Helping you to find your own manual

November 3, 2009

Hello all, I have always wanted to write a blog, but until my youngest son pointed me in the right direction, I had no idea how to do it. So often in my line of work, I hear folks say “they never gave you a manual with kids.’ so…I decided I was going to do it, give you a manual, that is. So, what I am hoping to do is provide you with information, based upon my trainings (M.A. in Clinical Psychology) and my experience as both a child advocate, custody evaluatior, counselor, lecturer/trainer in the area of the effects of domestic violence on children and as a mom who raised three children and am helping with a couple of my grandkids. I want to provide you with practical advice, laced with some humor, and I hope that you will ask questions. I will respond. I hope to post a minimum of once a week, and if you ask me a question, to which I do not know the answer, I will find it for you.



When I was a Kid

October 12, 2012

I see things that my mother does that reminds me of when I was a kid.  She hums and sings to herself, but she makes up words to songs that often don’t even fit.  I remember when I was a kid and she always had a radio on in the morning in the kitchen.  She would sing along to the music, making up words that fit to her. It used to make me crazy.  I would tell her “those aren’t the words.” and she would tell me they were for her. Lately, she has been singing “ho, ho, ho, where do I go…” to the tune of Up on the Housetop.  Every time the words are a little different.

Growing up wasn’t always easy.  We were poor.  We lived in what folks would call today, the projects.  Back then it was an area of town no one wanted to admit living.  It was called Hebble Homes, and if memory serves me correctly, they were converted World War II barracks. We lived in a three room apartment with only one bedroom.   When we first moved there, we had a coal stove, and the coal was delivered when it was needed.  Some years later, it was replaced by a fuel oil stove, but we never had central heat or air.  I shared the bedroom with my parents until my mother decided I was too old for that, and they then bought a hide a bed sofa and slept in the living room, giving me a room of my own.  They used the hall closet for their clothes, and there was a chest of drawers in the bathroom. To this day, I have trouble sitting straight on a toilet, because I always had to sit sideways growing up because there was the chest just opposite the toilet. I grew up with only a shower, so even now I prefer a shower to a bath.

It wasn’t until I was in graduate school and going through therapy to help me learn how to do therapy that i realized that the treatments I had received at the hands of my parents really had nothing to do with me, but was more about the way they were raised.  My father used to get angry, and he would explode and I would get whipped with a belt.  I remember cowering in a corner and him hitting anyplace he could reach until my mother would finally say, “Lloyd, that’s enough.”  I don’t remember when it started, but I remember being a young teen when it ended.  I got angy one time and stood up to him, saying “if that is what makes you happy, then go ahead and beat me.”  He never hit me again.  I found out when I was 16 years old that my father had been abused as a child.  My grandfather was a Holiness minister who worked in the coal mines to support his family (dad was one of 17 children), and he was very strict.  I remember a story of my dad and one of his brothers playing near the coal mine where they weren’t supposed to be.  Dad fell and broke his leg.  His brother went home, got a wagon and pulled my dad around for three days before telling anyone his leg was broken, they were so fearful of feeling their father’s wrath.  It seems that my grandfaher used to strap the boys wrists together and hang them over the top of the edge of a door, and then whip them.  When he was hitting me, he was pretty much dissociating and reacting to his father.

Mom was very strict also, especially about things being clean.  I remember once that she hid a piece of dust under the leg of a platform rocker we had in the living room.  When she came home to inspect my vacuuming, she moved the chair, found the piece of dust, and I was severely punished. I was 12 years old.

Anyway, I think helping mom, letting her know I am there for her for anything she needs, makes me feel cleansed of all my childhood resentments.  It will also give me a new perspective on some of the parental situations I see in my work.  I wonder how that will change.

Parent Awareness when Going Through a Divorce

February 14, 2012

I teach a parenting class for parents going through divorce. I ask for comments on my evaluation sheets, and some of the comments include: “This is a complete waste of my time.” “I don’t need to know how to parent my child.” “I hate that the State is interfering in my business.” These are the parents who sit through the two hour class, sometimes dozing, sometimes texting, sometimes talking. They really don’t realize that the information they could be getting could help them interact more positively with the child or in front of the child. They don’t understand the importance of not bad-mouthing the other parent to the child. Children are made up of two parents. When you tell them they other parent is bad or unlovable, they hear “I am bad or unlovable.” Children often feel responsible for their parents’ divorce. They say they have seen movies or pictures of their parents when they were first together, before they had kids, and they looked happy. I try to help parents understand that I know they are unhappy or angry, but the kids are so impressionable and can so easily be hurt during this time, and their hurts can last a lifetime. When one parent tries to alienate the child from the other on purpose, it tends to backfire in the long run. The winds up aligned with the previously alienated parent and turns against the alienator. If I can give parents one piece of advice, it is “the greatest gift you can give your children during this time is permission to love their other parent.”

