Are you feeling uneasy about talking to your children when your marriage is on the rocks?
Relationships are complicated. Even with the best intentions, marriages can hit some difficult times and leave families dumbfounded. Each situation is different and, when children are involved, it is important they understand they’re not to blame or at fault for what is happening. As you and your spouse work to rebuild the trust or make needed changes, keep the communication lines open with your children. You want your children to feel safe, even when family dynamics are changing, and one way to do that is through providing your children with the stability of structure and routine. In certain cases, spoiling children and allowing them to break rules is easier for parents, but doesn’t help anyone in the long run.
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Help your children understand and cope with the situation with these 3 things:
- Avoid slandering your spouse in front of your children. In difficult situations, tempers can flare and speaking negatively about your spouse can be tempting. However, these negative comments are not constructive and may be destructive not only to your child but to your relationship with them as well. Make an agreement with your spouse (and other family members) that bad mouthing the other person in front of your children is not acceptable. Remember, regardless your feelings towards your spouse, your children may not feel that way and these negative comments can rattle them.
- Be prepared to answer their questions. For children (and adults too) change is scary and takes some getting used to. Understand they’re going to have questions and be ready to answer them as they come up. Keep the communication lines open and ask them questions about how they’re doing and feeling. If you’re getting responses like, “I’m fine,” “I don’t care,” or “I’m not interested” know that might not be how they truly feel. Provide children with a safe environment where they feel they can open up and talk about how they’re feeling.
- Help them to express their feelings. Opening up and expressing their feelings can be difficult for children. Give them a safe space and encourage them to share their feelings and listen to their answers. Some of the things they’re feeling may surprise you and they’ll need to express them. For some children, talking about or expressing their feeling may be hard, so pay attention to the way they’re behaving and their moods. Those are usually tell-tale signs of some emotional distress. As your children open up to you, understand you may not be able to fix the problem or take their sadness away. However, allowing them to talk things out and know you’re there can help children through this difficult time.
While you navigate through this difficult time, remember to take some time for yourself too. You can’t be there, emotionally, for your children if you’re drained. Allow yourself some time to write in a journal, talk with a close friend, or join a support group to help you get through the rough times. You never want to vent your frustration to your children, so having a place where you can express your feelings is vital.
If you have any further questions about how to help your children (or even yourself) during this time, a therapist can help to answer your questions and provide some resources or ideas for getting through.
Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.