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162 - An Organized Child is a Healthy Child - Teaching Skills to Handle Change
Leh Meriwether: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are your co-hosts for Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. Here you learn about divorce, family law, tips about how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at AtlantaDivorceTeam.com. You can also check out other episodes of this show at DivorceTeamRadio.com along with transcripts.
Todd Orston: And on our website, we have a little button that will bring you to past episodes. You can read transcripts. You can listen to shows. So, absolutely, there is so much content on the website, and also in all these places where podcasts are hosted. So, any information you're looking for, it's out there.
Leh Meriwether: Now, some of the shows are very specific areas of the law. We try to explain that it's Georgia law, which means that if you're in another state you don't want to rely on what we're saying. We're not actually giving you specific legal advice. I probably should make that point clear. And you could be listening to a show from ... In fact, I know there's some shows out there that are from three or four years ago.
Todd Orston: The laws have changed.
Leh Meriwether: The laws have changed since we recorded those shows. So, the struggle with us doing some of these legal, the ones that are legally specific, is they do get outdated. Now that I think about it, I'm wondering if we should go back and take some of those off. I'm going to have think about that.
Todd Orston: And maybe not on this show.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. Well, but here's the good news about today's show. Are you ready?
Todd Orston: It's not based on the law?
Leh Meriwether: This is a practical show. This is what we call evergreen content. It's not applicable to any state. It's not applicable to any area of the law.
Todd Orston: It's all about trees.
Leh Meriwether: It's all about trees. That's right.
Todd Orston: So what do you mean by evergreen?
Leh Meriwether: Meaning that it doesn't go bad. Whereas, like our show about child support from a couple years ago, that information's not good anymore because the laws in Georgia changed, I think twice, since we did that show. Well, parts of it are still accurate, but other parts are no longer accurate because the law changed.
Todd Orston: Right, correct.
Leh Meriwether: And if you're listening in another state, the law may be ... or you have a case in another state. You may live here in Georgia, and you have a case that's going on in another state. The laws are going to be different there than in Georgia sometimes. The general principles are pretty much the same across the country, but then there's those little nuances that can make a huge difference in your case. That's why you always want to talk to local counsel. You don't want to rely on this show when it comes to specifics in your case. You need to talk with legal counsel. But today we're talking about-
Todd Orston: That's right
Leh Meriwether: ... raising an organized child in a blended family, so we're going a little bit past the divorce process. So, now you've been divorced, and perhaps you're getting ready to get re-married. And that obviously creates another transition for your children. So, they've already had to transition once because now they are no longer living under the same roof as mom and dad together. And now there's a new mom or dad, stepmom or dad coming into the picture, and there are stepchildren. And so now we've added a whole new level of complexity.
Todd Orston: Let me hit it from a different angle. I do not have a blended family. I have two children, and organization is always a struggle, okay? Now, I can't even imagine the hurdles that I would feel I have to leap over in terms of making sure my children and their lives are organized, if they were going back and forth between two homes, if stepparents were involved, all of that. So, we understand. The whole purpose of the show is that we obviously think of things from the angle of, we are divorce attorneys, and we are helping people and guiding people through this process, a very difficult process, but we also, because of this show and just because of who we are, we recognize that there is an afterwords. And the afterwords can be incredibly challenging, and the hurdles can be ... sometimes they can feel insurmountable, but they're not. And no matter what, the focus always has to be on the kids. And so this is just one attempt that we are making to bring some information that we received, meaning that we have seen, that we believe can help people raise their children in a very healthy manner, make sure that they are on track.
Leh Meriwether: And the reason we wanted to do this show too, so the name I just used, raising an organized child in a blended family, this information actually is helpful if the child is just going through a divorce. In fact, this comes from an article that I had read recently, so I do want to give ... The inspiration for this show is, I want to give credit where credit is due, comes from Suzanne Gelb. I think I'm saying her last name correctly, probably not, knowing me. But she's actually a psychologist and an attorney that's in a solo practice in Honolulu. And she had written a very good article for the American Bar Association's Family Law Division Magazine. And there's some good tips in there for any child, frankly, but it's much more impactful for children that are having to deal with a blended family or have just gotten divorced.
