Garden of Gratitude Principles

Written by Family Workshop Teen Graduate

Living a positive, successful life is unattainable without gratitude. 

Often described as appreciation, gratitude is demonstrating thankfulness for someone or something in your life. Gratitude can also be used as a coping mechanism, often helping with emotion and stress regulation. For those like me, a child of divorce, gratitude is an especially necessary skill and mindset to implement in daily life.

This year, Kids’ Turn San Diego’s Garden of Gratitude campaign represents the overarching process of giving thanks. Building your garden of gratitude takes time and effort, but can start with something as simple as saying thank you. In the heat of my parents’ divorce, attending the Family Workshop at KTSD helped me grow through gratitude. This began my metamorphosis, like the butterfly in KTSD’s garden, with the hope to encourage growth and reflection in me, my parents, and my sibling.

In 2020, when I began my KTSD journey, I was at an all time low. It was increasingly challenging for me to feel connected to my community. I believed nobody around me resonated with my feelings, or wanted to. When I joined the Family Workshop program,  I was encouraged to interact with kids my age who felt similarly, and we learned and practiced many skills. It was crucial for me to gain understanding and perspective on my situation in relation to others, as that helped me practice gratitude. Suddenly, I was grateful to have at least one parent that reached out to understand me. I was grateful to have a sibling, someone who believed in me, who I could believe in as well. I was grateful to have a program that showed me I’m not alone. All of those components together propelled me into my biggest stage of development.

Metamorphosis is often a symbol used to represent a big change in behavior or thinking, ultimately showing growth into maturation or adulthood. For me, KTSD helped change metamorphosis from a symbol to an outcome, as my experience helped me grow in wisdom, as well as perspective. 

From all the lessons I received from KTSD, the biggest takeaway I had was to give grace to myself and others around me suffering. Hold your loved ones tighter, give a smile to a stranger, say thank you when someone helps you… Thank you to the Group Leaders at KTSD for planting seeds and helping me become the beautiful butterfly I am today. 

Begin Your Metamorphosis

If KTSD sounds like it may be a good fit for you, a friend or a family member, explore our website to learn more.

Plant a Seed of Kindness

If you’re inspired by my story, join me in the Garden of Gratitude by making a donation today.

Don’t forget to follow KTSD on social media!



Divorce leads to a broken heart for everyone in the family, especially when conflict contiues after the papers are signed. Dreams may be shattered and lost. We may feel alone and sad. Sometimes we even feel angry and these feelings transition out of our hearts and into our behavior. It may not feel like it or you may not believe it, but having conflict in your relationship with you co-parent is a choice. You cannot change them or what they may or may not do to engage in conflict, but you can control yourself. YOU CAN DECIDE THAT YOU NO LONGER WANT THE CONFLICT. This doesn't mean that your co-parent will change or stop trying to engage you in the conflict, but it does mean that you have a choice to engage in the conflict, to continue it or YOU CAN CHOOSE TO SAY NO THANK YOU AND MOVE ON WITHOUT REACTING TO THE CONFLICT. This is not easy, but if and when you decide you are done with conflict with your co-parent, you can shfit your perspective to being in business with your co-parent. The business is to raise kind, caring and compassionate humans. Nothing more, nothing less. When in business, your communication is unemotional, direct, brief and to the point and you make requests and ask questions versus demanding information or reacting out of anger or emotion.


When children live in two homes full of love, acceptance, encouragement and praise, they learn to respect others, to be patient, to be confident and to appreciate everything and everyone in their lives. When children live with peace, they learn to be leaders, to have empathy and to empower themselves and others. They do well in school and thrive in all areas. When they live in conflict, they develop anxiety, depression, self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, bully others or are bullied by others and they struggle in school and with friends. No parent wishes this for their children but yet, some choose conflict. Referencing the poem by Dorothy Nolte "Children Learn What They Live", when children live with hostility, they learn to fight. Remember, the choice is yours!

This Valentine’s Day we invite you to nurture the broken hearts in your home by choosing to leave conflict in the past and look toward the future of investing in your children and their long term emotional well-being.

Does peaceful co-parenting sound impossible? 

Click here to learn about our court-approved, high conflict co-parenting program called Cooperative Co-Parenting 

What Are You Grateful For?

Kids’ Turn San Diego enters 2024 being more committed than ever to our mission of “promoting, supporting and securing the well-being of children experiencing family separation” and to doing whatever it takes to accomplish our mission. We see this year as one of purpose and gratitude. Our purpose is to empower children and heal families. We are grateful to those who allow us to be a part of their journey and to all who have joined our journey of creating life-changing programs for children and families.

As the year begins, we invite you to pause and reflect on a very important question … “What are you grateful for?”

Please join me in a short daily exercise, that hopefully will turn into a habit for you, and perhaps, your family. 

