Throughout this series on communication (scroll through the blog posts to find more in this series), you’ve learned how important it is for communication to be open in your house - especially after a divorce. You’ve learned that what you do either opens or closes the door of communication between you and your kids. You’ve read that communication isn’t just about what’s said and that there’s some communication you can control and some you cannot. In today’s post, I am going to give you real communication stories I’ve heard in my years of working with families. (All the names and some of the details have been changed to protect families, but the lesson in each of these stories remains in tact.)
Story 1: This story has been made public. It’s the story of an adult who wrote a letter to her Dad. When she was 18, she stopped following the visitation schedule. Her Dad told his daughter that she had let her Mother get to her. The letter was a very raw, honest attempt to show Dad that the decision was hers and hers alone, that it was based in years of her Mom pushing her daughter to have a relationship with her Dad and Dad badmouthing Mom throughout. As I’ve said throughout the communication series, your kids love both you and your ex. Bad-mouthing your ex, even if they deserve it, only hurts your children, and in this case (and others like it), it hurts your relationship with your kids. You can read the full letter here on my Facebook page (don’t forget to give it a like for more stories like this).
Bad-mouthing your ex doesn’t just hurt your child, it hurts your relationship with your child.
Taking communication at your child’s pace can make the difference between a relationship or no relationship.
Story 2: After the divorce of their parents, these sisters transitioned to the Mom’s house/Dad’s house pretty well. The parents did a good job of allowing the kids to wear what they want (regardless of who bought it) between the homes and bring various electronics or other items between the homes. This made the kids feel comfortable with the transition. The difference was in the way Mom’s house and Dad’s house handled family time. In Mom’s house, there were family events like game night or movie night, but there was also time for each family member to enjoy their own hobbies and alone time. Everyone had a say in what games to play, what to eat during family dinners, and what to watch during movie night. In Dad’s house, family time happened every night and Dad and Stepmom chose the movie, the food, and had the kids make it and set it up. The kids didn’t feel as much of a part of the family at Dad’s as they did at Mom’s. This resulted in Dad asking the kids to follow the visitation schedule when they turned 18, and the kids saying they had no intention of doing that. You see, they needed to have a say, they needed their opinions to matter, and they needed to be themselves. You can learn more about this in the Communication Toolkit lesson on opening communication.
The questions you ask can make your child open up or shut down.
Story 3: After the divorce of Mom and Dad while their child was still young, the child was having difficulty transitioning between the homes - or so it seemed. While at Mom’s house, she would cry and ask Mom to sleep in her bed with her. She cried extensively when being dropped off at school, to the point that the school counselor got involved. She didn’t sleep through the night at all and woke up very early. At Dad’s house, she went to bed perfectly and slept alone all through the night. She slept so well that Dad had to wake her up in the morning. Her drop-offs at school were perfect, in fact the counselor and teachers asked that Mom use the same routine Dad and Stepmom did. What’s the difference between the 2 homes? At Mom’s house, as soon as her daughter was with her, the interrogation began: What did you do at Dad’s? Was your Stepmom there? Who did you go with? What did you wear? What did you eat? The questions didn’t stop! This girl felt anxious and felt like her answers either made Mom happy or made Mom sad. This girl put all this pressure on herself, thinking she was what made Mom happy or sad, and it affected her daily. At Dad’s, she could just be herself. She could play, rest up, and know that Dad was happy no matter what, but that time with her made him happier. It was a healthy relationship. You can learn more about this in the Communication Toolkit lesson on communication traps.
In each of those stories, you see the effects of communication on your children. You see that by putting the kids first, by putting the relationship your kids have with you and their other parent first, the parents made their children feel comfortable and loved. When the parents were out to try and compete with their ex, when the parents were trying to force family time, when the parents were trying to interrogate instead of gently involving themselves - it backfired. You can learn more about this and other lessons in the Communication Toolkit.