Leh Meriwether: Because when the child's not organized, it creates all kinds of problems. Maybe homework hasn't been taking ... the child leaves their books for class at mom's house or dad's house, or there's something that needs to be coordinated properly. If your child's really disorganized and doesn't get things together, that you could be late for school. And then that could look bad. It could create issues with your ex-spouse. We've seen this happen before, and we've seen a lot of modification cases when a spouse is getting re-married. And so we'll often see a child express some dissatisfaction or unhappiness about being in this new, blended family, and they say it to the other parent. And sometimes that sparks modification cases. And if you can work ahead of time and sort of set your child up for success, the odds of that happening go way, way down.
Leh Meriwether: There's obviously going to be ... I'm not saying every situation's perfect, and you could do everything you can to make it great, but maybe your son or daughter doesn't get along with the new stepbrother or stepsister. You can't change that, but you can at least try to set yourself up for success because in the worst case scenario, it looks good in a hearing.
Todd Orston: What you want to do is create a framework. Every situation is different, to your point. The players are different, the situation, stepbrother, stepsister, no step-siblings but a stepparent. There could be conflict coming from any one of those new additions to your blended family. What we're talking about, and I believe what this author is talking about, is creating a framework. That becomes your starting point, and it becomes the basis through which you can hopefully coach and teach your child good habits that they carry with them. It helps them, not only circumnavigate the divorce and the creation of this new family, but it's going to help them longterm. It's going to help them in school. It's going to help them because they carry these tools with them into beyond school life, in their first job, second job, third job, just their life in general. So what resonated ... I think I can speak for both of us. What resonated with us is this is ... this framework that this author is talking about is so incredibly important because it's going to give your children the tools to succeed, and that's emotional success and just life success.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. All right. Let's get started. So the first thing, while it may seem obvious, it's still critically important. You need to model organized behavior. So if you have terrible time management habits, if your desk at home is all just papers everywhere, it's going to be hard to tell your child or children, "Hey, you need to do these things," because they're going to go, "But you don't." And so, since actions often speak louder than words, the first thing you need to start is working on organizing yourself. So, perhaps maybe that's you're not in a good place. Maybe you are a little disorganized. I would suggest before ... Listen to the show, obviously. But before you start telling the kids what to do, go pick up some books about organization and start getting yourself organized so that you can properly model those behaviors for your kids.
Todd Orston: Yeah. And, again, when we're talking about organizing yourself, I don't think that every can of food needs to be itemized on a list.
Leh Meriwether: We're not talking about OCD behavior.
Todd Orston: Yeah. But, again, if you're trying to get your children ... if you have recognized that a child or your children need help with organization, they may be not doing as well as they could be in school or whatever, all we're saying is hypocrisy, that's not going to be a benefit to you. That's not going to help you teach your children to take on different patterns of behavior, if they're looking at you and they're saying, "But you don't." Because the whole, do as I say not as I do, that doesn't really fly when you're trying to teach these types of lessons and trying to really get a child comfortable with this new, blended family.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And knowing that the family's blended, now you've got all these schedules going on because the other parent, your new spouse, they probably have a parenting plan. And now you're trying to sort of bring together two parenting plans. So if you're disorganized, it's just going to create chaos for you too. And up next, we're going to get into some of the specifics that we read in this article.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show, and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very soft.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd, and you're listing to Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to go back and listen to past episodes or read the transcript of this show, you can check us out at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Leh Meriwether: All right. Today, we're talking about raising an organized child. In particular, when someone's gone through a divorce, and it gets much worse when you have a new, blended family, if you're getting re-married and your spouse has children as well, this becomes critically important to help with this transition because we have seen a marriage to someone else who has children create situations where a modification of custody starts. So if we can give you some tools or give you some ideas to think about, perhaps we can help avoid a modification case, and obviously make a great environment for your kids and you. Because when things are nice and organized, it makes life so much better.
Todd Orston: And let me also say it's hard. Nothing that we're saying is supposed to be taken as, "Oh, it's easy. Organize yourself. Organize your child." Organization is ... And I struggle with this. I'm not going to lie-
Leh Meriwether: I've noticed that.
Todd Orston: I hope my wife's not listening. No, but being organized is incredibly difficult. It comes easier to some people than others. I'm one of those people where I have to ... Some things come easy to me. That is not one of them.
