Posts Tagged: Alyson Schafer

The Good Divorce

You may have decided to end your marriage, but with a young family, you still face years of co-parenting with your ex. There are ways of having a good divorce and raising happy children with minimal emotional upset.

Here are some best practices to set you on the right path:

  • Let the kids come first. You may disagree on a lot, but at least try to agree that the children come first and the adults emotional baggage and private agendas come second.
  • Use collaborative law. Utilize the new collaborative law and mediation processes. Your separation will be more amicable. The legal bills really hurt the economic backbone of a family and your children will ultimately pay the price.
  • Get counseling. Even the best, conflict-free divorces benefit from having a professional help family members transition out of the nuclear family and into their new arrangements.  Grieving the life you had and working to create a new vision of the future will help everyone land more gently.
  • Act happy (even if you have to fake it). The most stressful problem for children is seeing their parents in conflict and feeling split loyalties. Kids love both their moms and dads, so if they see divisiveness, they don’t know where to place their affections. If they love Mom, it’s an act of going against Dad and vice versa. This is the hardest emotional bind for a child. Instead, show your children you both get along (or at least don’t hate one another). That means no bad-mouthing the other parent, no dirty looks, or asking the child to deliver snarky messages or spy on the other.
  • Agree to disagree. I promise you, it’s the actual fighting and conflict about minutiae (like how to handle homework, discipline differences, bedtimes, what the kids eat etc.) that hurts kids, not the staying up late, watching Call of Duty, and skipping assignments. Let the other parent do things their own way and support the idea that kids can handle two houses having two different styles and rules. Decide what’s worth fighting for. If you agree you should not “sweat the small stuff”, but you wonder what is “small”, let me share what courts agree you should speak up about.
  1. Safety: ­Abuse or neglect
  2. Travel:­ Extensively being away, distant, remote or unreachable
  3. Health:­ Refusing chemotherapy, blood transfusions, vaccinations, etc.
  4. Education:­ Sending them away to boarding school/military school or other non-main stream settings
  5. Religion:­ Excessive pressure or conversion to a known religious cult or extremist group

Are you getting a sense of the scale now? So, fighting about trans fats in fast food isn’t the way to go. You’ll probably do more psychological damage to your toddler watching you bicker over it.

 

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.

The Happy Snappy Goodbye

Who among us doesn’t dread the pre-amble and fall-out that often accompany’s leaving our children in the care of others. They cling to our pant leg and plead for us not to go as we stress about what to do in front of on-lookers.

We worry, we feel guilty, and we wonder if it is the right thing to do. It’s hard – but one of our jobs as parents is to move our children from total dependence at birth to total independence when they leave the nest. It is our role to prepare, not protect our children for the demands of life.  Here is how:

Show Faith

The only way for a child to learn to be away from their parent is to do it. There is no way to “ramp up” to it per se. We learn we can manage – by managing! Your attitude about your child’s ability to manage is everything in this process. If you are not convinced your child should be left, your apprehension will fuel their apprehension. Like wise, your positive attitude will be infectious too!

Start with Respect

Every individual, regardless of age should be informed of things that affect him or her. If a child is starting a new activity or program, they should know this in advance.

Not too much: Don’t go on about it every day for weeks – that only causes the child to deduce that this event must be BIG, why else would mom and dad keep going on about it?

Not too little: Don’t conceal it in order to avoid the child’s reaction. If you do, the child may learn not to trust you and may deduce that there is always some trickery that you are concealing. This creates a perception of a world that is unpredictable, making it difficult to feel safe and secure.

Just Right: In a simple, calm, matter of fact way, let them know what will be happening. If they object, let them know that you have faith that they will manage. Enough said!

Avoid Giving Undue Attention

If they continue to protest, don’t get too involved in trying to sway them to wanting to go. Just stick with a calm, cool, matter of fact response. If you go on and on like a salesmen trying to sway them, they will have discovered a topic you love to talk about and that holds your attention. Once discovered, they will use this topic to keep you busy with them, usually at tuck-in time. I don’t doubt that there will be some fears and apprehensions in children – but dwelling on it can magnify rather than calm the anxieties.

