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When Separated Parents Fight Over Their Toddler

She argues he never provided as much of the care as she did, so why all the sudden interest in caring for their child now. He argues she is trying to keep the child away from him and interfere with his relationship to the child with a minimal access schedule.

It is important to understand that both parents will naturally want to have a relationship with their offspring, but there are gender differences with regard to the development of parent-child relationships and parental separation interrupts those gender based developmental differences.

To state the obvious, men do not carry the child during the child’s period of gestation. Women do. This affords mothers a head start on the relationship and creates in them the need to protect and care for their yet to be born child. That is not to minimize the sense of expectation men have and a sense of needing to protect one’s partner and even prepare the nest, so to speak, but men still do not carry babies and rarely appreciate the impact of this on the closer relationship between mother and newborn and infant child.

To add, men’s equipment does not provide for the direct sustenance of the child. Again, not to say fathers cannot feed babies, but men’s bodies do not biologically compel them to do so. This builds in a biological imperative for the mother to take a primary care position with respect to the child. It is important to note, biology is still at play even if argued that the mother didn’t breastfeed. How well the equipment works or mother’s attitude towards using the equipment doesn’t take away from basic biological differences.

Absent biological differences, there are also social and social policy differences between mothers and fathers. Women are more expected to care for infant children than are men. Mothers are more likely to subordinate careers and earning potential to care for infants than are fathers. (Please note, there are biological underpinnings to social expectations and social policy.) Mothers being the primary care provider doesn’t mean that father’s aren’t there providing care as well, but on balance, this still typically falls more to the mother and the mother has a different biologically determined disposition towards doing so. Although social policy is changing and the competencies of fathers to provide care is gaining recognition, this still doesn’t mitigate basic biological differences.

In view of differences, mothers will have more time with the child and typically will be more practiced in reading the child’s cues, responding more on target to those cues and given practice, more comfortable and efficient in providing care such as feeding, bathing, soothing, etc.

Fathers, absent the equipment, biological imperative, 9-month prenatal biological bonding, and degree of direct practice, may be more reticent to jump in. Fathers usually require a longer period of time to catch up, feel comfortable in a care capacity and develop care proficiency skills commensurate with the mother. All this is within the range of normal.

Mother’s too must appreciate the above difference and come to understand, that given the above, men come more into their own as fathers and begin to feel more comfortable with their care of children when the children are themselves less physically fragile, better able to signal their needs and wants through language and more inclined to interactive play.

With intact parental relationships, parents get to naturally transition through not only the child’s normal developmental changes, but parental developmental changes too.

With time, fathers gains confidence and competency in their own parenting skills with a child that itself is better able to express needs and wants through language or gestures and again, is less physically fragile and more interactive at play. As fathers’ competency builds they often take on more care responsibilities. Through this development, mother is exposed to father’s development and hence mother herself develops trust and confidence in the father’s abilities such that she can, in a sense, release or let go of their child more and more to his care. By the time the child is three or four years of age and given an intact parental relationship, the mother comes to demand more care and attention of the child by the father. If she feels he is too absent at work or play, she will be more vocal about this and more demanding for his time at home with her and certainly with their child.

Further and from the father’s perspective, even if immersed with work, he doesn’t feel like his relationship to his child is threatened by the mother. On the contrary, the mother is keeping and holding the image of him alive and of value. The child is told, “Daddy will be home shortly… Go see if daddies home…. Go give daddy a kiss hello… etc.” Further reminders of father’s role in the family will be evident. There will be his clothing, belongings, pictures and event scents. Father’s presence and place in the child’s life will be supported environmentally by the shared residence as well as emotionally and psychologically through the actions of the mother keeping the image and role of father alive when not in view. The father doesn’t feel his place in the child’s life is threatened.

In view of the above, it is normal for mother to be both more active and competent in the care of the infant to toddler child, for fathers to develop these competencies by or during the child’s toddler to preschool age and for care expectations to shift more towards father through the child’s second, third and fourth year of life. In an intact 2-parent family, this is normal and while there may be some bumps along the way, the family manages these developmental changes.

