As we continue the talk about communicating with your children after divorce, it’s important to note that communication isn’t just about what you say - it’s in your conscious and subconscious reactions to what your children say.
Like I mentioned in the post last week, keeping communication open means that you have to be receptive to what your kids are saying to you. When you are, there will be a reaction to it, but not all the reactions are reactions you can control.
Imagine your child comes home and says that your ex has a new partner and that the new partner is “so fun!” What goes through your mind? You may feel a pang of jealousy, a twinge of fear, and a pinch of happiness. Those are just a few of the thoughts and feelings that flow through your mind.
Everything mentioned in that story, all those feelings that come with hearing those stories, however, will flash across your face. That is communication you cannot control. What you can control, however, is how you communicate your feelings to your children when they tell you these stories.
What you communicate to your children in those moments will either open the door of communication or close it.
Think about the last time your child was hurt or angry. You knew immediately when you saw them, am I right? It showed on their face. What happened next was probably a question like, “Are you ok?” or “Is everything alright?”
When your kids see the same feelings flash across your face and it’s after a story they just told you, what do you think goes through their head? It could be something like, “That really upset Mom/Dad, I shouldn’t tell them these stories anymore.” It could also be something like, “Mom/Dad looks angry, I hope I didn’t make them mad.”
What you say after they tell this story is so important. Even if your children are seeing a flash of fear across your face, it’s better for them to see a smile on your face followed by a hug and an, “I’m so happy to hear that!” - even if you don’t mean it.
The communication you can control can make just about any situation better.
After a divorce, you’re nervous, your children are nervous, and there’s some testing going on about what you can and cannot say. When your children are telling you stories, they’re doing it for two reasons:
To get your support and for you to share in their feelings
To test your reaction so they know what they can tell you going forward and what they can’t
What you say to them after they talk to you matters. Even if they see the negative reactions flash across your face, if they hear genuine positive reinforcement - it can make them feel more comfortable.
Think about the last time you saw someone react to something you said in a negative way. What happened next either made you feel better or it didn’t. If they followed up the physical reaction with a positive statement and a smile - didn’t it put you at ease?
The same applies to your children. What is it they need to hear from you after communicating? Comment below with how you put your best foot forward and offer positive reinforcement - even when it’s difficult.