Top 10 Powerful Divorce Movies to Help Uncertain Kids

Divorce movies

Watching divorce movies together is an excellent way to broach a topic as potentially fraught as parental separation. Children understand the world from a simple but incredibly emotional perspective, and media can help them to make sense of what’s going on in their lives. The most important way you can help kids understand the separation process is through positive, healthy communication.

It’s useful for children to see characters speak openly about their feelings and effectively resolve challenging emotions in a film. In addition to setting a good example, it’s usually much easier to encourage a teenager or tween to be open about their feelings in an indirect way. You can ask them how they perceive what various people in the story are going for and get a solid understanding of how they feel from their insights. 

Subtle Ways Divorce Affects Children

Divorce affects each child differently, with some seeming to find it easy to adapt to the changes and others showing significant signs of stress. Bear in mind that the child who appears to be coping is still likely to be experiencing negative emotions. In most cases, these kids have learned to mask how they feel — either to protect themselves or other people. If you’re struggling to get your kid to express their feelings, watching divorce movies can be a smart way to find out where their head’s at. 

Age plays a crucial role in determining how the child is likely to respond, with teenagers often being the most varied and challenging in their responses. As an adult, it’s your responsibility to maintain a routine in the home and set healthy boundaries.

  • Infants: Young children often find it hard to understand the changes that occur after divorce. Parental separation when a child is this age can instill unhelpful beliefs that persist throughout their life. They might worry that they’re to blame for the situation. There’s also the potential fear that if parents can stop loving each other, they could stop loving them. Parents of divorced children must speak openly about these issues and provide endless reassurance, comfort, and love. 
  • Grade School Kids: Grade school children are also prone to blaming themselves for the situation. However, because they can communicate better than young children, it’s easier to comfort them. Never assume that your child is okay because they aren’t displaying signs of distress. It’s essential to teach them to open up about how they feel so they learn to cope with their feelings constructively.  
  • Teenagers: Expect them to let off steam — their hormones are running wild — and be there to comfort them when they need it. Teenagers can become angry, upset, vicious, and blame one or both parents for the situation. Accept that requests for hugs are likely to be met with squirms and frowns and celebrate positive events. Reassure them that just like all painful emotions, time will be the most effective healer and never deny their experiences.

Divorce brings about astronomical changes to daily life that can feel catastrophic — just remember, it’s not the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to make life even better for you and your child. By approaching the situation with a positive mindset, you’ll help your child to cope with divorce. 

How Can I Help My Children to Cope With Divorce?

The other most effective way to guide your child through this tough time is by finding out how they feel and talking to them about it. Teenagers, in particular, are notoriously difficult to pin down for an in-depth discussion about their internal worlds. They’ll roll their eyes and rarely show appreciation, but it’s still vital that you comfort them and reassure them!  

Never Unload Your Feelings Onto Them

Since it’s your responsibility to provide them stability, you must set healthy boundaries. Divorce is difficult for a child and they need you to be strong now more than ever.

Try always to put them first and never unload your emotions onto them. If you put the burden of your mental health onto your child, they’re likely to repress their feelings and prioritize how you feel instead. You must make it clear that they are the priority and focus your efforts on ensuring they’re meeting their obligations, and you’re meeting yours. Seek advice from family, friends, or a counselor, but never your children — even teenagers.  

Top 10 Divorce Movies for Children

This list of 10 movies gives parents of kids of all ages (and with all kinds of taste) a few ideas of titles that could help children understand divorce.  

1. Night at the Museum (2006)

In Night at the Museum (2006), Ben Stiller plays a divorced father called Larry, who needs to get a job to provide for his son and set a better example to him. The ordinary gig he takes as a security guard at a museum turns out to be extraordinary, as the exhibits come to life and night. All the messages, such as encouraging reading and visiting museums, are positive and constructive. 

Watching a film like this can children as young as seven about divorce by showing them their situation reflected on-screen. Kids don’t like to feel like they’re strange. So, knowing the separation isn’t a result of something being uniquely and individually wrong with them can be incredibly reassuring. 

2. Wilderness Love (2013)

This is a tremendous heartfelt rom-com that explores the theme of parental separation and its effect on children to watch with teenagers. In the story, Mom seems to have found love, but Dad is struggling, and the kids want to give him a helping hand. When the three children sense an opportunity to reunite their parents, they grab it. 

Wilderness Love (2013) gives adults the starting point for an in-depth discussion. You can use the film as a starting point to find out how your child feels about divorce and reconciliation. If they have any misconceptions, you can gently guide them towards the truth.  

3. The Break Up (2006)

The Break Up (2006) is a hilarious rom-com starring Jennifer Aniston. While children aren’t involved, the film explores the financial side of divorce and other films that might be useful for teenagers. This one isn’t for little kids, but it could get help older children develop their understanding of divorce.  

4. Stepmom (1998)

Teenage girls usually love watching rom-coms with their mothers — and so do a lot of teenage boys, secretly! Stepmom (1998) is an excellent weepy movie with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. It explores themes of death and divorce, but perhaps not in the most realistic way. That’s a great way to start a conversation with a teenager: ask them if they think the film is realistic and if they’ve seen any better examples on-screen. 

5. Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood (2014) is a thought-provoking drama that teens with discerning taste are likely to be impressed by. Themes are dealt with maturely and philosophically, posing questions about stepfamilies and overcoming hardships such as abuse and addiction. It’s moving and provides some challenging talking points — but difficult conversations are the most important ones to have.  

6. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Children’s classic, Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), stars Robin Williams as the man who dresses as a woman so he can see his kids more frequently. It approaches the subject of divorce sensitively while also making light of it. Laughter is another great tool of communication you can impart to your children to help them cope.  

7. The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Indie kids out there of all ages will find The Squid and the Whale (2005) enchanting and deeply insightful. It shows a couple’s divorce from the perspective of the sons as they learn about when a relationship falls apart. It’s a hard-hitting film that could help a divorced parent to bond with their older teenage children.  

8. The Parent Trap (1999)

There’s an old version of this film and a slightly less old version! Modern kids are more likely to relate to the characters in The Parent Trap (1999). It’s a great film for kids of all ages to watch so they can see children of divorced parents depicted in the media. You can ask questions about the film or get them to do a video or written review of it. This way, you’ll get subtle signs about what they feel, even from the most emotionally reserved child.

9. What Maisie Knew (2013)

What Maisie Knew (2013) tells the tale of a family going through a bitter divorce, with a particular focus on how it’s affected the children. Whatever age they were when you went through the divorce, watch this with your child once they become a teenager. It’s emotionally challenging but can start deeply meaningful conversations. 

10. Matilda (1996)

A film like Matilda (1996) doesn’t depict a divorced family — it shows a different kind of dysfunctional family. This movie can help you to teach a child that sometimes children benefit from their parents being separated. It also shows them that parents being together doesn’t automatically bring happiness to a family.

Improve Your Family Life Today

Watching divorce movies with your kids can be a good starting point for engaging them in a discussion about how they feel. This is so important because communication is the most useful skill you can teach your child in a challenging emotional situation.

Download the 2houses app today to help you and your spouse get organized so you can both do the best for your children. 

10 Things You Absolutely Need to Avoid When Getting Divorced

Getting divorced

We’ve all heard the infamous, albeit crude, divorce statistics in the US. 

