Solving The Top 5 Holiday Modern Parenting Challenges

Solving The Top 5 Holiday Modern Parenting Challenges

It’s that time of year when Modern Parents turn their focus from kids, work, and family schedules to the holidays…and all the modern challenges they create!

This past week, I’ve received a few emails from a few Modern Parent readers asking me for advice on how to handle some modern holiday dilemmas, and I thought I would share with you some of what we discussed – since many of you will experience the same challenges.

Before I get to the questions, remember that Modern Parenting is all about:

  • Creating warm and close relationships with family members
  • Helping each family member to be proud of their unique talents and traits
  • Appreciating the meaning behind the season, and not the commercial aspect of it

Question #1: Do Modern Parents have to nurture relationships with family members who are toxic?

It’s really hard to nurture family relationships when you don’t get along with one of your family members. Chances are, you’ll have an extended family member (or even a close one) that is difficult to connect with during the holiday season.

One reader wrote about how hard it is for them to be around their sibling’s spouse for long periods of time due to their grandiose personality. Yet another Modern Parent wrote to me about how difficult it is for them to entertain their teenage step-child over the holidays.

I totally get it. You just aren’t going to “click” with everyone – and sometimes that’s ok.

While one of the core elements of Modern Parenting is to build and nurture family relationships, it’s also equally important to intentionally choose the influences you allow into your Modern Family. So, when it’s difficult to get along with a family member, ask yourself if going to the effort of nurturing a relationship with that person makes sense to your Modern Family.

For example, if you are struggling with getting along with your brother because you don’t seem to have much in common, making an effort to find things in common makes sense. Generally, he’s a nice guy and always remembers to send your kids birthday cards, so he’s probably a good influence to have around your Modern Family.

In contrast, maybe you have a family member who always nitpicks and criticizes you and your kids. They never seem to have anything nice to say to you or your kids. It makes sense to not waste energy in maintaining a relationship with this person.

Still not sure whether or not you should let a family go? Ask yourself this, “Does this person’s influence HELP my family, or HINDER it?”

The answer to that question will guide you on your decision.

Questions #2: How do Modern Parents handle family situations where they are being judged negatively by other family members?

Another core aspect of Modern Parenting is respecting other parent’s rights to raise their families the way they feel is best. Every Modern Family is uniquely different – and that’s ok. It makes sense, then, that because of this uniqueness, each Modern Family will have their own individual passions, values, and beliefs.

For more on Modern Parenting and finding your unique passions, values, and beliefs, read THIS ARTICLE.

So, how does the Modern Parent practice respecting others when they feel disrespected themselves? By not giving the judgement by the other person much attention.

For example, let’s say that you get seated next to your very judgy, non-parent cousin at the table during Christmas dinner. You get into a conversation with your sister about how much you and your kids like the tv show Stranger Things when your cousin tells you all about how her friend doesn’t let her child watch tv at all because it’s such a bad influence.

Because you will want to respect the parenting of your cousin’s friend, it’s best to just say something positive and then change the subject. For example, a simple, “That’s nice” or “I have friends that do the same thing too,” is enough. Quickly ask your cousin about her new job and change the subject.

From first hand experience, I know how easy it is to want to defend your own parenting during this situation. Take it from me, though, defending your parenting is usually met with deaf ears. The best evidence that you know what you are doing as a Modern Parent is by consistently living out your personal family passions, values, and beliefs.

Question #3: How can you make the holidays special for your child if you don’t get a chance to see them much over the holidays?

Whether you don’t see your child over the holidays due to a divorce or other custody arrangement, or they are grown and live away from you, it’s still important to stay connected with your child – especially during the holidays.

The best way to stay connected when you are away from your child is by creating and consistently performing family traditions.

Don’t have any traditions with your child? Or maybe you had traditions with them when they were little, but they are all grown up now.

It’s never too late to create new traditions with your kids.

Here are some pointers. Be sure to:

  • Do something your child likes – this way they’ll be invested in participating
  • Do something easy – if it’s too elaborate then it will be too difficult to repeat each year
  • Do something meaningful – make it about building relationships with each other, not about gifts or things.

Family traditions are one of the best ways to maintain family relationships because they are predictable, dependable, and meaningful. Sometimes it might take a couple of tries before you develop just the right tradition, but I encourage you not to give up until you find just the tradition that works for your Modern Family.


Question #4: How does the Modern Parent handle their disappointment when the holidays don’t turn out the way they expected?

It’s so easy to build up in your head how wonderful the holidays with your Modern Family will go.

I’ve been there, done that.

