The Rollercoaster Ride of Divorce and a Parent’s Tale of Hope
By Karen Kaye
I was blindsided. I did not see this coming. Sure, we had our issues, but I was not prepared for the volcano that would erupt and continue to overflow for a solid decade. I was a stay-at-home mom. I was focused on raising my 18-month-old baby when my husband dropped the bomb that he wanted to get a divorce and began to pack his things to leave the home we built together. The first question I had was, “What did I do wrong?” I was sleep-deprived, but I was meeting my baby’s needs without help and figured that was quite the accomplishment. It is amazing how a trauma can suddenly wake you up in a jolt! Prior to the divorce, I was lucky in the sense that my biggest worry was, “What is the best diaper to buy?”
All of a sudden, I was in a new state of panic as I had to ask myself, “How am I going to feed my baby and keep a roof over our heads?” I was clueless, but fortunately the clouds above my head lifted as I was offered a position at a local community center where I served as a volunteer. A year and a half later, I was let go. I recall looking up to the heavens asking again, “What did I do wrong?” I had finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel only for it to return to darkness and despair. It appeared the universe had other plans for me. On a whim, I decided to use my unemployment money to start up a private practice. At that point, I honestly felt as if my angels showed up, as every courageous yet frightening step I took led me to somehow receive another client. To this day, I call it a miracle! I was able to keep my precious child and start a business that no one thought I could keep afloat for a day let alone the last four decades or so.
So now you might be asking . . . why the rollercoaster reference? Well, you start off with anticipation, worry and fear. You question every choice you make, like when you are waiting in a very long line for a rollercoaster ride that you have to talk yourself into every few minutes or so. Once on the ride, you have to hold on for dear life as it twists and turns your fragile, human body. You feel as if the ride will never end and even when it does, you are left with this sickening feeling in your stomach. I call this ride “divorce” and it has several stages that require processing as well as learning life lessons.
So, what are these life lessons and how can we establish a new hope as single or remarried parents?
- There are no guarantees in life. Spouses leave. Jobs end. Friends fade away. Be ready for the ups and downs that life brings you to teach you to grow.
- Learn to rely on yourself and in that process, you will be learning how to love and care for yourself.
- Trust comes first from trusting yourself. Trusting others will then follow.
- Being a better parent to yourself will allow you to be a better parent to your child. Self-care is crucial before, during, and after a divorce!
- There is no perfect way of reacting to a divorce. It is important, though, to see the big picture.
- It is okay for you and your children to feel the pain and grief of divorce while learning and growing together.
- Remember that you are the roots from which your children branch. How a parent reacts, i.e., hopeless or hopeful, will directly affect the children’s response to the divorce. (A stable parent DOES make a difference.)
- Parents will need a “village” to stabilize themselves first before taking on their children’s needs. Surround yourself with people going through this process as well as people that genuinely care for your well-being and the well-being of your children. It might be difficult to identify the people to keep in your circle.
- Be aware that as an adult, you have some power over the outcome of your divorce and its effects, while your children are powerless.
- In hindsight, you will be amazed by how courageous you were in this process and you will learn who you really are.
My book, My Parents Are Getting a Divorce . . . I Wonder What Will Happen to Me, is the legacy that I give to myself, my daughter, and all who are going through or have already experienced the rollercoaster ride of divorce. It serves as a healthy, creative, safe place for children to explore and process their feelings by initiating discussion as well as discovering the power of self-affirmation and drawing. Another unique layer of the book teaches parents as well as other professionals (i.e., teachers, guidance counselors, mediators, lawyers, etc.) to better understand the emotions and needs of each individual child who utilizes this book without applying their biased viewpoints and/or influence.
Karen Kaye, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor with the State of Florida and received her master’s degree in family therapy from the University of Maryland. For fifteen years she has written a column titled “Ask the Therapist” in the Natural Awakenings Magazine of Broward County, Florida. My Parents Are Getting a Divorce came to life through Karen’s efforts to keep her own child out of the middle of her divorce when Hara was young. The book has been an evolutionary healing process for her and her daughter. For more information, visit www.imstillmebook.com.
Parenting During A Pandemic
The pandemic has changed all our lives and for the last few weeks family members have been together at home due to self-isolation requirements. It has been noticed that those who are experiencing a great deal of frustration are parents of school-aged children and their teachers who are not allowed to be together in school settings.
