Sample text for Mom's house, dad's house for kids : feeling at home in one home or two / Isolina Ricci.


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Separation and divorce are a little like a long road trip. The destination is a new version of normal family life -- one that is different from what you knew before but is still right for your family.

Your family's road trip might be short and simple, or it might be long and complicated. Things may seem better for a while, then worse, then much better. The road might be fairly straight, or curve back and forth. Every family's trip is different. But no matter what happens along the way, try to remember that you can use what you learn to help you stay strong and get smarter about things. Eventually things will settle down and you will arrive at your destination. There may be moments when it feels as if your world is coming to an end, but it won't. However, it is changing.

Sneak Preview of Separation and Divorce Territory

1. Splitting and Dividing. This is just before and after your parents' separation. For some families, it's shock and weirdness time. You may hear your parents arguing. You wonder what's true and what's not. You'll find out about your feelings, how to feel better fast, and how to use a "special energy." You will also find out how to stay out of the miserable middle of your parents' problems and get some straight answers to your questions.

2. Changes and More Changes. This is when your parents have started living in two different places. Some kids have just a few changes. For other kids, there are a ton of changes to get used to. This is why this chapter is so long. Whether you are in one home or two now, you will find out about living in a new home, new rules, and new routines. You will find ways to stay connected with your parents, family, and friends; deal with stuff at school; see grandparents and other relatives; and celebrate holidays. You'll probably still have some strong feelings about everything while the adults are figuring it out. With good information and ideas, things can be much easier.

3. New Ways. Here is where daily life gets much better even though people may still have a bad moment or even a bad day. By this time, you and your family have settled into routines and schedules. Feelings have settled down, too. You'll find tips in this section on how to handle yourself when your parents are meeting new people, different ways to solve problems, and how to work together as a family team. Even though you may have some surprise "creep-ups" of old feelings, life is a lot more fun as you reach your destination -- a new kind of normal family life.

Your parents' separation and divorce is one of the biggest things that will ever happen to you. So, no matter if the divorce was years ago or if it's happening now, you can decide to help yourself understand better, gain important life skills, and go on to succeed in life.

Chapter One: Splitting and Dividing

The time before and just after the parents split up can be painful. Kids can feel suddenly different. Their feelings might be hurt a lot. Maybe they feel shocked, sad, or scared. Even when parents say everything will eventually turn out okay, some kids can feel as if they are in the middle of an earthquake or bad dream.

"This is the WORST day of my LIFE!" Daria shouted to her parents. "I don't WANT you to divorce! I want things to stay THE WAY THEY ARE NOW! How could you do this to me!" Daria's little brother started to cry. Later, she listened as her parents explained how they would take care of them as they always had, only now it would be in two homes instead of one. That helped, but Daria still felt awful.

The twins Zoe and Amy knew their parents had problems. Mom and Dad were grouchy with one another, and their father had been sleeping in the den for a long time. When their parents said they had something important to talk about, Zoe whispered to Amy, "Divorce." That was last week. While Amy felt as if her world was falling apart, Zoe wasn't upset. She was just going to see what happened.

When Luke's mom told him last month that his dad wasn't coming back home, Luke felt relieved. He won't have to worry about Dad being drunk and acting crazy. His mom said things will work out much better for everyone. Luke still felt weird and wondered if his father still loved him.

Ben slammed the door to his room. He didn't want to listen to his parents' ugly fighting again. Dad had moved out two months ago, but that didn't stop the arguments. Now Mom said she was going to get full custody, whatever that meant. No one ever told him anything, and his sisters were no help. He put on his headphones and turned the volume way up.

Justin's father said, "It's been four months since your mom and I separated. How are you doing with all this?" Justin smiled and said, "Things are okay, don't worry." But things were not fine. He and his older brother did not let their parents know how they felt. Justin was very sad, and when he was alone he cried a lot. He also thought he was to blame for the split. He just couldn't talk about these things.

Do any parts of these stories sound familiar? It can be hard for kids to explain what they feel. One thing, for sure, kids have a lot of big questions.