But the reality is that the holidays rarely live up to our expectations. The best way to deal with this situation is to begin by managing your expectations at the beginning of the holiday. Remind yourself that the holidays are the perfect time to:

  • Nurture relationships with family members
  • Teach your kids the values and beliefs about the holidays
  • Fulfill your personal need for a connection with family, friends, and faith.

When you use the above three criteria to manage your holiday expectations, then you will more easily adhere to may of the core principles of Modern Parenting.

You don’t have time to cook your family secret recipe cookies for your daughter’s class party? That’s ok. The cookies don’t make the holiday – bonding with your child at the class party does.

Your son didn’t show as much excitement about the gift you spent so much time picking out? That’s ok. The holidays should be about the deeper meaning about family and faith anyway. You will have an opportunity every year to get the perfect gift for your son.

Question #5: How do I keep my child from becoming an entitled Modern Kid during the holidays?

SUCH a good question!

Modern Parents are not immune to wanting to spoil their child with everything they’ve ever wanted during the holidays, but we also know that spoiling our kids does not align with our values and beliefs.

We want our kids to appreciate the deeper meaning of the holidays while still seeing their faces light up with joy during some of the special parts, too.

Instead of spoiling our kids with things during the holidays, try spoiling your child with experiences of feeling loved through family, friends, and faith. Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist has some really great articles on keeping the holidays simple and meaningful. Read THIS ARTICLE and THIS ONE for some great anti-entitlement holiday ideas.

The main thing that will serve to inoculate your child against modern holiday entitlement is to make an effort to share your values and beliefs about the holiday with your child. If you practice a faith, then include your child in those religious activities. If you don’t practice something so organized, you can still participate in activities that teach your child your values through experience. For example, if being charitable is an important value for you, than involve your child in a holiday meal for the homeless or something similar. Just focus on the deeper meaning behind the holidays.

It’s important to note, thought, that it’s part of growing up to be a little selfish, so if your child displays some entitled behavior, don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that they are a “bad kid.” Use these situations as opportunities to teach your child about your values and beliefs.

Take Home Message

The holidays can be very hard to navigate, but the take home message for Modern Parents is to keep in mind some of the core principles to Modern Parenting. If a situation starts to get a little hairy, ask yourself the following questions to provide you some guidance on how to handle the situation:

  • What can I do during this situation that would help bring my family relationships closer?
  • If this situation isn’t going the way I want it, what can I do to help the situation come close to what I’d like?
  • What can I do to help each family member’s unique talents and gifts shine during the holidays?
  • How can I encourage the appreciation of the holiday instead of focusing on the

The holidays become much easier to navigate with the helpful guidelines of the core Modern Parenting principles.

If you liked this article, you might also like these articles about Modern Parenting and the holidays:

How To Handle Your Kid’s Holiday Entitlement So You Don’t Have To Be The Family That Cancels Christmas

How MODERN FAMILIES Enjoy The Holidays: 5 Tips For Surviving The Holidays



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Update on My Modern Family

Update on My Modern Family

One of the things that I absolutely believe – and science is beginning to back this up – is that nontraditional families can raise great kids.

Now, I’m not saying that traditional families – ones where mom and dad are married – do not raise good kids; rather, I’m saying that nontraditional families can also contain the same ingredients that a lot of traditional families have that serve to raise kind, moral, intelligent, motivated, and interesting kids.

I have to believe this because, as many of you know, I found myself raising my own two kids in a nontraditional family when my husband of 14 years came out as a gay man almost a decade ago. This was definitely something that I had not planned for my life. I had grown up in a traditional family and my goal was to create the same life for myself.

So, life sent me a curveball, and I needed to accept the fact that my life – and the life I wanted for my kids – was not going to be the traditional path that I had planned. I needed to figure out fast how to raise good kids in a family that didn’t look like the societal norm, and I needed to do that because my kids’ futures depended on it. I owed them this.

When I first started this blog, I wrote a lot about my little Modern Family, but I stopped doing that as time went on because I felt like we were a work in progress. I might have been able to report on what worked for me in the moment, but I wasn’t sure if what I was doing in the here and now would positively affect my son and daughter’s futures.

Now that my son is 19 and my daughter is 16, I’ve started to allow myself to acknowledge that some of the decisions I made post-divorce actually helped my kids become the young adults I always hoped they would become. I’m beginning to psychologically let go of all of the worries and fears that I’ve kept pent up since my divorce and recognize that the hard work of parenting in a nontraditional family raised some pretty awesome kids.

