Parenting- the Joys and Challenges
How to Break Your Child's Junk Food Habit
Food is often a major source of concern and conflict where growing children are concerned. When my son was small, he was a fussy eater who almost defeated me in the battle over junk food versus real food. I say almost, because fortunately, as he’grew older, he began to fathom that what’s good for him need not taste awful. He absolutely loved Coke, chips and pizza.
Then there was also the battle over whether he was eating enough. When a doctor told me that children will eat when they’re hungry and forcing them to eat would only put them off food, I saw the light and yielded more or less to my son’s demands of “Mama leave me alone, I’m not hungry!” I was also advised that when my son demanded junk food, I could very well afford to say, ”Eat this or don’t eat at all.” It wouldn’t starve him. It worked and I discovered that eat he did when he needed to.
Babies, Toddlers and Others Eat what their Bodies Need
Research shows that children and especially babies and toddlers will eat what their bodies need. Make sure you offer your children a variety of wholesome foods to choose from and don’t get too hassled if he or she reverts to a jam sandwich or cornflakes for weeks at a time. Also, pay attention to your toddler’s physical comfort at the dinner table, so that he is not distracted from the meal.
Help Kids Develop their own Tastes
Research also shows that the less we battle with our kids over the dinner table, the faster they will develop their own appetite and tastes. And they need not be yours. Unpleasantness over meals can give your kids a handle over you. They can manipulate you by accepting or rejecting and use it to gain attention. They must not get to confuse food with love or attention. And remember, if you don’t eat a balanced meal yourself, you can’t really make your kids do the same.
Watch for Allergies
When introducing a new food to your child, watch out for allergies as some children suffer from them. Give him a taste of the new dish one at a time so you can detect allergies if any. If you do, seek medical advice. There may be a simple solution to the problem or your child may grow out of the allergy, or even have it lifelong.
Traditionally it was thought that vegetarian, especially eggless and milkless diets fail to provide enough nourishment for the growing child. But that’s old hat according to Sharon Yntema in her book ‘Vegetarian Baby…Guide for Parents’. Says Sharon: “A healthy vegetarian baby comes from healthy, nutritionally aware parents.” Regardless of what the experts say, some parents still fear that a meatless diet will not give children enough iron. But low iron levels can occur with any type of diet. A fair balance could be a vegetarian diet that includes eggs and dairy products which will give kids zinc, B12, iron and calcium. Iron can be easily had from apples as we all know.
Besides, as studies show today, more diseases are cause by eating meat than not eating it.
10 Tips to Make Kids Eat Healthy
- Serve a variety of food every day including protein, carbohydrate fat, vitamins and minerals.
- Encourage your kids to be physically active so that they don’t become overweight. Limit TV viewing.
- Make breakfast unskippable. Give them cereal with low-fat milk, whole wheat bread and fruit. This will help them do better at school.
- Give them nutritious snacks – a glass of low-fat milk, an apple, carrot or cream crackers.
- Give your kids the option to choose what and how much they eat. They don’t need to eat all the food groups in one meal. This can be done over the day. Avoid bribing or cajoling them to finish their meal or eat certain foods.
- Encourage your kids to be adventurous and try out new foods and new combinations.
- Encourage them to help in the kitchen so they become familiar with what they’re eating. Mystery doesn’t work here. Besides they are more likely to eat things they help make.
- Make the food look good with colour, variety and texture. I once made Power Puff Girls cookies for my son and he loved them.
- Add some flavour to the milk if your kids don’t like drinking milk. Cocoa, Complan, Horlicks, Boost. Make it warm or cold, depending on how they like it. Today research shows that milk can even harm you by depriving you of calcium and upsetting the digestion, but that’s for older people.
- Use substitutes. Substitute puddings, yoghurt and cheese for milk; rice, potato and pasta for bread and cereal; eggs, peanut butter and beans for fish and meat.
And say goodbye to burgers, pizzas and chips from fast food joints!
Can Cartoons Be Good for Kids?
