Alpha Mom » Kristen Chase http://alphamom.com parenting and pregnancy opinions and information Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:01:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 How To Have a Successful Outing With Your Kids http://alphamom.com/parenting/how-to-have-a-successful-outing-with-your-kids/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/how-to-have-a-successful-outing-with-your-kids/#comments Thu, 25 Sep 2014 20:12:14 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34536

Even though I spent most of my married life as a solo parent, I am now truly a single parent, which means that more often than I’d like, I need to leave my house to run errands with all my four children.

I do my best to avoid this at all costs, but lately, with work and school and after-school activities and my own alone weekends away, I’m left to my weekends with the kids to get stuff done.

And that means taking them with me.

I find that my experiences out and about with them ebb and flow, with awesome outings and then the terrible ones where you feel like you’ve just handed out a lifetime pack of birth control to every single person in the store just by being there with your kids.

But lately I’ve become a bit of a master of it, probably because I need them to keep their crap together in order for me to keep my crap together, and really, we’re not going to be able to survive if I can’t leave my house with them.

Of course, writing this means that the next time I go out with them all hell will break loose, but I’m willing to risk it to help you become a master yourself, whether you’ve got just one child or four (or more) like me.

1. Timing is everything.
I have learned the very hard way that time of day really matters. If I go right after school or, on one of my not-so brilliant days, over dinner time, you have a little to no chance of succeeding. There will be breakdowns because little people are tired or hungry or both. Just imagine yourself when you’re tired and hungry and how much you really don’t want to be wandering around Target looking for a toothbrush holder and you’ll have a bit of empathy. And yes, I realize you can’t always plan ahead, but if you can, then be sure to pick a time where your kids are at their best. For me, it’s late morning or after dinner.

2. Give a good pep talk.
Before I leave the house, I sit all my kids down and give them the rundown as to what we’re going to be doing and what I expect of them. Let them know where you are going and what you are planning on doing, but also make sure they understand how you hope they will act. Will they be able to buy a toy? Will they be able to buy a snack? Address all those issues before you go.

Then, tell your kids that they’re awesome and that you know they can do it. And yes, I do offer them a small, cheap incentive (a small toy, a lollipop, a special treat after we’re done) or some extra marbles to earn as a reward after the trip because, well, it works.

3. Be prepared. With snacks. And more snacks. 
If your kids are like mine, they are bears on an empty stomach, so I make sure to either feed my kids ahead of time, or bring a lot of food with me. If we’re going out to eat, then I make sure to do that before I go anywhere else because we’re all just much more pleasant with a full belly. And even though you might think your kids have eaten enough, they always seem to get hungry when we’re out, so I pack them anyway. Or better, I make them pack snacks for themselves so there’s no whining or arguing when they disapprove of what I brought for them.

4. Make it fun. 
When I’m out with my kids, I do my best to make the outing as interesting as possible, even if it’s boring as hell. We do everything from photo scavenger hunts where the older kids team up with the little kids and take photos of certain items (I usually do the Alphabet Game), or we do a little race to see who can find an item first. I’ll even sometimes just task the bigger kids to go find me the items on my list.

And if we’re at a restaurant, I play old school games, like “I Spy,” or I just ask them to tell me one funny (or awful, or awesome) thing about their day.

Yes, this can involve some seemingly “inappropriate” store behaviors like being a little loud or letting them go off on their own, but my kids are well versed in store behavior (see #2 above) so that it rarely gets out of hand. In fact, I have people stopping me to tell me how adorable my kids are, which is better than the alternative.

5. Catch them being good. 
If you want your kids to be cooperative while you’re out, it’s super important to catch them when they’re being awesome. And not just when you reminded them or told them to do so. You need to be the sneaky good behavior detective and sniff it out during your trip. Maybe they’re just sitting nicely while you’re checking the calorie count on that cake. Or maybe they got through the check-out line without grabbing at the 400 candy bars. Whatever it is, no matter how small it is, compliment them! And be specific about what they did instead of the ubiquitous and pretty ineffective “GOOD JOB!”. Try something like “I really like how you’re sitting so nicely in the cart” or “I love how you kept your hands to yourself in the check-out line.” You’re reinforcing their good behavior in a way that will encourage them to keep doing it.