While divorce may be more common than we’d like, there’s something else those ex-couples have in common: getting divorced isn’t easy for any of them. In fact, it’s downright challenging and complicated—whether you’re splitting amicably or not. Unfortunately, many couples go through it, but that also means there’s a lot of insight into how to get through it more seamlessly.

For example, in this article, we provide a list of don’ts for those going through the harrowing divorce process. By observing and practicing these suggested guidelines, you can perhaps make your divorce smoother, allowing you and your ex-spouse to reach the other side with respect, dignity, and integrity. 

Keep reading for advice about habits and actions to avoid at all costs when getting divorced.

1. Be Honest and Transparent

Now is not the time to lie or be vindictive, however tempting it may be.

In fact, lying about certain things like money, assets, or even debts, could be detrimental to your situation. You could potentially get charged with being in contempt of court if you knowingly do something like hiding assets or purchases or rack up credit card debt on your joint account. These actions are illegal.

Be honest about what you have, and try to avoid the tit-for-tat back-and-forth.

Rather than focusing on the little things, use your energy to focus on what matters—the more significant concerns like your home, your will, your children. At the end of the day, it won’t matter who ends up with the CD collection; it’ll matter that you came out free of legal charges.

2. Don’t Badmouth Your Ex-Spouse to the Kids

This action is bad for you, your ex-spouse, and especially your children.

Getting divorced is no easy thing for families. Kids are confused, scared, and resistant to the change that inevitably comes when their parents split. Avoid making it worse by badmouthing your spouse and forcing them to essentially choose sides.

Your children are human beings—not pawns in your divorce. Whenever you’re upset or angry, talk to someone like your attorney rather than your kids. The chances are that later, you’ll regret having said whatever you did anyway.

3. Try to Settle out of Court

Think getting divorced is cheap? Think again.

On average, divorces cost about $15,000 per person. This cost includes legal fees such as hiring an attorney, any court costs, a tax advisor, a child custody evaluator, and more. The factors that affect this cost are things like whether your divorce is contested or not, whether you have to navigate child custody, and whether there’s also alimony (among other factors).

You may be hesitant to hire a mediator, but it may be worth your time and money. If you can settle outside of court, you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of trouble, and especially the financial hit. If possible, try to do as much as you can outside of a courtroom.

Mediation can solve both small and large problems, and it gives you a voice. Additionally, without the litigation, intervention is typically much faster, allowing you and your ex-spouse to start moving on sooner. And of course, the costs are lower, making mediation a more affordable option for many.

Another bonus is that instead of allowing a lawyer to speak for you, you can speak for yourself. 

Of course, if you and your ex-spouse have more complicated problems, such as an uncontested divorce, incidents of abuse, or difficulties coming to a custody agreement, you’ll likely need to hire an attorney. The point here is to solve as much as you can outside of the courtroom, remembering that it’s not your personal space to hash out battles.

4. Consider Your Divorce Like a Business Transaction

It may sound impersonal, but that’s the point!

If you’re undergoing the divorce process in a high emotional state, you’ll be more likely to do things you regret (like setting your ex-spouse’s clothes on fire).

But if you treat the situation like it’s a business transaction, that framework may allow you to approach situations in a calm, respectful demeanor. Using this mindset, you’ll be able to approach every moment like a clear-headed adult.

5. Avoid Telling the World You’re Getting Divorced

Stay off social media!

Okay, fine—you can still be in communication with friends and family on Facebook, and you can still post your food photos on Instagram. The main thing here is to avoid using social media to vent about your divorce online. This point is similar to not badmouthing your ex-spouse to your children—don’t do it to your audience of friends and family, either.

Avoid this not only because you’ll likely regret your actions later, but because this could be used as evidence against you. Similarly, any texts you send to your spouse can be used as evidence. Keep your words calm and respectful, or you could end up seeing your Facebook post blown up on slides in the courtroom.

Plus, you just don’t need the advice of your friends and family. Everyone’s divorce is different. The only people who understand your divorce are you and your ex-spouse.

6. Stop Putting Money Into Joint Accounts

This one may seem obvious, but it could be an overlooked action that winds up being a point of contention.

Once you understand that getting divorced is in your future, it’s time to separate your accounts. Set up your own bank account and begin putting your money there. You don’t want to worry about your ex-spouse taking from your joint account, or racking up a debt on your account, leaving you momentarily dry. 

Advice your ex-spouse to do the same. In fact, anything that’s joint, separate it.

7. Don’t Compare Your Divorce to Others’ Divorces 

If your parents got divorced in the ’70s or even your best friend in recent times, it still wouldn’t be anything like your divorce.

And, taking advice from someone who doesn’t fully understand your situation can be detrimental to your mindset.

This point is true for everything—any future relationships, your relationship with your parents, your children. Each one-on-one relationship is different from the next. Use your gut, your intuition, and your knowledge of the situation to navigate it smartly.

8. Stopping Communication With Your Ex Isn’t Always the Answer

Cutting ties isn’t always the answer unless of course, you’re dealing with an abusive ex-partner.

If not, however, communication is vital for navigating the divorce process.

Try to stay on the same page—this is what will allow you to have successful mediation sessions or come to custody agreements. As long as you each have boundaries about when to talk, and how to talk to each other, try not to stop communication entirely. This doesn’t mean you have to stay friends if it’s uncomfortable, but rather, approaching this in a business-like fashion, as we mentioned earlier.

9. Avoid Jumping Into a Fling or Another Relationship

It may feel like the right answer—get over your ex by getting with someone else, right?

Unfortunately, while it may feel good at the moment, it’s likely not going to feel good later. You need to take the time to process the situation. Additionally, self-care is essential at this time.

What are your hobbies? What do you love to do? What makes you feel alive?

Take this time to fall back into a relationship with yourself. Learn what it feels like to prioritize you and your well-being above all else. Focus on making yourself happy as much as possible during this time, practicing anything that makes you feel good.

10. Try to Resist Playing the Blame Game

This point is similar to the one about treating this like a business transaction.

Unless under extenuating circumstances, such as your ex-spouse was abusive, then it helps to remember that at one point, you two once loved each other. In reality, relationships can fall apart—they don’t always last. No one has to be to blame in this situation. 

Rather, you’re two people who simply aren’t happy together anymore. You would both benefit from living separate lives. Once you accept this fact, it’ll be easier to overcome the hardship and begin to move on.

Most of All, Don’t Make This More Difficult Than It Has to Be

Getting divorced is hard enough without saying or doing things you’ll regret, using the children as pawns, or undergoing expensive court proceedings.

As difficult as it may be, try to remember the love you once had for this person, and when possible, use compassion. Remember, this is hard for your ex-spouse, too! If you can treat them with respect, they’ll be more likely to reciprocate. Avoid making this already trying situation more challenging than it needs to be.

For more insight into navigating the divorce process, keep reading the 2houses blog.

Being a Stepmom on Mother’s Day: You Deserve It, Too!

Being a Stepmom on Mother's Day: You Deserve It, Too

On Mother’s Day, women around the world are recognized for their child-raising efforts; but sadly, stepmoms are hardly acknowledged. 

Step-parents understand they’re not the primary parent; however, most do want others to respect them. After all, step-parents face many challenges. From bad relationships with biological moms to lack of reciprocated affection, it can be difficult. 

That’s why it’s important to celebrate Mother’s Day every year. It’s essential to feel appreciated and recognized.  

