Tag Archives: child psychology

How to Handle Your Little Monsters

Dealing with Kids of Divorce on Halloween

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The pumpkins are carved, the ghosts are hung and the Disney Princess and Storm Trooper costumes have been purchased.  Everything is all set for creepily jovial, sugar-high fueled fun!  Everything, that is, except the logistics regarding who is taking the kids trick-or-treating; you or your ex.  Uh-oh.  This could be a potentially frightening night, for all the wrong reasons.

Before you end up forever haunted by the memory of this spooky holiday, let’s take a look at what the divorce experts have to say about successfully wrangling the wee ones this year.  We’ve collected information from Diane L. Danois, J.D., bonusfamilies, hermentorcenter.com, brendashoshanna.weebly.com and divorce360.com in an effort to keep the kids grinning widely on this much Hallowed Eve.

Some holidays can be tough for divorced parents; luckily Halloween typically isn’t one of them

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Determining who will have custody of the kids on Christmas/Hanukkah or Thanksgiving can be a truly trying experience.  Expectations from both sides of the families can be huge (“I need to see my beautiful grandchildren on the high holy days!”)  Thankfully, Halloween isn’t really viewed as that important to most parents (the kids don’t even get off from school), so relinquishing control of the tykes usually isn’t that big of a deal.  On the other hand, Halloween is very highly regarded in the kid community as much celebrated and glorious day (they get to dress up AND eat a bag a’ candy), so it’s important to think about their wants more than your own.

Come Together?

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Unlike a lot of other holidays, actually sharing the evening experience with your ex can be decent (granted, depending on how much you would like to see your ex as an actual skeleton, of course).  The kids are obviously adorable in their little Batman and Frozen outfits and the atmosphere is generally light (despite the frolicking devils, witches and demons, naturally).  Pairing up with your ex partner to drive your offspring door to door to beg for cavity inducing morsels can be a relatively harmless experience, all things considered.

Pick your Poison

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If you fall into the ‘I can’t even be in the same room as my ex without taking a machete to them’ camp, then taking the kids out together is not really an option.  So, you need to decide who will mind them.  The easiest solution?  Whoever enjoys the holiday more themselves should take them.  Meaning, if you revel in all the ghoulish elements yourself, the result is that your children will have more fun with you.  The whole point of this day is for your babes to have a good time, so obviously put their interests first (C’mon, you’re a parent; you should be beyond used to this).  Another factor that can help you and your ex decide who should have them this eerie eve is if your kids have a group of like-minded goblins they want to troll a particular neighborhood for Reese’s with.  If they have a set cadre of trick/treating chums, let whichever parent is more conveniently situated, geographically, have them.  It just makes the most sense and won’t confuse the kids at all.

You’re the (Boogey) Boss

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All of the professionals in the child psychology field unanimously seem to agree that this should be your decision (who takes whom), not your kids.  Putting them in the middle is not a good idea (clearly there are few, if any, circumstances where this is advocated).  You and your ex should determine who’s taking them beforehand and then that’s it, end of discussion.  The final nail in the coffin…

Play Nice

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As with all holidays in general, the kinder you can be (or at least appear) to your ex in front of your kids, the better for their overall well-being.  Nobody wants to see Mummy and Dad-ula arguing about petty things on a day that’s supposed to be full of creepy cheer.  Slap a grin on your face and get through the day; you’ll have the rapidly approaching Thanksgiving to grumble about soon enough.

Keep your Solo Spirits Up!

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Finally, if you hand the kids off to your ex and will be spending the night by your lonesome, don’t let the little ones think you are sad about it.  Wish them luck in scaring the other kids so bad that they wet their pants, kiss their clown-make-up laden cheeks, check to see if they’re wearing those annoying reflectors you got them and send them on their merry way.  Even if you’ll be Netflixing a scary movie all alone, make sure the kids think you are genuinely happy about it.  Nobody wants to treat-or-treat while thinking about how sad their left behind parent is (womp womp).

Follow these scarily simple tips and a good night will be had by all.  Then, you will have truly earned the right to ransack their sugary loot and gorge yourself silly on mini-Snickers.