Leh Meriwether: Well, I'm glad you're listening to the show.
Todd Orston: I'm going to have to ... Once we're done, I'm going to listen to it. And then I'm going to be like, "You know what? He's right."
Leh Meriwether: All right. So let's ... The first thing we talked about was modeling organized behavior. So, Todd, you would probably need to focus on you first.
Todd Orston: You're not my model. I'm just ... If that's what you're shooting for, all right, I'm sorry.
Leh Meriwether: The next thing is to schedule family time.
Todd Orston: So important.
Leh Meriwether: Because I totally agree with Suzanne on this, that it's important to schedule that time to get together because if you don't schedule it, it won't happen. So, maybe not every night, but I strongly recommend at least four nights a week that you have a dinner together as a family. In addition to that, I'm also recommending, I think she recommends this too, is to schedule time for just you and your children. So if there's new step-kids being introduced to the picture, not only schedule family time as a whole, put it on the calendar. They know to expect that Friday nights, Saturday nights, and Sunday nights, or Friday nights, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights, and Monday nights-
Todd Orston: Whatever.
Leh Meriwether: Whatever you ... The schedule they know to come to expect they're going to be together then. And also schedule the same thing with just your children.
Todd Orston: Yeah. I'm going to refer to it as quality time with your children. And then of course the family time with the blended family as a whole. Look, I will speak about it from my point of view in terms of just my family, not a blended family right now, or ever hopefully. But the bottom line is we have always believed that, especially as kids get older, that they're going to want to go in different directions. It's going to be difficult. It's like herding cats, as they say, and they're going to want to do their own thing. And for as long as I can remember, dinner has been a family thing. That's just something that we did, and now it's a habit. And now the kids know that dinner is with the family. Now, that doesn't mean there can't be exceptions, but it's incredibly important to get all the family members together.
Todd Orston: So now, taking it to that next level where you have an extended, blended family, it's even more so because you are already committed. You as the parent are committed to that person. This is my take on it. Meaning, you have a new spouse, so clearly there's a level of commitment. Your children may not have that same level of commitment. And the only way you're going to build that is by, unfortunately, nicely forcing opportunities for your children and all children involved to feel like, "Okay. This is the new norm." So it's incredibly important, I believe, especially in this blended family environment.
Leh Meriwether: And come up with ... Sometimes the dinner conversation can be awkward. Come up with questions that you might ask. Because we routinely, every week, we'll ask at least a couple times at dinner, "Tell me three things that happened to you today, and how did they make you feel?" So they can't just say, "Well, I went to school. And then I ate lunch and came home." They can't just say that. They have to say-
Todd Orston: My kids are talkers. That dinner would be eight hours long.
Leh Meriwether: My kids aren't. Sometimes I have to drag it out of them, so that's why we start asking questions. And then another one is, "Tell me your rose and thorn." So, tell me the best part of your day and the worst part of your day, so those things that ... And it sparks conversation. And we have a lot of fun, a lot of laughter around that because sometimes my kids will say some of the funniest things and, "What do you mean by that?" It keeps the conversation going because otherwise we'd just sit there and stare at each other.
Todd Orston: And we've talked about this before where we have seen ... And by the way, nothing that we are saying is judging. I'm not judging anyone. Your relationship with your spouse, your new spouse, your children, your stepchildren, that's your issue. I'm not trying to come across, and I don't want to come across, as being judgmental. But I've seen situations where a family of four is at a dinner table, out. They took the time to go out and eat, and each one of them is on a phone. And it's not like they're just checking something really fast, and then they're engaging. It was actually unfortunate, let's use that word, where almost the entirety of the meal that family was on their respective phones, and that's not what I'm talking about. There has to be a level of engagement. Only if you have that level of engagement through conversation are you going to feel like you are engaged in something meaningful, that you are building the relationships and making those relationships more healthy.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. All right, so we've got that. The next one is create a parenting plan. So, come up with a plan that works. And you've got a co-parent with this, so there's an element of co-parenting involved. But knowing that things are changing, reach out to ... Both parents that are getting married should reach out to their respective exes and talk about maybe reworking their parenting plan, maybe get some specifics so that you can have the step-siblings together on the same night because it can be very difficult or, this might be helpful, to have the kids away from you on the same night, so you have date nights built in. That would be nice. But see if you can work to coordinate your parenting plan. And the wonderful thing about parenting plans, and I'm pretty sure this is the same across the country, whatever the parents want to do ... I mean, there are exceptions of course, but most parenting plans have this catch-all. Whatever you want to do, you can do. You don't have to follow the plan. You only have to follow the court order when there's a disagreement.