With this guide, you can learn how to celebrate Mother’s Day in your own way. Whether that means kicking back in your favorite PJ’s or laying on the beach, you can make your own special memories. 

Now, are you ready to dive in? Here’s an in-depth look at how to celebrate as a stepmom: 

Enjoy the Day with No Expectations From Your Stepkids

As a stepmom, Mother’s Day can be challenging since it can remind you of everything you do but receive little to no recognition. If your stepchildren do indeed show their appreciation, it can be, at times, awkward for their insincere efforts. 

It’s okay to want some kind of praise, after all, you deserve it. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll always receive a present or a card from your stepkids. Sometimes children feel that it dishonors their mother to celebrate their stepmom.  

That’s why it’s best to have no expectations for your stepkids on Mother’s Day. If a child presents you with a hand-written card or a gift of some kind, then that’s amazing! Embrace their offering and thank them for their praise. 

However, if they don’t, try not to take it personally. Instead, remind yourself that the most important gift is not a material one but rather having the privilege to shape a child’s life. 

Husbands Carry the Day

For many stepmoms, the only person who will truly celebrate Mother’s Day is their husband. However, try not to fret about the missed presents, cards, or words of recognition. 

This actually allows you to create your own special day. A day where you can reconnect with your husband, make long-lasting memories, and even feel pampered if you want. By creating your own special day, you can start new traditions and allow your husband to show you just how much he appreciates you. 

It’s important, however, to set the expectations-that way you’re not disappointed or let down.

Tell your spouse if you want flowers or a card in addition to a planned getaway or instead of. Let him know, and he’ll make sure to deliver to the best of his abilities. 

How to Celebrate 

Planning your own celebration is the best. That way, you can select a day that fits within your schedule. You can pick a planned getaway the day before Mother’s Day or enjoy a nice trip on the day itself. 

Just remember to plan around events that might include your kid’s biological parent. Now to get you started here are a few ideas: 

Spend a Weekend at a Bed and Breakfast 

Need some alone time with your hubby? Stay at a cozy B&B for the weekend, and reminisce about the good times your family has had. Enjoy not worrying about chores, early morning wake up calls, or the stresses of work. 

Just relax and enjoy one another’s company. However, wait until you hear the best part you can wake up on Sunday morning to a mouthwatering breakfast that you and your spouse didn’t have to cook! Now, don’t feel guilty for asking for a little time away from the kids.

In fact, in order to be the best mom, you have to take care of yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally. So if you want to be whisked away to a cute B&B and get treated to a restful sleep, let your husband know. Your motherhood efforts need to be acknowledged and recognized accordingly. 

Spend the Day at a Nearby Beach   

As a more affordable option, you can spend a day at the beach. You can sunbathe, swim in the ocean, or play a beach sport. Perhaps even have a picnic on the cozy white sand with your husband too. 

Try not to nitpick on how you’re alike or unlike from your kid’s biological mother. During Mother’s Day, that can be hard to refrain from; however, it’s important to enjoy the moment and focus on you and your stepkids. 

One way you can do that is to set goals with your husband to help you become better connected with your stepfamily. For example, you can start planning family movie nights, weekly game nights, or even family trips. 

Relax with a Trip to the Spa 

Who said being a stepmom isn’t difficult, that’s why a trip to the spa is definitely deserved. You can delight in treatments like a hot stone massage, a facial, or enjoy additional services like hair styling. 

But why go for the basics when you can have specialty treatments? Ask about the Thai massage, mud wrap, or inquire about the salt scrub body treatments. While they may be increased in price, they have incredible health benefits and will make your stay feel even more posh. 

If you don’t want to go alone, enlist one of your friends or even ask your hubby to join you. You can get separate treatments or enjoy a couple’s massage. With a full day of being pampered, you’ll feel relaxed and rejuvenated. 

Find Another Stepmom and Go out for Brunch 

Stepmoms understand navigating Mother’s Day is challenging, so what better way to celebrate than together. You can enjoy some gal time at your favorite brunch cafe or dine at a local eatery. Indulge in some wine and chocolate or simply have a fancy meal. 

Whether or not you want to bring gifts depends on each other’s personality. However, if you want to, you can buy a stepmom themed wine glass, a pair of cozy socks, or a scented candle.  

Just make sure to catch up on the latest family gossip and the best tidbits of married life. That way, you can support one another through this time. Just remember to remind one other that while it might not seem like it, you are valued for all that you do. 

Go to a Fancy Restaurant  

It’s one of the more cliché options on this list, but there’s nothing like eating a good meal. Make a reservation for one of your favorite restaurants or be adventurous and try something new. 

Enjoy a cocktail or two followed by an appetizer, delicious entree, and don’t forget about the dessert! Don’t try and justify each pricey decision; instead, treat yourself. You’ve cooked, cleaned, and helped tirelessly with every decision. 

Now, it’s time for you to enjoy a nice meal. However, don’t just go out in your work clothes; instead, dress up and make a night of the occasion. Go for a stroll after dinner and people watch or drive around town and talk endlessly. 

Spend the Day at Home   

Sometimes the best celebration is simply sleeping in. By staying home, you can do whatever you want when you want. Don’t worry about putting the laundry in the dryer or washing the dishes, instead take the day off. 

Binge-watch, your favorite TV show, eat breakfast in bed or even play your favorite board game. Allow yourself to have some much needed R&R. You’ll find you’ll feel better rested in the morning. 

Take a Couples Class   

Couple classes are perfect for strengthening a healthy relationship. In fact, they’re great for you and your hubby to explore new hobbies together. You can try painting, dancing, or even a mixology class. All classes increase trust and boost communication. 

Learning something new is not only fun, but it can bring people together and keep relationships fresh and happy. That way, when you go back to your usual routine, you can embrace what you learned, whether that be how to make a delicious margarita or slow dance to your favorite song. 

Stepmoms, Are You Ready for a Fun Celebration?  

Step-parents face many challenges over the years, from disputes with biological moms to lack of affection from kids, being a stepmom is no easy feat. However, no stepmom should feel left out on Mother’s Day. That’s why you should celebrate yourself with your hubby. 

Go out and have yourself a wonderful dinner or a spa getaway. Pamper yourself, and acknowledge that you are valued. 

For more information about Mother’s Day for stepmoms, contact 2houses or register today!

Co-Parenting During the coronavirus

Coparenting vs coronavirus

The rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic is upending lives everywhere, but it’s putting a strain on a group that already deals with challenges on a routine basis—divorced parents.

Schools and daycare facilities are closing everywhere, which has parents questioning how to keep their children safe. Some are continuing to work, if they’re able, while others are adjusting to life at home full-time under financial strain

Then there is the stress of co-parenting. Many parents are questioning how to handle their existing custody agreements while practicing social distancing. How do you successfully co-parent with an ex when everyone is supposed to stay home?

It’s complicated, but not impossible. We have to respond quickly while accepting that COVID-19 may require us to be lenient and accept change. 

If you’re navigating co-parenting during the coronavirus, keep reading for a guide on how to work with your co-parent to put relationship issues aside for the health and safety of your children.

Communication is Vital

Our world is in crisis, so communication has never been more critical than it is right now. 

For some co-parents in high-conflict relationships, communication is difficult. It causes stress and anxiety, but it’s time to put those feelings aside and focus on the issues. Your family should put the health of everyone at the top of the priority. 

