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With school well underway, many children are telling us that they love being back at school with friends and in the classroom, while others tell us they have mixed feelings. From parents, we continue to hear concerns about COVID-19, wearing masks or not, and most recently, about whether to vaccinate or not. Know that you are not alone, and these parental dynamics are not just happening in separated and divorced families. These conversations are occurring within all families, and they are not easy conversations.
Schools have different requirements and protocols in place to protect kids, which can be confusing or difficult to follow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps updating their recommendations, and every store we go into has a different kind of sign about their requirements.
What do we do?
Focus on what we can control. Referencing the top tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other experts on how to keep children safe from COVID, Kids’ Turn San Diego is sharing ways you can control what you can control.
1. Have conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine and immunizing your children.
The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to children over age 12 and may soon be available to kids as young as 5 years old. The experts are saying that children will be much better protected from COVID if they are fully vaccinated.
Not sure what to do? Consult your child’s doctor. If you and your co-parent do not agree on whether to vaccinate your children, or have too much conflict to even start a conversation, control what you can. Focus on behaviors to prevent illness and to promote the health and safety of your children when they are in your home. Wash your hands to the song Happy Birthday twice, practice social distancing, use hand sanitizer and wear a mask when inside.
2. Help your children pick out fun masks that they will be happy to wear at school.
Masks are one of the best ways we can prevent the spread of COVID-19 when we are inside. Even if your child’s school does not require masks to be worn, encourage your children to wear their mask when inside. Schools can’t prevent your child from wearing a mask. Be sure also to regularly wash the masks to keep them clean!
This is another area that, as a parent, we don’t have much control. Do your best to educate your children so that they have enough information. Every parent’s goal, at one time or another, is for their children to make good decisions. Purchasing fun masks that your children will want to wear is a good place to start.
3. Keep your child home if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if they test positive for COVID-19.
If your child tests positive for COVID-19, follow your school’s guidance for isolation, even if your child is not showing any symptoms. To avoid new challenges, we recommend parents follow their child’s school testing and quarantine guidance after being in close contact with someone with COVID-19. You may not have control over your child being exposed, but you do have the ability to prevent exposure to others. Remember, your child has two parents, so don’t operate in isolation; instead, focus on communication, and let the other parent know about the exposure and the plan.
Worried about your child missing schoolwork? Teachers learned to teach remotely last year. They have back up plans, so use them. Communicate with teachers and request virtual learning options. Help your child stay on top of school work so that they don’t fall behind.
4. Stay home and avoid large gatherings yourself until your child is no longer quarantining or isolating.
Here’s the reality: if your child was exposed to COVID-19, you have probably been exposed as well. You and your child may not have symptoms and may want to continue life as normal, or you may be feeling ill. Be your child’s role model — teach them that when we are exposed to a quick-spreading virus or when we don’t feel good, we stay home to get better and avoid spreading the illness to others.
It is okay and even smart to want to get yourself and your child tested for COVID. Knowing whether or not you have the virus is one way to have a sense of control over yourself and your family and have the facts you need to make an action plan.
Help protect the health of others in your life by avoiding large gatherings and unnecessary indoor activities until your child is in the clear. You may have lots of feelings about this, but consider this: Make this temporary quarantine time a special time to spend with your child. Paint a picture or a bedroom, decorate for the holidays, look at old photos, create meaningful holiday gifts for others using things in your home. It doesn’t matter what the activity — Kids’ Turn San Diego is suggesting that you make the best of a challenging situation and have fun while doing it!
Cooler weather, Halloween, midterm exams and school projects, holidays, family gatherings, time together. We have so much to look forward to. We just need to take these extra steps to keep each other healthy and safe for a little while longer.
As a final note, remember that while you can’t control others or the situation, you can control yourself.
It is okay to be the only one in the room wearing a mask and not giving hugs because you are social distancing. Others may not wear a mask and may want to hug everyone with whom they come into contact. If you don’t like it, don’t participate. Be you and do you. It is okay for you to be the only one in the room wearing a mask or social distancing. You are making a smart and caring choice to protect yourself and others!
