Acknowledge and Validate your Kids' Feelings
Your kids will be upset by the divorce. This is inevitable. In fact, it's normal and healthy. Children need to experience these negative feelings and they need to express them. It's not healthy to keep them bottled up. Don't be alarmed by their concerns. The best thing you can do for your kids is to acknowledge and validate their feelings.
When your child expresses each of the following emotions, here's a suggested response that is supportive and reassuring to the child:
Sadness: "Yes, I feel sad, too. I'm sad that Daddy/Mommy and I can't live together forever. That's what we wanted to happen, but we don't always get what we want."
Anger: "Yes, I think I would be mad, too, if I wanted my parents to live together and they said they couldn't. But sometimes they just can't."
Fear: "Yes, it does feel scary when things are about to change and we don't know what's going to happen. But it can turn out to be an adventure, and it can be better than what we've been doing."
Blame: "Yes, I know when things don't go right, we think it must be somebody's fault. But sometimes things just don't work out, and it's not anybody's fault."
It is not accidental that I begin each of these responses with the word Yes. That's an expression of understanding, agreement, and acceptance. First you acknowledge and accept the child's feelings. Then you give them an alternate and more useful way of looking at the situation.
This article is excerpted from "SUCCESSFUL DIVORCE & SINGLE PARENTING" A Step-by-Step Guide to Transform Your Experience from Suffering to Success by Mickey Michaels 2004. May be reproduced with author's permission.
This page is updated on March 14, 2013