What to do when your co-parent talks negatively about you to your kids

For many of us, this is a very real situation we have to deal with. Our kids come home telling us that Mom or Dad said something about them. Personally, my daughter’s stepmom has badmouthed me for years now - since she’s been involved in their lives. It’s pretty constant for them and they come home to tell me.

When you first hear the bad-mouthing, you’re filled with equal parts frustration/anger at the person doing the talking and sadness for your kids that they had to hear it. The question that remains is “What do I do about it?”

The steps I’ve found to be the most useful are these:

  1. Focus on the kids instead of your co-parent. Phrases like: ‘I’m sorry you had to hear that.’ ‘Is that what you believe?’ ‘Do you want to talk about it?’ Can all help keep communication open without putting your kids in the middle.

  2. Decide if it’s better to bring it up with your co-parent or not. You know your co-parent better than anyone. Will it make it worse on the kids if you bring it up or will it help open their eyes to what the kids are dealing with?

  3. Empower your children. Make sure your children feel comfortable telling either parent when they hear something they don’t want to. That includes bad-mouthing. My kids have worked on phrases like, “that sounds like something you should ask Mom about” or “I don’t need to hear that” when they feel uncomfortable.

  4. Remember the bad-mouthing has more to do with them than with you or your kids. This is a great lesson for your kids, too. There will always (always) be people in their lives that badmouth them, especially if things are going well for them. The way you handle this is how they’ll learn to handle it, too. The things that are said have less to do with you and more to do with insecurities your co-parent feels.

  5. Don’t take it personally. When what you hear is taken personally, it’s harder to let other things go. You cannot control what’s said, but you can control your reaction to it. Think about where it’s coming from and go back to #4. This has more to do with them than with you.

  6. Actions speak louder than words. Regardless of what’s being said, your children are watching you and your co-parent live. If your kids hear that you never take care of them, but they watch you make dinners, help with homework, and chauffeur them from activity to activity - they SEE the truth. Time will tell what’s true and what’s not. Keep living your life as you are, knowing you show your children the best you can as often as possible.

Has this ever happened to you? How have you handled it when your kids have mentioned that your co-parent speaks negatively about you? We’re all in this together, know that you’re not alone in it.

If you're trying to avoid talking negatively about your co-parent after they've refused to compromise with you for the sake of your kids, this video and worksheet gives you the exact tools to help you talk to your kids about it. 

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Top 10 Tips for Talking with your Kids about your Co-Parent

Do your children talk to you about their other parent? Do you feel like your have open communication with your children about everything - including your co-parent? Do you feel like there’s too much communication between your children and your co-parent or between you and your children? Communication about your co-parent is a tricky subject and I hope to tackle the questions I’ve had with this list of 10 tips:

  1. Keep it positive. You don’t have to like your co-parent, but your children do. Keep it positive, all of the time. This means no snide comments, jokes about your co-parent, or comments about how much “better” it is at your house.

  2. Know that when you listen with the intent of hearing instead of listening with the intention of gaining information, you’re opening communication up between you and your kids. This means they’re more likely to talk to you about the big things like drugs, sex, and dating when the time comes.

  3. Respect their love for their other parent. In high-conflict situations, and even in basic co-parenting situations, frustration, resentment and bitterness can cloud the image you have of your co-parent. Your children don’t have the frustration, resentment and bitterness, however, so when you respect their pure love of BOTH of their parents, it opens communication doors.

  4. Ask questions. There’s a difference between being engaged in your children’s lives and interrogating your children. Here’s a quick gauge: if you would ask the question about their school day or playdate with a friend, then it’s generally safe for you to ask about time with their other parent. (Keep tip #2 in mind.)

  5. Be appropriately honest. My stepdaughter is struggling with her relationship with her Mom. She actually has more placement time with Mom, but says she never sees her Mom because she’s working all the time, even at home. It’s so bad, she started waking up in the night scared her Mom would forget to pick her up after school. My husband and I could have handled this a lot of ways. We chose to handle it by empowering her to talk to her Mom and ask her to put work away and spend time together, by always letting her try to Facetime or call her Mom, and then being appropriately honest with her. We told her that it’s important for both Mom and Dad to work and that one of the ways Mom is showing she loves her is by providing a house for her through her job. We could easily go down a negative path, but my stepdaughter’s emotions are the ones at stake here.