Traveling with kids can be a real challenge — and even more so when trying to coordinate with your co-parent. Check out our top tips for maintaining the peace with your co-parent as you’re planning your next summer getaway. These tips are provided by our friends at the West Coast Family Mediation Center.
Create an itinerary
You and your co-parent will both feel better knowing where your children are going to be and with whom. Share travel details like flight numbers, hotel addresses, and other parts of your itinerary so that your co-parent is aware of your plans and included in your children’s life. You will want the same information if your children go on a trip with their other parent!
Follow your agreement
Check the requirements for travel in your Parenting Plan or Marital Settlement Agreement. You can certainly deviate from the plan if you both agree, but make sure to record any changes in writing before your departure.
Keep communication as consistent as possible
While you’re traveling with your kids, your children are missing out on time with their other parent. Keeping up communication as much as possible is important for your children. Plan a time each day or a few times during the trip for your kids to check in with their other parent. It is also great if you share photos and updates with your co-parent. If it is part of the routine to say good morning or good night, try to stick to that.
Remember what it’s all about
Children in divorced families deserve to have fun vacations with their parents, just like every other child. Vacations are not about making the other parent jealous or being happy that your co-parent is having less time with your children while you have more.
Vacations are about family and being together! If you find yourself weaponizing your vacation against your co-parent, remember that you are not being respectful to your children by upsetting their routine and time with their other parent. Make vacations about your children — fun, togetherness, and excitement — and ensure they have time to connect with their other parent!
For more great tips on navigating travel with your coparent, check out this blog post!
Are you one of the millions of adults whose parents divorced when you were a child?
You may have grown up, but you may be struggling (probably unconsciously) with what happened between your parents and to your family. It is normal to think you weren’t affected and then wonder if your parents’ divorce has something to do with your unsuccessful relationships. You may be processing your childhood experience and pondering what it might mean for your own romantic partnership.
You may never have been offered the space to process your feelings and the changes you experienced as a child when your parents got divorced but it may have transformed the way you view love or the world, or affected how you date or navigate romantic relationships as an adult.
Thankfully, your past doesn’t have to be your future! It’s possible to heal and move forward with hope! Janelle Peregoy shares 4 key ways adult children of divorce can work through the experience of their parents’ divorce and have healthy romantic relationships.
With June 20th right around the corner, it’s time to think about Father’s Day!
Father’s Day is a day to celebrate and honor those who have embraced the role of fatherhood or the role of being a dad. It is a day to thank all the dads, fathers, and father figures for their commitment to raising and nurturing children.
What is a DAD? A dad is a Dependable Adult whose key responsibility is to help their children Develop into respectable community members.
What is a FATHER? A father is a parent Figure who Advocates for their children, provides a sense of Togetherness, strives for childhood Happiness, and Empowers their children to be Responsible community members.
What is a father figure? Anyone can be a father figure! It could be a mom, grandparent, coach, friend’s parent, teacher, mentor, older sibling, cousin or family member. Father figures may be related or not.
Father’s Day is about honoring all these people!
Over the past year, while we all lived through the pandemic, some dads and fathers have really struggled. For various reasons, they haven’t seen their children, and they are hurting. Every month in our Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families, we heard from a dad, “I haven’t seen my children in months” — with the most recent comment being, “I haven’t seen my children in 15 months, and they tell me that I am toxic and bad and that they do not want to see me.” How is it possible that an 8-year-old child would refer to their parent as “toxic”? This is not a word we hear often. It is not a common social media word. It is not a word taught in school.
One of the saddest aspects of divorce is when one parent says so many negative things about their “ex-spouse” that the children begin to take on their parent’s words as their own. Parents say, “I don’t ever say negative things about my child’s other parent in front of my children,” but they forget that children hear and see everything. When you are on the phone talking about your divorce, even when your children are in another room or actively engaged in an activity, they stop and listen. They hear everything!