It’s essential to remain on the same page, so the first thing you should do is agree on how to discuss COVID-19 with your children.

How to Talk to Your Children About COVID-19

Your children have likely already seen news of the coronavirus everywhere. It’s on the front page of newspapers, on every news channel, to leaflets at the supermarket.

It’s hard to tell a child they can’t visit the playground or have playdates with friends in a way that won’t make them worry more than they already are. So how do you explain the pandemic to a child?Stay Positive

Children pick up cues from adults. They will react not only to what you say but how you say it as well. So stay positive, remain calm, and speak in a reassuring tone.Be Available

Both parents should be available to listen and talk. Make time to talk together and reassure your children to come to you if they’re unsure about something. Remain Developmentally Appropriate

Take into account the age of your children when answering questions and providing information. You don’t want to overwhelm them with more information than they can handle. 

Do your best to answer their questions honestly and clearly. Remember that you don’t have to know the answer to everything—what matters is that you’re there if they need you.Avoid Stigmas

Don’t use language that blames others. Viruses can make anyone sick—race and ethnicity don’t matter. 

Don’t assume who may or may not have COVID-19—model good behavior for your children.Limit Screen Time

News of the novel coronavirus is all over the television and online. For this reason, consider reducing the amount of screen time your children get each day. Too much information can cause anxiety and panic. 

This is true for adults, too.Tell the Truth

Do, however, provide your children with accurate information. Talk to them about rumors they may see on the Internet, especially social media platforms.

Let them know not to believe everything they see or hear, and not to spread rumors based on inaccurate information.Practice Good Hygiene

Teach your children how to reduce the spread of germs. 

Practice good handwashing habits. If soap and water aren’t available, teach them how to use hand sanitizer. Remind them to sneeze or cough into their elbow or tissue, and always through the tissue in the trash. 

Tell them to keep a safe distance from others who are sick. And lastly, make sure you’re leading by example and doing each of these things, too.

Simple COVID-19 Facts to Share with Children

As you’re having conversations with your children, try to keep information simple. Remind them that both parents and all health and school officials will do everything they can to keep them safe. 

Both parents should become comfortable with the following facts. These will lead conversations about COVID-19 at home and ensure both parents are using the same messaging.What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019.” Coronaviruses aren’t new, but this is a new disease not previously seen in humans. 

Recently, COVID-19 has made many people sick. While most people, children especially, will be okay, some people will suffer more than others. Doctors and health officials are working very hard to keep you healthy.How Do You Stay Safe from COVID0-19?

Always practice healthy habits at home, school, and during playtime. Healthy habits that will help are:

  • Keep the germs out of your body by keeping your hands out of your mouth, nose, and eyes. 
  • Never cough or sneeze onto anyone. Use your elbow or a tissue, then throw the tissue away immediately.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot, soapy water. To make sure you’re washing long enough, sing the song “Happy Birthday” twice.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, ask an adult to help with hand sanitizer. Never put hand sanitizer in your mouth.
  • Keep the things we touch the cleanest. Have an adult help you wipe doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls.
  • If you’re not feeling well, tell someone and stay home. You don’t want other people’s germs, and they don’t want yours either.

What if You Get Sick?

For most people, COVID-19 disease feels like having the flu. You might have a fever, cough, and have a hard time breathing deeply. Most people who have gotten the disease haven’t been seriously sick.

Only a small group of people have had severe problems and have been admitted to the hospital. Most children don’t get very sick, and most adults who do, get better. 

A fever and a cough doesn’t automatically mean you have COVID-19. You can get sick from all kinds of germs. Remember that if you do feel unwell, tell an adult and they will help you.

As a parent, if you think your child could be infected with the new coronavirus, call ahead before arriving at any healthcare facility. 

Co-Parenting Guidelines for the COVID-19 Pandemic

Once you’re on the same page about how to communicate the facts of COVID-19 to your children, it’s time to talk about how the pandemic will or will not affect your co-parenting agreement.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts have jointly released a set of guidelines for co-parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These guidelines are meant to provide advice and clarity for how to handle court orders and co-parenting agreements during this trying time.

1. Be Healthy

Be a good model for your children by following all CDC, local, and state guidelines. 

Lead by example by showing your children intensive handwashing, wiping down surfaces and other objects that are frequently touched. Practice social distancing and stay informed to avoid falling victim to the rumor mill.

2. Be Mindful

While you should recognize the severity of the pandemic, you should remain calm and reassure your children that everything will return to normal eventually.

And if you have a good relationship with your co-parent, consider being proactive like Carolina from Italy:

“My ex-husband and I decided to re-organize our children’s custody in longer periods, to avoid going out frequently. In fact, even though we are close, (5 miles apart) we live in different cities and the government suggested not to move to other cities if you don’t have a good reason or necessity.”


3. Be Compliant 

Now is not the time to make up your own rules. Despite the unusual circumstances, you should continue to follow court orders and custody agreements. 

These agreements exist to prevent haggling over details. Most custody agreements, for example, mandate that custody agreements should remain in force as though school is in session, even if they are closed. 

4. Be Creative

While you should do your best to stay compliant, it’s evident that things will change when travel is restricted. Some parents will be working extra hours, while others will lose their jobs. 

Plans will inevitably change, but each parent should encourage closeness with the other. If one parent loses time, get created with shared books, movies, and games. Communicate with platforms such as FaceTime or Skype.

5. Be Transparent

Now is not the time to withhold information from your co-parent. If you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus, provide honest information. Agree on the steps each of you will take to protect your children.

If a child exhibits symptoms of the virus, both parents should be notified at once.

And if you’re worried about exposure, understand that you’re only doing what is best for your children by opting to self-quarantine. Attitude is everything, as you can see in the following testimonial by Amelie from France:

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re on alternate custody. The confinement began while the children were at their father’s. We have 3 children: 8, 11 and 14 years old.

Being on good terms, we had no difficulty in agreeing to leave them with him because they are better off at his place, as it is on a farm in the countryside.

For the moment, I’m going to respect a total confinement of 15 days to know if I’m safe and then we’ll see if I try to go and see them.

In the meantime, we talk quite regularly, but only when the children want to because they have other priorities than me! So that reassures me, it means that they are fine and that they don’t miss me!”


6. Be Generous

If one parent misses out on time, family law judges will expect reasonable accommodations when they can be made. 

These are highly unusual circumstances, and parents who are inflexible during this time may not fare well in later filings. 

7. Be Understanding

This pandemic is causing economic hardship for many parents, for those who are paying child support and parents who receive it. If you’re providing child support, try to offer something even if it can’t be the court-ordered amount.

The receiving parent should do everything to be accomodating under these challenging circumstances. Now is the time to come together and focus on what is best for the children. 

These strange days will leave many children with vivid memories. What children should be left with is the understanding that both parents did everything they could to keep them safe, while keeping them informed. 

How to Manage Parenting Time Revisions

COVID-19 is causing schedule disruptions that may make it difficult or even impossible to stick to your original parenting plan. It’s likely your agreement didn’t come close to accounting for a situation like this.

The best thing to do is look at your current schedules and come to an agreement on something that everyone can live with, if not be thrilled about.

If you’re having a difficult time figuring this out with your co-parent, remember that there is help available. During this stressful time, you may have to reach out to a professional to assist.