  6. Have a phrase to use when you are feeling nothing but frustration from the stories you hear. Like in the situation above, when my stepdaughter is in tears saying she misses her Mom after a 2 day placement time with Mom because her Mom did not spend time with her, we’re just as heartbroken as my stepdaughter. Rather than showing her this, we have a couple go-to phrases that we can use to remain positive for her sake. Those include, “What fun things did you do with (whomever she was with)?”, “I’m sorry Mom was busy, would you like to draw her a picture or write her a letter?”, and “Is there anything you were hoping to do that we can do together?”

  7. Don’t force it. Remember tip #4? You may be asking questions, but your children are giving the standard kid answers - “I don’t know”, “I don’t remember”, and/or “Nothing”. This is where asking questions can cross a line, so after answers like this, keep it short and sweet, but open with a phrase like, “Well, I love hearing about the fun you had together, if you think of something, I’m all ears!” Then move on. The point is to keep ALL communication open between you and your kids, so reminding them often that you’re ready to listen about anything goes farther than you may believe.

  8. Know that you won’t have all the answers. Sometimes it’s ok for you to say, “I don’t know how to respond to that” or “I’m not sure how to answer that”. Being a parent doesn’t mean you need to have all the answers. There are tough questions like, “why did you get divorced?” and if you don’t know how to answer at that time, it’s ok to use a phrase above and get back to them at a later time.

  9. Give the benefit of the doubt. When it comes to situations like my stepdaughter, we know that her Mom is there with her. We also know that her Mom does spend time with her. When my stepdaughter says, “Mom doesn’t see me” after a weekend with Mom, that may mean that Mom worked all weekend, it may mean that my stepdaughter wanted to participate in an activity that Mom didn’t want to, or it may mean something completely different. Hearing the stories from your kids can invoke a lot of fear and frustration when it comes to your co-parent, the same as the stories they hear about your house can do to them. How much better is it for everyone to give the benefit of the doubt than jump to conclusions?

  10. Make conversation a part of your everyday. This tip isn’t related to communication about your co-parent, but it is a tip that I am passionate about when it comes to children. Simply having dinner together once/week can open communication between parents and children in such a positive way. When communication is open, children will thrive and will feel more comfortable talking about the important things.

I’d love to hear from you. How do you keep conversation open with your children when it’s related to the divorce? Comment below.

Learn more about communicating with your children with the Communication Toolkit Video Series. Everything from telling them about the divorce to how to handle a new partner is included. Best of all, it's super affordable, learned on your time and in your own home, and private. 

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The Warning Signs of Childhood Mental Illness

A skill we must all learn is how to recognise the signs of mental illness in children. Children are labelled as being “naughty” and “bad” without it being given a second thought, but if you scratch the surface, more often than not they are unwell and left undiagnosed and unaided. Between the ages of 5 and 16, 1 in 10 children suffer from a diagnosable health disorder, which is the astounding equivalent of 3 children within every classroom!

When you’re co-parenting, it can be more difficult to spot the signs of mental illness, largely because of the fact you spend a little less time with your child. However, whether you spend a little or a lot of time with your child the signs remain the same. It’s more important than ever to begin to recognise what these signs are and learn to differentiate them from misbehaviour.

Behaviour Changes:

Children are always going to try and push the boundaries and act out from time to time, that’s part of the learning process and growing up. But if a child continuously acts out at home or in the classroom, displaying signs of distressed or aggressive behaviour, then this is a big red flag. It’s easier to recognise the signs if you spend a lot of time with a child, whereas if you’re either a parent who has joint custody, a child minder or a family friend, it can be trickier to differentiate between the warning signs and bad behaviour. If you recognise any mood swings, behaviour changes, tantrums or overwhelmed feelings, then don’t hesitate to act. Talk to the child’s teachers, co-parent, family members and anybody else who could give you an insight into what is happening. When you identify these symptoms, it’s important to be understanding and patient, shouting or reprimanding the child can result in them feeling misunderstood, isolated and more frustrated than ever.

