By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Children of divorce learn a lot from their parents. They pick up on feelings, both shared and hidden, as well as on spoken and unspoken messages. They watch their parents’ behavior and experience the consequences of the decisions and choices both parents make.
Most children can’t express what they’re seeing and learning, but they know what they feel. And they understand what it’s like to be confused, angry, hurt or afraid. If your child could tell you what it’s like to be in their shoes, you’d likely try to be more sensitive when talking to them or about them. Sadly, most children can’t put their feelings in words — even teens. So, it’s up to parents who are facing divorce or parenting after divorce, to be especially empathic toward their children.
What your kids want you to know to be a better parent!
Here are some serous things to contemplate that most children of divorce want you to know that you may not know. Or you may not be grasping from your child’s perspective.
- We don’t want to know about your divorce drama, why you’re fighting again and wish you’d learn how to stop!
- We feel anxiety and guilt when asked to choose between our parents so never put us in that position.
- We often miss our other parent when we’re at your house so don’t give us grief about that.
- We know this divorce stuff has been hard on you but it’s painful when you make us your confidant or therapist.
- We pick up on whether you really care to be with us, so when you are, please give us your mindful attention.
- We don’t love you less when we love our other parent and shouldn’t have to explain that to you.
- We want to be with you as much as we can and want you to care about that too.
- We’re very uncomfortable when you try to out-do our other parent with gifts, trips or emotional bribes and, frankly, we don’t know how to respond.
- We hate being manipulated into becoming spies or informants about our other parent, their home or their love life.
- We know not every problem is directly related to your divorce, so stop blaming yourself and listen instead.
- We’re happy when you’re happy, but please don’t choose behavior that exploits our innocence or puts us at risk.
- We hate seeing you sad and will try anything to make you feel better, but in most cases we just can’t.
- We’re uncomfortable with any new significant other in your life so be patient and don’t expect open arms and instant happy endings.
Listen more — lecture less!
Compassion goes a long way toward healing the emotional wounds that children feel during and after divorce. Learn how to talk to your kids, and how to listen instead of lecture. That will go a long way toward building a bond of mutual respect.
In times of stress, seek out the help of a support group, counselor or coach who specializes in divorce and co-parenting issues. When you’re open to understanding what your kids wish you knew, life will be more fulfilling for everyone in the family. And that’s an outcome you’ll never regret.
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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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