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The Reality of Co-Parenting
When parents attend our co-parenting programs, they hope to reduce conflict and increase their communication with the other parent. They hope the other parent will learn skills that will make them easier to deal with and that co-parenting will be easier. These are very common thoughts that are shared by parents attending both our Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families and Cooperative Co-Parenting Programs.
Here’s the thing about divorce. . . YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THE OTHER PARENT! You have no say so about what happens or doesn’t happen in their home, how they communicate with you or how they treat you or behave in front of your children.
Here’s another thing. . . YOU CANNOT CHANGE ANYONE ELSE, ONLY YOURSELF!
This said, attending a co-parenting program can be mind-changing and transformational, BUT, you have to put in the work, the energy and the time. To be honest, no matter your wish or hopes, the other person is not reading this, only you are.
Here are some thoughts to ponder. . .
and tips on managing them. . .
If you find yourself saying, “Our child is failing in school because my co-parent doesn’t oversee homework at their house.”
At the end of the day, your child is responsible for their success in school. Parents can help and support, but they cannot get inside their child’s brain.
EXAMPLE: The teacher keeps emailing us that our child is behind in homework. I do homework at my house, but my co-parent doesn’t make our child do homework at their house.
REALITY: Homework is assigned so children practice what they learn in school. The idea is that we learn concepts, but practice turns the concept into a skill (if you attended our programs, you may have heard this message). This said, there is not a lot of time in our weekdays after school. Having downtime and family time is important for children’s development. Instead of spending your time blaming your co-parent for your child’s failing in school, consider that your child is failing because your child needs help understanding the concepts. Talk with your child to understand (use Active Listening) and then talk with the teachers. Schedule time for you and your child to talk with the teacher(s) and work with them to help your child be successful. Remember, teachers do not need to know your life story, you’re meeting with them to help your child tell their story around homework and to help them create a plan that will work for them. Here are some questions you can ask to get support for your child while they are in school.
Is there a homework club? Are there tutors? For homework time, could your child do the first and last problem on every math sheet instead of all of them? Could reading be done for shorter time spans or during the weekend instead of daily?
State to the teachers that you are only able to help with homework when your children are with you. Do not blame or point fingers, and do not talk about your co-parent. They are not in the meeting so neither should references to them. If your child is in the meeting, let them take the lead to problem solve with the teacher. If they are not in the meeting, be proactive and wonder how you are able to help with your child’s homework success on the days they live with you. Regardless of who is or isn’t helping with homework, make a plan with the teachers that will work in your home. Encourage your child’s learning by making it fun and less stressful and remember to praise and encourage your children for their successes .
If you find yourself saying, “My co-parent doesn’t communicate with me and signs our child up for activities that sometimes fall on my days.”
You have no control over what others do or say.
EXAMPLE: My co-parent signed our child up for sports and some of the practices and games are on “my” days with our child. A common go to thought is “No, I’m not giving up my time for something they scheduled.”
REALITY: Children benefit from participating in team sports and activities. Whether it is soccer, ballet, art classes or karate, children learn about rules, respect, teamwork, problem-solving, integrity and commitment. These are all traits that help children grow up into good students and employees. The reality is that your children are learning from you first. This said, if you
choose to not allow them to participate, you are teaching them that commitment to your team or others is not important or valued. Instead, control what you can control. Go to the coach, introduce yourself and ask to be added to the parent communication list so you get the schedule and all the communications directly. Then, take your child and support them. It may not feel like it at first, but when you are your child’s biggest cheerleader, even if your co-parent is present and your child visits with them briefly during the event, your relationship with your child will be even stronger than it is now. Make it about your child!
If you find yourself saying, “I need them to…”
When you need someone else to do something, accept the reality that it is NOT the job of others to meet your needs.
EXAMPLE: My co-parent is always late. I need them to be on
time because I have plans.
REALITY: Your co-parent is probably always late. It is who they are. Take control of your own needs and stop making plans around transition times. If your co-parent tends to run an hour late, schedule your plans to begin two hours after your scheduled transition time. Who cares if they are late, enjoy the extra time with your children!
If you find yourself saying, “My co-parent never listens to me and when they respond to my messages, the messages are like 5 or more paragraphs long.”
What you say may be important, but others are not required to listen to you. You have no control over what they do.
EXAMPLE: We use a communication application that the judge court ordered us to use. But, my co-parent still sends nasty messages, writes mean things and accuses me of anything and everything you can imagine. Every time I read the messages, I am triggered and it distracts me from whatever I am doing.