Physical Harm:

A more drastic indicator of a child having a mental illness is physical abuse. This is more commonly associated with older children, who turn to cutting and burning themselves, disfiguring their bodies and causing physical harm in any way, as an outlet or escape. Although this is commonly associated with older children, younger children may also turn to physical harm, by either digging their nails deep into their skin, banging their head against the wall or holding their breath. These symptoms are often subtle and remain hidden, if you have any reason to believe that your child, or somebody else’s child is self-harming, it’s import to make sure that you speak to them and reassure them that they are safe and understood. Self-harming can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions, so it’s important to seek professional advice and also suggest counselling as a way for the child to talk through their feelings and actions.

Don’t Hesitate:

It’s easier to recognise these signs when the child is your own, regardless of how much time you spend with them, you know how they think, act and behave and you know when something isn’t right. It’s more difficult to recognise these signs when the child is not your own, or if you spend little to no time with them. Regardless of this, the signs are unchanging, and if you have reason to believe that a child is unwell, it’s your responsibility to take action, either consult their parents, co-parent and moving forward a specialist. So many children are left undiagnosed, now is the time to recognise the signs and take action.

This infographic was created by Lorimer Fostering to raise awareness for children’s mental health.

Thank you to Rebecca Harper, Freelance Writer for today's article! You can find Rebecca @BeccHarps

Mental illness is a serious, yet treatable condition. See a professional if you believe you're dealing with depression or anxiety. If you're simply finding it hard to cope with the emotions that come with divorce, the Emotional Freedom workbook could be what you need. 

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How to Let the Kids be Kids After Divorce (and why it matters)

The biggest worry parents have when they consider divorce is how the kids will react. No matter what you try to do, divorce is going to affect your children. There’s no way around it, it is a huge change in their lives. That’s the bad news. The good news is that one of the easiest ways to help your kids manage the new life change is to let them be kids!

Divorce is big and heavy and hard - for everyone. Giving your kids a chance to just be a kid can give them the space they need to get away from the feelings of heaviness for awhile.

How do you let your kid be a kid after divorce?

First, make sure there is playtime. Whatever the age of your children, there is something they like to do to just play. Even teenagers will listen to music, get involved in sports, or work on a hobby. As busy and chaotic as your life will feel, theirs will, too. You and your kids will benefit from playtime. Even if you have to schedule it, make it happen.

Get involved in playtime. Granted, this is easier with younger kids, but it can certainly happen with older children, too. Get on the floor with your younger kids. Schedule time to just enjoy whatever you and your older kids enjoy together. When you’re involved in their playtime, it makes them feel safe and loved.

Do not involve them in grown-up issues. You and your ex will disagree. You will want what’s best for your kids. Your ex will want what’s best for your kids. You may have 2 different ideas of what’s best for them. Asking your children to choose is unfair and puts them in a place no child wants to be. Having to choose between your parents is a feeling no child should have to feel.

Regardless of how you feel about your ex, your kids should only see that you want them to have a relationship with their other parent. Snide comments, constant questions, and badmouthing are noticed by your children. This turns into resentment and robs them of a childhood filled with love. Your children need to see that you love them and that you love their relationship with their other parent.

Teach them fun ways to manage the difficult times. Parents, therapy like adult coloring are popular for a reason. Remember back to your childhood? If you could sit and color a picture without a care in the world for an hour, there’s no reason you can’t again - this time with your kids! Did you used to take a basketball outside for hours and shoot hoops? Maybe you grabbed your fishing pole and lost track of time and all that was wrong. Whatever it is, now is the time to introduce it to your kids as a way for them to get away. Life has a way of having issues come up. When that happens, having a tool to manage it is the key to moving on.

Playtime isn’t just about play. It’s about safety, security, laughter, and even a way to manage the negative in life. Giving your kids a chance to be a kid is exactly what this Coach prescribes. In fact, try a dose or two for yourself, too.

Struggling with your own emotions? You're not alone. Divorce is listed as one of the top stressors you may ever go through. It's fair to say that it'll take awhile to get over it. In fact, new research shows the average is 2 years to get over a divorce. If you want to help move that along, the Emotional Freedom workbook is available for download right now. 

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Holiday Traditions After Divorce

This is the time of year when traditions you’ve built with your children are most important. From Thanksgiving through New Years, there are many family traditions that come up: baking, dinners, shopping, movies, and family get-togethers to name a few. After a divorce, the time you spend with your kids is limited, so it can be hard to make the traditions work. Here are my tips for continuing on with the most important parts of your holiday and building new ones.