I know, I know, you might be thinking –“Hey, I know cartoons are bad for kids, so what do you want to tell me now?” Well, I can tell you why cartoons can be good for your kids, provided you keep the cartoon watching to an hour and bully them into watching the ones you think they’ll learn something from. ‘Captain Planet’ teaches environment awareness, for instance (though it’s off the air now, alas) and ‘Smurfs’ and ‘Dink’ tell a darned good yarn and are not violent like ‘Tom and Jerry’ which my seven year old son absolutely loved. He cackled happily each time Tom, the bad cat turns into a ‘chapati’.
In my son’s school, I was told that he suffered from lack of concentration and was told that cartoons with their rapid movements hamper concentration , so I suggested I’d do away with cartoons altogether since otherwise it meant a constant battle with my son. But I was told not to do that since he loved cartoons so much, instead, I was advised to just put a time limit to it and give him other things to do.
So I bought him some new toys he had been asking for --a cricket bat, a miniature game of snooker, a bicycle, some more Dr. Suess books and took to playing a bit of cricket with him in the evenings. At least he stopped sitting in front of the TV as soon as he got home from school.
Cartoons have been good for my son though, in some ways. They’ve helped him pick up English faster, stimulated his interest in art and story telling and taught him useful phrases like “Shucks! Oh brother! Come on!” and more. I’ve heard him pick up worse words from his friends and me – like when I say “Bloody idiot!” to some lousy driver on the road and he tells me, “Careful Mama, I might learn it myself.”
Cartoons have simplified my life where bringing up my son up is concerned. I know, I know, the experts say that you should never use such things as baits, for then kids don’t do things without baits, but I disagree. When my son refused to eat, or put away his toys, I told him there’d be no cartoons if he didn’t and it worked. And hey, at least he ate healthy whole wheat cookies shaped like his favourite Power Puff Girls!
Being a Role Model for Your Kids
“Children need models more than they need critics”.--- Joseph Joubert
My Guru often says that she can tell the character of a mother by the behaviour of her children. Few mothers are aware of the life patterns they consciously or unconsciously inculcate in their children by their own example.
I have seen divorced women intoxicated by their sudden ‘freedom’ who go all out to live the lives they have yearned for. Suddenly alone, they shut themselves in with their lovers in the presence of their baffled children. I have seen them get drunk and fall all over the men at a party in the presence of embarrassed their children. I have known single mothers who have been involved with married men to the horror of their teenaged children.
Indeed, the older the child – anything from age seven upwards, the easier he or she will understand what’s going on in your life. You can no longer get away with stories about how you were just getting a bit of shut-eye behind closed doors with your ‘friend’, and how you were only drinking orange juice and that your staggering about was just dancing.
Perhaps fooling kids would have been easier earlier but not today with the advent of the MTV generation. If you don’t tell them what it’s all about, someone else will. On television they see for themselves that when a man and woman shut themselves in a room they don’t just sleep. They know that a kiss on the cheek is different from a kiss on the lips.
“For the hand that rocks the cradle
is the hand that rules the world.”
So says William Ross Wallace. Mothers play a bigger role in shaping their children than do fathers, for the simple reason that they bear them and thus bond with them earlier and spend more time with them. You can’t do X and expect your child to become Y.
This is not to say that you cannot lead the life you want as a single parent. The important thing to keep in mind while you live it up is that you are not harming anyone (including yourself) in any way by doing so and yes, you must be discreet. The effects your behaviour will have on your children are far reaching and can affect how they will live life.
For instance, rejection and constant belittling from a mother can lead to the child growing into a promiscuous adult. He needs to prove to himself and to the world that he is desirable. He could become a poor student and a jobless young man.
I myself noticed with delight my small son pretending to write stories because I write stories all the time. If I am dishonest, he will tend to follow the pattern I’m setting as an adult who is responsible for him. His logic would be: “If she can do it, it mustn't be all that bad.”