REALITY: Control what you can control. Do you have notifications turned on? If yes, we invite you to immediately turn them off. You can choose when to check the app or your texts/emails. Court orders typically require you to respond within a time period. The time period is typically not immediately and you usually have at least 24 hours to respond. After turning off the notifications, you get to choose when to read the messages versus being controlled by them. If every message is a story, stop reading every word. Skim the message for question marks and then read that sentence. You may need to read the sentence right before it for context. Also, skim the message for the names of your children or the word children if that is how your co-parent typically refers to them. Read the sentence with your child’s name and determine if it is informational or if it requires a response. That’s it. No need to read the nasty or mean words. Control what you can control. If you have feelings about the message, respond, “Thank you for your message. I’ll get back to you xxxx (give a time frame).” You have complied with your court order to respond within a time period. If you say you will get back to your co-parent, follow through because that is what you expect them to do for you. If there are no questions or anything that actually requires a response, a simple “Thank you” or thumbs up emoji works. If the message does require a response. Draft it but do not send. Walk away and come back the next day (if you attended our programs, this is the skill of responding versus reacting). Edit your message to remove emotion, defensiveness, or your personal justifications about anything. Ask yourself, would I send this email to my boss or co-worker? If the answer is “No”, do not send it to your co-parent. Once you are divorced, consider yourself being in business with your co-parent with the business being to raise your children to be kind, caring and compassionate people. Keep it unemotional and businesslike
Co-parenting dynamics follow your dynamics of when you were together. The divorce paper does not mean the dynamics go away. Here’s a fact – IT TAKES TWO TO HAVE CONFLICT! If you are in a conflictual relationship with your co-parent, we encourage you to look at your own behaviors, words and actions. You may not be starting the conflict, but you may be helping it continue. The reality – SUCCESSFUL CO-PARENTING IS NOT EASY. It takes time, skills and
commitment to reduce conflict and improve communication. Kids’ Turn San Diego is here to help and support you on your journey. YEP, IT’S A JOURNEY. One that includes grieving, forgiving, letting go of what didn’t work and finding a new common ground – your children. When you see your child’s other parent as your “ex”, that is about an intimate relationship between two adults and when you are no longer together, that relationship is over! It is important to grieve the loss of that intimate relationship and forgive yourself for any possible ways that you contributed to the loss (yes, this is part of the journey). When you begin to see the parent of your children as your co-parent, now you are in the business of raising happy and healthy children. Two parents (co-parents) who looked into the eyes of their children on the day they were born and who fell in love. Divorce doesn’t change this memory or love. Kids’ Turn San Diego honors you as a parent and we believe you will be the best co-parent possible, when you choose to be.
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The True Meaning of Holidays
I oftentimes find myself saying, “Holidays are not a date on the calendar, they are about family, tradition and whatever meaning they bring to you.” Parents nod and maybe they get what I am saying or maybe not. Then, the week before Thanksgiving, a parent told me that they were celebrating Thanksgiving the next day because their child will be with their other parent on Thanksgiving and when the parent and child were talking about it, the child said, “Oh no. We have to celebrate Thanksgiving together. How about we have it tomorrow?” The parent thought quickly and said, “Yes. Let’s do it.”. Within 30 minutes, calls were made to Aunts, Uncles and cousins, Grandparents and some family friends. On a Sunday, they were gathering with 22 family members and friends and the parent and child were having so much fun decorating their home with paper plate turkeys.
From a personal perspective, my daughter is 22 years old and works full time at a residential treatment facility. I anticipated that she would be working on Thanksgiving, as she works on Thursdays from 3-11pm. We talked about having Thanksgiving on Sunday when she is off. On Thanksgiving day, she called on her way to work. We had a great conversation but afterwards, my heart felt empty. Even though I knew my daughter was working, it didn’t change the fact that I missed her. We have been together for 21 Thanksgivings, and as a parent, we expect our children to be with us on the holidays.
When you get separated or divorced, one of the biggest challenges, especially in the first few years, is managing the holidays if your children are with their other parent. Remember, the holidays are not a date on the calendar, they are about family, tradition and whatever meaning they bring you.
As I sat at our table on Thanksgiving, I thought about our daughter and hoped she was having a nice meal. I missed her but when she called on her break, all I said was “Happy Thanksgiving”. I wanted to know about her meal. I wanted to tell her how much I missed her. BUT. . . our daughter was working and being a responsible adult. She is not responsible for how I feel! Thinking about it, she was probably missing me and her family too. . . after all, she called during her break. Then I thought, hey, I guess Thanksgiving is important to her, she doesn’t usually call and today she did, twice. We may not be together but she was thinking about family and tradition.
