On single parenting and how two is not always better than one, by Lalita Iyer

SP Collage

So, why haven’t you written about single parenting yet, asked a reader. I didn’t really have an answer to that, except the fact that I write mostly about what I know, and I don’t think I know entirely what single parenting is all about. Because technically, I am not a single parent. This means that I have a spouse on paper, and he does pitch into the financial aspects of parenting, but for the most part, I feel like I’m parenting solo.

I once wrote that I was practically a single parent in one of my columns, and got a rather acerbic email from someone who was one and who told me I had no right to accord myself that status until I was actually one. She was right. But that got me thinking. What made me different? Just a technicality?

We all know what a tedium collaborative parenting can be, although I do know a few people who are winging it. But they are still exceptions. We have seen our parents at cross-wires when raising us. We don’t have to do the same thing to our children. Very often, two-parent households are a sham, a window display for what actually is single parenting.

Okay, pull back those daggers.

Of course raising children alone is tough, but sometimes it may be psychologically tougher in a two-parent household. I often see couples with children at malls, brunches, movie halls and holiday resorts, resentfully going through the motions of parenting while staring at their screens or avoiding eye contact with each other. And I wonder: how exactly do children benefit from this? When I see couples arguing at airports, restaurants, fitting rooms, toy and bookshops over trivial things escalating to big things, I wonder: is it worth it to stay together ‘for the sake of the children’?. When I look at my own friend circle and see robotic marriages and equally robotic kids, I know the togetherness is plastic, because even their shiny happy selfies look unreal. Because life is not Instagram.

It’s better for the children, they say, and stick around, silently killing each other and their children, every single day. When they talk to single parents, they are often looking for stories of behaviour disorders, psychological breakdowns and other lurid details in the subtext, trying to console themselves they are glad they ‘stuck it out”. But they are often disappointed to find out that the kids are alright.

(Follow the link below to read more…)


How Guilt Over Your Divorce Cripples Good Parenting, by Joel Phillips

Do you carry around something that you feel terrible about? Maybe you weren’t there for your child at a particular important event. I have that.
Maybe you feel like your child was robbed of a “normal” family life because of your divorce, or that your marriage isn’t healthy. I have that one too. As a parent who has been through the trauma of divorce, I have carried a lot of guilt. It’s understandable. But the unnecessary weight of guilt can cripple my effective parenting.

Divorce doesn’t have to be your source of guilt -it can be lots of things. I have known people who carry guilt because of physical defects and handicaps that their kids deal with. It can stem from all sorts of places.

Here’s how it typically works…

I don’t have my kids all the time, because they live with their other parent part of the time. I felt guilty about this, yet helpless to do anything about it and possibly even unaware of the guilt I had about it.

So when they came home, I wanted to make sure they have a good experience.

I didn’t enforce the rules much. We played a lot. I did the chores when they were gone so we didn’t waste any time. It was a little bit like the lost boys and I was Peter Pan.

Depending on how your family interacted and expressed love, you might cope with this differently; shower them with attention, buy them things they don’t need, or some other attempt to be their favorite parent.

Remember, you are driven to make sure they have a good experience when they are with you. At least that’s been my favorite excuse.

It comes from a good place, but in reality, it’s a trap. You want your children to feel loved and safe and you don’t want your time with them to be burdened by being a disciplinarian. So you let some things slide. After all, they will be going back to their mom or dad’s house soon, you rationalize, and they can take care of it.

(To Read more, follow the link below…)

“Boyhood”, the Movie: A Review by Chris Knopp

Boyhood Collage

With no plot whatsoever to speak of, no memorable action scenes, and no earth shattering new philosophy on life, Richard Linklater’s recent movie Boyhood has on the face of it, much to be underwhelmed by.  Already knowing the premise of the movie I had assumed that it would be ideal to review for ‘The Forever Years’ but now, only a month or so after viewing it, I struggle to recall much of the detail.

So I was curious that despite this, I would still rate it as a must see.  What was going on here?  What essence of the human condition did it cause to resonate in me? Why do I want my own kids to watch this movie?

Let’s be done with some of the more superficial reasons first.  Patricia Arquette – what’s not to like?  No surprises at all re her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win in her role of mum – a wonderfully nuanced performance.  The rest of the cast are solid too – especially Ellar Coltrane in the title role.

