By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
It’s no secret. One of the biggest challenges a parent faces after divorce is having healthy communication with your children. All parents struggle with communication issues as their children grow. However, children who have had their lives dramatically altered by separation or divorce need even more attention. And diligent observation by their parents.
Children tend not to tell you when they are angry, resentful, confused, hurt or depressed. Instead they reflect their problems through their behavior. Often that means acting out or perhaps turning inward in ways you hadn’t experienced prior to the divorce.
That’s why you must do all you can to encourage positive and productive communication between you and your children. It’s easy to overlook what can seem to be obvious bonding behaviors. Or to forget to pay attention amid the challenges you are juggling in your own life on a daily basis.
However, this is crucially important: Take time to see the world through your children’s eyes before making any decisions. That process alone will help you to better meet their needs. Equally important, you’ll be better prepared to understand their confusion, sadness or aggression. And that will support you in finding appropriate ways to dissolve tension through your conversations and caring behaviors.
Here are some useful tips for improving your communication efforts …
• Be available and attentive when your child comes to talk or ask questions. That means turning off the TV, putting down the tablet and not answering the phone. Be sure to greet them with eye-contact and a welcoming smile. Sometimes their attempting to talk to you comes after considerable thought and risk on their part. Encourage these conversations when they happen.
• It is helpful to sit, kneel or in other ways get down closer to your child’s eye level when you talk. Towering over them is a form of intimidation that does not translate into safety or trust.
• Keep your conversations private unless they want to include others. Let them know they are safe in confiding with you. Remind them that their feelings matter. Show them you are interested and care about issues that affect them.
• Don’t dismiss a subject lightly if it is one bothering your child. Laughing, joking or teasing will create mistrust. Trivializing their feelings will discourage your child from sharing what is bothering them with you. This is a dangerous road to travel, especially as your children develop into their teen years.
• Equally important: never embarrass your children or put them on the spot in front of others. This will immediately close the door to honest, trustworthy communication.
• Avoid talking to your child when you are angry with them or upset with others. If you’re not at ease, suggest talking again in a half-hour or hour at a specific place so you can settle down and regain your objectivity.
• Be an active listener. Don’t interrupt while your child is talking. Listen carefully and then paraphrase back what you heard them say. Ask if you’re right in your interpretation. They’ll tell you. This process will help you more accurately understand what is really at issue.
Children who feel safe talking to their parents grow up as better communicators overall. They will be more likely to have healthy communication in their own adult relationships – with their love partners and children.
Some families tend to keep feelings repressed. They hesitate to discuss issues that come up. This behavior sends the message that it’s not all right to talk about things that bother us. The consequences of that can be seen in our media headlines every day.
You can open the doors to caring communication in your home by starting today. Your children may be a little resistant at first as they test the waters. But they will surely appreciate this opportunity once they know you are sincere. Start the process yourself – and see how valuable it is to “hear” what your children have to say!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book
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© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.