One Family, Two Homes, Many Problems…and Solutions!

Baby on 2 Houses

(Note: whether you’re a separated parent or not, you may find this article useful for yourself, and possibly to pass on to someone you know it could help)

Although it is becoming more and more common for families with separated parents to have their children living between two homes, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily easy for all involved. The child(ren) may have difficulties following different routines, sleep patterns are inconsistent, sometimes their performance in school is affected, etc.

However, the fact that it isn’t necessarily easy for all involved also doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to live in such a scenario and have it truly work!

I have clients in various stages of separation – from the beginning stages of figuring out an arrangement to already separate and living for some time in two homes. This plus the fact that I too have my children living between two separate homes, gives me a lot of perspective on ways to manage this living arrangement in a healthy way for all.

I thought I would share a particular personal story and the results of the situation.

My daughter (at 6 years old) started to wake up several times during the night, calling “Mommy!” I would go to her, provide comfort till she fell back to sleep, until the next call out, “Mommy!” Finally, she would ask me to stay with her in her bed, which I would do till the morning.

I didn’t realize the impact of this, until my beloved fiancé (now husband) pointed out to me how ‘unworkable’ this is: for me and my sleep-health, for her, and….for him!

We decided to find out if this was happening in her other home, with her father. NOPE!

We set up a time to conference and exchange information on what each of us are doing in our respective homes in terms of routines. We went through the whole thing: morning routine, after-school routine, bed time routine, etc.

It was illuminating!

I was able to try their approaches, where mine seemed not to be working. And, likewise, they were able to try some of ours, where theirs weren’t working.

The result?

Consistency across two houses, leading to greater confidence and sense of safety and security for our daughter and ease in her routines. Not to mention PEACE OF MIND for all adults involved!

But not only was she (and we) sleeping through the night, another important result arose.

For those same few months we were getting regular reports from school that, while academically she is incredibly astute, behaviourally she was being disruptive in class during group time and not cooperating when asked to stop. Never a fun thing for the ego as a parent! Not to mention, we were concerned that this behaviour would overshadow her academic capabilities.

As we worked to maintain this semblance of consistency across the two houses for the benefit of our daughter, I found that I was transforming as a parent. I was actually starting to really practice more of what I and many other parenting practitioners preach: being consistent in my parenting, rules setting and keeping, and following through on consequences. I called it “Being a Firm-Wall while being loving and compassionate”

Interesting – this way of behaving on my part became a natural outcome when my focus was on creating and maintaining an environment that truly works for my daughter’s (and our family’s) success.

And the calls from school?

What calls? We stopped getting them.

So what are the key points you can take away from this story and bring to yours?

  1. Create consistent routines between 2-households. Of course, each parent may have very different lifestyles and work schedules so it’s not about being “exactly the same.” But, where possible, such as similar or same bedtime, and similar routine leading to bedtime, and ways of handling homework, discipline matters, etc.
  2. Keep a collaborative and communicative relationship with your ex-spouse – if not for you, for your children, which ultimately WILL benefit you.
  3. Focus on creating and maintaining an environment for your children that is conducive to their (and your) health and success. Try different approaches when the ones you’re using aren’t working.
  4. Be open to transforming yourself and your ways of acting. Why not? You are a growing and developing human being. Learning through this process keeps it dynamic and even fun for you.
  5. View and treat others as your partners for your children’s health and success. That includes your ex, potentially their new partner/spouse and yours, as well as school(s) teachers/principals, etc.

I wish you the very best with your parenting.

If you would like guidance on this, or any other parenting, separation/divorce, or relationship matter, please schedule a complimentary strategy session.

Don’t see a time in my schedule for you? Email me directly at tallie@familyforeverlifestyle.com

Warmly,

Tallie

HOW TO LOVE IN ANY GIVEN MOMENT

Earlier this month in my blog, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce” I introduced the concept of “Pouring On The Love” so your children feel nurtured, important and secure during and after the separation or divorce process.

A reader wrote in and asked, “How can I pour on the love when my situation is such that I have 4Busy Mom with groceries children between the ages of 5 and 15, who are with me all but 2 weekends per month, I manage a household, a full time job, doctor appointments, etc….How do I make sure they are getting enough attention?”

Busy Dad in kitchen

Seeing as many of us parents can relate to having this type of concern, I thought I would share this with you all.

Pouring on the love is not always easy, but it is simple and is not necessarily what it seems. Mostly we think we need more time: If we had more time we could be more loving. While that perspective seems to make sense, it is not the only possible way. Being loving can happen in a given moment, in the process of doing what you’re doing.

For example:

Scenario: Take 1!

You are busy making dinner after a full day’s work. Maybe on the phone hands-free at the same time. Your child walks in the kitchen and wants your attention – to tell you a funny story or to complain about their sibling’s wrong-doings. In that moment, how you respond speaks. The first reaction may be a thought in your mind, “Argh, I can’t handle this all right now” or some version of that thought or feeling. When you react from there what is likely is an annoyed, frustrated type of reaction (words, body language, tone of voice, etc.), leaving your child with some experience of being a burden or the like. Mom screaming at child - funny

I don’t think there is any parent who couldn’t possibly understand and completely relate to this kind of experience. And, while this is understandable and even justified, the outcome we are left with is less than satisfying, and if the truth were told, we as parents are left feeling pretty horrible, and not how we truly want to be.

Take 2!

Your child comes to you with the same interruption to your dinner-making. Instead of reacting with annoyance and frustration that may initially be there, you choose to be loving there and then.

And…Action!

“Can you hold on a moment?” you say to the person on the phone. You stop what you are doing temporarily. Look at your child in the eyes, and ask, “What is it?” And listen. (Often this takes less time in reality than our mind anticipates the interruption will be)

Then determine how to deal with whatever your child has said. If it was a story share, give them a kiss and say, genuinely “Thank you for telling me this. I’m getting back to making dinner; we’ll be ready to sit down together in about 15 minutes.” Or, if it was a complaint regarding a sibling, see if you can offer a word of advice for them to handle the situation and encourage them to go back in there and deal with it. Dad listening to daughter

How you deal with your child actually speaks, often more than the words themselves. In this scenario your child is more likely to be left with the experience of being important and loved.

And Cut!

Now, you may reflect on this and think, “how can I be this way, really?” or “How can I be this way all the time?”

Hold on. Give yourself a break. You are in the “practice of parenting” AND if you’re in the process of separating or divorcing, you are in the “practice of parenting through separation” now, too. The operative word is “practice.” Allow yourself some grace and space. You will have some successes and you will have some failures, just like anyone who is practicing being good at something that is important to them.

The key is: Stay The Course.

And, I recommend that you don’t “be alone” in your practice. Buddy up with another like-minded parenting adviceparent or friend to support each other.

 

Consider getting some coaching or training from a professional on mastering this craft so you have more wins than failures over time.

Did this help you? Please leave a comment or question.