Mason Early

The character Mason (Coltrain) with his “Mum” and “sister” early on in the movie

And speaking of Coltrane, I’m sure most people are aware that this film was shot over twelve years with the same cast so that we actually do see the character Mason, literally grow up on the screen in front of us.  Much has been made of this – “different & daring”, “an important landmark in how great films can be made”, “a master stroke in casting” and so on.  For me, this aspect of the movie was irrelevant and frankly unnecessary – a cool thing to have done, sure, but it added nothing to the movie per se.  I’m perfectly used to effortlessly suspending disbelief when it comes to characters aging across lifetimes in movies.  If it hadn’t been such a talking point prior to its release, I would never have noticed it was the same actor throughout – simply because I had assumed, as I do in ALL such movies, that of course it was the same person!

The next possible reason for loving this movie is a much more subjective one and probably not one that will influence too many others.  Richard Linklater, the director.  The first movie of his I saw was Waking Life.  This is a mind-bending exploration of the fringes of dreams, perception, and reality, a ‘meaning of life’ movie  – a thinking man’s Matrix.  With both Ethan Hawke and Linklater’s own daughter, Loralei, featuring in both movies, there is a cross-over effect that makes it difficult for me not to view the second movie in the same light as the first.  I have watched Waking Life probably at least 15 times now and each time find in it something amazing and new.  How could a movie from such a director not be great?

I recently watched another classic coming of age movie with my older boys.  Stand by Me has to be one of my all-time top 10 movies.  It captures an essence of boyhood that we might all have wanted to experience – an exciting, yet serious and scary, adventure with our best friends, aged twelve, coloured with humour, loyalty, loss and grief.  All this narrated via the nostalgic voice of a middle aged man with his own children who desperately misses his “forever years” and the friends that inhabited them.  But Stand by Me isn’t actually how it was for most of us, and probably not even how it was for the author (Stephen King), on whose short story it was based. It depicts a golden age, an end to innocence, and that inexorable creep of the world turning from the primary colours of right and wrong, to the smudgy beige that life resigns us to.

But Boyhood is not nostalgic.  It doesn’t glorify the highs or over-dramatise the lows.  It depicts an average life.  It could as easily have based the story on your life or mine.  And it’s not just about the boy.  We see each character grow, change, evolve over the course of twelve years – and the multiple interactions between individual characters also develop and change.  It’s not the things that are said and done that are memorable, but as often the things that are not said or not done. It’s the expression that passes between mother and son, a pause in the conversation between the parents, a defiant pose by the sister, – it’s these, often tiny, subtleties that cause us to ‘know’ these people.

There’s almost a sense of The Truman Show here – though we’re not watching for entertainment, nor for a story line, nor action, nor thrills, – we’re watching real people, feeling what real people feel, and understanding why they do what they do. It’s almost too personal and slightly uncomfortable – it doesn’t give us the personal space we expect in most movies.  They are you, they are me, they are every person. We come away understanding a little better, the thing we might call the human condition.


Meet the cast: Dad (Ethan Hawke), Mason (Ellar Coltrane), Mum (Patricia Arquette), Grandma (Libby Villari), and Samantha (Lorelei Linklater).  One of the later scenes of the film.

I said that I wanted my own children to some day see this movie.  I couldn’t initially pinpoint exactly why.  It occurred to me that it might be to illustrate some aspect of choices and consequences, and I’m sure there are probably some good examples that could be extracted here.  But somehow I felt it was something deeper than this.  It wasn’t really until the final scene that the idea came into focus.

The tough times, whether they applied to just the boy, or his mother, or the entire family, were always short-lived.  Sure, the movie skips ahead months or occasionally even years at a time, so of course things move on and things get better or people adjust.  But in our own lives, and especially in the lives of children, these times truly can seem like “forever”. We believe “things will always be this bad.  There’s no way I can see this getting better.  How can I face a future like this?” The movie provides a fast forward to the near future and gives real meaning to the wise advice from the well known anecdote, “it will pass”.

Seeing this repeatedly throughout the movie, reinforces the concept that life is a journey, not a destination.  It’s a bit like Dunedin weather – if you don’t like it, wait 20 minutes!  Understanding this about life gives you a resilience that bolsters your faith that dark clouds will give way to sunshine, and prepares you, without fear, for their return.