On the other hand, if I tell him that dishonesty is despicable, he will condemn me for being dishonest and I will cease to be his heroine. But children do need heroes and heroines if they are to become so themselves. Oscar Wilde rightly observed: “Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”
Should Your Child Sleep Alone?
As a caring Mom, you must have read up on the subject of allowing your child to share your bed and discovered that the general consensus was that you shouldn’t. Pediatricians alleged that it would discourage your child’s independence as an adult and affect sexual intimacy with your spouse. Somehow I just couldn’t agree with the ‘experts’ that forcing children to sleep in separate bedrooms encouraged them to be independent adults. To me it was a cruel thing to do to a child who needed comfort and the softness and warmth of a mother’s presence. I knew instinctively that closeness fostered security and a sense of being cared for.
Today pediatricians agree. They say that allowing your child to share the family bed builds family intimacy, makes it easier for parents to attend to the child’s nighttime needs, enables many parents to sleep better and most importantly, eases the transition from babyhood to childhood.
Dr. William Sears, a well known pediatrician says that the child who sleeps in the family bed is also benefited physically. In preliminary data from his research, Sears has found that the digestive and circulatory systems of infants become better regulated when they sleep with their mothers.
As far as independence goes, your child will ask to sleep in his own bed when he feels ready for it and at this point you must let him go.
Sears suggests the following tips for Moms who would like to share their beds with their infants:
- Make sure the bed is big.
- Push the bed flush against the wall so your baby can’t roll off.
- Be sure you don’t suffer from seizures, sleepwalking or other sleep disorders that could disorient you.
- Don’t drink or take drugs.
- Don’t sleep on a too soft surface.
- Don’t use the child as a barrier to sexual activity.
- Don’t use the child to fill an emotional void if you’re single or a divorced parent.
- Make sure that you and hubby are in total agreement about your child sharing the family bed.
- Make sure you follow your child’s lead and let him sleep on his own when he shows interest in the idea.
And lo and behold, you’ve got yourself a wonderful, independent, emotionally secure, physically fit child and you yourself are free from sleepless nights!
Talking to Your Unborn Baby
“Babies are old souls in new bodies”, says the well known family physician, Gladys McGarey. More and more mothers are beginning to realize this great mystery of birth and thus of rebirth. “I often ask the mother to try to make contact with the baby,” she explains. ”I ask her to record her dreams and see if she can make contact with the baby, also to write letters to the baby telling him how she feels about things, and talk to him, trying to establish an early, helpful soul communication.”
I didn’t know about Gladys McGarey when I had my son seven years ago, but I knew instinctively that he felt what I felt just as he ate what I ate. I played Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ for him, the music I had grown up with and which is one of my most beautiful memories, I read to him from the classics and I refused to watch horror and violence on TV. There were times when he would give me a kick from within and then I would speak to him and prod him back in answer. It seemed to me that he played kick and prod games with me this way. I wrote two novels during my pregnancy and I believe that this love of the written word has seeped into him.
I believe, as do a growing number of women round the world, that babies have a clear memory of their past lives and lose that most important knowledge at the moment of birth. Important, for we know then the purpose of our life, we know who is who in our lives, we know what mistakes we must avoid.
Gladys McGarey in her book, ‘Born to Live’, says that the unborn choose their parents. Many women have come forward with experiences of communication with their babies even before birth; among them, a woman who saw her children coming in the form of a blue light that spoke to her, and a woman who (instead of resorting to abortion) miscarried the day after she spoke lovingly to the child in her womb about her lack of preparedness for motherhood at that particular time of her life.
Ultrasound has opened up the secret world of the unborn. As early as the seventh week, a baby has been seen to react in meaningful ways, recognize stories and music heard while in the womb as well as familiar voices and phrases. Mothers are being encouraged to doodle and scribble using their left hands (or the right, whichever is not dominant), to allow the messages of the unborn to get through. These messages depict ways of thinking so foreign to them, it is clear that they belong to the unborn child.
Isn't it wonderful then to know that not only can you teach your baby before he is born, but you can also learn from this old soul in a new body?