  1. Place a notepad and pen next to your bed.
  2. Each night before you go to bed, write at least one thing down you are grateful for.
  3. When your child is with you the next time, do the same activity with your child (remember not to suggest they do this at their other
    parent’s home, as you have no control over what happens in their other home).
  4. Repeat each night. 

A simple activity like this may change your perspective and outlook on life. I hope you will do this for at least one month (and then always)!

Kids’ Turn San Diego is grateful for being a resource to children and families. What are you grateful for today?

Accepting Holiday Reality & Enjoying the Holidays

As the holidays are fast approaching, many parents are struggling around holiday vacations. At Kids’ Turn San Diego, this is a common theme every December. In this month’s blog, we share some facts, offer some realities and provide some suggestions for getting out of the struggle. 


  • Fact: Sometimes children travel with one parent during the holidays to visit with extended family and one parent stays back for one reason or another
  • Fact: When children travel with one parent, they do not have physical contact with their other parent
  • Fact: Many separated and divorced parents are struggling with the upcoming holiday season and time away from their children
  • Fact: In separated and divorced families, vacation time is oftentimes viewed as “they’re taking my kids away from me”, “They’re trying to make me miserable”, or “It’s not fair for me not to see my children for three weeks”


  • Reality: In separated and divorced families, vacations are NOT ABOUT YOU
  • Reality: Family vacations are NOT ONE PARENT TAKING AWAY YOUR CHILDREN. Remember the children are OUR CHILDREN, NOT MY CHILDREN
  • Reality: Family vacations are NOT ABOUT MAKING YOU MISERABLE

In our Family Workshop program, we teach a skill called the ABCs of Healthy Communication.

A = Attitudes are how we think and feel about a situation

B = Behaviors are what we do as a reaction or response to a situation

C = Choices are the decisions we make about how we will think, feel and behave towards a situation

From the skill of Doing What Works, when it comes to vacation time, use your ABCs. NO ONE HAS CONTROL OVER HOW YOU THINK OR FEEL, only you do. NO ONE CAN GET INSIDE YOUR BODY and make you behave a certain way. The CHOICE IS YOURS! Here are some suggestions for letting go so you can move forward. 


  • Suggestion: I will survive if I do not see our children for three weeks. OUR CHILDREN WILL NOT FORGET ME!
  • Suggestion: Even though I don’t want to think about it this way, if our children are with their other parent for three weeks, THIS IS THREE WEEKS OF ME TIME TO DO WHATEVER I WANT!
  • Suggestion: Create a calendar with designated reality-based FaceTime or Phone Calls and provide the request when you agree to the vacation request. REMEMBER, A 5PM CALL IS NOT REALISTIC!
  • Suggestion: Agree to the vacation request and clearly state when your vacation will be. How, what, when? GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY. CHOOSE A TIME PERIOD AND THEN FIGURE IT OUT. Not sure how to do this? Keep it simple, if your co-parent is requesting a three week vacation this year from December 15th – January 5th, state, I will agree to your vacation request for December 15, 2023 – January 5, 2024, as long as we agree to the following FaceTime or Phone Call schedule (willing to negotiate if needed, as this is a tentative plan) and you approve my three week vacation next year from December 20, 2024 – January 3, 2025.

How we react to our co-parent’s request is no one’s choice but our own! You can run to your attorney or spend time and money running to court, OR YOU CAN SAVE THE TIME AND MONEY, KEEP IT SIMPLE AND USE THE MONEY TO PLAN YOUR THREE WEEK VACATION NEXT YEAR!  The choice is yours! 

From the Kids’ Turn San Diego Family to Yours, we wish you a peaceful holiday season full of gratitude for your incredible children!

World Kindness Week - 5 Acts of Kindness

Did you know last week, November 13-19, was World Kindness Week? Kindness encourages connections between people, boosts self-esteem, and reaps many benefits for those practicing kindness and those affected by it. Think of kindness like a superpower that’s contagious!

Celebrate World Kindness Week and enter the Thanksgiving holiday by committing to at least one act of kindness each day.

Here are 5 ideas for the week:

1) Say thank you throughout the day.

2) Open the door for another person.

3) Do a favor for a friend or family member.

4) Reach out to a loved one you haven’t connected with recently for the holiday season.

5) Donate to a cause you care about.

Conflict Resolution Day - October 19, 2023

Conflict Resolution Day is observed on the third Thursday of October every year, falling on October 19 this year, today. Conflict Resolution Day is a day to accept that conflict sometimes exists and that instead of avoiding it or ignoring it, to find a way to get through it.  Conflicts tend to arise in many areas of our lives, such as workplaces, relationships, and families ( At work, its co-workers bad mouthing others, questioning their performance, or creating hostile work environments. In relationships, well, let’s face it, conflict is normal and part of all relationships, it’s just how you handle yourself that makes all the difference. And, in families, well, conflict can be devastating.