In the final scene there is a sense of newness, an exciting future, and a joie de vivre that allows Mason to truly take happiness from the fullness of his life so far, and take on with confidence, whatever the future holds for him. This resilience is the most important thing I would hope my own children might take from the wisdom of Boyhood.

Below:  The trailer for “Boyhood”.


Top 15 Must-Have Children’s Books on Personal Safety and Emotional Health

Reblogged from:


Complied jointly by Jayneen Sanders and Jane Evans.

Jayneen Sanders <http://somesecrets.info/about-the-author/> is a teacher, author, mother of three teenage daughters and an active advocate for sexual abuse prevention education both in the home and in schools.

Jane Evans <http://www.parentingposttrauma.co.uk/> is a trainer, public speaker, author and Mum. She has worked with families affected by a range of complex needs and trauma of 20 years and is committed to support everyone in raising children using only kindness.

Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse


by Jayneen Sanders

Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept is a beautifully illustrated picture book that sensitively broaches the subject of keeping our children safe from inappropriate touch. We teach water safety and road safety but how do we teach ‘body safety’ to young children in a way that is neither frightening nor confronting? This book is an invaluable tool for parents, caregivers, teachers and health professionals. The comprehensive notes to the reader and discussion questions at the back of the book support both the reader and the child when discussing the story. Suitable for ages 3 to 12 years. A free ‘body safety’ song, supporting teacher’s pack and other useful resources are also available from:www.somesecrets.info

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Jayneen-Sanders/e/B00BDCGZ1W/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1


by Jill Starishevsky

Without being taught about body boundaries, a child may be too young to understand when abuse is happening—or that it’s wrong. This straightforward, gentle book offers a tool parents, teachers, and counselors can use to help children feel, be, and stay safe. The rhyming story and simple, friendly illustrations provide a way to sensitively share and discuss the topic, guiding young children to understand that their private parts belong to them alone. The overriding message of My Body Belongs to Me is that if someone touches your private parts, tell your mom, your dad, your teacher, or another safe adult.

Sex Education



by Robie H. Harris

Young children are curious about almost everything, especially their bodies. And young children are not afraid to ask questions. What makes me a girl? What makes me a boy? Why are some parts of girls’ and boys’ bodies the same and why are some parts different? How was I made? Where do babies come from? Is it true that a stork brings babies to mommies and daddies? It’s Not The Stork! helps answer these endless and perfectly normal questions that preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary school children ask about how they began.



by Peter Mayle

Where Did I Come From? covers all the basic facts from love-making, orgasm, conception and growth inside the womb, through to the actual birth day. It names all the names and shows all the important parts of the body.

Where Did I Come From? tells the facts of life as they are – without any nonsense, and in a way that children can understand and parents enjoy.



by Annette Aubrey

Through rhyming, the author deals sensitively with bereavement reassuring young readers that emotions they may be experiencing are ‘normal’ and shared by others.



by Susan Varley

Badger is so old that he knows he will soon die. He tries to prepare his friends for this event, but when he does die, they are still grief-stricken. Gradually they come to terms with their grief by remembering all the practical things Badger taught them, and so Badger lives on in his friends’ memories of him.


by Amanda Seyderhelm

Picture book for 5-12 years about child bereavement. To be read by a parent, counsellor, teacher to a bereaved child. Full colour illustrations, and a list of questions at the back of the book to help children heal their grief process using creative activities. Isaac is heartbroken when his best friend Freddie dies. His house freezes, and his red jumper turns grey with grief. His friends try to console him but it’s only after Isaac receives a special visit from Freddie that he understands love and friendship last forever, and are alive in spirit. Isaac and the Red Jumper will appeal to anyone who is bereaved, and is looking for a creative way to heal. Amanda Seyderhelm is a PTUK Certified Therapeutic Play Practitioner.

