As a divorced parent and a single Dad there are times when reality hits you smack dab in the face and buried pain shoots to the surface like a buoy on rough waters.
As I taught the Sunday night class my children were in my office putting the final touches on their Mother’s Day cards. After my eight year old completed his card to his Mommy, he took out a large, clean sheet of paper and wrote a title across the top of the page, as only a second grader can do. In large uneven-spaced and sometimes misspelled letters I read his caption, “My list’s of things I want realy bad”. Under this heading he began to list a series of things he wanted “really” bad: A Star Wars bunk bed, a cage (for what I do not know) and a kitten were some of the things on his list. The one that tugged at my heart strings was on the top of his list, obviously perched on the crest on purpose. The thick pencil markings stood out boldly on the crisp white paper: “I want my Mom to let my Dad come home that’s realy want I want.”
No matter how many times you explain divorce to a kid they never seem to quite understand it. How can they? The two people they love the most, who are the most influential individuals in their young lives, now have only one thing in common---them. In their minds there is always hope that some way, some how, Mommy and Daddy will get back together. What do you do as a divorced parent? Whatever you say will crush their hopes of reconciliation and you conclude the conversation defeated because this is one boo-boo you can’t kiss and make all better with a fuzzy Elmo band-aid.
When it comes to talking to your kids about your divorce, many parents freeze up; others become frustrated, because they continually answer the same questions over and over. Freezing up makes children feel like all the pain is their fault. Becoming obviously frustrated builds a wall and your children…they eventually will just stop asking questions. Thus, pushing them away and slowly dissolving the relationship they share with you.
Make the conversation a little easier on both yourself and your children by preparing significantly as you anticipate their tough questions. If you can deal with your own anxieties ahead of time, and plan carefully what you’ll be telling them, you will be better equipped to help your children maneuver through this minefield of emotional pain.
What to Say and How to Say It
Difficult as it may be to do, try to strike an empathetic tone and address the most important points right up front. Give your children the benefit of an honest, but kid-friendly explanation.
· Tell the truth. Your kids are entitled to know why you are getting a divorce, but long-winded reasons may only confuse them. Pick something simple and honest, like “We can’t get along anymore.” “There was a promise broken.” or “It is not healthy for us to be together.” You have probably offered these responses many times; they already know the answer, but they often need the reassurance everything is going to be alright and you love them.
· Say “I love you.” However simple it may sound, letting your children know that your love for them hasn’t changed is a powerful message. Tell them you’ll still be caring for them in every way, from fixing their breakfast to helping with homework. Stop occasionally through your daily routine and ask them, “Have I told you today I love you?”
· Address changes. Preempt your kids’ questions about changes in their lives by acknowledging that some things will be different now, and other things won’t. Let them know that you can together deal with each detail as you go.
It’s vital to be honest with your kids, but without being critical of your spouse. With a little diplomacy, you can avoid playing the blame game. It will take some work on your part, but prayer will help keep your focus and the Holy Spirit will help you to clearly communicate.
· Present a united front. As much as you can, try to agree with your ex-spouse in advance on an explanation for your separation or divorce—and stick to it.
· Plan your conversations. Make plans to talk with your children before any changes in the living arrangements occur. If possible, plan to talk when your ex-spouse is present.
· Show restraint. Be respectful of your ex-spouse when giving the reasons for the separation. You have to be careful here—children have a way of reading between the lines.
After reading all the things my son wanted on his list I pointed to the top one and said, “Tell me about this one?”
“That’s what I really want Dad,” he quipped.
I quietly responded, “I know honey, but you understand that is not going to happen, right?”
“I know, but I want you to come back home,” he said in a saddened murmur.
I fought back the tears and through a forced smile I answered, “It doesn’t matter where I am---I will always, always, always love you. When you are with Mommy---I love you. When you are at school---I love you. When I am at work---I love you. If I was on the other side of the world---I will always love you.”
He then reached his arms around my neck and whispered in my ear, “Dad, I love you.”
My arms embraced him and my chin slowly sank deep into his neck and he let out a giant giggle.
I am so blessed to be my kid’s Dad.
Psalm 127:3 (NIV) –"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him."
In : Faron's Footnote
Tags: divorce children communication getting along