Category Archives: Difficult and Defiant Behavior

From Incorrigible to Incredible: What Toby Taught Us, Part 1 (Guest: Charmaine Hammond)

Radio-style Interview, The Changing Behavior NetworkAnimals sometimes can teach us much about acceptance, compassion and healing. Toby did just that, as shared here by his owner, author Charmaine Hammond.
This interview comes from the very early archives of The Changing Behavior Network. This is part one of a two-part program.

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From Incorrigible to Incrtedible: What Toby Taught Us, Charmaine HammondWhen Charmaine Hammond and her husband, Chris, adopted a five-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Toby, little did they know what the next few years held in store.

Therapy Dog

Charmaine and Chris were tempted to give up on the big dog, but they didn’t. In return, Toby became an award-winning pet-assisted therapy dog and, in his brief lifetime, achieved Chicken Soup fame and left an indelible paw print in the hearts of all those he touched.

This is a story of love, patience, dedication and faithfulness. It shows us, once again, what can be accomplished when we accept others unconditionally.

Charmaine Hammond

Charmaine is a professional speaker and seminar leader from theOn Toby's Terms, Charmaine Hammond Edmonton area of Alberta. She travels the US and Canada speaking on topics of communication and team building to corporate audiences. But Charmaine continues to promote the values of kindness and caring to Toby’s favorite audience: school children. (15:32)

For more information about A Million Acts of Kindness: Toby’s Global Mission, the movie currently being made on Toby’s life and story, Charmaine’s work as a speaker/trainer, or her heartwarming bestseller, On Toby’s Terms, go to this website:

www.OnTobysTerms.com

 

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Eating and Self-Injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery (Guest: Melissa Groman, LCSW)

BTRadioIntDisorders of eating can affect both young and old. Their self-abusive characteristics are difficult to understand and, at times, can be even more difficult to manage and treat effectively. Melissa Growman, LCSW, shares valuable insights in this interview from some of our most popular programs in the archives. –JDS 

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Eating and Self-injury Disorders: Finding the Door to Recovery, Melissa Groman

Beliefs, and the thoughts they bring on, can either guide a person’s life and keep it on course, or they can erupt into feelings that torment an individual without mercy. When that happens, any behavior that covers and soothes emotional pain and anguish is an option.

Difficult to Address

According to our guest on this program, eating and self-injury disorders are difficult to address because they serve their purpose, at least in the short-term. Like other behaviors that can become addictive, bingeing and starving, or the compulsive cutting of one’s own flesh, provide welcomed distraction and relief from much deeper pain.

These behaviors can become a cycle of self-abuse that occurs in more adolescent girls and young women than you might think. Ultimately, the cycle becomes a trap.

Is there hope for change?

Ambivalence is an Issue

Better is Not So Far Away, Melissa GromanOur guest on this program, Melissa Groman, psychotherapist and specialist in eating and self-injury disorders, suggests that, although recovery from these disorders is possible, ambivalence toward recovery can be a major obstacle. In this program, Melissa will share with us why this is so, what it takes for recovery to become a reality, and what caring parents, other relatives and friends can do to help.

Melissa Growman, LCSW

Melissa’s trademark warmth, sensitivity and profound understanding of human nature permeate her work. She has more than 25 years of experience helping people live healthy, satisfying lives. Although she maintains a busy private practice, Melissa writes regularly for a number of magazines, websites and blogs. This program features her book, Better is Not So Far Away: Decide to Recover from Bingeing, Starving or Cutting. (27:43)

www.melissagroman.com

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3 Ways to Manage Your Unruly Child (Peggy Sealfon)

3 Ways to Manage Your Unruly Child, Peggy SealfonIf your child is continuously combative and disrespectful to you, imagine that same child at the age of 17 driving off in a car. If you do not reign in behaviors from early ages, you are dooming your child’s future and you are destined for a troubled relationship. Would you let your child eat bad foods, drink poisonous substances, or play with dangerous toys? Allowing out-of-control behaviors is toxic to the family and the child.