Mental Illness



By Centre for Addiction &n Mental Health

In simple, straightforward language, the book explains what depression is and how it is treated. It also prepares a child for working with a helping professional. And perhaps most important, it reassures a child that he or she is not alone.



by Kes Gray

A little boy tries to find a pot of parent glue to stick his mum and dad back together. His parents have come undone and he wants to mend their marriage, stick their smiles back on and make them better. This rhyming story is brilliantly told with a powerful message that even though his parents may be broken, their love for him is not.


by Laurene Krasny Brown

Dinosaurs Divorce will help children understand divorce and what it means.



by Jane Evans

A gentle story to help children aged 2 to 6 years who have lived with violence in their home. Baby Bear lives in a home with the Big Bears, and loves to chase butterflies and make mud pies – they make Baby Bear’s tummy fill with sunshine. Then, one night, Baby Bear hears a big storm downstairs in the house and in the morning, Baby Bear’s tummy starts to feel grey and rainy. How will such a small bear cope with these big new feelings? This sensitive, charming storybook is written to help children who have lived with violence at home to begin to explore and name their feelings. Accompanied by notes for adults on how to use each page of the story to start conversations, it also features fun games and activities to help to understand and express difficult emotions. It will be a useful book for social workers, counsellors, domestic violence workers and all grown-ups working with children.




by Margaret Holmes

This gently told and tenderly illustrated story is for children who have witnessed any kind of violent or traumatic episode, including physical abuse, school or gang violence, accidents, homicide, suicide, and natural disasters such as floods or fire. An afterword by Sash a J. Mudlaff written for parents and other caregivers offers extensive suggestions for helping traumatized children, including a list of other sources that focus on specific events.

Note from Jane: I have used this book many times with children from very young up to 10 to 11 years as a way to let them fill in the blanks using gentle suggestions of possible feelings, often helping children who lack the names for their unprocessed feelings. The book can also be used with children who are dealing with grief.


by Virginia Ironside

Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her – in a big blue bag. They are there when she goes swimming, when she is watching TV, and even when she is in the lavatory. Jenny decides they will have to go. But who can help her?

Note from Jane: A great book to use with anxious children as it helps sort worries through and make them seem more manageable. It emphasizes that we all have worries and what to do about them. I use this with older children too, as it always makes me get my own worries in perspective!


by Kari Dunn Buron

More than any other issue, ‘losing control’ can cause major problems for children. Through the irresistible character of Nicholas, this book gives young children an opportunity to explore with parents or teachers their own feelings as they react to events in their daily lives while learning some useful relaxation techniques. Children who use the simple strategies presented in this charming book, illustrated by the author, will find themselves relaxed and ready to work or play.


by Eline Snell

Simple mindfulness practices to help your child deal with anxiety, improve concentration and handle difficult emotions.

How Does Divorce Affect Children? By Caroline from the USA

Divorce Collage

Reblogged from “The Grown-Up Child of Divorce” (see link below):



How will my divorce affect my child? A lot of parents out there are asking this question and unfortunately there’s a problem with the answer.

The problem is that the ‘answer’ doesn’t really exist. The professionals don’t know. Two of the leading experts in the field, Judith Wallerstein and E. Mavis Hetherington seem to give very different research based answers to this most fundamental question. In Wallerstien’s The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, she contends that divorce damages children significantly, both in the critical years post divorce and into adulthood. But in Hetherington’s For Better or Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, she states that most children of divorce become well adjusted, thriving adults.

What I really dislike about the research are the generalizations that tend to get tossed around by experts as evidence of our damage. Statistics, such as we tend to get lower grades, attain lower education levels, have higher rates of incarceration, drug abuse and alcoholism, will suffer more broken bones and illnesses, and have a difficult time maintaining long lasting, healthy marital relationships. All of those things may very well might be true, but reading them usually prompts an oppositional response such as, “I was divorced five years ago and my child’s grades haven’t gone down at all” or, “My parents divorced when I was seven and I’m happily married today”. And those oppositional arguments bring forth the premise that as long as children and grown children don’t fall into those generalizations propagated as the definitive evidence of emotional damage, then it must follow that there was no damage from divorce at all.  Not only is that entirely false, it doesn’t get us anywhere.

I would prefer to look less at the surface and get more to the heart of the matter. What does divorce do to a child? Really?

imagesI believe that divorce is a trauma for children. And for those who would argue that an amicable divorce isn’t, I would respond that it doesn’t really matter how softly the button that drops a bomb gets pushed. It doesn’t matter if the person dropping it waggles peace signs or sings “Kum By Ya”. It doesn’t matter. The trauma still happens. The ‘amicable’ part really only helps reduce the aftershocks.  But that trauma affects us to our core. It alters the fabric of our very being. And like any trauma survivor, we develop coping mechanisms to navigate our survival. That is the biggest difference between children of divorce and children of intact families – we have had to find coping mechanisms unique to our situation.  And it is our coping mechanisms that will mitigate how long we remain victims, as well as if or how we transition into survivors.

