DK Simoneau is the author of a wonderful children's picture book called We're Having a Tuesday. The book focuses on a little girl who - perhaps like your own children - must learn to cope with transitioning back and forth each week between her parents' homes. At first, she is really frustrated and Tuesdays are tough on the whole family. But over time, she learns to cope with her feelings and realizes some of the great things about living with both her mom and her dad, even though they don't live together anymore.
Q: What was your inspiration for the book?
A: I have to say that I was a child of divorce, back in the day when we went back and forth every other week. Now I am a parent of two children of divorce, and we also do the back and forth thing; so I've experienced it from both sides. I've seen my own kids coming home frustrated and acting like the little girl in We're Having a Tuesday. At the time, I went looking for a book that would address the issue of going back and forth between two homes, and I didn't find one. There were a lot of other good books about divorce for children, how it's not your fault, and how mom and dad still love you, but not one on this issue of transitioning between mom's house and dad's house. I felt so strongly that there should be one that I decided to go ahead and write it.
Q: Of all the issues single parent families face today, you chose to focus on making co-parenting, or shared parenting, work. Why?
A: I think it's important because people don't realize that the more they conflict with each other, the more volatile the environment that they're raising their kids in becomes.
If people realize that they can parent together, it can become a positive. It can be that the kids have two really wonderful environments. With two warring parents, though, it's difficult to have peace.
Q: Embracing the co-parenting model requires both parents - to some degree at least - to let go of their own sense of control. Do you have any advice for parents who are struggling with this?
A: It's easy to sit here and say "Put your kids first," when doing that can negatively affect you.
But in the long run, when you set your own feelings aside, you realize that it sets a good example for your kids, and they learn to be flexible. After all, the world doesn't always go your way; in fact, a lot of times it doesn't. But your kids look to you for examples, and when you are trying to control things and manipulate things, unfortunately, that is the example they're seeing.
Q: In many cases, something beautiful and unexpected can be born when you do let go of the need to control your child's relationship with the other parent. Can you speak to this?
A: Yes. It's really hard to imagine your ex-spouse with another partner, one who might possibly be involved in raising your kids. In fact, it's devastating. But if you can let go of that, the kids might find themselves with an extra resources; perhaps someone who teaches them things they wouldn't have learned otherwise. For example, my kids now scuba-dive because my ex married someone who scuba dives. My kids also learned to ski because I dated someone who skis. There's an opportunity there to teach your kids how to love people, how behave around people, and learn the values of other cultures. Some wonderful things that can come of it if you can just let go.
Not to mention how much it benefits your kids to live in environment of peacefulness instead to volatility and anger.
Q: What advice do you have for parents who want to make transitions easier for their kids?
A: Well, the media teaches people to brace themselves for the worst and focus on what's negative. Instead, people need to break it into small pieces. You can't imagine the whole worst case scenario, or the best case scenario. Instead, you have to take it one small step at a time, even if it's just taking the kids to the door and having a simple, polite conversation about the weather. Gradually you can expand that to taking the kids together to pumpkin patch on Halloween. Instead of looking at a great big mountain, look at it in small steps. Ask yourself what you can do today to make things better for your child.
Eventually those steps you're able to take will get bigger.
Q: Are there any other thoughts you'd like to share?
A: Sure. This is really a book that belongs in the hands of a child who is going through a divorce. Really, it's for every boy and girl who knows what it's like to go back and forth between mom's house and dad's house. It makes a great gift book, too, and I've noticed that lots of grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and family therapists are buying it, which is great. But it's really meant for the kids. They need to be able to pick it up and read again and again as they need to, and to know it's there as a reminder that they can do this and things will get better.
One million American children experience their parents' divorce each year. That means one million new children enter into what has become commonplace in our society, "Doing the kid shuffle." No longer does the shuffle mean getting them to soccer practice on time. Today it means helping them cope with living in two homes with two sets of rules, and often two sets of belongings. Here are ten ways you can help your child cope with this split-family living lifestyle.DK Simoneau is a real-life divorced mother of two. She is now a devoted authority on living 'split-family' more effectively. The noticeable changes in her own children on transition days motivated her to create a tool to help facilitate conversation between children and on-looking adults. Originally an accountant by profession, her children's love for books has inspired her to write stories that teach and validate as well as stimulate an everlasting curiosity in reading. She lives in Lakewood, Colorado "sometimes" with her two children. For more information visit www.werehavingatuesday.com.
- Don't talk down about the child's other parent, no matter how frustrated or angry you become. Talking down about a child's parent is like talking down about part of your own child.
- Establish a special routine during transition periods. Perhaps play a game or serve a special meal each time your child returns. Kids thrive on routine and if they know exactly what to expect when they return to you it will make the transition easier.
- Allow your child to have a transition object. If your child needs a blanket or teddy bear, let them. If the child is older and maybe doesn't want to carry an item that large, help them make one. Maybe pick out some rocks that represent each parent. Have fun designing them so they know which rock belongs to whom.
- Call your child every day. You would be surprised at how much hearing your voice and knowing that you are thinking about them means to them, even if they don't say much in return.
- Be understanding of their missing things from their other home, including the other parent. All of those things are very real to your child and not having them when they want them can be very frustrating.
- Work with the other parent to establish a few basic routines that are at both houses. For example, at both houses bedtimes should be very similar. Sitting at the dinner table may be something to be encouraged at both houses. Television viewing or video game playing habits could be similar in both homes.
- Establish some routine for going back to the other parent's house. Maybe develop a checklist. Did you remember your bear, your homework, your library book, your gym shoes etc? Make sure you do this each and every time so it becomes habit. Fewer things will be forgotten leading to less frustration and more responsibility.
- Develop firm procedures and rules about what is acceptable about forgetting things at the other parent's house. Are you going to ground your child because he forgot his teddy bear? Will you be driving over to your ex's house to get it at 9:00 at night because your 4 year-old just can't sleep without it? Are you willing to let your child get a failing grade because your ex doesn't follow a checklist and make sure your 5th grader had packed her month-long book report assignment? Make procedures and follow through.
- If it is possible, keep the communications open with your ex. You won't always agree, but if you are at least communicating you both will always be in the know.
- If you are able to keep the communication lines open, make sure your kids know this. Have family meetings. Present yourselves as a united front even though you live apart. Back each other up. By doing this you will prevent your kids from trying to play you off each other.