Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Teenagers Challenged by the Maria Shriver/Arnold Schwarzenegger Divorce

Thank you to Rosalind Sedacca of Child Centered Divorce for another terrific article.

by Rosalind Sedacca
Imagine going through your divorce with billions of people around the world following your every move. That’s the reality Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger are facing as they explore the options that lie ahead for their family.
For the Child-Centered Divorce community, this very public marital crisis reminds us of a crucial point. Fame, money and power in no way shield a family from the hurt, fears and insecurities that come with a pending separation or divorce. Our focus moves to the children and how they can best be helped to survive and ultimately thrive after a marriage is dissolved.
In the Schwarzenegger family, several of those children are teens. Often divorcing parents put all their attention on helping their younger children cope while assuming their teenager will understand and adapt. Unfortunately studies have shown that in many cases teens will deal with divorce in more self-destructive and dangerous ways than younger children. Don’t be misled by their seeming independence and self-sufficiency. Behind that mask can be deep insecurity, anxiety, mistrust and fear.
Typically teens fall into one of two areas of concern – internalizing and isolation or acting out and aggression. Some teens turn inward, hardly talk to you, lose interest in school, start exploring drug or alcohol use and demonstrate a detached, “whatever” type of attitude.
Others start getting defensive, develop angry outbursts, curse and talk back. Pushing you away and “leave me alone” responses or physical reactions such as punching walls or throwing objects can create great tension and fear in the home.
These children need and are craving more attention as well as structure and supervision in their lives. They see the chaos of the divorce as an excuse to express their frustration and repressed anger. How you respond will play a big part in creating more positive outcomes.
Here are five important steps you can take to bring your family closer together during these challenging times if you have teenage children:
1.      Allow your teens to be teens. The complexities of divorce are hard enough for adults to handle. Don’t use your teens as confidants or therapists. They are not emotionally prepared to carry the weight of these issues. It also creates guilt, shame, anxiety and other emotions that are difficult for teens to bear. It’s tempting to vent to your teen about their other parent’s infidelity, addiction or other abusive behaviors. But don’t do it. Seek out counselors, groups and friends when you need them. Minimize details with your teen, reminding them this is an adult matter that you are taking care of with the help of your adult support system.
2.      Maintain family routines. Try as much as possible to keep up with school, sports, clubs, curfews and other routines that were part of your teen’s life. Having meals and other experiences together helps to cement the bond. It can remind them that we are still a family and care about one another.
3.      Reinforce your love. Remind your teen, just like your younger children, that the divorce is in no way their fault or responsibility. Tell them how much you love and value them and that you will always be there for them. Teens are often embarrassed to talk about their feelings. Open the door to conversations and when your teen does talk, be sure to listen rather than lecture.
4.      Be a true role model. When you respond thoughtfully rather than react emotionally to a challenge you are modeling healthy ways to handle tough situations. This is valuable for your own well-being and demonstrates positive ways of processing your feelings. Above all, never bad-mouth their other parent or try to turn them from a relationship with a parent they love. The results are always destructive.
5.      Create positive new experiences. Encourage your teen’s friends to come over for pizza and video nights. Redecorate a room together. Adopt a new pet or take a mini vacation together to a family fun spot you haven’t visited before. This sets the stage for new beginnings and happy memories post-divorce as your family starts a new chapter in their lives.
The Schwarzenegger teens seem to be very mature and appear to be taking the breakup in stride. That may be the case, or they may just be repressing a volcano of feelings that can erupt at any point.
Never underestimate the impact of divorce on your children – especially your more independent teens. Behind their reassurance might be a deep well of untapped confusion and pain. Be there … watch … listen … and observe your teen while modeling the best behavior you can.
Divorce is never easy. But it can be a positive life lesson for everyone in the family when handled from that perspective. The more responsibly you behave, the easier it will be for your teen to adapt to the changes and challenges of your divorce. 

Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a relationship seminar facilitator and author of the internationally acclaimed ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids … about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children -- with Love! The book provides fill-in-the-blank templates for customizing a personal family storybook that guides children through this difficult transition with optimum results. For free articles on child-centered divorce, divorce coaching or to subscribe to her free ezine, go to:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Plan an Act of Service This Summer

This summer my daughter turns fourteen.  After her birthday, we can become volunteers at the Wildlife Care Center in Fort Lauderdale.  Since she was a small child, we have donated goods to the Center every summer.  Each year as school was winding down, we planned our summer ‘act of service’ and the Wildlife Care Center, which has taken in young birds and injured turtles we’ve found, has always been the recipient. This summer we can actually volunteer and spend time there together. 

One suggestion in Whole Hearted Parenting’s book, 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!, is to plan an act of service each summer that you do together as a family.  We all have the need to feel valuable, and acts of service are terrific ways for everyone in the family to feel valuable through contribution. 

Your family’s act of service can be as simple as making a one-time donation such as our annual donation of paper towels, towels, toys and baby bottles.  Even with a one-time gift, engage your child in choosing the organization and the items to donate from their wish list as well as in delivering them.

Ask your children to list organizations in the community that request donations or would like volunteer assistance.  Have a family discussion about which ones appeal to each family member and why.  Talk about the difference that your donation or time volunteering will make, both to the organization and to your family.  Choose one or more and go for it! 

Many organizations will have a needs list posted on their website or detailed in a newsletter.  If you are unsure, give them a call. 

For more ideas for creating a cooperative and connected summer, please we invite you to read 20 Steps to a Summer that Rocks!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Getting Children Involved in Politics

2012 is a Presidential election year, and things are already gearing up politically. How much do you involve your children in politics? What do they know about voting, the election process and the candidates? How do you want them to view their right to vote when they become an adult? Right now, your child is developing a set of beliefs about government, the political process and the part she plays. These beliefs will play a huge role when she enters the voting booth for the first time.

In Our Future Politicians, Vicki Salemi discussed how important our parental example is in shaping our child’s views. Children do what they see us doing. If we vote, they will most likely vote. If we are involved, they will most likely be involved politically. Dr. Libby Haight O’Connell – chief historian, senior vice president, corporate outreach A&E Television Networks – believes that it is vital to teach by example. She suggests taking your child into the voting booth with you! Give him the hands-on experience of pulling the lever!

During the last few election cycles and particularly since the shooting of Gabby Giffords, there has been much discussion about political rhetoric – particularly hostile, aggressive language. What better time than now to teach your child how to discuss issues and respect differences? Jen Klein addressed this during the last Presidential election in her article Respect Starts Young. Klein said, “When talking with kids about politics, or talking to kids about how to talk politics, think about how you would want to be treated if you were on the other side of the discussion. It's the Golden Rule all over again. While we may not agree with many of [our son’s] friends and his friend's parents, I don't want them to say nasty, belittling things about my choices, so I don't say it about theirs. The same goes for families that have disagreements in politics. Or even, as I have witnessed on several occasions, spouses.”

Klein believes that voting is both a responsibility and a privilege. “My husband and I were both brought up with the notion that voting and taking part in an election is not just a privilege, but a civic responsibility. We would never dream of missing a chance to vote. We were taught to inform ourselves about each election and be prepared to participate. As such, my husband and I are both fairly political people, there is talk in our home about the election and the candidates.”

At the age of eleven, my daughter influenced me to vote for “her” candidate for President of the United States. I was quite the fan of another, yet she insisted on seeing “her” candidate speak live in our area, and I took her. We shared a great experience, and she changed my mind! She also walked neighborhoods campaigning for “our” candidate and she recruited one of her friends as well. Talk about fulfilling the needs to feel powerful, to belong, to feel special, to feel valuable and to experiment and explore!

I encourage parents to involve their children in the political process. Take your child to visit your Senators and Congressional Representatives. There are a multitude of issues that will impact your child’s life, from legislation on educational funding to our national debt. Talk about them with your children. Walk as a family to speak with neighbors about getting out the vote. Take your child to hear candidates speak, and then ask his opinion, who he supports and why. Take your child to your state capital or Washington, D.C., to lobby for issues that are important to your family.

And then take her into the voting booth with you in November!