My ex-husband’s mother is my daughter’s day care provider. My former mother-in-law does not treat my daughter like the rest of the kids she cares for. She favors her, giving her everything that she wants. This concerns me, especially since she is becoming a certified preschool teacher so she can teach my daughter. I would rather my daughter be in a preschool with other children so she can learn independence. I don’t know how to approach the subject with my ex-husband without starting a fight.
My daughter has also been throwing major temper tantrums, sometimes to the point where I cannot get her to calm down. When I put her in time-out, she will stay there but acts like she is trying to leave.
If your mother-in-law becomes certified, she will have to follow a strict preschool curriculum. In this structured environment, she will be less likely to display favoritism toward your daughter. The best you can do is research your preschool options, make an informed decision on what program would be best for your daughter and present this information to your ex-husband in a calm manner.
As far as the tantrums go, they are not unusual but need to be addressed. Your daughter needs to be taught a more acceptable way to act when she is feeling angry or frustrated. Putting her in time-out perhaps is being used as a way for her to calm down or as a negative consequence for inappropriate behavior. The differences between the two can sometimes be confused.
If she has a tantrum and is put in time-out to calm down, then she should have a separate consequence for the tantrum. Or once she is calm, she can sit in time-out quietly for three minutes as a consequence before she is allowed to return to playing.
Teaching her calming techniques should be the focus right now. One well-received technique for children her age is to have her hold up as many fingers as she has had birthdays. When she is angry, she blows on each finger and folds it down. This is referred to as “blowing out her birthday candles.”
Regulating a person’s breathing helps with emotions and has a calming effect. Getting her favorite blanket or stuffed toy to hold close is another calming technique that is effective with children her age. Teach her these techniques when she is calm, and practice them so she is familiar with them when she is upset.
I am divorced and remarried. My son, who is 15, is living with my husband and me and his children. My son is not happy living with me, his stepdad and his stepbrothers. He is failing school and wants to live with his father, with whom he has a good relationship.
However, I am concerned that he only wants to live with his father because he hopes to enjoy more freedom in his father’s house and more attention since he will be the only child there. My ex-husband has not contributed financially toward our son’s upbringing for the last 11 years until the previous two months. I am concerned that his father is not financially responsible or stable. What do I do?
Freedom and increased attention are probably the motivators for your son’s desire to live with his father. What is important is that you and your ex-husband both have established rules that are enforced in both of your homes. The rules may not be exactly the same, but they exist.
Your son has to learn that following the rules is important no matter where he is. This realization is a struggle for many children, but eventually they realize that part of life is following the rules. This comes with maturity and through discovering it on their own.
If he is going to be safe at his father’s, perhaps this is an option. However, if you don’t feel that his dad’s is an appropriate home for him, then you need to make the decision soon. Either way, let your son know that your rules and expectations are not going to change regardless of where he lives. You will still be part of his life and expect him to behave in a way that a mature, responsible young man does.
I have recently gone through a divorce, and it is greatly affecting my 18-year-old son. He is a senior in high school, but he may not graduate due to poor grades. I am tired of well-meaning advice on how to “shape him up,” but I don’t know what to do myself.
It sounds like your son is struggling emotionally with the divorce and this is reflected in his deteriorating grades. The first thing we recommend is making an appointment with a counselor. Your son may have a lot on his mind that he needs to talk about before he can focus on what is important, such as his grades.
If you’ve tried counseling, consider why it did not work. Sometimes kids do not click with their first counselor. It is not uncommon to try a second or third counselor before you find someone to whom your son responds. Consider counseling even if you have tried it before.
You can also try to assess your son’s feelings about his father to see if he needs to spend more time with his dad. Arranging more visits and phone calls with his father may provide the emotional support that he needs right now.
In the meantime, make sure you are spending quality time with your son as well. This does not mean that you force him to open up to you or convince him to complete his homework. It means setting aside time to just talk about what is on his mind and inquire about his day. Go to a movie. Grab a bite to eat. Take him on a hike. Encourage him to participate in hobbies that he enjoys. Small, pleasant conversations can be priceless.