Imagine you are 6-years-old and your parents are arguing over who will pick you up from first grade. This is the first time you’re going to a full day of school. You feel scared, nervous, and wish your parents would stop for a minute to help you pick out your first day of school outfit and to teach you how to use a lunchbox. You decide to wear one of your new outfits and you watch the other children during lunch so you figure out how to use your lunchbox and what to eat when. You learned the coping strategy of observing and doing what others do. Now you are in 3rd grade. Your parents still argue over everything. You pick out your first day of school clothes, pack your lunch and get ready for the first day of school. You’re late and your teacher calls you out on being late. You go to lunch and a couple of the kids walk by you and mimic the words of the teacher, “You have to be responsible to get to school on time, haha, you were late, you have to be responsible to be on time.” You tell them to be quiet. They make fun of you, “be quiet, leave me alone.” You get up and you throw your lunchbox and hit one of the kids in the head. The laughter stops. The room seems to go silent. The lunch lady is heading your way and you find yourself being escorted to the principal’s office. You try to explain but the principal doesn’t want to listen. After all, it is only the first day of school. You learned that if you try to stand up for yourself and others don’t back down, that you have to take matters into your own hands, and sometimes that means throwing something.


Children learn what they live! If they live with conflict, they learn conflict. If they live with anger, they learn how to react with anger.


On this Conflict Resolution Day, please join Kids’ Turn San Diego in choosing peace over power. Teach your children that they matter. If you are separated or divorced and in a high conflict situation with your child’s other parent, do something different. On this Conflict Resolution Day, decide that you love your children more than you dislike their other parent. Step back and be willing to “not win” but to instead collaborate in the best interest of your child. Children learn what they live!


Beyond today, Kids’ Turn San Diego is here to help. If you need support to “not win” or to “get unstuck so you can free yourself from a high conflict relationship”, attend a Cooperative Co-Parenting Program. This is a court approved high conflict co-parenting program. Kids’ Turn San Diego is committed to children feeling empowered and to healing families. Remember, children learn what they live. We’re here to support you if you want the support.

Kids' Turn San Diego Honors our First Responder Heroes!

September 11th marks a moment in American History where First Responders fought bravely to protect our nation. Firefighters, Policemen, Emergency Medical Technicians and others worked day and night to support our community while sacrificing their own safety.

They are fearless.

They are selfless.

And many are parents.

At Kids’ Turn San Diego, we appreciate and respect the work that First Responders do and understand that this may come with the cost of stress on their own families. We recognize that their sacrifices in the line of duty can, at times, affect their relationships with their spouses, co-parents and children.

KTSD is excited to announce the launch of a new program to support First Responders and their families.

Our new program will protect and support First Responder families by teaching strategies that can reduce conflict, increase communication and improve parent-child, parenting and co-parenting relationships. KTSD recognizes…

The Reality: Schedules of First Responder families can be challenging. Between long shifts and family obligations, there can be moments of feeling overwhelmed, burnt out and stressed out.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Imagine: Instead of feeling these ways, you have a family where you compromise, communicate and feel confident about being a parent.

The Reality: Communication can be difficult for all families and can cause moments of friction where feelings can be hurt. Many First Responder families escape these conversations because they are oftentimes pulled away from family time without much notice.                                                                Imagine: Instead of feeling left out or like an outsider in your own family, your family has communication systems and rules in place that facilitate the sharing of feelings and are inclusive of all family members, whether they are present or not.

The Reality: Life is busy, and it can be demanding to balance and prioritize work and family commitments. As a First Responder family, sometimes parents run around anxious or frantic from life threatening situations to attending after school activities like ballet or little league.                                        Imagine: Instead of feeling unbalanced from your career and home obligations, your family can create back up plans that foster communication and collaboration.

Kids Turn San Diego is committed to support our First Responders and our community by taking care of what matters most, Their Family!

PS. If you are a member of a First Responder Family, we invite you to be part of our first class and to help us name our program and fine tune it. If you would like to join or find out more information, please contact .

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!


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!!!!

Author Unknown

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:



ADHD is not real. People are just lazy.


ADHD can look like an excuse for laziness, but those with ADHD actually have a problem with the chemical dynamics in their brain. This is why it is important to check for ADHD and receive medication. Read the section of the poem “Take my hand and walk with me”.


Only boys can have ADHD.


Boys are statistically diagnosed with ADHD about three time as often as girls, but about 4.2% of girls do receive a diagnosis at some point in their life. Women and girls tend to be less likely to be properly diagnosed with ADHD due to gender bias and variation in symptoms. Girls often have the inattentive type of ADHD, so they do not always fit the typical picture of a hyper child with ADHD. ADHD looks different in everyone. When someone experiences difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, and poor time management, they may have ADHD.


