Posts Tagged ‘separation’

Establishing a Positive Approach to Bedtime

Written by Sharon Coulter, MA, PPS, MA LMFT on . Posted in Blog

Are you and your child waging a daily war as bed time approaches? Do you feel stressed and anxious as you think of the inevitable struggle that’s become an ongoing event in your home? First, be assured this is a common issue, and second, know that your child is not being “difficult” but most likely has anxiety about being separated from you. This separation anxiety may arise for a number of reasons—some obvious and some not so obvious. Keep in mind that while they may not be able to verbalize many of their thoughts, toddlers and young children are highly sensitive and can sense stress and conflict in their environment. Being “difficult” or “acting out” may be their best attempt to try to communicate distress.

Establishing a predictable and positive bedtime tradition is key to making bedtime one you and your child can use to feel close and have fun while preparing your little one’s transition to sleep so you can put your feet up, catch up on chores, enjoy some alone time, or snuggle with your partner. Most importantly, make sure you allocate plenty of time for your child’s bedtime routine. This may mean pushing meal time up a little earlier. You want to create a bedtime tradition that your child eagerly looks forward to. Children love music so much and it’s a great transitional tool that teachers use frequently. And the beauty of bath time is that it not only teaches good self care and cleanliness, it relaxes your child’s muscles and has a calming effect.

At the appointed time, give your child a ten-minute advance notice that bath time is coming up. Put on some fun CDs of children’s songs and encourage your child to dance and sing as he/she gets undressed and you fill the bath with warm water, bubbles, and toys for playing.  You’ll be surprised how much longer children will enjoy bath time if they have music in the background that they can sing along to as they play. Encourage your child to think of bath time as one of quiet, enjoyable play, not just the means of getting clean that is a precursor to bed. Your child may be happy in the bathtub for up to a half hour or more. When ready, help your child out and into pajamas. Have a comfy chair selected, ideally in their bedroom or a quiet part of the home for reading. (Be firm about how many books your child can choose). Some parents may prefer to read books in the child’s bed. When reading is done, sing a couple of songs before you tuck in your child for the night. For children who are having an especially hard time separating from parents or are fearful of the dark, always be open to leaving on a night light in the room and leaving the door ajar. For these children, allowing them to fall asleep to a lullaby or story CDs is a good option as it focuses their attention away from anxious thoughts that may be interfering with sleep


Divorce – A Child’s Perspective

Written by Sharon Coulter, MA, PPS, MA LMFT on . Posted in Blog

Divorce is an incredibly complex issue for children and teens to understand. A critical factor when considering how children and adolescents might be impacted by separation or divorce is their egocentricity. What is meant by egocentricity is that children and teens look to themselves, almost always, as the cause of problems that arise in the family and this can provoke great stress and anxiety for them, especially in the case of divorce.
No matter how much you as a parent might try to assure your children that they are not the cause of the break up, none the less they tend to believe, consciously or unconsciously, that they are in some way the cause. They may contemplate thoughts like, ‘If I had been a better kid or a smarter kid, this wouldn’t have happened.” I once had a young adult client whose parents had separated several years earlier, right after a baseball game in which he played poorly. A part of him still felt his inadequacy at the game had somehow tipped the marriage, which ended, over the edge. Added to children’s thoughts of blame is usually the enduring hope that the family will come back together again. This hope may span many years. Assurances by parents that kids are not to blame and the reasons for the break up must be consistent and repeated over time as must the fact that the family has changed permanently. Children’s self blame can manifest in behaviors such as acting out, tantrums, bed wetting, sleeping issues and depression. For adolescents, drinking and the use of drugs or other substances are symptomatic of painful feelings they cannot tolerate because they lack the needed coping skills.
Sadness and loss are normal reactions for all of those in the family affected by divorce. However, if your child or adolescent is exhibiting behaviors that concern you, consider whether the help of a therapist might be appropriate—both for them and for yourself. Whether you’re contemplating separation or divorce, in the midst of one, or dealing with the aftermath, I encourage you to reach out for support. Don’t struggle through this difficult time alone.