Get Modifications in Writing

If you’re agreeing to slightly different terms than what is outlined in your custody agreement, consider getting the changes in writing. If you think your ex might take advantage of this amended parenting plan after the pandemic, this is even more essential.

If you’re concerned, have your mediator or attorney draft a document outlining the amended schedule. Have them include a stipulation that the plan is not setting a precedent and has an end date. If everyone signs it now, it can be filed once the courts reopen. 

This Too Shall Pass

Many things feel out of control right now. It’s essential to remember that this hardship, no matter how long it lasts, will eventually end. 

Eventually, life will return to normal, and we will all go back to work and resume the activities we enjoy. The best thing you can do for your children and your co-parenting relationships is to be understanding and patient. Keeping conflicts to a minimum will help you and your family manage the stress. 

Don’t forget that you’re not alone in dealing with this, and there are resources available to you if you need them.

Being a Stepmom – How Difficult Is It?

Being a Stepmom

Parenting has never been for the faint of heart. It comes with 24/7 worries and requires an endless supply of patience. There are also downright thankless parts of the job. Like dealing with temper tantrums, monitoring screen time, and stepping on Legos barefoot.

Being a stepmom can come with additional baggage, too. After all, we live in a society where the easiest scapegoat has often been stepmom.

Painting stepmoms in less than sympathetic light goes back to some of our oldest stories. Just think Cinderella or Hansel and Gretel, for starters. What would they be without an evil stepmother?

While these stories portray stepmoms in a cruel light, far fewer ones explore the real joys and difficulties of being a stepmother. Let’s take an authentic look at how difficult it is to be a stepmom as well as its hard-earned rewards. 

Motherhood and Bonding

One of the hardest parts of being a stepmom? Playing a challenging game of catch-up. After all, you don’t get the same bonding time with your stepchild that a biological mother does. 

This one even goes for being a stepmom to a toddler. You likely missed out on some of the hardest and most rewarding experiences early on.

Yes, the first few months after you bring home a baby are exhausting, but they also come with critical rewards. Sure, you lose improbable amounts of shuteye. You also spend a serious amount of time bonding with your baby, however. For every one of those long, sleepless nights that you endure, you learn critical things about your baby. From how to read them to what soothes them. You deal with cryfests but you get plenty of hugs and cuddles in return.

You play peek-a-boo while you nurse or bottle-feed your sweet infant. You’re there for everything from baby’s first word to baby’s first steps. Talk about an incredible bonding experience!

Through all of these challenges and joys, nature creates an unbreakable relationship between mother and child. Well, that is, unless you’re a stepmom.

Starting at a Disadvantage

Because stepmoms come into the picture later on, they don’t benefit from these early, intimate moments with their children. As a result, bonding often feels intentional or even forced. 

That’s not to say your stepkids won’t like you. But “like” is something entirely different than the heartfelt bond you establish from infancy with a child.

For stepmoms, parenting doesn’t come from that deep reservoir of love and nurturing that a birth parent draws. Now, that’s not to say you, as a stepmom, don’t love your stepchildren. It is to say, however, that your experiences with them will be different.

In other words, for stepmoms, parenting comes from the head first rather than the heart. As a result, it’s different from the experience mothers so often have with their biological children. This sense of “difference” can lead to lots of second-guessing. 

It can also lead to feelings of shame. After all, aren’t stepmoms supposed to love their step kids the same way they love their biological ones?

Doesn’t any perceived “differences” between how a stepmom treats biological children and stepchildren instantly equate to moral failure? Absolutely not!

That said, our society has both very low expectations for stepmoms and impossibly high standards. 

Playing Catch-Up 

Consider everything you know about your biological child or perhaps a niece or nephew that you’ve been close to since birth. Now think about how long it took you to acquire that knowledge and some of the funny and entertaining stories it involved. 

You’ve got profound memories laid down with your child, niece, or nephew. You’ve also got a profound well of knowledge to draw from when they’re difficult. 

Now imagine trying to describe your child’s needs and wants, preferences, hopes, and dreams in a few minutes to a new teacher or babysitter. It feels weird and oddly difficult, right?

There’s simply too much to say about that darling kiddo. Even if you did manage to relay it all to the new caretaker, you’d still just be scratching the surface. What’s more, no matter what, this teacher or babysitter would be at a distinct disadvantage compared to you.  

That’s the crazy game of catch-up a stepmom has to play. They have to pick up on a child’s entire history at a later date, far removed from the funny anecdotes and precious moments that relayed this information in the first place. They have to make mental notes of favorite foods, allergies, fears, and preferred activities without any real-life milestones to anchor them. The result? The constant, nagging feeling that you’re missing significant pieces of the puzzle. 

The older your stepchildren are when you come into their lives, the more pronounced this game of catch-up. What’s more, kids can develop fierce feelings of loyalty to their parents following divorce, and this can exacerbate the stepchild stepmom relationship.  


Being a stepmom often comes with the challenges of co-parenting. While some stepmothers have exclusive or primary guardianship of their stepchildren, such is not typically the case. Instead, they must navigate the choppy waters of co-parenting.

Countless parenting books tell us that establishing routines are fundamental to a wonderful home life. But if you’re co-parenting, these routines only matter half the time.

After all, when your stepkids aren’t with you, you have little control (or knowledge) of what’s going on. 

No matter how great your relationship is with your stepchildren’s other mom, there’s no way you’ll see eye to eye on everything. You’ll do things differently, and this is something that kids not only pick up on but often exploit. 

While this isn’t a deal-breaker per se, you’ll only have half the time to set and reinforce boundaries. What’s more, you’ll have to remain conscious of the fact that the routine you’re trying to establish may not even exist in the other household. 

Are you sharing parenting responsibilities with another household? Learn more about 50/50 custody arrangements and how to make them work. 

Different Parenting Philosophies

Parenting philosophies can also cause friction. Perhaps you’re more of an attachment style mom while your spouse’s ex is a tiger mom. The bottom line is you’re not going to have the same approach when it comes to parenting. 

Short of a situation that’s dangerous for your step kids, there’s not much you can do about these differences. If you don’t take a more relaxed parenting approach that goes with the flow, the friction of such a situation can prove infuriating.

Many moms feel as if they have to live up to expectations and standards that aren’t their own. Their stepkids may reinforce these feelings by continually comparing their two households.

The feeling that you’re not entirely in control of your life and household can be excruciating. It’s also likely not a feeling that you ever dreamed of having when you were a little girl thinking about a future family. 

Stepparents navigate somewhat messy co-parenting situations at times. It can be hard to accept the fact that you have little control over what your children are learning and doing 50 percent of the time. Fortunately, there are ways to make co-parenting go more smoothly.

The Evil Stepmom Syndrome

Every mother complains about her kids and their behavior from time to time. Whether stories from the diaper trenches or the teenage playbook, moms commiserate to each other. 

When a stepmom complains about a stepchild, however? That’s often considered an unspoken taboo.

Even the most benign statement of critique about a stepchild can put a woman in the “evil stepmother” category. This reality is something that many stepmothers intuitively realize, and so they never have a complaint or say a cross word. 

They also never develop the type of support network that a biological mother does. This fact can make an already tricky situation feel even worse. 

After all, stepmoms have a tendency to second-guess themselves. The last thing they want to do is look mean-spirited or wicked to their friends and family. So, they bottle issues up inside and feel an imperative to keep up appearances. 