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On Motherhood and Marriage Regret http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/motherhood-and-marriage-regret/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/life-relationships/motherhood-and-marriage-regret/#comments Sat, 20 Sep 2014 16:38:25 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34594

I never wanted to have kids.

This is always a surprising revelation to most people I talk to since I have four kids and actually enjoy it. Mostly.

Okay, sometimes.

In the grand scheme of things, motherhood is awesome, but I think we can all pretty much agree that the day-to-day of parenting, especially alone, can be extremely taxing. Sometimes dehumanizing.

But I was perfectly happy with my life as a Dual-Income-No-Kids (DINK) person. And yes, while I had my first child fairly young (at 28) and didn’t have the mid-thirties “I NEED TO PROCREATE NOW!” desperation that I hear some women talk about, I never felt like I was missing out or better, would miss out if I didn’t have any children.

Also, I really didn’t want to mess them up. I was good with books and papers and college students. But shaping small humans into responsible, loving, caring, ethical adults, well, that’s no slouch job.

That shit is hard.

So then why do we feel like everyone should want to do it?

We hear a lot about marriage regret but little about motherhood regret, probably because it involves small, innocent humans that we actually love deeply. And for them to hear that we regret the decision to have them could be a life altering one, or at least, one that will fuel therapy for years to come.

And somehow, because we all have a uterus and ovaries that we should want kids.

Look, I’m tall and have long legs and have absolutely no desire to play basketball, volleyball, or any other tall-person sports. And yes, comparing sports to motherhood is hardly equal, but when you break everything down to biology, it sort of is.

Also, since when are all people good at the same exact thing? Pretty much never.

To be clear, I don’t regret motherhood. At all.

In fact, it’s probably the one thing in my life I have no regrets about.

But I do regret marriage. I regret feeling as though I had to fit a certain mold and follow a societal norm that was created based on values and tenets I do not believe in.

I regret not listening to my gut.

Those feelings can apply to both motherhood and marriage.

Many of us grow up in non-traditional families, and live non-traditional lives, and yet we still feel this pull, an obligation almost to fit our square pegs into that round hole. And we pound and pound because it looks amazing and everyone’s doing it and I want a white dress and a big party with lots of booze and a gaggle of children to call me “Mommy” when really it might not be for us.

But really, when you have experienced a life that is vastly off the yellow brick road of normalcy well maybe Oz is not the end-all-be-all for you. Which isn’t a bad thing, because as we all know — as the divorce rates climb — not too many people can hack it.

I’m not saying this “Oz” of happy endings, awesome relationships, THE ONE isn’t possible for people.

It would, however, be lifesaving for so many if we just admitted that we all might get there in a different way, with stops and bumps and detours. A lot of detours. And that when we do get there (wherever “there” is), it might not be exactly what we expected. It might be worse. It might be better.

Or we may never get there at all. Sometimes it’s just the journey, right?

But when we give people (and ourselves) permission to pop this bubble of a happy marriage, happy family that we’ve somehow created like it’s cut right out of a fairytale book — no regrets, no guilt — my guess is that we’d all actually be happier.

Our kids. And ourselves.

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Along For the Ride http://alphamom.com/parenting/along-for-the-ride/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/along-for-the-ride/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 23:16:36 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34463

“You’re going too fast!” she screamed to me, popping up off the tire sticking out of the ground under the seesaw.

They never had those when I was a kid, and as one of the smaller and lighter children in my class, I’d end up getting smashed to the ground when the smartass on the other end hopped off, my back almost vibrating from the jolt.

She screeched as I held her high up in the air, then I did my best to lower her down as slowly as I could, my toes barely touching the ground as I straddled the metal seat, my thighs burning like I’d just spent 40 minutes on the stair stepper.

Why do I have that stupid gym membership? I continued to bounce, now in a rhythm as if I was finishing up my last series of reps in the weight room. Oh right, the babysitting service, which was mostly true. The $30 I paid to leave all four of my kids for three straight hours while I did important errands, like sipping my Starbucks coffee while getting my toenails filed, somehow made the monthly expense worth it, even though I rarely went for anything but the stair stepper and the childcare.

