Make Chores More Fun for Your Kids

Kids chores divorced parents

There is no question about the wisdom of getting your kids to do household chores. Giving them the chance to help around the house allows them to become proactive and learn how to be responsible, useful members of the household, on their way to becoming the exact same thing for society in general when they grow up.

Chores, however, can be tedious. After all, chores are repetitive by nature since they need to be done over and over again over time, and they can get boring to many kids real fast.

Then again, chores need not be boring. Whatever tasks you may have listed on the chore chart app you’re using, you can spice them up a bit and make doing them more fun.

Here are some tips that will help make chores more fun for your kids.

Socks Hoops

Do you remember the words the late NBA great Kobe Bryant wrote for the poem “Dear Basketball,” which was used as the basis for his Oscar-winning animated short film? He said something along the lines of rolling up his dad’s tube socks and pretending they were basketballs and shooting imaginary game-winning shots, right there in his bedroom.

We can get our child a task with rolling up freshly-laundered socks to do the same thing. Have your kid roll up all those socks, then shoot them into the open sock drawer a few feet away. You can even put up a small basketball hoop on top of the drawer to make things even more realistic!

Set Up A Little Friendly Competition

If you’ve got more than one child, then a little competition is in order to spice up their chores.

Let’s say the task is cleaning up their bedrooms. Assuming that their rooms are of the same size, set a timer, and tell them that the one who finishes the chore first wins and gets a reward.

You should, however, check if the task was done well before declaring a winner. After all, the whole thing is a race, and they might end up doing a sloppy job because they’re doing everything in a hurry.

Scavenger Hunts

If scavenger hunts can be fun activities for adults, then you can only imagine how much your kids are going to love it, even when they’re actually performing chores. Incorporate a scavenger hunt into their tasks, and you’ll have children who will look forward to doing them.

Put up clues all over the house and ask your kids to solve them one by one. Whenever they figure out a clue, get them to do a simple task first, like sweeping the floor or taking out the trash, before they can move on to the next one, and so on. Give out a prize for the one who finishes the hunt first, and your kids will be more motivated than ever to come out on top while doing their chores.

Sock Mopping

No one ever said mopping the floors is fun, but it can offer loads of it if you use old socks for the chore!

Sock mopping is probably the most enjoyable—and silliest—way of cleaning tile floors.

For this task, all you will ever need are old socks that you don’t use anymore, and a bucket or basin of soapy water. Have your kids wear the socks, dip their feet into the soapy water, and slide around on the floor. Put on some dance music, and you’ll have tons of fun slipping and sliding on the way to a clean floor!

For safety reasons as well as more room to slip and slide, make sure you remove tables, chairs, and other things from the floor you and your kids are sock mopping. Also, never leave them unsupervised for the duration of the activity.

Sing-Alongs

Whatever chore you and your child are doing, it will surely become more fun to do when you put your favorite nursery rhymes or even musicals on and sing along to them. Washing dishes or dusting and wiping down surfaces will seem to be so easy to do when you’re both blurting out tunes from their favorite Disney movies!

These are just some of the things you can do to make chores more fun for your kids. Feel free to think up some more and make your kids look forward to the tasks you assign them!

Halloween: 5 Funny Things to Do With Your Kids

Halloween with your kids as separated parent

Navigating Halloween and joint custody might not be a treat, but it’s not a terror either. This is a joyful holiday for most kids, so getting them to participate in multiple celebrations with each parent is not typically a hard sell. Though tagging along for trick-or-treating might not be possible this Halloween, you and your little characters can make it a special one.

Be Secret (Spooky!) Santas

Few things are more exciting to kids than being part of planning a special surprise. Ask them to help you spread some Halloween joy to other families on your block or in your building. Create small gift bags filled with candy or little Halloween toys. Have kids create notes that explain the gifts are an anonymous treat from a neighbor (or sign your names, if you prefer). Alternately, find templates by searching online for “you’ve been boo’d” notes.

In the days before Halloween, explain that it’s time to be secret agents. Your mission is to deliver the bags to all your chosen recipients without anyone seeing you!

Start a New Tradition

Like with all holidays, one of the keys to managing Halloween and joint custody is to create new traditions. You may not be with the kids for trick-or-treating each year, but you can always do your special tradition together.

Maybe on the Saturday morning before Halloween, you’ll all dress head-to-toe in costumes and go out to breakfast. Maybe you’ll have a full-day Halloween movie marathon each year, complete with themed snacks. Maybe you’ll spend November 1st trying different food combinations with all their new treats.

