I have been working with a wonderful group of parents who are all going through a divorce and one of their main worries was how to tell the children about what was going to happen and what to actually say to them.
Children naturally fear that they will lose one of their parents in a divorce or that their parents will abandon them. They also fear the changes and disruptions that a divorce will inevitably bring to their family and they often blame themselves.
One of the key things I ask parents to do is to sit down and to work out together the answer to this question:
• What are the key messages you want to convey to your children?
I ask them to get a piece of paper, write their child’s name on it, and to put it on the floor and as they step onto it, imagine they are looking at the situation from the point of view and perception of their child.
Then I ask them to answer these questions through the eyes and ears of their child:
• What do you see and hear around you at the moment?
• How do you feel?
• How could Mum and Dad make you feel better – what could they do or say?
Then I ask the parents to write in this wheel, 7 reassurances and guarantees that they can honestly give to their children that will help their child cope with the enormous changes that are coming.
We work on how both parents can agree on what to say before they talk to the children. This helps to avoid mixed messages which confuse, upset and really distress children greatly.
We look at the benefits of telling the children together and we work on overcoming the “blame” mentality and the feeling that it must be someone’s fault. We look at how to avoid the children feeling that they have to take sides.
We also look at taking the emotional charge out of telling the children and help each parent gain more control over their distressing feelings and emotions during this difficult moment.
It is certainly very worthwhile and positive to stop and step back from your current situation to gain clarity, direction and certainty in the decisions you are taking towards handling the difficult and painful area of divorce or separation more confidently.
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