Sex Education For Kids
“Mama, where did I come from?” asked my son when he was five years old.
“Uh, er, from my tummy darling,” I told him, glad that I wasn’t really lying to him.
“So you have to be married to get a baby, no?”
“Yes, most of the time,” I answered, hoping that he would not ask me about the rest of the time. He didn’t.
I’ve had friends however who have given their kids strange answers:
They found them under the bush in the garden.
They woke up one morning and suddenly they were beside them.
Santa Claus brought them along in his big sack.
And of course, we’ve heard about the stork and all that.
Whether as parents we like to face it or not, toddlers and older children are sexual beings. They play
with their private parts and are quick to pick up on our lies, our taboos and prudish ideas. I’ve always tried to bring up my baby with a sense of normalcy where nudity is concerned. I discourage visitors from sniggering at them and crying “Shame! Shame!” if they catch him without his undies. I have never stopped him from playing with his wee wee either – which he doesn’t do much, anyway. But now that he’s eight, he hardly ever does it. I think he has begun to understand a little without my telling him in explicit detail.
I’ve always bathed with my son, but when I noticed that he was beginning to notice how girls are different from boys, I stopped bathing with him. However, he is not shy when I give him a bath. Alas, no matter how I behave with my son, he is bound to succumb to outside pressures and now he even refuses to take his shirt off in front of a female, whatever age she may be.
Studies say that for the first two years of their lives children neither know nor care about their gender. They are aware however that that thing under the nappy is fun to play with but their interest in sex doesn’t go any further. Then at about two and a half, little boys begin to notice that they are different from little girls and become quite fascinated by the fact.
Experts advise that sex education should be an ongoing process and that intimate questions should be answered with honesty without getting into explicit detail that can be saved up for the teenage years.
For instance children should be familiar with the terminology involved so that they don’t see them later on as rude or forbidden words. With teenagers of course, the details are necessary in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies and venereal diseases. They shouldn’t be just called into your bedroom one day and told the ‘facts of life’ behind closed doors.
Be open and frank with your children right from the start. Hedging around the issue too long can become a matter of considerable embarrassment for both children and parents.
Do Women Instinctively Want Babies?
“If you told a woman that in order to conceive she had to stand on her head naked in Leicester Square, she would do it like a shot.” – Mr. Steptoe, British pioneer in test tube babies, “in vitro” fertilization
What makes most women want so much, need so much to have a baby? It is an all consuming need. To want a baby and to be denied one is like a flower without the sun’s life giving light, or an animal trapped in a cage. The need becomes so obsessive at times that women are ready to go through anything and make all sorts of sacrifices in order to get themselves a baby.
Sharda, a Montessori teacher, had suffered a miscarriage with her first pregnancy and was fearful of losing her second baby. She says: “I did all I could to protect the baby growing inside me. Months of bed-rest, confinement to the house, no drink, no sex, no hot baths, no travelling, no stress, no real activity of any kind. It was a tremendous sacrifice never being able to go out but it resulted in a beautiful baby.”
What had made Sharda and her husband decide the sacrifices were worth it? Says Sharda: “Having a child was the natural progression in our relationship. For me, it has made our relationship much deeper, and given it some kind of permanency. I’d always felt my life would be a little empty without a family, in spite of being happily married and having a rewarding job of my own, working with kids. Somehow, at the end of the day, it is deflating when they go home to their families, and I had to face the fact that they were only mine on loan, to help teach, and develop.”
Natalie, who went through all sorts of medical treatment to become fertile says: It’s hard to describe why you want a baby – I think my husband and I felt it most at Christmas time, when we put up all the decorations, and there was no family there to enjoy them.”
Some mothers, actress Sophia Loren, perhaps the best known, go through this self-imposed imprisonment over and over again. But why go through the same nine months of stress and labour pains again and again?
Says Amrita: “I do intend to try for another baby, I think it’s partly to do with the belief that we are here basically to procreate. It’s my little stake in immortality in a way too.”