Parental separation during a child’s infancy or toddler years interrupts normal family development. Mothers will have been more active in the care of the child and fathers will not be afforded the opportunity to develop their competencies in the eyes of the mother. While the father typically does develop those competencies, without being witness, mother’s trust in those competencies may be undeveloped and she may seek to be protective by limiting father’s role. Father will feel his relationship to the child thwarted just as he is ready for responsibility, time and care of the child.

The set up for conflict for parents separating during this stage of life is now understandable.

The challenge will be for separated parents to arrive at a parenting plan that facilitates the otherwise normal development and changes in parental roles when their separated family structure interrupts this normal development.

If parents cannot accommodate normal developmental change themselves, then they are well advised to work with a social worker, psychologist, mental health professional or other child and family developmental specialist to devise a plan care that respects normal biological imperatives, normal child development and normal family and parental development.

In the end, the parenting plan will likely not be as restrictive as the mother had wished for but neither will it likely be as generous as the father had hoped for at this stage of everyone’s development.

However, it should also be understood and appreciated that parenting plans should be considered on a developmental basis too. What may be reasonable at one stage of life may not fit for another. To the degree to which the underlying issues of the separation are laid to rest, by either addressing or moving on from, the parents may develop a capacity for flexibility. That flexibility will be to the benefit of the child as the parenting plan is altered to meet different needs at different times, be it for the child or parents.

There are ways to settle parenting disputes at this stage of life. It will require the parents to appreciate normal child, family and parent development. Solutions will be tailored to each family’s unique situation and should include strategies to address mutual concerns.

While a court may impose a parenting plan, rarely can an imposed solution address the nuances of needs and wants, let alone developmental changes of any child, parent or family. Please also remember, your lawyer will be an expert at law, however, your social worker, psychologist, mental health professional or child and family developmental specialists should be your expert for human developmental transitions.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Separated Parents? Take the High Road, Not the Bait

Separated parents in dispute are good at goading each other to behave inappropriately. Then when one parent does behave inappropriately, that parent excuses the behavior as provoked by the other. This is next followed by retaliatory behavior excused on the basis of the other parent starting it! And so it goes.

When we look at the children of parents in these circumstances, we often see bullying and teasing as part of the child’s repertoire of behavior, creating disturbances at home, school and community. 

When the child’s behavior comes to the attention of the parents (school suspension, detention, expulsion) parents are often dismayed yet fail to make the connection to themselves as role models of the very behavior at issue from their child.

There is no amount of talking too, loss of privilege, discipline or advise a parent can administer to a child to correct a child engaged in such behavior when continued to be modeled by the parents. Concentrating on the behavior of the child only suggests the child is the root of the problem as opposed to the symptom. Focusing on the child as the root of the problem is akin to arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It may look good, but the ship eventually still does sink. 

There is only one way to change a child’s behavior that is predicated on the parents’ role model. Change the parents. Separated parents are advised that when goaded, take the high road, not the bait.

Do not use the behavior of the other to excuse your own. 

As your child experiences you taking the high road, they learn to do so too.

Play nicely – no matter what!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847 

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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In Lieu of Court to Settle Parenting Disputes

There are two powerful concepts that come into play when one parent wants to make changes to a parenting arrangement when the other parent objects and the parents use the Courts to resolve their dispute.

The first concept is known as “the status quo”. Briefly translated, it means, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Even though you may think something is broken and needs fixing, the issue then becomes a concern that change may make the matter worse, not better. As a result more consideration may be given to retaining the status quo – continuing to do as has been done, than to change. These are strong forces for a judge to consider if tasked with the job of determining changes to a pre-existing parenting structure. The longer the pre-existing structure has been in place the greater the resistance there will be to making changes. That is the nature of the “status quo” argument.