Always painting a rosy picture of what is a difficult situation at best comes with long-term consequences. It will leave you feeling isolated, ashamed, and exhausted.

That said, all kids can be frustrating at times, even stepchildren. It’s essential to have somebody trusted that you can talk to and receive advice from when the going gets tough.

Parents and Stepparents

For some stepmoms, they have nobody to whom they can turn. Their spouse can further exacerbate this fact.

For example, your spouse may spoil their children, an unconscious attempt to make up for post-divorce guilt.

Or, your spouse may have deep-seated resentment based on the relationship they had with their stepparent. As a result, your partner may prove just as hypercritical as friends and family when it comes to complaints.  

When you can’t complain to your spouse about something going on with your children, this can lead to an even greater sense of resentment, frustration, and isolation. With no one to turn to or seek advice from, being a stepmom can feel very lonely and confusing.

Finding your place as a stepmom takes time. It also sometimes means keeping negative thoughts to yourself. Finding a trusted confidante outside of the home often proves your best option. Remember, too, that integrating a family requires patience. 

The Joys of Step-Parenting

Of course, step-parenting isn’t all negative by any means. It comes with many small and big rewards. The longer I’m a stepmom, the more convinced I become that celebrating these tiny victories remains key to cultivating a happy home life. 

Past the stereotypes and co-parenting challenges, there’s an abundant wealth of beautiful things associated with having stepchildren. Like suddenly being related to amazing, sweet, beautiful kids.

As your step kids mature, they’ll likely come to appreciate your role as a stepmom, too. 

If you’re bringing together a blended family, it can also be rewarding to watch your children and your spouse’s children come together as siblings over time. Yes, there will be conflicts, but getting along with everyone in a blended family is possible. 

What’s more, depending on your stepkids’ custody situation, you may get the best of both worlds. The chance to parent and get some much-needed downtime as adults. 

This situation is not something that full-time parents get to share in. So, when the stepchildren are at their other house, it’s vital to make time for your spouse and yourself. After all, self-care is critical to maintaining the stamina you need to co-parent.

Having stepchildren also allows you to see different sides of your spouse. You’ll catch breathtaking moments of sweetness and love that you might not otherwise get to see, and these are precious moments to be cherished. 

Stepparenting also allows you to relax as a parent. Because you have to be more flexible about what’s going on in your stepchild’s other home. This flexibility can put parenting struggles you may face with your biological children in perspective. 

Being a Stepmom

Being a stepmom can feel like the fast-track to sainthood (with all of the requisite martyrdom).

Why is stepparenting so tough? For one, because of the crazy stereotypes about stepmoms that have been perpetuated in fairytales, cartoons, and films. In some sense, we’ve all been pre-wired to dislike stepmoms.

Not only is that unfortunate, but it can make a tough situation feel unbearable. Especially when you don’t feel like you have peers or a network of friends to turn to.

Isolation can make the stepmom role much worse, particularly when your spouse is dealing with post-divorce baggage. That said, the stepmom role also comes with amazing perks, such as suddenly being related to awesome kids.

When you set aside unrealistic expectations and take it one day at a time, you’ll find stepparenting to be one of the most blessed roles out there. Keep reading for more advice on living in a blended family

Amicable Divorce: 4 Tips for Keeping Good Communication

Keeping good communication

So you’re committed to an amicable divorce. Congratulations! Maintaining a friendly relationship with someone who used to be your spouse is never easy. It’s worth doing, especially when there are kids involved. No matter your intentions, an amicable divorce can turn nasty quickly – usually due to poor communication. Keep your split civil with these simple tips.

Put Things in Writing

Even when things are amicable, divorce can cause a lot of tension. When your emotions are raw, it’s too easy to say something cruel or nasty to your ex without thinking it through. Relying a lot on written communication is one way to minimize the chance of saying something you regret.

Make an agreement to communicate regularly by email, especially about sensitive topics. This gives you both a chance to express everything you want to say without interrupting each other. It might also be easier to be kind to each other in writing than it is in person.

For example, maybe you really disagree about the holiday schedule. Write out a full proposal about what you want to happen and why you think it’s fair. Include some language about how you know you’re both motivated to spend time with the kids, and that you want to make the holiday schedule work for all of you. Reread the email before sending it to make sure it’s calm and polite. Your ex can process everything you said before responding.

Schedule Checkins

When you were married, you crossed paths every day. It was easy to exchange information and compare notes about something going on with the kids. Now that you’re divorced, staying on the same page takes real effort. Things that you should remember to tell your ex could slip your mind, and vice versa. Then the blame game starts.

That’s why it’s so useful to schedule regular just-because checkins. These could be weekly phone calls, or biweekly emails, or whatever works for your family and your needs. Use each checkin as a time to touch base about any issues going on with the kids, and to look ahead to any challenges that might be coming up for them. Even better, meet up in a neutral place like a coffee shop and talk face-to-face so your kids know you can still be friendly.

Be Honest With the Kids

While you’re focused on having good communication with your ex, don’t forget about communicating with the kids. Having an amicable divorce is great for children in a lot of ways. They’re spared the fighting and tension that kids of nasty divorces live through. But watching their parents go through an amicable divorce can be really confusing for kids, too. If Mom and Dad get along so well, why are they getting divorced? Is it my fault? And if they’re still friends, can I get them back together?

As you work on communication with your ex, make sure to do regular checkins with the children, too. Encourage them to ask any questions they have. Talk about how you and your ex are still family, but you can’t live as spouses anymore, and that’s okay.

Have a Place to Vent

You got divorced for a reason. Even if it’s amicable, you’ll have plenty of low and frustrating moments while dealing with your ex. They might drive you absolutely crazy. In those worst moments, yelling at your co-parent would feel great. They might even deserve it! But in such an intense situation, just one fight could be destructive. It’s not worth ruining your treaty with your spouse just because it feels good to tell them off.

In order to maintain good communication with your ex, you have to have somewhere else to go with your negative feelings about the situation. It could be a friend who is always willing to listen to you talk, or a therapist or another type of counselor. A support group for people going through a divorce is another option. If all else fails, write or draw about your feelings in a journal – anything to keep you from exploding on your ex or kids.

The Importance of Establishing Healthy Co-Parenting Communication

The Importance of Establishing Healthy Co-Parenting Communication

It might not be easy to establish a healthy co-parenting relationship, but it’s worth it.

Learning how to move past your individual differences to create an environment that helps your children thrive is essential to their development. When joint custody works well, it can help children feel stability, security, and adoration at a time when they need it the most.

One of the pillars of successful co-parenting? Clear and consistent communication.

While it might be easiest to steer clear of your ex-spouse and avoid contact altogether, there will be many important conversations you’ll need to have over the course of your child’s life. It’s easier if you can work through these issues as a team, rather than pinning one parent against the other. Today, we’re sharing why co-parenting communication is important and how you can navigate it together.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

1. Discuss Important Decisions

Maybe you’re in the early stages of parenthood, navigating diapers and preschool. Perhaps you’re in the throes of adolescence, dealing with driving privileges, dating and college applications. Or, you could be anywhere in between.

Either way, there are major decisions at every age that you’ll need to navigate alongside your ex-spouse.