Leh Meriwether: So if you can reach out to the other parents, so you've got four parents now, and see if there's a way you can coordinate the parenting plan so it works for everyone. And you don't have to go back to court to cement that, unless there's something contested and you've got to force it. But if you have a good working relationship, try to do that.
Todd Orston: Yeah. And the only thing I want to build on here is, in terms of the parenting plan and communication with the kids, you now have another parent in the home. They may not be your child's or children's biological parent, but they are still a parent, and they have, I would believe, some level of parental authority in your home. Set those expectations with the kids early on. I can't tell you how many times we see conflict and strife that is borne out of, there's a bad relationship between a child and a stepparent. And I can't say for sure, but it seems like at least a decent amount of time, it's because there are no clear lines as far as parental authority or step-parental authority. Be clear with the children. Make sure they understand, "Listen. He or she, if they say, 'Do your homework,' it's as if it's coming from me." So they have the right to do it. But also be very clear, and also be clear with your new spouse that there are some things that may be inappropriate. And that's not something that you or I can talk about. There are specialists that could probably help to better define what a stepparent's role and responsibility and authority should be.
Leh Meriwether: Perhaps maybe an example would be, your daughter makes, or son, makes a huge ... Gets into a fight at school, and it creates a situation. That, I don't think the stepparent should step in there. Perhaps maybe just say-
Todd Orston: In emergency protection, sure.
Leh Meriwether: In maybe an emergency, come in, step in and go, "You're going to have to discuss this with your mom and father."
Todd Orston: Yep.
Leh Meriwether: I mean, that's the best. I think the stepparent actually can do their best job by just saying, "Boy, you're going to have a tough explanation about this." And, "What are you going to do?" "I'm not doing anything. This is between your mom and your dad."
Todd Orston: Yep.
Leh Meriwether: And that clearly shows they're there to support mom and dad, and so that the child can't play any of the parents against each other.
Todd Orston: Yeah. If you step over that line, you're asking for that whole, "You're not my mom," or, "You're not my dad," or, "You're not my parent."
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: Yeah. Understanding where the lines are so that you can have a healthy, as a stepparent now I'm speaking, so that you can have a healthy relationship with the children is incredibly important, not just for the kids, but for your emotional wellbeing and for your spouse, the child's parent.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. And that creates a great working environment so that all the four parents can co-parent effectively, without the other parent, the one who's not in the house, feeling like their parental role is being usurped. And it just sets everyone up for success. And up next, we're going to talk about the difference between nagging and giving clear instructions.
Todd Orston: Hey everyone. You're listening to our podcast, but you have alternatives. You have choices. You can listen to us live also, at 1:00 AM on Monday morning on WSB.
Leh Meriwether: If you're enjoying the show, we would love it if you could go rate us on iTunes or wherever you may be listening to it. Give us a five star rating and tell us why you like the show.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back everyone. This is Leh and Todd. And you are listening to Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. You can listen to past episodes at DivorceTeamRadio.com. By the way, that's a forwarding URL that does go to our website. It just goes to the page. You land on the page with all the radio shows.
Leh Meriwether: All right. So, we're talking about setting your children up for success. After divorce, or you have now a blended family, and we're talking about getting organized. And we're not necessarily talking about, perhaps, just everything needs to be stacked here. We're talking about some bigger pictures, bigger things that often people miss. And we've talked about several things, but here's where I think a lot of parents go wrong, and I can include myself in that. So this is one of those things where ... This applies in every situations. Often, we revert to nagging. "Pick up your pants. Pick this up. Pick this up. Pick this up," rather than giving clear instructions. "Hey. Look, let's walk through what I'm hoping we can all agree that this is what we want to achieve. This is what we're trying to ... what we want everything to look like."