Lastly, we recommend that he contact the Boys Town National Hotline if he’d like to talk. He can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-448-3000. That goes for you as well!
My husband and I got divorced last year. Our daughter lived with him at first, but gave him such a difficult time that she now lives with me. Now she is behaving poorly with me. I have taken her phone away, but she is still rebellious. Her grandmother recently passed away, and I know that she deeply feels the loss. But her bad behavior is beginning to affect her sisters. I am afraid that she will run away and I don’t know what to do. Is there somewhere I can take her to receive discipline help?
Now more than ever it is important to have house rules and to issue either positive or negative consequences based on your child’s behavior. You’ve already done this when you took her phone away. You must be consistent. She may be feeling insecure dealing with the two recent losses in her life. Thus, she needs her parents to be as consistent as possible right now even though she rebels.
If you and her father are communicating, you need to make sure that you are both on the same parenting page as far as discipline is concerned. If your daughter will not sit down and open up to you, it may be beneficial to take her to a counselor – possibly a grief counselor.
If she does open up to you, validate her feelings. She can’t help how she feels, but she may need help with how to act appropriately on those feelings.
It is important to communicate to your daughter that running away from home is not a good option. The dangers of the streets, lack of money, missed school days, bad weather and lack of shelter are just a few good reasons to remain at home.
If she does ever leave home without your permission, call the police so the law in your area can keep a lookout for her as well. Tell her that you want her to call the Boys Town Hotline (1-800-448-3000) if she ever feels like running away. There are many crisis counselors here who would be happy to talk to her.
Another suggestion is to talk to her when she is having a good day and share with her how you are feeling. Children do not need to know all of the adult details related to a divorce, but sometimes it can strengthen your relationship when your child realizes that you, too, have feelings.
Look online at www.centering.org. This website offers numerous books on grief. Boys Town's www.yourlifeyourvoice.org is a website just for teens. There are many articles under “family life” that she can read. She can also email a crisis counselor.
The key is getting her to open up to someone. Just venting can do wonders.
I have been divorced for three years and have recently met someone. My 10- year-old daughter does not accept this. She is angry that I would be with anyone but her father. How do I introduce this new person into my children’s lives?
While it is good that you are ready to move on to a new and promising relationship, it is apparent that your daughter is not quite ready. For a while to come, it is likely that your daughter will feel a strict allegiance to her biological parents because they are all she has known for most of her life. She will probably accept your new relationship eventually over time, but it is not something you can force. Time and patience are required.
You use the term “introduce” when referring to your boyfriend meeting your daughter. If she has not met this man yet, it might be wise to postpone the introduction. Right now your daughter needs to feel that she is a main priority in your life despite the changes your family has undergone due to the divorce.
Please remember that while you know she is your priority, she may not feel that way. From her perspective, she may feel like she is not as important as she once was. We can never assume that children accept and understand everything they see or are told. Many times their take on things is very different from what we see or think.
If she has met your boyfriend, try to keep her exposure to him neutral. Limit their time together until you and your boyfriend know that your relationship is progressing to a serious level. When you are all together, make sure the situation does not cause you to divide your attention between her and your boyfriend.
When your daughter seems receptive, let the time you spend together happen naturally. Don’t force activities. When she seems resistant, let her know that it is OK as well. You want to acknowledge her feelings but not cater to them. She has to know that while you love and care for her, you will not be manipulated by her.
Often in divorce situations, when parents start to date again children feel like the absent, biological parent is being replaced. Assure your daughter that her father will always be her father whether he lives with her full-time or not. He will always love her and be part of her life. Your boyfriend is not a replacement for her father; no one could replace him. He is another adult who will love and care for her. You may have to explain this many times before she understands it or accepts it.
Communication is vital. Keep talking with your daughter. How she views the divorce now at age 10 is different than how she viewed it when it first happened at age 7. Her friends may also be sharing their own stories of divorce with her. Even if the situations are different, your daughter could be applying a friend’s divorce circumstances to her own family’s situation.
Spend time talking with your daughter when your boyfriend is not present. Keep reminding her that he is not taking her dad’s place, nor is he taking you away from her. Neither is happening now or in the future.
