Monday, April 29, 2013

The Talk After “The Talk”: What to Say After They’ve Learned About Your Divorce or Separation

If you’re in the process of divorce or separation, you may have already had that difficult time of telling your kids. It’s painful, gut-wrenching, and can be the worst moment of any parent’s life.

You probably read a book or searched the internet.    

By now, you might feel comfortable with the phrasing “We still love you very, very much even though our love for each other has changed”.

You might have been able to choke through the words and repetition of “This is not your fault.  You did not cause this”. 

That is a tough talk and I am sorry that you had to have it.  However, the talk can’t end there but it often does. You have to have the talk that comes after. That thought might make you feel ill. 

It’s ok.

Once you’ve gutted through the moment of telling the kids the news, everyone will be on high alert.  You’ll be paying close attention them.  You’ll likely have told their teachers to do the same. 

You may or may not know this but they’ll be paying close attention to you, too. They will be measuring their reactions to you.

They may fear sharing their real feelings because they don’t want you to worry. They are likely  worried about you. They could be feeling angry with you and have no idea what to do about that.

The house can become eerily quiet and everyone is on eggshells.  Here are some talking points to get the dialogue started:

  1. It’s been a few days since we told you our news.  Do you have any questions for me? Answer the questions calmly, simply, and directly.
  2. What does all of this make you think about? Just listen and reflect back.  Correct any errors in their thinking. Don’t problem solve and rush to make it better.  They’re feeling what they’re feeling and whatever it is, it’s ok.
  3. We’re all so sad.  What’s been making you feel better? Here, you might offer some suggestions or share ways you have been coping with the sad feelings

Children are often on a need to know basis and during times of transition, they’ll need to know a lot.  Provide them with clear schedules. They should always know when they’ll see both parents.

Knowing what changes are coming is crucial to their sense of understanding and accepting the situation. 

The older your child, the more he/she will need to know.

Be prepared for silence.
Don’t take it personally. 
Your child is just reacting and
any combination of reactions is 
healthy, normal, and to be expected.

Ask your child what he/she needs.  Teens may need some time away and that’s fine but make sure you schedule the time for re-connection, too.

It’s ok to cry. 

Parents try so hard not to have their kids see their own upset.  It’s good modeling for kids to see both their parents’ sadness and their ways of coping.

Excessive and inconsolable emotion should be reserved, of course, for adult friends and family.                                                                                                           

Your family will be grieving and will need time and room for this. 

Some kids will want to keep going as normal and other kids will want to stay home.

They should still be told to go to school.  They have to learn ways of maintaining responsibility when life happens.

Consider letting them off the hook, though, for sports practices and social activities. 

They may need more quiet time.  Let them have it.

Separation and upheaval causes self-doubt 
and you can start to doubt that you know 
what’s best for your kids. 
 Trust yourself. 

You know your kids. Trust that you will know what they need and what’s best for them.

This is one of the toughest talks you can have with your children.  If you need some help, guidance, or moral support, I am only a phone call away.  I can help you find the words during this changing time.

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