Role Play with Costumes

If your child picked their own costume, it’s probably a very beloved character. Celebrate that enthusiasm by encouraging your child to “be” their character for a full day. A kid who’s dressing up as a princess, for example, could wear her costume all day and get the full royal treatment from her butler or lady-in-waiting (that’s you).

Be careful not to damage the costume before Halloween night! If possible, have your child rewear last year’s costume for this activity, or save it for the days after Halloween.

Have a Costume Dress-Up Challenge

Dressing up is an eternally popular activity for some younger kids. In the spirit of Halloween, announce a family costume challenge. Each one of you gets to take a turn as the decider, who names a person or thing. Then everyone else gets 10 minutes to go put together a costume to match. If the decider picked “robot,” for example, you might put on gray clothing and use tinfoil to quickly make some accessories. If multiple people are playing, the decider can pick a winner for each round.

Make a Halloween Heirloom

This is a special holiday for your kids, and your co-parent is probably also wishing for more time with them. Take a generous approach to Halloween and joint custody by teaming up with the kids to do something for their other parent.

Try a sweet and silly prank like sticking plastic flamingos in the co-parent’s yard. Buy wooden signs in pumpkin shapes and have kids paint one for you and one for your ex. Even better? Use an online photo book platform to create a book together about all the costumes your family members have worn over the years. Make a copy for you and one for your ex.

More Tips for Halloween and Joint Custody

If the custody schedule means you’ll miss spending the 31st with your kids, be sure to check with the school and any organizations that your child belongs to. It’s common for elementary schools, scouting groups, dance schools and so on to organize their own Halloween parades. These activities allow all family members to see the kids dressed up, perfect for parents with limited custody.

Guiding Children On Social Media

Guiding children on social media - 2houses

Today’s youth is growing up in a world dominated by social media. Online social networks aren’t just a fad or passing fancy: they’ve completed redefined the nature of modern social interaction. While the platform may change (MySpace, anyone?), the message is clear: online social networks are here to stay.

But how do we guide children in the use of these social networks? This article will explore some ‘best practices’ for keeping your children safe online.

Have Reasonable Expectations

Regardless of the platform, social media is a fact of life. Today’s teens nearly all have smartphones and at least three-quarters of teens use at least one social media platform. With that in mind, it’s important to have some reasonable expectations.

Don’t expect your children to not have any social media presence. It’s unrealistic, impractical, and likely impossible to enforce. When it comes to children with divorced parents, this becomes even more significant. Imagine a situation where one parent decides social media is fine and the other forbids it! There’s no better way to breed discontent, anger, and frustration between parents and children.

Limits Are Great

That said, setting limits is part of great parenting. Some parents opt for (arguably) fairly intrusive rules, such as forbidding the use of personal electronics in the bedroom. Instead of that rather draconian approach, consider establishing rules for the common areas of the home. For example, no phone use during family meals is a great way to teach your children about reasonable limits.

Educate On Policies

Children, especially teens, may have difficulty understanding the impact of their actions online. You want to teach your children to be a good digital citizen. Put simply, a good digital citizen is someone who uses the Internet and social media responsibly.

Digital Footprints

Digital content is just as real as something you hold in your hand. Spoken words, in contrast, can be forgotten, misheard, or ignored. When it comes to social media, teach your children that their digital footprint — all the comments, posts, accounts, and so on — they leave on the Internet is forever. Once something is online, there’s no telling who has seen it or what records of it exist.

Examples can help with this. Rolling Stone published an article back in 2015 detailing 15 different examples of people ruining their lives because of social media posts. Granted, the examples they use are pretty extreme, but the lesson is there: anything you post online is available for the world to see. The more your children understand the potential impact that online posts can have, the better.

Privacy Settings

While your children should understand that nothing they post online is truly ever secret, there are ways to protect their privacy. Sit down with your children and show them the different privacy settings available on social media platforms.

As a general rule, no social media platform for a minor should ever be set to ‘public.’ You’ll want to help your children go through their accounts and set the privacy to as high as can be.

Stress Communication

Social media can be a scary place. Cyber bullying, for example, is rapidly becoming one of the principal ways teens experience bullying. Your children may find it difficult to communicate these concerns to you. Remember to stress to your children that digital bullying is just as real as physical intimidation.

Cyberbullying aside, emphasize to your children that they should immediately tell you if they ever feel they are in danger. It’s a sad reality that predatory behavior exists online, especially with regards to youths. Your children should never feel ashamed or embarrassed that someone online is sending inappropriate messages.

Guiding Children Takes Honesty

In the end, the best way to educate your children on social media is to be honest. Tell them that, in today’s world, digital words are just as real as spoken ones. Stress that social media, just like any other place in the real world, has its own set of dangers. The more that you educate your children on becoming good digital citizens, the better equipped they will be moving forward.