The reality is, when you are divorced, your relationship with your “ex-spouse” is no longer necessary.
Think about this: When you are “ex-spouses,” you are still engaging in an emotional relationship. If your immediate response is “No, I’m not!” — then maybe you are still emotionally involved.
Being in an emotional relationship with your child’s other parent is common, but unnecessary. After all, if you wanted the emotional relationship, you could have remained married. On this Father’s Day, it is time to let it go! Focus on healing yourself and on moving on. Try this:
Instead of referring to your child’s other parent as your “ex-spouse,” refer to them as your “co-parent.” Now all communication with this other person is about your sharing the role of parent. Nothing less and nothing more. Is it that simple? Yes. Is it easy? No way!
So how do you transition into this new mentality? Yes, divorce is a transition. Not only for your children, but for you, too! This transition may include: leaving or selling a house you may love, leaving behind a neighborhood of friends, losing friends because they were your co-parent’s friends, losing family traditions because you can’t go to your co-parent’s house anymore for holidays, moving into a smaller place, losing half of your income to child support or spousal support — and let’s not forget the misery you may feel because your children are living with their other parent half the time.
Transition is real. Transition can be painful. Transition may be sad. Transition can be a time of healing, a time of freedom and a time of change. Transition leads to a new normal. Transition leads to stability. Transition becomes a place of acceptance and a place of happiness.
Whether you are a mom or a dad, Father’s Day is a time for you to step into a place of personal healing. How? Help your children make Father’s Day cards or gifts. Encourage them to be creative and to celebrate their other parent. Paint rocks, color pictures, help your child write a song or poem.
Father’s Day is not about spending money on gifts. It is not about control. It should never be something one parent can manipulate or make their children feel bad about.
Father’s Day is about recognizing the other person who helped make your beautiful children. If for no other reason than that, Father’s Day is a day to teach your children to recognize and celebrate their other parent.
As we transition out of the pandemic and into our new normal, I encourage you to make it this kind of a day. Your children have two parents, and you both deserve to be celebrated — so CELEBRATE!
Since 1949, May has been classified as Mental Health Awareness Month, a month to talk openly about mental health. This year’s theme is “Hope for Change,” with a focus on the present moment, encouraging us to reflect on the growth we’ve experienced, and move toward the future.
What is mental health? Sometimes, the word alone has so much stigma around it that we want to avoid it or look the other way. Maybe it’s because we’re scared, maybe it’s because it’s unknown, or maybe it’s because we’re worried that if someone associates the words “mental health” with us that we are somehow flawed.
In simple terms, mental health can be a state of mind – like waking up and feeling well-rested and good about yourself and your day, or feeling like the eight hours you just slept were not enough and dreading the day ahead.
Mental health challenges may include sadness, anxiety, panic attacks, depression or schizophrenia. There is a continuum. For most, our days will go up and down, but we feel pretty good about life overall. Others may struggle more.
As we’re coming out of the pandemic (hopefully!), we’re reflecting on the stories we’ve heard and the challenges we have experienced when it comes to mental health.
We recently heard about a 7-year-old child having a panic attack on the way to school on day two of in-person learning. The teacher was giving a math test to assess retention levels of her second graders, and the child was so afraid of being behind the other children and not meeting the teacher’s expectations. By the time he arrived at school, this little guy was hyperventilating, crying hysterically and refusing to go into school. It took his mom 22 minutes to settle him down and for him to agree to go into the school. This is probably situational anxiety, and this little guy probably had a panic attack. There is no predictor that this will ever happen again, but giving him support and letting him know he is okay did the trick.
