Dealing with Divorce: Creating Stability No Matter How Unstable You Might Feel

Divorce can be scary, filled with uncertainty, and will ultimately lead to a ‘new’ family structure. It is Blog-Divorce-Main-Landscapeimportant to be mindful of how uncertainty can feel to your children and to proactively take steps to create stability for your children during the divorce process.

Below are some suggestions to improve your child’s sense of stability during a divorce:

Create a Visual Calendar

As you and your family navigate the divorce process, one concern your children may have could be around their living arrangements. If your children have friends with divorced parents they may be familiar with what custody arrangements look like, however, every family is different. Early on in the process, it is important that your child understands what his or her living arrangements will look like. Moreover, one way to reduce your children’s uncertainty is to create a visual calendar for them so they know when they will be at mom or dad’s house. Involve your child in creating the calendar and making it their own by adding drawings, stickers, and favorite colors. Also, remember to update the calendar as needed – change happens and it’s important to communicate this.

Create Comfort in Both Homes

Another way to create a sense of stability is to reduce the feeling your children may have that they are living out of a backpack as they transition between parent households. One way to do this is to make sure each household has a set of your child’s essentials (i.e. daily routine items, clothing, stuffed animals, homework supplies, etc.). This can create comfort for your child as well as prevent unnecessary moments of frustration. Involve your child in this process by creating a list of needs together, then finding these items within your home or shopping together for them at the store.

Create Positive Experiences

While your child is settling into this ‘new’ family structure it is important to continue to create positive experiences. This might look like exploring new neighborhoods, finding new parks and ice cream shops – if one parent has moved to an unfamiliar area. Or creating a Wednesday night pizza tradition. Or finding a Sunday morning breakfast spot. Although learning to manage change and uncertainty is healthy and a necessary part of emotional growth, predictability can be just as helpful during times of heightened stress. Allowing your child to look forward to your new family traditions and experiences can create a sense of comfort and excitement.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Fun, Free Father’s Day Activities

With Father’s Day right around the corner, it’s time to think about how the kids can celebrate that great guy in their lives: Dad.  For those of you looking to honor Dad without breaking the bank, consider these  fun, free and meaningful activities that kids and dads can do together this Father’s Day.

Fun, Free Father’s Day Activities:

Create a family picture train.  Many fathers find themselves with a little train lover or two in the house.  Build on thisFun Free Father's Day Activities passion by creating a family picture train.  Cut out rectangles from paper and decorate as rail cars.  Cut smaller circles and add for wheels.  Then, find family pictures that are special and glue them onto each train car.  Connect the train cars with yarn or paper.

Bake.  Whether Dad dons the chef’s hat in the family regularly or not, Father’s Day is a great day to choose a recipe and dig in to creating something tasty to eat.  Kids can do the measuring, adding and tasting.

Take a nature walk.  Dad and the kids can take a walk down the street or around the backyard in search of interesting natural items.  Collect these to take home and create a collage or a terrarium.  If you’re in an urban area, head to an area park.

Create caricatures.  Put the family’s art skills to work and have each family member draw a funny picture of Dad or each other.

Do yoga. There are many resources for family yoga online such as rainbow kids yoga.  Take a look at fun poses that dads and kids can do together for fun and fitness.

Have a great Father’s Day and enjoy the special man in your life!

The Importance of One-On-One Time with Your Child

One-on-one time you spend with your child is priceless. It says to your child, “You are special.” It symbolizes your unconditional love mother and son togetherfor your child. There is nothing that can replace your undivided attention. Special time works best when several guidelines are followed.

Guidelines for One-On-One Time with Your Child:

  • Call the reserved time a certain name that the child understands, such as “special time.”
  • Set aside this time every day regardless of your child’s behavior that day.
  • Never take this time away as a punishment.
  • Give one-on-one time separately. One day mom and son can have their time together. The next day dad and son can have their time. Make this time for each child in the family.
  • Use this opportunity to do a fun, interactive activity. Do not use the time for watching TV or other passive activities.
  • Don’t interrupt this time by taking phone calls or attending to other distractions that take your attention away from the special time.
  • Be consistent with one-on-one time. Stick to the scheduled time and end when the time is finished.

If your child refuses to engage in “special time”, continue to pursue. You are conveying to your child that you are sincerely interested in him/her and want to have this time together.

Howard, BJ. 2002. Guidelines for special time. In Jellinek M, Patel BP, Froehle MCV, eds., Bright Futures in Practice: Mental Health-Volume II. Tool Kit. Arlington, VA: National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health.

Monkey Bar Mania

It is time. Lunch is over and the weather is finally allowing our children to break free of their heavy winter coats and boots to enjoy the warm, fresh, and invigorating air on the playground. Antsy children struggle to contain their excitement as they take their final steps to the great outdoors- slides,Little girl climbing on monkey bars teeter-totters, swings, and kickball fields galore. Only the bravest of the brave dare take on the tall metal intimidators commonly known as the monkey bars.

Monkey bar climbing has been right of passage for children all across the playground. Conquering their cold frames take time, practice, and determination. Here are the developmental steps to achieving the ultimate goal: swinging from one end to the other without touching the ground as our ape-like friends seem to do so effortlessly.