The thighs I was willing to pay for, but considering my kids usually brought home a few illnesses with their 217 coloring pages and half-eaten snack, I was starting think I could just run a few loops around the block, or maybe just hit the seesaw every afternoon instead.

Her legs dangled just over the wooden mulch surrounding the tire, the tips of her toes almost touching the ground, but not enough to allow her to push off on her own. You could tell it was beyond frustrating for her, but she played down her discomfort with a need for independence.

“I want to do it, Mama!” she pleaded, not realizing that she just physically couldn’t, because if I dropped her all the way down, allowing the metal seat to pretty much bang me, there would be no way for her to lower me.

I tried explaining it to her, even pointing to the ridiculous seat up my ass to prove the point of my inability to provide her with the smooth seesaw experience, plus what kid doesn’t want to be bounced up and down? That’s pretty much at the top of the human child job description:

Must enjoy being tossed and bounced at a very fast pace.

That, along with whining and drawing on walls.

“We draw on paper!” I would coach her, after finding yet another wall masterpiece, this time a “road map, Mommy!” which was actually a long line of pen starting at my bedroom and going along the hall and into her room. As if it wasn’t clear to her how to get to my bed since she did it just fine every single night, in complete pitch darkness.

I’d often catch her pen, or on the really good days marker, in hand, and even though she’d look me straight in the eye and tell me that pens were not for walls she’d have already created a scribble mural, like she was testing my cleaning skills.

She figured out the Sharpie but will she know how to get crayon off wallpaper?

Tired of the rhythmic bouncing, she practically threw herself off the seesaw, and ran directly for the merry-go-round, which is somewhat of an anomaly, at least these days, anyway, since it’s pretty much the death spiral of concussions and dental surgery. I thought all of these things had been removed from playgrounds, given our penchant for the health and safety of our children unlike our parents who basically kicked us out of the front door and crossed their fingers around a martini glass that we’d be home before dark.

But there it was, in all its completely unsafe glory. The green metal, faded on the bars where years and years of children have grasped while screaming, where parents have grabbed desperately as a means to stop the beast before their child was flung off or worse, puked.

She ran to it, then around it, pushing it faster until she jumped on masterfully, leaning back and whipping around, screeching, laughing and laughing as the merry-go-round kept spinning.

I felt sick just watching her. I reached out, almost instinctively, to slow it down.

You’re going too fast. 

But just as I reached the bars, she passed me, her face glowing, eyes twinkling. And I knew she was okay.

I knew everything would be okay.

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Never Apologize for Kids Being Kids http://alphamom.com/parenting/never-apologize-for-kids-being-kids/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/never-apologize-for-kids-being-kids/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 00:01:27 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34360

I was out with my four kids last week for our second round of school supply shopping. It’s as awful as it sounds, but even worse when you haven’t been able to find the blank index cards, 1.5 inch binder, and the purple-has-to-be-purple-not-blue folder anywhere.

There’s no quickly whipping through the store to find what you need because there are children involved, children who really need that cool iPhone case, and those headphones, and that Sam and Cat notebook pleeeeeeeease, which really, I would be more than happy to get you the Sam and Cat folder, child, but your teacher requires a purple folder and that is what you shall get even if I have a panic attack in the middle of Staples.

Of course, then the smartypants tries to kidsplain you about how the folder has purple in it and you kind of love them for it but the rule follower in you must have a folder that is entirely purple and so you squash their creative spirit just so you can check an item off your to-do list.

And so, we searched, or really, I searched while they tagged along, making the best of their boredom, which appeared to me as being a bit disruptive to other shoppers. No, they we’re being destructive, but they were wandering without looking in front of them, laughing loudly at poop jokes, and well, just having fun.

Then my son sped in front of a nice woman looking at the piles of crayon boxes, which compelled me to apologize and give her the knowing look all moms have that is a cross between “Oh, kids!” and “They’re actually pretty awesome when we’re not in a huge store with a ridiculous amount of people and stimuli. You’d like them, really!”