Another child, age 14, didn’t want to return to school. She liked taking classes from her room on the computer. There was an option to return to in-person learning, but she didn’t want to. Her parent insisted that she return. She was dropped off on campus, but after her parent left, she walked home and crawled in through her window to take her classes remotely. She hadn’t been to high school yet and felt uncomfortable not knowing who would be there. She didn’t know how to dress and was afraid that the teacher would not like her. She felt bad about doing this when her parent had gone to work. By the time her parent returned, she was crying and shaking. She was afraid to tell her parent about what she had done. Does this teen have mental health issues, or is this also situational? If her leaving school continues, one might call this a mental health or behavioral disorder.
If you or your child are struggling with mental health issues, try and determine if they are situational or more serious. Help is here!
Here are some questions to ask:
- Does my child cry excessively or isolate all the time? Has my child been eating regularly or are they picking at meals? Has my child been eating more than usual and laying around? Has my child been looking sad or complaining of sadness?
- If yes, your child may be experiencing depression. Many people get depressed at one point or another. But when you notice it, you may be concerned. Don’t panic — get help! Call your doctor’s office for counseling referrals, reach out to Kids’ Turn San Diego for assistance, reach out to the School Counselor (many schools have resources available for counseling services during the school day), or do an internet search for counselors in your area and call around. Whatever you do, don’t wait! Your child will benefit from having someone to talk with, and so will you.
- Is your child hyperventilating? Do they tell you their heart is pounding? Do they shake and not know why? Do they think they may be going crazy or that they will die from their racing heart rate?
- If yes, your child may be experiencing anxiety or panic attacks. Many people experience anxiety and panic attacks, especially during high-stress times. As a parent, you may think your children will be excited to return to school, to see their friends and to have life return to normal. However, the pandemic has impacted children on multiple levels. Some are very fearful of getting COVID, are afraid to touch things in public, or worry that others may be sick without knowing it. It is a scary time for all of us and especially for some children. If your child is having anxiety or panic attacks, it is best not to try and rationalize with them at the time. They will not be able to comprehend or listen to what you are saying. Have these conversations when they are calm and relaxed. During a panic attack or period of high anxiety, distractions may help. Here are some tips and suggestions:
- Coloring books: research has shown that coloring decreases anxiety. Be prepared ahead of time by telling your child that you heard coloring is a good way to relax, so you were thinking of buying or downloading some coloring books. Coloring by numbers is a good tool to use during times of high anxiety or panic attacks, as it causes you to think about the color needed, to choose the right color and to then find all the spaces with that number. Coloring isn’t just for kids — it has real benefits for adults, too. If coloring supports an adult, it will also help a child who is feeling anxious.
- Take a paper towel or wash cloth and fold it the long way. Wet it slightly with cold water and place it at the hairline on the back of your child’s head. You can also splash cold water on your face. These strategies change the chemicals in the brain quicker so the chemicals needed to reduce the anxiety kick in and your child will start to feel less anxious. Click here to learn more about other strategies to reduce anxiety and panic attacks.
If you’re worried about your child (or yourself), here are some resources:
- San Diego Warm Line (a peer-to-peer support line): 619-295-1055
- Access and Crisis Line (a 24/7 helpline to assist with mental health-related crisis): 858-724-7240
- Contact your doctor’s office
- Call 211 San Diego by dialing 411 on your phone or visit their website to review mental health service resources throughout San Diego County
Kids’ Turn San Diego offers limited counseling services to children who have attended our Family Workshop for Separated and Divorce Families program. Call KTSD at 858-521-0027 for support and referrals.
If you or your child are experiencing mental health challenges, get help now!
Take this as an opportunity to get the extra support you or your child need. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a reminder that mental health affects all of us. Your mental health matters!
We have just passed the one year mark of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. I remember having so many questions at this time last year, thinking that we would be out of work for a couple of months, max, and worried about buying toilet paper, getting a thermometer that actually worked properly and finding disinfecting wipes and anti-bacterial hand gel. It was a scary time!
And here we are — one year later. No matter who or where you are, there is one thing we all share: We have all been impacted by COVID in one way or another!
