October 2004, Message of the Month
Happy October, the holiday season is soon to come!
Communication with our children is very important. Most often parents will refrain from talking openly with their children due to fear. This is the time to realize we must help our children move forward and understand the dynamics of their families and how to flourish being a part of them.
I have worked with parents who have extremely angry partners who have crossed the line with verbally abusing the other parent to their children. It is so detrimental to speak negatively about our partners to our children. This causes our children to feel as though they need to choose sides or worse feel their parent is a bad person and know they came from that person so they might be bad as well. Children love both of their parents when we tell them they shouldn’t love their other parent because they have done terrible things, this puts an enormous weight upon the children and they are less able to deal with the lives they have. This can become quite toxic depending on the information that is given to them from the angry parent.
It is next to impossible to get legal help for this situation based on how our legal system functions. One parent can suddenly have a child turned against them due to an angry partner. It is not within our control to make sure our angry partners get help for expressing their anger in a healthy or positive way. The one thing we can do is to help our children maneuver through this challenging time with a parent who is angry and not well.
It is important to remain calm and to remain in line with your vision of yourself in the face of this incredibly challenging situation. Taking good care of yourself is key in order to remain centered to deal with ongoing attacks and to help children caught in this negativity.
One effective tool for children going through this is to create a sacred communication place in your home. This place is sacred because you are allowed to say anything or reveal anything with complete and utter safety. They will not be disciplined nor judged for sharing anything in this place. It can be your re-entry place from being with the other parent. Let your children know that this place in your house is just for expressing what is in their minds and hearts. It is important for children to be able to let these things out and to express emotions rather than keep them bottled up inside. One of the safety factors that you can provide is that you do not react to whatever your child has shared with you other than to empathize with how difficult it might be to hear something like that. You must refrain from rolling the eyes to becoming angry or any other emotional reaction you might normally experience. This moment is for your children’s safety. You can have your reaction later in private or with a therapist or support friend. Keep in mind that this practice is to help your children to let go of adult issues that are too complex for them and not to gain information about your partner. There must be a distinction made between the two issues.
Acknowledge that your partner (their other parent) is having a hard time and is angry or hurt as the case may be. Let your child know that sometimes when we are hurt or angry we can say things to hurt others when that is not really our intention. Be sure to show compassion for the angry parent and let your child know that their behavior has nothing to do with them. They are not responsible for the anger nor the situation between their parents. As impossible as it may seem to have and show compassion for our partners, it is important to reach this place and to really know that when someone is acting out in this manner they are not well. They are struggling with their lives and their own happiness. They are lacking to tools to cope and to reach out to you as their partner. There may be feelings of overwhelm due to any number of reasons. Just as we tell our children not to take this personally so should we practice this as well. Teaching our children compassion rather than retaliation will be an enormous gift in their lives and in ours. Again what is your highest vision of yourself?
Let your children know that their other parent is an adult and can take care of themselves and find answers for their problems. Stress again that the children are not responsible for fixing the problem even though it may be uncomfortable.
If there is a tendency for one parent to turn the kids against them it is doubly important to reconnect with the kids when you are reunited and create that safety for them immediately with communication. Let your children know your vision for yourself as their parent. Share your feelings with them about your love for them. Let them know who you are by being open and honest with them about yourself and your dedication to them as your children and your gift in life. Let them know that just because they go to the other parent’s house your love for them does not diminish in any way nor does it go away. It is strong and remains with them always through every moment of the day and night. If there is a way to communicate during the time away from each other create a phrase or word that reassures them of your love and participation in their lives. This can help them to tap into the calming reassurance of your presence in their lives even when you are physically apart. If this is not possible teach your children to do this self soothing on their own. Teach them during a quiet time to concentrate on a word or phrase that means love between you so that when they are away from you they can stay connected and this connection helps them through challenging times.
Our children need a lot of attention and reassurance during a time like this when dealing with an angry parent. Help them by helping yourself stay positive and balanced.
We can do this work!