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve been 100% successful as a parent (there is no perfect parent!), but I do want to share some of our recent news with you in order to:

  1. Educate others that as long as the basic elements of successful parenting is present (unconditional love, emotional support, and chaos-free stability, etc.) in a family, even nontraditional families can provide a happy home for themselves and their kids
  2. Nontraditional families can raise successful kids – kids that are kind, moral, and motivated to pursue worthwhile passions and interests
  3. Challenge the notion of what a “successful family” really means – I think a successful Modern Family is one that supports and encourages the exploration and pursuit of each individual member’s passions and interests while maintaining a close relationship between all members of the family.

As such, I hope you’ll allow me to share with you some of my family’s news so I can illustrate how I believe the above 3 points are so important to Modern Parenting – no matter if you are parenting in a traditional family or a nontraditional one.


The Successful Pursuit of A Lifelong Passion – Even When it Seems Impossible

I’m so happy to report that my son, Patrick, has been accepted to the University of Southern California!

Now, most people think that I’m super happy about this because USC is such a prestigious university – and I am pretty proud of Patrick that he was able to get accepted to such a notable school –  but the real reason I’m BURSTING AT THE SEAMS WITH PRIDE is because this represents the successful completion of  a lifelong dream for Patrick. Let me explain…

See the picture below? That’s a picture of one-year-old Patrick attending his Dad’s graduation from law school. Where did his Dad go to law school? You guessed it…USC. Since he was a little boy, Patrick has told anyone who would listen that he wanted to grow up and go to USC and become an attorney just like his Dad.

When it came time to apply to college during his senior year, Patrick applied to USC, but didn’t get in.

Devastation does not do justice to the intense feeling of disappointment that I’m sure Patrick felt.

But that’s when the magic happened – Patrick didn’t give up on his dream.

A week after receiving the rejection letter from USC, Patrick also received another letter form them letting him know that they offered an Expedited Trojan Transfer Program and invited him to participate.

I saw him wanting to succumb to the all-too-often comforting feelings of anger, resentment, and victimization, but instead, he decided all by himself to rise to the challenge.

He applied for the program and was offered an interview. He attended the interview and was told to attend another college for a year, but his counselor at USC had to pick his classes for him and Patrick had to report to the counselor at USC on a regular basis. In addition, Patrick had to get all As during this time period or he wouldn’t qualify.

I’m sure you can see why I’m so proud. Patrick took this challenge and ran with it. He did everything USC told him to do to the letter. It was a long wait to hear from USC over the summer, but in August, a tell-tale package was sitting at the front door one afternoon. When I bent down to see what it was and the USC symbol was on the front, I immediately knew what it was and ran it upstairs to Patrick.

I think the vision of Patrick’s face while he opened that package will forever be one of my favorite memories. He did what he needed to do to make something that he was passionate about come true.

To me, this is successful Modern Parenting – being the parent your child needs you to be in order to allow them to become the person they were meant to be.

During Patrick’s childhood, he needed me to be the parent that believed with him in his dream. There were other times that I needed to be the parent that reminded him that studying instead of playing video games allowed him to stay on track with his dream. On the other hand, when he got older, I needed to be the parent that let him figure this out for himself – even if that meant backing off and letting him get a bad grade or two.

And then on the day he received his acceptance package, he needed me to be the parent that beamed with pride with him. And I was SOOOOO happy to be that parent for him.

I’m not saying that I knew exactly what I was doing during my kids’ childhoods, but I did try to always ask myself what kind of parent my son and daughter needed in each moment in order to assist them to figure out for themselves how to become who they needed to be.

Over time, I learned to trust that my kids both have a unique future path all their own, and if I set their environment up correctly by allowing them to pursue their innate talents, gifts, and passions, then they would figure out this path on their own.

Patrick is well on his path to attending USC and becoming an attorney, and now my daughter is beginning her path of conquering her own passions as well. I’m sure I will update you soon on her story of pursuing her passion.


Maintaining Positive Relationships In a Nontraditional Family

Another development in my little Modern Family is that my kids’ Dad is marrying his longtime partner very soon.

Both kids will be in the wedding and I will be attending as well.

Maintaining a warm and positive relationship with the kids’ Dad and his partner since the divorce was really helpful in allowing the kids to grow up without a bunch of unnecessary chaos. I’m not going to lie and say that it was always easy, but I believe it truly benefited the kids to be able to have their parents together for important events.

In the past, the kids and I would get together with their Dad and his partner more frequently – we would even do fun family day trips and vacation together – but with the kids getting older, their Dad moving farther away, and everyone getting busier with school and work, it’s been harder to make those little events happen.

Now that my kids are older and more independent (especially now that they both have their driver’s licenses), I’m giving myself permission that I don’t have to micromanage the relationship between the kids and their Dad anymore.