As life begins to shift again, our questions are real and important. Our thoughts and feelings are valid, even if others think or feel differently. If you’re anxious, worried or even scared sometimes, you are NORMAL!
In this past year, disinfecting wipes and hand gel became my new best friends. If you need hand gel, I am the one to ask. This is my new reality and surprisingly, the reality of many others. But not everyone is this way. Some people socialize with others without masks or social distancing or say “no thank you” when you offer them a squirt of hand gel. This thinking is very different than mine, and I don’t understand it.
One thing I do understand is that I have no control over anyone else!
At Kids’ Turn San Diego, 506 parents and their 323 children have attended our Family Workshops since the pandemic began. We have heard a lot of questions. Here are the top seven.
I hope so! Studies are showing that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you against COVID-19 and from becoming seriously sick if you do get it. I am vaccinated, and although I was hesitant at first and continue to wear masks and to use disinfecting wipes and hand gel regularly, I feel safer and relieved that I am vaccinated. The other people in my home are waiting to get appointments. We will all feel a little safer and relieved that we took another step to protect ourselves and others. When I was undecided, I talked with my doctor and asked for their recommendation. Talk with your doctor if you have questions.
These are difficult decisions. Some parents have reached out to the courts and were disappointed when their case was not heard, while others took the path of claiming that the other parent is intentionally putting the children at risk. If parents cannot agree, you may want to consider a conversation with your child’s doctor. If your child is sick and has to go to the doctor, you would treat the illness with the medicine provided so that your child would get better. So, if you’re unsure, go with the doctor’s recommendation. The best thing for your children is for their parents to decide together. This shows your children that you are a united front when it comes to them, and that you have their best interest at the forefront of all decisions.
Remember: YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER WHAT HAPPENS IN YOUR CHILD’S OTHER HOUSE. You will never know the reason why, so challenge yourself to let go of your worry. Instead, focus on what you can control. For example, when your children return to your home, take their temperatures, have them change their clothes, have them take a shower or bath, have them wash their hands, or wear a mask around them. (I know this sounds silly, but YOU have the power to protect yourself by wearing a mask). Get creative with your children and create a return plan together. It will be easier to implement if your children help create the plan.
Only time will tell, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the people who know way more about COVID-19 than any of us are saying yes. So, if you are comfortable, send your children to school. If you’re not comfortable, remote learning has been going on for a year and you and your children are probably pretty good at it by now. If it’s working and makes you all feel better, make arrangements with the school.
Again, only time will tell what the summer holds for all of us. Talk with your children. If they want to return to these activities, talk about how they will take care of themselves. Because there are so many unknowns, I encourage you to pay deposits only and hold off on paying full fees until you are sure that the opportunity will be happening.
The CDC and our local health department has been making decisions based on the number of COVID cases and positive test rates. The numbers are decreasing as more people are getting vaccinated. Talk with your place of employment. Maybe you can work remotely on some days and at the office on others. When it comes to the question of who will stay with your children while you’re at work, consider your co-parent. Are they still working remotely? Collaborating on a temporary plan related to children being at home and parents needing to work is a great idea. Use “I statements” to work on the details. Think of it as a business transaction so that there are no emotions tied to the conversation. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve heard a parent say no to hanging out with their children when they are home and available, so this is a great idea (and it doesn’t cost you any money)!
We’re hearing a lot about children as young as seven having panic attacks since they returned to school. The best thing you can do is to reassure them and ask them what they need to feel safe and secure. Maybe they need to take a picture of you with them. Maybe their favorite stuffed animal needs to travel in their backpack. Maybe they need to hear from their parents that your expectations of them are to have fun and to engage with their friends — and if they can learn, too, that would be great! Children are worried about not meeting the teacher’s expectations, so set clear parent expectations to help them relax and feel better. If your child continues to feel anxious, request a conversation with the teacher. They have been living through the pandemic, too, and may need a reminder of what your child needs to be successful in the classroom. Also, structure and calendars work great to help reduce anxiety in children. Create a family calendar that shows which days your child is at each parent’s home, at-school days and remote learning days, weekends, events and activities. Add birthdays too. Knowing how to use a calendar is a life skill, so this is a great opportunity to teach it to your child. Get creative with stickers and colors and make it fun!