She looked up at me rather sternly and said “Never say you’re sorry,” and wow, it caught me off guard.

I expected the “No problem!” or “Don’t worry!” or maybe even a heavy sigh and an eye roll. But a thoughtful, insightful statement like that? Well, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

It came on the heels of me intently trying to adjust the expectations I have for my children when I’m out. With less help and the need to get out and do more, I’m relegated to take them places, like the grocery store, Target, the dreaded second round of back-to-school shopping that I’d usually save for when they were in school or with a sitter because trying to wrangle them exhausts and frustrates me.

But when I took a closer look at what was happening when we were out, most of the wrangling I’m doing is unnecessary, and more importantly, is  about my own beliefs about how kids should act in public and not necessarily how other people think they should.

There’s a bit about lack of preparation as well, which when I’ve got activities, and snacks, and bubble gum I pretty much win the outings hands down, however there’s no denying the presence of a shared value that children need to act like adults when they’re out, and anything less than that is unacceptable. And worse, a reflection on the parents. And we all feed into it because when someone says your kids are so well-behaved it feels good. Like you’ve done something right in a job in which you often feel like a failure. Or at least, like you have no idea what you’re doing.

I totally get it.

But what this women reminded me is that kids are kids, and their aptitude for outings and shopping trips and waiting rooms is vastly different than adults. And so while I don’t want them jumping on couches or tossing items off shelves, I think it’s fair that they might want to play and laugh and run around.

Sure, I’ll still be setting limits that consider their safety as well as respect for people and items in a store. But I’m going to try to let them be kids more. And never apologize for it.

 

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Single Mom: 5 Tips for Bringing Vacation Home with You http://alphamom.com/your-life/single-mom-5-tips-for-bringing-vacation-home-with-you/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/single-mom-5-tips-for-bringing-vacation-home-with-you/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 22:03:09 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34324

My blissful six days in Hawaii were exactly what the doctor ordered. Well, except for the part jet lag combined with a crappy cold I got on the last day, which was a very small price to pay for the best and possibly only true vacation I’ve had without my kids since I had my first ten years ago.

Not surprisingly, I started to dread my re-entry to regular life, especially with back to school right around the corner. The thought of all the juggling, the paperwork, the driving here, there, and everywhere was enough to upset my happily healed-up stomach.

But instead of tucking my vacation memories away in a veritable photo album, I’ve decided to take the best parts and do my best to apply them to my everyday life. Because even if I can’t take a daily morning walk on the beach, there are plenty of other simple experiences I can implement. Maybe they’ll work for you too.

1. Meals. You should eat them. 
I’m not sure about you, but being a busy parent (in my case, single), I seem to have given up meals. I eat coffee for breakfast, toss together something haphazard for lunch, and then eat my kids’ leftovers for dinner. Don’t even ask me about the late night snacking. But while I was away, I pretty much ate three square meals a day. Granted, they were comprised of fresh roadside fruit and hand-caught fish, but they were actual sit-down meals nonetheless. Not only did my stomach feel better, but I felt fuller (which meant less snacking) and more relaxed because I was forced at least three times a day to slow down and take a breather.

2. Find adults and talk to them. 
Because I work from home, my adult interaction is limited to school drop-off and pick-up and the nice check-out lady at the grocery store. Yes, I do chat with my co-workers and my friends, but it’s usually all online, by text, or over the phone. So for the most part, my only human interaction is with my children. I can’t tell you how much I thrived on being able to talk about adult things with adult people, so I’m making an effort to see my close-by friends more, along with possibly joining some sort of club or group that allows me to talk to people over the age of ten on a regular basis.

3. Unplug. Like, for real. 
It was a pretty big deal for me to leave my computer at home for this trip, but I knew that I really needed to almost completely unplug in order for me to truly relax. Thankfully, I have an amazing business partner and team that made it possible for me to survive with just a smart phone which had very little cell service. No Twitter, no Facebook, just a couple of Instagram photos to make people jealous. And guess what? The world went on and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

Now I can’t necessarily unplug for an extended period of time like I did on my vacation, but I can absolutely shut down in the evenings, even if just for a short period of time, making myself available for important issues by text only. Also, using VIP email (for you gmail users) is helpful; just add your most important peoples’ email addresses to that list so you can quickly scan them rather than get bogged down by your entire email inbox.

