Kids are so intuitive. They pick up on our tone of voice, our facial expressions, and our body language. In many cases, these cues tell them immediately whether we are pleased, frustrated, sad, or annoyed.
That's why it's important to present questions about your kids' visitation time carefully. You don't want to put them in a position where they feel caught in the middle of each parent's wishes, or where they're reluctant to tell you that they had fun.
Instead, focus on eliciting a few general facts about the visit and communicating to your child that you're open to talking more -- without giving them the impression that they must talk with you about it. And when they do provide a few details, resist the urge to be judgmental about your ex's decision-making in front of the kids. If you have a legitimate safety concern, share it with your ex directly, or speak with your lawyer about the issue.
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- Develop Consistent Co-Parenting Habits
- Tips for Conducting a Successful Co-Parenting Meeting
- Rebuild Trust With Your Ex
- Parenting Plan Worksheets
As a parent, taking care of yourself is vital to your kids' well-being. When you're getting the rest and down time you need, you lower your stress level and visibly demonstrate to your kids that your lives will, indeed, be okay. That's why self-care isn't selfish. The trickle-down effect benefits your children just as much as it does you.
And this is just as true for single dads as it is for single moms. That's why Wayne Parker, About.com's Guide to Fatherhood, has an article for dads titled, Self-Care for Men Going Through Divorce. In it, he advises men to eat well, exercise, attend to their own personal growth, and more.
So don't shy away from taking care of your own physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Seeing your example may be just what your kids need right now.
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When I recommend counseling to a client, it's frequently not because I think she (or he) "needs" it to function. It's usually because I know -- from experience and observation -- some of the benefits, including:
- Perspective. How many times do you find yourself asking, "Is it me? Am I crazy?" Speaking with a good counselor on a regular basis can help you identify what's yours to own and what rightfully belongs to someone else -- such as your ex or your kids.
- Strategies. A counselor who knows your situation can also help you develop strategies for coping with the challenges you face everyday, from dealing with an ex who's bent on having things her way (or his way), to coping with a parent who subconsciously undermines your authority at every turn.
- Confidence. Finally, opening up to a counselor can give you the confidence to set boundaries, stand up for yourself, or take the next step in your career or personal life.
If you feel you would benefit from speaking with a professional, contact your insurance company for next steps or call 2-1-1 to access mental health services in your area.
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If only there were a way to subtly give this list to your extended family, right? As tempting as it may be to e-mail it to them or share it with your social network, consider setting the example by helping another single mom you know -- perhaps someone you work with or who lives in your neighborhood.
Remember, too, that it doesn't have to take much time or effort to be an encouraging, supportive friend. Start by asking her how her kids are doing, or offering to share the job of carpooling to and from school or extra-curricular activities.
Once you open the door, you may be surprised to find the kind of mutually-supportive friendship you've been looking for all along.
Get the List: 50 Ways to Help a Single Mom
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Mother's Day (and Father's Day) can be a bit tricky for single parents without a parenting plan. What if the holiday falls on "your day" with the kids? Do you give it up, reschedule it, or stick to the plan you already agreed to?
If you find yourself in this position, without a firm plan plan that outlines how you'll spend each holiday, I recommend doing exactly what you'd like the other parent to do for you if the tables were turned. If nothing else, your generosity could set a game-changing precedent for being flexible -- and thoughtful -- moving forward.
- How Do Single Dads Handle Mother's Day?
- What to do When Mother's Day is a Sad Occasion
- DIY Mother's Day Celebrations
- Mother's Day Gift Ideas for Single Moms
- 30 Things to Include in Your Parenting Plan
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What are some of the things that turn you off right away when you're on a date? When the other person takes a call or responds to a text? Talks about himself (or herself) all evening? Or, worse, spends the evening recounting a recent break-up, blow by blow?
There's nothing worse than looking forward to a night out, only to find that the person you're with lacks basic first date etiquette skills. Share your biggest peeves here on the blog by leaving a comment below or sharing your story on the "Readers Respond" feature, Worst Single Parents' Dating Faux Pas.
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It feels good when someone recognizes the hard work you're doing as a single parent, doesn't it? Whether it's family, friends, or your kids' teachers, it's just nice to have someone say, "Hey, you're doing a really great job!"
Typically, that kind of acknowledgment doesn't happen with enough frequency, though. That's why you have to recognize and celebrate your own efforts, because even when no one else is there to see it, you know all of the work you do for your family.
So, moms, don't let this Mother's Day pass by like it's any other day. You deserve some honor and recognition! Keep in mind, too, that you don't have to wait around for someone else to "get it" or for your kids to be old enough to acknowledge the holiday on their own. Go ahead and celebrate it for yourself, in recognition of all the ways you've grown into a better parent since that very first day your baby was placed into your arms.
And if you're a single dad reading this, I want you to do the same for Father's Day next month. Don't be shy about giving yourself credit! Read More...
Related Mother's Day Resources:
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Whether you're facing a tense custody battle, or you're just beginning to think about the type of custody arrangement that would be best for your kids, you'll want to do everything in your power to cooperate with the courts -- while also presenting yourself as one who's willing to work with your ex.
For tips, read 14 Do's and Don'ts for Winning Child Custody. And remember that there will be compromises to make all-around. You probably won't get everything you want, but planning ahead and being willing to compromise where necessary can help to ensure that your kids get everything they need.
- Child Custody Laws in the U.S.
- 12 Parenting Time & Visitation Schedules
- Joint Custody Schedules
- Prepare for Your Child Custody Hearing
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The emails I get from parents who've lost custody are some of the most heartbreaking communications I receive. And while every situation is different, the common themes are love, regret, and despair.
If you've lost custody of your children -- to your ex, your parents, or the state -- know that there may be steps you can take to have custody restored. Start by reading the child custody order for yourself to find out whether the judge has placed any stipulations on reunification, such as taking parenting classes or seeking treatment for a drug or alcohol problem. Then, take action immediately to adhere to the court's demands. Fast, thorough compliance will reflect favorably on you in front of the court.
For more tips, read How to Win Back Custody of Your Children.
- Prepare for an In-Home Child Custody Evaluation
- How to Win a Child Custody Battle
- How to Prepare for a Child Custody Hearing
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If your children are in school all day, you'll probably need additional babysitting coverage when the school year comes to an end. Do you already have someone lined up? If not, this is a good time to go ahead and start making those plans.
If this is new territory to you, you may be wondering where to begin. I've always found the recommendations of other parents to be extremely helpful. In addition, you can check into local colleges and universities, as well as your local YMCA and public library, which may provide babysitting courses for teenagers in your area.
As you explore your options, make a mental list of the qualities you are looking for. Of course you want someone who is responsible and knows what to do in an emergency. But how do you feel about what they're doing while they're with your children? If, for example, you want them to play alongside your kids, or if certain activities -- such as using the Internet -- are off-limits while you're not home, make that clear from the beginning in your initial interview.
For additional help finding -- and keeping -- exceptional babysitters, read How to Find and Keep a Qualified Babysitter.
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