We’re here for you at Kids’ Turn San Diego. We wish you the best of luck as we all navigate these uncharted waters!
This year, we are celebrating a BIG milestone! Kids’ Turn San Diego has been offering Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families for 25 years. We have listened to thousands of children share their experiences, and, for the most part, their needs have remained stable over time.
“I want to see both my parents.”
“I want my parents to stop fighting/arguing/yelling at each other.”
“I want my parents to pay attention to me.”
Prior to COVID-19, there were several common threads in the stories shared by the children attending our program. Children witnessed frequent fighting between their parents and were often brought into the fights. Children wanted to spend time with their parents, and they liked it when their parents got down on the floor and played with them. Some of the children felt like messengers passing information between their parents. A few of the children felt caught in the middle between their parents, an experience that was very stressful for them. Many of the children wanted their family to get along because it stressed them out.
One year ago, COVID-19 began to change everything. Most divorced parents came together and collaborated for the safety of their children, and children successfully transitioned from one home to their other home, week after week.
Sadly, not all children were so fortunate. Some children found themselves stuck between parents with different beliefs, different strategies for ensuring health and safety, and, saddest of all, some children had no contact with their other parent as one of their parents used COVID-19, probably unconsciously, as a tool to keep their kids away from their other parent.
Sadly, some children are still not seeing one of their parents to this day.
In every Workshop this past year, we have heard these stories over and over.
Regardless of your relationship with your co-parent or your history together, you must remember that your children are not just yours. They are half of you and half of their other parent. They deserve to have healthy relationships with both of their parents — and you have a big role to play in this. Their brains are constantly developing, and they are learning from what they see and hear every day. They will copy the behavior and words that are being modeled.
Your children deserve the best of you and we want you to be the best parent and co-parent possible. If you are engaging in blaming, name-calling, manipulating or controlling, we encourage you to take a look at yourself and the behaviors you are choosing. We invite you to think about your choices. Are they in your best interest, or are you hurt, angry or upset and need extra support to work through these feelings? Are they in the best interest of your children, or do your children deserve to have relationships with both their parents, regardless of how you may feel about their other parent? These are hard questions, but feelings are normal and okay when they are addressed in healthy ways and without involving your children and their relationship with their other parent. There are many resources available to support you, especially at Kids’ Turn San Diego!
If you are the parent who has not been able to see your children, here are some suggestions for making the most of your parent-child relationship, even if you are apart for now:
- Know that someday your child will realize what has occurred and they will come back and want a relationship. This may take 10 years, but with almost all children, as their brain develops, they begin to see through the name-calling and bad-mouthing so be ready for this day.
- Keep a journal for your child. Pick out a special notebook and write a note to your child whenever you see something that reminds you of them. For example, maybe you see a beautiful sunset and it reminds you of a day you spent together at the beach. Write a note in the journal to your child. “When I was walking the dog today, the sunset was amazing. Pink, purple and some orange. It made me think of you and reminded me of the time when we were at the beach and . . .”. Make sure to date each and every entry. Someday you will be able to present this journal to your child and they will realize that you thought of them often and wished you were together.
- Put together a parent-child picture memory album. Children love to see pictures of themselves when they were little and especially pictures with their parents. Purchase a photo album or a binder to create a parent-child memory album. Add special photos of you and your child and write in notes and details. Someday you will be able to present this memory album to your child. If you are seeing your children regularly, this is still a great idea!
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month and Parental Alienation Awareness Month. Parental alienation is any act by a parent that tries to destroy the relationship between a child and their other parent. Though not a syndrome or diagnosis, parental alienation can be considered a form of psychological abuse.