As per the second concept, typically courts will only entertain a change to the status quo, the arrangement currently in place, if there has been a “material change in circumstance” or if the current arrangement is so egregious as to bring obvious and almost immediate if not immediate harm to a child.

A material change in circumstance means something has been altered to quite affect either the parenting arrangement or the wellbeing of the child within the parenting arrangement. For example if a parent seeks to relocate to a distance that would make the current arrangement unworkable or if a parent becomes incapacitated be it for reason of health, drug or alcohol issues or other misfortune or if it is argued that a parent is undermining the relationship between the child and the other parent, these could be considered material changes in circumstances. In other words something has to have occurred or about to occur that renders the current parenting arrangement unsuitable.

These two forces, status quo and material change in circumstance, provide formidable hurdles for a parent to cross when seeking to change a pre-existing parenting arrangement – whether or not the pre-existing parenting arrangement has ever been agreed to or has simply just fallen into place as a matter of fact.

To the trier of facts, the judge, before even considering the impact of changing a parenting arrangement, will likely first seek to determine if there has been a change of circumstance worthy of altering the current parenting arrangement, particularly if it appears that the child is developing at all reasonably or at least not terribly.

While judges do rely upon other prior cases to inform their decisions and to determine thresholds for what may be considered a worthy material change in circumstance to then next consider altering the status quo, there is quite a degree of variability between judges and how each will interpret prior cases in addition to the information put before them in the case at hand. However, it should be known that typically the threshold is high for both considering a material change in circumstance as well as considering a change to the status quo.

Parents never having been to trial before will have their own pre-conceived notion as to what constitutes a material change in circumstance and the relevance of the status quo. However, whatever their preconceived notion, there is a substantial risk to that parent that their perception will be either an underestimate or overestimate of the trial judge’s perspective. This means leaving the matter for a judge to decide will likely leave one parent significantly disappointed with the outcome.

In going to trial, you may be seated with a judge whose threshold for determining these issues is far lower than anticipated or alternately, far higher than anticipated.

If for a moment you think that exaggerating your claims with regard to the issues will move the judge towards one or other side of the threshold then think again. Exaggerated claims are often self-evident and undermine the credibility of the parent making the exaggerated claims and this works against that parent.

Parents are cautioned and advised to consider the courts as a high risk alternative and alternative of last choice when seeking to resolve parenting disputes.

In lieu of going to court and in order to retain some semblance of control of the outcome, parents are advised to exhaust these dispute resolution strategies ahead of taking their matter to Court:

Joint counseling and education on the issue of dispute;

Mediation;

Collaborative Family Law;

Lawyer assisted negotiation with settlement minded lawyers;

Parenting Coordination;

Arbitration.

Court will always remain a crap-shoot. The only known outcome of court is that one parent will likely be quite dissatisfied with the outcome. By the way, dissatisfaction leads to resentment and resentment leads to retribution which of course only drives conflict and thus the likelihood of having to return to court one fine day.

Find a solution independent of the court process, entered into voluntarily and where you have a greater likelihood of both parents agreeing to the outcome and then the likelihood of the outcome remaining in place and conflict abating is better. Even if you have to plug your nose in order to accept the outcome that will likely be better than losing control and being fully unsatisfied with the outcome or perhaps worse still, winning and then being subject to the loser’s discontent.

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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847 

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Lop-Sided Relationships and Depression

A lop-sided relationship is where one partner is the greater beneficiary of favors, decisions, financial rewards, contribution to household chores, decisions than the other partner. The outcome of decisions or activities on balance favors one over the other. In other words, one partner is apt to get the “dirty” end of the stick on most occasions while the other comes up clean.

Common to these situations is that the partner in the one-down position is apt to be a people pleaser and often hails from a family background where there was a greater likelihood of abuse, parental alcoholism and/or parental separation with an acrimonious ongoing relationship between the parents. The partner in the one-down position may not realize it, but is inadvertently used to being second fiddle and tries to please others as a misguided strategy to gain affection and reward while avoiding displeasing the other for fear of reprisal.