Fast forward, our daughter came for dinner on Sunday and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, full of tradition, fun and family. She asked about our Thanksgiving meal and wanted to know what we ate and how we spent the evening. I answered all her questions with joy in my heart. I didn’t ask her questions about her day. I figured she would tell me what she wanted to tell me, if she wanted to.
So, I reflect. Whether your child is 5 or 22, it doesn’t make that much difference. As a parent, when you’re not with your children on a holiday, your heart feels a bit empty. That is a fact! But, it doesn’t have to mean that you miss the holiday. It just means you could enjoy the holiday with others on the calendar holiday date and then, be creative with your children. They may think it is silly at first, but they will learn to value the holiday as family, fun and tradition, regardless of the day it gets celebrated!
From my home to yours, happy holidays!
P.S. Today is Giving Tuesday, a day of giving for non-profit organizations. If you enjoyed this blog or appreciated attending a Kids’ Turn San Diego program, we invite you to make a donation and help us help other children and families. Thank you!
School season is now in full swing which means your children are occupied with homework, sports, and clubs! In all the business of the school year, it’s easy to let quality time slip away when everyone in the family is focusing on different things. Sometimes, it might even feel like you’ve barely seen your own children when their everyday routine is wake up early, go to school, go to practices, find time for homework, eat dinner, and sleep. This year teach your kids (and even yourself) that it is healthy to take a break and slow down!
Balancing life and school/work is an essential skill to introduce to your kids that will reap long-term benefits. As parents, we all want our children to be successful but not at the cost of their health and well-being. It’s important that parents encourage both relaxation and hard work by creating space for rest. This can look like allowing your children to have a snack and free time before beginning homework instead of jumping into assignments after a long day of school. It can also be giving 10-15 mins brain breaks for every 30 mins of homework. Creating these pockets of rest not only allows your children to focus better, but it also provides an opportunity to bond with your children.
Here are a few ideas on how both you and your kids can enjoy quality time during your brain breaks!
1. Play a physical game to get your bodies moving:
Sitting at a desk and staring at books or computers can really strain the body over time, especially if your child is not active. A great activity for a brain break is some light physical activity to stretch and get away from the screens. This can look like playing music and dancing together, going outside for a game of catch, or even some easy yoga for kids. Whatever you choose, make sure that your child is also excited since a break is not a break if it’s forced.
2. Unleash some creativity with arts and crafts:
A favorite activity for all ages is arts and crafts! With younger ones, you can take turns picking colors and drawing or painting the first thing that comes to mind when you see that color. For older children, explore some new hobbies such as finger-knitting or origami. Whether your creations turn out good or bad, your family will have lots of fun exploring each other’s creativity!
3. Go enjoy the nature right under your nose:
While exploring the outdoors may seem too time consuming for a brain break, there’s often lots to explore in our own yards with a curious mind! Take some time to find different insects, animals, and plants in your yard and try to figure out their names with your kids. This can be a fun way to learn about your environment and foster an appreciation for nature in your kids. Another idea, teach your kids how to garden or care for living plants. Maybe during their break, they get to fill up the watering can and water all the plants or help you plant a few seeds before going back to the books!
4. Find relaxation through mindfulness:
For those who just need to unwind, find calmness, or to let go of their thoughts, mindfulness exercises are great to incorporate into your brain breaks. You can try out different breathing exercises or even mindfully eating a snack (describing every bite). Mindfulness is all about living in and paying attention to the present. It can be simply noticing sensations, tastes, sounds, and sights. For those unfamiliar with mindfulness, there are plenty of resources for guided meditations that you and your children can learn together! Here’s a great article to get you started!
These are just a few ideas on how to use study breaks to encourage quality time with your kids! Remember, each child is different so one activity may work for one child, while your other children may prefer different ones. All that matters is that your children are happy and learning the importance of creating time for themselves!
Every month at Kids’ Turn San Diego, we host a Family Workshop for Separated and Divorced Families. As a part of the workshop, children are given the chance to express their thoughts and feelings through artwork.
For our blog post this month, we would like to share the wise words of a 5th grader named Emily and her optimistic perspective on life. Emily’s father was abusive to her mother. She grew up never meeting him and having a mother who struggled with unresolved PTSD. Despite the trauma that has happened in Emily’s life, she has learned to be resilient and, more importantly, full of joy. Emily’s words are powerful and relevant even if you’re not a 10-year-old in school! We hope her story and words uplift your spirit and bring positivity into your life!
