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By: Lisa Poisso
Non Traditional Child CareDoctors and hospital staff. Corporate execs called away on business. Self-employed sales professionals and part-time consultants. Midwives, birth photographers, flight attendants and pilots. Moms who simply need a break. Parents who operate outside of the 9-to-5 grind find themselves facing a childcare dilemma. Childcare arrangements can be precarious enough for parents who work when most daycare centers are open for business. Add in evening hours or split shifts, overnighters, single parenting or simply an erratic, on-call schedule and finding reliable childcare can pose unique challenges. Read more...

Are Hyperactivity Asthma Obesity & Diabetes On Your Child's Menu?

By: Lisa Poisso

Feeding FrenzyYou wouldn't dream of letting your child run out into a busy street, would you? Yet, did you know that allowing a steady diet of cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, chocolate chip cookies and even some so-called packaged health foods is about as reckless?

As parents, we are programmed to feed our kids a full tummy is a happy tummy (and happy mommy), right? But, how many of us are letting them eat whatever (and giving into to the drive-thru) rather than cooking with a plan and some serious label reflection? Let's face it, convenience trumps thoughtfulness. As a result, the foods children chow down on daily are responsible for a growing epidemic of health problems (not to mention fatness), according to nutrition experts.

Couple quick-fix meals with either too much information (or not enough) about nutrition and you've got a new kind of feeding frenzy in the modern family.

The problem is there's just so much out there that people come in and say I don't know what to believe,laments Dee Rollins, Ph.D., a registered dietitian with Baylor Regional Medical Center at Grapevine. Americans are dangling somewhere in between the realization that additives are bad for your health and the acceptance that with this stuff dominating our diets, we're going to have to make some major changes if we want our kids to grow up eating healthy foods. Read more...

  1. Breathe deeply and slowly while counting to 10...or 20...or 100!
  2. Listen to soothing music or imagine a peaceful scene.
  3. If you can leave your child alone, go outside for a walk.
  4. Splash cold water on your face.
  5. Phone a friend. It helps to share your concerns.
  6. Try laughing. Humor helps defuse many situations.
  7. If your child is old enough, try to compromise or collaborate.
  8. Remember that we all slip up at times, including your child.
  9. Take breaks from your child so you can both enjoy your time together.
  10. Praise your child's good qualities so you encourage positive behavior.
  11. Out of Ideas?
  12. Consider parenting classes or professional counseling.

By: 1999 The Positive Line

  1. Make time every day to talk to your child
  2. Make clear ground rules for communication, including "no put downs".
  3. Set an example by the courteous, caring, attentive way you communicate with your child with others.
  4. Show an open attitude, so your child feels free to express himself or herself to you.
  5. Tell your child often "I love you." This is one of the most important things you can do."
  6. Express your delight when your child shows good values. Whether its cooperating with others, finishing homework or making his/her bed...acknowledge actions you want repeated.
  7. Help your child learn to listen. It is a valuable skill.
  8. Share activities with your child that are conversation ice breakers, such as playing board games or watching quality TV.
  9. Choose times to talk wisely. The best times for discussions are when everyone is well-rested, well-fed and without pressing tasks to get done.
  10. When your child is old enough, hold weekly family meetings at which everyone can share positive news and voice their grievances.

By: 1999 The Positive Line

  • Be a good role model by controlling your own anger.
  • Never spank your child or use any other physical force when he/she gets out of control.
  • Limit your child's viewing of violence in the media, whether on TV, in movies, video or on the Internet.
  • Keep your child healthy, with enough rest and nutritious foods.
  • Learn to recognize signs of stress in your child and help him/her handle stress you can't reduce.
  • Encourage your child to put angry feelings into words rather than into physical actions.
  • Teach your child to respect the feelings of others.
  • Help your child make a list of things to do when angry that won't hurt himself/herself or others.
  • If you blow up at your child, apologize later, after you've calmed down.

If your child has a problem learning to control anger, seek additional help from counselors or social workers at school or in the community.

9 Keys To Effective Discipline

By: 2000 The Positive Line

Point Out Positive Behavior

Observe when your child is being cooperative, responsible, etc. Praise the good job he or she is doing. This will encourage your child to continue the good behavior.

Call A Timeout

If a child continues to break rules, remove him or her from the rest of the family until the child is ready to accept the rules. The best place for a timeout is an area that is not pleasurable for the child. This works best for younger children.

Make A Contract

It often helps to put agreements in writing when dealing with an older child or adolescent. That way, both parents and child are reminded of what they said they would be willing to do.

Show You Care

Hug and kiss your child, say "I love you" often, and praise your child for things he or she does well. Children who feel loved are more willing to repeat positive behavior and quickly correct misbehavior.B

Be Respectful

Convey respect for your child by your words, tone of voice and body posture. Always focus on the behavior, not the child. There is a difference between calmly telling a child to finish his or her homework before watching TV, and angrily saying, "You never do your homework unless I tell you."

Offer Choices

Children generally respond better to being given choices than to receiving commands. But be sure that you can live with the choices you offer and that they do not endanger the child's health or welfare.

Set A Good Example

Children learn from watching others, especially their parents or guardians. If you want your child to be ready on time, don't be late. If you want your child to be polite, you should be polite to others, including your child.

Listen Carefully

Children deserve to be heard. Let your child express his or her thoughts and feelings about the best discipline. By being willing to listen and compromise in certain areas, you will set the stage for your child to accept decisions when no compromise is possible.

Present A United Front

Parents-whether married or divorced-can help each other by working out agreements about how to handle discipline in specific situations before these situations arise.

Follow Through

If a child is supposed to lose a privilege or expect a consequence because of some action, be sure this happens. If you feel sorry for your child and reinstate the privilege or drop the consequence, your child will learn that your word doesn't mean much. Your child will also not learn from the consequences of his or her action.

Be Prompt And Consistent

Act as soon as possible so your child associates the misbehavior with its consequence. Use one basic approach for discipline. Offering choices one day and simply imposing consequences without any choices another day can confuse and frustrate a child.

Take Appropriate Action

Fit the consequences to the misbehavior. If your child paints on the wall, have him or her clean it off. If apologies are in order, have your child make them. And if you must scold your child, be brief and to the point. Children stop listening if scolding goes on too long.

The teenage years are a time of confusion for many parents and youths. Teen years are a time of growth: physically, mentally and emotionally.

  • Teenagers are "pre-adults" and they really need their own space. Balance the amount of their freedom and to know when to step in with good judgement.
  • Clothes, trends, and trying to "fit in" are crucial parts of a teen's self-steem. Try to give teens acertain amount of freedom in this area
  • Talk daily with your teen. Send them funny e-mails for find other ways to communicate so when you have one-on-one it's not so weird. If there is more than one sibling, make special "talk time" for each child.
  • When your teen is rebelling and you find yourself "butting heads" think, "Am I listening?" or "Do I accept or allow my child to differ with my opinion?" Make sure your rules are realistic and appropriate.
  • Choose your fights carefully and don't sweat the small stuff. Sometimes a teen enjoys shocking their parent (for example with a new hair color).
  • Become familiar with the music they like, and things they read and watch on TV. This will not only give you things to talk about, but an opportunity to screen what they watch and listen to.
  • Get to know their friends and their friends' parents. See if there's an opportunity to develop a support system.
  • Accept that eventually you are going to end up talking to your teen about sex and the changes they may be noticing in their bodies. Be aware of changes in their body, mood, conversation, interests, etc.
  • Empathize with your teen by acknowledging how difficult these years are for them.
  • Communicate that you have expectations. Grades, behavior, and rules are just some of the expectations for which there is very little compromise.
  • Internet access should only be available on a family computer that is in public view, not in your child's room.
  • When will this end? Your child will grow and mature with your help and before you know it, he will be a responsible adult.

Reference: Kids Health for Parents (http://kidshealth.org/parent/growing/adolescence.html).

When Is It Okay For A Child To Stay Alone Without An Adult's Supervision & Care?

When is it okay for a child to stay alone without an adult's supervision and care? No Texas law specifies an age, but the law says that a child should not be "placed in a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or action beyond the child's level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities." Pre-school children cannot be left alone, as they are not capable of caring for themselves.

When deciding if your school-age child can stay home alone, think about the child's age, abilities, maturity, behavior, and judgement. Also, consider the length of time plus the activities in and around your home a neighborhood.

Does Your Child?

  • Feel safe and comfortable being home alone?
  • Know how to call 911, you, and other emergency numbers?
  • Know where the emergency phone numbers and the home address are posted by the telephone?
  • Know basic first aid and where to find your first aid kit?
  • Know the fire exits in your home in case of a fire?
  • Know the family's plan for emergencies and what neighbor or relative will be available?
  • Know all safety rules, including limits for using the microwave, stove, oven, scissors, knives, and other potentially dangerous items while you are away?
  • Know how to handle telephone calls? How to use the answering machine to screen calls? Which calls to answer? Or to tell callers that their parent "is busy"?
  • Know to never answer the door or to allow strangers in the house?
  • Know to call you first before allowing any unexpected, know person to enter?
  • Know not to enter the house if something looks different and to immediately call you from a neighbor's house?
  • Know to lock the doors once inside the house?
  • Know and use internet safety rules?