What's True About Divorce

What's Not True

These not true thoughts can make you miserable and ruin your day. They can upset your relationship with a parent or your siblings. These thoughts can be difficult to get rid of by yourself. Talk to an adult you can trust, such as a parent, a close relative or friend, your doctor, or a counselor. Just remember that these negative thoughts are NOT TRUE.

Your Feelings

Everyone has lots of feelings when parents split, especially at first. You -- and your parents, too -- can feel shocked but at the same time be afraid, sad, or mad. All these feelings can also be mixed in with special feelings called grief. Grief is more than just being sad. It's the deep feelings and thoughts that come when you no longer have someone or something in your life that you loved very much.

At first, you can feel you have lost something precious. It can feel like there is a big hole in your life that you don't know how to fill. Not having both your parents together anymore is one of the biggest things that will ever happen to you (or your parents), so grieving is natural. Both adults and kids will need time to adjust to the changes and to their new way of living and being a family. It doesn't happen all at once. And sometimes it feels like a very long trip. But eventually things will get a lot better.

Most of the time feelings are mixed together -- just like a soup. And they can be intense at first. You can love your parents, but at the same time you can also be mad at them for getting a divorce. All these feelings can be mixed in with feelings of grief. Not only that, but you can feel one way today and another way tomorrow. If any of this is happening to you, you are not weird. It's a normal first reaction to big changes. All people have their own type of "feeling soup," even though they may not show it.

Some kids are very upset at first. Then they start figuring out what the changes mean. Others take longer to digest what's happening. One girl is ready to ask her mother questions. A boy her same age doesn't want to talk to his parents about anything yet. He still feels too sad. Some kids blame a parent for the separation or for having to move or change schools. They might even pick a fight. They might be rude or mean, or get into serious trouble when they didn't do things like that before. But there are other kids who aren't too worried. They may decide like Zoe just to wait and see what happens.

How to Feel Better Fast

By Yourself

Breathe slowly and deeply about three times. Then go back to your regular breathing. This will give your brain the oxygen it needs so you can think better and choose what to do. If this doesn't work right away, wait a few minutes and then breathe slowly and deeply again three times.

Tell yourself, "Calm down, stay cool."

Tell yourself, "I'm not weird, it's just my feeling soup. Things will get better. Millions of other kids have survived times like this. I can, too." You could write these words on a piece of paper and keep it in your pocket or backpack. This is a way to "train your brain" to overpower feelings.

Take charge by taking a run or doing something that takes a lot of energy. One of the fastest ways to feel better is to do something that makes your body move. The next section, "Use Your Special Energy," explains this.

Do something else. Change the subject of your thoughts. Try reading, playing electronic games or sports, playing an instrument, listening to music, or hanging out with friends. Do whatever works for now.

Make a "feel good" list. Your list might say something like, "petting my cat, reading, playing soccer, being at a friend's house, talking to Grandma." Keep this feel good list close by and do one or two of these things to feel better.

Draw or write. Draw a picture of your feelings or your thoughts anytime you want. Or write poetry or keep a private journal. It's good to express your feelings and thoughts. It helps get things out. You can keep these private or share them.

Hang out with your feelings. Go ahead and feel sad, mad, hurt, or just upset. Your feelings will settle down after a while, especially as you learn how to take charge of them and get clearer about what you want to have happen in your life. It's okay to feel mad, but it's not okay to hurt yourself or someone else or something because you are mad. It's not okay to do something that will get you in to trouble.

Think back. Do you remember how you felt when something scary or bad happened in the past? What did you do that made you feel better? Did things get better for a while? You can ask parents or friends what they have done.

Spend some time by yourself. Maybe being alone is more comforting. Big changes often require time for your brain and body to take it all in. You can do some of the things on this list when you are by yourself.

Learn how to make your energy work for you. This is explained in "Use Your Special Energy" on the next page.

With Other people

Talk it out with an adult you trust. If a parent is reading this book with you, you might explain what's in your own feeling soup or maybe write it in a note or letter. If you can't talk to a parent right now, talk to a good friend. Ask what they have done. If you feel bad a lot, talk to your parent about seeing a counselor for a while. Good talking almost always helps.

