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Parents With Four Kids Would Know These 10 Things So Well

Parents With Four Kids Would Know These 10 Things So Well

All parents want their kids to have a life a little easier than they had. A long and happy marriage and a successful career is nearly always a parent’s goal. When you are raising four children, you still have these same priorities but time can start to fly by easily. You learn to prioritize, work with your partner, and help your children get out of and through tough situations. Parents of four children know these ten things all too well.

1. You Don’t Make Them Taste Their Food

When kids are small the idea of making them ‘at least’ taste every new food you put on the table is great. It does not work, but it is a fantastic idea. It actually turns mealtimes into kiddy nightmares filled with tears, anger, and confrontation. For what? That one bite of broccoli isn’t going to provide substantial nutrients or endear a new food to their preferences.

2. You Believe They Must Clean Their Plates

Most people grew up under the parental law of ‘clean your plate’, then mom would pile on the food you hated most like vegetables, or rice or that slimy okra stuff. Wow, these types of rules must have come directly out of the torture your kids book.

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That rule is not completely off the track. The error is in the application of it. If the children have to eat everything they put on their plate, they should be the ones putting it there and controlling the amounts. They will soon learn what ‘your eyes are bigger than your belly’ means.

3. You Know Healthy Eating Can be Fun

Food can be fun and if you really want to encourage them to expand their taste buds you have to try a new approach. Have them choose what veggie they want each month, a minimum of four or five, and work them into mealtime.

4. You Can Work It Out

Exercise is the best way to get rid of aggression, frustration, and anger in children. Parents of four kids create fun ways to work off that excess energy with races and rewards, or to bike together. Shooting hoops can also teach fair play while putting the vim and vigor to good use.

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5. You Get Your Hands Dirty Together

Gardening or raising your own chickens will teach children the value of life as well as instilling self-sufficiency. Gathering eggs for their breakfast will become a memory they will always appreciate. When that first seed pops its head up and you explain that’s a cucumber growing, it is like magic.

6. You Need to Set Priorities

If schoolwork is important treat it as such, make a learning environment with your kids and label homework time as their job. Schedule their work time and stick to it.

7. You Know What to do About Bullies

Teaching your children to spot a bully and how to evaluate their own bully type behavior is an invaluable life lesson. Explain how they can help stop mean behaviors simply by denouncing the actions and not joining in the laughter at someone else expense. Tell them to go get an adult immediately.

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8. You Teach Them about When to Run

Stranger danger is not a new term by any means but the expansion of who is a stranger needs to be engrained into each child’s brain. Everyone other than mom, dad or siblings is a stranger, and he or she should not go anywhere or even speak to them alone without permission each time. they should run home or to the nearest busy public building. Teach them, ‘internet friends’ are only names of people that may not even exist.

9. You Help Them Just Say No

Providing your kids with a comfortable way to say no to experimental drug or alcohol use is the key to success. Give them a phrase to respond with like “I’m good, thanks anyway.” There are ways for a teen to get out of a situation they don’t want to participate in if they do not want to.

10. You Teach About Rejection

Learning how to accept rejection without getting hurt or feeling criticized is a gift to all kids. They need to know it is more about the person that said no, not the person that opened their hearts to them. Teach them it is to be expected,everyone gets rejected a lot. Nurturing that self-esteem from the time they are small will get them through the tough times.

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Featured photo credit: http://stokpic.com via stokpic.com

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Published on September 18, 2018

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

When people separate or divorce, one of their biggest challenges is coparenting their children together. As a Marriage and Family Therapist in Chicago, I often see divorced parents struggle with how to raise their children together.

One parent has a certain set of rules, and the other does it completely differently. It can be a real challenge to navigate this part of the divorce process.

Yet over the years, I have seen couples successfully raise their children together after a divorce. It takes a little attention and focus, but there are number of key strategies that these divorced couples employ to make coparenting much easier.

1. Communicate clearly.

When couples who are able to communicate coparenting items easily and without much emotion, they get a lot of the work of parenting done quickly. Yet when their discussions about parenting items are filled with emotion, then it muddies the waters.

If you find yourself fighting with your ex about all sorts of coparenting issues, you might want to set up a method of communication which reduces the emotion.

Perhaps a dedicated email thread that only has parenting items might keep the channels of communication more clean.

2. Clarify rules.

Many families we see here at our practice in Chicago have different rules at different houses for their children. This can certainly work, but the rules need to be clearly defined by the parents.

Where children struggle is when they are unclear about what the rules of each house are, and then try to manipulate the rules to get their way.

Clear communication of what the expectations are at each house can go a long way towards creating balance and stability.

3. Get out of the past.

It is important to be sure that any lingering items from your marriage stay as much in the past as possible.

Of course there will by dynamics from the marital relationship that persist in the coparenting relationship, but couples benefit by bringing their relationship out of the past and trying to create new ways of interacting around parenting items.

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4. Don’t triangulate.

One of the more difficult dynamics that we see in Family Therapy is when couples triangulate their children.

Triangulation is when whatever is unresolved between the parents gets transmitted through their interactions with the children.