After Doing The Above & Knowing Your Child's Abilities, Have You:

  • Arranged for a reliable and trustworthy, nearby friend, neighbor, or relative to be available for your child?
  • Posted emergency numbers and practiced with your child drills for fires and other emergencies?
  • Set the guidelines with your child about activities and guests while alone?
  • Deciding if the arrangement is working for your child:
  • Start with very brief absences.
  • Call while away.
  • Drop in.

After Being Away, Talk With Your Child. Find Out:

  • Are the family's rules being observed?
  • Are your child's activities what you have agreed upon?
  • If siblings are staying alone together, how do they get along without you?
  • What have trusted neighbors observed?

It only takes a few seconds for a child to drown or suffer irreversible, permanent damage from a near drowning. A toilet, bucket, hot tub bathtub, aquarium, or any other container of water can increase the risk for drowning. Drowning is the leading cause for unintentional injury deaths of children age 4 and younger. In children 14 and younger, drowning is second leading cause for unintentional injury fatalities.

Inside The House

  • Never leave small children alone around any container of water. This includes toilets, tubs, wading pools, spas, aquariums, and buckets.
  • Keep bathroom doors closed and secure toilet lids with lid locks.
  • Safeguard bathtubs and sinks used for bathing by using faucet covers and nonskid mats or decals.
  • Before bathing children, gather the soap, shampoo, toys, towel, diaper, clothing, and any other needed items before running the bath water. Place these items within easy reach.
  • After running bath water, check the water temperature before placing the child in the bath water.
  • Once your child is in the bath, don't leave for any reason. Children can drown in just a small amount of water. They can easily topple into the tub or toilet. It only takes a few seconds for a drowning to happen.
  • If you must leave the room for the telephone or door, take the child with you after taking the child out of the water and wrapping him in a towel.
  • To avoid falls and slipping under the water, always keep one hand firmly around the child when bathing him and keep the child sitting.
  • Ensure pet doors are inaccessible to young children. Young children like to crawl through the doors to gain access to the outside.

Outside The House

  • Never leave children alone with water including a pool, wading pool, pond, drainage ditch, or lake.
  • Stay with children swimming or playing in water. They need an adult or certified lifeguard to keep a constant watch.
  • Use approved life jackets.
  • Arrange for swimming lessons for your children with a qualified instructor.
  • Safeguard swimming pools. Use fences. Install self-closing and latching gates, and water surface alarms.
  • Completely remove pool covers when the pool is in use.
  • Make sure proper safety equipment is located near the pool.
  • Store water toys away from the pool when they are not in use.
  • Encourage safe practices. Don't assume young children will use good judgement and caution around water.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Have a first-aid kit and emergency medical telephone contacts. Learn CPR.
  • Know if your child's friends have home pools.

Safety begins at home. Most people think their homes are safe. However, most injuries involving chlidren occur in the child's home. Using common safeguards can reduce the risk of injuries.

Choking

  • Keep drapery, blind, electrical, and telephone cords out of reach.
  • For children under 4, avoid hard, smooth foods like hard candies, nuts, seeds, grapes and raw vegetables that can lodge in the child's throat. Chop hotdogs, grapes, caramels, sausages and other like foods into small pieces.
  • Keep small objects that can be swallowed off floors, tables, and other areas.
  • Remove drawstrings and hoods from children's clothing.

Poisoning

  • Keep cleaning supplies, chemicals, paints, and cosmetics in original containers. Use cabinet and drawer latches and locks.
  • Keep all medicines, prescription and non-prescription, in original containers and out reach. Use child resistant bottles.
  • Keep toxic plants out of reach.
  • Keep purses carrying cosmetics, medications and small objects out of reach. Use child resistant bottles.
  • Keep toxic plants out of reach.
  • Keep purses carrying cosmetics, medications and small objects out of reach.

Suffocation

  • Place infants on their backs to sleep.
  • In cribs, avoid soft bedding, pillows and stuffed animals.
  • Keep plastic bags away from children.
  • Keep children from playing in parked cars, refrigerators, dryers, freezers and stoves.

Burns and Fires

  • Set hot water heater thermostats to 120 degrees or less.
  • Check bath water should be no warmer than 100 degrees.
  • Baby's bath water should be no warmer than 100 degrees.
  • Use back burners and turn pot handles inward when cooking.
  • Avoid placing hot liquids within reach.
  • Place matches, lighters, gasoline and other flammables out of reach.
  • Use electrical outlet covers.
  • Keep all electrical appliances like curling irons and irons out of reach.
  • Place guards around all heaters, fireplaces, and barbeque grills.
  • Install smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in houses using wood and fuel heating.

Other Safety Tips

  • Prevent falls on stairs by using safety gates at top and bottom of stairs.
  • Prevent bathtub falls and injuries by using a bath mat and spout guard.
  • Use colorful decals so glass doors are visible.
    Lock unloaded guns and mmunition separately in a secure place.
  • Use locking safety devices on guns.
  • Childproof doors and gates to prevent children leaving without being noticed.
  • Watch children around dogs and other pets.

Be Prepared for Accidents

  • Post numbers for Poison Center 1-800-764-7661 (1-800-POISON1), 911 for emergency services, and your doctor.
  • Have a first aid kit.
  • Learn first aid and CPR.

Support Your Childs Safety PlanParents and caregivers: please take a moment to discuss safety with your child. This is a guide to help you as you review ways to keep your child out of harms way.

I Will Always:

  • get permission before going somewhere
  • say no to drugs
  • trust my inner feelings
  • use the buddy system if I go somewhere
  • run away from a stranger if approached
  • tell someone I trust if someone touches me in a way that makes me feel uncomfortable
  • know at least two escape routes from each area of the house in case of an emergency
  • walk or play in groups
  • call 911 if I'm scared and need help

I Will Never:

  • keep secrets that make me feel bad
  • accept gifts or money without first checking with my parents
  • help a stranger with directions, find their lost pet or in any other way
  • touch a weapon
  • accept car rides unless I have permission from my parents
  • go with anyone who does not know the family "secret code" word
  • tell a caller I am home alone

Signed:

______________________________

Child

______________________________

Parent

The Key Is Not When You Are Ready But When The Child Is Ready

Potty TrainingWhen a baby learns to stand and walk, parents may begin thinking about teaching the child to use the potty. The key is not when you are ready, but when the child is ready. Problems in teaching children to use the potty almost always come from trying too soon. Typically, girls are ready before boys. Some children are ready around age 1, while others are not ready until age 3 or older.

When is a child ready?

Learning to use the toilet can start when a child has:

  • Physical ability:
  • is able to walk;
  • has a larger bladder, so urinates fewer times a day;
  • wakes up from a nap with a dry diaper;
  • can control the muscles that hold and release urine and bowel movements; and
  • can take underwear off and put it back on.

Mental ability:

  • understands the body's signal for needing to use the toilet;
  • understands words such as "peepee", "poopoo", and "potty"; and
  • understands what is expected-when to go, what to do and where to do it.

Social and Emotional ability:

  • can express needs, such as discomfort when she soils a diaper and tells you about it; and
  • wants to learn to use the toilet.

How can you help your child learn?

  • Talk with you caregiver. Parents and caregivers should agree on when a child is ready and what to do.
  • Make sure the child can easily get to the toilet. Provide a potty chair in the bathroom or place a sturdy step stool by the toilet. Place toilet paper within easy reach.
  • Dress the child in clothing that is easy to take off such as a dress, a skirt, or pants with an elastic waist.
  • Use cloth training pants. Disposable paper training pants will seem like diapers to a child.
  • Help your child overcome any fears of the toilet. The deep hole and loud flushing noise can seem scary. Fear of loud sounds could be a sign of other issues you may want to discuss with your child's pediatrician.
  • Watch for signs that a child may need to go. This might include a frown or action such as holding the crotch.
  • When the child urinates or has a bowel movement in the toilet, say "That's good". Avoid making to much of it. Children need to learn to use the toilet for themselves, not to satisfy you.
  • Never scold or shame a child for an accident. These are natural body functions and children easily forget and get distracted.
  • If a child has lots of accidents, go back to diapers for a while. Try again when the child seems ready.

Go slowly. Learning these skills takes time. Remember, the key is not when you are ready, but when the child is ready.

Great Ideas for Family Fun

By: www.allprodad.com

Family Activities

  • Go to a local high school football, basketball or any other game.
  • Take the kids on a mystery trip. Give them clues about your destination as you get closer. It can be something as simple as an ice cream shop or playground, or a trip to a museum or amusement park.
  • Put on a family play.
  • Let your children prepare a meal and serve it to you and your husband restaurant style.
  • Plant flowers (indoors in a flower pot or outside).
  • Get to know the family of one of your child's friends by having the family over for a cookout.
  • Let your kids take photos, print them, and make a photo album then have the kids think of captions.
  • Have a fun, free scavenger hunt.
  • Go to a park and take some pictures of landscapes. Develop the pictures, get out the paints and try to paint landscapes by looking at the pictures.
  • Go on a bike ride that ends with a picnic.
  • For girls: have a spa hour paint each other's nails, do your hair, let them put makeup on you.
  • Build an obstacle course and let each family member compete for the best time.
  • Have a garage sale and let your kids decide how to spend the proceeds on a family day.
  • Plan a secret surprise for someone in need. For example, cook a meal for someone or mow their lawn, without them knowing who did it.
  • Camp out in your back yard.
  • Let the kids help you paint their room. Let them pick out the paint color. (It might get them to actually clean it first!)
  • Play board games.
  • Do a craft (make up your own or a buy a craft kit). Bake cookies, bread or a cake from scratch.
  • Let your children design a family crest.
  • Go ice skating or roller skating.