Again, this goes back to being the parent that my kids need me to be in the moment, and I think that my kids are at a certain stage in their lives where they are ok managing that relationship on their own. In the past, I felt obligated to make it a priority to take my kids to see their Dad when the occasion arose, but now I see that they are ready to take charge of this important relationship on their own.

In the future, I see all of us continuing to have a great relationship with each other.


Supporting Each Other’s Passions, Values, and Beliefs

I’ve written before about how smart Modern Parents identify their unique family passions, values, and beliefs so that they use these items as a guide in making parenting decisions. In my experience, parents who are not absolutely clear on their passions, values, and beliefs parent reactively (i.e. they parent in response to a specific emotional event). Smart Modern Parents use their passions, values, and beliefs to parent intentionally; thus, during an emotional event, they already know how to act.

As I touched on earlier, one of my family values is to allow both myself and my kids to pursue their passions and dreams.

Now that my kids are older, I’ve noticed, and really appreciated, their support while I’ve pursued my passion with my career.

As many of you know, I went through graduate school to become a psychologist when my kids were younger. My Son was 14 and my daughter was 11 when I graduated, so they definitely observed all the effort that goes into getting a degree.

Now, they are witnessing me use that degree to pursue a career in my community and online. During the day, I work in administration in County government. I really love this job – it puts me into contact with great people and I get to do some really rewarding work. My son and daughter have also been there to see the beginning of Parenting The Modern family and my other writing pursuits.

It’s been so heartwarming to have my kids wish me good luck out of the blue when they know I have an important event at work or they know I’m working on something new for the blog. My son evens edits my blog posts and Huffington Post articles and my daughter gives me some great social media advice.

This awesome support from my kids has shown me that they’ve picked up on one of the values that guided my parenting decisions – the value of the importance of pursuing individual passions and interests.


Take Home Message

The point of this blog post isn’t about bragging about the accomplishments of my Modern Family (believe me – I left out all of our embarrassing mistakes on purpose!!). Rather, the point is to show how any kind of family can raise successful kids – and be happy in the process.

Maybe you don’t agree with my definition of a successful Modern Family, and that’s ok. What’s important is that you know what your definition is so that you can work towards that goal.

I believe that as long as certain core elements are part of a family, then any kind of family can be a successful one. Take a minute to evaluate whether or not your family includes the following factors:

  • Unconditional love for each other
  • The support and encouragement to pursue individual passions and interests
  • Prioritizing warm, close relationships with one another
  • Creating a family environment that is free of unnecessary chaos and stress
  • Having the confidence that your child is a worthwhile person and that they will discover their path in life – all you have to do is allow them to explore their interests.

What do you think? Did I leave anything out?

My hope for you after reading this post s to take some time to really think about and envision what you want your family to be like in the future. Then ask yourself: is what you are doing now contributing to or hurting your goal of a future successful Modern Family?



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How to Tell Your Child That They Have to Spend the Summer With Your Ex

How to Tell Your Child That They Have to Spend the Summer With Your Ex

As a child psychologist, I know how hard it is to tell your child that they have to spend their summer vacation with their noncustodial parent. I have assisted with these kinds of conversations a lot over the years and it never gets any easier. Whether it is for a few weeks or a few months, this is going to be a difficult conversation to have with your child.

When the custody schedule is anything other than a 50/50 arrangement (giving one parent primary physical custody and the other parent limited visitation rights) this creates a “home base” for the child at the primary parent’s house. This can have some advantages for the child, but it also makes the other parent’s house feel strange.

It’s natural for kids to want to spend their summer break at their “home base,” especially as they get older and more involved in a social circle. In addition, kids like the familiarity of the primary parent’s rules, routine, and environment, so suggesting that they leave their comfort zone and spend a significant amount of time at a strange house is a big deal to kids.

Unfortunately, custody schedules dictated by lawyers and court systems often do not take into account what the child prefers, and they are required to follow the dictate of the pre-arranged custody arrangement. Whether or not you agree with the custody arrangement, there are several ways the primary parent can help their kids with this transition.


1. Be positive.

Your attitude rubs off on your child. If you act like this will be a good experience for your child, then they just might start to think that too.


2. Be understanding but firm.

If you are wishy washy, your child will get their hopes up that they might not have to go. Unless there is a good chance that the court will change the custody order or your ex will agree to let your child stay with you, it’s best that you don’t create doubt with your child. The more firm you are about the decision, the faster your child will get on board with the idea too.


3. Listen to your child’s concerns and try to turn them into a positive.

It will help for your child to talk about their feelings, but don’t get tempted to turn the conversation into an opportunity to bash your ex. Try to keep your personal feelings of your ex’s role as your previous romantic partner separate from their current role as your child’s parent. Try to turn your child’s objections about the visitation into a positive way they can bond with your ex.