Always Testing Limits

Children are always testing their boundaries; a parent’s job is to define those limits clearly within the family structure. As a parent, you must be confident, kind and committed to what’s acceptable regardless of a child’s emotional reaction.

Know that crying is not a death sentence, it’s a growing experience. Discipline and accountability are key elements in raising well-balanced, well-adjusted children. If you allow unruly behavior at any age, your kids will assume it’s acceptable. Remember you’re not their friend, you’re their parent and you need to mentor them.

Three Ways …

Here are a few recommendations:

1. Develop family rules and be consistent in adhering to them. For instance, children should have chores around the house appropriate to their age. They should keep their rooms tidy and help with meals, cleanup, etc. When they do these tasks, offer positive reinforcements, such as saying, “I’m so fortunate to have such a thoughtful child who did all the dinner chores tonight without even being asked…Thank you.”

On the other hand, if they fail to perform the requested activities, you need to activate consequences. Be firm without raising your voice. If they misbehave at the dinner table or with their siblings, they lose privileges such as play dates, no TV, no games, no phone. Depending on the severity of the infraction, they may be confined to their room for a period to think about what they’ve done.

Consider a young adult who got fired from his job. Did he understand what would happen when he got caught with drugs on the drug test? It is important to teach children accountability: If you do something wrong, there are penalties. It’s okay if they learn to use an excuse with their peers for avoiding bad choices such as “My Dad will kill me if I do that.”

Escape from Anxiety, Peggy Sealfon2. Teach respectfulness and kindness. Help your child recognize feelings of gratitude. With young children, reinforce positive moments. For instance, if one child shares a toy with another, say aloud how happy and grateful the receiving child appears so it becomes a teachable moment.

Create a gratitude jar. Ask your child to write one thing they are grateful for each week and put the comment in a beautifully decorated jar. At the end of the month, spend time together as a family reviewing the entries. Words and notes of thanks should also be encouraged and can help children explore feelings of gratitude further.

When your child exhibits positive behaviors, take time to give a compliment.

Make volunteering part of your life by donating family time to help a charitable organization. Use such an opportunity to bring awareness about others who are less fortunate.

When Countess Stella Andrassy was growing up in a privileged household in her native Sweden, every Christmas her parents made sure that she and her siblings visited several homeless shelters to distribute gifts before they were permitted to enjoy their own holiday gifts. “It gave me greater appreciation for all that I had,” the Countess once shared with me. There are few things comparable to the feeling one experiences by helping someone else. Selflessness and kindness are important lessons so children aren’t always thinking about just themselves. You can help them expand their awareness so they’ll learn to enjoy doing things for others.

3. Be conscientious about setting a good example. Walk the walk by exhibiting values and integrity. Let them catch you doing the right stuff. For example, a cash machine delivers $120 when you requested $100. Exemplify the behavior you want to encourage by giving back the $20 in front of your children. Hold the door open for others so that you teach them respect and awareness.

Let children witness you taking care of yourself and dealing with life’s challenges in constructive ways. Show them how to relax with what is. Instead of focusing on problems, withdraw from any immediate dramas and pause for a time out to be able to see a clearer, more productive solution.

More than likely, you have all the basics for your survival. You may want more or are improving yourself but in this very moment, you’re okay. Let your children know that they’re okay. Create a sense of safety and security for your child full of love and support. In this parental environment, children thrive and grow to be valuable adults who contribute to a better world!

Give Yourself a Break

If you’re having difficulty getting centered yourself, try my free audio at 3MinutestoDestress.com. By taking a brief mental pause, you will refresh your mind and body. It will help you think more clearly, feel more energized, function more effectively, and ultimately reduce stress so that you’ll be more present and available for your children! ###

Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach and author of the best-selling book, Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. CLICK HERE for a free consultation with Peggy, or visit her website at PeggySealfon.com.