If you and your ex-husband manage a positive co-parenting relationship, you could enlist his help as well. Perhaps he has started a new relationship too. He could have similar conversations with your daughter to reinforce what you have discussed with her. She may come to understand that all will be well if both of you are doing the same thing.
My husband and I have five children. The oldest two are from his previous marriage; the younger two are from my previous marriage; and the youngest is from our marriage. He has been divorced for six years; I have been divorced for three years. We have been married for almost two years.
We are stationed overseas, and the oldest children don’t get to see their mother very often. She does not seem to care. She only calls every three to four months. Just recently, our 9-year-old has begun acting up at school. She throws temper tantrums when she does not get her way, yells at her father and me and is physical with her sister to the point of leaving bruises.
We have tried numerous punishments, such as taking away privileges, sending her to bed early, making her stand in the corner and writing “I will not bite other people” over and over. But nothing seems to work, and I am running out of options. Please advise me on how to handle our daughter before her behavior gets even worse.
When a family breaks up, whether it is due to divorce or death, each member handles that traumatic experience in a different way. Sometimes the developmental level the child is at plays a role. It may be helpful to seek professional intervention at this time. Look for a therapist referral from a Family Advocacy or Family Readiness program or from your community.
Meanwhile, when your daughter gets upset, give her some calming techniques as more appropriate alternatives to temper tantrums and violence. Talk about this when she is calm. Offer her some suggestions that have worked for you. Give her reasons why she should try these techniques when she is angry. Then have her practice those in pretend scenarios that you know have triggered her anger in the past and that are likely to occur again.
At the end of the school day, review her academic work and ask her if she felt anger or frustration during the day and how she responded to those emotions. If she handled them well, praise and reward her. If not, teach her some more acceptable ways to respond. Don’t forget to practice.
All of your children have the right to grow up in a safe environment. Her behavior is threatening this safety. While you are seeking help for your daughter, establish a safety plan for your other children. When your daughter gets angry, make sure her siblings know what to do and where to go so they are safe.
If your daughter’s bedtime routine allows, review her day and have her rate it. If she handled her feelings well, offer praise and a reward. If not, talk about alternatives and pray for more success tomorrow. This should be the main focus with your child. Do not just administer consequences for negative behaviors; teach more socially acceptable alternative behaviors.
My husband and I got divorced when our son was 3. He is now 11. Up until recently, his father, who lives in another state, has not played a significant role in his life. For seven years, it was just my son and me. But a little over a year ago, I started dating a wonderful man. He loves my son, and my son returns his affection. We all do things together, and my boyfriend and my son also do things together just the two of them. We make a concerted effort to include everyone and to make sure that attention is evenly split.
Within the last month, my son has become very moody. He demands my attention, pouts and doesn’t want to be around us. My boyfriend is concerned that my son does not love him anymore. It seems like my son is worried that I am replacing him. I reassure him and spend time with him one-on-one, but he is unengaged during these times.
His father has recently remarried a woman who has children. They have also had a child of their own. My son visits them during the summer now, and he loves the time that he spends with his dad, new step-mom and siblings. Why is this OK for his father but not for me?
Your insight that your son thinks you are replacing him is probably accurate. When your boyfriend first entered the scene, he was a new source of attention. Now as your relationship with your boyfriend has become more serious, it is likely that your son perceives your boyfriend as a threat to his relationship with you. He was the “man of the house.” Now in his mind, he is being replaced and has to revert to being just a kid again.
Since he didn’t have this special, exclusive relationship with his father, he doesn’t perceive it as a loss. The addition of step-siblings to play with is a benefit from his point of view.
You need to stay the course and not overreact to his demands for an exclusive relationship with you. Overreacting will only make him less secure, not more secure. Give him the time and emotional space to work through his feelings.
Remain committed to working this out. Discuss this with your boyfriend to make sure he is committed to working this out. Asking your son to accept this man and welcome him into his life only to lose him later on would be a significant setback.
My husband and I have had a difficult year struggling with dysfunction and domestic violence. After our separation, I started dating someone, and my daughter found out from a message on my cell phone.
