Posts By: Alyson Schafer

The Divorced Family Christmas

Christmas is a sentimental time of the year.  For many divorced parents it’s a painful reminder of the gap between the ideal family life we had wanted and the reality of the strains and severed relationships that are a part of divorce and separation.  Here are some tips on how a parent can cope this time of year:

  1. Make plans for the holidays with your ex well in advance.  If this is not a part of your separation agreement or if this is a difficult topic consider mediation. Children need stability and predictability.  Advance planning helps them get their head around how the holiday will unfold and should reduce any potential anger and anxiety.
  2. Try alternating years so that both parents get the joy of opening gifts on Christmas day.
  3. If your children are travelling with the other parent over the holiday, create a “mock Christmas” to be celebrated like the real thing with all the traditions such as Christmas decorations and a Christmas tree, just held on a different date
  4. If this is the first Christmas you are not together as a family, try creating new traditions so that you don’t experience the absence of one parent while doing all the same ole holiday things.  Ask your children for input.  My kids wanted all new ornaments on the Christmas tree as a “fresh new start” so as to not look sentimentally at the family ornaments from the past.
  5. If this is your first Christmas alone without your children, reach out to your extended family and join their festivities.  You should have supportive people around you. You could volunteer at a shelter or visit friends, basically anything is better than being home alone and sad.
  6. You can’t win a child’s love with material objects.  Yes, it’s gratifying to see the look of joy on your child’s face as they open gifts, but don’t try to outdo or compensate/apologize with gifts.
  7. It’s generally not recommended that you include your new partner in the first family Christmas since the divorce/separation.   If you are in a serious relationship, ask you children how they would feel if you invited your new friend over for some part of the day.   Their reaction will give you your answer.

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

 

Summer Hot Car Safety Tips EVERY Parent Must Read

Everybody knows you shouldn’t leave your child in a hot car in the summer. So, don’t you ever wonder why kids still die in hot cars ever summer then? Didn’t their parents have common sense? Believe me, it’s usually not because their parents didn’t know better.   We all know better.  These are the same parents that go to the trouble of putting their kids in car seats but forget their children are in their car.  How can you forget your child?  It sounds hard to believe, but in fact it’s a frightfully easy thing to do as outlined below.

A hot car is no place for a child!

Confusion due to special occasion:

“We were all saying our good byes after the family reunion.  We took two cars to the event.  I thought my wife took the baby in her car, but she buckled the baby in the car seat in my car instead.  She said she was going to the grocery story on the way home, so when I got home I went inside.  The baby was sleeping – I never heard a peep from the back seat. When she came home 20 minutes after me and asked where they baby was, we realized the confusion, ran to the car…. but it was too late.”

Confusion to due to distraction / change in patterns:

“Our schedule is that I drop the baby at daycare on my way to work on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  My wife does the pick up.  I put the baby in the car seat and headed out towards work, but got thinking about an issue at work and somehow because they moved my Tuesday meeting I forgot it was actually Monday and my drop off day.  I just headed to work.  It wasn’t until my wife went to pick up my child at daycare at 4pm that they reported that the child was not dropped off that morning.”

Parents are busy with a lot of minutia to juggle in their hectic lives and in their active minds.  It’s easy to forget keys and it’s easy to forget a schedule.   Forgetting our child does not mean we don’t love our children enough to remember them. It’s not enough to say “I won’t be forgetful”.   Instead we need to create sure-fire summer safety tips to avoid putting our children in danger.  Here are three ways you can prevent a death due to a simple oversight.

  1. Place a teddy bear in the child car seat.  Whenever you strap a child into the car seat, place the teddy bear in the front seat as a visual reminder that the car seat is occupied.
  2. Keep your purse, cell phone or briefcase on the floor of back seat below the car seat.  When you retrieve your purse you’ll be forced to look in the car seat.
  3. LOOK before you go.  Just make it a habit to look in the back seat each time you lock your car.   We look both ways when we cross the street.  We beep our keys to ensure our car doors are locked – why not add one more potentially life saving routine to regime?

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

 

Mommy, There’s A Monster!

One great thing about watching our babies grow is witnessing them become more imaginative. With that overactive imagination though can come fear of boogie monsters, dragons, ghosts, and the like. As parents, how do we deal with this anxiety in children?

Well, we can look to the SARS epidemic as an example of what to do and what not to do when managing fear.

If respected doctors tell you that there is no reason to be afraid of SARS in Toronto, but then cancel their own conference in the same city, the public deduces that if the experts think there is something to fear, then there must be.

To “less knowledgeable” children, you are the “expert” on everything. If you say “there is no such things as monsters” and then promptly check under the bed, you may unintentionally be demonstrating a reason why they should be afraid. “Heck even the experts are checking the beds and closets!”

Diminishing Fears

We cannot control our children’s fears, but how we react to them can work to either support or de-emphasize them. One strategy is to be “unimpressed” (neither dismissive nor all consumed) and talk in a matter of fact fashion. Don’t waver in your conviction that there are no monsters by saying things like, “Really? You saw a monster in your closet. What did he look like?” It is more comforting to say “There are no such things as monsters. You are creating them with your imagination. And what a wonderful imagination it is!”

Coping Strategies For Fear

Teach your children coping techniques to help them work through their fears. Try some of these responses to help them overcome their anxiety:

“I understand that you are afraid, but I know you are safe and I would never let anything harm you, so you need to think happy warm thoughts instead of scary thoughts. That will help you get to sleep.”

“You’ll have to have a little talk with that imagination of yours and let it know that it is getting in the way of sleeping.”

“When you decide it’s bugging you so much that you have to stop thinking those thoughts – I am sure you will!”

“If watching this video or movie before bed makes you imagine scary things, perhaps you would like to watch something else at bedtime.”

Watch For “The Hidden Pay-off”

Don’t give a “hidden pay-off” by giving your child exceptional service such as letting them sleep in your bed, or keeping you hostage in their room until they fall asleep. If you enjoy caring for your child in these loving ways, do it because you want to. Don’t make them create “issues” to mobilize you into this type of affection or they’ll learn to use issues as a technique to get you to care for them.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com

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