Focus on Feelings, not Just Facts

Answering children’s questions about what is happening with their parents’ separation or divorce can be tricky. “Where am I going to live after the divorce?” is a valid question, but a parent is often tempted to give only a factual response. If parents address the facts without addressing the feelings, they are likely to miss the reason the child is asking in the first place. You might say, “Well, we haven’t figured that out yet, but when we do, we’ll let you know,” and leave it there.

However, finding out WHY the question is important will lead to a deeper and more meaningful conversation. Try adding on to your answer, “It sounds like you are worried about the future. Tell me more about that.” After they explain, you can then assure them that no matter what happens, your relationship with them will remain solid and that the adults in their lives will make sure all their needs are met (which is likely the basis of their worry).

Here’s another one: “Mom, when the divorce is final, are you going to date?” Wow, that’s a loaded question. You might simply answer, “No way!” or “I don’t know.” But think about why the child is asking. The child may be worried someone else will take their place in your heart, or that you will be lonely, or that they will not get enough of your attention, or you will choose an evil step-parent! So, instead of going with your initial temptation to answer the factual question, dig deeper and make a guess based on what you know about your child. “Are you worried that…?” If they have no worries, they will tell you. But if they do, you will open up a whole new way of relating to your child that is meaningful and comforting to them.

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