Step Parents and New Babies

June 28, 2010

It is sometimes hard to watch. When a single parent remarries to someone who has never had children, and then their only child becomes the brunt of authoritarian parenting. How sad. Recently, one little boy whose mom just had a baby said “he is so mean to me and she always takes his side.” The child is not 15. He is 7. The step dad is constantly ordering the child around, without explanation. The child is accusing of doing things he is not doing “running around in a store” when he is merely playing close by with another child while the parents are chatting with friends. I have seen this step father spank this child without a lot of provocation. You bet, if it rose to the level of child abuse, I would report it. At the least, it is emotional abuse, but that is too difficult to prove. Step parents, please please take a parenting class. Let the single parent teach you. Don’t jump in and try to order the child around before you understand how a child thinks, acts, behaves. Learn how to parent before you destroy the self esteem of a normal little child. Learn to tell them why you want them to do what you want them to do. It works so much better, both for them and for you. I am concerned now that there is a new baby. Will step dad finally leave the little guy alone, or will he become even harder on the kiddo now that he has a child whose blood is the same as his? Are we looking at the child who is going to turn into a tyrant himself someday?

Calendars and Schedules

February 19, 2010

So often when I am dealing with divorcing parents and there is even a hint of animosity over the children, I find that one of the things that is argued over the most is the children’s schedules. They don’t tell each other, or they do and one claims the other didn’t or one parent must find out about events from the children. None of these is acceptable. If you get the information, it does your children no good to not show up for events, and then blame it on the other parent. Granted, there are going to be times when a parent either refuses to pass along the necessary dates and times, or even innocently forgets. It does happen. So what is the solution? Courts have told the parents to keep a diary/journal that is exchanged each the time child is exchanged. I have seen these start with all good intentions, but eventually, the journal winds up with things in it more than information sharing, or it gets lost, or parents either refuse to use it or forget to use it. So, What is the solution? I have come across a website that is still in development but will be available soon. This website provides a coded calendar that allows each parent to put information on it about appointments, exchange schedules, holidays, just about anything. It can include not only the parents, but also the parents’ significant others, grandparents, aunts and uncles; anyone who is significantly and regularly involved in the child’s schedule. This website is called Okay, so I hear you. What if I put something on it, and dad/mom erases it? Well, they can try, but there is a history of every entry, so even if it is erased, it will show up in the history. These calendars and journals can be printed out to take to court hearings, mediations, any type of meeting or information sharing event. It doesn’t cost anything, and it can save you a lot of time, money, and anxiety. Give it a try.

Innovative Solutions to Unusual Problems

November 20, 2009

When you are parents going through a divorce when a child with a handicap is part of the mix, what do you do? There are so many variables at work that can affect the decisions that must be made. First of all, consider the severity of the handicap. Is the child in a wheelchair, immobile or in need of constant attention? Does the child have a severe vision or hearing problem? It does or can make a difference. There have been cases that I am familiar with where there was a child who was medically fragile and could not be moved out of the marital home. What does that mean? Should only one of the parents be able to parent the child? Absolutely not. But, it may take some innovation and cooperation on the parents’ part. There is a technique known as “nesting” when the child remains in the home, and the parents have an additional home or apartment and alternate staying in the primary home with the child. This only works if the parents are truly committed to the child and to working together. For many other types of handicaps, it may be that both parents engage in the child’s life and treatment. If you have a deaf child, you will both want to learn sign language, and be prepared to understand how schooling works, how hearing aids work, etc. There is a saying “think outside the box” and in these cases, it certainly applies. There is no reason a handicapped child cannot benefit from two loving and devoted parents, even when those parents no long wish to live together in a marital relationship. Just “think outside the box.” It will benefit your child in the long run.