Leh Meriwether: So, walk them through cleaning up their room, where you put things, how you give notice. And then when things go wrong, or there's clothes on the floor, or whatever it may be ... I'm getting a little picky here. Rather than going, "You need to pick up those clothes," say, "Hey. Look, is that ... I see some clothes on the floor. Is that what we're shooting for?" "Well, no." "We agreed what we're shooting for, right?" "Yup, I'll take care of it." And I've noticed that ... I've done that exact same thing with my kids. I've shifted from nagging, which never worked, to, "Hey. Is that what we're shooting for?" "No, I'll take care of it."
Todd Orston: To use an example from my home. Let's just say, my son, I walked into his room, and he had ... Good lord, it seemed about 15 glasses, cups. And I'm like, "Other members of the family would like to have a drink every once in a while. And so, can you bring them down so we can wash them?" Simply saying, "Can you bring them down?" Or, even if I had said, "Bring those down, so we can put them in the sink, so we can wash them," maybe I wasn't clear enough because it didn't get done as quickly as I was hoping. And by that, I mean like a day and a half later. And so maybe I needed to be more clear. Maybe I needed to give instructions like, "A, this can't happen anymore. I can't have 15 glasses sitting in your room. So, how about this? These, I want these taken down in the next hour. Can you do that?" Right? "I need to wash them, so other people can use some glasses." And be more clear in the instructions. And that way, I don't need to nag.
Todd Orston: To me the important point is then, it's not that you don't have to nag or you aren't nagging. It's that I don't need to nag because now if that doesn't get done, it's not an issue of nagging. Now it's an issue of, "Hey. Listen, I thought we talked about this was not acceptable, and you, within the hour, were going to take this down. It hasn't gotten done. So, obviously, maybe you didn't understand?" "I understood." "All right, fine. Can you please take care of it?" And then it's falling on them as opposed to now I feel like I'm nagging, "Hey, take them down. I told you to take them down."
Leh Meriwether: Right. It's sort of getting agreement. Now, there'll be times when this doesn't work, and we'll talk about punishment later. But if you just nag, nagging just doesn't work. And that's what the article said as well. It doesn't work. But if you can get a consensus of what this looks like ... Here's another thing of giving clear instructions. If you say, "Joey, get ready. Your dad's coming to pick you up," that may not be clear enough. And so you come around the corner, and he's playing on his iPad, but he doesn't have his shoes on. "Joey, are you ready?" "Yeah, I'm ready." "Your shoes aren't on." "Oh. Oh, I'd better get my shoes on."
Leh Meriwether: And there's some kids, you actually need to make a checklist, especially if they're going back and forth. And you can say, "All right. Here's what getting ready looks like. Check to make sure you've got all your books, school books, in your bag. Do we have that? All right. You've got clothes for the ... " If we just have a weekend dad. I'm not judging. I'm just saying that's the parenting plan. "All right. You're going to see your dad. Do you have all the clothes you need? Do you have clothes for Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday?" "Yes, I got those." "Okay, great. Is there anything that you wanted play with? Is there a new game you have, you want to make sure you have with you?" "Yep, all right. Let's write this out. Let's make a checklist."
Leh Meriwether: And then every time, whether Joey's at mom's house or dad's house, he quickly ... You can put it in a little booklet. He can keep it in his bag. He can pull it out and go, "I've got everything." And then nothing gets lost. I mean, you'll have accidents every once in a while, but you now increase the chance of ... You don't have to get in the car and drive back over to dad's house to pick up the trombone.
Todd Orston: Adults are, for the most part, we are ... I think we make assumptions that kids have the same level of sophistication or ability, a greater ability to be prepared. So if you say, "Hey, you're going to your dad's," in our minds, as adults, what does that mean? Do you have clothes? Do you have socks? Do you have shoes? Do you have something to read? Do you have any homework? Okay, make sure you have your computer, or your tablet, or your whatever. So, we are mentally going through that checklist. And I think the problem is sometimes we make an assumption because we have helped them once before, that they remember everything and they are thinking about everything.
