Mom's House, Dad's House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Twoby Isolina Ricci
Isolina Ricci’s Mom’s House, Dad’s House has been the gold standard for inspiring and supporting divorcing and remarrying parents for/i>/i>
From the author of the classic Mom’s House, Dad’s House, the essential guide for kids on how to stay strong and succeed in life when parents separate, divorce, or get married again.
Isolina Ricci’s Mom’s House, Dad’s House has been the gold standard for inspiring and supporting divorcing and remarrying parents for more than twenty-five years. With her new book, Dr. Isa adapts her time-tested advice on maneuvering the emotional, logistical, and legal realities of separation, divorce, and stepfamilies to speak directly to children. Alongside practical ways to cope with big changes she offers older children and their families key resiliency tools that kids can use now and the rest of their lives. Kids and families are encouraged to believe in themselves, to take heart, and to plan for their lives ahead.
Mom’s House, Dad’s House for Kids is packed with practical tips, frank answers, easy-to-use lists, “train your brain” ideas, reproducible worksheets, and things to try when words just won’t come out right. Kids will learn how to:
· Deal with parents living apart, schedules, and dueling house rules
· Settle comfortably in one home or two
· Stay out of the “miserable middle” when parents fight
· Manage stress, guilt, change, fear, and other feelings
· Stay connected with parents, relatives, and the “right” friends
· Appreciate the gifts (and deal with the gripes) of their new version of family
· Feel better FAST!
Kids can’t get their parents back together, but they can help themselves get stronger and go on to succeed in life. This book shows them how.
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Read an Excerpt
A Message for Parents
Mom's House, Dad's House for Kids is an inside view of separation, divorce, and forming a stepfamily. It is primarily for children ten and older to read alone or with their parents. It is meant to be an encouraging and realistic friend that empowers children with practical ways to gain understanding, some perspective, and self-knowledge. It's an operating manual with a message: Believe in yourself, take pride in your family, and use times of change to get stronger and learn important life skills. Many children will be relieved to read this book because it can affirm and express their experiences. If you also read this book, your child can take comfort in knowing that you have the same frame of reference especially with delicate subjects like anger, panic, and feeling disloyal or in the middle.
As a parent, you know the challenges you face as you divorce or remarry. These family changes can bewilder and upset children even when you assure them that things will turn out well down the road. But, take heart; children can and do travel successfully through major life transitions, especially when they know parents love them and are doing their best to steer the course. You have this book because you sincerely want to do the right thing for your child. You may have already covered many of the topics in this book with your child (or are well on your way). If so, this book can help your child remember your advice, validate your perspective, and continue being open with you. If you and your children are just beginning the process of transition, then this book can be useful in offering ideas, concepts, and guides for your consideration. If you have younger children between the ages of eight and ten, they can also benefit from this book if you select passages and read them together. If your child is younger than eight, you can read the book yourself for ways to help your child express feelings. Children between six and eight may seem self-sufficient, but they can be much more vulnerable to fears and misunderstandings. Select topics cautiously, rephrase them in your own words, and encourage questions.
The three goals for this book are to
- Offer the reader maps through divorce and stepfamily territories with defined regions, things to know and do, a sense of what's ahead, and the final destination.
- Establish a sense of order and structure around major transitions with enough information to empower but not overwhelm.
- Reinforce your role as a parent by encouraging your child to strengthen certain life skills and attitudes that foster resiliency. These skills can help children bounce back from tough times and also believe in themselves and in their future.
Your child will probably enjoy this book best when read a few pages at a time. Encourage him or her to take it slowly. If your child is shy about expressing a feeling or a desire, you might suggest that he or she point to a page or leave a marker on pages for you to read. Please do not pressure your child to read certain passages. Children have their own internal wisdom that tells them when they are ready to deal with their feelings and when to share them with others, including their parents. Some children will not verbalize their feelings, but are more comfortable expressing themselves by drawing, writing in a private journal, engaging in fantasy play or games, or through physical activity. You know what's "normal" for your child. If you feel uneasy about his or her behavior, do discuss your concerns with a trained counselor or your pediatrician.
Finally, and this might be the last thing you want to hear right now, healing and adjustment always seem to take more time than we expect. During big transitions, children require more, not less, attention from parents. But, this often comes at a time when parents are preoccupied with heavy responsibilities and major life transitions. So, treasure those little ways where you reassure your child that you will always love and take care of them no matter what. You are your child's safe haven. Copyright ©2006 by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D.
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
- Your parents still love you very much. They always will.
- You can't get your parents back together. You can tell them how you feel, but you can't make them do anything.
- The divorce is definitely not your fault. What's happened is totally your parents' responsibility.
- You can try to get answers to your most important questions. Your parent is your first choice of a person to talk to. If you don't think that will work, find a trusted adult to talk to.
- The hardest changes usually work out eventually. But it takes time.
- There are important things you can do to become stronger and smarter, and there are ways to help your parents.
- You still have a real family. Even if your family feels "broken," it's not. Instead, it has divided into two parts. Some things are different from before, but it is still your family, and it is real. You can be proud of it.
- Some things often get much better after the separation. That might seem impossible to believe, but later this can be true. Your parents will usually be happier. That's good for you, too.
- It's the parents' job to take care of their kids. Parents will figure out arrangements for school, transportation, activities, and lessons, and who will be there for you. So try not to worry about adult responsibilities.
WHAT'S NOT TRUE
- I feel the separation is my fault. NOT TRUE.
- My parents have problems because of me. NOT TRUE.
- I can get my parents to change their mind and get them back together. NOT TRUE.
- I am not worth anything. I am not important to anyone. No one really cares. NOT TRUE.
- Nothing I do makes any difference, anyway. I might as well do anything I want, even if I get into trouble, or just play video games all day. NOT TRUE.
- I need to know everything about the divorce. I want to know why this is happening and who is to blame. 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.
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
- 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, Ph.D.
Meet the Author
Isolina Ricci, Ph.D., whose breakthrough work resulted in Mom's House, Dad's House, is an internationally renowned family expert, lecturer, award-winning mediator, and licensed family therapist who divides her time between consulting for family courts and working directly with families. She is the Director of the New Family Center in northern California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book can be a young person's full-time guide not just to the logistics, emotions, and decisions that arise during parents' divorce, but also to growing up strong under any conditions. As a mother whose daughter was 9 at the time of divorce, I would have bought two copies - one for me and one for her - so that each of us could have it handy 24/7 and write our own marginal notes. Three copies. One for dad, too. Arguments may be commonplace during and after divorce, but no one could argue with the solid foundation and practical value of Dr. Ricci's ideas or her profound love of children and families. It should be in the waiting room of every therapist, as well.
This is a special book. It is not simply another 'how to' for kids, it is a door to another realm where the world of tweens and teens takes center stage from divorce, through parents dating to forming a stepfamily. It's their book, the best that law, psychology and wisdom have to offer translated into their terms showing how the older child can take the tragedy of parental divorce and resistence to remarraige and transform it into understanding, growth and maturity. I have practiced family law for 23 years and there is a great need for books for the older child to help them understand and transition themsleves so their capacity to have successful relationships is enhanced.