4. Read a book, preferably fiction. 
I used to be a big reader, but life and kids and work and everything else got in the way of my enjoyment of the writing of others. In recent years, I’ve focused on reading non-fiction, probably because that’s the genre I write myself, but it often times felt more like a chore or research rather than an escape.

I realize that reading about someone else’s life can be like fiction, but for me personally, reading completely fantastical stories like I did on my vacation really helped to take me away to another place, which is exactly what I need to give myself a break in my daily existence.

5. Force yourself to jump. 
During my trip, the only way I could see this one waterfall was to climb up a rock face which would require me to jump about 20 feet down. Generally speaking, I would have just stayed on the ground and missed out on the view. That’s what photos are for, right?

But this time, I took a risk and boy, did it pay off. Not only did I experience something that could not have been done justice in a photograph, but I got a rush out of doing something outside my comfort zone, even if I did climb down a little so the jump off the rocks didn’t involve clearing a bush as well. I’m not sure I’ll be taking up cliff diving (or rock climbing) any time soon, but I am going to attempt to do things I might not necessarily try because of how awesome it makes me feel — before, during, and after.

{Photo credit: Aaron Adler Photography}

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Single Mom: In Pursuit of Self-Care http://alphamom.com/your-life/health-your-life/single-mom-in-pursuit-of-self-care/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/health-your-life/single-mom-in-pursuit-of-self-care/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:16:45 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34223

For the last couple of months I’ve been battling weird bouts of a stomach ailment.

I did what most logical people do these days and sought the advice of a doctor, well, Dr. Google that is, which told me I had Diverticulitis. Or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

So I adjusted my diet and ate more carbs, then less carbs. No coffee and just tea. The BRAT diet will cure it!

Except it didn’t, really.

I even tried to find some pattern that was related to my menstrual cycle or what I had eaten the night before each time it started, which as it turns out were my feelings.

Yes, I’m eating my feelings and they are giving diarrhea. 

You’d think that after the second time it happened after a few weeks of regularity, I’d figure out that I needed to take better care of myself. I’m a therapist, after all, and a victim of major psychosomatic symptoms, so my stomach issues were pretty text book.

And to be fair, I thought that I had been doing a pretty decent job, with regular gym visits, earlier bedtimes. I’d cleansed my life of an unhealthy dating relationship.

But yet, I still couldn’t eat regular food.

Then just last week I had a parent visit with my daughter’s art therapist, and wouldn’t you know that all my own drawings (as part of our family evaluation) and all her observations of me wrangling my kids led her to one conclusion:

I need to take better care of myself. 

Self-care is a tricky beast to wrangle, because as a parent (and in my case, a single parent), it comes rife with guilt. It’s also an ongoing pursuit and not the end-all-be-all.

Somehow we’ve all come to believe that if we take time for ourselves, whether it’s getting a sitter for a date night, skipping a meeting for a manicure, or engaging in whatever small things we need to do to rejuvenate our spirits, we’re selfish. And we’ve associated selfish as bad, and selfless as good, when really there is no way we can properly care for others, alone or coupled, if we are not well and healthy (and happy) ourselves.

If you’re tired or stressed or overwhelmed, you just aren’t going to be the best parent you could be for your kids. And in my case, I also can’t eat anything other than ramen noodles and bananas.

Considering how much I’m juggling, it’s not surprising.

I’m still working to change the messaging about self-care in my head so that it sounds like I’m being smart not selfish. And really, it is. Because if I’m not well enough to care for my children, then what’s the alternative? Not one that I want to consider.

Make no mistake: Stress is as real as a virus or an infection, and if it’s not treated on a regular basis, it will spread and fester. And inevitably, it will affect your performance, as a parent, and as a person.