Following are some of the concerns that we have heard.
- Many children do not have established routines and are sleeping in so miss their internet sessions with their teachers.
- Parents do not know how to help with the lessons assigned, especially the math.
- Relationships between the parents and children are strained because the schoolwork is either not getting done or is taking hours of arguing before it is accomplished.
- The fact that students will be passed despite lack of effort or progress removes motivation.
- Some parents and students have just given up and are no longer making school part of their lives.
If you are facing any of these or other difficulties regarding schoolwork, perhaps some of the following ideas will help:
- Becoming a partner with the child and his/her teacher to set goals, learn strategies and share accountability.
- Try “power working”. Set an alarm for 15 minutes during which time your child will work hard and focus completely on the task. When the alarm rings you will set it again for the same amount of time and allow the child to do anything they want. I think you will be surprised to find that it only takes two or three cycles to complete all of the work! (This technique works on adults too).
- Access free resources such as Khan Academy to help with difficult concepts.
- Help the child to learn life skills such as telling time, counting, cooking and writing as these things will stay with them forever.
- Always encourage and participate in reading activities. You can listen to the child read, read to the child or share a book with each of you reading one page at a time. Think about the child’s interests and choose books in those areas. For teens, choose biographies as these usually have nuggets of wisdom for overcoming difficulties.
It can be frustrating for adults to watch children neglect tasks while spending hours on technology. Learn to set and enforce limits for its use. Plan interesting activities to do as a family. Make sure children understand that school is their job. Your attitude will directly impact their attitudes.
Your job as a parent is to work yourself out of a job! That means that you help your child to learn how to live in a healthy and independent manner. Pandemic or no pandemic, that goal doesn’t change.
Here’s the good news: You have learned so many things throughout your life and can reflect on ways that helped you. You might not be a teacher but your love and desire to see the child succeed can be used as motivation for both of you! Don’t be afraid to be creative or to seek help from other friends or family members.
Learning can be fun! You just need to commit to investing some time, energy, patience and praise so that you and your child can succeed!
Build Heart-Healthy Behaviors for Preschoolers at Home
The Healthy Way To Grow
A pressing concern like a global pandemic can quickly overshadow other important health challenges facing families. One is the issue of childhood obesity, a problem the slower pace of life brought on by COVID-19 could exacerbate.
Numerous cardiovascular and mental health risks are associated with childhood obesity, and many experts expect to see increases in both mental health challenges and obesity as a result of COVID-19.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity impacts 40% of children between the ages of 2-5, increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes, asthma and depression.
Children diagnosed as overweight between 7-13 years old may develop heart disease as early as age 25. However, preventative steps taken in early childhood can help reduce this risk. Keeping young children healthy while at home during the pandemic requires extra attention to their nutrition, physical activity and screen time.
Less than 1% of children have ideal diets, and under 10% have reasonably healthy diets, according to the American Heart Association. On any given day, 27% of 2- and 3-year-olds don’t eat a vegetable; among those who do, fried potatoes, which are high in fat and lower in nutrients, are most common. In fact, data shows kids eat less nutritious foods up to age 19.
Children should consume a variety of foods daily, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairies, lean vegetable or animal protein and fish. At the same time, kids should minimize fats, processed meats, refined carbohydrates and sweetened beverages.
Consistently timed meals and pairing new foods with choices they already enjoy are two ways to help form healthier habits. Be aware that healthy choices should apply throughout the day, not only for meals but also snacks and beverages. Eating together as a family provides an opportunity to model healthy eating and encourage children to try new foods. Also make water available and accessible to children throughout the day.
For infants, feeding provides nutrition for their physical and mental growth. Healthy babies usually double their birth weight between 4-5 months of age. Infants and children with congenital heart disease and congestive heart failure or cyanosis (blueness) tend to gain weight slower. An 8-ounce-1-pound gain in a month may be an acceptable weight gain for a baby with a heart defect.
It is recommended for all children, including infants, have at least two outdoor active playtimes daily, weather and air quality permitting. Toddlers should engage in 60-90 minutes while 120 minutes of daily active play is recommended for preschoolers.
