Episode 18: October 13
Childhood should be a happy, carefree time. But many children face some very grown up problems, like Mum and Dad breaking up.
An estimated ten thousand Kiwi kids are affected by divorce each year. But just how it affects them is still open to debate among the experts. Some say divorce damages children, while others believe its worse for the kids to stay with two parents who are constantly fighting. The latest research indicates that its the way parents handle a separation thats important.
Thats the message in a new book on divorce, the result of the biggest research project in ten years. Children in Changing Families is co-written by Victoria Universitys senior psychology lecturer, Jan Pryor. We asked her if children suffer because their parents separate.
Jan concludes, Weve come to the conclusion that theres twice the risk, if your parents separate of you suffering some of the bad outcomes that we know about like poor self esteem, not doing very well at school, being unhappy, behaviour problems and so on. But having said that, the reality is that most children are fine down the line.
Jan believes its not the divorce itself that hurts children, but the way the break-up, is handled. Very rarely do parents suddenly wake up one morning and say right were going to separate, so its not the act itself but what goes before it, so its things like poor parenting where parents just lose it with their children because theyre unhappy.
The main problem for children is conflict ... the common ingredient in divorce.
We asked Relationship Services counsellor, Louise Chapman her opinion about conflict. Parents fighting in front of the children about the children is not an OK thing to do. Often when children hear their parents argue about them and they then go on to separate, the children think its their fault. I mean the children think, if Id cleaned my room, if Id done my homework, Mum and Dad would still be together. Conflict is healthy and normal but children need to see it resolved.
Jan continues: If youre going to fight and argue, do it when theyve gone to bed, or on the telephone when theyre nowhere around. But dont pretend that the children dont hear or understand because they do.
If worse comes to worst and there is a divorce, parents need be aware that children can be swamped by feelings of grief, loss and anger.
Jan: If things arent managed well, what theyre at risk of are things like behaviour problems, which are the acting up sort of behaviours, internalising problems, things like anxiety, low self-esteem, worrying, those kinds of things. Their schoolwork goes off if theyre not supported.
Relationship Services has a booklet on divorce, Through Childrens Eyes, with tips on how to deal with their often-negative responses.
Louise sees communication as key. The golden rule is that you communicate in a healthy way about the children. The children that do the best are the ones whose parents dont fight about them in front of them. If the parents can get on about pick-ups and drop-offs and who takes them to rugby, theyre the children who do the best.
Re-partnering is another common issue for children to deal with. Louise continues, A child feels quite divided between each household. Mum may ask the child about dads new girlfriend for example. Maybe the childs father has said to her not to say, not to tell mum anything about his new girlfriend, so she wants to be a good girl for mum and answer her questions, but she also wants to do what Dad said. So she feels quite torn, really quite torn.
So three ways to help children through a break-up are to respect their loyalty to both parents, keep it civil in front of the kids and let them know whats going on.
Jan: Typically parents dont tell children whats happening, we know they dont. Theyll either think maybe if we dont talk to them about it they wont understand so lets not bother them with adult things, but what children say is we want to know. So what they really need is to be told is its not their fault, to be told their parents love them.
Children often feel like passengers during a divorce. Theyre taking a ride they didnt choose and cant control, but the latest research seems to suggest that if both parents make a special effort and follow some sensible guidelines they can help children get through a break-up without lasting damage and thats got to be good news for everyone.
Relationship Services phone number is 0800 RELATE (0800 735 283)
Cool Thing To Do
Today weve got some ideas that reach for the sky.
Head to your local observatory on a clear night and view the night sky. There are 22 Astronomical Societies throughout New Zealand where you can gaze at planets and stars. Try a telescope at home if you have access to one.
If youre in Auckland The Stardom is a great visit for the kids fun and educational.
The Stardomes website is www.stardome.org.nz.
But theres plenty of sky fun you can have right on your back doorstep, like making a sure fire bubble mixture. Mix together 1 part sugar, 3 parts boiling water and 9 parts of detergent. The key is to let it sit for 3 days before using.
And dont forget about the fun you can have flying a kite. Cheap and fun is one made out of a supermarket bag on the bottom of the bag staple on some tails out of crepe paper; attach a string to the handles and head for the outdoors!
Catch it on the Web
Have fun making a mouldy green brains surgery salad or do a rubber eggs and funny bones experiment. Find out about body functions like burping, why pimples pop up and many other things!!
Developed by miscarriage support in Akl this site is honest and upfront. A great resource for people who want information on this subject.
EASY TUNA FLAN
slices of flan warm with a mixed green salad. You will love this
new flavoured cottage cheese with the natural addition of gherkin
with the tuna. It makes this flan high in protein and light
to eat, but delicious tasting!
The flavoured cottage cheese just makes it all so simple. It is a sturdy number and will happily accompany you on a picnic or family outing.
2 x 180g cans tuna, drained
1/2 cup chopped spring onions
350g crusty pie pastry or similar
250g pottle or 1 cup Tararua Cottage Cheese with Gherkin
1/4 cup Balance milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the tuna and chopped spring onions. Line a 23cm flan dish with pastry and place tuna mixture in the bottom.
Beat the eggs until frothy. Combine the cottage cheese, milk and seasoning and beat until combined.
Fold into the eggs and mix well. Pour egg mixture over the tuna. Bake 1 hour at 190degC. Serve warm. Serves 6.
DELICIOUS PASTRY FOR FLAN
* The combination of cream cheese and butter in this recipe makes for the lightest, most delectable pastry - you will love this recipe for both sweet and savoury dishes.
150g Tararua Traditional Cream Cheese
11/2 cups plain flour
Cream the butter and cream cheese together and beat thoroughly. Add flour and blend with a fork till a ball forms and no more. Never over-work pastry - the less you do the better. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Roll out to fit a 20-23 cm pie plate.
Lilys Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. (Hodder, $16.95) 4-7 yrs old.
What a trip, Amber Brown by Paula Danziger (Hodder, $16.95) 7 to 9 yrs old.
Jolt, by New Zealander Bernard Beckett. (Reed, $16.95) Teenagers.
Books selected by The Childrens Bookshop. Ph:(09) 376 7283 or (03) 366 5274
Children get high temperatures reasonably often. It can be frightening. A doctor should always see babies under six months old who have a fever. But in older children, the trick is to know how sick they are.
Anything over 38.5 degrees is worth getting checked out. Take into account other symptoms. Is the child otherwise happy and bright, continuing to play? If there is other signs apart from the temperature (like fast breathing for example) take them to the doctor.
How do you know whether your child has a raised temperature? Invest in a good thermometer. The better ones are the digital ones that will beep when the time is up.
Under the armpit is the best spot in a young child. Once you know they have a temperature, dont load them up with multiple layers of clothing. They need to be able to lose heat by sweating. Keep them cool, perhaps with a damp flannel popped into tepid water. Its advised not to put them into a cold bath or shower. Keep the fluids up. Dehydration is one of the reasons small children are hospitalized with a fever.
High temperatures are usually caused by infections that children can fight off themselves. But if you have a young baby, any temperature over 38 degrees Celsius should be taken seriously and checked out by a doctor.
Dr Ian Hassall, Chairman of the Childrens Agenda talks of the myth of quality time. He says its less about quality and more about quantity. You dont necessarily need to be doing intense stuff one on one with your child all the time youre with them, but rather just simply being around. Sometimes together focusing on a particular activity, other times in proximity but both are doing your own thing. Its the being around that counts!