First, know that the day you practice your tradition isn’t as important as the tradition itself. If you and your ex have an alternate year schedule for the Holiday days, you won’t be able to schedule family get-togethers on the Holiday itself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it!

Be careful about over-scheduling as you work through some of these traditions. Years ago, it was easy for my sister and I to get our kids together for an annual cookie-baking day. Now, however, between my placement schedule, our kid’s extra-curriculars, and the jobs the teenagers hold, it’s much easier to exchange cookies rather than make them together. Sure, if we pushed it hard, we could prep the dough the night before, leave from the basketball tournament, meet at the closest house, bake for 3 hours, rush out and get to another child’s event, but that takes some of the fun out of it, doesn’t it? The point of traditions like these is to enjoy time together as a family and, at least for us, it’s hard to enjoy that time if we’re constantly worried about getting out on time to get to the next scheduled activity. Picking and choosing the most important traditions while being flexible makes it all work.

Make traditions for you and your kids that you can continue for years to come. Their definition of “family” grows larger after a divorce, you and your kids are part of that definition. What makes sense for you? For my children and I, Christmas Eve is our Christmas. I have them every year from Christmas Eve through Christmas Morning, so we’ve been able to build some really wonderful things during those times that my kids appreciate more every year they grow.

The Holidays are a time for family, remember that your ex and his/her significant other (if they have one) are family for your children, too. Just as your kids love spending time with you, they’ll also enjoy time with the rest of their family.

While the kids are with the rest of their family, create something to help you feel less alone. Christmas Day, my kids are with their Dad, every year. Every year, Santa delivers me a new book and a delicious bottle of wine. After I drop the kids at their Dads, I get a nap, a day in pajamas, a new book, and with my dinner - a glass (or two) of wine. It’s my tradition that I carried into marriage with my husband now. While I have book time, he has remote time and a list of DVR’d shows he didn’t get to watch while I watched every Christmas movie that came on TV :) This makes the sting of missing out on time with our kids on Christmas Day just a little less difficult to handle.

Comment below with your favorite traditions with your kids and how you’re making the schedules work.

The right mindset can make your Holidays special no matter what the circumstances. You can download the Mindset workbook right now. #changeyourmindset #changeyourlife 

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Ways to Save Money After a Divorce

To say that your life changes after a divorce is a giant understatement. Co-parenting, your home, and finances are 3 of the biggest changes. Some would argue that finances should be near the top of the list of changes that are extremely difficult to overcome. You need money to take care of yourself and kids, right? Where does it come from now that you’re down to one income?

In today’s post, I’m going to give you a list of the ways I’ve found to raise kids on a single income. Let me tell you, it’s been a long road for me. Personally speaking, I was making not much more than $30,000 when I got divorced and I had to pay my ex $500/month in child support. When you do the math, after taxes and child support, I was at just under $20k to house, feed, clothe and transport myself and my daughters. I wasn’t on any government assistance, but was able to get by. Here’s how I did it. (I have to give some major credit to my incredible sister who is a brilliant household financial mastermind and who helped me get from the point above to where I am today.)

  1. Planning. If you are able to plan out meals in advance, you’re able to save money. Think about what happens when you run to the store after work to just pick up a few things for dinner. Do you walk out with just a few things for dinner or do you end up with dinner, dessert, breakfast for tomorrow, a snack for later, and some items that are just a good price? This is, by far, the number one way to save money for me. Planning also includes making (and sticking to) a budget! Pinterest is chalk-full of ideas.

  2. Shop at discount stores. We have an Aldi here. I buy everything other than meat at Aldi. Meat is purchased based on sales. We’re not huge meat eaters, either, so many times in a week, we don’t eat that. This helps the budget immensely.

  3. Buy used. I love our local Goodwills. This year, my daughters were able to get name brand winter coats (e.g. Columbia, Kenneth Cole, etc.) for under $50 for all of them. One of them even had the original tags on it. Besides Goodwill, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and Letgo are some of the apps where you can find used, name brand material.