 

 

Giving Children Too Much Power (Christy Monson)

Giving Children Too Much Power, Christy MonsonJonathan, age three, had a sore throat and a hacking cough. He woke up about midnight, coughing and crying. He couldn’t breathe.

Dad held and rocked him for a little while and then gave Jonathan to Mom to cuddle while Dad ran to the store to get medicine.

Power Problems

After Jonathan took the medicine about 2 a.m., he wanted to watch a movie. Dad said it was time for bed, but Jonathan cried. Dad turned on the movie. Mom shook her head in disbelief and went back to bed. At 4 a.m. when the movie was over, Jonathan wanted to play. Dad and Jonathan built a tower of blocks until about 4:30 when Jonathan fell asleep. Dad carried him to the bedroom and then went to bed himself.

Solution: Structured Choices

In a situation like this, Jonathan, at age three, isn’t old enough to have good judgment. Dad and Mom need to be responsible for making these middle-of-the-night decisions. Giving some choices is a good diversionary tactic, especially at 2 a.m. when Jonathan is crying.

Dad can take him to bed, but Jonathan can decide:

Will the bedroom door be open or shut?
Do I want the hall light left on?
Will I snuggle my favorite teddy under the covers or keep him on my pillow?

Family Talk, Christy MonsonChildren need the opportunity to make selections. Learning this skill will be a great benefit to Jonathan as he gets older. A parent can give him the gift of democracy by establishing limited freedom with choices.

Start a Family Council

Family councils are a great place for youngsters like Jonathan to become proficient at decision-making as they up. Councils are a great venue for parents to teach children to brainstorm ideas, single out several choices, and pick the best one. Parents can plan together, work out their parenting styles, and teach their children how to be proactive. ###

Christy Monson has an M.S. in Counseling Psychology and Marriage & Family Therapy from University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada. Check out her informative website [link].

 

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving (Guest: Dr. James Sutton)

The Changing Behavior Network, Radio-style InterviewThis short program doesn’t feature the typical interview with an author. Instead, Dr. James Sutton, the founder and host of The Changing Behavior Network, turns on the microphone and simply shares his thoughts on giving, receiving, and the importance of youngsters to have a positive and active purpose, especially when idleness can stir up a LOT of trouble. Presented here is “A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving.”

A Valuable Lesson

A Homeless Clown: The Gift of Receiving, The Changing Behavior NetworkListen in as Jim shares a lesson he learned when he was seven or eight, and how, almost five decades later, he experienced that same lesson, a lesson in receiving, being used very effectively. Isn’t there always a place for learning to receive well?

A homeless clown? Yes; it’s sad, but true. But in this case, the clown played an important part in teaching a group of at-risk boys how to receive a less-than-attractive gift.

Dr. James Sutton

Improving a Youngster's Self-Esteem, Dr. James SuttonDr. Sutton is a “mostly retired” child and adolescent psychologist that started off as a Special Education teacher. He has worked with children and adolescents in the school and clinical settings, and has lectured extensively in the US and Canada regarding ways to effectively reach, teach, manage and treat youngsters with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

Dr. Sutton has authored more than a dozen books, including the e-book we are featuring here, Improving a Youngster’s Self-Esteem (revised). (12:23)

Learn More About THIS BOOK

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Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset (Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

 

Addiction and divorce can both cause confusion and conflict in the lives of children. Rosalind Sedacca has insights that can help. The Changing Behavior Network presents, “Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset.”

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Co-Parenting with an Addict After Divorce: Developing the Right Mindset, Rosalind Sedacca Getting divorced and exploring the realities of co-parenting ahead? Life after divorce can be enormously complex; it’s especially challenging for parents who are coping with addiction issues and their consequences.

Cooperative co-parenting is always best for your children. It is easier for them to accept life after divorce when they have access, love and attention from both parents. Post-divorce co-parenting with an addict makes this process more complicated, especially if one parent is not fully dependable, trustworthy or responsible.

