Parental Alienation from a Teen's Perspective

Written by Family Workshop Teen Graduate

Alien. 

What does that word make you think of?

For some, unknown green creatures come to mind. Others think of the mysterious Area 51, or the kind gentle alien representation, E.T. Some have a negative affiliation with the word, recalling a time a family member, friend, or themselves was referenced by the term.

Alienating.

Building from our previous meaning for the word alien, what would you think “alienating” means to a little kid?

When I was 10, these terms were synonymous. So, when my dad screamed the word  in my face, I was confused. I couldn’t believe I was being called an alien. I had never watched “E.T.”, I knew I didn’t come from Area 51, and I was positive I wasn’t green. Nevertheless, that comment made me feel like a lesser human. When I questioned him, asking what he meant by that, his reply was, “Your mom is alienating you from me. In fact, you’re alienating yourself.” 

I was told that my mom was trying to make me into an alien, and I was too.

As April is National Parental Alienation Month, it’s important, especially now, to take time to understand what the word truly means, how it impacts your children and why avoiding the word is critical. 

Based on the Oxford dictionary, alienation is a noun meaning, “the state or experience of being isolated from a group or an activity to which one should belong or in which one should be involved.” 

After therapy and years of help, I realized the repercussions of what my dad had said, and most of all how untrue the statement was. 

From a child of a divorced family that was confused by a parent using the word “alienating”, here’s my perspective. Alienating should not be weaponized; It should not be used to hurt your loved ones. As a child of divorce, oftentimes I would fall in the middle of an argument, or be the center of it. Being in the middle of one more problem, only pushed me further into confusion and isolation. 

To all the parents reading this blog, I encourage you – 

Be the change for your family or your child by building instead of breaking.

Kids’ Turn San Diego helped my family learn, and helped me heal. 

Start making good habits by breaking bad ones, and be the growth for your family.  

Be the Change for Your Family

If Kids' Turn San Diego sounds like it may be a good fit for you, a friend, or a family member, explore our website to learn more about the programs we offer.

Donate to Help Families Heal

If you’re moved by my story and the part KTSD played in my journey, plant a seed of kindness in the Garden of Gratitude by making a donation today.

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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!

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Photo from www.teachhub.com

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!

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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

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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!

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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)

Quality Time

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!)

Receiving Gifts

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?)

Physical Touch

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“.

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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!

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Image taken by Morgan Liberatore of Morning Owl Fine Art Photography www.morningowlfineart.com

Kids’ Turn San Diego honors all military families and thanks you for your service!

Members and families of the United States military commit to serving our country, work long hours, and experience many moves and deployments. Whether this is your first time away, or your 10th, being away from home can put a strain on the family. Staying connected while away doesn’t have to be stressful! 

In honor of Veteran’s Day and the Month of Military Family Appreciation, Kids’ Turn San Diego encourages all families to stay connected during times of separation. Here are some suggestions:  

1. Create a realistic communication plan

Military service orders are sometimes vague, and the member will not know if communication via phone, text or internet will be possible. Instead of worrying about the details, create a plan with those at home for how they will communicate with the family member who is away.

Schedule a weekly family meeting time where each family member contributes to the Family Journal, a Family Memory Book, a Family Memory Box or a Family Poster. Whatever you choose, during your family meetings, each family member contributes by writing a note, drawing or adding a picture or tape/glue/place something about the week into the journal, book, box or poster.

This may seem silly but wait until your service member returns home! They will get to see everything they missed while away. What a great way to watch your children grow up and learn about all their adventures!

2. Have fun documenting memories and developmental milestones

Find a jar and decorate it with your children or by yourself if your children are too young. Then, whenever something exciting happens, write it down or have your children write it down or draw a picture. You can also slip pictures, crafts, and other items to share in your jar. Items in the jar could be shared during calls and then presented to the service member when they return home. Remind yourself and your children, your service member will need time to transition back into the family. Presenting the jar so they can check it out any time they are ready is a great way to help everyone transition back together.  

3. Use the internet or your smart phone to stay connected

Create a shared iCloud account, Vimeo account or google drive where you can upload recorded videos and pictures. Document first walks, first words, and every moment that you love about your child. We all do this so why not share it! Uploading is easy, free, and can be quickly done through a smart phone or computer. As parents, we all take the pictures and save them to our phones. Take the extra step and share them on a shared drive or account so your service member gets to enjoy each video and picture as they are happening and when they are able to view them.

4. Write letters to stay connected

Sending letters is another way to keep in touch! If your little ones aren’t ready to write yet, you can have them draw pictures to mail. The great thing about snail mail is that you’ll have a physical reminder of each other’s love to hold onto!