And childhood happiness most often does not include the word “abuse.”
Join us in the prevention of parental alienation and child abuse. Support your children’s happiness and encourage your children to have a healthy relationship with their other parent!
Many of us have been spending more time at home than ever — but are we truly connecting, engaging and sharing with each other, especially our children?
Parents are trying hard to keep up with work amid the distractions at home, but children are also struggling with this new arrangement. They need our attention and time.
Parents are busy, but intentionally carving out quality time together can help.
Quality time doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to cost money. Even small moments can be a source of connection with our children. Check out our ideas below for how we can spend more quality time with our kids while staying safer at home.
- Have a dance party
- Color together
- Play Hide and seek
- Play Candyland
- Play tic-tac-toe
- Do arts and crafts
- Decorate your home with pictures you draw together
- Read together
- Make cards for family and friends
- Create a scavenger hunt for things around the house
- Paint with watercolors
- Play “Go Fish”
- Play charades
- Play Pictionary
- Watch a movie together
- Play the Guess the Feeling game
- Make pizza or mac and cheese and eat together
- Play video games together (in moderation)
- Bake cookies together
- Make and enjoy smoothies together
- Ride bikes together
- Have a dance or sing-a-long party
- Watch their favorite show with them
- Play board games
- Cook a recipe and eat together
- Go for a walk together
- Go for a drive to pick up special takeout or a treat
- Give yourselves manicures or pedicures together
- Make tie-dye shirts together
- Listen to each other’s music
- Create a family picture album together
- Do something fun that your teen enjoyed when they were younger, like coloring hard-boiled eggs, cutting out snowflakes or drawing together
As parents, sometimes we get so caught up in being adults or parents that we forget how to get down on the floor and play, or that dance parties and sing-a-longs are fun. When it comes to spending time with our kids, the activity is less important than the quality of the time together! Find your inner child and make the most of being at home with your children. No one is watching, so let yourself have some fun. You deserve it!
By Executive Director Cindy Grossman, LCSW
As fun as the holidays can be, they can also bring a good deal of stress — not to mention when COVID-19 is spreading and stay-at-home orders are in place.
With COVID-19 concerns, co-parents worry about what will happen at the other parent’s home. Are our children going to family gatherings? Did they get together with large groups? You want your children to be safe while enjoying the holidays.
So, what can we do to have a safe and enjoyable holiday that is as stress-free as possible?
Here are our top tips for co-parenting through a COVID-19 holiday. And don’t miss the Facebook Live conversation on this topic featuring Executive Director Cindy Grossman!
Focus on what you can control.
You can certainly share your concerns about COVID precautions with your co-parent, but ultimately you have zero control over what happens at your co-parent’s house. So, what can you control?
You can prepare your children to protect themselves, and you can make a COVID-prevention plan for your own home. Sit down with your children and create a prevention strategy for whenever anyone returns to the home. For example, maybe clothes should be change or put right into the washing machine, or maybe everyone will take a bath or shower.
Remind your children to wash their hands. Make or purchase face masks that you think your children would like to wear and encourage them to wear them whenever they are outside their homes. Get them some hand sanitizer and attach it to their backpack.
Use a yard stick or measuring tape and stand apart to show your children what six feet of distance looks like. By measuring out six feet together, your children will have a visual idea of what “social distancing” means and how they can keep their distance to stay safer.
Remember, you can do all of this at your own home, but you have no control outside of your home. If you feel it necessary to get COVID tests when your children return to your home, if you are able to get them, this is one thing you would have control to implement.
Discuss and coordinate holiday plans ahead of time.
Whether or not you have court orders for how holiday time with your children should be shared, be sure to plan ahead and coordinate holiday time. Discuss via email so that you can have a record of what was discussed and eliminate any confusion. Planning ahead reduces stress and chaos for both co-parents and children alike. Plus, children can have fun with both parents without worrying! Children crave structure, so create a calendar for holiday plans that will help children know what to expect.