Even though the relationship has been over for seven months and I am supporting my four girls by myself, my 14-year-old daughter is extremely angry with me. She blames me for the divorce and for “ruining her life.” She is verbally abusive and has even pushed me. She will not eat dinner with the family or attend church or participate in family activities. Her disposition is nasty; she will not even look at me. I have had to call the police several times to get her under control.
She has turned my parents against me, and they lash out at me as well. I need to reestablish parental control, but I am afraid that my family is damaged forever.
Children of divorce can react with anger, and since you are the parent with whom she lives she will direct her anger toward you. Some of her anger is the same type of anger a person feels when she experiences a loss. Your daughter is grieving for her lost parent and family.
Outside intervention is needed since she will probably not listen to anything you have to say at this point. Be it a family member, a teacher, a minister from church or a counselor, someone needs to help her see that her anger is both misdirected and destructive. It might be a good idea to also get you and your other girls into family therapy since your other daughters are likely to be struggling to some degree with the family situation.
We can offer referrals for family counseling in your area if you need them. Another idea is to get your daughter involved in volunteer work because giving to others helps us forget about our own problems and makes us feel better about ourselves. Again, have another adult make this suggestion since she will be more inclined to listen to someone other than you at this time.
How do I tell my children that their father is going to jail for a DUI conviction? We are recently divorced, and our children are ages 15, 11 and 9.
While this is certainly a stressful situation for you and your children, we suggest turning this into a learning experience rather than focusing on the negative. Today, children are experimenting with drugs and alcohol at increasingly younger ages. There is a distinct possibility that your 15- and 11-year-olds have already experienced pressure to engage in these behaviors.
Sit down and be as gentle as you can with your children. Let them know that their father made a bad choice by consuming alcohol and then getting behind the wheel of a car. Tell them that their father is not a bad person, but he made a bad choice. Going to jail will serve as his punishment.
Remind your children that we are all accountable for our actions no matter how old we are. Adults make mistakes too, and they should accept the consequences just like children.
It is very important to remain calm, caring and understanding while you have this conversation with your children. Do not get angry. Do not use a sarcastic tone. Do not call your husband names. Remember that your children are not the ones in trouble for the DUI. They may have some questions, so answer them as best you can.
They may be frightened for their father. Please do your best to reassure them that he will be OK, and that you will do all that you can to ensure that the quality of their life decreases as little as possible. Comfort, reassurance and understanding are key parenting skills to have at this time. This is a very difficult situation for you and your family, but it can provide an opportunity for growth.
Use this as a warning of the consequences of drinking and driving. And remember to reiterate that their father is not a bad person; he just made a bad choice.
My children and I just moved back to my hometown after being away for 14 years. My ex-husband, who was emotionally abusive to me and cheated on me with his current wife, has lived here since I moved away. He and his wife have twins who are the same age as my daughter. Our children attend the same school, but I have made certain that they will not be in the same classroom since my ex-husband’s wife has encouraged her twins to pick on my daughter.
After only six days of school, my daughter has come home daily with bruises on her legs. She told me that kids are kicking and pinching her at recess. She does not know their names, so I went to the teacher to discuss the situation. I did not get a satisfactory response from her teacher, so I spoke to the other kindergarten teacher. She said that she has been reporting it, but no one has actually seen the behavior take place.
I want the teachers and recess monitors to watch my daughter more closely at recess according to the school’s anti-bullying rules, but they are not very responsive. This makes me wonder just how seriously my daughter has to be hurt before they intervene.
My daughter is considered to be high-functioning autistic. I want her to love school and fear she will come to hate it if she continues to be bullied. How should I handle this? How do I keep it from continuing – or worse – escalating? Who do I talk to next?
Though many schools have anti-bullying policies in place, teachers are not always educated on how to spot bullying behavior or how to respond to it when they suspect it is happening. Another factor is that bystanders who are witnessing your daughter being bullied do not know how to respond when one of their peers is being hurt. Children also need to be educated on how to respond when they see or hear it happening.
You and your daughter have done exactly what you need to do. The next step is to report it to the principal. If you do not feel that something is being done to your satisfaction, you need to contact the superintendent and then the school district. Have each step recorded so nothing can be misunderstood.