Short notes or letters can be written by everyone, even the service member. Mail may be slow and could take a month to arrive, but so what! A written letter is a treasure, no matter when it arrives. Save them all! Children will feel important and loved when their parent returns home and pulls out all their letters and then when children show you all your letters, you’ll feel important and loved too. Being away doesn’t have to mean that you miss your children growing up, it just means you participate differently.

5. Keep relationships strong

For military families, it’s not just about the kids. The parents matter too! Stay connected with your spouse in creative ways. For example, the spouse at home could play your wedding song every month on the day you got married or look at your wedding pictures and then share the memory with their spouse during a phone call or text or write the memory in their Thinking About You Book (which could be a spiral notebook or composition book or a special journal you choose). For the spouse who is away, figure out something you’re able to do monthly on your wedding date and then tell your spouse about it during calls, emails, texts or in your Thinking About you Book. If you’re able to keep a Thinking About Your Book or Journal, great, if not, find a different way to share, even if that means sharing when you get home.  

Since we know communication can be challenging when a service member is away, brainstorm creative ways to stay connected. Here’s another idea to try. Everyone sees the sky at night so maybe look at the stars on the same date each month and know that your spouse is also looking. This could bring comfort and connection. 

In honor of Veterans Day, Kids’ Turn San Diego salutes all veterans, active duty and reserve service members and their families! Your contribution and sacrifice for our safety must be acknowledged and honored. We thank you all!
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Tricks (or Treats!) for Co-Parenting on Halloween

Halloween is quickly approaching which means lots of sweet treats, crazy costumes, and family fun! However, if your family is experiencing divorce, Halloween may also be a stressful time as it starts the difficult question of, “how do we share the kids for the holidays?”. Whatever the decision there is not one parent who wins or loses! Your whole family can have a fun and spooktacular Halloween with these tricks to co-parenting on Halloween!

Being able to both accompany your children as they trick-or-treat is ideal for children in divorced families. If you choose to share the night together, here are some tricks to remember:

1. Put your child first!

Being around your co-parent can bring out complicated thoughts and feelings. Despite these emotions, remember that successful co-parenting occurs when each parent values how important it is to put their child first! Take time to listen to what your child wants to do. Maybe they want to trick-or-treat with their friends, or dress up and parade around the house. Halloween is a holiday for the kids to have fun! If it’s possible, for the one night, put aside your own feelings and make decisions with your child in mind first.

2. Make decisions ahead of time.

One of the most important things to avoid on Halloween is arguing in front of your children. Show your children that you and your co-parent can cooperate! This means that you’ll want to figure out how the night will go ahead of time. Things to consider are what time you’ll meet up, what neighborhood you’ll be going to, how long you’ll stay out for, and who your child goes home with at the end of the night. Making these decisions ahead of time will help make the rest of the night flow smoothly!

3. Enjoy the night!

Children pick up on tension and stress easily, so it is important for you to relax and enjoy the night as well! Take pictures of your child in their costume, hold their hand as you walk around, and simply let yourself enjoy the quality time you are getting with your child. Yes, your co-parent may be with you as well but that does not have to change the fun that your child has, or that you have. By doing this, you send a message to your child that says, “We love you and are committed to making you happy! We can put aside our issues for you.”

Not all cases are the same, so if you would rather choose to split the day or alternate which of you is with the children each year, here are some ideas on how to handle your Halloween:

1. Leave the Choosing to the Parents

Do not force your child to choose between one parent or the other. Putting your child in the position of choosing parents can be emotionally distressing so do not set them up for disappointment or unnecessary stress. Your child comes from both you and your co-parent, so they love you both! Talk to your co-parent to decide who will have your child at what time/year/days. If this seems difficult, you can always reach out for professional help!

2. Create new traditions!

Just because you do not have your kids on Halloween night does not mean the fun ends. Create a new tradition with your kids! Halloween events occur throughout all of October. Maybe your business throws a Halloween party that you can take your kids to? Does your community host any trunk or treat events, or pumpkin patches? Could you find a day to watch Halloween movies and decorate the house together? Halloween is not limited to one day. Your child will feel lucky that they get to celebrate Halloween more than once, and you will both get to bond during this quality time together!

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3. Share the highlights.

Send photos of your children in their costumes to your co-parent. Let your children know you are doing this, as it is a kind gesture that will feel good to your children. If you’re the parent getting the picture, when you see your children, make sure you tell them how much you loved their costume! Stay engaged with your child and ask them about how the night went or what their favorite parts were. These simple actions can help your children feel more comfortable and confident about your family’s divorce because they’ll know you are still part of their life.

We hope these tricks help make Halloween a treat for your entire family! Remember that using a creative and kid centered approach to sharing holidays can make even the most complicated situations a success. Happy Halloween!

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Over one year into the pandemic, it's normal to have questions and uncertainties as life begins to shift again. Here we share our answers to the most common questions we're hearing from co-parents in our Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families.