In this scenario, the partner who is one up on the other tends to lead a more charmed and happy life albeit at the expense of the partner who is in the one-down position. This person is usually oblivious to their one-up status and assumes their partner is equally satisfied with the structure of the relationship. Further, this person is apt to have little empathy, seeks to have things their way and is likely to be very argumentative to wear down their partner to achieve personal desires. Once their one-down partner acquiesces, the view is that their partner is in agreement with the outcome versus browbeaten into submission.

Over time this dynamic falls under its own weight. Eventually the partner in the one-down position gets dissatisfied, coming to terms with their strategy of people pleasing not achieving their goal of recognition and reciprocity within the relationship. Unable to help their one-up partner understand the dilemma faced and the partner’s role in the lop-sided relationship constant defeat leads to depression. If the woman in the one-down position, she may seek medical attention and be prescribed anti-depressant medication. If the man in the one-down position, he may be seen to turn to alcohol as a coping strategy. Should the man seek medical attention, he too would be prescribed antidepressant medication then.

When this couple presents in therapy, the challenge is to empower the partner in the one-down position and help the partner in the one-up position to empathize and understand the impact of the lop-sided relationship upon both persons. This is quite a challenge as it typically means the partner in the one-up position no longer getting their way a disproportionate amount of time and at the expense of the partner’s well being. The partner in the one-up position is apt to project blame upon their partner and disassociate their behaviour or role in their partner’s depression, thus leaving the depressed partner feeling stranded and abandoned, only exacerbating the divide between them.

The partner in the one-down position is apt to try and explain their situation better, harder, louder, smarter to their partner who may be quite resistant to the outright pleas for understanding, appreciation and emotional connection.

Resistance garners attention and from the one-up partner’s point of view, they are apt to see themselves as persecuted unfairly, particularly given they are happy in life and within the relationship. On the other hand, however, the person in the one-down position must be helped to understand that their cajoling, begging, whining and/or pleading falls on deaf ears and that rather than seeking validation in the hands of their one-up partner, they must come to their own defense and not succumb to a false reality projected upon them by the partner in the one-up position.

To improve this relationship both persons must come to understand their respective contribution to the one’s distress. From counseling, the partner in the one-down position may feel validated for their view of the situation, yet seek to still change their partner instead of themselves. If the one-down partner does seek to change her or himself, this can destabilize the relationship.

Once the dynamic is made clear though, even if just accepted by the partner in the one-down position, it is like a genie that cannot be place back within the bottle.

It remains this person’s choice as to what to do; now understanding the dynamics of the situation and their place within it. Live a life of acquiescence or learn to assert oneself within the relationship which if unacceptable to the one-up partner may lead to the dissolution of the relationship. The partner who is in the one-down position will likely need greater social supports outside of the relationship to assert themselves and carry forward.

As for the depression, it will continue if the dynamic doesn’t change by the will of one, other or both partners.

Lop-sided relationships create depression. If balance to the relationship cannot be facilitated balance to mental health will remain at risk. It is bad enough when someone else bangs your head against a wall, worse still is when we then continue to do it to ourselves. If this is your situation, consider your options and strategies for leaving the relationship. Bear in mind, you will be blamed for the dissolution but if you develop a more independent sense of self, that will wash off you and you will see it for what it is – an abusive projection by a remarkably self-centered partner whose only happy getting their own way.

Time to finally take care of yourself. Then depression can lift.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Image

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847 

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Is your son or daughter throwing away their higher education?

I commonly see parents of young adults in university/college where the student is throwing away their education, putting more time towards partying and recovery than studying and earning grades. Common to these situations are often backgrounds of privilege with the parents carrying the tab – both for the bar and the books. What’s a parent to do?

While the parents are focused on their son or daughter, I am focused on the parents. I find that in these situations, the parent has set a goal of happiness for their child. They want their child to be happy.

This is not an unreasonable goal, but unfortunately, the strategies aimed at achieving it are often misguided.