Common Parental Issues Following Divorce

Difficulties can be compounded by the many issues all parents face following a divorce:

• Both parents are bringing the raw emotions resulting from the divorce into a new stage in their lives.

• Mom and Dad are also bringing previous baggage from the marriage (ongoing conflicts, major disputes, differing styles of communication, unresolved issues and continual frustrations) into the mix as they negotiate a co-parenting plan.

• Both parents are vying for the respect and love of the children, They are easily tempted to slant their parenting decisions in the direction that wins them popularity with the kids.

• Anger and resentment resulting from the divorce settlement can impact and influence levels of cooperation in the months and years to come.

• Parents may disagree about major issues ahead that weren’t part of the parenting dynamic in the past: visits and sleepovers with friends, scheduling after-school activities, handling curfews, new behavior problems, consequences for smoking, drinking and drug use, dating parameters, using the car, and scheduling vacation time.

• Parents may not share values and visions for the children as they grow, and they may also not agree on the plan of action required to honor those values.

Challenges

When challenges appear, parents might find themselves struggling to find ways of coping. Agreement on how to co-parent effectively in the present and the future is not a one-time discussion. It takes on-going communication, both verbal and written, as well as regular connections via phone, email or in person. It also takes a commitment to make co-parenting work because you both want it to.

The consequences, when it doesn’t work, can be considerable. Your children are very likely to exploit any lack of parental agreement or unity, pitting Mom and Dad against one another while they eagerly take advantage of the situation. This is a danger sign that can result in major family turmoil fueled by behavior problems that neither parent is prepared to handle.

Addiction: Another Layer of Confusion

Addiction problems bring another layer of confusion. The addicted parent may not be granted shared custody and may have limited visitation. I encourage these parents to take advantage of video chats, emails, texting and other options today’s technology offers to support close parent-child connection.

It is essential that both parents always keep their promises and show up on time. Disappointments deeply hurt children. They will lose their trust and respect for a parent, which is hard to earn back. Don’t make agreements you can’t live up to. And never show up intoxicated or unprepared to parent, but be fully focused on your children and their needs.

When Mom and Dad are on the same page, they can parent as a team regardless of how far apart they live. These parents agree about behavioral rules, consequences, schedules and shared intentions regarding their children. They discuss areas of disagreement and find solutions they can both live with, or agree to disagree and not make those differences an area of contention.

If meals with Mom are vastly different than food offerings during time with Dad, that can still work if both parents respect the differences and let the children know it’s all okay. When differences become an area of high conflict, that’s when the kids can get hurt, being caught between battling parental egos. Children are confused and often feel guilty in battling parent situations, which rarely leads to any good within the post-divorce family structure.

Rosalind Sedacca, Parenting Beyond DivorceWhen to Consider Professional Support

Get professional support to guide you if you’re uncomfortable when the kids are with your co-parent. Discuss your options objectively. Sometimes we’re so caught up in past situations we can’t create workable solutions for co-parenting success without the assistance of a divorce mediator, therapist or mentor experienced with addiction and its challenges.

Keep in mind that when you’re more open and receptive to your co-parent, you are more likely to get what you really want in the end. Good listening skills, flexibility and the commitment to do what’s best on behalf of your children are part of a smart co-parenting mindset. Remember that co-parenting will be a life-long process for the two of you. Why not do it in a way that will garner your children’s respect and appreciation? They will thank you when they are grown adults. ###

 

Speakers Group Member, Rosalind SedaccaRosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach/Mentor and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She’s author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? and co-host of The Divorce View Talk Show and podcast. For her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right, her mentoring services and other valuable resources on mastering child-centered divorce, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.

Comfort in Chaos: Understanding Trauma Brain (Shenandoah Chefalo)

I make no bones about it: As a foster child, I don’t think I was an easy person to get along with. I certainly wasn’t trying to make bonds or connections with those around me. Of course, I knew nothing at the time about trauma brain.