We have just passed the one year mark of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. I remember having so many questions at this time last year, thinking that we would be out of work for a couple of months, max, and worried about buying toilet paper, getting a thermometer that actually worked properly and finding disinfecting wipes and anti-bacterial hand gel. It was a scary time!

And here we are — one year later. No matter who or where you are, there is one thing we all share: We have all been impacted by COVID in one way or another!

As life begins to shift again, our questions are real and important. Our thoughts and feelings are valid, even if others think or feel differently. If you’re anxious, worried or even scared sometimes, you are NORMAL!

In this past year, disinfecting wipes and hand gel became my new best friends. If you need hand gel, I am the one to ask. This is my new reality and surprisingly, the reality of many others. But not everyone is this way. Some people socialize with others without masks or social distancing or say “no thank you” when you offer them a squirt of hand gel. This thinking is very different than mine, and I don’t understand it.

One thing I do understand is that I have no control over anyone else!

At Kids’ Turn San Diego, 506 parents and their 323 children have attended our Family Workshops since the pandemic began. We have heard a lot of questions. Here are the top seven.

I hope so! Studies are showing that the COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you against COVID-19 and from becoming seriously sick if you do get it. I am vaccinated, and although I was hesitant at first and continue to wear masks and to use disinfecting wipes and hand gel regularly, I feel safer and relieved that I am vaccinated. The other people in my home are waiting to get appointments. We will all feel a little safer and relieved that we took another step to protect ourselves and others. When I was undecided, I talked with my doctor and asked for their recommendation. Talk with your doctor if you have questions.

These are difficult decisions. Some parents have reached out to the courts and were disappointed when their case was not heard, while others took the path of claiming that the other parent is intentionally putting the children at risk. If parents cannot agree, you may want to consider a conversation with your child’s doctor. If your child is sick and has to go to the doctor, you would treat the illness with the medicine provided so that your child would get better. So, if you’re unsure, go with the doctor’s recommendation. The best thing for your children is for their parents to decide together. This shows your children that you are a united front when it comes to them, and that you have their best interest at the forefront of all decisions. 

Remember: YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OVER WHAT HAPPENS IN YOUR CHILD’S OTHER HOUSE. You will never know the reason why, so challenge yourself to let go of your worry. Instead, focus on what you can control. For example, when your children return to your home, take their temperatures, have them change their clothes, have them take a shower or bath, have them wash their hands, or wear a mask around them. (I know this sounds silly, but YOU have the power to protect yourself by wearing a mask). Get creative with your children and create a return plan together. It will be easier to implement if your children help create the plan.

Only time will tell, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the people who know way more about COVID-19 than any of us are saying yes. So, if you are comfortable, send your children to school. If you’re not comfortable, remote learning has been going on for a year and you and your children are probably pretty good at it by now. If it’s working and makes you all feel better, make arrangements with the school.

Again, only time will tell what the summer holds for all of us. Talk with your children. If they want to return to these activities, talk about how they will take care of themselves. Because there are so many unknowns, I encourage you to pay deposits only and hold off on paying full fees until you are sure that the opportunity will be happening.

The CDC and our local health department has been making decisions based on the number of COVID cases and positive test rates. The numbers are decreasing as more people are getting vaccinated. Talk with your place of employment. Maybe you can work remotely on some days and at the office on others. When it comes to the question of who will stay with your children while you’re at work, consider your co-parent. Are they still working remotely? Collaborating on a temporary plan related to children being at home and parents needing to work is a great idea. Use “I statements” to work on the details. Think of it as a business transaction so that there are no emotions tied to the conversation. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve heard a parent say no to hanging out with their children when they are home and available, so this is a great idea (and it doesn’t cost you any money)!

We’re hearing a lot about children as young as seven having panic attacks since they returned to school. The best thing you can do is to reassure them and ask them what they need to feel safe and secure. Maybe they need to take a picture of you with them. Maybe their favorite stuffed animal needs to travel in their backpack. Maybe they need to hear from their parents that your expectations of them are to have fun and to engage with their friends — and if they can learn, too, that would be great! Children are worried about not meeting the teacher’s expectations, so set clear parent expectations to help them relax and feel better. If your child continues to feel anxious, request a conversation with the teacher. They have been living through the pandemic, too, and may need a reminder of what your child needs to be successful in the classroom. Also, structure and calendars work great to help reduce anxiety in children. Create a family calendar that shows which days your child is at each parent’s home, at-school days and remote learning days, weekends, events and activities. Add birthdays too. Knowing how to use a calendar is a life skill, so this is a great opportunity to teach it to your child. Get creative with stickers and colors and make it fun!

We’re here for you at Kids’ Turn San Diego. We wish you the best of luck as we all navigate these uncharted waters!

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