Monthly Archives: April 2011

Divorced! 5 Easy Ways to Take Care of Yourself

Divorce is so difficult. There are so many things to consider, and people to deal with, that it is easy to forget taking care of yourself.

1. Accept the divorce. This involves letting go of your former spouse, not just legally but also emotionally. Some divorced people remain as connected in anger as they once were in love. Such emotional investment in your spouse will prevent you from being able to move forward in your life.

2. Avoid becoming too socially or emotionally isolated. This is the time to reach out to old friends. Let them know you value their friendship. Explore new relationships with colleagues at work or acquaintances at the health club.

3. Plan ahead. Anticipate that certain dates will be difficult. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, even your divorce date will likely bring on surge of emotions. Recognize these feelings in advance so you can prepare alternative activities.

4. Own responsibility. Painful process, yes. But you will grow from embarking on such an exercise. Even if you truly feel that your ex-spouse was a louse, then ask yourself why you selected that person to be your lifetime partner? Were you attempting to fulfill a need that should be otherwise met? Or are you a ‘bad picker’ because of some perceptions you have of yourself or others that would best be discovered by personal evaluation?

5. Avoid developing unhealthy coping skills, such as overeatting or drinking, smoking, promiscuity, or drugs. Such behaviors can exascerbate depressive tendancies and create new problems for you.

I invite you to share with our readers what has worked for you in taking care of yourself following a divorce.

Eileen Lenson

3 Tips to Help Your Children Survive Your Divorce

You’re finally divorced. Anticipate that your children are going to be scared – of the unknown, as well as their feelings. If the parents handle the divorce well, the children will emerge emotionally healthy.

Suggestions to consider:

1. Give your children the green light to talk about their feelings. If they pick up on feelings of anger from you towards your ex-spouse, they will feel uncomfortable or disloyal telling you how they miss their other parent.

2. Reassure your children that they will continue to live with you, even when they are bad. Otherwise, they may fear you will divorce them, too.

3. Help your children remain children. After a divorce children sometimes are uncertain what is expected of them. They may try to take care of a parent by cooking, becoming a peer, or substituting for the absent parent. While it is acceptable for children to assume more responsibilities, they should not become surrogate spouses.

These clear boundaries will help your children have a sense of control over their fear of the unknown. I invite you to please share what concerns or solutions you have found following your own divorce.

Eileen Lenson

Stop the Fighting…..Bring on the Family Contract!!

From time to time, parents come to me because they are frustrated with their children’s behavior.

For one mother it was the dreaded trip to the grocery store with her 4 year old son. If she didn’t cave in to his requests to buy a toy or candy, he would start crying loudly, creating a disturbance and embarrassing her. She tried yelling, pleading and spanking. It didn’t work.

For another set of parents, it was the frustration of having a 12 year old son who refused to clean his room, turn in homework assignments, or help with family chores. They lectured, threatened, and argued. It didn’t work.

As parents, we are responsible for preparing our children for the big world. Employers, neighbors and friends will never love our children as much as we do. They will not be tolerant of our grown up kids if they are exhibiting the same irresponsible behavior, lack of consideration for others, or poor impulse control that they are doing every day in our homes.

Parents are always wondering how to make rules stick. Since whips, chains and abuse are out of the question, I make a Family Contract. It takes a few hours to set up, and only 15 minutes a day to enforce. The Family Contracts works by setting up clear rules for behavior, it lists privileges, and clearly spells out what the child must do to earn the privileges. It is an effective tool that can make family life a more harmonious existence.

When constructing a Family Contract, you need to take into consideration your child’s age, skills, limitations, and interests. There are specific components of the contract; rules, point assignment, daily review, award disbursement.

1. Rules
Each contract will contain a list of rules with which the child is expected to comply. These are nonnegotiable expectations that the parent has determined to be important to the functioning of the family. Rules may include, but are not confined to, chores, behavior related to school, selection of friends, curfews, exercise, pet care, and personal hygiene. Each rule is written very specifically, ensuring that both the parent and child are very clear as to what the behavior is to look like.

2. Point System
Each rule is assigned a point, ranging from 1-5. When a rule is completed, the child is awarded the corresponding number of points. These points can later be exchanged for rewards. The number of points a rule is assigned varies based on the level of importance the parent places on it. For example, taking out the trash weekly may earn 1 point, whereas not hitting other children on the schoolyard, (a more serious behavior) could be worth 5 points. Also consider the difficulty of each behavior, when assigning points. Feeding the family dog daily is not as difficult a behavior as not yelling at parents.