Shenandoah Chefalo, Comfort in Chaos: Understanding Trauma BrainI went into foster care at the age of 13. My life prior to entering the system was one of immense dysfunction; I had practically raised myself. My mom was rarely around, and, when she was, it was usually to tell me that we were moving. We moved over 50 times and I went to more than 35 schools in my life before the age of 13.

Chaos had become my normal.

In learning to “cover” for my mom’s actions, and watching my mom talk her way out of almost any situation, I learned a valuable skill early on: lying. It was a skill that saved me numerous times from severe punishments.

Foster Care and Beyond

I thought foster care would be a positive solution to the life I was living. What I found was more of the same as loneliness, isolation and depression followed me into care. I had become disconnected from my feelings and simply accepted that I was unable to love … and was unlovable. I continued behaviors from the past and found no solace in the families that took me in.

I ultimately aged out of the system at 18 and was turned loose onto the world with no real connections to other people. When I hit the college campus, a feat I wouldn’t learn was remarkable until later, I made a pact with myself to never talk about my past with anyone. I was a good liar, and, because of that skill, I kept that promise to myself for more than 20 years.

Trauma Brain

I spent those years, hiding the past, keeping myself at arms length from any real relationships, and doing the one thing I was knew I was good at: lying. I didn’t know it at the time, but I found myself in what I now refer to as “trauma brain.” I would go to that comfortable place in my mind, a place of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Appease.

For me, there was comfort in chaos. When things in my life were going well, I looked for and caused chaos for myself so I could feel “comfortable.” Of course I  didn’t realize, at least not consciously, that I was doing it until I started to become increasingly unsettled with the life I was living. I had a good job, managed to get married and had a child, but I was only comfortable in the unknown.

I wanted to change.

For most of my life, I chalked up my behavior to the idea that I was just “crazy,” a concept I was comfortable with. I figured it was only a matter of time until I turned into my “crazy” mother. I was working in a law office at this time, and I would watch clients with similar tendencies. I had wondered about their past and when I started to ask, I was surprised by how many of them had been former foster kids, also. I had always assumed there had been very few kids like me. The numbers appearing in my office were off-putting, to say the least.

Garbage Bag Suitcase, Shenandoah ChefaloSelf-help Search

Flash forward. In an effort to find peace in my life, I initially turned to self-help books. I found a little relief, but often found myself going back to old habits. I started to realize that hiding my demons was only making me more depressed and more disconnected.

I tried everything: more books, journaling, yoga, meditation. and hiking. Physical exertion was having an impact, but it only lasted a few hours, then I was back in my mind, returning to old habits.

I finally realized that I had to tell my story. I wrote Garbage Bag Suitcase and began diving into an understanding of trauma and its effects on the brain.

The research began turning me onto new books. Suddenly I understood my “trauma brain” in a whole new way. I wasn’t “crazy;” my brain was just programed to constantly be in Fight, Flight, Freeze, Appease mode, and this knowledge changed everything for me.

Like a Sledding Hill

I recently heard Dr. Cathy Fialon explain trauma brain as a sledding hill. When you go sledding the path becomes worn, so you gain greater speed. The well-worn path is easy and comfortable. However, if you take your sled over a few feet to a part of the hill that hasn’t been used, it becomes more difficult to slide down; you can’t gain momentum and you often start and stop a lot. It takes time, she explained, to break in this new path and make it again enjoyable for sledding.

I understood exactly what she meant. My learned reactions as a child had become the well-worn sledding hill. It was easy for me to go down that road, regardless of the effects. But when I started working on myself (i.e. taking my sled to a new hill) it was difficult. Don’t get me wrong, while I’m still working on breaking in my new path, every once in awhile I like to take a spin on the old one.