Todd Orston: And by the way, adults are not infallible, right? I've gone on trips and forgotten something that I very much needed. Getting to an airport, where I should have been absolutely prepared, and I forgot. So, we make mistakes as well, and we're adults. Children haven't been doing this nearly as long as we have. They need help. And to try and eliminate some of the strife in your home and to get them better organized, I think you just need to be, to her point, very clear.
Leh Meriwether: The other thing. Let's say you've got a dad that's not as cooperative on the co-parenting side, and you're trying to do your best as a co-parent. If you have your child take responsibility for being prepared ... So, let's say your child comes home. They forgot their musical instrument with dad. They're like ... They want to blame dad. They don't want to accept responsibility. So, "Oh, Dad. Dad's just terrible. He didn't give me my flute. He didn't put it in my bag." Wait, hold on a minute.
Todd Orston: You're really into the wind instruments, I'll be honest with you. We've got a trombone. We've got a flute. "Where's my tuba, dad?"
Leh Meriwether: But at that point, rather than agreeing with them and setting up ... "Wait a minute. Whose responsibility is this?" And then they're going to realize that's their responsibility. So you're setting it up where the child realizes that they've got to take responsibility, which is teaching good principles that will help them later in life, and it keeps them from wanting to blame their dad, even if ... Maybe you have a dad or mom that's not the best parent or not as engaged as they can be. But let's take some of those things off of them. Teach your child, but still help ... do everything you can to nurture that relationship.
Todd Orston: It's teaching personal responsibility, that, "Yes, as a parent, I'm here to help, but ultimately it's your responsibility to remember these things." But, again, what we're saying is, even though that's the case, and I do believe in that, you need to teach kids to be personally responsible. They're still children, and they forget things. And I know I've had to bring the proverbial tuba to ... My kids don't play the tuba. I don't even think I have a car big enough for a tuba. But I've had to go to school and bring something they've forgot, or drop something off somewhere else where they've forgot it. And while it is definitely their fault, it's also my fault. Because if I look back and think about, "Did I really help them to make sure they had everything that they needed?" No. For the most part, I made assumptions that they were ready, that they had everything that they needed. And so, part of that blame does have to fall on me.
Leh Meriwether: All right. So, along those lines, and this kind of plays into what we've gone into, is establish routines to help with transitions. Like you were talking about, it's now a habit that y'all have dinner together. It's become a habit. So, transitions going back and forth, now that they have a blended family can make those a little more difficult. So if you can develop routines, that the kids always go through this checklist, or whatever it may be, before they leave. It's going to help eliminate some of the tension, especially if you have situations where the child's saying, "I don't want to go to mom's," or, "I don't want to leave. I don't want to go to dad's," or whatever. You just revert back to the routine. "I understand your not feeling well or you don't want to go over there. Let's go ahead and let's get your shoes together. Let's pack your bags." You just revert to that routine because sometimes their objection ... Well, it may not be a valid objection. It's just-
Todd Orston: Oh, so you've met my kids. Okay. I think all children play from the same playbook. So not all the arguments are valid arguments.
Leh Meriwether: Also, when your home environment is calm, then during transition times it can give your children a safe space in which to express their feelings or their needs. And sometimes you just need to address the feelings. You may not agree with those feelings, but you can address them. But if it's chaotic, it can just make it that much worse for the child. There may be an issue about them going over to visit the other parent, but they're giving pushback, and you don't know the real reason. We've had co-parent coordinators on before that have talked about the reason could be something really ... without exploring the feelings of the person, of the child, you may never find out what the real issue is. And it could be something that's easily dealt with. But if you don't know about it, you can't. So, establishing routines can help create that safe space, make life less chaotic.
Leh Meriwether: And when we come back, we're going to continue to break down some practical ideas to help organize your child.
Leh Meriwether: I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to listen to this show live, you can listen at 1:00 AM on Monday mornings on WSB. So you can always check us out there as well.
Todd Orston: Better than counting sheep, I guess, right?
Leh Meriwether: That's right.
Todd Orston: You can turn on the show, and we'll help you fall asleep.
Leh Meriwether: There you go.
Todd Orston: I'll talk very softly.
Leh Meriwether: Welcome back. This is Leh and Todd. And you're listening to Divorce Team Radio, sponsored by Meriwether & Tharp. If you want to listen to past episodes of this show, you can check us out online at DivorceTeamRadio.com.