A pyschologist, Ranjana, has this to say about the need for babies: “ I think the reason women need to have babies so badly is often because deep down inside they feel that they will be considered unfeminine and incapable and thus failures by society if they fail to bear children. This feeling also occurs in women who have Caesarian sections – they are made to feel that they can’t do it the normal and natural way. And then there is the pressure from one’s in-laws and sometimes one’s own parents to bear a child as soon as possible. This can become so in-grained in a woman’s psyche, she will actually begin to believe that she really is desperate for a baby.”
Ranjana’s advice to infertile couples who want children is that they must discuss their problem as soon as possible and as openly as possible. “Birth is always a shock,” she adds. “It changes you irrevocably. Most of the time we fool ourselves that we are creatures of mind and spirit, pure intellect and emotion, that we are immortal. We forget our own mortality, our pathetic dependence on muscle and bone and blood. Childbirth suddenly makes you face the truth. The memory will stay with you all your life and nothing is ever so important again.”
Help Your Child Deal With Bullies at School
A friend’s seven year old son recently refused to go to school because he said one of his classmates had threatened to bully him some more if he went to school that day. My friend was furious. This was not the first time that her son had complained to her about getting bullied by the same boy.
But nothing had been serious enough to cause him to skip school. “But why don’t you tell your teacher?” she asked . “She won’t do anything,” was the sad answer. The bullying happened mainly on the playground where he was pushed or punched in the stomach.
When she complained to the class teacher about this continuing problem, and said she wanted someone to keep an eye on him during play time, she was told that the matter would be looked into, and yes, there were a couple of rowdies in the class. But the bullying got worse because the teacher pulled the bully up for the offence and revealed the name of his victim.
So what was she to do? She felt helpless when her tearful son insisted that she not complain again or the bully would give him a harder time. The smart little chap suggested she speak directly to the principal. Which she did. After that there seemed to be peace, and although there is still some bullying, it is no longer that flagrant.
My friend was torn between advising her son to get tough or to follow the path of ‘ahimsa’ which she strongly believed in. Why were they after her son? He was a gentle, well mannered boy, who the teachers said couldn’t bear to see anyone cry and was the first in class to console them. He was the one that stood up against the bigger boys when they teased his little Japanese classmate, retrieving her headband when someone pulled it off her hair.
He was tall for his age but a little too thin perhaps and this too invited bullying. She made up her mind and suggested he punch the bully back or better still avoid going anywhere near the bully.
The negative effects of bullying
Every school has its bullies and often children are too scared to admit they’re bullied because they’re afraid the bully will punish them. Victims are reluctant to go to school, cannot explain torn clothing or injuries sustained at school, suddenly do poorly in class, don’t invite classmates home to play, are moody and have sudden displays of temper, or ask for extra lunch or lunch money often exhorted by a bully.
Studies show that victims of bullying turn out to be adults susceptible to depression and poor self esteem.
How you can help your child deal with bullies
Experts say that parents often think they are being over protective if they interfere, but the truth is that children can’t solve their own problems and need adult guidance. The first step is to have the child admit there is a problem. Check if there is anything about your child that attracts bullying: dirty hair or body, nose picking, walking with slouched shoulders, nail biting, shoe laces always untied.
You could contact the principal or class teacher and even the bully’s parents, requesting that they do not disclose the source of the complaint and thus escalate the bullying.
Unless a bully is physically violent, he should be first confronted, then ignored and avoided. Your
child could confront a bully by either laughing it off (unless it’s physical violence) and so making the bully feel it’s no fun, or by saying things like:
“Name calling isn’t cool.”
“I don’t want to fight. Can’t we be friends instead?”
“Why are you mad at me? I never hurt you.”
If this doesn’t work, he could simply avoid or ignore the bully. Tell him that he’s not being cowardly, but smart by avoiding bad situations.
