We often receive the advice from well meaning friends and family, that we should communicate honestly and openly to children about divorce. But the question of how to do this, often fill my clients with doubt and anxiety.
The following tips might help:
- Avoid asking direct questions, such as:” So, how do you feel about the divorce?” This will cause any child to shut down immediately and stop sharing.
- Remember that children don’t have the same vocabulary or sophistication with regards to labelling emotion than we do – often not talking, is telling us more than words. The message is clearly that he or she is struggling to find a way to verbalise the emotion in a way that makes sense. It is then that we need to find other creative ways to communicate, such as: playing, drawing, writing, sand play, baking, pottery or taking a walk in the park.
In other words, creating a space for the child to talk. Don’t put any pressure on him or her, they will talk when they are ready. This will often happen at the most inopportune time: in church, on the way to school when you are already late, in the shop with a full trolley of groceries, or three o’ clock in the morning. Try to grab the opportunity with both hands, even if it means being late, missing the movie or postponing an appointment.
- Try not to feel anxious about ‘saying the wrong thing’. If you stay supportive and neutral (in other words focus on your child’s emotion, not your own anger or resentment or fear) you will be able to hear what he or she is trying to tell you.
- If you are unsure of what to say, tell your child you love him and that because he is so important to you, you need to think very carefully about your answer - but that you will get back to him (and them make sure you do, as soon as you have thought of a constructive way to deal with the question or emotion).
- Stay in the moment with your child. Don’t focus too much on the future and where you want your child to be with regards to adjustment and acceptance.
- Never forget that everything is a process. Honour that processes take time and that anger, sadness and especially forgiveness are not things that we can hurry along.
- Sometimes just being still with your child, will be good enough. As long as your child is secure in the fact that you love him.
Posted by CoParenting