By Emily (age 10)
In my life I have had moments where I want to give up, but then I realized if I don’t give up and just think positive, I can get it done faster. Lots of times, I have had my moments where I say “I can’t do this” but then I tell myself “NO, I CAN’ do this. When you tell yourself you can’t do something you are thinking negatively, which is not a good thing to have in your life and it can cause many problems. When you think positive and tell yourself “You can do this. I’m not giving up.”, good things will happen in your life. It is good for you and your brain to be able to learn new things without being scared or wanting to give up. And that’s why you shouldn’t think negative – just think positive.
Why you should be positive is because it will make your life better than it already is. Like if you are going through a hard time and saying I can’t do this. Well then you are not thinking positively which you need to do.
If someone is bullying you at school, or telling you they don’t want to hang out with you anymore, don’t just walk away and cry. Just say, “I’m a valuable and an important person and worthy of the respect of others.” Because if anyone is going to talk bad about you or be mean to you, it doesn’t matter. If you have just one great friend, that’s okay because one friend is better than lots of friends.
If people in the real world call you weird, or say you can’t do this because you have a disability or you’re a different gender, just ignore them because you can be anything you want no matter what because the person you are makes you special in your own way even if people don’t see it.
Just know being positive about things can help you a lot and so can believing in your beliefs.
Summer is one of the most anticipated seasons of the year with more time to relax and sunny days ahead. However, if you are divorced, this season may cause a difficult change in your normal routine with your co-parent. Ideally, summer vacations and custody schedules are clearly written in your Parenting Plan, but sometimes timing isn’t right, and you wish you could plan your vacation without stress or coordinating with others.
As summer is now upon us, we’d like to share some tips on how to keep summer fun and relaxing time for everyone!
1. Plan Ahead
While this seems obvious, it’s something that can be forgotten when we are already so busy in the present. Taking the time and effort to figure out an idea of what you want your summer to look like can make a huge impact on later stress. Consider that vacations to visit family members are important but, if outside your custody time, you may want to consider if time with your children during the Parenting Plan week would be better spent together than holding strong to the dates if your co-parent is likely to said ‘no’. As a strategy, start by reviewing your parenting plan and/or what you and your co-parent have agreed to. If you want to request a change, request it but remember, you have no control over the other parent and they have the right to say no. Tip: Keep it simple and stress free for yourself by thinking ahead and planning vacations on your custody time.
2. Be Flexible
We can never predict what may happen in the future and plans may need to be adjusted. When you are flexible with your co-parent, they may be encouraged to be flexible with you! You will want to plan for vacations, but every minute of every day does not need to be planned. Consider this, children want to sleep and play during the summer. Vacations are things that adults want to do and children go along and have fun. Tip: Talk with your children about their ideal vacation time. Brainstorm ideas like days at the beach, visit parks or museums, plan walks or hikes in the evenings, play outside, and have fun. Listen to what they say and plan something that will be fun for all of you.
3. Vacations Are NOT Competitions
Simply put, your children are not in the game of “hmmm, I wonder which parent will plan the better vacation this year”. Parents sometimes create these competitions. We encourage you to relieve yourself of the pressure to spend money you don’t have in order to compete with your co-parent about whose vacation was better. Children just want to have time with no school, no early morning start to their day and most hope for a later bedtime. Your child’s love is nothing to compete for, and most definitely cannot be bought with money. Simple summer activities can feel like a fun vacation if you worry less about what the other parent is planning and focus more on your plans with your children. Tip: Focus on fun activities that create memories that will last a lifetime. A simple day of playing in the plastic pool in your front yard with fresh made lemonade or ice tea that you watch brew all day may provide much more quality time memories that an afternoon at the Waterpark where you wait in lines for hours to go down waterslides. Summer is about fun memories. Keep it simple!
4. Remember The Purpose Of Summer Vacations
Summer is meant to be a time for fun! When you’re planning your summer activities, don’t forget to enjoy them too. A vacation is meant to build a deeper connection with your children and make memories that you’ll both cherish. As long as you’re keeping your children safe, having their best interests in mind, and communicating with your co-parent, summer vacations should be a breeze! Tip: Keep it safe and let your children share the fun!
We hope these tips helped to relieve some stress about the summer after a separation. Enjoy your summer with your kids and enjoy the times without them too! Summer is also a great time for yourself to decompress and find what you enjoy when you’re alone. Make the most out of your summer and enjoy the next few months of sun!
