Archive of ‘Healthy Relationships’ category

The World of Co-Parenting

In a recent conversation with someone, a single parent, she talked about the importance of having yin & yang regarding interactions and discipline.  While all parenting should have that type of balance, it is especially important to have that when you are co-parenting.  Co-parenting is the experience of raising children as a single parent when separation or divorce occurs.  Successful co-parenting requires reciprocal interactions of each parent and relies on healthy, open communication, empathy, and patience; this can be especially difficult for people who experienced marital issues (resulting in a separation or divorce), but it’s imperative for your children.

While this process is certainly easier said than done, check out the Do’s & Don’ts of co-parenting.

Do’s:

  • Prepare for change. This is going to be a huge transition!  Nothing is more certain in life than change.  You need to willingly accept that most aspects of your life will radically change.
  • Rules should be consistent and agreed upon at both households. Co-parent as a team and aim for co-parenting consistency! Having similar schedules, rules, and discipline between both parents will make transitions easy for all people involved and will reduce confusion for the children.  Things won’t ever be EXACTLY the same and that’s okay.
  • Recognize that co-parenting will challenge you. You may need to make accommodations in your parenting style based on the needs of your children.  Don’t let frustrations from being challenged impact your relationship with your kids.
  • Embrace the fact that you don’t have to ALWAYS be doing something.Parents often feel the urge to be “the cool parent” or “the fun one”.  That’s not needed.  Spend quality time with your children and adjust to the new normal.
  • Update often. For co-parents who had tumultuous relationships, it may be emotionally painful to be in constant contact with your former partner about all changes in your life, but it is important to be in-the-know about these things.  Share information about grades, sleep-overs, camps, etc.  Your child should never be the primary source of information.
  • Acknowledge each other’s strengths. Each co-parent has valuable strengths as a parent.  Remember to recognize each other’s traits and reinforce this awareness with your children.  Speaking positively about one another teachers your children that despite your differences, you can still acknowledge and appreciate each other’s strengths.
  • Practice empathy. This is a huge change for everyone.  Try putting yourself in your former partner’s shoes and treat them the way you would like to be treated.  It seems like an elementary thing to say, but it’s easily forgotten.  Have empathy for your children, too.  Allow them to voice their feelings and validate their experience.  
  • Enjoy your time off. When it’s not your time to be with the kids, do something that is for YOUR benefit and yours alone!  Some may call this selfish, but I call it self-care.  Everyone needs to recharge their batteries.

Don’ts

  • Don’t burden your child. Children should not be exposed to emotionally charged issues surrounding your former partner.  Putting children in the middle of intense conflict and issues regarding your relationship can promote feelings of helplessness and insecurity.
  • Don’t put your child in the middle. This means don’t use kids as messengers!  When children are used to convey messages between co-parents, it puts them in the center of conflict.  Similarly, don’t say negative things about your former partner to your children.  Your child has a right to have a relationship with both parents free of any bias.
  • Don’t be an unbalanced parent. It may seem like a good idea to be the cool parent, but doing so generally fuels resentment as your children will be more reluctant to follow set rules and routines.  Children develop best with a united front.
  • Don’t give into guilt.Parent’s often experience an abundance of emotions when a separation or divorce happens and they are no longer in their children’s lives on a full-time basis.  Many parents experience guilt–which they convert into overindulgence in an effort to “make it up” to their child.
  • Don’t accuse. Discuss. Communication about co-parenting is VITAL. Discuss issues that arise appropriately and assertively.  Don’t fall back on passive-aggressive tones or finger-pointing.

Co-parenting is not an easy task.  Being a parent and a partner is already difficult enough, but when you add heightened emotion that is often experienced as a result of being in a co-parenting relationship, it makes everything that much more difficult.  At the end of the day, it’s important to push your feelings about your former partner aside and focus on what is best for the kids.  Doing this will allow you to work with your co-parent as a teammate.  It’s not only doable, but is beneficial for the children involved.  Successful co-parenting is a win-win for all.