Leh Meriwether: Okay. Today we're talking about ... And I'm going to talk quickly because we're running out of time. We're talking about tips on how to help organize your child's life, or make sure they're organized because they've already gone through one transition of a divorce, and now they're ... You're talking about potentially having a blended family, which is another transition for your child. And to help them deal with these transitions, getting them organized, and yourself organized for that matter, makes this a much easier process. And along the way, you're teaching them skills that will help them later in life. So, I won't recap all the other ones we've gone to. You can go back and listen to ... If you're just tuning in, you can go back and listen to those previous segments online.
Leh Meriwether: But right now we're talking about ... The next thing is equipping your children to plan, focus, and get things done. Did I skip one? I think I skipped two. Actually, I jumped ahead. Sorry.
Todd Orston: Story of your life. Let's just back one, to basically organizational charts and calendars.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. So put the parenting plan, put it on a calendar. Put it up on the fridge or somewhere where everybody sees it, and put where the kids are going to be when during the week, so they can very visually see on the fly, "Hey. Next week, I'm going to be with dad. This week, I'm with mom," or whatever your schedule may be. They can clearly see it, and there's no excuses. Especially when they start getting a little bit older and want to plan things with their friends, you can teach them, "Hey. Before you plan something with your friends, look at the calendar."
Todd Orston: And if you're picking up on a theme by the author of this article, Suzanne Gelb, an attorney out of, I think, Honolulu?
Leh Meriwether: Yes.
Todd Orston: So, if you're picking up on a theme, a lot of strife and conflict and be avoided through good communication and just establishing, again, routines and calendars, schedules, putting things in writing. So that way there is no more communication breakdown, which can create stress and what have you. In my family, I can tell you right now, my kids, they both play tennis. They do other things and have other things that they schedule that we, my wife and I, schedule. And we found that it caused them a lot of stress, even though we thought that they knew about these things.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: When we would tell them at the last minute, or sometime close to the last minute, "Hey. By the way, you have ... "
Leh Meriwether: This weekend.
Todd Orston: This weekend, or today, or whatever. In our minds, it's like, "Well, we talked about this." But we didn't have it written down. We didn't have it in a place where they could continually look at, and that got us to a place where we started doing this. I got to tell you, it helped immensely.
Leh Meriwether: Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up. So, not just the times where the kids are going to be with mom or dad, also put all these events that are coming up, especially if ... the step-kids, so not your kids but the children of your new spouse. They may have an event, a weekend coming up, and you want to make sure that your children know about this, so that they don't plan something else. Or if they have a conflict, that y'all can talk about it well in advance. So that's a huge tip, and I've had the similar experience that I thought I told them. In fact, I knew I told them; they just forgot about it. And you put the calendar up with all the events. They know what to expect and when to expect it, and it reduces a lot of strife.
Todd Orston: So how about this one? because this one also resonates with me, and it definitely is important when you are trying to create a healthy blended family experience for your kids. But assigning chores to help children feel like they're part of the family. Again, you are invested in your new relationship as the adult. Your children aren't truly invested. They're along for the ride.
Leh Meriwether: Right.
Todd Orston: Giving them ... Why this resonates with me is because I understand, and I think it's important. Giving them chores ... And I'm not saying, "Hey. After your homework, can you go paint the house?" I can't even imagine what it would look like. But giving them some chores, whether it's one, or two, or three, or small things, it makes it so they feel like they are contributing.
Leh Meriwether: And they're part of the family, this new family.
Todd Orston: And they're part of the family.
Leh Meriwether: And here's ... I'll go ahead and cover this now because I think it worked good. Praise good ... Even if they're not great results, if they do a good job, praise it. So if they ... If their job is to unload the dishwasher, and they put everything back, then you say, "Hey. You know what? Thank you so much for unloading the dishwasher. You did a great job."
Todd Orston: Listen, I have seen people stack plates, but what you just did was masterful.
Leh Meriwether: It's got to be sincere.
Todd Orston: All right. Okay.
Leh Meriwether: But it's a simple thing as, "Hey, thanks for taking care of the dishes so quickly." And that also makes them feel like part of the family.
Todd Orston: Yep.