College Can Wait...Preschool's Going To Cost You

By: Dallas Child Magazine

The Real Cost Of Child CareFamilies are likely to spend more on child care than for health care and food combined, according to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. With childcare costs as high or higher than housing costs in most states, middle-income families struggle to afford any child care much less high-quality child care, notes the organization's executive director, Linda Smith.

Now, a new national program launching first in the Dallas/Fort Worth area helps parents afford the quality childcare and preschool programs they want. I Pay Childcare's Educate Early loan program frees up more of a family's disposable income by giving them access to competitive interest rate loans and lines of credit specifically to pay for quality child care.

Parents can apply for the Educate Early loan program at participating childcare centers or directly through I Pay Childcare. Once approved, the family begins monthly payments. I Pay Childcare then debits the loan account every month and pays the childcare center, ensuring the center is paid promptly and the loan is used solely for child care a win-win scenario for both the parents and care providers.

I Pay Childcare's pilot program launched in November at Carpe Diem Private Preschool in Frisco. According to I Pay Childcare CEO Ben Robinson, the Dallas/Fort Worth rollout will be followed in 2008 by programs in Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

To find out if your child's school will be offering the program or to inquire about the possibility of adding your child's provider to the program, speak with your child's school director or contact Ben Robinson at I Pay Childcare, 866-543-7427.

Tips for Parenting When You're on Your Own

By: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As a single father, there is nothing more challenging or rewarding than being able to parent on your own.

The key is to realize you don't have to be a Superman in order to take care of your kids on your own. In fact, once you are on your own you may find that you are more than capable of tying ponytails and making a well-rounded meal than you ever thought before.

The key in all of this is to end your time as a solo parent with the same amount of energy, patience and enthusiasm that you started with. Whether you have one child, two or a half a dozen, practice the following and you'll be able to rule the roost.

Less is More? Always

The idea of packing up the kids and taking them to the mall, the zoo, their favorite restaurant and ending with a movie may sound like the perfect solution for keeping them occupied and the house clean. You may even think you?re a superstar for being able to do all of that, but is that really the best way to spend your time with your kids? Activities outside of the home are fine and serve as a positive boost for fathers wishing to build their confidence with a tot under one arm and a diaper bag under the other, but they can take their toll on your wallet, your patience and your energy level.

Replaced the urge to take your kids everywhere with the desire to give your kids everything of you through your time and attention.

Plan Ahead

If you find yourself wondering why the mother of your children seems able to do it all?feed the kids, clean the kitchen, do laundry, and attend to her own needs, there?s one secret that she?s probably not sharing because it?s so terribly obvious. She plans ahead! Whether it's going to the store before the fridge is reduced to condiments and cabbage, or placing the laundry by the washer and dryer the night before, she takes the necessary steps to streamline her days and maximize her effectiveness. This allows her to meet her responsibilities and react when necessary to the needs and wants of her kids.

For dads, take note. Make a list of the meals that you?d like to prepare for your kids and buy ahead. Cook meals and store them in your freezer, so they can be quickly prepared. Buy snack foods that are good for your kids (carrots, cottage cheese, fruits).

And be flexible. If you want Friday night to be spaghetti night, but you?re seeing some down turned faces because the kids would rather have grilled cheese sandwiches and slices of green apples then make the switch.

Keep It Balanced

Just because you're in charge doesn't mean that the rules of the house should suddenly change to no rules at all simply because the kids would love you for it. You know better because those rules are the only thing standing between you and a therapist's couch.

Try and work with your ex-wife to keep some standard rules for both households. This will ensure that your kids know the boundaries are the same whether they are with your or their mom.

It's Not a Competition

For all dads, especially single fathers, it's easy to feel beat down by the words that's not how mom does it. The desire to be the better parent is an impossible task. No one can replace the mother of your children. At the same time, no one can replace their father, either. These are unbreakable bonds. Just know when you hear those words from your kids that you've stumbled into a great teaching opportunity.

Ask them to show you how mommy does it. Does she cut off the crusts on the bread? Add olives to the homemade pizzas? Fold shirts in a certain way? Your kids will appreciate the opportunity to show you how they do things with their mom and on a deeper level they'll appreciate your acceptance of her efforts. It's a true win-win situation.

And most importantly there will be numerous occasions when that's not how daddy does it will come from your kids' mouths.

Don't Forget About You

The kids have had three square meals. You've ensured that the bubble baths included a complete shampoo and conditioner treatment. They've had a full day of fun and quality time with you. But what did you do for yourself? Did you find time in the day to catch your breath or to catch up on a few projects of your own? Time for you is essential and there is nothing selfish about getting a few minutes to yourself.

Being on your own with your kids doesn't mean around-the-clock parenting. It?s exhausting and will only sour you on more solo time with your kids in the future, so look for opportunities to recharge.

These can be simple and short opportunities to take a break with or without your child. Step into another room with a good book or newspaper while your child is playing. During nap time, call a friend and catch up on things. Go outside and take three deep breaths and listen to the world around you.

We all lead such hectic lives that it's good to teach our children how to take a step back and simply reflect on the world around us.

Accept Advice and Help

They say no man is an island and certainly that applies to fathers as well. Be open to advice and help. Don't ever take advice or an offer to help as criticism of your efforts. Being a complete father means being able to accept new ideas and support. If your ex-mother-in-law offers to take the kids for a lunch out, accept it with a thank you!? If a friend mentions carrying Wet Ones in the car, make a mental note to try it out (they're the best thing in cars, trust me). These aren't people looking to put you down. In fact, a father with a support group of friends and family has the best of both worlds the opportunity to parent on his own combined with the peace-of-mind in knowing he has others watching his back when he has to attend an after work meeting or pursue a much deserved break for an hour or two.

Clean Is Almost a Four Letter Word

Let's face it; men have always been considered hunters and gatherers rather than dusters and sanitizers. Our cleaning habits were rudimentary at best when we were single without kids and they've probably only improved marginally through the support and direction of ex-wives who grew tired of seeing their husbands pass a wet rag over the kitchen counter and then calling it clean.

There are two options to keeping your place clean when parenting alone. A father can either let the kids run wild and watch as toys and crayons become scattered to the four corners of every room. He can also let the dishes pile up in the sink while a similar pile of dirty clothes grows in the hallway. Okay, that's not really an option.

The best way to keep a clean house and manage kids on your own is to never take short cuts or put clean-up projects off until later. If you can, never leave dirty dishes in the sink. Wash and put them in the dishwasher. Dirty clothes? They always go in the hamper never on the floor. Toys are always returned back to their storage place at the end of the day or at the end of an activity. Make a habit of including your kids in these responsibilities and you'll find these activities can be fun, family-building opportunities rather than chores you do alone.

Show A Little Tenderness

When the roles are reversed and you are the one returning from the golf weekend with the buddies, keep in mind what it was like for you when parenting alone. Extend a heartfelt thank you to your ex-wife because while you were challenged by a 10 foot putt on the 11th hole, she was working as a solo mom and possibly not having the best time of it. So try a little tenderness because you never know when you'll want the same in return.

John Gaetz is a single father and a professional coach specializing in helping single parents reach their full potential as both parents and working professionals. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Keep Calm And Carry On!

Weight of the world on your shoulders? Your kids may be carrying it on their backs as well

Educators and therapists agree that both children and adults need to manage their stress or it will get the best of them. Stress can cause health problems for parents and can cause children to feel sad, worried, angry or guilty. Here are some tips culled from several expert sources on how to help parents and children de-stress.

For Your Children:

  • When you make a mistake, or lose your temper, apologize. That shows that you're human and lets them know they weren't the cause. It teaches them it is OK to make mistakes and also how to apologize.
  • If your family calendar is too full, ease up on your children's activities. Today's kids are often over-scheduled and overbooked.
  • Allow time every day for lots of free play, which helps children relax.
  • Have meals together as a family.
  • When your child opens up to you, whether it is in the car on the way home from school, or at midnight, stop everything and listen.
  • Make time to immerse yourself in your child's world. Schedule daily or weekly play time with each child during which they are in charge. Don't correct or direct.
  • Teach your children the benefits of eating well and exercising. The Stress in America study shows that kids who are overweight feel more stressed than children who are not overweight.
  • Vary routines just a little to surprise your family. Light candles at dinner or serve it on a blanket in the family room. Small surprises can delight your children.
  • Make sure your children get enough sleep.