Benefits of co-parenting

  • When children feel security and consistency from both parents, they adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and new living situations.
  • Children are mentally and emotionally stronger. After all, if children are exposed to conflict between co-parents, they can have lower self esteem and develop depression or anxiety.
  • Children better understand problem solving. Kids learn how to manage life by watching their parents–set a good example for them.
  • When co-parenting becomes the new normal, children need to know that they aren’t abnormal and this is something that will work for them and their family members.

For additional parenting tips & tricks, check out Positive Discipline!

By: Julie Burke, LPC
See what she’s up to on Instagram!

Premarital Counseling: How to Prepare for a Marriage

Premarital counseling is a great start on preparing for a successful marriage. In today’s culture an engaged couple usually spends 8 months or more planning a wedding. I’ve often wondered that if an engaged couple could spend 8 months preparing for a marriage, what kind of difference it could make in the success of a marriage. With the right guidance and tools, a couple could increase their success of marriage by upwards of 30%. Taking the time to build understanding and to create tools with your partner is necessary to prepare for a marriage. Below are some resources to consider before you get married.

Finding the right premarital counselor

Finding the right fit of a premarital counselor is essential for any engaged couple. This could be the start of a relationship with a counselor for your marriage. Make sure they are the best fit for your relationship, not for one partner in particular. Make sure during premarital counseling that all the tough topics are talked through such as: Finances, Parenting, Division of Chores, Spirituality, and any trauma from previous relationships or family of origin. A premarital counselor can be found through your local church, therapist in town, or through workshops for couples.

Recommended Books for Engaged Couples

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman

Chapman’s book talked through how a person can feel loved through 5 different language. This book helps open a person’s mind in to how they can best love their partner.

Attached. By Amir Levine and Rachel Heller

Lavine’s and Heller’s’ book talks through the different attachment styles a person develops as they grow up and how it affects their romantic relationships. This book helps a person understand why they and their partner might respond certain ways to some situations.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman PhD and Nan Silver

Gottman and Silver talk through seven different principles that their research over the past 20 years has revealed in making a marriage work. Talking through these seven principles with your partner will start lifelong conversation that will help you continue to work on your marriage.

Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson Ed.D.

Nelson talks through how the structure of discipline as grown and changed over the past 50 years. She talks through concepts of how to be kind and firm in parenting and redefines what being a successful parent looks like.

Written by: Julie Smith, LMFT-Associate
Under the Supervision of Kirby Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

Summertime: 7 Ways to Maximize Free Time with your Kiddos

With summer’s arrival, as a parent or caregiver you may find yourself with anxious feelings about the long warm days and idle time coming – you may be thinking, how in the world am I going to keep these kiddos entertained all summer? How can we keep TV and video games to a manageable level? How can we help our kids feel engaged in activities that are exciting, but simultaneously include some aspect of learning (or at least not staring into a screen)?

If you are like me, these thoughts have been crossing your mind a lot lately. You are in the right place and hopefully this post can spur some ideas to help your family thrive in downtime together this summer!  

~This is by no means an exhaustive list, and with some adaptation, the below activities can be appropriate for mostly all ages of children~

Cultural Events

  • Attend a cultural festival or event of any sort, such as an art, music, or theatrical performance. Not only can these events be engaging for the whole family, they can spark creative interest in a subject area your child may not have had before.