We’re not robots, after all. Simply acknowledging your own humanness is probably the healthiest thing you can do to be a good parent to your children, single or not.

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Need Some Parenting Perspective? Write Your Will. http://alphamom.com/parenting/single-mom-writing-a-will/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/single-mom-writing-a-will/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 20:40:00 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=34096

I recently booked a spontaneous trip to Hawaii to celebrate six consecutive kid-free days.

Now as we parents know,  six consecutive kid-free days is kind of like a Hawaiian vacation without the actual Hawaii part.

A quiet house. A warm meal.

You’re probably thinking that I should just pop some ukelele music on, throw back a few mai tais, and save myself some cash.

But considering I haven’t had so many days a row without children involved since I started procreating ten years ago, I figured I owed it to my former self to get my ass to one of my favorite places on Earth.

Plus it meant I got to shop for a new bathing suit, and cool hiking-slash-water shoes.

And write my will.

I realize that it’s pretty preposterous that I didn’t actually have a will before this very moment in time. More like stupid. (It’s okay, I can handle it). Which is not to say that if you don’t have a will and you have children that you are stupid, but please stop reading this and go do it right now.

I’m sure there was the fear of dying, then denial of the fear of dying, then the struggle with just trying to make it through the day alive that I couldn’t think about my fear of dying and the denial of it that factored into me not having a will when I was married.

But now, especially that I’m by myself, and about to head out on an actual vacation that involves long plane rides and beaches even though I probably have a much higher chance of dying just driving to the store every day, well there’s just absolutely no excuse.

I understood that drafting my last will and testament would involve having to decide who would care for my children in the event of my death, which was something I had thought about for many years and was, quite frankly, a relief getting it out of my head and on a notarized piece of paper. Somehow seeing that while I knew my ex would pretty much have to get them if I died, being able to say that if he predeceased me that they would be fought for by my beloved SFAM (aka sister from another mother) gave me peace.

But what I had failed to remember (ah, fear and denial) was that I could specify the details of the burial (or my cremation with ashes spread at my favorite beach) and the memorial service (or my kickass party with lots of carrot cake).

And that I could make any special requests, of my children no doubt, because why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to boss them around a bit even from the grave. Or really, take a moment to remind them of how lucky we were to have each other. How lucky they are to have each other.

There’s nothing like writing about your own death to give you a huge dose of perspective.

At the end of my will I’ve asked that they promise to get together at least once a year, have a few drinks, and read all the stories I wrote about them on my blog when they were little.

I’d force them to be friends and take care of each other too, but I’m hoping they’ll just do that because I’ve raised them well. Also, I remind them of it every day so at some point it’s got to sink in.

As hard as it is now for us to pull our heads up from the phone and computer and the other 400 myriad things that sometimes require and other times entice our attention, having them with us, all together, snuggled up in their beds, chasing each other through the house with their underwear at their ankles, or even screaming at each other in the car (okay, maybe not that last one), is a parent’s greatest joy.

Well, it’s mine, anyway.

It is my heart, it is my soul.

And I truly believe that when they are together, I am with them.

Now in body. Always in spirit.

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How To Tell Kids You’re Getting a Divorce http://alphamom.com/parenting/how-to-tell-kids-youre-getting-divorced/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/how-to-tell-kids-youre-getting-divorced/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 14:57:07 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=33955

Dear Kristen, Please describe the conversation in which you broke the news about the divorce to your kids. -K

I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my divorce, but I am actually pretty amazed that I’ve never been asked how my ex and I talked to the kids about the divorce.

I guess it makes sense, really, since everyone’s situation is not the same. What I said to my kids might not work for yours, because well, we’re human and they’re human, and we all process this kind of information vastly different.

But like much of life’s experiences, I find it comforting to hear other peoples’ stories about similar situations that I might find myself in, because even if they don’t directly apply, I can always find something that does. And honestly, just hearing that someone went through it and survived (and that their kids survived), is therapeutic in and of itself.

If you’re wondering how to have the divorce conversation with your kids, here are my 5 tips to help you. Please keep in mind that I’m not a doctor nor am I a therapist, only sharing from my own personal experience.