4. Answer all of their questions honestly.

Be honest with your child about how long they will be away and if you know any details about your ex’s plans with your child (i.e. if they will be vacationing or seeing extended family members), but don’t get too honest. They don’t need to know your negative feelings about your ex’s parents or sister, for instance.


5. Prepare your child for any difficult feelings that they might have while they are away from you.

Make sure they know when you will call them each day and for how long you will talk with them. Having daily contact with your child will be helpful, but don’t use the conversations to make them feel bad that they are not with you. Make sure your child brings a comfort item (stuffed animal, special pillow, etc.) with them so that they can use the comfort item to help them feel better if they get sad.


6. Encourage your child to speak to your ex if they get sad or scared.

Let them know that your ex’s job is to take care of them and protect them, just like that is your job, too. You might not be 100% sure that your ex will handle every situation just like you would (for example, your ex might not rub your child’s back until they fall asleep when they get scared in the middle of the night), but your ex should be able to handle all of the important stuff. Communicate this to your child.


7. Explain the reasoning behind visiting your ex, even if you do not agree with it.

Above all, the reason your child is spending time with your ex is because kids who have a warm, positive relationship with both of their parents tend to fare better overall. Your ex might not have been a great romantic partner for you, but they can still be a good partner for your child. By allowing your child the opportunity to bond with their other parent, you are doing your child a huge favor.

If you have this difficult conversation with your child early and often before they leave for your ex’s house, they should be pretty prepared. On the day your ex comes to pick up your child, be positive and brave for your child’s sake.

Above all, remember that this could be a great summer visit for your child and having the opportunity to bond with their other parent could lead to a better future for your child.



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How I conquered Graduate School as a New Single Mom

How I conquered Graduate School as a New Single Mom

So many of you already know my story, but for those of you who are new to my blog, you can read the long version here.

The quick version of my story is that I married my high school sweetheart almost right out of high school. We divorced 14 years later when Jeff, my ex-husband, came out to me and everyone else as a gay man. At the time we divorced, our 2 kids were 10 and 7 years old and I had just started the first year of my 6-year doctoral program in clinical psychology.

Before starting graduate school, I was a stay-at-home mom, so my kids and I were used to a very laid-back schedule; therefore, the sudden change of becoming a single mom and a full-time student all at the same time could have been a recipe for disaster. In order to not let this happen, I had to get my act together – and quick!

Below, I will give you several tips that were lifesavers for me. Without them, I could not have met my 2 goals: being the best mom possible for my kids and completing my personal objective of becoming a child psychologist. I knew that “having it all” was an unrealistic goal – but I wanted to get as close to having it all as possible!


My Lifesavers

Create an awesome support system. I could not have managed a class schedule that changed from quarter to quarter or been able to see patients without the help of my support system. My support system included my sister and Jeff who both helped with childcare and driving my kids to and from school on the days that I had to be on campus early in the morning or during the afternoons.

Your support system should also include emotional support too. Both my family and my good friends provided the emotional support I needed to stay focused on my goals. Believe it or not, but Jeff has always been the biggest supporter of my career goals by helping me stay focused on the future. As a single mom, it is easy to feel selfish for pursuing personal goals, so having someone there to root you on when you feel like giving up means a lot.


Prioritize what’s important… Always keep a mental list of your most important goals in mind. This list might change from time to time, but by constantly having it in the forefront of your mind, you are better able to make decisions that coincide with your goals. I found that when I didn’t simply react to things, but, instead,  purposefully took the time to think through my decisions based upon my most important goals, I made better decisions for me and my kids in the long run.


…And let the little stuff go. Once you know your major priorities, it becomes easier to let the “little stuff” go. Give up on being perfect! Nobody’s perfect! Little stuff like having a spotless house or serving dinner at 6:00 on the dot every night really don’t matter as long as your kids are healthy and happy and you are moving forward with your life.


Routines! Routines! Routines! Morning, afternoon, and evening routines kept me sane and organized. I had routines for getting homework done, paying bills, making sure the laundry got done, and for going to bed with a clean kitchen every night – you name it and I had a routine for it!

Routines also gave my kids an understanding of their role in the family too. They knew exactly how they needed to contribute to the family system by doing their part to get ready for school in the morning, starting their homework, and going to bed on time every night. Even now, I notice that my kids still live by the routines even as they have gotten older.


Prioritize family over everything else. There were many times during my graduate school life that I had to choose between my kids and my career. I always chose my kids over my career and this decision has never hurt my career. Sure, I could have trained at more popular or well-known training sites or published more research articles like some of my peers, but ultimately I did what i could based around my family schedule and still met my goal of becoming a child psychologist. I have never regretted these decisions.