Tantrums are wild

November 15, 2009

I have a five year old grandson with ADHD who lives in the same house, so I oftentimes find myself facing tantrums. I thought I knew a lot about them from raising my own kids, but back then no one told me how to handle it, and I am sure there were many times I did it wrong. So, what do you do when your child is out of control and nothing seems to work? It all depends on your perspective. First of all, consider why the tantrum is occurring. Is it because the child wants something you are not giving him. “I want yogurt and I want it now.” “Nope, almost dinner time.” There are different steps you can take when you see the face begin to screw up and the lips begin to quiver. Acknowledge that the child wants something. “I understand you are hungry and want that yogurt, but dinner will be ready in 10 minutes and it is one of your favorites. It would be a shame if you spoiled your appetite and didn’t get to eat the macaroni and cheese I am making.” If that doesn’t work, let the child know you are not going to be a part of his tantrum. He can go to his room, or if there is another place he can have the trantrum where you don’t have to see it or listen to it, send him there. Don’t provide positive or negative feedback or attention. It does no good if you give in to what he wants, but it also does no good to scream and yell back, because you are demonstrating that you can have a tantrum too. He gets the attention either way that you are trying to avoid. If you think that he might want to ask for something because dinner is taking longer to prepare than you thought, you might head him off at the pass by saying something like “I bet you are getting hungry. I would really appreciate it if you could wait another ten minutes, because you will have a special meal then.” One of the things my daughter has done is to set the alarm on the stove to let my grandson know when to expect things like dinner or his bedtime. It really helps to keep the child from throwing tantrums when things happen when they are expected, not when they are surprised by the activity. They can prepare. Getting their toys together and changing into pajamas. It can become a productive, tantrumless routine. And once the child’s behavior begins to change, acknowledge it. “I really appreciate that you didn’t get angry because we had to go to the store and you wanted to stay and play.” Those are just a few suggestions to help you get your child beyond these loud and sometimes destructive behaviors.

Take a chill

November 7, 2009

Again with the economy. Have you ever heard the expression “S… rolls down hill?” When economic difficulties happen, even unconsciously, it can roll to the children. You lose your job or your hours are cut, or credit card companies are busy working their magic of increasing interest rates. The result is feeling like the dollars you bring home just aren’t enough. You begin to worry about paying the bills, having to cut back on the family extras, and of course the vacation is gone. It can be very stressful, and without evening realizing it, you begin to yell at your spouse, and then kids, even doing things that kids do like running and playing can begin to get on your nerves. It is important to become more consciously aware of your reactions. Instead of yelling, ask them for a hug. You would be surprised and how much better you will feel after a great big kid hug. And laugh, when they do something silly, instead of yelling. Laughter makes us feel better and it actually exercises your heart. So, even when things become so stressful that we are tempted to take it out on the smallest of those who live with us, stop and take a chill. It will be better for all of you in the long run.

But My Kids Weren’t Planned

November 4, 2009

I often hear mothers make that statement when trying to come up with an excuse for not adequately caring for or about their children. My daughter is the nursery director at her church, and they recently asked that each of the parents volunteer their time to the nursery, and one woman, instead of willingly taking her turn said flat out that she wouldn’t do it, because “my kids weren’t planned.” What a horrible thing to say to or in front of or even about your children. These kinds of messages tell children that in some way it is their fault, and they can develope self esteem issues if they continually hear that they really weren’t wanted. Celebrate your children every day. Celebrate their uniqueness, their funniness, their innocent and loving natures. Instead of telling them weren’t planned, tell them they have a great smile. Children are so special, and such an important part of our lives. Just remember, you were a child once too. And even if your parents said to you “you weren’t planned” remember how that made you feel and vow to break that cycle. Every child deserves to be loved and cared for. Make this a day to begin to tell your children how much they are wanted.

Divorce and the Economy

November 4, 2009

One thing researchers are finding is that in this current economy, people are putting off getting married, having children, adopting, and yes, even getting divorced. When divorce occurs, many things happen that change the way families live. At this point in time, many people are finding themselves with less assets than more. And people who are actually “planning” a divorce will do it when their business is doing well, their houses are worth more money, and they have stable and high income jobs. When the economy is poor, these things tend not to occur. When divorce occurs, often there is a loss of assets. A home must be sold, and families find themselves living is smaller homes or apartments. Generally, those apartments or houses are in lower class neighborhoods than the marital home. Research has shown that the division of money has put up to 50% of the current families who are divorcing below the poverty level. The marital home will draw less money when sold, and perhaps one or both of the parents have lost previously high paying jobs, and there are fewer dollars to be stretched between two households. This has a big impact on children, because when families move into poorer conditions, children are left without their former, and often better schools, they lose their doctors, because the family finds itself on Medicaid and often Food Stamps. Perhaps the parents have had to go on unemployment, which while it does provide some income, it certainly doesn’t meet the level of what they were enjoying before. Trips to Disneyworld, and sometimes even to the movies or out to get ice cream are no longer in the picture. Clothes become a necessity that is difficult to make a part of the budget, and families are having to buy children’s clothing in second hand stores and garage sales. Well, you get the picture. If you are considering an amicable divorce, not one in which domestic violence is pervasive and the children are in danger, it might be a good idea to put it off a bit until the economy is in a more stable place. It would benefit your children in the long run.