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What are children and teens really thinking?
Divorce is the break-up of two people who were in an intimate married relationship. At Kids’ Turn San Diego, the definition of divorce is the break-up of two parents who brought beautiful children into this world. From the eyes of the children, the definition of divorce is my parents argue all the time, will I need to move schools, how can I decorate my room at my new home, and will my parents ever stop arguing and fighting.
As March 18th is fast approaching, I think back three years when we were told to quarantine, when my daughter moved home from college, and when Kids’ Turn San Diego quickly transitioned to remote working and virtual programming. Thank goodness for zoom and the internet! As the Executive Director, I lead our organization through unprecedented times and lived by the motto of “we’re building and flying at the same time”. We didn’t skip a beat and continued to serve every parent, child and family that requested our services. Many things changed for all of us, but for me, one change has provided me with the opportunity of really understanding the challenges of divorced families. I, by the way, grew up in a divorced family so I know what it was like being an 8-year-old child transitioning from one home to two, changing schools and eating lots of macaroni and cheese. Fortunately, my parents figured it out quickly and did it well. They had conflict but they didn’t put me and my sister in the middle and they didn’t ask me or my sister to deliver child support checks or messages. They didn’t talk with us about court or money, and for the most part, were pleasant with each other. My parents both attended our events and shared the celebration times and never gave my sister or me any reason to think that the failure of their marriage was our fault.
But, over the past three years, as the Executive Director of Kids’ Turn San Diego, I have served as a Behind the Scenes staff member of the parent groups of our Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families. To date, I have personally been Behind the Scenes during all four weeks of 34 Family Workshops. I have observed transformation! When you hear a parent at graduation tell us that they are listening to their children more and giving them undivided attention, or things like “I learned to choose peace over power”, “I learned to respond instead of react” or “I learned that I have no control over others, I can only control my own words and behaviors”, it warms your heart. These parents have learned new skills that resulted in a personal transformation that will make them better parents and better people. I watch the graduations and smile knowing that the children of these parents will be blessed with parents that did it right, like my parents.
But, then I hear one of our Group Leaders and their statement is profound. “Although not always stated by the children in the program, from their perspective, when parents argue and fight over custody, the children perceive their parents’ behaviors as fighting over them. They begin to see themselves as ‘the conflict’ and begin to believe that their parents’ divorce is their fault.”
What does this statement really mean? When parents battle and fight over the custody of their children, which days they will be with one parent or the other, the battle and the fight is over your children, and your children see themselves as the cause of the fight. If your children didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be a battle or a fight. Is this the message you want to be giving to your children? They do not care which home they are at more. They want to see both parents, they want to be happy children who transition from one home to the other with parents that are pleasant and nice to them and each other. They say, perception is everything. I really hope you will think about this! Do you really want your children growing up perceiving and believing that they are the cause of your conflict, divorce and unhappiness? I hope not! If you haven’t attended a Kids’ Turn San Diego co-parenting program, we invite you to invest in yourself, your family and your children. If you have and find yourself still angry and experiencing conflict, join us for a Continue the Conversation Class or come back to the program. We are never too old to learn and happiness can be part of all of our lives. As an adult child of divorce, and with all due respect, please get along with our co-parent and know that if you adjust well and move through life with ease, your children are more likely to adjust well. When you choose peace over power, your children get to feel happier!
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
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!
Merry Mindfulness through the Holidays
The holiday season can be a stressful time when it comes to traveling, coordinating with family, and, if you’re a co-parent, figuring out how to share the kids for holiday fun. With the holidays coming up, you may experience heightened conflict between you and your co-parent and a stir of emotions and stress. This year, let the holidays stay merry and bright! Read on to learn how to manage any difficult feelings that may come up through mindful parenting strategies.
Make Spirits Merry & Bright!
The holidays are meant to be a joyous time; allow yourself to enjoy it! Although a separated family situation can cause conflict, know that you have control over yourself and the ability to make choices regardless of your co-parent! Choose HAPPY! Here are some ways you can have a jolly good holiday season through mindfulness techniques:
1. Balance the should’s with your needs
Do you ever catch yourself thinking, “I should be with my kid not them”, “I should have gotten my child a better gift.”, or “I shouldn’t be making so many mistakes.”? These “should” statements are cognitive distortions that impose heavy expectations as concrete rules for ourselves. Thinking in “should’s” can lead to resentment, guilt, and burnout.
This holiday season, if you catch yourself thinking in “should’s”, observe how making this expectation is affecting you. Know that you are human and have limitations. No one is a perfect parent. Take the time to sit with this and make space to meet your needs instead of expectations. By setting realistic goals and caring for yourself, you will be stronger to care for others!
2. Practice Self-Compassion
When your child is struggling or in pain, your immediate response is probably to see if you can help in some way. When you are struggling or in pain, would you want the same? This holiday season, there may be times where you feel lonely, sad, or angry. When these emotions come up, practice self-compassion! Think, “how do I recognize what is going on for me” and “if my friend or my child told me that they were feeling the way I am, what would I do for them to make them feel better?”. Take your answer and do it for yourself. You deserve the same love you give to those around you!
3. Be Open to Emotions
During the rush of the holidays, it’s easy to just go, go, go and be completely unaware of what is happening around and within you. Stay attentive and receptive to your child’s and your own emotions. The holidays bring up a load of emotions, and it may be so overwhelming that they are difficult to identify. A great practice with your child is to begin identifying the emotions they are feeling. Check in throughout the holiday season to ask them how they’re feeling. Try to name the emotion together, why this emotion was brought up, and what they want to do next. Likewise, you can ask yourself these questions. Allowing yourself to be open to emotions with your child and yourself can foster a great sense of security and peace.
4. Indulge in Gratitude
By developing your own awareness for the gifts and blessings in your life, your children will follow suit! The holiday season is a wonderful time to begin incorporating gratitude practice into your everyday life. Gratitude can sound like, “I’m so thankful we get to spend some time together!”, “I’m blessed to be alive and healthy today!”, or “I am so lucky to be a parent”. Make the gratitude concrete by sitting with your children at dinner (or the end of your time together) to think of one thing you were grateful for that day. You can even create a gratitude jar where everyone writes down something they’re thankful for and add it into a jar. Then when a negative headspace arrives, you or your child can open the notes and remind yourselves of these moments! Gratitude is simple but has great effects! The more you and your children practice gratitude, the more you’ll find yourself noticing all the things to be grateful for.
5. The Gift of the Present
There is no better gift than the present! It is so easy to fall into the trap of wishing for the simpler days of the past, or anticipating the events of the future. While it is good to take moments to reminisce and plan ahead, don’t let the present slip away! Practice being fully present in your current space, especially when you have the gift of being with your child. Rather than planning out what you need to do next, stop and think about your five senses. When you’re with your kid you can ask them what they hear. Maybe it’ll become your next favorite holiday song! Ask what do you smell. Are there delicious baked goods around or a favorite meal? Ask what do you see. Enjoy the sight of beautiful holiday décor! Ask what do you taste. Maybe a delicious homemade meal? Ask what do you feel. Embrace and cherish a warm hug with one another! It is great to practice this sense of presence through your five senses. Your children will be grateful once they grow up, smell the scent of cookies, and think of the times you’ve spent together.
We hope these tips help you have a mindful and merry holiday season! Happy holidays from our family to yours!
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.
Read the rest at Grotto Network!