In other words, the parents hostility and tension gets absorbed by the children and the children start acting it out. It can be very confusing when this happens, and Family Therapy can significantly help when this dynamic occurs.

5. Bless and release.

One thing that troubles a lot of people after a break up or divorce is that they continually hold on to old grudges or complaints.

In order to coparent more effectively, it can be helpful to bless and release your ex. This mean wishing them well and letting go of old hurts.

Can you hope for our ex that they have all good things and find the life and love that they are looking for? This sort of neutrality can go a long way with coparenting from a more balanced place.

6. Practice mindful parenting.

Many experts will tell parents to try to stay more calm than their child. If you are anxious, stressed and angry, then your child may become those things too.

Coparenting with an ex adds another layer of difficulty and potentially upsetting emotions. It is important to practice being mindful of your anxiety, stress and anger levels when parenting, and also when interacting with your coparent.

Finding ways to stay relaxed and put things in perspective can help.

7. Develop a support network.

Having a good team of trusted people in your corner can help to make sure you don’t feel alone in the process of coparenting. Talking with other parents who are divorced or separated might help you feel less alone in the process.

Additionally, having a trusted counselor or therapist in your corner who can help you look at your blind spots, can make a big difference.

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8. Practice presence.

Staying in the moment when parenting can be a useful thing whether you are coparenting, doing it alone, or alongside your partner.

Our minds can race all over the place when we are managing a lot of things in our family life. Yet taking time to stay in the moment and be present with your child will help calm and stabilize the situation.

If you are worried about future events, or stressed about what happened before, it takes you out of the present, which can be full of opportunities for meaningful experiences with your child.

9. Practice “I” statements.

A lot of couples will get in trouble by blaming their ex in front of their child. It can be difficult for them not to criticize their ex, or say something disparaging. Yet this can have a negative impact on the child.

Instead of pointing the finger, it helps to practice “I” statements. Talk about your frustration and how you get overwhelmed by difficult situations rather than commenting on how your ex made mistakes or is selfish.

Talking about your own experience helps you own your own power in the situation.

10. Learn to compromise.

If coparents are constantly arguing about their schedules, money, or what the rules are, then it can cause a very hostile and chaotic environment for the children.

Yet couples who learn to work together and compromise on the endless, daily family items that need to be negotiated, end up creating a more stable and calm environment for their children.

Even if you insist that you should have the children on a particular holiday because your ex had them the previous year, being willing to compromise and make alternate arrangements can pay off in the long run.

11. Give a little.

Coparents who are generous with one another, even if they are still upset about their breakup, help create an environment of wellbeing in their family.

If your coparent asks for a random extra weekend with the children, and you know that it is your turn that weekend, being generous and giving a little can go a long way towards generating good will.

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Withholding and counting each fairness and unfairness creates a less generous and more stingy family environment.

Of course you don’t want to compromise yourself and give over too much, but keeping on the lookout for when you can give just a bit more, can help the wellbeing of everyone involved.

12. Talk with your children.

Parents who worry about the potentially negative influence that their ex will have on their children do well by talking more with their kids.

If you are worried about what your ex might say to your child, it helps to have a good, open line of communication with the child such that you can better understand how they see the world.

It helps if they can talk with you about their confusion or any conflicting messages that they hear from their other parent.

13. Leverage your relationship.

Your child is hard wired to want to connect with you. Parents do well to know that the greatest influence that they have on their child is their relationship with them.

Your children are attached to you, and even if they act as if they want nothing to do with you, they are still wired for your approval and care.

Finding ways to leverage the inherent attachment can help create the sort of life that you’d like for your child.

14. Attract, don’t pursue.

Don’t overly pursue a connection with your child, but instead attract their interest to connect with you. When parents are too eager to chase a child who is distancing, then the child will often distance more.

Building on the inherent attachment that your child has with you, try to find ways to create harmonious and connected moments rather than asking them tons of questions and trying desperately to create closeness.

15. Open up.

Share more with your child about what you love, and what you are passionate about. Children who hear more about what parents care about tend to follow their own passions.

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Think about how many famous athletes or musicians children are also athletes or musicians. Children tend to follow the lead of their role models, and if you share what you love, then might emulate that pursuit themselves.

This can go a long way towards creating a lasting bond that can withstand any tension in a coparenting relationship.

16. Embrace change.

A lot of coparents have hidden regrets or live in the past. They wish their family situation could be different, but don’t know how to make it better.

Embracing change can help us move out of past hurts and regrets and find new ways to create the sort of changes we are looking for.

Perhaps you can find new ways to interact with your ex that might foster new family dynamics.

17. Make room for new possibilities.

A lot of divorced or separated couples that I work with tend to become hopeless about anything new happening in the family dynamic. They see patterns of interaction repeat themselves over and over, and they anticipate it will continue this way forever.

Yet if there is one thing we can count on is that things will eventually change. Making room in your mind for new possibilities can alleviate some of the hopelessness that sometimes comes with difficult coparenting situations.

Yes you are divorced, but It is indeed possible to be good coparents. Communication and patience go hand in hand if you want to raise happy and healthy kids as a divorced parent.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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