Be flexible and focus on creating new traditions.
Remember that the holidays are not about a specific date. Yes, the calendar shows that Hanukkah begins December 10th and Christmas Day is December 25th, but YOUR holiday is when you are able to be with your children. Focus on creating memories and new traditions to make the holiday time you do have together extra special. Play games, watch movies, drink hot chocolate, have a dance party, or make ornaments! In the end, your children just want to spend time with you. The holiday is the time together, not the date.
Communicate with your children.
Listen to your children and validate their feelings. You are living in two different family units, and it may be more stressful or upsetting during the holidays. Remind your children that it’s okay to have lots of feelings, and that all their feelings are important. When your children are leaving for their other parent’s house, please don’t tell them how much you will miss them or how sad you are they will not be with you on the holiday. If you do this, your children may feel guilty about leaving you or feel sad for you. Sending them off worried about you isn’t fair to them!
Instead, encourage your children to have a good time with their other parent, and tell them you will see them when they get back. Although the holidays are a fun time, please don’t tease your children with hints about all the fun things or surprises you have for when they get back. They deserve to have a happy time at their other parent’s house without holding back because they are anticipating the fun things they will do with you when they return.
Your children deserve to have relationships with both of their parents, and we hope you will let this happen for your children. Regardless of how you feel, we encourage you to keep your feelings to yourself and take care of you without sharing your feelings with your children. Remember, the holidays are not a date, they are family time, whenever the family time occurs.
Don’t make the holidays a competition.
Your children’s other parent is not “better” if they can give more gifts than you. Remember that the meaning of the holiday comes from time spent together and special memories made. Your children will treasure the meaningful moments with you more than any present they open.
2020 has been a challenging year for us all. As we try to put the difficulties of this year behind us, we encourage you to do the same with your co-parenting relationship. Whatever you’ve been struggling with and dealing with as co-parents, aim to go into 2021 with positivity and respect in your co-parenting relationship. Your children will thank you for putting them first.
Happy Holidays from Kids' Turn San Diego!
It’s Thanksgiving already! This year has flown by and also seemed sooo long! We encourage you to take some time and notice the beauty in everything around you.
Among all the uncertainty, focus your energy on what you can control and be thankful for all of it! We invite you to reflect and appreciate. Create Thanksgiving memories with your children that they will remember forever.
No matter what your holiday plans are, this will be a Thanksgiving like none other.
Traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with family and friends are fun but can increase the chances of getting sick or spreading COVID-19. Here are some ways to help everyone stay safe and healthy.
The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is to celebrate with people in your household. If you do plan to spend Thanksgiving with people outside your household, take steps to help make your celebration safer.
Hosting a Thanksgiving gathering
If you are having guests in your home, before they arrive, ask them to agree to take steps to keep your Thanksgiving celebration as safe as possible. Ask guests to wear masks, to wash hands frequently and to maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet.
Other steps you can take include:
- Have a small, distanced outdoor meal with family and friends.
- Limit the number of guests and follow state guidelines.
- Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for safely celebrating together.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use, and do not share utensils or serving spoons.
- If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows to circulate fresh air.
- Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
- Have guests bring their own food and drinks.
- If you are sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.
To review Thanksgiving guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), click here.
Prefer not to gather? Here are some alternate ways to celebrate.
- Try a virtual Zoom or FaceTime Thanksgiving with family and friends who are far away.
- Enjoy the holiday with a special celebration with members of your household.
- Watch a holiday movie with your household or plan a virtual Watch Party.
- Call family members, especially grandparents, and share what you are all thankful for this season.
- Make family Thanksgiving posters and drive to family homes, honking the horn, so they come out and see your posters while you stay in your car.
Activities with the family
- Play a gratitude game where each person writes down what they are thankful for and shares it with other family members.
- Get ideas for Thanksgiving games and activities from online or download printables to do together.
- Click here for a printable conversation starter game to play at family table or even virtually.