With 50% of marriages ending in divorces, it is common to either be a child of divorce or know someone who has experienced it. As children, many experiences after the divorce seemed normal, but adults are beginning to open up about their childhood and understand the unique difficulties that children of divorce went through. In a recent article by Buzzfeed, Raven Ishak gathers some of the most interesting and revealing answers to the question, “Those who are a child of divorced parents, what is something that those of us raised in a single house don’t understand or consider?”
(Please note that Kids’ Turn San Diego does not endorse the profane language used in the article. We do, however, support the experiences shared by the children of divorce)
After reading this article, our Executive Director, Cindy Grossman, shared her own experience as a child of divorce. Cindy wrote, “When you grow up to be a parent and realize that you have no idea how to parent your child as a two parents living together…My parents divorced when I was 8 and when my daughter was 9, I was operating like a single parent. Good thing my husband grew up in a two-parent home and we figured it out! Our daughter will be 22 next month and we will be married for 27 years in October. Could have easily gone another way!”
What are some ways that life has been different for you, either as a child of divorce or a parent experiencing divorce? We would love to hear it and support you!
By Cindy Grossman, LCSW, Executive Director for Kids’ Turn San Diego (To read the article on the San Diego Veteran’s April Edition Magazine, click here)
Did you know the divorce rate in military families tends to be about 75%?
Kids’ Turn San Diego offers Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families and we have seen a significant increase in military connected families attending the program. In 2016, 54 military connected parents and their children participated in a Family Workshop, compared to 137 in 2021!
Thank you to all the military families who sacrifice so much to keep us safe!
Let’s take a minute to look back over the past two years. As our world shut down and everyone was ordered to “stay home”, most of us felt alone and scared. As time went on, we heard new fears from military families. Deployments typically have a beginning and an end. But what about those who had a spouse deployed when the pandemic surfaced? Did someone on the ship get COVID, were they exposed, would my partner ever return home? Many families were resilient, and others struggled. Divorce may be a decision for many military families but holding space for your children must be the priority!
The number one theme we hear from children, month after month, is that they want their parents to stop fighting and yelling at each other. They want their parents to get along!
Parents, you have no control over others, only yourself. Only you feel your feelings and understand your thoughts. Only you can choose your behavior. Are you reacting and sharing your frustrations through yelling and lashing out at others? Are you internalizing and using substances to manage your emotions? Are you distraught and immobilized? Do you tell your children your problems and hope they will help you solve them?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone!
The good news is . . . YOU have control of your feelings and thoughts and your behaviors! You can choose to respond instead of react. You can choose to seek support from other adults (friends or professionals).
You can choose how you are going to interact with your child’s other parent. You may not like it! You may feel like you are compromising or giving in, but this doesn’t mean that you are less than others or bad in any way. This means that you are putting your children first! Children want to see their parents, they want you to say nice things about their other parent, they want to see their relatives, they want their parents to get along. Your children want to be heard, understood and to feel important in the eyes of both their parents.
Divorce may be a reality for you but support your children as they transition from one home to two. No matter how you feel about their other parent, show your children how to be kind. A smile (even if it is fake) or a brief wave is huge in your child’s eyes. Give them this gift! Virtual programming continues at Kids’ Turn San Diego so reach out for support from wherever you live. In honor of Month of the Military Child, we’re here if you need us www.kidsturnsd.org. Thank you for your service!
Article written by: Cindy Grossman, LCSW, Executive Director, Kids’ Turn San Diego
Earlier this month, on March 2nd, we celebrated World Teen Mental Wellness Day. However, teen mental wellness is something that requires more attention and care than just one day. Taking care of our teen’s mental wellness means taking the extra effort to build a genuine, healthy relationship with your teen!
We all know that the teen years can be some of the toughest times in parenting. With changes in body, hormones, social relationships, and a desire for independence, it’s easy to let a wall be built between us and our teens. Though they may seem resistant, our teens need us the most during these years to ensure they have a trusted and supportive adult who can help them figure out such turbulent times.
Here are four ways to build a healthy relationship with your teen:
1. Be respectful of their growing independence.
During the teen years, your teen may give you attitude, argue with you more frequently, tell you that “you don’t get it”, and overall make it very difficult to do your job as a parent. You may be feeling like you’ve failed as a parent since your teen has changed from the child you knew before. This struggle is normal! Teens are simply exploring their independence and trying to establish themselves as their own person and it is not always a pretty transition.
As their parent, it helps to be mindful of this new chapter of self-discovery. Don’t make fun of your teen or discourage them when they are exploring different parts of themselves. Encourage them to be curious and confident! It may be anxiety-provoking to watch your child make mistakes, but sometimes that is the best way to learn. Your teen will develop good judgement by making mistakes and learning from them, so grant them the autonomy and privacy to do that. Of course, you don’t want your teen to be participating in unhealthy hobbies that can mentally or physically harm them (such as drugs and underaged drinking) which brings us to the next point.
