Dating after a Divorce, Part One

Good for you! You've done your healing work and are ready to try dating again. But what about your kids?

At first, you may decide to simply lead a double life -- enjoying an adult social life when the kids are with their other parent, and being a full time caregiver when they are at your house.

This compartmentalization works well for many parents for quite a while. And sooner or later, many of us decide we are ready for more than just an occasional night on the town.

Below are some suggestions for parents who are dating to find a new mate. For simplicity's sake, I'll write as if your date is male, and trust you to make the appropriate translation if this is not the case.

About Kids and Writing

My son is very articulate when it comes to debate and dialogue, but he's always had a lot of trouble representing his thoughts coherently in writing.

He's recently started attending a new school, and I must admit I was a bit nervous the day he turned in his first writing assignment.

What if rewards and consequences don't work?

Yep, it's true. Rewards and consequences often don't work. More frequently than many folks care to admit, I suspect. Here's one possible explanation for why, and what to do about it:

How to Hold a Family Meeting

Regular meetings are a very effective and efficient way to promote healthy family communication. Below is a structure that has worked well for many families. Feel free to pick and choose what you like, and add more of your own ideas.

Defending Against Parental Alienation

The words "parental alienation" strike fear in the hearts of many a divorced parent. It can be terrifying to think that your ex might be able to turn your children against you! And it's devastating to feel powerless to protect our precious 'babies' from emotional harm.

Luckily, you have more power and influence than you may think. Your best defense is to stand tall, with both humility and pride, squarely inside your own skin. Warts and all. When children notice that you are not afraid, not hiding, and not counter-attacking, they quickly learn to see through the illusions into the truth.

Tips on Potty Training

Keep the whole thing casual and low key. Learning to use the toilet is not a big deal that requires gold star charts and large rewards. It's just a handy skill that kids acquire in the process of growing up. Once they have it mastered, it opens up some nice opportunities for them -- similar to the way that riding a bike or learning to read expands their world.

Should I talk to my ex about his negativity and hypocrisy?

From a divorced mom:
How should I handle it when he does the very things that he has asked me not to do, like speaking negatively in front of the kids? Do I even bother to mention it to him or just accept it? And how do I talk to the kids about it? I'm feeling like I should just let everything go unless it is "major" and build the relationship with the kids so they feel they can open up to me.

I love this question! Let me affirm that your instincts are right on track, and make some additional suggestions.

getting rid of the pacifier

My child is now 3, and I'm ready for her to be done with using a pacifier. What do you suggest?

First, let's get this out of the way: Kids don't go off to college with their pacifiers. If your child is still super attached to it, assume it is meeting a valid need for comfort, for now. As her nervous system matures, and she learns to comfort herself in other ways, she'll naturally let go of the pacifier.

That being said, here are a few ideas that might gently help the process along:

preschoolers and bedtime

A few tips in no particular order for parents whose preschoolers seem to be staying awake too long after going to bed:

* Watch for the magic window - she could be overtired by the time she gets to bed, which can make it hard to wind down to sleep. Eye rubbing, yawning, slower blinking/physical movement, and snuggling up to you are all signs that she might be getting tired. Try putting her to bed when you notice these happening, even if it is earlier than her usual bedtime, and see what happens.

another Supermom leaps from her pedestal and lands in reality

From a mom of several young children:

I'm humbled and a bit embarrassed to find myself needing so much help from my husband and extended family. I was a capable, competent and independent woman before I had kids! What happened?

No mom is an island. Sometimes, the most capable, competent decision we can make is to ask for help.

Knowing who and when to call when you feel overwhelmed by the incessant demands of parenting is a BIG deal. It can make the difference between child abuse and not, between a nervous breakdown and not. It's not a cop out! It's a smart action plan.

It's when we CAN'T ask for help that things can become ugly and out of control.

So maybe it will help to reframe "independent" a little bit, so that instead of meaning, "I can do everything by myself," it means, "I am willing and able to make conscious choices, including the choice to ask for assistance."

If you want some help accepting help, let's set up a parenting consultation by phone or email. Contact me at

Taming Tiny Tyrants: What to do if your preschooler is constantly ordering you around

from the mom of a three year old:
I'm not comfortable with her dictating how we behave -- I think she needs to realize that she can't control other people's choices. It often happens in the car; she orders me to stop singing or change the song. She doesn't like when I suggest that she covers her ears! Do you have any suggestions as to how to defuse this type of situation? It happens in other contexts as well (ie, I'm not cooking an egg correctly.)

You are right that she needs to learn that she can't control other people's choices. She's not alone in this! I know many adults, myself included, who are still getting used to that idea. :)