugs, or drugs that entice the use of harder drugs. Children’s formative years are truly influential to the rest of their lives. Remind them that as with many habits, it can happen gradually, so it is important to be fully aware of their decisions to ingest any type substance.

Use your thinking cap while it still works!
Thinking that an occasional pill here or there will not do any harm is dangerous because there could be long-term effects. Your son or daughter could be allergic to one of the ingredients in the medication, which may cause some type of illness, paralysis, or even death. Although there may not be any signs of ill effects even when used for years, there can be lifelong repercussions. Some are addictive and may cause heart disease, complications to the nervous system, and behavioral problems that result in making bad choices. Any of these factors, of course, will affect physical and mental health well into the future.

Stay one step ahead of the game.
As a parent, it is important to keep track of all your medications. Aside from storing them somewhere private and safe away from your children, you should also know how many pills you currently have, both at home and in refills at the pharmacy. In addition, try to only purchase your prescriptions from one drugstore to avoid the possibility of someone trying to get your refills at different locations. Nowadays, drugstores have online and automated services that will indicate how many times your prescriptions have been filled. This will keep track of everything in one secure place.

Finally, because YOU are your child’s first teacher, remind your son or daughter how proud you are of their decisions and accomplishments. Have an open door policy, where they are always welcome to talk to you about anything without pre-judgments. Allow them to use social media or texting to communicate with you if they prefer. As a parent, you have become more keenly aware of their style and gestures, and can pick up on cues that will help you start these important conversations with them.

Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.


My Story: Why I Chose to Stop Breastfeeding

February 10, 2015

By Ana Vela

My Story: Why I Chose to Stop Breastfeeding | There's a lot of pressure in the parenting community to breastfeed for at least a year. Why this mom decided to stop after seven months. | The image shows a baby breastfeeding.

Ever since I was pregnant, medical staff, family, and friends all talked about the benefits of breastfeeding. It made perfect sense to do it. Once my daughter was born, our pediatrician insisted that I breastfeed her until she was at least one year old. In the first weeks, my daughter and I struggled a bit, but once she latched on and I was fully producing milk, it felt like nothing would stop us from reaching that one-year goal.

Maternity leave was surreal. It was a time where I wasn’t working, had minimal obligations, and all I had to do was focus on my baby. Once that time ended and I returned to work, I instantly felt the pressures of returning to the person I used to be prior to having a baby: an executive director who worked long hours, a friend who was always willing to socialize any day of the week, a spouse who had a strong and attentive relationship, and someone who had household responsibilities. Now there was also a baby at home waiting for her mother to provide her breast milk, love, and attention. As someone who considers herself a strong and independent woman, I took on the challenge to still manage all of these roles.

Finding the time to pump became increasingly challenging. My work habits made it difficult to pause during the day to pump. I wanted to cram in as much work as possible in order to leave at a decent time. Traveling for work for several days at a time also became a burden. Planning ways to continue pumping while being in all-day business meetings was no easy feat. Socializing was tough, too, since I had to be more aware of my alcohol consumption and couldn’t stay out as much as I wanted to. Needless to say, I was losing this battle.

And then it happened. My milk supply began decreasing significantly. I took it as a signal that I was failing my daughter. There are several causes linked to a decrease in milk supply. I was experiencing several of those causes in my life and it was showing, which continued to add more stress on me. At some point it felt like I was formula-feeding more than breastfeeding because I couldn’t provide enough milk for my growing baby.

In the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books, the importance of modeling positive behavior comes up a lot. I realized that if I wanted my daughter to be happy, I needed to be happy. As the end of the calendar year approached, I analyzed what I could eliminate in my life to be happier—breastfeeding was on the top of my list.

With pressure in parenting to breastfeed, I was starting to feel uncomfortable letting people know I was willingly quitting. I didn’t want to be judged, or feel worse than I already did. Even my daughter’s pediatrician was not very supportive when I asked for medical advice in stopping. Not much research is out there where women openly discuss this, so I wanted to offer some personal advice.

  • Make sure your baby is comfortably consuming formula milk through a bottle.
    Knowing your baby is getting the proper nutrients before you quit breastfeeding will ease the stress. My baby’s pediatrician and I discussed this before I quit, and I recommend that you speak to your doctor to ensure your baby is ready for the transition.
  • Set a goal to quit and establish a gradual transition.
    I set a date to quit based on an upcoming weeklong business trip. Gradually, I decreased my feedings fewer times a day as the weeks went by and my supply continued to decrease. Stay strong in your plan—your body will naturally show signs of wanting to continue breastfeeding.
  • Enjoy your decision to quit.
    Although I felt guilty at first, I started to fully embrace not having to breastfeed anymore. Remembering why I made the decision in the first place helped. I continued to bond with my baby, began socializing more, and even focused on exercising. I was very fortunate to also have my husband be very supportive of my decision.

I’m proud to say my daughter and I had an amazing breastfeeding journey for her first seven months. Breastfeeding is a different experience for everyone, and only you know what is best for you and your baby. With less stress in my personal life I can really enjoy my time with my family, and I no longer feel like I failed my daughter. In the end, I made a decision that was right for me, and in turn right for my baby.


Resolutions: 11 Tips for Academic Success

January 27, 2015

By Maureen Powers

Resolutions: 11 Tips for Academic Success | New Year's Resolutions: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, academic success

Throughout January, YOU Parent has featured a series on making resolutions that address a child’s four core needs for success in life: social well-being, emotional well-being, physical well-being, and academic development. This piece on academic development concludes the series, but look back through the January articles for those addressing the three other needs.

Many strong families place value on learning and education. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is an active mind. Modeling a lifetime approach to learning is one of the best things you can do for your children. Start the New Year off fresh by making a commitment to focus on learning and academics for the whole family. Try any of these 11 tips and see the difference it makes with your child by next year.

  1. Learn a new skill, take music lessons, or enroll in a dance class at the local community center. 
  2. Sign up for college classes and work toward that degree that you have always wanted.
  3. Make a small library appropriate for the whole family by placing a basket of books from the public library next to the couch.
  4. Make a point to read in front of your children and let them know how excited you are about the news article or story.  
  5. Read whatever your teenagers are reading and carve out time to talk about it.
  6. Short on time but have a long commute? Use the time to ask about school. Get over-the-seat baskets for the car and fill them with brainteasers and books.
  7. Download a new trivia application and play it with your children. Check out this site for free games.
  8. Read a book to your child that is also a movie. When you are finished reading the book, rent the movie and watch it together. Talk about the differences between the stories, and the role of an author and a screenwriter.
  9. Choose one school event to attend each quarter that is not a parent-teacher conference.
  10. Find out about your child’s life at school. Open his or her backpack every day and talk about the fliers, completed work, and homework in the pack.
  11. Allow your child to do homework with friends at your house. Older children will enjoy having study parties before a big exam. 
Do you have tips to help your child succeed in school? Share your resolutions for modeling positive academic behavior in the comments below.
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