Reading

  • Read (anywhere!) and join the Austin Public Library! Reading together is one of the best ways to spend quality time, increase vocabulary + introduce concepts for younger children and avoid the summer slide for school-age kiddos!
    • There are of course many ways to do this – in your favorite park, cozy spot at home, or at many of the public libraries in Austin. https://library.austintexas.gov/events/calendar
    • If you haven’t yet visited the new central library downtown, it is a site to see!  It even includes a special Teen Lounge devoted to adolescents and many special events.
    • Book People also offers many events and storytime for younger kiddos; events calendar here https://www.bookpeople.com/event

Museums and Historic Sites

  • Visit a museum or historic site. Here are some favorites!  
    • Laguna Gloria – bring a picnic or pick up food onsite from Epicerie and enjoy on the lawn
    • The Blanton Museum
    • The Thinkery Children’s Museum + Mueller Lake Park
    • Bob Bullock History Museum
    • Austin Aquarium
    • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
    • Austin Nature and Science Center

Gardening

  • Plant a small plant or garden to tend; even an indoor plant for when it’s too hot outside! Gardening with your child will give you a sense of shared purpose and responsibility! Here are some of my favorite nurseries to help get you started:
  • Shoal Creek Nursery
  • The Great Outdoors
  • East Austin Succulents  / Tillery Street Plant Company

Photography

  • Practice photography – Even some of our smallest kiddos will enjoy taking pictures with a Polaroid. It can give you a few free minutes while they explore the house or backyard and then provide you with some quality time as you review their gems together! This can create a sense of pride for your children in their work!
  • Spend time making a collage or photo book together of your favorite memories.

Donate to Charity or Volunteer Together

  • Host a lemonade [popsicle / cookie / whatever] stand together and decide on a charity to which to donate the profits.  This activity really stands out as you can teach entrepreneurial skills, create awareness around money, engage in social skills with neighbors, and give to others in need.   

Get the Wiggles Out

  • Austin Bouldering Project – Indoor and outdoor rock climbing for all ages Austin Bouldering Project
  • Play for All Park – This amazing park is located in Round Rock and was made with children with special needs in mind. It is massive and children of abilities will enjoy the many features it offers. Play for All Park
  • Marathon Kids: Walk and Talk – over the summer, walk the total distance of a marathon with your child and talk along the way. Sign up and receive a mileage tracker and conversation topics for each walk! https://marathonkids.org/walkandtalk/
  • Hamilton Pool – beautiful, historic swimming hole located about 20 miles west of Austin. Don’t forget you need reservations for summer visits!  https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/hamilton-pool-preserve
  • Deep Eddy – take a cool dip in Texas’ oldest swimming pool.  This “beach entry” pool is awesome for small kids and adults alike!
  • Zilker Park – an Austin dream day – Ride the Zilker Zephyr miniature train, hang at the park / playground and take a dip in Barton Springs (this one’s better for the older kiddos)
  • Your backyard / a neighborhood street: For a quicker adventure with littles, cruise around the backyard or walk the block to collect some sticks to turn into snakes (try to find some with a fork that can be the mouth!).  Set your child up with paint and paintbrushes and see them transform into snakes. You all can also paint rock families!
  • Play at a Splash Pad! https://freefuninaustin.com/austin-area-splash-pads-2016-schedules/

Making Meaning From Your Time Together

Now that you’ve invested time and energy in an activity together, remember some ways to make it even more meaningful while you are engaged in the event or afterward.  These tips are easy and can really strengthen connection between you and your child.

  • Actively listen! Ask open-ended questions!  When your child is talking, listen for feelings they’ve expressed. Notice these and dig a little deeper.
  • Ask your child to name Three Positives at the end of the day or as you’re tucking them in at night.
  • What are you thankful for in your [day / time / activity we shared]?
  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • Tell me more about your photo [the book we read / the place we visited/ etc.].
  • Don’t forget the nonverbals! Make sure you are making eye contact, getting down on eye level or putting your arm around your child as you are having conversation.

Know that not every adventure will go exactly as planned (or be free from tears, for those with smaller humans!). Just remember that it is the love and attention you are giving your child and the time you are investing in your relationship that will mean the most.  Have fun and see you out there!


Written by:
Brooklie Gonzales, LPC-Intern supervised by Emily K. Slaughter, LPC-S

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