Joint Custody: How to Deal With Pocket Money

2houses : web and mobile app for divorce with kids - how to deal with pocket money

It’s often said parenting doesn’t come with a manual. That’s especially true if you are co-parenting after separation or divorce. Joint custody means working out day-to-day issues surrounding your children, while they are living with two families.

One of those issues is pocket money. Even if kids don’t get a formal allowance, they usually get cash from their parents for small things. Former partners may face uncertainty as to how they should split this expense.

There are some general guidelines you might want to follow, but the key is to communicate. Knowing the other parent’s points of view can help you both to decide what’s fair and best for your kids.

Separation Agreements

Most of the big issues surrounding money are covered by a separation or divorce agreement and child support regulations. But pocket money isn’t really taken into account. In some jurisdictions, a child’s allowance is explicitly excluded from the special and extraordinary expenses portion of child support.

That usually means parents are on their own. No one wants to get lawyers involved for something as small as pocket money. It can not only cause stress on the child and put strain on the relationship, but cost more than it’s worth.

However, many co-parents try to make a fair division of costs for the children. One may incur the costs of health insurance, for example. It comes down to talking openly and calmly about what the children need and how best to provide it.

Handling Money

One potential cause for concern is how parents generally raise issues of money with children. Each parent may have a different point of view. This is often made more challenging if one parent is more affluent than the other.

When deciding on allocating pocket money, many co-parents discuss specific issues first. How much should the child receive? How often? Should the child earn the money through chores or by running errands?

Once parents are on the same page about the philosophy behind money, it’s easier to determine how it should be paid out. The next step is keeping up open communication about how things are going in both homes.

Special Circumstances

Parents may choose to settle up child care expenses on a regular basis. But life happens at an unpredictable pace. Often a child will go on a last-minute trip for which they need money. One parent may agree to fund a special occasion because they feel strongly about the opportunity.

These parents may disagree about certain costs, but choose to discuss such matters on an ongoing basis. That way, parents have the freedom to support their kids without burdening their co-parent. At the same time, they can show respect to one another by talking through any disagreements.

Talking to Your Kids

Some parents choose to include the children in conversations about money. Often, these talks can be a reminder that both parents are working together to make decisions. That way, the kids know that their parents are communicating about their pocket money, even if they don’t live together.

Technology to Help

Through the use of apps like 2houses, co-parents can handle all issues to do with joint custody. Specifically, they can log every time they give pocket money to their child so the other parent can stay informed about what’s going on. Based on the decisions made between parents, they can use the app to divide costs quickly and easily.

A Blended Family: Finding Your Place as a Step-Parent

blended family - 2houses

Marrying someone who already has children is an experience that can be equal parts challenging and rewarding. If you’re having trouble relating — or just want to make sure you’re doing things right from the beginning — here are five ways to find your place in your blended family.

  1. Present a united front.

Even though you may not be the biological parent of a child, you are their parent’s spouse, and the two of you are going to need to be on the same page. You will probably have some disagreements about what the kids can do and say, just like regular parents. But expressing that in front of the kids just gives them an opening to create division. A better idea is to have regular meetings with your spouse with a goal to hash out issues and figure out how you’re going to handle them together.

  1. Stay out of the coparent dynamic.

When it comes to how your partner and their ex relate to each other, it’s important to remember they aren’t together for a reason. Coparenting relationships can be tricky to navigate and range from true friends to strict civility. Taking advantage of helpful tools like 2houses, which helps coparents keep track of schedules, messages, and important information can help. However, disagreements are still going to come up, and it’s important for you to stay out of them. Treat your spouse’s ex like a neighbor your want to stay on good terms with. Keep any comments or suggestions you have for how to handle things for private conversations between you and your spouse.

  1. Keep negative thoughts to yourself.

Even in the best of step-parent/bio-parent relationships, there are going to be things you don’t like about your spouse’s ex or how they parent. Actual safety issues should be discussed privately with your spouse. Everything else is best kept to yourself. Saying something negative about the children’s other parent can make it impossible to develop a good relationship with your step-kids and can destroy any headway you’ve already made.

  1. Engage on the child’s level.

One of the best ways to find your place as a step-parent in a blended family is to meet the child where they are. This is going to look different depending on the child’s age and interests, but here are a few examples:

  • Your step-daughter is obsessed with horses. Offer to go for a joint lesson or a trail ride at a local stable.
  • Your step-son lives and breathes soccer. Make a point to attend all the games even if it’s just to be part of the cheering section.
  • Your have a step-daughter who is a toddler. Take her to the park, cook a favorite meal, or even just sit and watch that movie she loves for the millionth time.
  • Your step-child is an adult. Engage them as you would any other adult you would want to get to know. Ask them questions about their interests to try to find some common ground. Even if you’re not going to be best friends, you can always be friendly and welcoming.
  1. Remember that integrating a blended family takes time.