Here are some strategies you can implement!

TTFT (Take time for training)

Decide what you want the drop-off to look like. If you want to be able to drop your child off at the door and kiss them good-bye, then this is what you need to train the child to do. How? BY DOING IT! If you come into the class for 5 minutes and then wait outside for another 5, than that is what the child will want and demand every time. That is what they are learning the “routine” is and we all know that kids thrive on routine. You are teaching them a routine you want to abolish — why bother starting?

Plan ahead

If you think your child will cling – make arrangements in advance with the adult who will be caring for your child to meet you at the door and help “uncouple” the child from you and take them in. With an ally on the inside who is willing to help make the drop-off snappy, and if you both keep your smiles on and proceed with a calm serene air – you will have accomplished both elements to a “HAPPY SNAPPY GOOD-BYE.”

Yes – there will be tears, but the sooner the good-byes are over, the sooner the child calms down and gets engaged in what they are supposed to be doing. To prolong the good-bye actually prolongs the tears and fears. Parents unknowingly are making matters worse instead of better by prolonging the inevitable.

Don’t Reward Expected Behaviour.

And – finally, don’t promise some big treat at pick up time. Offering a treat or a reward just confirms to the child that the place must be horrible because mom feels you need to be compensated for going there!

Long Term

  • It is a gift to let your child learn that they can manage without mom and dad
  • It is a gift to have your child have other adult / child bonds and friendship
  • It is a gift to yourself to have some child-free time to replenish yourself so you can be re-charged as a parent
  • It is a gift to increase your child’s social world
  • It is a gift to practice these skills early

 

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.

Two Arm Technique for Hitting, Biting, Pushing and Toy Snatching

One of the most common questions I get asked is how to respond when two toddlers or preschoolers are involved in an altercation. If your child has just been hit, had their toy snatched or pushed, just what should you do?

My answer is called the “Two Arm Technique”, taught to me by Althea Poulos.  Here is how it goes:

When you witness a situation when two young children are in a kerfuffle, begin by asking yourself, “Who owns the problem?”  In the case of a child having a toy snatched from their hands, it is the child who lost the toy. Our culture likes to label this child the “victim”, and we have very strong personal ideas about helping an innocent victim! Our first impulse is to rush over and console the “poor upset victim” and to admonish the “bully” who overstepped his bounds. We pluck the toy from the “bully”, yell at him for his mean behavior and return it to the “victim” to set things right!

The trouble with this response is that it actually grooms a child to become more likely to be a victim, because they have learned by standing still and looking tearful and upset (under-resourced or being incapable), that someone will come and handle their life problems. The successful outcome shows the child that their approach was a good strategy to solve a problem. This does not hold up well as a life lesson.  We don’t want to teach this.

The other faulty notion is to mistakenly believe that the child snatching the toy was in some way being mean and brutal. No, in fact, that child is also deficient in how to solve his life problems. He wants a toy and so he must solve how to get it. Much of what young children know has come from watching their parents deal with them, and they frequently learn from parent-child interactions that “might is right.”

The child takes the most simplistic model he is aware of in his young age and experience, and goes about solving his situation with his peers in the only way he knows.  He has no feelings of meanness, he just wants to solve the problem of getting the toy!  If we punish this boy, he may potentially learn that “life is out to get me”, and that he is a “bad boy”, and he will begin to grow and develop in line with that expectation.  Our responses will actually foster BOTH the “bully” and the “victim” idea we are fearful of and trying to avoid!

The parent or teacher’s role in these scenarios is to train the children in ways to deal more effectively and cooperatively with this life challenge. It is a time to guide and teach (the real basis of discipline), not to punish. Neither is a victim or bully, they are just two children in need of skills development and in growing their “social interest”, as we Adlerians call it (also known as social feeling­/caring for others).