Half the time should be structured and led by a teacher or caregiver while the remaining playtime should be unstructured and up to the child.
Only about 20% of kids perform enough activity to meet physical activity recommendations. Whether you’re working with children in a childcare setting or at home, look for ways to incorporate lesson plans that offer learning experiences about healthy eating and physical activity, and ensure the daily schedule includes ample active playtime.
Learn more about protecting the health and wellness of children in your home and community at healthywaytogrow.org.
Breastfeeding & The Coronavirus: Everything We Know So Far
If you’re in one of the countries where Covid-19 has become a significant problem, which is almost everywhere at this stage, then you are probably already pretty familiar with what it is and why there is so much panic.
Chances are you’re working from home, all of your local bars and restaurants are closed and you are being encouraged to keep your distance from everyone, even your family and close friends.
For those of you who have yet to have their lives affected by this virus or just aren’t quite as clued in on the specifics just yet, let’s just discuss the basics of the virus and its risk factors;
What is Covid-19:
So in short, it’s a highly infectious disease that causes respiratory illness and flu-like symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and fever. For most people, the illness is relatively mild.
It won’t really feel like much more than a bad cold or chest infection, and a good chunk of those infected are actually completely asymptomatic for the duration of the illness. But for others, it can be devastating.
Those most at risk are the elderly, with most of those succumbing to the disease being over 70, and those with conditions that compromise the immune system, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
It’s extremely contagious, even those who are not showing any symptoms can infect others. Because of this, it has spread like wildfire. The first affected country was China who has now seen upwards of 80,000 cases.
While China has been dealing with it for a few months now and appears to have it under a certain degree of control, the propensity for relatively benign symptoms resulted in this not being viewed as a massive problem and few measures were taken to stop the spread.
This resulted in the virus taking hold in many countries, with Italy and Iran being quite severely affected. In response to this, the majority of countries with cases now are implementing restrictions in an attempt to halt the spread.
These restrictions include things like large-scale lockdowns as well as mass encouragement for citizens to self-isolate for the foreseeable future. While the results in China and other countries where control is being regained seem to imply that eventually, this will cease to be a problem, it’s hard to know when we’ll get back to normal life.
So while we are well-informed for the most part on how to protect themselves and others from this, one thing that’s not talked about much is the possibility of spreading this virus by way of breastfeeding. Here’s what we know on that:
The Connection Between Covid-19 & Breastfeeding
As of right now, the answer to this isn’t concrete because there is still quite a bit that we need to learn about the virus and how it spreads. However, doctors suspect that in all likelihood is it safe for a mother to breastfeed even if she has contracted Covid-19.
Reason being that as of right now there have been tests conducted, and there has yet to be any trace of the virus found in samples of breast milk from confirmed cases of women suffering from the virus.
So it appears that the milk itself is not dangerous and more than likely this analysis isn’t going to change the more research we do. If there’s no trace of the virus then it’s not really possible for it to be transmitted this way.
With that in mind though, it’s probably worth thinking about it in broader terms than just the milk itself. We are being heavily encouraged right now to practice social distancing, which is a very difficult thing to do when breastfeeding.
So if you are breastfeeding while dealing with Covid-19, you need to make sure that you take the necessary precautions. And this is mainly going to be hygiene-related. Because it’s spread by droplets, you need to cover your mouth.
Wear a mask while breastfeeding, otherwise, it’s going to be impossible to prevent any potentially harmful bacteria being transferred from your mouth to your baby who you are holding very close.
Also, your hands are another problematic area. We’re all being told about the importance of washing our hands right now because every surface we touch could potentially have some traces of the virus on it.
Thoroughly wash and disinfect your hands before touching your child. You might actually want to consider using a breast pump and just building up a supply of milk so that you don’t have to actually breastfeed while you’re sick.
There are too many nutrients present in breastmilk for me to recommend that you actually switch to a different food source, but bottling some breast milk could be a good way to avoid all of the hassle and anxiety you might be experiencing.
Remember to take precautions here too though and disinfect the pump and the bottle before use.
To sum this up, your baby will be safe if you breastfeed while you’re sick as long as you are very cautious of hygiene before you do it.