I believe there are two core issues that children of divorce struggle with.  The issues of trust and attachment.

Trust, because everything that we trusted since we were born: our parents, our family, our home completely and unexpectedly changes and we have absolutely no power to prevent it. Attachment, because we are expected to accept the loss of our family, often times the relative loss of one parent, sometimes the loss of our home and simply move on. I think almost every other emotion we have can be traced back to these two issues. Anger, because we couldn’t trust what we thought we could. Sadness because we didn’t want things to change. It all goes back to the core. And it is the coping mechanisms we develop when confronted with these emotions that determine how healthy our response will be.

Some will develop particularly toxic coping mechanisms. They might hurt everyone around them so as to not feel alone in their pain. Others can form rather helpful coping mechanisms. They feel powerless and out of control so they find something like school or sports that they can focus on, control the outcome of and excel at. According to Heatherington, 25% of us develop severe psychological problems. I think the psychological health of the child previous to divorce has the biggest impact on how well they will cope in both its wake and aftermath because the healthier one is psychologically, the healthier their coping mechanisms will tend to be.

These are some of the coping mechanisms I employed:

Trust – I found growing up that I was always making contingency plans. I never knew when the bottom was going to fall out of whatever I was doing, so I was always considering alternatives. This was sometimes perceived as being well prepared, and other times perceived as scheming. And since the only thing I could really count on was me, I wanted to control whatever I could and I became fiercely perfectionistic. My anger runs palpably under my surface and although I control it as well as I control anything else, it’s still there. Lying in wait.

Attachment – I am intensely independent. Being physically and verbally affectionate with my parents or siblings makes images (1)me uncomfortable. Being close emotionally with others is very difficult. I prefer to hold everyone at an arm’s length. Growing up, I couldn’t wait to become an adult so that I could form a family of my own, to create attachments which I could relish in and enjoy. And now that I have those, they are the cornerstone of my life. I don’t really know who I am. I not only disassociated with others, I am also disassociated with myself. When asked a question, I usually spend less time contemplating my actual answer and think almost entirely about how I should answer. Because meeting expectations and not letting anyone really see me, makes me feel safe.

Am I a thriving healthy adult woman who got good grades, completed College, has a career, has friends, got married, had children and owns a home? Yes. Does that mean that my parent’s divorce didn’t affect me? No, of course not. I still feel those aftershocks of divorce, even thirty years later. Some of those affects, I have embraced. I was able to funnel some of my issues in a positive way. Into a positive coping mechanism. Some of those affects I am working to change because the coping mechanism no longer produces the result I’m looking for.

How does divorce affect children? Ask me, because I think I may have the answer.

It turns them into survivors.


Editor’s Note by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

As another ACOD (“Adult Child of Divorce” , the term Caroline uses in her blog), I agree with Caroline that the ripple effects of divorce on children concerned continue for decades after the actual divorce: this includes having to explain to our own children why “Nana and Grandad” chose to terminate their marriage and why they still don’t very much like to be in the same place at the same time.  Within the categories of “parental disharmony” and “divorce” there are so many wide variations.  I have friends who say they wish their parents had divorced, because they lived in a constant “war zone” situation… or were completely frosty to one another for years.  Among the things I found hardest was feeling raw grief, as my father went overseas immediately after splitting with my mother: I had previously been close to him and there weren’t any “weekend visits” and there was quite limited contact immediately after the break up.  Into adulthood I felt a “lack of belonging” which remained until I had a family of my own.  I am forever grateful that I did not (as so many children do) have to deal with my mother bringing multiple partners into our home (I was an adult when she began having other relationships).  Having said this, I know there are those who have had very positive experiences with stable step-parents joining their family and I have a good relationship with my father’s wife (although I never lived with them as a child).  As Caroline says, the disintegration of “the parental unit”, regardless of the finer details of the circumstances, always effects the children of that unit.  That’s not to say that children of divorce are always left irrevocably scarred and dysfunctional for life.  It does however, for better or for worse, change the fabric of who we are and the adults we become.  It is what it is and each case is different.