So try this instead:

Drop to your knees so you are at eye level to the children when talking (this is so very important to creating a sense of equality and respect). Being towered over is very intimidating and distancing.

Collect both children up so they are facing one another. After all, this is their problem and their discussion.  The teacher or adult should be physically in a position that is neutral (not holding one child or standing beside one child,­ this gives the feeling of “two against one” and we are NOT here to take sides, or act as police or judge).  The name of this technique comes from the holding of each child, one in each of your arms, gently.

Hopefully in this position you will feel more like a mediator yourself.

Here is the script for the conversation that follows:

Parent to Crying Child: “Did you like that?”

Crying Child: (Shakes head or keeps crying ­ often not verbal or pre-verbal)

Parent to Crying Child: “Looks like you are saying you didn’t like it, but you need to speak up.  Can you say I don’t like that?  Your friend needs to know. He is a good listener.”  (Nice little bit of encouragement there, eh?)

Parent to Crying Child: “Tell your friend, I’m not done yet.”

Either the child will repeat the words you have just given them, and speak up for themselves saying, “I am not done yet”, OR they will say nothing and you can say the words, but the message is coming from the crying child, NOT from you!

Parent to the Toy Snatcher: “You friend is saying they don’t like that, they are not done yet.“

Parent to the Toy Snatcher: “Did you want a turn with the toy?”

Toy Snatcher: (Nods, or says yes, or looks at you neutrally)

Parent to the Toy Snatcher: “Can you tell your friend that? Can you say I’d like a turn please?”

Again ­ see if the child will repeat your words. If not, you say them ­ but don’t fall into the trap of talking for yourself.  There is a world of difference between “Your friend is asking for a turn when you are done” (correct version ­ the message is from the child, delivered by the adult) versus “It’s his turn next” (which is the adult’s instruction, and NOT a message from one child to another other).

Parent to Crying Child: “Your friend has asked you for a turn. Can you find him and give him the toy when you are done?”

Crying child will either be neutral (take that as a yes) or they will nod or say yes to affirm.

Parent to BOTH children: “GREAT ­ looks like you two worked it out!”

At this point I might use redirection to help the child left waiting for his turn by asking him what he would like to do while he is waiting.

Did you notice I did not make them hug or say sorry? I’ll have to write another post on that too. But for now, appreciate the idea of helping children learn language skills so they can handle these situations without an adult in the future.

If you visit an Adlerian classroom, you will often hear children saying, “I don’t like…” and teachers saying back, “Good speaking up!” If you train children to solve their problems, they don’t need to come to the teacher when discourse occurs. This is great preparation for the big world of school hallways and school yards at recess that are soon to come!

Two Arm Technique for Hitting

Parent to Crying Child: “Did you like that?”

Crying Child: (Shakes head or keeps crying often not verbal or preverbal)

Parent to Crying Child: ”Looks like you are saying you didn’t like that, you need to speak up.  Can you say I don’t like that?  Your friend needs to know, he is a good listener.”

Either the child will repeat the words you have just given them, and speak up for themselves saying, “I don’t like that”, OR they will say nothing and so you can say the words, but remember that the message is coming from the crying child, NOT from you!

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: ”Your friend is saying they don’t like that.”

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: ”We need to feel safe in (house/ classroom/ play group). Your friend might like to play with you more if he knew he was safe.  Can you tell your friend he will be safe? Can you say I won’t do that again?” (Notice this is a plan or promise for future behavior and not an apology for past behavior.)

Parent to the Hitter/Pusher: ”Is there something you could do to make your friend feel better?” (This is restitution and healing since someone was hurt.)

Hitter/Pusher probably will look blankly at you since they have never done this before.

Parent to Crying Child: ”Would you like a hug from him?” (It’s okay for them to say no but if they say yes)

Parent to Hitter/Pusher: ”Your friend is saying they’d like a hug, would you like to give one?” (It’s okay for them to say no but usually they do just hug.)

Parent to BOTH children: ”GREAT ­ looks like you two are ready to play together safely again!”

 

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.

 

Related Posts with Thumbnails