For Yourself:

  • Give yourself a break after a particularly bad day. You're not the only parent to lose their temper or feel stressed.
  • Examine your schedule and figure out what times of the day seem to trigger a blow up. Work on being calmer during those times.
  • There's a moment before you act during which you can change the course of your actions. Recognize that moment by breathing deeply or slowing down.
  • Take a parenting class or check out a book from the library to better understand child development and your child's behavior.
  • Lower expectations. Instead of spending two hours baking cookies from scratch, buy cut out cookies and canned icing. Enjoy the decorating together.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  • Come up with a catch phrase that lets you off the hook or calms you down. Try something like "This too shall pass", "Be gentle", "The struggle is optional". Write the quotes on sticky notes and paste them all over the house.
  • Make space in your day for absolute quiet, even if it is only a few minutes.
  • Try prayer and meditation.
  • Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Deeply. Practice deep breathing when you are calm and it will come more naturally in the heat of the moment.
  • Carve out time daily for something you enjoy. Even two to five minutes a day can add up when you're working on a project like organizing photos.

By: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Parent Alienation SyndromeNothing stirs up passions more than the controversy generated when parents are at war over the custody of a child.

A controversy is an issue where evidence on both sides can make a compelling case. It is never black and white, but when people have their emotions aroused, an issue can quickly turn into two polar opposites.

Fear takes over reason, incomplete facts become evidence, and court calendars become jammed with repeat visits to a judge to try to bring sanity to what is unlikely to ever be sane. On top of this, social movements are promoting one side over another in their clamor for justice. Politicians are lobbied to pass laws to bring order to chaos. Gender wars are fueled and lives are destroyed.

My exposure to custody wars came from the mothers and fathers attending my Breakthrough Parenting classes at The Parent Connection, Inc., an agency that I founded in Los Angeles in 1983.

Many of the parents in my classes were litigating over child custody. Most said that they wanted to settle the case, but none of them would settle by giving up all access to their child, which seemed to be the only other alternative open to them.

It was disturbing to see that in many of these cases, the child was behaving outrageously, to the point of cursing one of their parents, and kicking, spitting, and calling them stupid, mean and horrible.

What can you do when one parent is intractable and vitriolic? What can you do when the child becomes caught up in the fight and starts taking sides? I came to realize that this level of conflict in custody disputes was a fallout from sweeping societal changes.

What has changed?

In the 1960's and the 1970's, feminists told fathers that they should take a more active role in raising their children. Women were going to work, going back to college and pursuing careers as never before.

A shift then began, and fathers became more involved in the day-to-day care of their children than was true in previous generations.

As rigidity about parental roles began to fall away, the tender years doctrine was still in place. This doctrine presumed that by virtue of the fact that a woman was the mother of a child, that she must be the superior parent. In the early 1970's several states passed "no-fault" divorce laws, where anyone who wanted out of a marriage was free to leave. Some have called it the "no guilt laws." There was a proliferation of divorce that was historically unprecedented.

After a family breakup, many fathers wanted to continue to be involved with the care of their children. Suddenly, they found that they had no legal right to have custody of their children unless the mother agreed to it.

Due to the lobbying efforts of James Cook, founder of the Joint Custody Association, who was caught up in this problem himself, the California legislature successfully passed the first joint custody laws.

Joint custody was widely seen as a better way of handling the evolving problem of how to share child custody. It was believed that it would lead to fewer fights over the custody of children because it was more equal. Other states also passed joint custody laws. These laws helped to level the playing field for fathers.

The majority of mothers and fathers welcomed joint custody. Others did not. As with any trend, there was a backlash. Child custody became a highly political gender-specific issue. Thus, the ramping up of high-level disputes also began in the 70's.

In most states the tender years presumption (mother knows best) was replaced with the best-interests-of-the-child presumption of joint custody (the best parent is both parents).

In the 1980's, courts began to increasingly ignore gender in determining child custody. This removed the automatic allocation of full custody rights to the mother, so she had less time with the children. Instead, the courts looked first at how the custody could be shared, and if that wasn't possible, judicial officers attempted to determine which parent was more interested and better able to attend to the best interest of the child.

Fathers perceived that they were at a disadvantage because of a bias toward the mother having custody. Because of this, in the 1980's more fathers than ever started showing up at parenting classes to make sure that their skills were state of the art. This is when these issues were first called to my attention.

Most parents were able to share custody of their children, and they worked out childcare issues in an amicable way.

A large number of women were even relieved to have fathers share in the childcare, which enabled them to pursue their personal life goals involving their education and career.

However, when there was not a friendly resolution to custody, fathers found themselves with a greater opportunity to gain joint or primary custodial status by litigating (going to court). The stakes got even higher when the legal system was used to resolve these difficult problems. In extreme cases, the alienation of a child's affection against a targeted parent became a bizarre escalation of the intensity of the conflict.

Who discovered Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?

In association with this growing child-custody litigation, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner first identified Parental Alienation Syndrome in the 1980's. He noticed a dramatic increase in the frequency of a disorder rarely observed before, that of programming or brainwashing of a child by one parent to denigrate the other parent.

However, the disorder wasn't just brainwashing or programming by a parent. It was confounded by what Dr. Gardner calls self-created contributions by the child in support of the alienating parent's campaign of denigration against the targeted parent. He called this disorder Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a new term that includes the contribution to the problem made by both the parent and the child.

What is PAS?

Gardner's definition of PAS is:

  1. The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes.
  2. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification.
  3. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) of a parent's indoctrinations and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent.
  4. Excerpted from: Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

What is the child's part in PAS?

Gardner notes that the PAS is more than brainwashing or programming, because the child has to actually participate in the denigrating of the alienated parent. This is done in primarily the following eight ways:

  • The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior.
  • The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger.
  • The child is sure of him or herself and doesn't demonstrate ambivalence, i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate.
  • The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The "independent-thinker" phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this.
  • The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent.
  • The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent.
  • The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced.
  • Animosity is spread to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.

In severe cases of parent alienation, the child is utterly brain- washed against the alienated parent. The alienator can truthfully say that the child doesn't want to spend any time with this parent, even though he or she has told him that he has to, it is a court order, etc. The alienator typically responds, "There isn't anything that I can do about it. I'm not telling him that he can't see you."PAS is an escalation of Parental Alienation (PA)

Dr. Douglas Darnall in his book Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children from Parental Alienation, describes three categories of PA:

  1. The mild category he calls the naive alienators . They are ignorant of what they are doing and are willing to be educated and change.
  2. The moderate category is the active alienators. When they are triggered, they lose control of appropriate boundaries. They go ballistic. When they calm down, they don't want to admit that they were out of control.
  3. In the severe category are the obsessed alienators or those who are involved in PAS. They operate from a delusional system where every cell of their body is committed to destroying the other parent's relationship with the child.

In the latter case, he notes that we don't have an effective protocol for treating an obsessed alienator other than removing the child from their influence.

An important point is that in PAS there is no true parental abuse and/or neglect on the part of the alienated parent. If this were the case, the child's animosity would be justified. Also, it is not PAS if the child still has a positive relationship with the parent, even though one parent is attempting to alienate the child from him or her.

Which gender is most likely to initiate PAS?

Gardner's statistics showed that the majority of PAS occurrences were initiated by mothers. Mothers have traditionally had primary custody of children (although before the 20th century it normally belonged to the father), and the mothers usually spend more time with the children.

In order for a campaign of alienation to occur, one parent needs to have considerable time with the child. However, in recent years increasing numbers of fathers have started instigating PAS, since there are few legal sanctions for doing so.

I've seen several dramatic cases where the father was the alienator.

In one case, the father had no control over his obsession to trash the mother.

Numerous professionals told him, including the mother, that he could have shared custody if he would be willing to follow the rules. He didn't have the self-control to do this.

When he lost custody because of his aberrant behavior, he became a celebrity in the father's rights movement and took his campaign into national circles. No one would know from hearing him speak about his situation that there was serious pathology going on (PAS) or how hard the professionals worked to stabilize it.

Moreover, in cultures where women traditionally have no tangible rights, alienation by the father can be severe.

I've met divorcing women who had been prevented from learning how to make a living to support themselves. At the time of separation all access to financial resources were stopped and the children removed from her care. These women reported severe alienation of affection.

It makes one grateful to have laws that protect human rights and enforce a better way of resolving conflict than a winner-take all approach.

How common is PA and PAS?

When parents first separate there is often parent alienation. For example, due to the anxiety of the mother, she is likely to say indirectly to a child that he or she is not safe with the father.

She might say:

"Call me as soon as you get there to let me know you are okay."

"If you get scared, you call me right away. Okay?"

"I'll come get you if you want to come home."

Usually this level of alienation dies down after the separating parents get used to changes brought on by the separation and move on with their lives.

However, in rare cases, the anxiety not only doesn't calm down, it escalates. PAS parents are psychologically fragile. When things are going their way, they can hold themselves together. When they are threatened however, they can become fiercely entrenched in preserving what they see is rightfully theirs.

Fortunately only a small percentage end up in this level of conflict.

Why do PAS parents act like they do?

