Benefits dogs have on children of divorce

Children of divorce

Divorce can be one of the most stressful events, not only in your life but in the lives of children as well. Their world is turned upside down, and they feel a total loss of control over things they considered stable and constant in their lives. Coping with those feelings is challenging for adults, let alone children.

There are different emotions and problems kids of divorce experience; they often think they are to blame and worry about the remaining parent leaving them. Providing stability in those times can be one of the trickiest things you will have to do.

Problems of children of divorce

As we said, kids whose parents are going through a divorce can suffer from different problems. It is pretty well documented and studied. Kids can easily fall behind in school, develop social issues, and deal with a great amount of anxiety and stress. All of that is extremely unhealthy and potentially dangerous for their physical and psychological development.

Studies have shown that co-parenting and having a great relationship with your ex can benefit children whose parents are separating. The truth is, not many former couples are capable of doing that, even for the children’s sake.

Constant fighting and bickering can have a more damaging influence on children than the divorce itself. It is a transition, but a transition children can weather if their two role models get along. Pets, especially dogs, can positively influence children’s psychology, not only if their parents are splitting, but also if they are not.

Dogs have played an important companion to children throughout history, and some cultures even had their family pets sleep with their kids in their beds. To children, it is like having a live teddy bear that teaches them vital life lessons.

Value of owning a dog

Around 71 million households in the US already have a pet, and if you don’t already have one, getting one for your kid/s can be a blessing in these times. There are numerous benefits kids get from owning a dog, and not only will the dog provide unconditional love, but they will also teach them valuable life lessons. Here are the most useful benefits kids get from owning a dog.

Unconditional love

The most obvious one is the love dogs show “their” humans. Psychologists have proven over and over that dogs are a fantastic source of support and unconditional love. Divorce is a stressful time for the children, and during those times of insecurity and change, a dog will provide stability and security. Some even said that dogs are a “bridge to sanity.” Things might be changing, but their beloved dog will always remain by their side and provide plenty of love and affection.

Stress relief

Dog owners have long claimed that petting and spending time with their dogs is excellent stress relief. Finally, science confirmed that theory and proved that talking, cuddling, and walking a dog lowers blood pressure, pulse, and lowers cholesterol. If you combine all these things, you get one of the best ways to alleviate the cooped-up stress — the same works for children.

Not only will owning a dog lower their stress during these times, but they will also get additional exercise, which is hugely beneficial for modern-day, screen-focused children.

Communication bridge

Post-divorce times can be very troubling, and adults are often preoccupied with legal things and living arrangements. Dogs become part of the family, and they can play a vital role as the “communication enhancer.” They are often the bridge that helps adults and children communicate and have conversations that can be awkward and hard.

Other than helping their families, dogs also enhance the kids’ communication skills. Taking a dog to the dog park or simply walking them through the neighborhood will make you run into other dog owners. Children learn both directly and indirectly how to communicate and how to sharpen their communication skills. It is a valuable lesson that will help them throughout their life.

Connection and Security

Dogs are absolutely awesome, and not only are they a great source of fun, but they also provide kids with a connection on a deeper level and a strong feeling of security. Child psychologists have proven the positive effects of dogs (and other pets) have on kids during divorce, illness, and even a family member’s death. Dogs provide them with stability and the feeling of being less alone and abandoned.

Through that connection, kids learn about empathy and support. Studies have shown that children with dogs are more sensitive to other people’s sufferings and have shown healthier self-confidence than those who don’t have a pet. It is another valuable life lesson kids get from dogs.

Secret sharer

This is one of the most important things dogs bring to kids whose parents are going through a divorce – a confidant. Kids love talking to their dogs, and some even find that sharing their secrets and fears with their dogs is easier than sharing them with adults or therapists. A dog is always there and will lend an ear without any judgment or opinions. Dogs will simply listen and offer cuddles and support when needed.

Owning a dog is also a great way of bonding. Some parents might have trouble communicating and bonding with their kids after or during the divorce, and walking a dog can be the first activity that divorced parents and kids can do together. Commenting, laughing, and playing with the dog is something everyone will enjoy.

Options

There are over 400 internationally recognized dog breeds, and that is if you are not counting mixed dogs and crossbreeds. You can specifically pick a breed that will go great with the child’s character. Some breeds are active; some prefer staying at home and cuddling.