In an effort to facilitate their child’s happiness, these parents have been apt to pave the road ahead of each step the child takes throughout life; are too forgiving of transgressions without requiring accountability and restitution; and seek to provide all the trappings of the privileged life with nary the work to achieve those trappings. So what looks like a happy child is in fact an indulged child.

Being indulged, these children come adulthood are not equipped to handle the ups and downs of life. Having the road paved ahead of each step, they have little resilience, the ability to overcome adversity. Further, having been indulged, there is an expectation that the trappings of life should be handed to them instead of earned. Without experiencing consequences and without having to learn to delay gratification, these kids come adulthood expect the world to revolve around them and that there should be no recourse to them for untoward behaviour. Indeed, instead of happy, they are egocentric and when not catered to, they are dissatisfied, which only prompts the parents to provide more in their quest to facilitate happiness. This is a terrible conundrum where the child’s behaviour escalates out of control and the parents find themselves having to kowtow more and more to the inordinate demands of the child.

The real key to happiness in life is in learning to take responsibility. As one is responsible for one’s actions through consequences and through having to meet one’s own needs and wants, then happiness can be achieved. The reasons this leads to happiness is because as we take care of business, learn the consequences of our behaviour and earn/contribute to our needs and wants, we stay out of trouble and learn to appreciate what we achieve. Then we are happy!

Want to help your young adult get more out of life? Pull the plug thus requiring them to be self-sufficient. Let them experience the consequence of their own choices – good and bad. Let them taste life itself before enjoying the trappings of life.

Oh they will protest and blame and call you names. They will threaten you and even themselves. They will do whatever it takes to hold the parent hostage for the return of the old regime such that they can continue to live the pampered life – on your dime. And quite likely, those bully tactics have worked before so why not again.

Parents, the challenge is less trying to change your son or daughter and more in holding to your guns to no longer spoil or indulge. Only then do your children have a hope of becoming responsible and then later, happy.

Withdraw financial support. Let them come home with the expectation of having to work. It’s not like they will lose their education as that is likely already the case. At home, they should be expected to pay room and board as well as all costs for their use of the Internet and smart phone.

Angry? Yes.

But then they can really grow up and will have earned the bumps and bruises to prove it.

Oh – If they don’t want to work, they can leave home.

Tough? You bet.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Image

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847 

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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Sibling Harmony over Rivarly

Two siblings, ages three and five are bickering over the toys. The parent admonishes the younger child, “You are almost four, now share.” The older child next hits the younger child and the parent shouts, “Don’t hit… you have to love your little sister/brother.” The stage is set for the parent to develop a rivalry between the children with the toys viewed as a valuable and limited resource. What is sought though, is sibling harmony, not rivalry.

Children go through developmental stages where at one stage they are almost incapable of sharing, to the next stage, when they finally develop an ability to share. In developmental terms these stages are described as parallel play and cooperative play.

Parallel play is most common in two to three year olds. The main feature of parallel play is that the child tends to play alone, even though the child may be with other children. For instance, give a two to three year old a ball and they will happily roll it around by themselves but will likely be unable to enjoy rolling it back and forth with another child.

Cooperative play comes around four years of age and is usually well developed in the five year old child. Give these children a ball and they can happily roll it between themselves and take turns using it.

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I love walking in on all of them playing so nicely. Erik was explaining how to play Batman to “his girls”. So blessed.

Thus pre-school siblings who are close in age may find themselves in conflict. When at play, the younger will have difficulty sharing and because of this the elder may become upset. The issue isn’t love or rivalry though. The issue is one where each child is at a

different developmental level. Placing the problem into a context of sibling rivalry only creates a problem where it doesn’t have to exist.

The solution is to explain to the older child that the younger hasn’t yet learned to share. The older child can be commended for having learned to share and can also be commended for having patience with the younger sibling until the skill of sharing has been learned. Helping the elder sibling place the issue in developmental terms helps release bad feelings the older child may have been harbouring. Their sibling is no longer seen as bad, just younger. Further, the older sibling can be encouraged to share their toys with their younger sibling to help teach or role model how to share. Now, instead of developing sibling rivalry, the parent encourages cooperation and understanding in the older sibling, thus helping to develop empathy and caring.