1. Talk to a therapist: My personal situation was a bit complicated because we also included an out-of-state move into the mix, so I decided it would be best to speak to a therapist to get a better sense of how and when to talk to the kids. In our case, we decided that we would not tell the kids about the divorce until their dad was able to sell our house and move up to the same area in which we were living outside of Philadelphia. Between the move and the divorce, we thought it would be too overwhelming, and since he traveled a lot for work, the kids were accustomed to him being away for long periods of time.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned I was forced to scramble and tell my kids with my ex over Facetime. But having spoken to a therapist, I was prepared with how to tell them and what to say.

2. Act as a team, even if you don’t want to: It’s really important that you work together as a team to talk to the kids. Regardless of how you feel about your ex and the situation and everything about the situation, you need to put that aside and consider their feelings and emotions about the changes you are about to make to your kids’ lives.

This tends to be harder for the person who did not initiate the divorce, at least that was the case in my own experience. But hopefully you are both able to keep it together for however long it takes to talk to the kids. And better, when you are in front of the kids and individually alone with them. That means no negative talk about the ex and no blaming of the ex, no matter how tempting that might be.

3. Speak to older kids individually: Depending on your kids’ ages, I recommend separating them and speaking to them each privately. My two older children process things very differently, so we felt it was best (based on our therapist’s recommendation) to talk to them separately.

Then, we invited them to sit with the littler ones and help us tell them in a way that would make the most sense. This was remarkably helpful for both the older kids and the younger ones as well.

4. Keep it short and simple: You do not need to give your children any gory details about your divorce, only to let them know that you and your ex are not happy together and are going to be living separately. The biggest emphasis is that it has nothing to do with anything they (the kids) did, and that you and your ex love them very much. Yes, their lives are changing, their homes may be changing, but the one thing that is not going to change is your love for them. These are grown-up problems and have nothing to do with them.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

If it helps, write out what you’re going to say before hand so you have it. Memorize it even. Then allow them to ask you questions if they so choose. And be prepared to answer them, no matter how hard they are.

5. Accept all the feelings, no matter what they are: Your children are going to experience a range of emotions, not just when you tell them, but over a quite possibly long period of time. It is your job (and the job of your ex) to accept what they are experiencing, whether it’s anger, frustration, hurt or sadness. These feelings can be difficult to contain and hold, but they need to know that it’s safe for them to do so. This will be so helpful for them in the long run.

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Why We Can All Benefit from Yoga http://alphamom.com/your-life/health-your-life/why-we-can-all-benefit-from-yoga/ http://alphamom.com/your-life/health-your-life/why-we-can-all-benefit-from-yoga/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:31:32 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=33762

The last time I took a yoga class was almost exactly a year ago when I decided I was going to leave my marriage. I’d been having breathing issues for two weeks after finally seeing a lawyer, so much so that I was going to schedule a doctor’s visit to make sure I wasn’t dying.

I figured that if I going to die, I probably would have already, so maybe, just maybe it was something else. Given my body’s penchant for psychosomatic symptoms, I decided that it could be, you know, stress.

I’m not sure if it was a friend who suggested yoga or I came to the brilliant realization on my own, but I distinctly remember finally being able to breathe normally for an entire hour during that class. For those 60 minutes, I felt like myself again. My lungs open, my chest loose.

My breathing slow and rhythmic.

I’ve never really been a fan of yoga, mostly because it’s completely counterintuitive to my multi-tasking type-A personality.

Well that and it’s hard. As hell.

There’s nothing like feeling like a weak wimp for upwards of an hour while you watch the slender, strong people all around you support themselves with one bent arm.

Please don’t let me fart. Please don’t let me pee myself. Please don’t let me fall over crashing and ruin everyone’s meditative practice with a huge loud clunk. 

Last week I took a yoga class not even by choice, relegated to stretches and breathing because the modern jazz class I wanted to take had been canceled. I wanted the pounding music, my bare feet grasping the floor as my arms flailed rhythmically at my sides.

But I relented, figuring something was better than nothing.