Fathers can help their sons a great deal in this regard by teaching them self esteem, encouraging their
skills and letting them know that muscle alone is not a measure of manliness. They can show their sons that it is smarter to use brains than brawns in settling bullies and to look them confidently in the eye.
What makes a bully?
A bully is an angry person who might have been bullied in the past. He has low self esteem and thinks that controlling others will help him feel better about himself. He might have been exposed to a lot of violence in movies or on TV where violence is almost glamorous.
He may be spoiled by his parents into believing that he can do anything he wants, or neglected and thus not taught about the ills of violence.
But the sooner we catch our children at bullying or getting bullied, the better the future will be for them as well as for the rest of us.
Men aren’t really supposed to speak lovingly about babies. The exceptions would be “qualified” men such as Dr. Spock who are allowed to exhibit love for children through their expert writing on the subject of child care. No one thinks of them as weak-chinned.
But today parental responsibility must be shared in the true partnership that forms the basis for a successful marriage. Perhaps the time has come for a ‘Father’s Lib Movement’.
‘Father’s Lib’ should allow the guys to come out of the closet, so to speak, and enjoy their babies without fear of stigma from their contemporaries or scorn from their employers and resentment from their wives. It is a fact that many wives guard their roles as mothers jealously.
Some men just can’t get over the shock when the wifely love they enjoyed all along is replaced with love for a new baby. They resent this bond a woman shares with her child and begin to be plagued by jealousy and feelings of neglect. In such a case, I would think, it would be better to join in the fun than lie back and seethe.
Says Desmond, the proud father of six children: “The sight of a vulnerable newborn baby produces in me the sort of wonder and contentment that many men feel in wild countryside, on the peaks of mountains – or at sea. I enjoy changing nappies. There is, after all, a great satisfaction in making a baby clean, and dry, and comfortable. There is also the huge bonus of soothing that pink, downy little body, receiving a smile or a gurgle in return – it is an experience that many men wish for, but feel unable to demand. Fortunately my wife welcomes my involvement. You cannot begin to imagine the sensual reward of holding a baby on your lap and feeling that warm, soft, incredibly sweet-smelling, downy head just under your chin.”
The arrival of a baby changes the whole vocabulary and language of a marriage. There are no more quiet days and calm weekends but snatched moments of peace and little pockets of calm. The exchanges between a couple regarding a baby can become vital to their relationship.
“Babies change all of us – particularly men,” adds Desmond.
Jacob, father of a growing son and daughter says: “My upbringing makes me the traditional father who was the true head of the family – you know, the sort that would be consulted on his daughter’s suitors and his son’s career. He was responsible for every penny that came into the house and went out of it. His control was total, but it had little or nothing to do with feeding and changing. I’m looking forward to when the children are older, but I must say, if men had to have babies, there certainly wouldn’t be many around.”
“I think today a father has to earn the respect of his children,” says Arjun. “No longer does it come automatically with being ‘head of the family’ – for the simple reason that a father isn’t the head any more. Today his wife works too and the father is not the only source of values and information for his children. They are bombarded with choices from outside the family – and if Father is to influence them, it has to be by understanding and communication, rather than control.”
Fathers today will have to choose between scrambling up the career ladder and being more closely involved at home. They will have to break the masculine taboo on tenderness while more women gain the freedom to express their ‘masculine’ side.
How to Help Children Deal With the Mess of Divorce
Several critical issues are thrown up by a messy divorce, and children are undoubtedly the most hapless victims. As parents, we should at least try to reduce the stress they go through by ensuring that their lives don’t become so radically different.
Continuing to live in the home they grew up in is important for emotional and physical well-being of children. This will give them some sense of security, and stability, because they won’t be forced to leave their ‘nest’.
‘Bird Nesting’ is an innovative way to make this happen. It is a child custody arrangement in which the children stay where they are, and the divorced parents take their turns living in the marital home with them. While some studies show that children are not really affected by post-divorce variables, others say that they are. Whatever may be the case, it is easier to be safe than sorry.