2. Establish clear boundaries & values in the family
Although your teen is becoming a young adult, you still need to remain the main adult and point of guidance for your family. Without setting any boundaries or values for your teen, too much freedom can cause your teen to experience confusion about what to do with their independence. Instead, learn to balance giving your teen space to explore while calmly establishing boundaries. This can look like, during dinner saying, “I really want to spend time with you. Let’s both agree to keep our phones off and hang out as a family!” or “I want to make sure you’re safe, so let’s set a curfew for 10pm. If you need to go past that, you’ll need to talk to me ahead of time. Is that okay with you?”. When setting boundaries with your teen, make sure to explain why the boundary is needed and if it is value based, briefly explain why the value is important to you and your family (such as your need to know your teen is safe). Asking your teens to participate in boundary setting and rules is encouraged. You will find teens are more likely to follow the rules and boundaries if they have a part in setting them.
3. Be authentic and genuine.
At this age, teens appreciate and need to see when people are authentic and genuine. This means admitting when you are unsure of things or make a mistake. You can apologize to your teen when appropriate and show them that it is okay to not be perfect. It is even ok to “take a time out” if you are emotional about a topic or situation. It is ok to say, “I need to take a time out here. Give me 5 minutes and let’s get back to our conversation.” This allows your teen to know that we are all still growing and learning. When people fail or make a mistake, the right thing to do is to acknowledge it and then learn from it. Show your teen that you are proud of them and okay with the fact that we are all “works in progress”, and there is no shame about that!
4. Be engaged & interested in your teen's life.
More importantly than anything else, do not let the hardships of the teen years ruin the love between you and your teen. Continue to show them that you care with simple actions such as asking them about their day, looking for things to compliment them on, spending quality time together or, no matter how much you dislike it, listen to their music with them. Teens love coffee, boba, frozen yoghurt, video games, watching TikTok videos, etc. Find time to connect with your teen so they know you are a resource and someone available to talk to about anything! When you are talking with your teen, it can be easy to slip into unsolicited advice that may make them feel annoyed. If your teen does talk with you about a friend or themselves, listen and do not try to problem solve. LISTEN and do not give advice. If you want to give advice, ask if they want your advice before you share. Do not shame them if they approach you with an issue and respect the decisions that they choose to make. Offer guidance if they want it, otherwise, JUST LISTEN. It is important that parents are emotionally observant and present in a teen’s life. Make time to hang out with your teen and show them that you are always there to support not shame them!
Remember, as parents, we play a large role in getting our teens through the difficult transition from a being a child to a young adult. Without guidance, your teen can feel lost and confused which can lead to issues in their mental wellness. While parents can’t protect their children from everything that comes their way, we can make sure our teens know that they will always be loved and supported! Take the first step in building a lasting relationship with your teen today, and if you’re not sure where to start, Kids’ Turn San Diego is here for you!
The term “Love Language” was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman and he believes that learning someone’s love language is essential to connecting on a more meaningful level.
Do you ever feel frustrated when your children squirm from hugs and kisses? Or, maybe you shower them in compliments and they seem annoyed? There is nothing wrong with showing love and support in this way, but for some children it may make them uncomfortable. If this is your child, THEY ARE OKAY! In reviewing Dr. Gary Chapman’s “Love Languages” for adults, we see some similarities for how they apply and are adapting them to parent-child relationships. The “Love Languages” are words of affirmation (compliments), quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. This Valentine’s Day, we challenge you to notice how your child responds to your typical way of showing love and, if you notice they may not like your way, we encourage you to try some of these ideas and see how it goes.
Words of Affirmation
Do you have a child that asks, “did I do that right? or is this right? or did I do a good job?” Or maybe they glow with joy whenever you compliment them? Do you find your child praising you? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child needs words of affirmation!
Your child may receive love and support best when you communicate through words of encouragements, praise and gratitude. Examples may be “you did a great job!”, “thank you for helping me with cleaning the house!” or “I am so lucky to be your parent!”. Here are a few ways to offer words of affirmation to your child:
- Slip a sweet note in their lunchbox. (It could be as simple as a smile face on their napkin)
- Praise them both privately and in front of others. (Be mindful not to embarrass your child)
- Notice & acknowledge their efforts. (Say things like, “I like how you worked so hard on your homework today”)
- Call them by a nickname they like. (Remember not to embarrass them in front of others)
In our programs, we hear from children all the time that they want their parents to pay attention to them. Do you have a child that interrupts you a lot? A child that likes to show you what they are doing? Do they ask you to join them when they’re playing? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child needs more quality time with you!