  4. Use the 48 hour rule. For every expensive item you want to purchase, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” After 48 hours, if the answer is yes, buy it! Waiting 48 hours to purchase expensive items prevents impulse buys and buyer’s remorse.

  5. Sell old items. Just like buying used, selling items can be another way to make new items more affordable. Do you have an old TV, but want to upgrade? If you sold your old TV, a new one would be a fraction of the price, right? Be safe about it, but use what you can (e.g. Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, Letgo, eBay, etc.)

  6. Do not use credit cards. Unless you have to. Sometimes you need to increase your credit score and credit cards are a way to do that. Outside of those situations, I’ve found that using credit cards makes it harder to stay in control of where you money goes and you’re always playing catch up from the month before.

Those are just some of what’s worked for me. I can honestly say this all from personal experience. Post-divorce, I finished my degree that I had started while married, went onto my Master’s Degree and moved into an entirely new career field. Being able to continually go back to these tips has made the transition seamless for my kids. Now that they’re older, I love watching them shop sales, clearance, and online deals to get the best price possible!

It’s not easy to get through the financial strain divorce creates, but it IS possible. Comment below with your tips for getting through difficult financial situations after your divorce (remember to be supportive).

Just because you're here, I know you are a frugal single parent. As a thank you for reading this post (and hopefully others here!), I'm giving you a coupon code for 25% off of any order. Simply use the coupon code: FRUGALSINGLEPARENT when checking out :) 

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What Happens to the Kids After Divorce

It’s the worry every parent has. What happens to the kids after divorce? Will they be ok? Will this ruin their lives? Am I doing the right thing? In this week’s post, I’m breaking down some of the thoughts/feelings kids have after divorce to help you plan for handling it. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, there’s a lot of support along the way when it comes to handling your kid's thoughts and emotions.

Kids are naturally selfish. They’re supposed to be! It’s part of how they navigate the world and learn. When they first hear about the divorce, one of the feelings they’ll have (and may ask you) is What’s happening to me?

There are so many variations of this including, “Why is this happening to me?” and “What now?” For children, safety is generally found in their homes, so when big changes come in their home, they need to know how it’ll affect them so they can feel safe.

Think back to your own childhood. You loved both of your parents, didn’t you? Maybe you felt closer to one or the other, but you certainly didn’t want to lose either of your parents. You loved them! In fact, you loved them so much, you didn’t want to disappoint them.

In divorce situations, Kids worry, “Whose side should I be on?” It’s easy to understand why, isn’t it? You’re worried about how they’ll handle the change divorce brings. Your ex is likely worried about the same thing. Your kids are worried about disappointing you. When the kids feel this, it’s generally when they’ll say what they think you want to hear post-divorce. Phrases like, “I wish I could see you all the time” come up and many parents interpret that as their kids saying they want to be with them instead of their ex. In many cases, what this means is, “I don’t want to disappoint my Mom/Dad, I really DO wish I could see them all the time, I just wish it was with both Mom and Dad.”

Kids thrive in routines. Mom wakes them up. Dad makes breakfast and gets lunches together. Mom takes them to school. Dad picks them up. They do homework and either Mom or Dad make dinner. This is life. When divorce happens and Mom and Dad live separately, they’re left wondering, “What happens now?” It’s the little things like who’s going to make breakfast when I’m at Mom’s house that can make them worry all night long. Though it’s small and you know that you’ll handle breakfast easily, they may be scared to ask.

All of these questions run through the minds of many kids. How many of them ask their parents? It depends on your relationship, on your level of communication, and how often you get to discuss these things with them.

Most parents focus on the kids after divorce albeit in their own way. While one is worried about school and homework, the other may be worried about getting their kid’s toys and games together at both homes so their child feels safe in both places. This post is meant to help you understand what may be beneath the surface. When kids aren’t able to or aren’t willing to communicate what they’re thinking to you, it comes out...it comes out in ways that parents worry about, namely difficult behavior.

Comment below with what your children struggled with after your divorce.

For many parents, THEIR emotions need to be in check before they can have these conversations with their kids and that’s perfectly normal. With the Emotional Freedom Workbook, that peace and freedom can be yours!

