By Lilly Kingsley
Being a parent starts when a baby is born and never really ends. Divorce is an amazing time to see if your parenting skills are up to par, your children have been tossed into a situation not of their making that more than likely they are not happy with and do not know how to cope with.
It is the role of the parent that changes as the child grows, matures and becomes an adult. Divorce is something that happens to a married couple but effects all those around them. Your children may feel this divorce as deeply as you but it may not be in the same way and it may not be through mature expression that you can understand your children are in pain. This is not the time to let your pain blind you to your children’s distress and needs.
Try the below to keep tabs on your children’s emotions and needs;
1. Listen – be alert to your children and listen to what they say. Stay calm and passive while your child tries to explain themselves, ask questions if you feel they are floundering. Questions like, ‘then what happened’, do not be judgemental, interrupt inappropriately. When you listen attentively you do not need to do more than be active in your awareness of the other person talking. There is no need to give your two cents worth or criticise unnecessarily.
2. Notice your children’s feelings – be aware of your children’s moods and feelings, be open to ask them about any mood or emotion that seems out of place. You may not want to deal with an emotional outburst from a child because you feel like you are only just hanging on yourself. Well, buck up, your children need you and need to cope with the disruption to their lives without worrying about the response. Ask your child if you think something is up and then actively listen when the answer comes.
3. Name the emotion – show your children you understand, name the emotion they are trying to describe, it is OK to say, ‘you seem really frustrated’.
Help them discern the feelings, anger at a parent may in fact be frustration at the process, it helps to cope when you know what you are feeling. Anger may actually be sadness for children, they need you now to help them cope with their emotions.
4. Solutions – If there is a solution then ask your child if they can find one or what would be the best thing for them. The answer may not be possible, explain why, and ask for a more suggestions. There is nothing worse than being in a situation where all your decision making power is taken away, your feelings are not noticed and you feel powerless.
Parenting through divorce is extremely difficult when your own emotions are running rampant and keeping yourself on track is taking all your efforts. It is easy to push the parenting to one side, think you will fix the kids later when the divorce is over. Divorce can take a long time and ‘fixing’ can be too late. Children deserve to be parented in any and all situations including when parents divorce.