How Not To Divorce the Kids

  • Will I go to the same school?
  • Will I get to see my friends?
  • Who’s going to feed “Trixie” when I’m not here?

Divorce is messy. It is complicated and stressful and heartbreaking. None of this happened on Definitely, Maybe or Crazy, Stupid, Love, or any of the other Hollywood films in recent memory. But in addition to what adults have to contend with, there’s also the difficulty of finding a way to talk to your child about divorce and the changes to come. Most importantly, keep in mind that you’re not divorcing the kids.

Successful parenting during and after divorce and how to make transitioning between households as easy as possible are among the topics to be discussed at a free program on March 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Cadenza Center, located on 450 N. Park Road, Suite 400, Hollywood, Florida 33021. Parking is easy and free. 

Since the initial discussion may be one of the most difficult moments in the process, let’s review some scenarios for discussions with your children. First of all, make sure to have a strategy in mind. During the planning period, you’ll need to figure out logistics before involving the kids. Then, share your plans at an appropriate developmental level.

While it is important to be honest, it’s even more critical to select an appropriate timeframe, as kids don’t need to know six months beforehand. If they’re ten, the kids don’t need a review of the college pre-paid plan. They need to know who’s driving them to baseball practice this weekend.

Ideally, the whole family should initially sit together after guidance from a trained therapist. Providing clear information the first time will smooth the process. Try to have an idea ahead of time of what the kids will want and need to know, and be prepared for many types of questions.

  • Who is moving?
  • What days will I be at mom’s house?
  • Are you going to be lonely when we’re with dad?

Everyone, parents and children, will be experiencing a new lifestyle and that type of transition can churn up emotions and instability. Be aware of how your child expresses stress; some kids are likely to become extra clingy, whiney, or irritable. How will you manage that?

Likewise, as a parent you will have to let go of an unrealistic expectation that you will know everything going on with your kids at every moment. Setting up a contact schedule, such as nightly phone calls, might be helpful although the calls will likely last only a few minutes.

But make sure you’re not putting the onus on the kids to call and report. It’s critical not to add pressure or stress, and to keep things somewhat flexible. Rigid call times are not realistic but you can set a consistent timeframe, like just before bedtime.

An agreed-upon calendar will help minimize the anxiety from timesharing; it is helpful to post it in the homes of both parents. Kids, especially those that plan and dislike instability (which is most kids), want to know where they will be and who they can rely on. A child-sharing calendar will allow them to envision their own schedule and plan some projects accordingly. As many have learned, some school projects don’t travel well. Planning ahead is critical for all, but especially the children, who are likely the least able to express the insecurity.

  • Will I get to see my friends?
  • Who is “Trixie” going to live with?
  • Can I take my bed?

The flow of belongings and storage has been dramatically altered, and it might take a while for all concerned to get organized again. It’s imperative to detach from the “I need these items back” mindset but engage your kids when they are packing and help them plan ahead.

For example, if the kids have a habit of not bringing their favorite sneakers home, should they take them for a weekend visit? Or, if you need to make a tie-dye t-shirt for the school play, make sure all the supplies are ready in one place and there’s a plan or schedule to make it happen.

In getting accustomed to these changes, avoid control issues and work to manage or let go of your own anger and anxiety. It is crucial to maintain a healthy relationship with your children, and to model resilience and flexibility to your kids during the transition and afterward.

For more information and a chance to ask questions, join us at our program on March 25th at 6:30 p.m. at the Cadenza Center, located in the Regions Bank building, 450 N. Park Road, Suite 400, Hollywood, Florida 33021. The program and parking are free. Please let us know you’re coming by calling 954-925-3191.

And oh yeah, make sure the kids know you’ll feed their hamster if “Trixie” isn’t going along to visit the other parent.

FIDGETY PHIL AND THE ESSENTIALS OF ADHD: PART 1

"Let me see if Philip can – Be a little gentleman;
Let me see if he is able – To sit still for once at table"

Thus begins “Fidgety Phil,” Dr. Heinrich Hoffman’s early 19th Century ode to children with attention problems. The tale is sadly familiar to frustrated parents today, more than 170 years later.

ADHD remains one of the most misunderstood and challenging issues for both adults and children although today there is hope for treatment and much better understanding. We know that kids won’t just outgrow ADHD but the good news is that ADHD can be treated.

HOW DO YOU DIAGNOSE ADHD?

Most people know that ADHD is the acronym for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Attention is the ability to focus or filter information. Psychologists are uniquely qualified to diagnose ADHD using standardized tests in addition to observation and parent or teacher reports. Too often, ADHD is inaccurately diagnosed based exclusively on symptoms.

Using neuroimaging studies, we know that children with ADHD have physical brain differences in numerous areas. The outcome of this new knowledge is an understanding that children with ADHD typically lag 2-3 years behind neurotypical children in the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the area associated with higher-level skills of planning and impulse control.

For instance, it is not until adolescence that the prefrontal cortex becomes more active. Individuals with ADHD lag behind their typical peers in this process and therefore are more likely to exhibit difficulty with problem-solving, anticipating consequences, inhibiting responses, and impulse control

The prefrontal cortex is associated with executive functioning, which is the ability to plan out strategies make a goal, and anticipate outcomes/consequences. The prefrontal cortex plays a role in the ability to differentiate between conflicting thoughts and emotions i.e. decision-making.

It’s rare that someone only has ADHD; this much-maligned illness is often accompanied by a learning disability or a mood disorder. Adding to the difficulty, there is a significant overlap between the symptoms of ADHD and other disorders, known in psychology as ‘comorbidities’.

Family dysfunction, parenting issues and low self-esteem are frequent co-conspirators in ADHD. Any of these issues may lead to depression, a frequent co-occurring condition. So, clearly, ADHD has a serious impact on kids, families, and schools.

WHO IS AFFECTED?

ADHD is known to affect more boys than girls, and although the prevalence rate is thought to be no more than 10%, roughly 50% of children referred to mental health clinics have ADHD-related problems. The societal cost of ADHD is estimated to be between $12,005 — $17,458 annually per individual, or a whopping $36 – 52 billion in total.

The worst impact of ADHD is in school, where the kids typically show:

  • High rates of disruptive behavior;
  • Low rates of engagement with academic instruction and materials;
  • Inconsistent completion and accuracy on schoolwork;
  • Poor performance on homework, tests, and long-term assignments, and
  • Difficult getting along with peers and teachers.

Socially, there is also an impact. ADHD can impact peer relationships; while eager to make friends, kids with ADHD often have difficulty keeping them. In fact, some might feel ignored but other kids insightfully know they are actively being rejected. They may sense that they are deficient in the mechanics of friendship, what we in the clinical world call appropriate social behavior.

Even team sports may be challenging, as the kid with ADHD may become too easily frustrated and show poor emotional regulation. Their friends may find them annoying or impatient, inflexible or bossy, none of which bodes in school or at play.

CAN ADHD BE TREATED?

It’s clear that children with ADHD confront significant issues at a young age. How can we expect a ten year old with ADHD and the brain development of an eight year old (or younger) to behave beyond his capability? As parents, we want to help our children build character and self-discipline and to lay cornerstones in executive functioning.
Therapy can help our children develop these necessary skills for success. Stay tuned for details in my next post!