Talk TO – Not AT - Your Child… Through Divorce and Beyond
Therapists are always reminding parents to talk to their children. Unfortunately, many parents need just such a reminder -- especially in today’s mega-paced culture in which just sitting down to a family dinner together seems to be a major accomplishment. Too often busy parents find themselves talking “at” their children, but not “to” them. And most especially, not “with” them.
This, of course, is problematic in any family trying to raise socially, emotionally and spiritually healthy children. However, it is especially dangerous if that family is facing the challenges of divorce or separation. If your parent-child communication skills and rapport is not optimal before discussions about divorce or family lifestyle changes come up, the likeliness of a peaceful, successful outcome is dramatically jeopardized.
For that reason, more than ever before, parents need to create a bond of trust and support with their children when the family is facing any level of upheaval. If that respectful bond and trust is broken or tenuous, children are much more likely to feel abandoned, neglected and fearful about their safety and security in the face of separation of any kind.
Happily, it is never too late to bridge that gap and start authentic communication with your children. Honesty is always important in any parent-child relationship, but it becomes extremely significant at this time.
Of course, all communication must be age-appropriate. And these talks are never a license for a dumping session about your soon-to-be Ex or former spouse. Whining, complaining, sarcasm, disrespect and related behaviors are not healthy forms of communication, especially with sensitive children. They don’t want you to air your dirty laundry with them. They want to feel safe, loved, secure and supported as they move into a transition in life that they did not desire or create. Insulting or criticizing their other parent affects them to their core. Your children are innocent and many parents need to remind themselves of this fact again and again.
There has never been a better time than now to boost your level of communication with your children, regardless of your marital status. Share some of your own feelings and experiences with life’s challenges before you start asking them questions about their life. Knowing that you personally deal with fears, anxieties, doubts and related emotions gives your children permission to talk about those they are experiencing. It makes them feel more okay about their own insecurities. And it encourages them to talk more frankly with you about challenges they face in all facets of their life.
Don’t wait for a special occasion to start honestly and candidly talking to your children. Determine to make sincere communication with your children a regular part of your family life. You will never regret it and you will come to reap surprising rewards in the months and years ahead!