How to Connect With Your Child During a Divorce, Part II
Check back with Part I if you’re not sure what we’re on about; we’re going to dive right in here.
Let Them Lead
As a parent, it’s easy to slip into the role of leader — after all, that’s pretty literally been your job for 90% of their life to this point. But when it comes to connecting with a child during a difficult part of your life, it pays dividends to let them take control of the conversation. It may be that they want to talk about what’s going on in the divorce, or it may be that they want to talk in detail about the new fossils they just added to the XBoxOne version of Minecraft. Don’t feel the need to drive the conversation in a direction, or you’ll miss out on the stories that actually shape your child’s life.
Share Your Stories
At times, it can be easy to forget that your child knows almost nothing about you. They know who you are today, but really, how many amazing experiences have you had that have created the person you are but simply never come up as a part of everyday life? As you let your child lead, slip in a hint or two about these stories. Don’t take over — just let them know that there’s something there to talk about, and if they show an interest, start sharing.
Many people are nervous when they hear that advice, because they don’t necessarily feel comfortable sharing stories about their early years with their children. It’s not easy to talk about drug abuse, sexual misadventures, and other “mistakes” we made when we were young — and you don’t have to. It’s always OK to demur and say ‘I don’t want to talk about that.’ Just be aware that if you do it, you’re giving implicit permission for them to do the same to you.
That said, the foundations of every human relationship are care, trust, and communication. If you want to connect with your child, you have to be honest with them. You can refuse to discuss something without damaging trust or communication — what you can’t do is break their trust and expect to still have a functional relationship. So when you share, be genuine.
Connecting Without Talking: Actions
Communication is vital to connection — but not all communication is verbal. Don’t hesitate to communicate through actions. Hugs are the go-to example, but almost any physical interaction from combing their hair to tickles works.
Connecting Without Talking: Just Being
Actions are, well, active — but a huge portion of communication between two people is passive. Experts say that 90% of human communication is non-verbal, and it’s purely instinctive unless you practice. Practice what?
- Stand close. Physical distance literally becomes emotional distance with time.
- Make eye contact. Eye contact triggers an instant bond so powerful that strangers who held silent eye contact for a few minutes as part of a scientific experiment have literally fallen in love, and those who did it as part of a social movement were brought to tears.
- Spend time in the same place. As any long-term married couple can attest to, there are huge benefits to spending time in the same room as your partner, even if you’re doing entirely different things. The same is true of your child. Let them play video games or build Legos or whatever — just being there is enough.
Connecting Without Talking: Experience
The last way to connect to your child is through sharing experiences. Take them to see something new, whether it’s as over-the-top as Legoland or as simple as a trip to the local Metropark. Every experience you share is something that you will always have to build on, even if you don’t do much talking while you’re doing the experiencing.
If you can take the time to connect with your child during your divorce, you will have a better relationship with your child once you’re officially single. If you keep that in mind, it will make putting all of the B.S. aside and focusing on your child much, much easier.
Too much information?
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