There are many different options for you to choose and make sure you get a dog that perfectly fits your children. There is also the option of adopting, which some future dog owners prefer. A good thing is that all dogs can become emotional support dogs; the specific breed is not a condition that needs to be fulfilled.

Protector or cuddler

A dog can be so much more than just a best friend (which is already a significant role). Some dog breeds have guarding characters, and their mean look and protective characters can provide kids with an additional feeling of security. You might have some doubts about these breeds, but they are incredibly devoted and loving towards their own families.

If you think that having a relatively large breed might be hard to raise and have at home, different small dog breeds can become excellent cuddling partners. Some breeds were developed to become the perfect companion, so there is no reason to believe that they won’t become precisely that to your children.

Benefits of owning a dog as a divorcee

If you are reading this, it probably means you went through a very stressful change in your life, and you are thinking about your children. The truth is, getting a divorce is extremely hard on parents as well. You might not admit it, but handling emotions and change is not very easy. Most of us have a lot of trouble withstanding the situation.

Owning a dog is not only good for kids but for grown-ups as well. Dogs offer many things you probably didn’t even think about at first. Here are some of the benefits dog ownership can provide to people that are alone after a divorce.

Social lubricant

Even if you got a dog because of your children, you would most likely be the one taking care of it. Pretty soon, you will understand the benefit of owning a dog, but first, let’s start with the social part. Owning a dog requires walking them and visiting dog parks. Dog parks are filled with other dog owners, and having a dog can be a great conversation starter. It is a place to meet new friends and get support where you didn’t even look for one.

Emotional support

There is a reason why plenty of dogs are emotional support animals. They are sensitive and have a special connection with their owners. They can feel our anxiety, panic, or stress, and they are ready to provide us with support even if they can’t talk.

Physical activity

Many couples that are separating let themselves go and forget how important physical activity is. Dog owners have an obligation in the form of an animal that needs to go for walks every day. Dogs don’t care if it is raining outside or if it’s windy and cold. They need to go out, and going out means more physical activity for you. On average, dog owners have 19 minutes more physical activity per day than those who don’t own a dog.

Getting a dog can be a huge thing at this point in your life, and it is certainly one of the best decisions you can make for yourself in general. However, you need to be realistic and make the best possible decision. Think about the time, budget, and schedule, and make the best possible decision for you and your family.

The Top 5 Books for Explaining Divorce to Kids and How to Help Them Get the Most Out of Them

Divorce books for children

The primary focus of any divorce with children is to make things as easy for them as possible. There are lots of things to hash out, and it’s likely that you and the other parent will have some disagreements and growing pains as you navigate life as two families instead of one, but keeping the focus on what is in the best interests of the children can help everyone remember what is really the most important thing right now. 

Whether you’ve already told your kids that you’re getting a divorce or you’re still trying to figure out the best way to make the announcement, it can help to have something that shows your children that they aren’t alone in this experience and helps give them the tools to work through their emotions. Thankfully, people who have been through divorces have taken this task very seriously and written some great books that you can read with younger children or give to older teens to help them understand what’s happening and help them through it. We’ve included our favorites below.

1. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst

Divorce book for children

Age Group: Children ages 2 to 4

Number of Pages: 36

Written for younger children, The Invisible String is a book that acknowledges the fears your children may have about being separated from one parent when visiting the other or no longer living with both. It talks about an invisible string that always connects us with the people we love, so even when we aren’t around them physically, we can be sure that they are thinking about us and still love us just as much. 

The illustrations in the book are the main focus, which makes it a good choice for younger children who may aren’t able to read independently yet. Try reading it with your child at first, pointing out the pictures and how they connect to the words and the underlying message. You might encourage some further discussion by asking them what their favorite part about the book was or if there was anything that they didn’t understand or seemed troublesome. This can give you insight into how your child is feeling and what they may be thinking about the separation.

