This month 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 really important key messages you want to convey to your children?
I ask them to write on a piece of paper their child’s name 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.
Next 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 Dad and Mum make you feel better – what could they do or say?
I ask parents to draw a circle and put in 7 spokes like a wheel and to write in the 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.