When one ex refuses to communicate with the other, it can lead to one parent making all of the important decisions on their own. Then, this can lead to feelings of resentment down the road, from all parties. To avoid this clash, it’s wise to set aside your differences as much as possible and focus on your children’s needs.

The decisions might start out small and insignificant at first but as your children grow, they will take on more significance. Thus, it’s important to set a communication standard as early as possible.

2. Help Children Feel Secure

Especially in the weeks and months directly following a divorce, your children will be in a state of upheaval. Even if they remain in the family home with one parent, there will be a major disruption to their routine and their sense of normalcy will be shaken.

While you might not be able to schedule family dinners and vacations with your ex-spouse, it can benefit your children to see you speak calmly and openly to one another. This way, any sense of a major rift or fight is dissolved, and they can begin to understand that divorce doesn’t have to mean a terrible change. Rather, it can mark a healthy and beneficial shift in their family dynamics that still leave them feeling loved and cherished by both of you.

This confidence and assurance can help them adjust better and more quickly to the divorce, which can improve their self-esteem. This is an especially important step to take if your children are school-aged, as this is the stage when children begin to analyze their role in your relationship, feeling guilty and wondering if they did anything to cause your split.

You can reassure them privately over and over again that this isn’t the case, but actions speak louder than words.

3. Establish Consistency

“But mom lets me drink chocolate milk before bed!” “But dad lets me stay out past 11:00 with my friends!”

Divorced parents at every stage hear the comparisons all the time. It’s not easy being pinned against your ex-spouse, especially if you’re playing the endless, tiring game of trying to “beat” one other. Instead of seeking to one-up each other and shower your children with privileges you know they don’t get when they’re not in your custody, it’s best to be on the same page.

Playing the cat-and-mouse game when they’re young leads to manipulation when they’re older. Communicating with your spouse helps you set common, shared ground rules that the kids can expect at all times, no matter where they’re spending the night.

From bedtimes and dietary decisions to friend circles and curfews, there are myriad important rules you’ll need to set as your brood grows, and it’s wisest to set them together.

4. Set an Example of Open Communication

Your children are watching your every move, even if you don’t realize it. If you hold a grudge and give your spouse the silent treatment (or receive it), what does that tell them about working through their differences?

You want your children to feel comfortable coming to you and opening up about the issues they’re facing in their lives. This step only gets more difficult as they get older. Any parent, divorced or not, knows that asking a moody teenager about his day is no easy feat!

Set a precedent early on that your family talks through things, even the hard ones. No one has to suffer in silence or internalize feelings because your space if a safe one. They’ll be more willing to follow through on their end if you and your spouse follow through on yours.

5. Coordinate Schedules

What happens if you have a custody plan worked out but one spouse wants to take the kids on an extended summer vacation that cuts into your time with them? Or, what if you have a spur-of-the-moment business trip that will affect your ability to keep the children?

From school schedules to sports practices, family obligations, and more, there are many instances that might require a slight tweak in your plans.

While it’s best to stick to pre-arranged custody terms, there might be instances in which a change is required. It’s reassuring to know that if this happens, you can bring the issue up with your spouse and you’ll work together to create a workaround.

If you aren’t on speaking terms with one another, even the slightest scheduling conflict can turn into a major argument that leads to even bigger problems. This is especially the case during holidays, at a time when families on both sides might want to see the kids. Communication and efficient scheduling go hand-in-hand.

The good news? You don’t have to have an hour-long phone conversation to set and stick to your schedule. Today, there are online scheduling tools that you can both access to share and synchronize your plans.

6. Reduce Tension at Shared Events

Despite your best efforts, you’ll be unable to avoid your ex-spouse completely if you share children. There are many events you’ll likely want to attend together, from parent-teacher conferences to dance recitals and high school graduation.

While you could coordinate ahead of time to be present but on separate terms, it’s infinitely easier (and more enjoyable for the kids), when you can attend side by side. Attending school meetings, sports events, and other milestones together reveals that you’re willing to work past your differences for the sake of your children.

7. Stick to On-Topic Dialogues

One of the facets of clear communication is being able to stay on topic without deviating into outside, off-subject territory. The more that you and your ex-spouse communicate, the better you’ll get at it. Over time, this means you’ll be able to talk about your son’s ball schedule or your daughter’s sleepovers without bringing up past hurts.

At first, this might not be an easy step, and that’s OK. When the issues from the divorce are still fresh, any time that you speak to your spouse might feel like a fighting match. However, if you both make the dedicated effort to keep the dialogue concise and professional, you’ll find that it gets easier over time.

Deciding to work on this together is a mature and important step that can help you stay in the loop about your family’s life, and for that reason alone, it’s well worth the effort.

8. Stop Using Kids as Messengers

It might be tempting to turn your kids into tiny messengers, asking them to relay messages to your ex-spouse so you don’t have to approach that conversation yourself.

Yet, keep in mind that while that option might be convenient to you, it’s also incredibly unhealthy for them. If they’re feeling even a little bit caught in the middle, this approach strengthens that affirmation. Over time, this can cause them to feel torn between both parents, which can affect their identity, self-esteem, confidence and more.

Resist the urge to take the easy way out and play a game of telephone, funneling important information through your kids. Not only does this exacerbate their confusion but in a more practical sense, you can’t be sure that your original message made it all the way through unchanged! What began as “I’ll pick up the kids from school today” could translate to “You’ll get the kids from school today” and where does that leave them when the bell rings?

Navigating Your Co-Parenting Journey Together

Divorce doesn’t have to equal a breakdown in communication. While you might balk at the idea of working with your ex-spouse on a regular basis, keep in mind who suffers when you don’t.

Thankfully, there are resources available to help you communicate from afar if you’re unable or uncomfortable meeting in person.

Not only can resources help you and your spouse work through scheduling and finance issues, but also offer a simple messaging tool that allows you to share ideas, concerns, and comments in seconds.

Get started today and put the communication back in co-parenting.

Talking to Your Kids About Their Absent Parent

Absent parent - 2houses

Even under the best of circumstances, a parental separation can be incredibly emotional and confusing for kids. They’re used to seeing both parents at the dinner table and at soccer games. Then suddenly one parent is gone. It’s a huge adjustment, even if both parents remain involved in the kids’ lives. But when your partner disappears from your lives and doesn’t make an effort to see the kids, it falls to you to help them process this huge shift.

Explaining the Absence to Kids

Because you want to protect your child, your instincts might tell you to fudge the truth behind your ex-partner’s disappearance. It’s hard to tell them that Dad left because he cheated or that Mom moved away because she has an addiction. Wouldn’t it be easier to tell them that their parent left because of an exciting new job opportunity?

Maybe, but this strategy can backfire. Instead, separated parents should tell kids the truth in an age-appropriate way. Emphasize that the kids have no responsibility for the parent’s absence. “Daddy moved away because he fell in love with someone else and he decided to go live with her. He did that because he wanted to, not because of anything that you did wrong, and he still loves you so much.” You might even add: “Someday he will probably realize he made a mistake by not seeing you more. I’m so sorry that his decision is hurting you.”

Kids in this situation might worry that their remaining parent will abandon them too, especially if they misbehave. One parent left, what’s keeping you from going too? Tell them in no uncertain terms that you will never choose to leave, even if they’re messy or get bad grades.

Helping Kids Cope

Once your kids understand that the absent parent is really gone and isn’t reliable, they’ll need your support. You can’t fix the situation or make your ex become a better parent. What you can do is encourage the kids to express how they’re feeling.