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Parallel Parenting and School

For those of you who aren't co-parenting, parallel parenting is the alternative that you turn to. You do what works at your house, your ex does what works at their house. It limits communication as the parties aren't trying to compromise, and while it's not as easy on the kids as co-parenting is, it's considerably easier on the kids than having parents who cannot communicate argue constantly. 

So what happens when your kids are in school and you need to communicate to get things done? I'm thinking about long-term projects, extra-curricular activities, even choir or band nights here. How do you make sure your kids are getting what they need without making it harder on them? Here are my tips for making parallel parenting work:

  1. Try communicating with your ex. The first step should always be to try and communicate with them. Mention the event and see what type of response you get. If it's no response or an awful response, you can always get out of the conversation by explaining what you'll be doing or by saying, "Thank you" and move on to some of the other suggestions. 
  2. Create a "kids only" calendar. Google is a great option for this as the google calendar can be used on any smart phone, accessed online on any computer, and available when needed. What's great about this is that the kids can get involved (if appropriate age-wise) and list items they need both parents to be aware of. If you're using CoParently or Our Family Wizard, there's an excellent calendar built into those! Put the kids activities on it. If your ex chooses not to pay attention to it or doesn't put items on it, there are ways around it (frustrating, but realistic for some individuals). 
  3. Check with the school for an online calendar. Most school's now-a-days list many of the school activities online, so you can easily sync it with the calendar mentioned above. It eliminates the need for someone to input items into the calendar and keeps things open. Sometimes you can even get the homework due dates on an online calendar. If not, and you have a child who struggles to get homework turned in on time, this is a great activity to keep him/her engaged - have THEM put the homework due dates on the calendar so both parents can follow up.  
  4. Go straight to the source. If your ex refuses to tell you what's happening - go to the source. Contact the school and ask for separate copies of notes. Go to the coach and ask for your own calendar. Skip the aggravation and handle it on your own if you need to. (Note: This isn't fair. It is frustrating. It shouldn't be this way. Sometimes it is, though, and I'm genuinely sorry if this is you, know that you are not alone.)

There's no use in trying to sugar coat it. It isn't easy to parallel parent and get your kids through school. In fact, it isn't easy to get kids through school. It is possible, however, and these are just a couple of the creative ways to do it. Generally speaking, when parallel parenting, there can be at least 1 parent who is focused on the academics. Sometimes that parent bears the brunt of getting things done for school, but I tell these parents that it's better to have at least 1 parent engaged for their kids' sake than 0 parents engaged. 

Comment below with how you manage in parallel parenting situations and still get things done for school. 

Have you liked me on Facebook yet? There are even MORE tips, MORE inspiration, and humor to help you parent after divorce. I'd love to see you there :)

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Real Communication Stories

Throughout this series on communication (scroll through the blog posts to find more in this series), you’ve learned how important it is for communication to be open in your house - especially after a divorce. You’ve learned that what you do either opens or closes the door of communication between you and your kids. You’ve read that communication isn’t just about what’s said and that there’s some communication you can control and some you cannot. In today’s post, I am going to give you real communication stories I’ve heard in my years of working with families. (All the names and some of the details have been changed to protect families, but the lesson in each of these stories remains in tact.)

Story 1: This story has been made public. It’s the story of an adult who wrote a letter to her Dad. When she was 18, she stopped following the visitation schedule. Her Dad told his daughter that she had let her Mother get to her. The letter was a very raw, honest attempt to show Dad that the decision was hers and hers alone, that it was based in years of her Mom pushing her daughter to have a relationship with her Dad and Dad badmouthing Mom throughout. As I’ve said throughout the communication series, your kids love both you and your ex. Bad-mouthing your ex, even if they deserve it, only hurts your children, and in this case (and others like it), it hurts your relationship with your kids. You can read the full letter here on my Facebook page (don’t forget to give it a like for more stories like this).

Bad-mouthing your ex doesn’t just hurt your child, it hurts your relationship with your child.

Taking communication at your child’s pace can make the difference between a relationship or no relationship.