2. Shine: Why Don’t Moon Fairy & Sun Prince Live Together?: A story of unconditional love for the children of separated or divorced parents by Polona Kisovec

Divorce book for children

Age Group: Children ages 6 to 10

Pages: 42

In Shine: Why Don’t Moon Fairy & Sun Prince Live Together? Polona Kisovec takes the reality of divorce and turns it into a fairy tale that shows that sometimes the heroes can’t win all the battles but that their love for their children is something that never changes. The book presents the story of a couple who were in love and happy but then situations changed and they had to adapt, which meant living apart. The story includes some emotions for the main characters, which can be very helpful for children to understand that no one is happy about a divorce and that it’s difficult and emotional for everyone, including the parents.

While this book is also a great choice to read aloud to a younger child, it’s especially well-suited for children who are already independent readers and who many have an interest in fantasy worlds and adventure stories. The illustrations are just as beautiful as the written story and the message of “It’s going to be OK” is one that many children need the opportunity to hear — or read — over and over again during this time.

3. Two Homes by Claire Masurel

Age Group: Children ages 3 to 7

Pages: 40

Two Homes by Claire Masurel has much the same focus on reminding children that they are loved by both parents even if the family isn’t together all the time, but it hones in even more on the idea of having to go from one house to the next. It talks about the differences and similarities between Mommy’s house and Daddy’s house and can help children look for the positives and the good things that come from shared custody and having two homes instead of staying caught in the difficulties and resistance that comes with major change.

This book is a short read with lots of warm, child-friendly pictures and can be a good follow-up tool to address children’s questions about what life in two houses will look like after you’ve already told them the divorce is happening. It can even be helpful to have a hard copy at both houses so that you can both walk your child through the book and point out some of the ways their life is the same as the main character’s.

4. Now What Do I Do?: A Guide to Help Teenagers with Their Parents’ Separation or Divorce by Lynn Cassella-Kapusinski

Divorce book for children

Age Group: Children ages 10 and up

Pages: 174

Helping a tween or teenager through a divorce is very different from reassuring a younger child, but that’s where books like Now What Do I Do? come in. It focuses on presenting the issues that come with divorce and the feelings your teen may be dealing with in a way they can relate to and connect with. It’s centered around helping children identify and put words to the emotions they may be feeling and gives them tools and strategies for coping with those feelings as well as situations that may arise, such as doing holidays separately.

Divorce books for teens and tweens are usually more hands-off when it comes to parental involvement, but it’s still a good idea to let your child know that you realize this is a difficult time for them and that they may prefer to talk to friends or other trusted adults but that you’re still there if they have questions or need anything. You might also want to check back in after they’ve had a chance to read the book and see if anything’s come up that they want to discuss. Don’t be surprised if you get the “it was stupid” or an eye roll. It’s common at this age for children to not want to seem uncool or like they needed help and to downplay how much they might have related to the book and the message.

5. The Divorce Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Move Beyond the Break Up: Activities to Help Teens Move Beyond the Break Up by Lisa Schab

Divorce book for children

Reading about something is good, and getting advice on how to deal with divorce is great, but Lisa Schab takes it to the next level by giving teens an actual workbook to help them deal with the divorce and start moving toward a positive future. The book includes pen and paper activities and worksheets that give teens something to do to start working through their emotions and preparing for life post-divorce. It’s been a favorite of many school counselors and mental health professionals and receives rave reviews for being a practical tool to help teens get through divorce as smoothly as possible.

While this book is very well-rounded and covers all of the various aspects of divorce and how you’re teen may be feeling, the workbook style means your teen will only get out of it what they put in. This may mean that this book is best suited for teens who are actively interested in learning how to cope during this time or as a tool to be used alongside counseling appointments or group meetings for teens whose parents are divorcing.

Talking to Children About Divorce

When you’re talking to your children about divorce, remember that it’s important to present a united front if at all possible. They will likely handle the news better if it comes from both parents saying the same thing at the same time. This also shows that the decision was a joint one, so there’s no need to side with one parent over the other. Communicate what’s happening and how it’s going to affect practical things like living arrangements or school as clearly and concisely as possible, focusing on keeping the details age-appropriate. 

It’s also a good idea to be prepared to have to revisit the conversation. Children may have more questions or concerns as they process the news or may have periods where they are angry or sad. Being open to continued communication about the divorce and the changes it brings can help your children feel like they can talk to you and express their emotions, which will help them better deal with them in the long run.

*digitale version

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?