Give and get extra hugs. Hug your parents, grandparents, siblings. Ask for hugs back. Spend time with people you feel close to.

Talk with friends on the phone, spend time with friends or family doing fun things. Talk about your interests, things at school, or activities, or do fun things with others where you don't think about the divorce. If you are on the Internet, try instant messaging.

Hang out with your pet. You can cuddle or talk to a pet or stuffed animal. When you take care of a pet by taking it for walks or runs, grooming its coat, or feeding it, you can feel useful. Your pet will appreciate it, too.

Use Your Special Energy

What is "special energy"? When big changes bring up shocked or scared feelings, our mind often send signals to our body saying, "Get moving, give me more power and energy! Be careful! Something big is happening here!" This is special energy. Some people just call it adrenaline. It happens when the survival part of our brain thinks we are in danger.

Copyright © 2006 by Isolina Ricci, PhD

From PART ONE: SEPARATION AND DIVORCE TERRITORY

Separation and divorce are a little like a long road trip. The destination is a new version of normal family life -- one that is different from what you knew before but is still right for your family.

Your family's road trip might be short and simple, or it might be long and complicated. Things may seem better for a while, then worse, then much better. The road might be fairly straight, or curve back and forth. Every family's trip is different. But no matter what happens along the way, try to remember that you can use what you learn to help you stay strong and get smarter about things. Eventually things will settle down and you will arrive at your destination. There may be moments when it feels as if your world is coming to an end, but it won't. However, it is changing.

SNEAK PREVIEW OF SEPARATION AND DIVORCE TERRITORY

1. Splitting and Dividing. This is just before and after your parents' separation. For some families, it's shock and weirdness time. You may hear your parents arguing. You wonder what's true and what's not. You'll find out about your feelings, how to feel better fast, and how to use a "special energy." You will also find out how to stay out of the miserable middle of your parents' problems and get some straight answers to your questions.

2. Changes and More Changes. This is when your parents have started living in two different places. Some kids have just a few changes. For other kids, there are a ton of changes to get used to. This is why this chapter is so long. Whether you are in one home or two now, you will find out about living in a new home, new rules, and new routines. You will find ways to stay connected with your parents, family, and friends; deal with stuff at school; see grandparents and other relatives; and celebrate holidays. You'll probably still have some strong feelings about everything while the adults are figuring it out. With good information and ideas, things can be much easier.

3. New Ways. Here is where daily life gets much better even though people may still have a bad moment or even a bad day. By this time, you and your family have settled into routines and schedules. Feelings have settled down, too. You'll find tips in this section on how to handle yourself when your parents are meeting new people, different ways to solve problems, and how to work together as a family team. Even though you may have some surprise "creep-ups" of old feelings, life is a lot more fun as you reach your destination -- a new kind of normal family life.

Your parents' separation and divorce is one of the biggest things that will ever happen to you. So, no matter if the divorce was years ago or if it's happening now, you can decide to help yourself understand better, gain important life skills, and go on to succeed in life.

Copyright ©2006 by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.

From Chapter 1

Splitting and Dividing

The time before and just after the parents split up can be painful. Kids can feel suddenly different. Their feelings might be hurt a lot. Maybe they feel shocked, sad, or scared. Even when parents say everything will eventually turn out okay, some kids can feel as if they are in the middle of an earthquake or bad dream.

"This is the WORST day of my LIFE!" Daria shouted to her parents. "I don't WANT you to divorce! I want things to stay THE WAY THEY ARE NOW! How could you do this to me!" Daria's little brother started to cry. Later, she listened as her parents explained how they would take care of them as they always had, only now it would be in two homes instead of one. That helped, but Daria still felt awful.

The twins Zoe and Amy knew their parents had problems. Mom and Dad were grouchy with one another, and their father had been sleeping in the den for a long time. When their parents said they had something important to talk about, Zoe whispered to Amy, "Divorce." That was last week. While Amy felt as if her world was falling apart, Zoe wasn't upset. She was just going to see what happened.

