I share a waiting room with other businesses in the building. Because of this, periodically I see former divorce mediation clients sitting there. When I walked past today I saw Tony, a (really handsome) fireman waiting to see his therapist. He looked unusually sad so I asked him how things were going with his custody battle.
He stood up, shook his head and asked if we could talk for a second. As we walked into my office he told me that his ex had taken him back to court because she wanted more child support money. She went as far to file false child abuse charges in order to get full custody.
He teared up and told me he was devastated because it looked like she was going to win this time. "I've explored every option, worked with every professional, every-everything to see my son and I've failed." He was desperate not to lose his son, "She's brainwashed him to think I am a bad father and now he won't talk to me, take my calls, respond to my texts. I will never see him again."
The stress of settling into a custody arrangement can put a strain on the parent-child relationship, sometimes to the point it appears permanently damaged. While it may be less than ideal, most relationships do go back to normal once the family moves past the divorce crisis.
What you need to remember is that your child is also experiencing the trauma of the family breakup and needs a little extra love during the chaos. Developing a plan to connect with your children or repair the parent-child relationship is possible. You just have to be deliberate about making it happen.
Relationships that are not tended to and nurtured on a regular basis tend to become problematic and eventually can break down. TheSuccessfulParent.com advises divorced parents to make sure the time spent with kids is characterized by interacting in a way that shows caring, dependability, trust, empathy, acceptance, energy, and time.
Tips to Repair The Damage
TheSuccessfulParent.com suggests incorporating three types of activities with your kids to help repair the parent-child relationship: play, conversation and outdoor activities.
Regardless of your child's age, kids like to play. Getting involved in activities that you know your child likes (video games, coloring, Lego's) is a natural way for the two of you to connect.
Younger children don't have a strong ability to communicate with words, so play is especially important. It's their way to let you know what is going on in their emotional worlds. Getting on the ground with Crayons and paper, dolls, and army men will reveal much more than what they are able to say through words.
For teenage kids, letting them show you their online world is considered play to them. Learning to play their favorite games may not be fun to you but it is an easy way to stay connected to them.
Conversation during divorce is critical because it will give your child a chance to express feelings, identify problems and solve conflicts. Kids don't like to be forced to talk about their emotions. Instead, let them lead the direction of conversation. Your role should focus on showing genuinely interest in what they have to say, expressing understanding and empathy.
Participate In Outside Activities
Another way to enhance the parent-child relationship is to participate in activities outside the home (eating out, movies, playing sports). This includes getting involved in school activities. Showing up to watch them perform in a school play or sporting event will make them feel important and loved.
Do all you can to stay connected to your children after a divorce. Perseverance pays off so keep the lines of communication open, even if you are the only one reaching out. A time will come when they need you and because of your efforts, your child will know you are there.