That is “trauma brain” retraining ourselves, and oftentimes those we care about, how to break in a new way of thinking. I am thrilled to say I have a new career that allows me to help others recognize their trauma brain and the trauma brain of those around them, and to help themselves and others heal in a brand new way.

After all, we all deserve to try out a new place to sled. ###

 

Speakers Group MemberShenandoah Chefalo is a former foster youth and an advocate. She is the author of the memoir, Garbage Bag Suitcase, and co-founder of Good Harbor Institute, an organization focused on ensuring sustainable, implemented trauma care within organizations and individuals. You can learn more about her and her work at www.garbagebagsuitcase.com or www.goodharborinst.com

 

Helping Kids with Self-Confidence (Guest: Dr. Frank J. Sileo)

BTRadioIntDr. Frank J. Sileo is not only a top psychologist in New Jersey, he has written a number of books for children on topics that affect them. This interview focuses on self-confidence as it pertains to young people. Welcome to an interview with Dr. Sileo entitled, “Helping Kids with Self-Confidence.”

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Helping Kids with Self-Confidence, Frank J. SileoHow Much Do They Need?

How much self-confidence does a child or adolescent need? “Enough to function,”some might say.

But is that really true? Is that all we want for our children, enough self-confidence to function, to barely get by? No, we want more that that for them. We want them to have the ability to handle the challenges of life as they come, without being sidetracked by doubt or feelings of being less than capable.

And we want them to THRIVE, and we want them to encourage others to do the same.

Helping the Child That Struggles

But what about the youngster with poor self-confidence? What are the signs that tell us a child or teen is struggling? What can we do to help this youngster handle daily challenges or unique and new situations more effectively? How do we help him or her interpret a few mistakes as part of learning a new skill, and how do we encourage them not to beat themselves up with negative self-talk?

Don't Put Yourself Down in Circus Town, Frank J. SileoListen in to this excellent program as your host, Dr. James Sutton, interviews prominent child and adolescent psychologist, Dr. Frank J. Sileo, regarding issues of self-confidence in young people. It’s a timely topic, anytime.

Dr. Frank J. Sileo

Dr. Sileo is the founder and director of the Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, New Jersey. And, since 2010, he has been consistently recognized as one of New Jersey’s top kid doctors. Dr. Sileo has written numerous articles on a variety of topics related to mental health, and he has also written five children’s picture books (with more on the way). One of them, Sally Sore Loser: A Story About Winning and Losing, was awarded a Gold Medal from the prestigious Moms’ Choice Awards. His latest book, the focus of this program, is Don’t Put Yourself Down in Circus Town: A Story About Self-Confidence. (27:41)

www.drfranksileo.com

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Surviving Your Adolescents (Guest: Dr. Tom Phelan)

BTRadioIntWhat do you do after you write a blockbuster parenting book like 1-2-3 Magic! Answer: You keep writing! That’s just what internationally renowned psychologist, Dr. Tom Phelan, did. The book we featured on The Changing Behavior Network when I did a 2012 interview with Dr. Phelan was Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds. Here’s a spot-on discussion of a tough topic with a leading parenting expert. –JDS

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Communication with adolescents can be an issue that leads to other concerns and problems. Fortunately, there are things parents can do, things that work!

The Snub

Dr Tom Phelan, Surviving Your AdolescentsSomewhere during adolescence, youngsters regress to speaking again (to their parents) in one or two-syllable sentences:

How was your day?

Fine.

What did you do in Social Studies today?

Nothing.

Our guest today, Dr. Tom Phelan, calls this teen behavior “The Snub.” It’s part of a stage of normal adolescent behavior and development. Dr. Phelan explains how to redirect “The Snub,” not with a “Re-Snub” (which can lead to a whole menu of trouble), but by changing the questions. It takes a little work, but it can be done.