Some experts believe that truly merging a blending family can take up to 10 years, so breathe and let go of unrealistic expectations. You’re not going to go from married to your step-child introducing you as “my other mom” in a year, or even three. However, with some time, patience, and sincere, non-pressuring effort, you can slowly grow and deepen your relationship with your step-kids and find your place in the process.

 

Joint Custody Schedules: Should Your Child Have Input?

joint custody schedules - 2houses

You already know that communication between you and your ex is critical for successful co-parenting. When do you need to start looping your child into the conversation, too? Opinions range from wanting children to get extensive input as early as the preteen years to believing that only the parents and judge should have any input. If you’re wondering if it’s time to ask your child about joint custody schedules and time sharing, here are three factors to consider.

1. The Age of the Child

In general, the older the child, the more say they have on the schedule. This is because they’re better able to navigate their relationship with each respective parent, and thoughtfully and respectively express their wishes. Practically, the older your children are, the more likely they are to be involved in extracurricular activities, sports and social events that the joint custody schedule has to consider and work around.

2. The Maturity of the Child

The number of years your child has been on the planet doesn’t always match up with their emotional maturity. It’s important to consider your child’s motivations and thought processes before just going along with what they want. For example, an angry teenager who decides she wants to go live with their mom after being grounded for sneaking out probably shouldn’t carry the same weight as a child who explains they don’t get to see their dad as much as they’d like to and asks if they could have an extra overnight.

3. Your State’s Laws

Every state has different guidelines on when and if a child’s wishes come into play in deciding a joint custody schedule. In some states, like West Virginia, the judge strongly considers the wishes of the child after a certain age (in this state, it’s 14), but most states simply leave “the best wishes of the children” as the most important deciding factor. Therefore, whether or not the child gets a say is determined by whether the judge thinks the child’s wishes also match their best interests.
If your child is starting to express a preference for living with one parent over the other or wants more say in the joint custody schedule, it’s never a bad thing to listen to their thoughts and ask questions so you can learn more about why they feel this way. However, the final decision still rests with the parents (or the judge, if you can’t agree), and 2houses provides a platform to facilitate open communication between you and the other parent as you see if adjustments need to be made.

How to avoid jealousy between children ?

jealousy between children - 2houses

Children are exquisitely sensitive. They have to learn a great deal in a short amount of time, so their brains are hard-wired for imitation, repetition, inference and unspoken language. Parents have to shield children for life’s harshest aspects, so they tend to think that they can hide their feelings as well, especially if those feelings are conflicted or touch on anger, hurt, jealousy and doubt. In families where the parents are experiencing relationship problems, jealousy among the children can arise as the reflection of the parent’s complex conflict.

One thing that must be communicated clearly within families is that it is perfectly normal for children to experience feelings of jealousy or resentment toward their brothers and sisters at some point. We are all human with occasional selfish tendencies and life can’t always be fair. It is inevitable that children may pick up on even trace amounts of favoritism. “It’s not fair!” and “Mom always liked you best!” have probably been shouted out by children since the Stone Age. When the jealousy between siblings becomes violent or persistent then the problem must be addressed head on with a combination of firmness and compassion. The consequences of untreated jealousy can be stunted emotional growth, exaggerated selfishness and erratic, sometimes dangerous, cries for attention. These are actually common issues encountered by children of divorce and separated parents. These troubled children deserve extra care and support, not shaming and condemnation.

The best way to shorten or avoid the rivalries altogether is by reminding children frequently about all the ways that they are unique and wonderful in themselves. Here are 4 ways to help children resolve their differences and become lifelong friends as well as siblings.

  • Help them work it out.

Don’t always step in to decide. Offer them alternatives and explanations, remind them of how much fun they have had playing together, then step away. Allow them plenty of time to practice problem resolution skills.

  • Build their self-esteem.

It doesn’t matter what someone else has if you are happy with your own life. Gift them the gift of gratitude and confidence with these self-esteem boosters.

  • Call on The Boat.

One of the most effective metaphors for a family is a boat on the ocean in a storm. Read a book or watch a movie together about people on a boat who have to pull together to weather the storm. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” for example, shows two very different crews and the benefits of working together.

  • Plan a day out.

When their worlds are bigger, petty squabbles don’t matter so much. Get them out of the four walls they see every day and show them the abundance of the outside world. Export the 2houses calendar to your smartphone and give them a field trip that they will remember the rest of their lives.