I should hide my child’s ADHD to prevent labeling and discrimination.


It is difficult to decide whether you should disclose your child’s ADHD. There is no need to tell everyone about your child’s ADHD, but hiding it can be emotionally distressing for you and your child, and may make it difficult to get proper treatment. Secrecy can also foster more shame. ADHD is nothing to be shameful about or to blame yourself. Think of it as a behavioral condition your child has and forget about stigma and labels. Be your child’s advocate and help them stand up for what they need to be successful.


Everyone has a little ADHD.


People may experience some symptoms of ADHD, but that does not mean they have ADHD. Not everyone has a physical difference in their brain. While saying comments about ADHD may seem to be normalizing the condition, it can actually be hurtful and dismissive of the real struggles those with ADHD go through. Refer back to the poem and read it often. The more you read it, the more you will understand!

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!


Your children deserve the best of you, and we want you to be the best parent and co-parent possible.

This year, we are celebrating a BIG milestone! Kids’ Turn San Diego has been offering Family Workshops for Separated and Divorced Families for 25 years. We have listened to thousands of children share their experiences, and, for the most part, their needs have remained stable over time.

“I want to see both my parents.”

“I want my parents to stop fighting/arguing/yelling at each other.”

“I want my parents to pay attention to me.”

Prior to COVID-19, there were several common threads in the stories shared by the children attending our program. Children witnessed frequent fighting between their parents and were often brought into the fights. Children wanted to spend time with their parents, and they liked it when their parents got down on the floor and played with them. Some of the children felt like messengers passing information between their parents. A few of the children felt caught in the middle between their parents, an experience that was very stressful for them. Many of the children wanted their family to get along because it stressed them out.

One year ago, COVID-19 began to change everything. Most divorced parents came together and collaborated for the safety of their children, and children successfully transitioned from one home to their other home, week after week. 

Sadly, not all children were so fortunate. Some children found themselves stuck between parents with different beliefs, different strategies for ensuring health and safety, and, saddest of all, some children had no contact with their other parent as one of their parents used COVID-19, probably unconsciously, as a tool to keep their kids away from their other parent.

Sadly, some children are still not seeing one of their parents to this day.

In every Workshop this past year, we have heard these stories over and over.

Regardless of your relationship with your co-parent or your history together, you must remember that your children are not just yours. They are half of you and half of their other parent. They deserve to have healthy relationships with both of their parents — and you have a big role to play in this. Their brains are constantly developing, and they are learning from what they see and hear every day. They will copy the behavior and words that are being modeled.

Your children deserve the best of you and we want you to be the best parent and co-parent possible. If you are engaging in blaming, name-calling, manipulating or controlling, we encourage you to take a look at yourself and the behaviors you are choosing. We invite you to think about your choices. Are they in your best interest, or are you hurt, angry or upset and need extra support to work through these feelings? Are they in the best interest of your children, or do your children deserve to have relationships with both their parents, regardless of how you may feel about their other parent? These are hard questions, but feelings are normal and okay when they are addressed in healthy ways and without involving your children and their relationship with their other parent. There are many resources available to support you, especially at Kids’ Turn San Diego!

If you are the parent who has not been able to see your children, here are some suggestions for making the most of your parent-child relationship, even if you are apart for now:

  • Know that someday your child will realize what has occurred and they will come back and want a relationship. This may take 10 years, but with almost all children, as their brain develops, they begin to see through the name-calling and bad-mouthing so be ready for this day.
  • Keep a journal for your child. Pick out a special notebook and write a note to your child whenever you see something that reminds you of them. For example, maybe you see a beautiful sunset and it reminds you of a day you spent together at the beach. Write a note in the journal to your child. “When I was walking the dog today, the sunset was amazing. Pink, purple and some orange. It made me think of you and reminded me of the time when we were at the beach and . . .”. Make sure to date each and every entry. Someday you will be able to present this journal to your child and they will realize that you thought of them often and wished you were together.
  • Put together a parent-child picture memory album. Children love to see pictures of themselves when they were little and especially pictures with their parents. Purchase a photo album or a binder to create a parent-child memory album. Add special photos of you and your child and write in notes and details. Someday you will be able to present this memory album to your child. If you are seeing your children regularly, this is still a great idea!

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month and Parental Alienation Awareness Month. Parental alienation is any act by a parent that tries to destroy the relationship between a child and their other parent. Though not a syndrome or diagnosis, parental alienation can be considered a form of psychological abuse.

And childhood happiness most often does not include the word “abuse.”

Join us in the prevention of parental alienation and child abuse. Support your children’s happiness and encourage your children to have a healthy relationship with their other parent!