Your child may receive love and support best when you give them your undivided attention. You do not have to be with them 24/7, but even 10 minutes off of your devices may make a huge difference for children needing quality time. Here are a few ways to give the gift of quality time to your child:
- Dedicate and commit to spending on-on-one time with your child. (Read a book, do a puzzle, play a board game, teach them how to ride a bike, cook a meal together, whatever it is, remember to have the time be age appropriate)
- Turn off your phone and leave it in another room while helping with homework
- Go on a walk together
- Take them with you when you run errands and make it fun. (Remember, you are teaching your children how to be adults some day so making grocery shopping fun can be creating a budget together and sticking to it or asking your child to choose the vegetables or fruits to buy. Giving choices works here too!)
Do you have a child that cherishes every gift they’ve received? Does your child not ask for more things, but glows when you surprise them with a gift? Maybe your child takes the time to unwrap a gift they’re given? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child sees love and support through receiving gifts!
Your child may receive love and support best when they receive physical tokens that express your love to them. Receiving gifts does not mean your child only cares about the material object or that you should buy them things. It means that they cherish the fact that you spent time thinking about them and choosing a gift that would make them happy! Here are a few ways to support your child if they like knowing you are thinking about them:
- Create a chore chart with your child. (Put stickers or draw stars on the chart when they accomplish the chores. This can also work with homework, daily hygiene or whatever your hopes and expectations are for your children. Get creative, post it on the refrigerator or the wall and catch your child doing good things, then reward them with the sticker or star. Words are not necessary because if your child likes it when you spend time thinking about you (receiving gifts), they’ll notice the chart!
- Keep a treasure chest to surprise them with occasionally. (This could be a box, container, hope chest, whatever you have. Put baby pictures in there, a few current pictures that you want to treasure, art work, school projects/tests, a napkin or something with a logo on it that reminds you of a place you and your child went or a place you hope to take them some day)
- Leave a sweet note or pick a flower to put in their lunchbox
- Value any gift they give to you! (Whether it’s a drawing or a project, tell them how much you like it by hanging it up. Don’t worry if it doesn’t match your home decor, everyone will notice it and you will be able to proudly share that your child made it)
Acts of Service
Does your child like to ask for help when you are busy, even with things they know how to do on their own? Does your child like it when you make their lunch instead of telling them to eat the free lunch at school? Does your child get upset when you say you are listening, but you are on your phone or laptop? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child is at their best through acts of service, meaning actions are louder than words!
Your child may receive love and support best when they see you do what you say and you say what you mean. You do not have to do every request your child asks (as fostering self-reliance is important), but an occasional yes to their asks for help can go a long way. Here are a few ways to implement acts of service with your child:
- Even though you know your child can do something independently, if they ask, stop what you’re doing and help them. (As you are helping them, remember to praise and encourage throughout and say things like, “I know you could have done this yourself but I’m happy you want to do it together”. Comments like this will go a long way, especially as your children grow into teens and young adults. They’ll know you are a parent they can count on and who prioritizes them)
- When they accomplish something, make their favorite meal as a reward or take the time out of your busy schedule to show up and be present. (When your child invites you to something, show up. Put work and other priorities aside and show up for your kid. They will notice!)
- Teach your children life-work balance. (When you child does something great, like get a 100% on a test, reward them by giving them a day off from chores or step away from you busy schedule and bake a cake to celebrate together)
- Bring them snacks or water while they’re doing their homework. (Parents so often think homework time needs to be uninterrupted or their child will get distracted. Bringing in a snack or drink can be a silent act. Just think, one day you will be working at home completely focused and your child may bring you a snack or drink. How cool would that be?)
Does your child love to play with your hair or really like it when you brush their hair? Does your child ask to be held or cuddled? Does your child like to practically sit on your lap or as close as possible, even though you may think they are too old for cuddles or that much closeness? If you found yourself saying yes to any of these questions, then maybe your child sees love and support through physical touch!
Your child may receive love and support best through affectionate, parental warmth! When we think of physical touch in relation to our children, most of us think about hugs and kisses. Here are a few ways to offer physical touch with your child:
- Cuddle and watch a movie together. (Add some popcorn for added fun)
- Give high fives or create a special handshake. (Children love special handshakes!)