In the Bird Nesting alternative, the marital home is shared by the parents, and each one has a separate apartment for the times when it is the other parent’s turn with the kids.
Obviously, it won’t be an easy move for the parents. It requires compassion and putting the children first. Few couples, however, manage to continue with Bird Nesting since they find it inconvenient to travel between two homes. But if you expect the children to do the traveling in a normal custody arrangement, why can’t you?
Be aware of the setbacks of this arrangement. What if the parents remarry or start dating? Will they be able to spend time away from their new partners? What if they are offered a better job that takes them farther away from the nest? Will they give it up for the sake of the kids?
The younger child will need the home base to feel secure, while a teenager might rebel against the constant goings and comings of his parents. A teenager can be extremely critical of divorce, and will probably blame the parent that has initiated the divorce.
In the end, the success of bird nesting or any other co-parenting plan depends on the relationship between the divorced parents. Psychologists say that children adjust well if their parents get along well.
Grandparents -the Hidden Victims of Divorce
In Britain, grandparents can often be the hidden victims of divorce. For them, there is no such thing as visitation rights, and yet they are important as nurturers and have the time to spend with their grandchildren.
Gillian Douglas and Neil Ferguson, of CardiffLawSchool, recently reported that grandparents in Britain have been ‘derecognized by the law’ with the 1989 Children’s Act. Until then, they had the right to seek access in the case of a divorce.
Remember how you doted on your grandparents as a child, and how much you learned from their wisdom and how you were nurtured by their compassion? Ensure that your children can continue to spend happy times with your parents. It will help them to feel less torn apart.
Divorce and Pet Squabbles
Research suggests that the squabbles of divorcing couples over money and children are increasingly being replaced by legal battles over the custody of pets. A survey in the UK reveals that judges are beginning to recognise the role pets play in break-ups.
Although this trend has come to Britain from the US where celebrities like Drew Barrymore battle for the custody of their pets, it is not at all surprising. A pet, after all, is considered as part of the family. You are never alone when you live with a pet.
If your pet becomes an issue between you and your ex, think of what is best for the animal. Let your heart rule over your head, and settle the matter with your ex in a decent way because taking it to court will probably hurt everyone concerned. Keep in mind that joint custody where a pet is shared by the couple will stress out the animal and might even make it schizophrenic. Let the pet go where the children go. Mental-health experts say that a 'transitional object' that follows the children provides great comfort and stability.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said that a society is recognised by the way it treats its animals.
Keep all this in mind and you can save your children from the consequences of a messy divorce.
Real Life Examples of Divorced Women Helping Kids Deal With the Stress
A close friend of mine, Arti M. has been separated from her alcoholic and abusive husband, yet has managed to protect her eight-year-old son from the aftermath. Teachers from his school constantly reassure her that he is a happy child who is talented, extremely humane, and profound for his age.
What is her secret?
“I know all the experts say that there’s no way a child can escape the evil effects of a divorce or a separation, but I think there are exceptions. I think a mother must give her child all the love and support she can, no matter what. If she is generally happy, her children will be happy too. It’s a fact, you know, children reflect their mothers more than they do their fathers because it’s the mother that brings up the children. It is she who has the real bond with them. Most fathers barely make time for their kids, and my husband almost never did. When we went to the school together long back, the principal was shocked to hear that he didn’t play with his son or read him stories…here I must add that I believe that the mother’s spiritual cultivation too is very important where her children are concerned. If she can inculcate some of that into her children, they will have that added strength and calmness to cope with anything at all…and I’m not talking about religion here, mind you. I’m talking here of a genuine spiritual path that helps you become a better person by realizing your true self.”
Arti’s son is truly an exception. But then, so is she. She is the cheerful sort and makes sure that she expresses her admiration for her son’s talents and achievements. Her son does not need any explanations because he has himself witnessed the ugly scenes that have ensued as a result of his father’s alcoholic binges.