Ratings for video games: Protecting our children

video games - 2houses

With Christmas looming fast, this week we’re going to take a look at violence in video games. To protect our children, the European Union has established a set of regulations: PEGI. Let’s see…

Firstly, before offering a video game to a child, make sure that he/she will not be upset by the content. At home, a console is used by various members of the family of different ages, it is important that everyone can enjoy it. So the European Union decided to create labels called PEGI (Pan European Game Information). This takes into account the recommended age to play a video game, but also unsuitable content that the game may include.

At what age can you play a video game?

A rating suitable for anyone to play, without violence (with the exception of cartoons), nudity or bad language.
The difference between this and the previous rating is minimal. We have noticed that certain scenes or sounds in these games  could potentially frighten children.
This is at an age where children feel more grown-up, and this is clearly seen in the rating. In these games there will be violence in graphic form as well as bad language, although insults of a sexual nature are not permitted.
Teenagers are now grown up, in this rating there will be violence or sexual contact, as well as bad language, use of tobacco, drugs or criminal activities.
This rating has been created only to draw attention to violence and to depict a certain level of gross violence.

What other information can be found on video games?

A game with this label will contain bad language.
Discrimination is also present in video games. To fight against this, PEGI regulations specify when this is present in a game.
We all want to protect our children. If this label appears on one of their video games, it could scare him.
The scourge of drugs can found in this video game. To be avoided if you want to protect your child from all addictions that are dangerous for their health.
Gambling is present in games with this label. Your child may even learn the rules.
Video games with this label will depict nudity and/or sexual behaviour or sexual references.
Violence, although explained according to age classification, will be present in this game.
Game can be played online, with other players in order to compete against each other.

As you know, the video game world is open to all ages, for young children it provides a fun way of learning, while for older children it can provide a way to relax and unwind. The PEGI regulations provided by the European Union will give you good advice to please young and old. So, do you now feel better informed to buy a video game for your children in time for Christmas?

Big Buck Bunny – Short movie

big buck bunny - 2houses

Synopsis

The plot follows a day of the life of Big Buck Bunny when he meets three bullying rodents, Frank (the leader of the rodents), Rinky and Gamera. The rodents amuse themselves by harassing helpless creatures of the forest by throwing fruits, nuts and rocks at them. After the deaths of two of Bunny’s favorite butterflies, and an offensive attack on Bunny himself, Bunny sets aside his gentle nature and orchestrates a complex plan to avenge the two butterflies.

 

How to build your child’s self-esteem

build a child's self-esteem - 2houses

Last week, my son Aaron made the school soccer team. Boy, was I proud. And I couldn’t stop saying so. “Good job, buddy! You’re the best!” I beamed, he beamed, and all seemed right with the world.

It’s not the first time my kids have heard me shout their praises. I’m the resident cheering section, their biggest fan, a back-patter extraordinaire. These days, you can find me handing out compliments as if they’re sticks of gum – when my kids practise guitar, score a goal, help with dishes. The mom logic goes like this: The kid does good (or good enough for me), so I make him feel great about himself. It’s called boosting self-esteem. Or so I thought.

Step back

As it turns out, there are better ways to build self-esteem than heaping on praise for everything kids do – starting with helping them become competent in the world, says Jim Taylor, author of the book Your Kids Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You. To do so, though, you have to learn to step back and let your child take risks, make choices, solve problems and stick with what they start.

Over-praising kids does more harm than good

Self-esteem comes from feeling loved and secure, and from developing competence, Taylor says, and although parents often shower their kids with the first two ingredients, competence – becoming good at things – takes time and effort. “As much as we may want to, we can’t praise our kids into competence,” he says.

In fact, by over-praising kids, we’re doing more harm than good. “We’re lowering the bar for them,” Taylor says. “If you keep telling your child she is already doing a fantastic job, you’re saying she no longer needs to push herself. But confidence comes from doing, from trying and failing and trying again – from practice.”

Samantha MacLeod, who has four boys, ages one to nine, believes constant complimenting can actually erode self-esteem. Either kids start thinking they’re perfect or they try to be perfect all the time – an impossible standard. And inaccurate praise confuses them, she says. “If my son can’t spell and I tell him he’s doing terrific, he learns not to trust his own instincts. He also learns that praise is just flat-out lying.”

Plus, Taylor adds, telling your child he’s the best, the smartest or the most talented is setting him up for some very bad news down the road. You’re creating an egomaniac who thinks his scribbles are Rothkos but, sooner or later, he’ll discover he’s not all that after all.

Read more on Todaysparent.com