Corona virus Concerns & Children: How to Help Children Deal with Covid-19 Anxieties
The current coronavirus situation is worrying for many people and children are especially vulnerable to the fear and anxiety experienced by the adults around them. A major change in the daily structure of the lives of kids is happening with the closure of schools and this may create very strong stress signals for children suggesting something bad is happening (of course some will no doubt welcome an early holiday).
It’s perfectly predictable that at the moment our kids are experiencing fear and distress and it’s important to acknowledge this and explore how they are feeling, but without adding to their alarm. Ask them what they have heard and respond in a way that validates their feelings and gives them factual information about what is happening(https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak).
Psychotherapist Noel McDermott states that little ones might try to protect you from their distress and say they are fine, but it will show up in other ways such as:
- In their play, which can become preoccupied with the worries; mummies and daddies getting sick and going to hospital, people getting hungry, people fighting and getting angry with each other
- Kids might become avoidant when they are upset, not talking and withdrawing
- Behaviour may deteriorate and arguments and fights start
- Kids may ‘regress’ and start to act in a younger manner, depending on age you may see thumb sucking, incontinence, clinging behaviour
If you see these types of things you can gently explore with your kid why they think these behaviours are happening, allowing them to communicate their feelings verbally rather than behaviourally. It’s crucial to turn off all punishment signals and that you understand they are upset not bad
Structure is Key
Get a daily structure in place for kids as soon as you can. Plan a weekly timetable of education and activities. Structure in and of itself will have the impact of calming and reassuring your kids and off course annoying them if it interrupts TV time! That structure should include regular sleep and wake times and regular mealtimes. Ensure physical activity is programmed in, even if you are isolating at home then program in family home gym activities. If you are allowed out or have a garden use this a lot! It will help you all. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html)
How to Help Your Children Deal with Covid-19 Anxieties
There are no right or wrong ways to talk to your kids and support them during the current public health crisis but here’s a helpful list of ways to think about it:
- Create an emotionally open and supportive environment
- Be honest and be accurate, use your government and UN sources of information (WHO, CDC in the US, NHS in the UK)
- Reassure but don’t overpromise
- Validate your kid’s feeling whilst providing reassurance
- Talk at the level your kid can understand
- Control access to news channels to reduce access to frightening stories
- Kids will learn from how you behave, and they will personalise and try to protect you from their bad feelings which they will experience as very destructive
Because of your own fears your creativity may run dry when trying to think about activities for your kids, so here’s a few links to get you started. There are loads and things online and remember you are not alone.. reach out, network, share with other adults, stay connected and meet your needs where you can!
These links are the result of personal searches and designed to get you started and remind you that you have the capacities and resources to get through this!
Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist and International Speaker with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care and education. An impactful workshop leader, he delivers bespoke training on a range of social care, clinical and human rights ethics and issues across multiple sectors. He is the founder and CEO of three organisations, Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd, Sober Help Ltd and Mental Health Works Ltd. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual.
For further information or for press enquiries please contact
Natalie Clarke on email email@example.com
South Surrey mother wants to thank Good Samaritan
Sasha Risi, a South Surrey mother of three children under the age of three is searching for a Good Samaritan to say thank you.
All three children were in the back seat of her car last Thursday. They were stuck in traffic on 152 Street when her two year old son, Lyon, suddenly couldn’t breathe.
“I see his lips are turning blue and he’s really struggling, he’s choking and puking everywhere,” Risi said. “I knew right then and there, I have to do something now.”
She was stuck in the left lane at an intersection during rush hour and could not pull over, so she put the car into park and jumped out, which caused traffic to stop.
“Cars are literally just detouring right beside us,” Risi said. “It was a terrible situation and they’re just honking and giving me the middle finger. I’m whacking him on the back screaming and yelling asking for people to call 911.”
Fortunately, one person did stop to help. A nurse.
“She was calling out all the things we needed to do and she just went into action and she was helping calm me,” Risi said. “When everything was under control, she helped clean up all the puke and even offered to drive me home.”
Amid all the chaos, Risi never got to ask for the woman’s name and now wants to find her.
“I’d love to meet her and hug her and say thank you,” Risi said. “She really helped save my son’s life and she put herself at risk.”
She said the good Samaritan is an Indo-Canadian woman in her 20s, possibly early 30s, who drives a black Honda.
Risi can be found on Instagram @mylyonkingarmy.
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