I believe that PAS parents have become stuck in the first stage of child development, where survival skills are learned.

To them, having total control over their child is a life and death matter. Because they don't understand how to please other people, any effort to do so always has strings attached. They don't give; they only know how to take. They don't play by the rules and are not likely to obey a court order.

Descriptions that are commonly used to describe severe cases of PAS are that the alienating parent is unable to "individuate" (a psychological term used when the person is unable to see the child as a separate human being from him or herself). They are often described as being "overly involved with the child" or "enmeshed".

The parent may be diagnosed as narcissistic (self-centered), where they presume that they have a special entitlement to whatever they want. They think that there are rules in life, but only for other people, not for them.

Also, they may be called a sociopath, which means a person who has no moral conscience. These are people who are unable to have empathy or compassion for others. They are unable to see a situation from another person's point of view, especially their child's point of view. They don't distinguish between telling the truth and lying in the way that others do.

In spite of admonitions from judges and mental health professionals to stop their alienation, they can't. The prognosis for severely alienating parents is very poor. It is unlikely that they are able to "get it." It is also unlikely that they will ever stop trying to perpetuate the alienation. This is a gut wrenching survival issue to them.

How does the child get involved in PAS?

The targeted parent needs to understand what has happened to what as once an affectionate and loving child who is now unexplainably hostile. Remember Gardner?s definition stated earlier, "the disorder wasn?t only brainwashing or programming by a parent, but was confounded by what he calls self-created contributions by the child in support of the alienating parent?s campaign of denigration against the targeted parent." It isn?t PAS in the severe form of this disorder, unless the child has crossed over and joined up with the alienating parent. The child shares the alienating parent?s psychosis. How does this happen?

At birth, children are totally reliant on a parent, usually the mother, for having all of their needs met. It is part of normal child development to be enmeshed with their primary caregiver, and very young children do not have a separate identity from this caregiver.

One of the mother's roles is to help the child develop as a separate person, therefore, infancy and childhood become a series of tasks of learning how to become independent. For example, learning to putting oneself back to sleep, eating, toilet training and caring for one's hygiene.

Instead of promoting this independence, the alienating parent encourages continued dependence. The parent may insist on sleeping with the child, feeding the child ("It's easier if I do it"), and taking care of these rites of passage longer than normal child development calls for. This "spoiling" may not feel right to the child, but they do not have enough ego strength to do anything about it.

A PAS mother can't imagine that the father is capable of planning the child's time while in his care. Therefore, she arranges several things for the child to do while at the father's house. One of the most common ways of doing this is to sign the child up for on-going lessons without permission from the father.

The parent may even decree whom the child can and cannot see, particularly specific members of the child's extended family on the father's side. The mother desperately wants control over the time when the child isn't with her.

One of the most unusual situations that I ran into was the father who picked up his sons at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday for the weekend. He discovered that his very excited boys had their hearts set on going to Disneyland for the day, when this idea had never crossed his mind.

One theory about why a mother will act this way is that when a father takes his share of joint custody, it is like asking her to give away part of her body. One mother said, "He is going to remove my right arm and take it for the weekend." It feels like the mother has lost a profound part of who she is as a person. She feels fractured, pulled apart.

Why is PAS a double bind for the child?

When children spend time with the father, and enjoy it, they are put into a double bind. Clearly, they cannot tell the mother that dad treats them well or that they had fun together. They want to bond with the father, but don't dare. They figure out on which side the bread is buttered (who has the power), and their survival needs tug at them. Therefore, children will tell the mother about everything they didn't enjoy about time spent with the father, which will add to her belief that they don't like to be with him. These children feel that they must protect the mother. The same is true when the alienator is the father. The child will avoid expressing their affectionate feelings for the mother to him.

Family Volatility

These are volatile families. The father may have indeed spanked a child, or lashed out at the mother physically or emotionally. An isolated incidence can turn into a holocaust. One father spanked his rebellious child and ended up in jail on child abuse charges, followed by a six week trial to determine his guilt. The jury returned with a not guilty verdict in 20 minutes. The verdict didn't end it as far as the mother was concerned, however.

The alienating parent's hatred can have no bounds. The severest form will bring out every horrible allegation known, including claims of domestic violence, stalking and the sexual molestation of the child. Many fathers say that there have been repeated calls to the Department of Family and Child Services alleging child abuse and neglect.

In most cases the investigators report that they found nothing wrong. However, the indoctrinating parent feels that these reports are not fabrications, but very, very real. She can describe the horror of what happen in great detail. Regardless of the actual truth, in her mind, it did happen.

Most of the alienated fathers that I work with are continually befuddled by her lying. "How can she lie like that?" They don't realize that these lies are not based on rational thinking. They are incapable of understanding the difference between what is true and what they want to be true. A vital part of fighting PAS is to understand the severity of the psychological disturbance that is the source of it.

Inter-generational Patterns

What makes this problem very complicated is that PAS is often inter-generational in dysfunctional families. Almost always the alienator has people within the family who support the alienation. It might be the mother, father or grandparent who encourage fighting. They are likely to support the parent financially or even provide massive amounts of money to fund litigation. This is further proof to the PAS parent that he or she is justified in what he/she does.

When a child is placed in the role of the parent's therapist

Alienation advances even further when the alienating parent uses the child as a personal therapist. The child is told about every miserable experience and negative feeling about the alienated parent with great specificity. The child, who is already enmeshed with the parent because his or her own identity is still undefined, easily absorbs the parent's negativity. They become aligned with this parent and feel that they need to be the protector of the alienating parent.

What happens to the child when you can't stop PAS?

Obviously, without anyone to stop the alienation from progressing, the child will become estranged from the alienated parent. The relationship with this parent will eventually be severed. It is doubtful that, without psychological intervention as the child grows, he or she will ever understand what happened.

The child's primary role model will be the maladaptive, dysfunctional parent. He or she will not have the benefit of growing up with the most well-adjusted parent and all that this parent can contribute to enrich the child's life. Many of these children come to experience serious psychiatric problems.

Will they ever grow up and realize what happened to them? Without someone who can recognize the syndrome and counsel them about it, it isn't likely that they will ever figure it out. However, there have been exceptions where the child and the alienated parent have been successfully reunified later in life.

How can good intentions backfire?

Those people who are typically called upon to handle such difficult situations, such as the police, social workers, attorneys or psychologists assume that what the frightened mother is saying is true. These things DO happen. There are men who are seriously disturbed, violent, out of control sexually, and stalk, who are rightfully feared. The mother is very convincing in her desperation and vivid in her descriptions. The clincher is that the alienated child collaborates with the mother by saying, "Yes, I am afraid of my father." "Yes, my father did touch me down there." "Yes, he does beat me." What would you do if you were faced with having to decide how to protect a child in such a situation?

Therapists

Therapists with master's degrees are unlikely to realize the severity and depth of the problem, because they are not trained in this level of pathology. In fact, they may unwittingly side with the alienating parent and even testify in court that the child is afraid of the alienated parent. This can be a serious stumbling block in getting an accurate diagnosis. Indeed, it can tip the scale into the alienating parent's agenda and do real damage.

Our courts, social services and mental health workers are all committed to stop child abuse and neglect when they see it occurring. Unfortunately, in PAS situations a dramatic and loud complaint from the alienating parent often ends up being acted upon without an investigation as to the accuracy of the allegation. This frequently removes the alienated parent from the children and allows the alienating parent considerable additional time to proceed with the alienation.

By the time all of the evaluations are in place and the case is heard by the court, considerable damage has been done to the child. It is an irony that the very people we turn to for help in such a difficult situation can often be those who most contribute to allowing the on-going abuse and neglect of the child to continue.

What can be done about the problem?

First, it takes a sophisticated mental health professional to be able to identify that PAS is occurring. Most forensic evaluators such as psychiatrists and clinical psychologists at the Ph.D. level have studied the disorder and are able to recognize it.

Forensic evaluators diagnose PAS by having the parents take a battery of psychological tests, doing a detailed case history and by observation. They make recommendations as to what to do. After the evaluator has written a report on the family and made recommendations, nothing will happen to resolve the crisis without court intervention.

The alienated parent has to take the report to a judge who must then be convinced that the child is being alienated and that it is not in their best interest to stay in such an environment.

It is rare however that judges have any degree of mental health training. They most often learn about PAS from the bench. It usually takes several trips to court to point out how badly a child is being treated before a judge is willing to act.

How are PAS cases resolved legally?

Judges are inevitably conservative in their orders. Even when the evidence is overwhelming that the alienation is occurring, the court order may still end up saying, "the parents are to make joint decisions about the child's welfare," when this is impossible to do.

This is further evidence that the judge doesn't understand the magnitude of the problem. The judge in one of the most severe PAS cases I worked on was from the old school. He was tired of having the litigants continue to appear before him. One day he said, "Why don't the two of you go out in the hallway and kiss and make up." This is an example of how frustrating these cases are for judges. Indeed, these are the hardest cases to decide.

Judges have been slow to place serious sanctions on the alienating parent. If there is no threat of severe fines, jail time or sole custody to the targeted parent, the chances are remote that the out-of-control parent can be stopped.

