What can we find for you?
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!
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!
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!
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!
Understanding ADHD: Walk in My Shoes and Gain Perspective on the Most Common Myths
October is known for Halloween festivities, but did you know that it is also the official month for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness? Many children and adults live with ADHD, as it is very common. This poem tells it all:
Take my hand and come with me,
I want to teach you about ADHD.
I need you to know, I want to explain,
I have a very different brain.
Sights, sounds, and thoughts collide.
What to do first? I can’t decide.
Please understand I’m not to blame,
I just can’t process things the same.
Take my hand and walk with me,
Let me show you about ADHD.
I try to behave, I want to be good,
But I sometimes forget to do as I should.
Walk with me and wear my shoes,
You’ll see it’s not the way I’d choose.
I do know what I’m supposed to do,
But my brain is slow getting the message through.
Take my hand and talk with me,
I want to tell you about ADHD.
I rarely think before I talk,
I often run when I should walk.
It’s hard to get my school work done,
My thoughts are outside having fun.
I never know just where to start,
I think with my feelings and see with my heart.
Take my hand and stand by me,
I need you to know about ADHD.
It’s hard to explain but I want you to know,
I can’t help letting my feelings show.
Sometimes I’m angry, jealous, or sad.
I feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and mad.
I can’t concentrate and I lose all my stuff.
I try really hard but it’s never enough.
Take my hand and learn with me,
We need to know more about ADHD.
I worry a lot about getting things wrong,
Everything I do takes twice as long.
Everyday is exhausting for me…
Looking through the fog of ADHD.
I’m often so misunderstood,
I would change in a heartbeat if I could.
Take my hand and listen to me,
I want to share a secret about ADHD.
I want you to know there is more to me.
I’m not defined by it, you see.
I’m sensitive, kind and lots of fun.
I’m blamed for things I haven’t done.
I’m the loyalist friend you’ll ever know,
I just need a chance to let it show.
Take my hand and look at me,
Just forget about the ADHD.
I have real feelings just like you.
The love in my heart is just as true.
I may have a brain that can never rest,
But please understand I’m trying my best.
I want you to know, I need you to see,
I’m more than the label, I am still me!!!!
This poem speaks the truth about people living with ADHD. I hope you will always remember the last line of the poem, “I’m more than a label, I am still me!!!!” because ADHD does not define a person. Instead, ADHD is a behavioral condition that can make everyday routines and tasks more challenging for people who have ADHD. By the way, if you had it as a child, you probably still have it as an adult but hopefully you learned strategies over the years to manage your energy and have put systems in place to keep you focused and organized. Here are some tips for helping children manage ADHD challenges.
1. Provide clear, consistent expectations, directions, and limits. Children with ADHD are most successful when the adults in their lives are consistent. In divorced families, there are oftentimes different rules and structure at each home. For example, one parent may have bedtimes, homework time and dinner time, while the other parent may avoid rules and structure and go with the flow when their children are with them. Different rules in different houses can be challenging for all children in divorced families but most children easily adjust and transition from one set of rules to the other. However, for children with ADHD, the adjustment and transition may not be so easy. If your child has ADHD, we encourage you to read the poem again and take a walk in your child’s shoes. Children with ADHD respond well to structure, so rules and charts are a great tool for success. Break activities down and give one direction at a time. Praise your child and encourage them to be successful. Charts with stickers for success are fun for elementary age children and, believe it or not, even older children like to gain rewards, so be creative with your older children.
2. If a doctor has prescribed ADHD medications, follow the doctor’s order. Children who have been prescribed ADHD medications are most successful when their medications are taken as prescribed. In divorced families, oftentimes parents are not on the same page about ADHD medications. What does this look like? Here’s the visual. . .our child gets their medications during the first and third weeks of the month when they are with me but they do not take the medications on weeks two and four because their other parent doesn’t believe in giving medications, and probably doesn’t believe in the ADHD diagnosis. As with all other medications, ADHD medications need to be given consistently to work effectively and to avoid negative effects to the child. The medications are prescribed to help a child focus. If you don’t think your child needs the medications or you don’t believe in the diagnosis, we encourage you to read the poem again. Is this your child? If co-parents disagree, talk to the doctors and get on the same page. It is not fair, nor is it healthy, for your child to be on and off medications.
3. Boost your child’s confidence. Children with ADHD may receive lots of negative feedback from others in their lives, including teachers, parents, coaches, and peers. Every negative comment hurts their heart and may negatively impact their self-esteem. Read the poem again and share it with everyone in your child’s life. Your child deserves to be understood and treated with respect at all times. As your child’s parent, ensure your child has positive interactions and hears the word “yes” way more than they hear “no”. Spend time with your child and engage in activities that strengthen and build your child’s self-esteem. Schedule fun outings with your child, praise your child for big and small successes, acknowledge your child’s strengths, and tell your child how much you love them!
Here are some tips for parents:
- Don’t waste your emotional energy on self blame. You may have experienced negative experiences where people shame or blame you for your child’s behaviors. Remember, ADHD is not a result of poor parenting. ADHD is a behavioral condition that has to do with the structure of your child’s brain. When you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to breathe and remember your child’s love at the center of it all. You can join a support group and seek professional help to ensure you are your best self for your child. There are also lots of social media sites that you may find helpful.
- Educate yourself and become your child’s best advocate. The best way to help your child is to take time to learn all you can about ADHD. Know how ADHD specifically affects your child, as every child is different, and be able to speak up for your child’s rights! Here are some common ADHD myths that you may find helpful:
As co-parents, the best thing you can do for your child is to communicate and cooperate because, at the end of the day, you love your child above all else and your child loves both of their parents. To learn more about October ADHD Awareness Month check out the official ADHD Awareness website!
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!
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!
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!