Joint Custody: Should I force my kids to go with their other parent even when they are crying and screaming?

Q: I'm a stepmom of two wonderful kids, age 9 and 12. Their mom has "episodes" because of her bipolar condition. She will yell and scream at them, and say ugly things about their Dad and me and other family members. When the episodes are over, she is a very loving person and just does not understand why the kids cannot or will not just forget what has happened. The kids are both at a point that they are afraid to go with her for her visits.

We do understand that she has the right to see the kids, but we are very worried about their emotional state if we physically force them. How far do we go without jeopardizing our own relationship with them because we are forcing them to see her? How physical do you suggest we get with the kids? Should we pick them up and force them into her car? She has already called the police when they would not get in immediately.

We are talking and trying to assure them that they are strong kids and they can handle anything with their mom, and that in time it will be better… but of course we don't know that for sure, and I don't want the kids to think that we are lying to them.

- concerned stepmom

A: First and foremost, let me compliment you on your compassionate insight into the situation. Your kids are very blessed that you understand their desires, their confusion, and their experience. Please don't ever underestimate the power of just one adult in their world who can validate and understand what they are going through.

natural birth control

Just read an article in our local weekly paper about the dilemma some families are facing as the economic conditions intensify: having to choose between buying food or birth control. Talk about a terrible double bind! How sad and ironic to decide that you must risk creating more mouths to feed in order to take care of the children you already have.

I dunno why every single high school health class isn't teaching this most basic and empowering health information: women are only fertile during a few days of their monthly cycles.

There are reliable and simple ways to assess your own fertility signals, and you can use the information to help you avoid pregnancy, even if your cycle is irregular. It also helps you know when you have the best chance of conceiving, if that's what you want.

Using it to prevent pregnancy does require abstinence during fertile days, and is therefore not as convenient or practical as, for example, an IUD, but it is free and available to every woman.

And although it does nothing to prevent STD's, and it's not 100% foolproof (no method is ...), basic fertility awareness education could greatly reduce the odds of an unplanned pregnancy. So I'm doing my part to spread the good word.

Here's a site I like with info about The Two Day Method:

I also recommend the book Your Fertility Signals by Merryl Winstein.

graphic goody

just heard about this today, and thought it was really neat:

You type in a bunch of words and this program turns them into colorful word clouds, which you can then print for free.

I'm thinking it could be a neat gift from parent to child -- a graphic representation of their strengths and wonderful qualities. Suitable for framing, even!

The most frequently used words show up the largest, so if, for example, I want the word KIND to show up big, I would list it more than once. I'm going to make one for my daughter right now.

For more information about Karen's parenting consultations, click here or visit

Helping children deal with frightening memories

Q: My 6-year-old son has been recently traumatized by viewing a video clip of an extremely scary scene. My older daughter showed him this clip. My son is now extremely upset at night, can not sleep, covers his head with blankets, and can not be alone in any room of the house. He will not even go outside alone. He keeps asking when the images will go away in his head. This has been going on for 3 weeks now. I am worried about his mental health. Should I take him to a therapist?

Thank you,

A: Dad -

I'd better start with a major disclaimer here: I am not a therapist, and do not diagnose or dispense medical or psychological advice. If your gut tells you to take your son to a therapist, please do so.

That said, there are some things you can try at home first that might be helpful:

stroller or sling?

I'm not one to put a lot of stock in research or studies, because in my opinion there are truly too many variables to take into account and it's impossible to delineate a pure cause and effect relationship.

However, I do like to use studies as a trigger for personal contemplation and experimentation. Below is some interesting food for thought about forward facing strollers and their potential impact on language development.