“I think a separation is necessary in a case like mine,” says Arti. “I mean, I don’t want us all to suffer forever. I’ve spent years trying to make him change, but men don’t change easily. I think it’s completely unfair and dangerous to allow your child to also suffer because of the constant tension in the house. I don’t want my son to see my husband as a monster, but I do want him to see him for what he is so that he doesn’t make the same mistakes in life. I hope and pray that my two days a week with my son will help keep my son on the right path. You see, my husband insists on the custody. I’m sure it’s only an ego issue with him. But I know that if I fight him in court (and I know I’ll win), my son and the rest of the world will never be able to look up to him again. Besides, he can be mean and vindictive.”
Let’s face it. Divorce is on the increase and so are kids with the consequent insecurities. Unless you part with your husband as friends, you’re very likely to call each other names and even try to win the kids over to your side. Arti says that her husband has been trying to do this (although he never gave his son a gift on his last birthday) with expensive presents which she can’t afford to buy him. “You can’t buy love with money,” she says. “Kids will see through the gifts though they’re greedy about them especially when they’re very young. But love always wins in the end.”
Experts say that it is wise to avoid showing your anger and disgust with your spouse and focus instead on reassuring the kids that it’s not their fault and that Daddy and Mommy may not love each other any more, but they will always love them.
Why? Because people get attached to their pets and if you want to be nasty, you can use the pet as a weapon. But an animal is not a piece of property. It can be your best friend. Think of the children who are bearing the brunt of your divorce. Allow them the stress-busting comfort of a pet, and prevent the profound pain they will invariably feel if they are separated from the animal.
Conscious Parenting (TEDxTalks)
How Divorce Affects Children
When couples separate, there is a lot more at stake than the question of who will look after the children and where they will live. It is the duty of parents to think about the long-term future of their children and how they as parents, can help their children grow up to be mature adults who are able to enjoy a happy marred life. They will need to keep in mind some of the things that the courts will take into account while deciding on custody, guardianship and access rights:
- Which parent or relative spent most time looking after the child during the marriage?
- Which parent is the child more attached to?
- Will the custodial parent encourage the child to spend time with the non-custodial parent, and vice versa?
- How do the parents plan to look after the child?
- How well do the parents get along with each other?
- Will the order proposed by the applicant be in the best long term interests of the child?
- Will the order disrupt the child's lifestyle, schooling, etc.?
Why Children of Divorce Take to Drugs and Petty Crime
Research shows that children brought up in homes where the biological father is not present, show major tendencies for drug use and criminal activity, regardless of their economic or social status.
While girls from fatherless homes tend to become teenaged mothers or even have illegitimate babies and take to drugs, boys tend to run away from home and school, and join street gangs that indulge in petty or even violent crimes.
Studies reveal that the majority of juvenile delinquents come from single parent households, mainly households without fathers. This is due to the fact that a father figure is always perceived as the enforcer of discipline, while the mother is the one who sets ethical and moral standards.
Because the human newborn is entirely helpless at birth and completely dependent on its parents for food, shelter and protection for several years, this dependency creates a fear of being abandoned. Children of divorce perceive the leaving of a parent as rejection, and this experience is similar to what a child feels when a parent dies. But divorce can be harder for children to deal with because it lacks the finality of death.
It is not easy to predict how a child will be affected by divorce. Some may seem to take it in their stride, yet the negative effects will show up 5-10 years later; others may seem crushed right away, but will prove to be resilient in the long run and able to make the right decisions regarding education, work, friendships and marriage.
Recent studies suggest that it is the relationship between the divorced parents that has the most bearing on the children of divorce. If there is discord, children will feel trapped between the two, and thus cannot adjust to their new lifestyle. In such a case, a shared residence arrangement is not a good idea. In fact, children who travel between parents who cooperate with each other are better adjusted and suffer the least amount of stress. So it’s really not a question of where the children stay, but rather what they feel about the relationship between their parents.
Ultimately, the emotional and physical welfare of our children is in our hands, and so is the future of the society we live in.
Heart to Heart Parenting
© 2013 Anita Saran