Divorce and Children - 6 Simple Words to Keep Children from being STUCK in the middle
We all have good intentions when it comes to our children, but sometimes when we're in the midst of a battle, it's difficult to see them through the smoke.
There is no easy way to navigate through a divorce so the children are not affected, but there are things you can do to minimize the damage done.
Let’s face it, it’s easy to put kids in the middle. WE DON’T MEAN TO! When you’re ragin’ it’s hard to reel it in so the kids aren’t a part of it. Especially when they’re the ones delivering the messages from “the other side”. This is where it gets tricky...
Let me paint a lil’ picture. You’re going about your daily routine, possibly calm, chill and one of your sweet little cherubs says something like… “well daddy says that you lied and that’s why you got divorced”. All it takes is that one little statement that sends you into a rage. You have to fight every urge to scream, yell, defend yourself and tell them the “real truth” about what happened. Sometimes you don’t even fight the urge, you just spew the words without thinking twice.
Now…they’re in the middle.
You want to blame the other parent for making the statement to begin with – but the truth is, you cannot control what the other parent says. You can only control what you say. That is all. You have a split-second choice here. You can defend yourself and “be right” or you can take a step up on the ladder and focus on the well-being of your kiddos.
So what do you say? It’s short, simple and cliché…but effective.
“How did that make you feel?”
Here’s what your kids get from you out of that simple question:
Not feeling the need to defend the other parent
Safety about sharing with you in the future
An ability to share how they feel
I struggled with this for a long time. I remember in the beginning of the divorce, responding in a way that felt good for ME at the time, but then feeling guilty for my response later. I remember my kids starting to say something and then backtracking for fear of having to defend their dad.
I remember the day I chose to take my own advice and how that felt. It was amazing, because the response from my boys was always consistent. They typically either felt sad, angry or frustrated by the comments made by the other side. When I asked that question, they could be honest and talk about it. I didn’t respond from a place of pain and hurt; I responded from a place of caring for them. When you ask yourself the question, "what do my children need?", you will discover a different way of responding. Then after they tell you how it made them feel, you can simply say, “I’m sorry that happened”.
As far as speaking to the other parent about what was said, you need to pick your battles. If it’s an unsafe situation, certainly deal with it how you need to, in order to keep the children safe. If however, it’s only about you, it might not need to be dealt with at all – even if you really, really wanna! If you do, you need to expect retaliation towards the children for sharing and that brings you right back to where you started. Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.