- When you notice your child may be feeling sad or upset, ask your child if they need a hug. (If they say no, ask what they do need)
- Give hugs/kisses when they leave for school or to say goodnight (But remember, not all children like physical touch so don’t push it on them. Ask permission and if they say no, figure out which other way of showing love and support is best for your child. Also remember, not all children are alike. Some may like hugs and kisses and others may prefer quality time)
Remember, children are unique and their way of receiving love and support is unique to them. We encourage you to pay attention to how your child reacts when you show them different ways of love and support and then try out the different suggestions. If your children are old enough to have a conversation, share this blog with them and figure it out together.
No matter the way, Happy Valentine’s Day!
*To learn more about Dr. Gary Chapman’s love languages for children, please see his book, “The 5 Love Languages of Children“.
Happy New Year! Can you believe January 2022 is almost over?
As the first month of 2022 is almost over, Kids’ Turn San Diego is reflecting on our path since March 2020. What a journey it has been!
We lived the motto of “building and flying at the same time” for almost a year and then we realized, wait, we got this! The location of our program is less important than the skills we are teaching. It matters less if we are sitting knee to knee in a circle of 25-30 parents in a Family Workshop Class or with 15 children sitting around a table than if we are providing a safe virtual space for children to share their feelings and for their parents to gain insight into their own words, actions, and behaviors.
We reflect. . . since March 2020, we watched parents lose contact with a child because the other parent believed that their child’s other parent was putting their child in harm’s way, exposing them to COVID, not requiring masks, or simply choosing to use the pandemic as a tool to destroy parent-child relationships. This was painful to hear about and saddens us, especially when we hear 8 year old children telling us that one of their parents is “toxic”. This is not the word of an 8 year old child!
Then we listened to children tell us how much they wish their parents would stop fighting, that they want them to stop arguing and yelling at each other, and to stop yelling at them – their children. This, by the way, is not new. Children have been wishing this and telling us this for 25 years! (We celebrated our 25th Anniversary in 2021!)
As we reflect . . . we wonder, do parents continue to argue with their co-parent, even though they have been divorced for years? Do parents still send 10 page texts or emails? Then we think about you . . . are you a parent who says bad words or negative comments about your children’s other parent? Are you forcing (from your child’s perspective) your children to have relationships with your new partner? Are you a parent who is role modeling ineffective communication and unhealthy relationships to your children?
We hope you will reflect! If you answered yes to any of the above questions, from the words of children who have attended our programs, PLEASE STOP!
Your children want their parents to get along. They want you both at their sporting events, dance shows, and school activities. They don’t expect you to sit next to each other, but they want you there, and they deserve to have two parents show up for them! And by the way, if there is a bonus parent in the family (a step parent), your children want you to accept their bonus parent. Stop being jealous or mad that this person gets to raise your children. Stop saying mean things and setting the expectation for your children to dislike their bonus parent. YOU CANNOT CONTROL OTHERS, BUT YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR OWN THOUGHTS, EMOTIONS, WORDS AND BEHAVIORS. You have choices about what you think, feel, say and do!
Consider, for a moment, what if for 2022, you made the choice to accept that you and your co-parent got divorced because you couldn’t make your marriage work, and with divorce you need to transition to a different type of relationship – a relationship that is about your children. You are both important to your children. Children are half one parent and half the other. There is no denying this fact! So why would you choose to deny your child access to their other parent, or why would you say mean things about the person that helped you create your children?
What if you decided to take a step back and acknowledge your part in your failed marriage and divorce? What if you recognized that the anger continues between you and your co-parent because you are making a (maybe unconscious) choice for it to continue? What if you decided enough is enough?
What if you decided that for 2022, you were going to accept your part, acknowledge it, and free yourself up from any blame or guilt you feel? What if you decided to leave every negative comment behind? What if you decided that being kind and caring in 2022 to everyone is your goal? What if you chose to praise your children for what they are doing well and focus less on the areas in which they struggle?
What if you decided to be your best self, and if you’re not sure who that is, what if you made discovering that your journey for 2022?
Imagine what life may be like. . .
Less arguing and more peace. Less anger and more love and happiness. Less energy spent on trying to “win” and more energy spent on making every moment with your children count.
Thank you for reflecting with us! We hope your 2022 journey will be full of fun, love, and laughter. We hope you will choose peace for yourself and your children. They really want that and we know you do too, even if it is deep down inside of your heart. Let go of anger and walk the path of resilience and joy! Be a happy person and parent who role models effective communication and healthy relationships. Your children deserve this version of you, and we hope your entire family will find happiness as they walk the path of kindness, care, and peace. We’re here if you need us! Enjoy the journey!