Surviving Your Adolescents

There are, of course, deeper and more serious issues that affect our teens today,Surviving Your Adolescents, Dr. Tom Phelan and they are a substantial part of that often uncomfortable (and painfully slow, from their perspective) journey from child to adult. This program looks at the four most prominent areas of challenge and difficulty that lead to risky and unsafe behavior in adolescents: driving, drugs and alcohol, sex and romance, and technology. Dr. Phelan will explain how critical it is for parents to avoid emotional reactions to adolescent behavior, the Four Cardinal Sins of parents of teens, and other issues that only create more distance and conflict in the relationship.

Dr. Tom Phelan

A clincial psychologist, Dr. Phelan is an internationally renowned expert, author and lecturer on child discipline and Attention Deficit Disorder. He’s the author of Surviving Your Adolescents: How to Manage and Let Go of Your 13-18 Year Olds. His landmark book, a million seller plus, is 1-2-3 Magic! (27:32)

www.parentmagic.com

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Back to School After Divorce: Tips to Help Your Kids! (Rosalind Sedacca, CDC)

BTSpReportReturning to school after a summer break marked by the divorce of the parents would be a challenge for any youngster. Rosalind Sedacca, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, offers some great tips to help these kids make the best of the support available at school. We present, “Back to School After Divorce: Tips to Help Your Kids!”

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Back to school after divorce, tips to help your kids, rosalind sedaccaMany divorces take place during the summer. This timing can help families adapt to the changes ahead. But it also makes returning to school a challenge for most children. Fortunately, there are ways to ease the transition by tapping into the many resources available through the school. That’s why it’s wise to develop a cooperative relationship with key school personnel.

Communicate with the School

Start by informing your child’s teachers about the divorce and any changes in your home environment. The more aware they are, the better prepared they can be to help your child. After all, school is often a second home for children – and that may be very comforting during this time of transition.

We can’t expect children to not be affected by the divorce. So expect raw emotions to come to the surface, including fear, shame, guilt and many forms of insecurity. Be aware that these complex feelings are likely to affect a child’s focus and self-esteem, as well as relationships with their friends – not to mention the impact on their academic performance.

Take advantage of the fact that most children trust and feel safe with their teachers. So schedule a conversation with them before the school year starts. Discuss the status of your post-divorce arrangements. Having the teacher as an ally can help your child feel more secure and less alone.

Child-Centered Divorce Network, Rosalind SedaccaUtilize the School’s Resources

The following suggestions can guide parents in using school system resources to your child’s advantage:

Teachers can look for signs of distress or depression in your child. Being compassionate by nature, teachers can talk with your child about their feelings. They can let your child know they are not the blame. Nor are they the only kids at school going through these difficulties. Messages like this can reinforce prior conversations you’ve already had with your child. It also reassures them to know that the divorce is not a big dark secret. It can be discussed candidly without shame.

Talk with your child’s guidance counselor. These professionals are a valuable resource; they are trained to handle challenging circumstances. They can be an ally to you and your children, and they can be counted on for support and guidance.

Look at these educators as members of your child’s support team. They have the background to detect signs of depression, aggression or other behavior changes that need to be addressed with you as soon as possible. So ask them to be attentive toward your child.

Be sure to take advantage of divorce support groups at school. These groups are designed to encourage children to talk with one another, sharing their feelings during or after the divorce. It’s helpful to know they’re not alone, that they’re accepted, and that others are facing or have experienced similar life-altering circumstances. That awareness gives children a sense of belonging. Many children make new friends with others who are sharing their experiences. The less alone a child feels, the easier it is to accept the challenges they will be facing in the weeks and months to come.

Of course, schools cannot replace parental responsibilities. It’s essential to talk to your child before they return to school. Prepare them for changes in routine or scheduling they might encounter. Inform them about those they can talk to at school if they are feeling sad or have questions about adjusting to new situations.

Let school be your child’s best friend at this time. It can be a great support system for your family if you take advantage of the experience and useful resources available. ###

Speakers Group MemberRosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach, founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and author of How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! For Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, coaching services, articles and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, go to: www.childcentereddivorce.com.