It usually takes a dramatic situation where court orders are broken to force the court to change primary custody. Often it is only a matter of time before alienating parents become desperate and their unstable mental health gets the better of them. People in an official position start to recognize the alienating parent as being out of line, and become supportive of the targeted parent.

In one case, the 9 and 4 year old daughters were abducted and presumed to be on their way to Australia through an underground group that hides women who are victims of domestic violence, often of a sexual nature and where the father is stalking. The girls were missing for 3 months and found in another county where they were waiting for final arrangements to be made before their departure. When the police broke into the house at 3:00 a.m., they found the girls sleeping with their mother. They had been given boy's names, clothes, haircuts and their hair was dyed. They were not allowed contact with anyone outside of their hiding place, not even to go to school. The oldest child had strep throat and the youngest was seriously withdrawn.

In another case, the mother could no longer convince the social workers, the police or the Court about her allegations. She was known to be unstable because she had "cried wolf" too many times. She abducted her daughter to Utah. She told officials there that the courts where she lived were protecting a proven child molester. The press was called. After she was interviewed; there was a virtual feeding frenzy as the father's photograph and the story was on all the local news networks.

A big part of the problem was that the seven year old girl, said "Yes" when asked if her father had molested her. Even though this had already been disproved by forensic evaluators, she was still confused.

Can the alienation of children be reversed?

As children get older, the alienation can be reversed with proper psychological care. However, it won't work if the alienating parent is not contained. In the last case described above, the mother had severely limited visiting rights. She had remarried and had a new child, however, she still regularly calls the police to report the father for abuse. Presently, the daughter resides with her father, receives weekly therapy and hates the police. She gradually understands how disturbed her mother is.

In the former case, where the mother was kidnapping the children, she now sees them two hours a month at the Department of Children's Services with a social worker present to monitor everything that she says and does. The girls have also been in extensive therapy and are doing well.

Since this is among the most severe kinds of abuse of a child's emotions, there will be scars and lost opportunities for normal development. The child is at risk of growing up and being an alienator also, since the alienating parent has been the primary role model.

What is the best way to deal with PAS?

  • The parents I know who were successful in getting primary custody of their children in a PAS situation shared the following characteristics:
  • They completed a comprehensive parenting course such as Breakthrough Parenting, and stuck with it until they rated excellent in the knowledge, skills and methods taught. Their parenting skills became superior.
  • They were even-tempered, logical and kept their emotions under control. They never retaliated. A person who reacts in anger is proving the alienator's point that he or she is unstable.
  • They certainly thought of giving up but never did. No matter how awful the harassment got, they worried about leaving their daughter or son in that environment. They were driven to continue trying to get the court to understand the seriousness of the issues and to change primary custody to them.
  • They were willing and able to go to the financial expense of seeing it through.They got help from a skilled family lawyer who had experience with parent alienation syndrome.
  • They became good at understanding how the courts work and the law as it applied to their case. In many cases, because of excessive expenses, parents even ended up as pro per (called pro se in some states) where they were representing themselves without a lawyer.They had a case where a forensic evaluator made a strong statement about the alienation and recommend changing legal and primary custody to the alienated parent. Some parents had to go back to the evaluator to demonstrate that his or her earlier recommendations were not working.
  • They persevered in demonstrating that they were rational, reasonable, and had the best interest of the child at heart.
  • They provided the court with an appropriate parenting plan that showed how the child would be well taken care of in their care.
  • They understood the nature of the problem and focused on what to do about it, even though they and their children were being victimized. (Alienated parents who got caught up in "how terrible it all is" and spent time judging the situation, went under emotionally.)
  • They didn't live a victim's life.
  • They were proactive in seeking constructive action.
  • They avoided adding to the problem. One father expressed it like this: "I don't know how to make it better with the mother, but I do know how to make it worse." He was one of the most successful parents I met in fighting the PAS problem because he stayed in the role of the peacekeeper.
  • They kept a diary or journal of key events, describing what happened and when.
  • They documented the alienation with evidence that was admissible in court.
  • They always called or showed up to pick up their children, even if they knew that the children won't be there. This was often very painful, but then they could document that they tried, when the alienator alleged that this parent had no interest in the child.They focused on enjoying their children's company and never talked to their children about their case. They always took the high road and never talked badly about the other parent to their children. They absolutely never showed a child any court orders or other sensitive documents. They didn't let the children overhear inappropriate conversations on the telephone.
  • They didn't violate court orders. They paid their child support on time and proved that they could live within the letter of the law.
  • They were truly decent, principled people. It was obvious that they loved their children.

Conclusion

  1. PAS cases are notoriously difficult to figure out, even for professionals in the field of divorce.
  2. Once the syndrome is discovered, it is even harder for the professionals to figure out what to do about it.
  3. It is important for alienated parents to be supported by compassionate people while going through this difficult time.
  4. PAS is never easy, but there is plenty of hope for those who take the high road and follow what worked for other PAS parents as shown above.

I have developed materials that have helped many parents going through PAS, for information click here.

The proceeding article is reprinted with permission of Jayne A. Major, Ph.D. of Breakthrough Parenting Services, Inc., 12405 Venice Blvd. #172, Los Angeles, CA 90066, (310) 823-7846

With Your Children

by Tom Hoerner

Seven Ways To Connect BetterAsk men how to connect with their children and most reply, "Connecting means spending time with your child." But where does a father find the time? Well, time is everywhere and everyday. It is at school programs, driving in the car, teaching children your trade, doing house chores, or building things. Time is priceless and valued by how it is spent.

Billy is a visiting father. His secret to connecting with his child is utilizing time to the fullest. "I try to take advantage of every minute I have with my son. My standard visitation order says I have possession of him from Wednesday after school to Thursday morning and the first, third and fifth weekends." For Billy, every minute with his son is quality time. "I use the time in the morning for us to talk as we get ready together. My son even likes to shave with me. After school is for exercise and doing homework; evenings end with a bedtime story."

In addition to court-ordered time, Billy's ex-wife is flexible with visitation. "My son calls me when there is a school project due, and I even take him with me when I run errands. He loves to go with me when I pick up supplies for my contracting business."

Billy also avoids the TV. He says, "Good conversation and the TV go together like oil and water. Besides, I think the television turns my son's brain to mush." Billy has house rules on watching TV. Number one, no TV during dinner. Number two, TV is allowed only after doing something meaningful or that has a purpose. "I make him draw, read or exercise before watching TV." Number three, if homework isn't done, the tube is off. According to Billy, the best part of limited television is how much more active he is with his son. "We ride bikes, play catch and swim as often as we can. I don't even have cable TV anymore. I'm saving money and I have a terrific relationship with my son because we are not stuck to the tube."

John, a custodial father of two, tries to include emotional support during his time with his children. He claims giving consistent love is the key to connecting. "My children are growing and developing their own lives and social agenda. They have their own friends and school activities and are always on the go. This makes it difficult to maintain an open and honest relationship with them. We are not always in the house at the same time.

"My biggest concern is that I get wrapped up in my work or domestic responsibilities, and sometimes forget to give my children the time they need and deserve. So, I have a house rule that dinner is always served at the table. This provides time for us to talk. The way I figure, kids are like dogs. When they are hungry, they'll come home. And when they do, I'm there."

"I know a lot about my children because of this. I know who their best friends are, what classes they are taking and what was the last movie they saw. This is the foundation to connecting with your children."

"I also spend a little time with each child individually and make an effort to hold and love them. When my kids were babies, I would crawl on the ground with them and make those goofy baby sounds. Today, I'm lucky to have 10 to 15 minutes of quiet time with them and maybe put my arm around them."

John also has a philosophy about saying good-bye. "I never let the last words out of my mouth be negative or cruel--even if we have been arguing. I just couldn't imagine something terrible happening to me or my children, and my last words had been anything but, 'I love you.'"

Steven Finstein LMSW-ACP,LMFT, RSOTP, Marriage and Family Therapist, Mental Health Advisor, and divorced father of two recalls the most powerful thing he did to connect with his children was showing up at their school. "This was something that my ex did not have control over. Otherwise, she stuck strictly with the divorce decree."

In first and second grade, Steven's son was tickled that Dad showed up to have lunch with him in the school cafeteria. "I would sit with him and his friends. He liked showing me off." Steven continues with a chuckle, "Today I think he is embarrassed of me. He likes me to drive off as quickly as possible when I drop him off at school."

"In the third grade my son was in a private school, and they allowed me to take him off campus for lunch. This was a real treat for him to go for a hamburger with me rather than eat the school food." Today Matt is 15, and he recently mentioned his great memories of connecting with Dad during lunch visits.

Steven made similar visits with his daughter. "I would show up unannounced and sit in her class." Steven's daughter, who is now 33, remembers Dad's visits and schedules school lunch with her daughter once a week. "I guess the combination of her being both surprised and proud of her dad stuck in her mind. I think the take home message is to create memories with emotional attachments."