If I Can Do it, So Can You!


So now I want to hear from you. What challenges are you currently working hard to overcome? What is working for you and what is not? Tell me in the comment section below – we can be each other’s emotional support system as we pursue both our parenting and personal goals together.



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The 5 Core Areas of Modern Parenting

The 5 Core Areas of Modern Parenting

I get asked all of the time from new readers how Modern Parenting differs from “regular parenting.”

I tell them that Modern Parenting includes the important core values and principles that have been handed down by good parents for generations, while at the same time addressing new problems and concerns that have recently developed (i.e. safe internet use, bullying, nontraditional family structures, etc.).

As a child psychologist and a mom to 2 teenagers, I talk with Modern Parents a lot and what I have found is that Modern Parents view parenting as a way of life – not simply an action or responsibility to undertake until the kids turn 18. Modern Parents want to feel fulfilled by the way they parent their children, and they want the way they parent to align with their individual passions, values, and beliefs as a guide. They realize that parenting isn’t a “one size fits all” recipe, but an undertaking that is as diverse as the way two separate people take a different, but similar, route to get to the same destination.

Modern Parents want to get the most out of life, which means that they want to be the best parents possible to their kids – while not disappearing as individuals in the process. I have found that these parents don’t want to “take a break” from their lives just to raise their kids – they want to pursue their passions and hobbies in tandem with being a parent. In fact, Modern Parents have begun to see the value in modeling this self-improvement mentality to their kids because they want their kids to grow up pursuing passions and pursuits of their own.


How I Became a Modern Parent


Let me give you a personal example. I married my high school sweetheart (the only guy I ever dated) right out of high school. After 2 kids and 14 years of marriage, I divorced him when he came out to me and everyone else as a gay man. I can’t tell you how embarrassing, confusing, and devastating this time was for me. To make matters even more complicated, I had just started a 6-year graduate school program to become a psychologist when all of this was happening to me.

Now, almost a decade later, I have a new family that includes two happy, well-adjusted teenagers and a mom and dad who are divorced, but who also have found a way to remain best friends. Creating this family took years of hard work and determination, but I am very proud of my Modern Family.

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My Modern Family!

I’m sharing my story with you to illustrate how I created the family of my dreams despite life throwing a curveball at me – and you can do this too. I refused to give in to the “victim mentality” that felt so tempting to succumb to; I knew that if I gave in to this feeling, my life (and my kids’ lives) would get stuck in nastiness and we would never have a great life. I believed that the kids and I still deserved to have the family of our dreams, so I developed the mindset necessary to make this happen.

In order to create my new Modern Family, I used, and improved upon, the classic parenting techniques that were passed down to me from my parents. This included adding a new mindset with modern skills and techniques that allowed me to:

  •    Survive and thrive after the family crisis of my crazy divorce,
  •    Find a work/life balance that helped me conquer graduate school while being an awesome single mom,
  •    Utilize effective discipline strategies with my modern kids so that I was not wasting time disciplining them with tactics that didn’t teach them how to be moral, good people in a modern world,
  •    And, most importantly, these techniques helped me figure out how to derive happiness and satisfaction with my new Modern Family.

If your family has experienced a crisis such as divorce, illness, unemployment, or other serious event, I am telling you that you can still create the family of your dreams in spite of the obstacles and challenges that are now in front of you. You deserve it and so do your kids. It takes hard work, but I know you can do it – because I did it too.

If you are a parent that is not struggling with overcoming a significant crisis, but you have been wondering how to feel closer to your kids or spouse/partner, or you are struggling with being overwhelmed with parenting responsibilities and lack personal time to work on yourself, then integrating Modern Parenting techniques into your daily routine can be the answer you have been looking for.

Going forward, I will be focusing my time at this blog on helping readers with what I believe are the 5 core areas that Modern Parents deal with everyday. These core areas are:

  • Using effective discipline strategies that work with our Modern Kids,
  • Creating a balance between life commitments and family time that brings out the best in us as individuals and as parents,
  • Deriving contentment and satisfaction from the family, regardless of whether or not the family structure is traditional, nontraditional, or something in between,
  • Surviving and thriving during periods of crises or change as the family develops over decades together,
  • How to use technology to parent more efficiently, while at the same time teaching smart and safe technology use to or kids.

I will share with you the specifics of what worked for me in raising great kids and pursuing a satisfying personal and professional life as a Modern Parent. I will give you both my personal perspective as well as a perspective based on sound psychological principles.

My personal goal is to help you create the family of your dreams – however you envision it to be!

Finally, let me know what you think. Which of the 5 core areas are you struggling with the most? How are you going to start improving your family?