When Luke's mom told him last month that his dad wasn't coming back home, Luke felt relieved. He won't have to worry about Dad being drunk and acting crazy. His mom said things will work out much better for everyone. Luke still felt weird and wondered if his father still loved him.

Ben slammed the door to his room. He didn't want to listen to his parents' ugly fighting again. Dad had moved out two months ago, but that didn't stop the arguments. Now Mom said she was going to get full custody, whatever that meant. No one ever told him anything, and his sisters were no help. He put on his headphones and turned the volume way up.

Justin's father said, "It's been four months since your mom and I separated. How are you doing with all this?" Justin smiled and said, "Things are okay, don't worry." But things were not fine. He and his older brother did not let their parents know how they felt. Justin was very sad, and when he was alone he cried a lot. He also thought he was to blame for the split. He just couldn't talk about these things.

Do any parts of these stories sound familiar? It can be hard for kids to explain what they feel. One thing, for sure, kids have a lot of big questions.

SOME BIG QUESTIONS

Why are things so weird? What's going to happen?

When will I see Mom or Dad? Why can't they just fix it?

Where will I live? Is my family ruined forever?

What do I do with my feelings? Who can I believe?

Is this all my fault? Will we move away?

Will I still see my friends or change schools?

WHAT'S TRUE ABOUT DIVORCE

WHAT'S NOT TRUE

These not true thoughts can make you miserable and ruin your day. They can upset your relationship with a parent or your siblings. These thoughts can be difficult to get rid of by yourself. Talk to an adult you can trust, such as a parent, a close relative or friend, your doctor, or a counselor. Just remember that these negative thoughts are NOT TRUE.

YOUR FEELINGS

Everyone has lots of feelings when parents split, especially at first. You -- and your parents, too -- can feel shocked but at the same time be afraid, sad, or mad. All these feelings can also be mixed in with special feelings called grief. Grief is more than just being sad. It's the deep feelings and thoughts that come when you no longer have someone or something in your life that you loved very much.

At first, you can feel you have lost something precious. It can feel like there is a big hole in your life that you don't know how to fill. Not having both your parents together anymore is one of the biggest things that will ever happen to you (or your parents), so grieving is natural. Both adults and kids will need time to adjust to the changes and to their new way of living and being a family. It doesn't happen all at once. And sometimes it feels like a very long trip. But eventually things will get a lot better.

Most of the time feelings are mixed together -- just like a soup. And they can be intense at first. You can love your parents, but at the same time you can also be mad at them for getting a divorce. All these feelings can be mixed in with feelings of grief. Not only that, but you can feel one way today and another way tomorrow. If any of this is happening to you, you are not weird. It's a normal first reaction to big changes. All people have their own type of "feeling soup," even though they may not show it.

If you feel like this, you are not weird or different.

It's a normal first reaction to big changes.

These feelings don't last forever.

There are things you can do to help yourself feel better.

Some kids are very upset at first. Then they start figuring out what the changes mean. Others take longer to digest what's happening. One girl is ready to ask her mother questions. A boy her same age doesn't want to talk to his parents about anything yet. He still feels too sad. Some kids blame a parent for the separation or for having to move or change schools. They might even pick a fight. They might be rude or mean, or get into serious trouble when they didn't do things like that before. But there are other kids who aren't too worried. They may decide like Zoe just to wait and see what happens.

If what's happening is scary instead of cool,

your feeling soup can taste awful.

HOW TO FEEL BETTER FAST

BY YOURSELF

WITH OTHER PEOPLE

Use Your Special Energy

What is "special energy"? When big changes bring up shocked or scared feelings, our mind often send signals to our body saying, "Get moving, give me more power and energy! Be careful! Something big is happening here!" This is special energy. Some people just call it adrenaline. It happens when the survival part of our brain thinks we are in danger.

Copyright ©2006 by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Children of divorced parents -- United States -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Single-parent families -- United States -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
Stepparents -- United States -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.