Andrew Schultz, LPC and father of two advises that a father needs to step back and learn what is important in their child's lives. "Fathers need to read between the lines of what their children are telling them. How do their children feel or think about day-to-day activities, school, friends, or dating? The art of connecting takes practice and an understanding that, as fathers, we're not perfect. As long as we make efforts to learn about what our children need, and not focus on what we need from them, we are ahead of the game."

One last note on connecting with children; the best rewards are from the efforts put forth. In addition to playtime, the time spent with a child should be used teaching right from wrong, instilling basic values of self-respect and pride, and living by the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In turn, the rewards are immeasurable. There's no replacement for the words, "Dad, I love you!" or the memory of "Look Dad, I caught it!" In addition, the accomplishment of raising good children is considered a noble act (especially in a woman's eyes) and adds an overwhelming boost to a father's self-esteem.

The above is from The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father, by Thomas Hoerner. Copyright (c) 2001 Harbinger Press. Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

 

Discipline And The Split HouseholdBy: Thomas Hoerner

My father was married for 49 years before my mother passed away. He never had to deal with disciplining a child between two different homes, or enforcing a restriction when his children went to visit Mom. Nor did he have to enforce discipline during his visitation periods as a non-custodial parent or have to deal with a child filled with resentment and anger from an ugly divorce. I had to learn these lessons the hard way.

One hopes that a father's selection of his children's mother was someone who shares his values. If Mom and Dad want Junior to do well in school, it will be much easier to work out solutions to behavior problems concerning grades. However, if Mom thinks her daughter should be allowed to smoke at age 14 and Dad disagrees, there will be much conflict.

I remember my parents occasionally disagreeing on discipline. The chances of two parents from any household agreeing on house rules, family values, discipline procedures and punishments are not great. So expecting to have a completely agreeable and workable co-parenting relationship regarding discipline is highly unrealistic. A custodial father who expects his children to follow his rules in Mom's house during visitation periods, or who plans on being unsupportive of a custodial parent by foregoing necessary discipline, is setting himself up for a great disappointment.

Exchanging periods of custody can be challenging when trying to enforce a child's restrictions, and can often lead to a punishment that goes unenforced in the other home. The easiest way around this is allowing punishments to finish before children visit Mom. This way children and Mom are able to enjoy their time together. If this is not possible, inform Mom of the circumstances that led to the punishment and what restriction was used as a penalty. Then ask for her support by implementing a restriction that she feels is appropriate and enforceable.

But just because a punishment fits one household, doesn't mean the same restriction will suit the other. For instance, if I restrict one of my children from the Internet and Mom doesn't have a computer, there isn't much of a punishment. Or, if I move bedtime to 8:00 p.m. and Mom doesn't finish homework and dinner until 8:30, the punishment is unenforceable and worthless.

However, Mom may find other means of punishment that are more suited to her household. It is important to allow non-custodial parents to be parents in their own home. And of course, the same holds true when roles are reversed.

Another situation my father missed was putting children on restriction with punishments that wouldn't punish him. If Dad said there was no TV after dinner and bedtime was at eight, he didn't have to be there to enforce the penalty. Mom was around to help. Some of my favorite hands-off punishments are:

  • Restrictions-Take away favorite toys, video games and privileges.
  • Writing-Have a child write spelling words, homework, the dictionary or a story on his punishment.
  • Doing chores-My house is always cleanest when my kids have misbehaved! I use vacuuming, cleaning, cutting the grass, washing the car or dishes, or a variety of other domestic chores as punishments.

As single parents, we sometimes find it easier to allow our children to go unpunished for inappropriate behavior because we don't want to risk re-igniting hatred or anger carried over from the family separation. But a single parent must discipline his children and make them know the consequences of their inappropriate actions. Disciplining a child as a single parent can also help strengthen the co-parent relationship by not sending spoiled brats back to the custodial parent to correct. (And, of course, the same holds true when roles are reversed.)

The above is from The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father, by Thomas Hoerner. Copyright (c) 2001 Harbinger Press. Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

By: Josef Cladwell, L.M.S.W.-A.C.P.

Limit Setting

Discipline: A Positive ApproachParenting is a constant challenge of limit setting. The task is to set limits that are clear, fair and easily managed.

One way of organizing the limits for your child or young person is to visualize the family as a busy traffic intersection. Signal lights are alternately flashing red, amber, and green. These signals are there for safety and the efficient flow of traffic. In the family, there are activities that need to be given signals: "Go", "Caution", or "Stop." Sometimes these signals are dictated by safety. Sometimes they are dictated by family values.

Decisions to permit certain activities can be grouped by the parents under a more or less smoothly functioning series of signals to the kids, like the following:

RED- This signal means that a certain activity is an absolutely "NO!" (One example would be to say to younger children, "Stay in your yard, don go in the street.") This message is: "NO NEGOTIATION." The general rule for this signal is (particularly for teenagers):Have as few of these red light, "Stop! No further" limits as is possible. Why? Too many "No" can interfere with kids learning responsibility and good judgement.

AMBER- This signal means the activity is negotiable. (On example would be staying out past the usual curfew if there is a special event.) In effect, this signal means there can be more cautious flexibility in limit setting.

GREEN- This signal means "Go." Very little discussion, if any, is needed. Unless there are some basic family rules such as "Call us and let us know where you will be," etc,. then the child or young person is allowed the freedom and responsibility for a certain activity

Consequences:

Natural and logical consequences are part of the positive approach to discipline.

Kids learn responsibility. Parents teach "respect for children" choices. Both save a lot of energy that otherwise would go into parents pushing passive-rebellious kids in a certain direction.

The following steps are recommended:

  1. Parents set the limits.
  2. Parents set consequences if these limits are transgressed. Let them be natural consequences, if at all possible. (e.g., "Since you didn lock your bicycle last night, and it was stolen, you are without a bike for some time.")
  3. If your consequences cannot be natural then let them be logical. (e.g., If the child dies not put his dirty clothes in the laundry hamper, he does not get laundry done that week.)
  4. Be consistent in enforcing these consequences (e.g., "Remember what was said if you did this behavior?")
  5. Give time limits for the consequences that are age appropriate. (e.g., Six weeds without a toy or activity for a six-year old is probably too long.)
  6. Be firm, calm and stay out of power struggles with your children. Don argue. Merely remind them of previously stated limits.
  7. Give opportunities to try again. (e.g., "Since I had to pick up your toys, they will stay locked up for a day. You may try again tomorrow.")
  8. Set consequences that you as parents can enforce and thus be successful. (e.g., "No TV for a week". When you have neither the time nor energy to monitor, this consequence can lead to weakened discipline.)

Josef Caldwell, LMSW-ACP, LPC, LMFT, is a member of the adjunct Faculty at PCEC. He is also an approved supervisor for Social Workers; Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist; Licensed Professional Counselor, and member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

By Thomas Hoerner

Finding Affordable Family TimeMany fathers struggle to be part of their children's lives and can't afford to be a Disneyland Dad during visitation periods.

Here are some affordable entertainment tips:

  • Make arts and crafts
  • Play board games such as checkers, chess, Monopoly, cards, and so on
  • Play basketball games such as Horse or Around the world
  • Picnic in the park
  • Play catch--baseball, football, frisbee
  • Make a puzzle or model
  • Go to dollar movie or rent a video
  • Visit the library
  • Go swimming at community pool, apartment pool or local lakes
  • Go fishing
  • Go hiking
  • Plant a garden
  • Play indoor or outdoor putt-putt
  • Have water fun with a hose and sprinkler or water balloons
  • Fly a kite
  • Camp out in the back yard
  • Make a snowman or go sledding, followed by hot chocolate
  • Call the local parks and recreation department for a schedule of free events
  • Visit the zoo, or other cultural facilities such as children's museums
  • Visit friends and family
  • Visit fast food restaurants with play places
  • Visit batting cages
  • Visit flea markets, thrift shops and dollar stores
  • Go to free concerts
  • Go to high school sporting events, theaters and musical productions
  • Go bicycling or walking, using a reward such as visiting an ice-cream stand for the final destination

The above is from The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father, by Thomas Hoerner. Copyright (c) 2001 Harbinger Press. Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

By: Thomas Hoerner

Non-Custodail 'Ex'For most fathers it's hard to imagine once feeling like a dog in heat over the "EX." Funny how things change. But let's look at the mother's role charitably, trying to see this new lifestyle from her perspective.

First, understand that society does not look favorably on the non-custodial mother, and she knows it. The first thought most people have about a mother without custody is the mother must be selfish, mentally ill, immoral, have a drug and alcohol problem, or just plain emotionally unfit.

Peter shares his experience: "My daughter, Dawn, was in tears when she overheard her grandparents describe her mother as a whore with no morals. Dawn was depressed and mad at my mother and father for weeks."

The most unfortunate thing about these disapproving societal views is that they may have a negative effect on children's self-esteem. If this happens, try to stay positive about the ex-, their mother. If she is gone from their lives, present the circumstances of her leaving as a sacrifice on her part that was intended to benefit them. I know this will be hard for some fathers to do, but belittling a child's mother is detrimental. Children will feel it's wrong to love their mother and if you disgrace her, your children will suffer, possibly resenting you. If a mother is truly bad, her offspring will eventually learn it without anyone telling them.