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Surviving (and Thriving!) the First Year as a Single Parent After Divorce: Six Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Surviving (and Thriving!) the First Year as a Single Parent After Divorce: Six Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Take it from someone who has “been there, done that” – the year you become a single parent after divorce is one of the longest years of your life.

No matter how you become a single parent – whether through divorce, the death of a partner, or by choice – you need to be ready for a year that promises many emotional highs and lows, lots of self doubt, and making mistake after mistake; however, if you are the kind of single parent that is determined to make this year a good one for you and your kids – despite this major life change – then this year can also be a good one.

What?? Isn’t divorce supposed to promise doom and gloom for both you and your kids? You know – you made your bed, now lie in it kind of mentality?

You MUST be the kind of parent like me who refuses to helplessly watch her family slowly rot away into a severely sad state, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now. Good for you! Divorce does not have to equal messed up kids, a ruined life for you, or constant fighting with your ex.

Based on both my professional opinion and by my own personal experience, both you and your kids can thrive after a divorce.

Do you want to know the secret of how to do this? It’s not based on your income or how much your ex makes, or your gender, or your educational level. It doesn’t matter whether or not you share custody with your ex or even the ages of your kids!

The secret to whether or not you and your kids will survive a divorce is based on having a positive attitude, maintaining a warm relationship with your kids, and lots and lots of hard work.

Below is a list of 6 common challenges that often take place during the first year of becoming a single parent. In addition, I have included 6 solutions to address these common challenges, and if you are the kind of parent who wants what’s best for your kids (and for yourself, too – just because you become a single parent shouldn’t mean that YOU don’t matter anymore!), then make the effort to follow my advice.


#1: Your Self-Esteem Will Plummet (Only Temporarily!)

Challenge: During the first year of single parenthood, expect to question every decision you make.

It makes sense, right? You go from consulting with your partner from everything from childcare decisions to financial issues. Now its time to stretch your “decision muscle” and learn how to make your own decisions based on your own passions, values, and beliefs.

In addition, you might also feel unlovable, vulnerable, and lonely. Divorces, just like break-ups, play horrible games with our sense of self-worth. While it is normal to feel this way during the early stages of a divorce, do not let it define your new you.

Solution:  During this first year of being a single parent, find the courage within you to try new things and to explore new passions. Sure, you might find out that you hate pottery making, for instance, but you will have learned some valuable new insights about your new self. Try to tap into your pre-married self and discover hobbies that you haven’t thought about for years or have always wanted to try.

In addition, it is important that you do not try to solve extreme problems with shallow solutions. What I mean is, do not jump from one bad post-divorce relationship to another one just so you don’t have to feel lonely. Of course you will feel ugly and lonely right after a divorce and you will continue to feel this way no matter what relationship you are in until you work on YOU!!

Put the work into realizing how AMAZING you are so that the right partner will be attracted to you when the time is right.


#2: Other People Will Judge You

Challenge: People are mean. They like to judge other people for many different reasons; mostly, though, people judge others because it somehow makes them feel better about their own lives. These kinds of people tend to think along the lines of “My life sucks, but at least not as bad as theirs” and they find comfort in this.

Solution: You can’t change these people, but you can surround yourself with people who are supportive and positive. I once had a parent at my kids’ elementary school ask me how my kids were doing since the divorce. When I told her that, so far, they seemed to be adjusting well, she replied, “Well give it some time.” Wow! That went from concerned and caring to downright critical in no time flat!

When things like this happen, all you can do is move on and don’t dwell on these situations. These kinds of judgmental statements are more about that person who spoke them than they are about you, so just try to go about your day and forget about them.


#3: You WILL Make Mistakes and You WILL  Have Successes

Challenge: Single parenting is new to you and it involves a major learning curve. The only way to avoid making any mistakes is to avoid making any decisions at all! I can’t think of anything more useless for you and your kids than to sit back and not live life out of fear of making the wrong decision.

In contrast, you will also make some really great decisions that will make a positive impact on your family life. This is great when this happens because as you attempt new things and notice that you are making good decisions, you will also increase your confidence and your self-esteem.

Solution: Give yourself a break – don’t expect perfection. The only way to accumulate a scorecard of successful decisions is also by having made some not so great decisions. You can try to set up yourself for success by surrounding yourself with trusted family and friends who you can consult with regarding new decisions.  

#4: Your ex Will Make You Want to Scream

Challenge: You wouldn’t have made the hard to decision to divorce if you felt all warm and fuzzy all the time for your ex. The first year of single parenthood means that both you and your ex are figuring this new life out. That means that your ex will do things that will make you want to scream, and this is normal.

