By Rosalind Sedacca, CCT for Hope After Divorce
It can be tough — but necessary!
As a divorced parent, you can never pay too much attention to your communication skills with your children. It keeps the doors open for a healthier, more positive relationship with them. It makes you more sensitive to issues of concern early on, so you can nip them in the bud. It also encourages your children to talk about what they are feeling, questions they have, and situations that are creating conflict for them.
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Don’t sit down and say, “Let’s talk.” Instead, find a comfortable time and place where conversation can flow naturally and easily. Then, bring up related subjects in a casual way. Watching television or movies at home can often be a catalyst for valuable conversation. Driving in the car together is another great time for discussion, questions, and sharing feelings.
Consider Bruce Willis and Demi Moore. Despite being divorced for over a decade, they’re often seen at red carpet events with their three daughters, Rumer, Scout, and Tallulah. By maintaining a friendly connection with each other, these exes ensure that they both have a positive relationship with their kids and that their family unit stays intact.
Here are some tips that can help you ease into more productive communication with your kids.
– Asking why can be intimidating and close off your conversation. Instead ask what happened questions, which keep the dialogue open. Then, move into talking about feelings which provide insights into what’s really going on with your child. Validate their right to their feelings, even if you’re uncomfortable hearing about them. When they feel safe in expressing their emotions, you’ll get real clues as to how your divorce is affecting them — and whether there are changes taking place worthy of your special attention.
– Be patient. Don’t react or respond until you get the full message. Sometimes, it takes some meandering for your child to reach the crucial point of what they want to say. Don’t coax — or shut them off too soon!
– Remember that preaching, moralizing, or “parenting” comments can put up barriers to clear communication. Listening is your most valuable skill and tool. Paraphrase back what you’re hearing to make sure you’re getting it right. “So you were annoyed at dad for forgetting to call you last night” is far different from saying “I don’t blame you for being angry at dad. He’s so undependable.”
– Watch your judgments and put-downs, even with upsetting information. Don’t belittle your children, call them names, or insult their behaviors. Talk to them — not at them. The difference is felt as respect. Be careful never to put down or disrespect your child’s other parent in your conversations…as tempting as that may be at times. Keep your kids out of the divorce drama as much as possible. That’s when real emotional damage is done.
– Acknowledge your children for coming to you or sharing with you. Praise their braveness. If you were at fault, apologize honestly and discuss how you can make changes for the future. Sometimes, post-divorce parent-child communication can be a very slow process as you rebuild trust and a sense of security.
– Show that you accept and love them — even when their behaviors are not acceptable. Help them come up with some acceptable solutions they can understand and feel good about. Support and positive role modeling go a long way toward influencing your children in the right direction.
Put yourself in your child’s place, and you will likely make wiser decisions when it comes to talking about sensitive areas in their life. Afraid to talk about touchy subjects? Get some help from a counselor. Good parents know it’s essential to talk to your children and be there for them when they need you — especially when they’re reluctant to start the conversation. Don’t let them down!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce and Parenting Coach and author of the ebook, How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – with Love! Acclaimed by divorce professionals, the book provides fill-in-the-blank templates that guide parents in creating a family storybook with personal photographs as an ideal way to break the news. Rosalind is a contributing expert at HopeAfterDivorce.org, DivorceSupportCenter.com, FamilyShare.com, and CupidsPulse.com. For her free ebook onPost-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies for Getting It Right!, her free ezine, articles, coaching services, and other valuable resources, visit Rosalind’s site.