-Joe Leone 

How to Talk to the Children of a New Divorce

 

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Divorce, while sometimes the best thing that can actually happen to a family in the long run, can take quite an initial emotional toll on all members of the clan.

When divorce occurs, children may feel confusion, sadness and even anger. Remember that teenagers are still children, even though they seem vastly different from someone much younger, and their emotions and ways of dealing with the situation will not be that of an adult. Each person’s reaction to this event depends a great deal on their age, their familial circumstances prior to the divorce and facets of their personality – and figuring out how to talk to them can be potentially awkward and difficult.  Luckily, there are techniques on how to properly communicate about divorce and its numerous repercussions.

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As a friend or an adult who wants to help a child of divorce, it helps to understand what that child may feel he or she is missing.  HelpGuide.org offers a list of what children of divorce want from their parents, including a desire for their parents to get along, even if it isn’t in the name of getting back together. Part of getting along is parents’ mutual restraint when it comes to discussing the divorce and the other parent’s faults. Children want the continued support of their parents for their endeavors outside of the divorce, and when discussions surround the reasons for the divorce or the faults of the other parent, they can often feel guilty or as if they have to choose sides.

Your job as a friend is to be there as an outlet for emotions and confusion. Many children, especially teens, don’t feel as if they can discuss the divorce directly with their parents because they fear hurting their parents’ feelings or being put in the middle of arguments. In some situations, the best way to talk to the children of a new divorce is not to talk at all. A good listener can provide the child with a strong safety net into which he or she can throw feelings, worries, and thoughts. Another duty of a listener is to watch for signs of extreme social withdrawal, self-blame, or other indications of depression, such as lack of appetite or sleep, preoccupation with hurting oneself, or a sudden or heightened attraction to drugs and alcohol.

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Sometimes, a child who is watching as a divorce happens may not want to talk about it at all. If that is the case, it is still important to periodically tell them they can talk to you and you will listen. Don’t pry, but make your openness to them clear. The key to being there for someone whose parents are divorcing is to not push them for information or to reveal how they are feeling, but to make them aware that you are there when they want to share. Offering information about a time you felt afraid may encourage them to open up, but make sure it is not a competitive statement that belittles how they are feeling. Saying something in the vein of “it could be worse” is not helpful and might make them retreat further or assume you will not understand. (source: Nightingale Center)

Recognize that what they are expressing is based on emotion, which can make a person act in an unreasonable manner and say irrational and overly impassioned things. If you don’t agree with the way they feel, it’s not always helpful to voice your opinions. Save your thoughts and criticisms for later and try validating their feelings and frustrations, especially when those emotions are new. The time for counseling and guidance will come down the road. (source: First Things First)

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One thing to keep in mind is how to broach the topic in the first place.  Sensitivity and timing are of tantamount importance.  Make sure you break the news when you have some time to spend with them right afterwards; they shouldn’t feel isolated in any way.  Another aspect that holds significant weight in terms of the telling is who does it.  Babycenter.com urges both parents to tell the child together: “Parents should break the news as a team. Telling your child together avoids confusion — he’ll hear only one version of the story — and conveys that it was a mutual decision.”  Obviously the more parents, even after divorce, can amicably work together on issues that relate to their children, the better for all involved.

Down the road, after the initial shock of the divorce begins to wear away, there are other factors that can arise that need to be addressed.  The most common is how to deal with the topic of a parent dating new individuals.  This will inevitably arise for one parent, and typically both, over time.  It’s best to discuss this openly with children, but not to rush things.  Onetoughjob.org suggests “When you think the time is right, sit down with your children and explain to them that you get lonely and need adult company, and the person you are dating is special to you. Reassure them that you love them and that they always come first no matter who is in your life, and encourage them to come to you with any worries.”  Letting children know they have nothing to fear in terms of losing you is important, as well as explaining that this new person isn’t there to “replace” their other parent.  The new person you are dating is just a new edition to the group.

The bottom line is that when communicating with children of divorce, parents, as well as others who want to help, are advised to keep messages about the divorce simple and to the point. Children don’t need to be involved in the details of the split-up, but they do need to know that they are not the culprit. Enabling children to speak up and express their thoughts without much interference or coercing can help prevent them from internalizing the negative feelings they have, and can help them be honest and truly deal with the situation at hand.

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