Solution: Through a multitude of patience, compromise, and hard work, chances are that you and your ex can, at some point, be on friendly terms. This is not going to be easy on you and will require great amounts of determination and perseverance on your end to inspire this kind of relationship to happen. Don’t give up on the hope that this relationship can develop. Your kids will be grateful to you for having the determination to help this relationship develop.

Of course, the exception to this recommendation is if your ex was abusive during the marriage, is a current addict, or suffers from a severe mental illness. In this case, you might need to have the courage to endure long court custody hearings, resolve to not get dragged into unnecessary drama created by your ex, or to be both a mom and dad for your child if your ex chooses not to have a healthy relationship with your kids.


#5: Expect That Your ex Will Have Different Rules at Their House

Challenge: Not only are you creating a new life as a single parent – so is your ex; therefore, expect some lifestyle changes by your ex. Maybe they always thought the family rule of not allowing the kids to see their “crazy” brother was stupid and now they take your kids to see him. Perhaps they let the kids go to bed at 11:00 at their house, but your rule is lights out at 9:00.

Solution: This difference in household rules is very common with divorced households and (believe it or not) kids CAN learn to handle different rules at different households. Of course, kids are prone to prefer the more lenient rules – they will probably also complain to you if your rules are more strict than your ex’s rules.That’s ok.

You are the boss of your household, so as long as your rules are reasonable and based on your personal passions, values, and beliefs, then your kids will learn to adjust to this.  

#6: Your Kids Will  Misbehave

Challenge: EVERY time your kid misbehaves or acts out, you will blame yourself (or you’ll blame your ex, which is a cop out in my opinion). Repeat this to yourself: every kid acts out – that’s part of being a kid!

Kids from traditional families, single families, divorced families, and gay families all misbehave at one time or another. No kid is perfect and sometimes the way kids learn is through making mistakes.

Remember that line from the Batman movie? You know, the one where Bruce Wayne’s father asks him why we fall? Bruce tells his dad that it’s so we can learn how to get back up. This lesson can be applied to our kids (they sometimes need to fail so they can learn to succeed) as well as to ourselves (we also learn how to parent through our mistakes).

Solution: Have a plan for when you kids misbehave. This plan should include:

  • A warm explanation
  • Clear expectations for behavior
  • Clear communication of consequences
  • Consistency

The most important thing that you can do for your kids during this first year of single parenthood is to show them that you love them and care for them even when they feel out of control and confused.


You CAN  Do This!

If you follow my advice when you encounter any of the 6 common challenges that I discussed above, then you will set yourself up for success for being a single parent. Just remember that you can be a great single parent. We all have unique challenges specific to our individual divorces and/or situations, and that simply means that we need to be flexible (and sometimes creative) when handling these challenges.    

Tips to Help Your First Year Start Off in the Right Direction

  1. Parent with purpose – if your attitude is positive (even if you do not feel like it in the moment) about the divorce, then your kids will be more likely to feel as if they can conquer this first year too
  2. Take care of yourself! It’s ok to take time out for yourself. Go out with supportive friends, get a manicure, take a warm bath at night. This not only prepares you mentally and physically to take on new challenges during this first year, but it also models to you kids that taking care of yourself during hard times is a smart thing to do.
  3. Let go of judgmental, negative family and friends and surround yourself (and often) with positive influences.
  4. Address your kids’ needs as soon as possible. Don’t let small problems get out of control. If you kids need extra support with adjusting to the divorce, then be sure to get that support for them. There’s no shame in getting therapy, tutors, or simply just giving your kids extra attention during this adjustment period. It is irresponsible to ignore cries of help from your child.
  5. Be the boss of your household – don’t hand over authority to your kids because you feel guilty about the divorce. They need you to lead them even if it seems like they think you are incompetent. Believe me, kids excel in putting up a tough front, but what they really want is for you to put your arms around them and tell them that everything is going to be ok.
  6. Recognize that you are doing the best you can. You’ve got this! Give yourself the credit you deserve.
  7. Do not treat your kids as your peer, your therapist, or your quasi-partner. Let them be kids.
  8. Have realistic expectations for the divorce, for your kids, and for yourself. If you set the bar too high, then you will always be frustrated and disappointed for not being perfect. No one is perfect.

As I said in the opening paragraph, my kids and I have survived (and thrived!) as a Modern Family who has experienced divorce and your family can too. You might be doubting whether or not you can really pull this off, but I know you can.

Keep coming back to Parenting The Modern Family for more tips and insights as you navigate the adventure of Modern Parenting. Contact me either in the comment section below or through my email to let me know what challenges you are facing as a Modern Parent. I also want to hear about your successes – I love celebrating with my readers!



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