Points are added up, preferably at the same time each day. Family Contracts often fail due to lack of parental compliance. If parents don’t take the contract seriously and enforce it daily, then the child will understand that the parent isn’t committed to it, and won’t make the desired changes.

Remember that no one is perfect, so we should not expect our children to be, either. When reviewing the chart with your child, give positive feedback for the points earned, as this reflects successful changes in behavior. When points cannot be earned, do not criticize, but give encouragement. Remind them that tomorrow is a new and fresh day, and they can again try to earn points for that behavior.

3. Privileges
This is what motivates your child to work with the contract. Consider it akin to the paycheck after a 40 hour work week. Develop a list of attainable rewards. Avoid having them be solely monetary. They can include a later curfew, a sleepover, more telephone time, an outing with a parent, or selection of toppings for the family pizza. All rewards are not equal, so points will be assigned according to the value of the reward. The child should be able to use earned points in any given weeks for a reward, or to save up some points for a larger reward.

4. Signing
This is a contract. Each parent and child for whom the rules are being established, are to sign the contract. This formality helps to increase the child’s investment in the contract.

5. Posting
Post the contract in the kitchen in a highly visible place. If tucked in a drawer, it will get overlooked on busy days. Keep it highly visible, such as under a magnet on the refrigerator, enables parents and the child to reflect on changes made, and on awards to be reached.

Are you ready to put the fun back in parenting? The Family Contract may be the tool you’ve been waiting for.

Eileen Lenson

A Big Problem: Over-Indulgence in Parenting

What’s wrong with over-indulgence?
We hear so much about the fact that parents are over-indulging their kids; giving them too much of what they want, or before they’re mature enough for it, that impede the children from realizing their full potential. Over-indulged children become adults that have difficulty fitting into society. They expect immediate gratification, have difficulty owning responsibility for themselves, have an inflated self-esteem, and have difficulty relating to others. Many of the parents I coach want to know how they can avoid this trap and best raise their children to be healthy adults.

Why over-indulgence happens:
Blame it on the times. Times have changed. Years ago, families primarily lived on farms. They worked hard. Roles were clear and the kids had a clear sense of what was expected of them. The extended family helped reinforce the family values.

Today, most families live in cities or suburbs. Children don’t have hard work to do at home. Some don’t even have basic chores. The children have constant exposed to the media, which perpetuates the message that they must to have all their superficial needs met. Parents, meanwhile, experience stress because the extended family is usually separated by hundreds of miles, and they have no support. Children grow up not understanding the difference between a want and a need. And unfortunately, sometimes nor do the parents.

Turning off the over-indulgence faucet:
Parents can interrupt the over-indulgence cycle at any given moment. They simply need to evaluate the following:
1. The amount of material things are given to their kids
2. The amount of activities they have them in
3. The establishment and enforcement of rules and chores in the home
4. Whether they are doing things for their children that they should be achieving on their own

Parenting skills can be improved by ensuring that children aren’t just kept busy, but rather that their emotional needs are met as well. Working parents sometimes feel guilty about being away from the home for long periods of time and try to make up for the lost time with material goods. The children benefit more from parental involvement. Tending to children’s emotional needs, even on the limited time available each day, is quality time well spent.

It is a competitive world out there, and even parents of elementary school aged children are anxious about their children getting accepted into college. As a result, they sometimes are tempted to overdo the help at home; be it a project or an essay. Remembering that children are more than a GPA, they will do best in life if they learn self-reliance. Discovering their own independence might also mean that they have to struggle with an academic issue until they learn for themselves how to master it. Do not try to rescue children from painful learning experiences such as homework. Parents cannot follow their children into college. Letting them learn the school lessons at home while growing up will prepare them for success at a later stage of life.

Parents sometimes live vicariously through their children. Missed opportunities in their childhood can cause them to try to make up for them through their children. The result can be compromising to the integrity, safety, or growing independence of children.

What Our Kids Really Need:
1. Children will grow up well if they learn that “no” means “no”.
2. They need to be given discipline, and it is acceptable – even expected – that they will be unhappy about it.
3. Children need to learn that it is safe to share their feelings. They will learn from observing parents doing so comfortably in their presence.
4. Children need to be able to make mistakes. I truly believe that is why they live with us for their first 18 or so years. They can fail at things but the parents will be there to help them process what went wrong, making it a growth experience.

If we look back at the parenting we received, and honestly examine the positives and negatives, then we can incorporate these experiences into the parenting that we provide to our children.

Eileen Lenson