Leh Meriwether: So praising, even if they feel like, "Well, I didn't do a good job." "You know what? You don't have to do a perfect job. You did the best job that you could do, and I really appreciate it."
Todd Orston: What about the next one?
Leh Meriwether: Now the next one, equip your children to plan, focus, and get things done. And sometimes this can be as simple as setting aside a place in the house that, "This is where you do your homework." And they know when they come home, they've got 30 minutes to just do whatever, watch videos on their iPad or whatnot. But at four o'clock, they're going to sit down at their desk, and they're going to knock out their homework. And then dinner's at 6:00. And if they've finished their homework on time, then they can watch whatever they want on TV until bed time. So it's creating that, that schedule that they know where to take care of things.
Todd Orston: And the author goes a little further even and basically says, organizational habits, at different ages there might be different needs. Young children might need shelves that they can reach. And I remember when my kids were small, and good lord they're not small anymore, but we had shelves with the books and things, so they could reach it. At school age, they needed a designated area for work. Middle school and even upper school, a daily planner, tools that can help them stay organized, which will of course help them. It will relieve stress and potentially result in better grades and performance at school. All these things become incredibly important and things you should be thinking about.
Leh Meriwether: And then following up on that, especially when you said the daily planner, is teach time management. And so that, obviously it's got to be age appropriate, but at some point when there's chores to be done, going back to your son, the example you gave your son of the glasses, that they need to understand that they shouldn't put things off. They shouldn't procrastinate because when they do, they're setting themselves up to have a difficult time in college and in life as well. So when you say, "Hey look, I'll get the garbage later." "No, I need you to get it now because it's starting to smell." "Well, but I can get it before I go to bed." "Here's the thing, the last four times you said that, it didn't really work out, so let's take care of it now." "Okay."
Todd Orston: And meanwhile, the family doesn't have any glasses left.
Leh Meriwether: So help discourage procrastination. Encourage getting it done on a timely level. And sometimes, what do you do when it goes wrong? Obviously this is, going back to your point before, this really needs to be something that's discussed with all the parents, so that everyone is on the same page because you don't want a situation where the children can play off each other ... I mean, play off the parents. And so there has to be something that everybody agrees to ahead of time. I'm not talking about the parents.
Leh Meriwether: So, example at my house, if the garbage isn't done or taken care of ... Now, thankfully my son, I don't even have tell him. I come home, and the garbage has been dealt with, and the dishwasher unloaded. So he does a great job thankfully. But he didn't do it at first. And my other son didn't take care of things at first either. But now fortunately at my house, one of their favorite things to do is watch YouTube videos, and installed this thing called Circle from Disney. And so I can go on my phone and push a button and, boom, they have no internet access. It shuts them off.
Todd Orston: That is draconian. That is ... I don't even ... Really, I think DFCS is going to be called now. This is horrible.
Leh Meriwether: But, my son tested me on it one time. I said, "You need to take care of this." "I'll take care of it later." "No, I need you to take care of it now. And if you don't, I'm going to have to turn off your internet." He's like ... And so he didn't believe me. So, 30 seconds later, "Dad, I can't believe you did that!" It was really ... My wife and I were rolling on the floor laughing. I'm like, "Did you think I was kidding?" And he's like, "Well yeah, kind of."
Todd Orston: You're right. I agree.
Leh Meriwether: And a lot of times you only have to do it once, but make sure everyone's on the same page.
Todd Orston: So a couple of last tips that the author goes into, and really look this author up, this attorney. There's some great-
Leh Meriwether: She's also a psychologist.
Todd Orston: Yeah. There's some great tips here. But basically don't badmouth the other parent in front of the children, all right? I've seen divorces, unfortunately, occur because it's a blended family, and the kids were not onboard, and the relationship between the children and the new stepparent soured to the point where unfortunately the relationship just was not possible. So, be very careful with that. Praise your child. Take every opportunity you can, like you were just saying. And basically by doing these things, you're going to have an organized child that carries these benefits into adulthood, and you can't ask for anything more.
Leh Meriwether: Right, exactly. Well everyone, thanks so much for listening. We enjoyed breaking down something that was a little bit different than what we normally do.
Todd Orston: See you next week.