  1. First, ask your child to reach for the monkey bars and let their feet dangle. Cheer them on and encourage them to hang on as long as they can. This will help them to strengthen the muscles in their hands and upper body.
  2. Next, encourage them to swing their legs back and forward while maintaining their tight hold on the bar. This swinging will in turn, give your child the burst of momentum they’ll need to eventually move across the bars.
  3. Next, help them coordinate the swing of their legs with the movement of an arm to reach for the next bar. Keep in mind that your child may need you to support them at their waist in order to complete the first few swings. It may also be a good idea to encourage them to first reach with their dominant hand as they may have an increased rate of success at grabbing the bar.
  4. After successfully completing one swing, talk your child through bringing their other arm to same bar that the first is holding. Once your child can successfully cross the monkey bars one at a time, they may then practice alternating hands on sequential bars. Once they’ve mastered the monkey bars, they can move on to eventually skipping one or two bars at time!

For other playground tips and tricks, see Amanda Matthews’ blog suggesting tips to work on motor skills at the park.

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8 WAYS TO WORK ON MOTOR SKILLS AT THE PARK

Oftentimes, playgrounds are overlooked as just places where children can run around and  burn some energy. While this is true, playgrounds are also a great environment to practice your child’s gross motor skills, such as balance, trunk control, motor planning, bilateral skills, hand-eye coordination, and strength. Below are several ways to use various pieces of equipment at your local playground to improve your child’s motor skills. Feel free to let your imagination run wild!

Here are 8 tips for motor skill activities at the park:

  • Monkey bars: challenge your child to hang from the monkey bars for as long as he can. This will help develop his hand strength, upper body strength, and endurance. Similarly, have your child practice chin-ups or pull-ups on the monkey bars. Your child can also practice crossing the monkey bars by placing both hands onto the same bar or alternating hands (one on each bar).Child is rolling down a slide
  • Prone down slide: have your child ride down a slide on his stomach like Superman (head first, with arms and legs extended). Once your child reaches the bottom of the slide, help your child wheelbarrow walk across the playground, as he will already be in the correct position (support your child at his ankles, knees, or hips, depending on his skill level).
  • Zip line: when crossing the zip line, instruct your child to lift his knees towards his chest the entire way. This will help develop his core muscles, along with his motor planning and upper body strength.
  • Rock climbing wall: choose which color of rock your child is or is not allowed to use to help him get up the wall (e.g. do not use the blue rocks). Rock climbing addresses upper body strength, bilateral skills, trunk control, motor planning, and problem solving.
  • Fireman pole: challenge your child to climb up the fireman’s pole as high as he can, with the goal of reaching all the way up to the platform. This will help increase his upper body strength, bilateral skills, and motor planning.
  • Pull-up bar: have your child hang upside down on the pull-up bar (with legs hanging over the bar, and head inverted). This will address his vestibular system, as his head will be tipped out of its normal alignment, changing the position of his ear canals (e.g. going on a roller coaster). The vestibular system is important for balance and body awareness.
  • Lily pads: work on your child’s opposition by challenging him to step onto the lily pad with one foot and the opposite arm (e.g. step with right foot, grab with left arm), then switch. Opposition is needed for ball skills used in sports such as baseball and soccer. This activity will also help address his balance and motor planning.
  • Tunnels: have your child army crawl through the tunnel (on his belly, propped up on elbows/forearms, and using upper body to propel self forward). This will address motor planning, upper body strength, and trunk control. Similarly, if the tunnel is large enough, challenge your child to complete different animal walks through the tunnel (e.g. crab walk, seal walk).

Note: Make sure to monitor your child during the above activities to keep him safe, along with  others at the park. Stay tuned for my next blog on ways to work on social skills at the park.

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Daddy’s Home!!! How To Keep A Positive Attitude After A long Day At Work

(This article is meant for fathers-but of course Moms, you can read too)

Like most of you dads out there, I work very hard each day. I rarely take a lunch break, and don’t take a lot of days off. That’s just how I am wired. I father home from workam confident that many of you fathers out there are the same way. It’s in our blood, it’s how we were raised, and we’re proud of our work ethic.

I am first and foremost, the proud, doting father to a 5 year old girl and a 2 year old boy. I would do anything for them at any time, just like you would do anything for your child at any time. Our young children don’t know why we work and come home tired. We do it for them, but they won’t understand it until they have kids someday.

There have been times when I’ve come home from a hard day, and not been “there” for my kids. I was tired or stressed or just not in a good mood. That’s normal, but how we react to feeling like that is critical. When I think about those times, I cringe. My kids are waiting for me. Should it be their problem that I had a busy day? I promised myself, not so long ago, that I would try my hardest to walk in the door each night with an over exaggerated, flamboyant, happy entrance that would help to ensure my kids never lose the “Daddy’s Home!!!” excitement.

5 Tips To Relieve A Bad Mood Before Coming Home To Your Kids:

  • On the drive home, turn the radio up loud, roll down the windows and sing a long.
  • Eat something ( I go with candy, but I don’t condone candy eating).
  • Do not answer the cell phone.
  • If driving helps, do what Supertramp says and “Take the Long Way Home”.
  • Think about your kids, and how fun it is to play with them when you get home and of course how great it feels to see their happy faces at your arrival.

Following these tips will not only ensure a stronger, healthier relationship with your children, but it will also help you feel better about yourself and your day!

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