The teacher began by talking about focus, asking us in the gentle monotone Yogi way to use the time, the 60-minutes in a muggy-as-hell dance classroom, to clear our minds and hone in on the movements and stretches, leaving all the distractions outside the glass doors.

It’s something these days to not be constantly thinking and going and scrolling and clicking and texting and tweeting, single mom or not.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another, and we’re all juggling so much, no matter how many (or few) kids you have.

I get that we have to, for myriad reasons, and the option to slow down is not open to all of us. But if you can, even for a few minutes every day, you should, especially if you’ve got someone telling you to do it in the confines of a classroom.

To focus on nothing was exactly what the doctor ordered. No matter how sad my downward facing dog looked in the mirror in front of me. No matter how ridiculous I felt trying to do crow’s pose (or whatever it’s called).

Seriously, why exactly do I want to be able to support my entire body on just my bent arms? Am I not the only one who thinks that is nuts?

But for that hour, it was just me, my sweat, and I.

And even if the zen only lasted through just before getting my children in bed, it was completely and utterly worth it.

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Single Mom: What About Staying Together for the Kids? http://alphamom.com/parenting/staying-together-for-the-kids-q-and-a/ http://alphamom.com/parenting/staying-together-for-the-kids-q-and-a/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:43:48 +0000 http://alphamom.com/?p=33752

Since I’ve started writing here at Alpha Mom, I’ve received numerous questions about divorce, single motherhood, and all its many nuances. So I thought it would be helpful to share my answers to those questions as part of my weekly column. Of course, I’m no divorce expert, so please do not take my opinion a therapeutic recommendation, but if my experiences and observations can help others, then I’m happy to share it.

What about if you decide to stay in your marriage for your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts. -A 

Well, A, you should know that you’re not alone in that question. I actually received that same one in various forms a few times over the last couple of weeks, so clearly it’s something on many couples’ minds. And in theory, I understand how it can make sense, and perhaps for some parents it could work.

Most of what I’ve personally read when it comes to marriage, divorce, and families really states that happy parents are the prescription for happy kids. So the inference is that if you’re happier apart, it’s actually better for the kids rather than staying together, being miserable, and fighting all the time.

But like I mentioned in my previous post about how I decided to leave my marriage, breaking up should not be taken lightly because there are a myriad complicated issues that could affect the happiness you hope to achieve by breaking up.

There are finances, logistics, and a slew other choices that could potentially make you more stressed than if you were staying in an unhappy marriage.

So really, you need to define what “unhappy” is as it relates to your marriage because it could run the gamut from abusive to annoying, which is quite a range of experiences.

That’s not to say you should stay in your marriage if it’s just annoying or moderately unsatisfying versus abusive. There’s no scale to tell you when the time is right. Everyone is different.

However, there are many cases in which I’ve seen couples stay together who might consider themselves to be unhappy, most of which have to do with both the parties agreeing to be cordial and appropriate, particularly in front of the kids. You’d need to decide if you would be permitted to date other people, if that was something you’d want to consider.

But even then, you’d need to take a hard look at what sort of example you would be setting for your kids in terms of what a marriage looks like, as well as whether it’s truly better for the kids, especially in the long run. So many of us tend to only see what’s happening in the here and now, and forget that there will be future consequences to deal with, which could range from resentment and disappointment, to the feeling that they were somehow deceived or lied to by you both.

I came to my decision weighing all the choices I mentioned above very heavily. I knew that I was in a good position financially, and because my ex-husband traveled so much for work, they were already used to not seeing him that often, which I assumed would be the case when we were divorced as well.

But very importantly, I wanted my children to see me as a happy person, even if it meant me being alone. Additionally, I no longer felt comfortable living unauthentically, which was my personal experience being in a loveless marriage.

Whatever your decision might be, I strongly suggest considering every aspect of what goes into fostering health and happiness for your children. In some cases, it might be best for you to stay together. But in others, while the immediate implications might seem high, in the long run it could make sense for you to break-up, hopefully as amicably as possible.

If you have questions about divorce and being a single mom, please feel free to email me at kristen[at]coolmompicks[dot]com. Your information will be kept completely confidential.

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