Another problem may occur when a child idolize the absent mother. In this case it is best not to counter such idealization, rather just let the child just let the child be. We all need our crutches.

A mother's feelings for herself may also be harsh and unforgiving. Don't believe for a moment that a mother could walk away from her children and never feel remorse, guilt or shame. These are powerful emotions and can be difficult for some mothers to deal with, especially if Mom was unable to cope with the children or if she left for selfish reasons such as, "I need my space," or "I want to finish school."

These guilty feelings may result in mothers avoiding school functions and extra-curricular activities because these gatherings might expose the fact that they do not have custody. Some mothers may even have difficulty handling visitation. If the children are unloving or have hostility towards their mother, visitation is even more difficult. Some mothers find it easier to avoid these situations altogether which, unfortunately, can lead to total desertion.

On some level it may feel good not to deal with an ex-wife, but the other side of this is a terrible loss for the children. Having an active mother in their lives helps them adjust and accept their new life with fewer problems. Fathers also have assistance with child-care, transportation for school activities, support during sickness, and accommodation of personal time for things like sleep-overs. The bottom line is, keep the mother involved with the children. It's the right thing to do.

Unfortunately, this is sometimes difficult because many mothers have an abundance of unresolved anger left from the relationship or divorce which makes it easy to get into a shooting match of insults and rude behaviors. This hostility can make co-parenting extremely difficult. But it doesn't have to be that way. How does one break the habit of hurting each other? Kindness. Ohhhh! That's right, kindness! And dad goes first. Eeeeee! Start out slowly and use the telephone. Drop the sarcasm and say something nice, even if necessary to fake it. Showing concern for the children is usually a safe subject. Try telling her something that happened recently like a new tooth. Inform her of a school activity or thank her for something like picking up the children. Don't worry, that nauseous feeling of being fake-nice will soon disappear, and she will volley a compliment or kind action.

Over time, if she regresses to hostile behaviors, overlook them. Then, if at all possible, forgive her and continue with the kindness. Soon she will be unable to show hostility and be less likely to cause chaos. If this fails, just ignore a nagging ex. Dr. Phil Stahl and Dr. Richard Mikesell describe "parallel parenting" for high-conflict situations as a parent in isolation from the other. Conflict is mostly reduced by decreasing exchanges of information, and not always arriving at solutions.

The following is from The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father, by Thomas Hoerner. Copyright (c) 2001 Harbinger Press. Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

By: Thomas Hoerner

Co-ParentingSo what can a father do when there is so much anger and hate that neither parent can get along? Try sending this letter to your ex-wife. Assuming that both parents are adults who love their children enough to do what is right for them, this letter is a peace treaty in the form of a contract and is designed to provide the first step toward a peaceful relationship between hostile parents. Good luck!


Dear______________________,

Today I realized that our child(ren) is/are more important than we are, and it is time to co-exist on their behalf. With the forwarding of this letter, I offer peace and ask that we set aside our ill feelings and be civil to each other. I know there is anger and hate from past conflicts that may not heal for a long time, but if we do nothing to overcome these feelings, our children will suffer.

I'm not asking for forgiveness, nor am I giving any. I am not taking or giving blame. I am simply asking that we wipe the slate clean and try to make tomorrow better--for the children! Perhaps, in time we can work out our differences, but in the meantime, we must not let them interfere with our being good parents.

You have my word. As of tomorrow my actions will reflect my love for my children, not my hostility for you. I will work at improving our relationship and keeping the children first and foremost in my life. I will make every effort to follow the rules of successful co-parenting and ask you to do the same.

They are as follows:

  • I will not blame you for a failed relationship or any other problem I/we have had.
  • I will not argue and fight with you in front of the children.
  • I will not speak badly of you to the children.
  • I will not use you as a sitter.
  • I will not discuss court disputes or adult problems with the children.
  • I will not limit telephone access between you and the children.
  • I will not use the children as spies.
  • I will not send messages through the children.
  • I will not make plans or arrangements directly with the children.
  • I will not send money through the children.
  • I will try to be on time and will call if I am late.
  • I will send/return the children clean, fed, rested, and with clean clothes.
  • I will be courteous and use words such as "thank you" and "please."
  • I will communicate about the children's actions, developmental stages, adjustment, and well being.
  • I will try to agree on basic rules such as bedtime, TV, diet, discipline, etc.
  • If I slip and make a mistake, I will try again tomorrow.

I Promise______________________  Date___________


The above is from The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father, by Thomas Hoerner. Copyright (c) 2001 Harbinger Press. Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

Children And SeparationLet's consider our children. After all, it's their well-being that should be first and foremost. But, frankly, putting children at the top of one's priorities list may be hard for some men to do, especially if one's life is filled with anger, hate, fear, guilt, confusion, grief, or loneliness from a broken relationship. And while these sensations are understandable, they're not excuses to lose control. It's important to create a safe, stable environment for the children as soon as possible, or adjustment for them will be even more difficult.

Stephen D. Finstein, LMSW-ACP, LMFT Mental Health Advisor and Director, National Fathers' Resource Center says, "Most children have some difficulties at the start of a new custody arrangement and a father should watch for any sudden changes in his child's behavior. Dad should also be aware that it's common for siblings of different ages or sex to have different reactions."

Here are some warning signs:

  • Substantial anxiety and an inability to relax
  • Frequent ailments
  • Ceaseless denial of their mother's absence
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Uncontrollable anger or fits
  • Unprovoked fighting
  • Persistent seclusion
  • Lingering guilt and self-blame
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Regressive behavior
  • Eating problems
  • Chronic depression
  • Sleeping problems and/or nightmares
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Drug and alcohol use

REACTIONS CHILDREN MAY EXHIBIT BY AGE

INFANT TO TWO YEARS OLD

At this age, children are normally unaware and unaffected as long as their nurturers and nurturing are constant.

TWO TO FOUR YEARS

During this time period, children may regress in development and behavior. Some examples of outgrown behavior may include their returning to diapers, wetting their pants or sucking their thumb. Eating problems, such as loss of appetite, may develop. They may also fantasize about reconciliation between the parents.

THREE TO SIX YEARS,

Children at this age may have feelings of fear, helplessness, and instability. This may lead to regressive behavior, sleeping problems, changed eating habits, and guilt. It is hard for some children at this age to accept divorce (or death) because of their idealistic views on two parent homes, and they may spend a lot of time wondering why Mom left.

SIX TO EIGHT YEARS

At this critical age, many children have feelings of helplessness, guilt, grief and fear that Dad will also leave. This may lead to regressive behavior or a noticeable change in eating and sleeping patterns. Some children may hang onto an unrealistic hope for reconciliation between their parents or suffer from denial that their mother is gone. Others, especially in the presence of outside influences, may side with one parent.

EIGHT TO TWELVE YEARS

Anger may drive children's behavior at this age. This anger may be directed toward one or both parents, especially if children blame themselves for the divorce. Anger may also surface toward siblings. And anger isn't the only emotion they feel. Many children feel helplessness, anxiety and guilt. These emotions can create chronic eating and sleeping disorders, or social and emotional problems.

TWELVE TO EIGHTEEN YEARS

The effects of living with dad at this age depend highly on the maturity of the child. Some children are almost unaffected by divorce. Yet others develop rebellious behaviors, become unsympathetic toward one or both parents, suffer poor self-esteem, and develop negative attitudes concerning relationships.

This adjustment period may vary. Expect the first year to be the hardest. If problems seem out of control, seek help. Professional counseling is available, often without cost, through a family service agency, mental health agency, doctor, minister, priest, or rabbi. The good news is that not all children suffer through emotional trauma and regressive behavior at the time of separation. Many improve their lives greatly.

A father can help his children adjust by sharing at least ten to fifteen minutes a day talking about how they feel. Listen, offer understanding, and focus on the positive. Be affectionate (nurture them), and tell them, "I love you, and I will always be here for you." Stay honest and answer their questions clearly and on their level. Telling untruths only creates problems that will appear later. Reassure children that the divorce or separation was not their fault and never give false hope of reconciliation. If the children's mother is involved, assure them that their mother loves them and that she will remain a part of their lives, too. Expect children to miss their mother and never belittle her in their eyes. Understand that their mother is a part of them. When a father says, "Your mother is no good," he is also saying a part of the child is no good. Let's face it, over half of today's marriages fail, which means there are a large number of children growing up with one parent. All children from a broken home, however, are not unhappy, nor do they all grow up to be delinquents. I believe children are stronger than we give them credit for, and at times are restricted (consciously or unconsciously) by the limits and goals set for them. Because children are easily influenced and believe what they are told, telling them good things is advantageous to keeping a children's outlook positive.

The above is from The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Single Father, by Thomas Hoerner. Copyright (c) 2001 Harbinger Press. Reprinted with permission, all rights reserved.

Parenting Center

NFRC Parenting CenterThis section of theĀ Fathers for Equal Rights website is devoted to improving parenting skills for the benefit of our children. The links on the right will take you to articles and information with the focus on being better parents and coping with divorce, separation and co-parenting.

If you have a story or information pertaining to parenting, please log on as a member, visit our contact page and let us know.

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