As for the younger child, this child can be encouraged by the parent to share and take turns with the toys. Depending on the age of the younger child, it may be necessary for the parent to take the toy away and give it to the older child to have a turn. It is important that the parent take this action and not the older child. The parent has legitimate authority to make the decision whereas the older child does not. Further, in taking the toy from the younger, the parent should tell the child, “Time to share… It’s your brother’s or sister’s turn.”  Thus, play or use of the toy is a parental decision and not something the younger child can hold against the older child.

As both children grow and develop, both will achieve cooperative play. Because the parent will have encouraged empathy and cooperation in the older child, both may now come to share well between themselves without parental intervention. The children’s relationship will remain intact. This is sibling harmony and the way to a lifelong mutually supportive sibling relationship.

Assume your children love each other… Now just teach them how to get along. Understanding developmental differences is the first step towards sibling harmony.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Image

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847 

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

http://www.facebook.com/GaryDirenfeldSocialWorker
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=60758978&trk=tab_pro
https://twitter.com/socialtworker

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Sex. Need I say more?

Latency age is considered to be between five or six and puberty. During these ages kids are more typically caught up in activities made available by school, parents or independent play. Their activity is influenced by a desire for fun, adventure, learning and skill building. While gender may factor into decisions regarding activities, sexuality is not typically the driver of latency aged children’s engagement.

Adolescence is quite different. While still involved in all sorts of activities, sexuality emerges as a more influential driver of teen engagement. No longer are kids making decisions on just the basis of fun, but on how to have fun in the context of their developing sexuality and attraction to others. Adolescence has traditionally been the age of sexual exploration and experimentation in a social context.

Enter the Internet and enter advertising. As a result and influence of both, the age of exploration in a sexual-social context has become steadily younger and younger.

The Internet provides exposure to decontextualized sexual behavior – that is to say, sex for sex’s sake independent of an intimate emotional relationship between the participants.  Whether accessed the result of curiosity or accident, younger and younger children are exposed to sexual content the likes of which just wasn’t available in prior history.

Advertisers, keying on latency aged children’s desire to role model older kids, have capitalized on sexual expression to capture market share on any given commodity. Kids are taught through advertising media, that their value and worth will be more determined by the sexual responsiveness they can engender in others towards themselves, than by academic, artistic or athletic accomplishment. Gone are the days of feeling good about oneself the result of skill development and mastery. Here is the time of worth being a reflection in the glint of someone else’s eye for sexual desirability.   

As such children are exposed to and chasing sexual behavior in the absence of a cognitive or emotional capacity to appreciate their actions, more and more kids are getting into trouble. Today’s children are at greater risk of sexual exploitation and voluntarily engaging in behavior that undermines moral development. These owls come home to roost come adolescence and young adulthood, when the skills of relationship building are confused with sexual behavior.

The best medicine in view of these issues is preventative medicine. Parents are cautioned to be aware of children’s on-line activity and to provide limits and guidance with regard to the choice of clothing, activities, and yes, even friends.

Now more than ever parenting as a verb, an action word, takes on more weight. We cannot afford from a social, moral or even behavioral developmental perspective to idly assume our kids are safe from harm, even when tucked in their own beds. Computer access still should remain in public places within the home and communication devises should sleep outside of the bedroom when the child sleeps inside the bedroom. Parents must have access to all children’s on-line accounts and before checking one’s own social media page, parents must first check that of their child’s.

We didn’t let our kids wander aimlessly into dark forests, polluted ponds or dart out between parked cars to busy streets. Now we must provide guidance and supervision as our kids engage the most dangerous highway of all, the super highway called the Internet and we must provide limits upon the influence of marketers whose sole purpose has only to do with profit share over welfare.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

(905) 628-4847 

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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