If they’re angry, let them vent to you without trying to offer any solutions. Give them access to art and writing supplies and encourage them to express their feelings. Offer frequent affection and remind them often how lovable and wonderful they are. If you’re in a position to send your child to a therapist for a few sessions, offer that as an option too.

Does the other parent makes promises to come see the kids but often fails to show up? Make backup plans for those scheduled times. When Dad doesn’t arrive at noon like promised, spend the afternoon at the mall or at a park having fun. And be mindful to not badmouth the other parent, even after the person hurts your child by bailing. Calling your ex names or getting really emotional when talking about the situation may make your kids afraid to express their feelings.

Helping Yourself Cope

Separated parents who have primary custody are under a ton of pressure. You’re solely responsible for kids who are dealing with being hurt by their other parent. If you’re like a lot of people who find themselves in this situation, you probably feel overwhelmed and angry. It’s important to acknowledge those feelings – without making your kids feel responsible for fixing them. Ideally, you’ll talk to a therapist about everything that you’re juggling. If that’s not possible, schedule weekly vent sessions with a sympathetic friend.

And don’t forget that you’re not Superparent. You’ve got a lot going on – if the kids eat chicken nuggets every night and miss the occasional shower, celebrate how much you’re getting right instead of beating yourself up.

We know that separated parents have a lot of their plates. 2houses helps you manage it all. Give us a try for free!

Blended Family: How To Encourage The Kids To Like Each Other

blended family - 2houses

If you’re divorced with children and pursuing a relationship with someone who also has children, it’s not easy mixing your two families. After all, families are not built overnight! If you’re struggling to figure out how to encourage the kids to like each other, this article is for you.

1: Limit Your Expectations

Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s unlikely that your kids will immediately form a strong familial bond with their step-siblings. That’s okay — some distance is normal and healthy — and trying to force friendships is a great way to alienate your children. It’s possible to encourage the children to like each other, but always temper your expectations with a dash of realism.

Remember, even blood siblings go through periods where they can barely tolerate each other! Expecting your newly blended family to become the best of friends is not particularly realistic.

2: Allow The Children Plenty Of Freedom

Be patient! It’s important to take things slow in a newly blended family — let the children discover common ground by themselves. If the children are especially young (under 10 years of age), they may adjust quicker than you expect.

Adolescents and teenagers may require more time to adjust to the new family dynamic and are not as open with expressing their emotions. That’s okay — teenagers have a lot going on — and it’s important to give them space.

The more you allow you and your partner’s children room to explore and develop their own relationships, the better.

blended family - 2houses

3: Plan Family Activities and Create Traditions

Family activities are great because they provide opportunities for communication. Fun family activities get both ‘sides’ of the family invested in forming new interpersonal relationships.

Great family activities include:

  • A house tour and ‘moving in’ game
  • Celebratory ice cream and movie night
  • Laser tag or another team-based activity (try children vs. adults, it’s always a blast)

The goal here is to get the children to communicate on topics that don’t seem like ‘work’. The more your children interact during fun, family-based activities, the quicker they’ll form meaningful connections.

New family traditions (or reinventing old ones) are an excellent way to get step-children invested in the family. If Sunday is pizza night, consider adding a twist (pizza and pie, perhaps) that makes it a new experience for everyone. The more your step-children become entwined in new traditions, the quicker they’ll bond.

4: Boundaries Matter

Sit down with your spouse and figure out some basic rules of conduct. Discipline is important — especially for young kids — but expecting a new stepfather to immediately begin disciplining his step-children is not realistic. Take the time to develop interpersonal bonds before moving to the role of disciplinarian.

Of course, rules must be applied fairly and consistently. Everyone must abide by the rules of your household, no matter who the biological parent is. Step-children get along much better if they know no one is playing favorites!

5: Become a Positive Role Model

Blending two families places incredible stress on your children. They feel pressured to form familial bonds with people they have no relation to — that’s not easy. Don’t underestimate the stress your children are experiencing.

Children love to emulate a positive, successful role model. Present yourself as a rational, fair, and likable new parent and you’ll be surprised at the results. Avoid talking about former spouses in a negative way and show the children that everything will work out.

Take A Breath

Blended families come with their own sets of challenges. Remember that you’re undergoing a challenge that millions of other families have already beaten. Give the children space, temper your expectations, and take the time to plan some fun regular family activities. The results will speak for themselves.

Divorce and Children: 4 Signs You Can’t Ignore

divorce and children

The fact that divorce is super common isn’t comforting when your family is going through it. At least as one of the adults, you have some control over what’s happening. For your kids, watching you and your partner split up – even if the divorce is amicable, or ends a really contentious marriage – is probably at least a little traumatic.

So it’s totally normal to notice some changes in your kids during the months following a divorce. You’re dealing with a seismic shift in your own life, so things are changing for you too. But this can be a really scary and anxious time for children of all ages, and they’re extra vulnerable right after a divorce. Be on the lookout for these four potentially serious warning signs.

Their Behavior is Regressing

Regression just means that a kid is returning to a previous stage of development and behaving “younger” than they are. For example, a 4-year-old who has been potty trained for a year might regress and start having toilet accidents after her parents divorce. A child might also return to sucking his thumb or needing to sleep with a nightlight after having previously given up those behaviors.

If your child displays some regression, it could be a sign that she feels anxious and wants to go back to an earlier time when she felt safer. Offering plenty of affection and support, and not pushing her to “grow back up” too quickly, should help your child eventually feel ready to progress again. But if the regression lasts for more than a month or is very severe, contact your pediatrician.

They’re Unusually Depressed or Anxious

Feeling sad and nervous is unfortunately par for the course when it comes to divorce and children. This event will inevitably change things, and kids are rarely happy about that.

Depression and anxiety that interferes with your child’s ability to function, however, isn’t normal. For example, a severely depressed child might sleep much more than usual, seem disinterested in things he used to love and let his grades slip. An anxious kid might be unusually clingy, throw temper tantrums and become resistant about going to school. Take action if you notice behavior that could have a lasting negative impact on his health, friendships or academic career.

They’re Hurting Themselves

Kids who are in emotional turmoil sometimes express that pain by hurting themselves. Take seriously any signs of self-harm. These may include a child cutting, scratching or picking at her skin; burning herself; disordered eating (restricting food intake, binging and/or purging) and, in older children, drug and alcohol use. Immediately consult a school psychologist and your pediatrician if you notice signs of self-harm.

Another thing to watch for with divorce and children is faked or exaggerated illnesses or injuries. Sometimes a kid who wants to bring her divorced parents back together, or needs more attention than she’s getting, will try this ploy. That doesn’t mean you should assume every injury is fake, of course – but keep it in mind.

They’re Growing Up Too Fast

Having your child step up and help you more might sound like a dream, but some kids feel overly responsible for their parents after a divorce. Your child might try to fill in for the absent parent to make you happy or out of worry that the household will fall apart without a second adult around. Some newly divorced parents make the mistake of leaning too heavily on their kids for support, treating them like therapists or friends instead of children.

Divorce is already hard enough. Don’t let your child feel responsible for taking care of you. By all means, encourage your kids to do age-appropriate chores and take on tasks that they can manage! Just be careful to make sure they know that you’re the adult and will take care of things so they can still focus on being kids.