Story 2: After the divorce of their parents, these sisters transitioned to the Mom’s house/Dad’s house pretty well. The parents did a good job of allowing the kids to wear what they want (regardless of who bought it) between the homes and bring various electronics or other items between the homes. This made the kids feel comfortable with the transition. The difference was in the way Mom’s house and Dad’s house handled family time. In Mom’s house, there were family events like game night or movie night, but there was also time for each family member to enjoy their own hobbies and alone time. Everyone had a say in what games to play, what to eat during family dinners, and what to watch during movie night. In Dad’s house, family time happened every night and Dad and Stepmom chose the movie, the food, and had the kids make it and set it up. The kids didn’t feel as much of a part of the family at Dad’s as they did at Mom’s. This resulted in Dad asking the kids to follow the visitation schedule when they turned 18, and the kids saying they had no intention of doing that. You see, they needed to have a say, they needed their opinions to matter, and they needed to be themselves. You can learn more about this in the Communication Toolkit lesson on opening communication.

The questions you ask can make your child open up or shut down.

Story 3: After the divorce of Mom and Dad while their child was still young, the child was having difficulty transitioning between the homes - or so it seemed. While at Mom’s house, she would cry and ask Mom to sleep in her bed with her. She cried extensively when being dropped off at school, to the point that the school counselor got involved. She didn’t sleep through the night at all and woke up very early. At Dad’s house, she went to bed perfectly and slept alone all through the night. She slept so well that Dad had to wake her up in the morning. Her drop-offs at school were perfect, in fact the counselor and teachers asked that Mom use the same routine Dad and Stepmom did. What’s the difference between the 2 homes? At Mom’s house, as soon as her daughter was with her, the interrogation began: What did you do at Dad’s? Was your Stepmom there? Who did you go with? What did you wear? What did you eat? The questions didn’t stop! This girl felt anxious and felt like her answers either made Mom happy or made Mom sad. This girl put all this pressure on herself, thinking she was what made Mom happy or sad, and it affected her daily. At Dad’s, she could just be herself. She could play, rest up, and know that Dad was happy no matter what, but that time with her made him happier. It was a healthy relationship. You can learn more about this in the Communication Toolkit lesson on communication traps.

In each of those stories, you see the effects of communication on your children. You see that by putting the kids first, by putting the relationship your kids have with you and their other parent first, the parents made their children feel comfortable and loved. When the parents were out to try and compete with their ex, when the parents were trying to force family time, when the parents were trying to interrogate instead of gently involving themselves - it backfired. You can learn more about this and other lessons in the Communication Toolkit.

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Are you helping your kids open up or closing them off?

You already know how important communication is between you and your kids - especially in divorce situations, but what are you doing to ensure there’s open communication between you and your kids?

Everything you do with your kids, can either open communication or close it. In this post, you’ll learn my top tips for ensuring you keep communication open between you and your kids.

f you do nothing else, do this to keep communication open with your kids.

I won’t even beat around the bush - listen to your kids. If you’re a part of my Facebook community, you’ll see that I posted a statistic that says we spend 7 minutes a day talking to our kids and the rest of the time talking at them.

Let that sink in for a moment. How many times a day do you say, “Get your coat”, “Do your homework”, “Where are your shoes?”, etc.? Even when you ask your kids about their day, are you in the middle of making dinner or answering emails that came in while you were picking the kids up?

If you do nothing else, make sure you’re taking the time to really listen to your kids. The rewards you get from doing that are immeasurable and your kids feel like they can tell you anything, because you’ll hear it.

The way you open up to them tells them how open they can be with you.

If you’re expecting your children to tell you about their day, about their other parent’s house, about their homework, and everything else in their world - wouldn’t it make sense that they know a little about your life, too?

Don’t get me wrong. Your children are not your friends, but do your children know what you do on a day-to-day basis at work? Do they have an idea of who your co-workers are? Let’s be honest here, an office is a lot like high school, isn’t it? You have the cliques, you have the drama, and you have the cafeteria (or closest fast food joint that everyone goes to).

Your kids would learn a lot from how you’re handling your life and wouldn’t it be great to let them weigh in on what you’re dealing with?

Imagine the conversations at the dinner table if everyone was opened up, no one had their phones, and you were all making eye contact. Not only would your children feel a part of the family, but you’re ensuring that you’re opening your children up to talk to you about the hard things when you show them that you care.

Comment below with your favorite way of keeping communication open in your home

Ready for more help and support on your communication journey with your kids? Click the button below to be taken to the videos I've put together to give you just that - support and guidance. 

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Kaern Becker, MA Life Coach