One of the biggest gifts you can give your kids is your effort to get along with your ex.
After all, your decision not to raise your children together as a couple changed the structure of your family, but you're still "family." And demonstrating that message to your kids by the way you treat one another provides stability and reassurance.
Tools for Co-Parenting Success
- Create a Personalized Parenting Plan
- 10 Ways to Build Trust With Your Ex
- Stop Arguing With Your Ex
- How to Conduct a Co-Parenting Meeting
- Consistent Co-Parenting Tips
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Are you tired of hearing your kids argue with one another? As difficult as it is tolerate their bickering, sibling relationships provide a great opportunity to practice conflict resolution skills. So instead of interrupting your kids and resolving their conflicts for them (which only teaches them to fight more in order to see which child you'll side with), teach your children to resolve conflicts themselves with the "Bugs & Wishes" method.
This is a technique I learned from my daughter's preschool teacher, and we've been using it ever since. When she gets annoyed at her brother, she says "It bugs me when you... (change the channel while I'm watching TV, etc.) and I wish you would... (wait until my turn is over)."
It's a technique that's so simple, even young kids can use it. And once they get comfortable using the "Bugs & Wishes" strategy at home, they'll be able to use it at school, too, to stand up for themselves among their peers.
More Help for Kids Dealing With Conflict:
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It's hard to intentionally take some time away from your kids, especially if you already feel like you're missing out on so much time with them because of work and other obligations. In fact, entertaining that self-imposed pressure to be present 24/7 -- or at least every waking moment that you're not at work -- can result in never getting a break, ever!
But is that healthy? Does it assist you in bringing all the creativity and tenderness you want to bring to your parenting? And how about your kids? Are you showing them a realistic model of what it means to raise a family and still live a balanced life? Or are you perpetuating a "super mom" or "super dad" mentality, while exhaustion, frustration, and resentment simmer beneath the surface?
Here's an idea: Force yourself to take a break occasionally. Instead of focusing on the time you might miss or allowing yourself to feel guilty about leaving your kids with a babysitter, friend, or relative for a few hours, focus on what you -- and they -- might get out of some time apart.
For example, are you more patient after getting a short break? More fun? Better equipped to deal with stress effectively? Think about it, and share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
And if you're not sure where to even begin to do something for yourself once in a while, take advantage of these resources:
I know it's only February, but now is the time to start planning ahead for your kids' summer child care arrangements. Will you be going with the same babysitter you used last summer? Relying on friends and family members to help out? Keep in mind that another option is summer camp.
Sending your kids to summer camp may not fill all of the child care gaps in your summer schedule, but a mosaic of different camp programs can be fun for your kids, and may decrease your dependence on others to provide daytime babysitting while you're at work.
And if you're able to work out the transportation issue by carpooling with other families, these short-term summer camp opportunities can become an effective component of your summer child care plan. For a complete list of ideas, read 10 Affordable Summer Camp Options.
Your Turn: If you've found a summer child care option that has worked well for you in the past, share it with our readers by leaving a comment below.
Don't Miss: Is My Child Ready to Stay Home Alone?
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Do you still share an account or two with your with ex? Protect your credit score, and your overall financial well-being, by making arrangements to establish your own separate accounts. This is the only way to ensure that you will not be held responsible for his or her future debts.
For help doing this with credit card accounts, and even utilities, read my interview with LaToya Irby, About.com's Guide to Credit/Debt Management, which is "Step Two" of my free e-course "Single Parents' Money Management 101."
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Do you feel a lot of pressure as a single parent to date? Are you tired of putting yourself "out there," only to be disappointed? You're not alone.
In fact, it seems that more and more single parents are putting their own social lives completely on hold (at least temporarily). For some, this is an intentional, thoughtful decision. For others, the choice comes from a place of frustration.
But what if you viewed dating -- and growing your social life, in general -- as part of your intentional self-care? Just the act of getting out once in a while and spending time with friends -- men and women, alike -- can be rejuvenating, whether it leads to a relationship or not.
So try not to caught up in the idea that dating has to be an "all or nothing" experience. It's a social experience. A chance to learn and grow and become even more confident in the person you're becoming.
More Dating Tips for Single Parents:
- Before You Start Dating Again
- Make Wise Dating Choices
- Dating After Divorce: Decide Whether You're Ready
- Help Your Kids Accept the Idea of a Parent Dating
Many divorcing parents are forced to continue living with their soon-to-be-ex spouses because they can't afford to maintain two households. If you're in this situation, you may be wondering how to make it livable, how much to tell your kids, and how to minimize the tension and conflict that surround you.
One of the most important factors will be creating some space for yourself, whether that's going for a walk each evening, or getting out with some friends you can confide in. This will help you process your grief and maintain your determination and resolve for the days ahead. For more tips, read the article How to Live With Your Ex While Preparing for Divorce.
In addition, if you've been in this situation before, I'm sure you have a lot of wisdom to share. So I hope you'll take a moment to participate in the "Readers Respond" feature on how to live with your ex. Your advice may be just the thing another single mom or dad needed to hear today!
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Want to do something nice for your kids on Valentine's Day without spending a lot of money? Try these easy, inexpensive gift ideas:
- Easy, Creative Valentine's Day Gifts - These ideas from Christine Gauvreau, About.com's Guide to Kids' Parties and Celebrations, are intended for kids to hand out in class. But there's no reason you can't borrow an idea or two for you own kiddos! My favorite is the "Everyday I like you s'more!" kit. Change the wording to "love" and you're good to go!
- Candy Bar Gift Wrappers - Speaking of treats, wrap your kids' favorite candy bars in these personalized treat wrappers from Katherine Lee, the About.com Guide to School-Age Children. For an added bonus, turn the inside of the wrappers into homemade Valentine's Day coupons, like "Congratulations! You get to pick tonight's movie!" or "Redeem this coupon to stay up one hour past your bedtime!"
- Homemade Valentine's Day Treats - Here's a "gift" that you can make for your kids -- or with them. Try this Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe from Stephanie, About.com's Guide to Cooking for Kids, and use red, pink, and white sprinkles in honor of Valentine's Day.
- 31 Ways to Tell Your Child "I Love You" - Let your kids know how you feel by putting these simple, practical tips into practice on a regular basis. From hugs to "just because" notes, your kids will appreciate being reminded of how much you love them.
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Tired of intervening when your kids start arguing? Try changing your approach to resolving conflicts within the family.
For example, spend more one-on-one time with the child who's feeling jealous, talk about it in a family meeting, or limit their access to the things that seem to cause the most conflict. For more ideas, read 6 New Approaches to Sibling Rivalry.
- Coping With Sibling Rivalry: Share Your Top Strategies
- Video: How to Resolve Sibling Conflict
- How to Stop Sibling Squabbles
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Does the morning rush prove to be the most stressful time in your day? For me, it seems that any attempt to be out the door early practically invites chaos. Every step -- from getting the kids out of bed on time to finding a pair of matching socks -- takes longer when you're in a rush.
One trick that really helps is to give your kids a list (in picture form or actual words) of the things they need to accomplish each morning. This simple tool will help them focus on their responsibilities and help everyone get out the door on time. (Even toddlers can help by putting clothes in the hamper or adding napkins to each family member's lunch box!)
For more tips on how you can gain some precious time -- and sanity -- in the mornings, read Ways to Save Time on Your Busiest Mornings.
Related Single Parenting Video: Maximize Morning Quality Time
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