As a coach, I help people to address their most pressing issues, which frees them up to enjoy their lives and the people they love. Recently I worked with a single mum who was becoming distressed at her son’s disrespectful attitude and rude comments and behaviour. Having worked her socks off to make a comfortable home for him and his sister, to put food on the table and teach them right from wrong, this mother was understandably distressed to be criticized and compared unfavourably to the parents of her son’s friend. Also understandably, she had her moments when she wanted him to pack his bags and go back to college, even though she had been looking forward to spending the holidays with both her children.
Children of all ages can act out, especially when their parents have separated or divorced and it can be a tremendous challenge to deal with this as a single mum, when your resourcefulness may already be stretched to breaking point as it is. Rosalind Sedacca, one of the wise and wonderful experts in my book, has this advice:
Diffusing blame. Some children, especially pre-teens and teens, may blame one parent or the other for the divorce. Sometimes they may be correct in this interpretation, given circumstances they have been aware of for years (alcoholism, absent parent, domestic violence, etc.). Other times they side with one parent as a result of their prior relationship dynamics with that parent. Regardless of why you or your spouse is being blamed, keep your cool. In many cases blaming is a defence against feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances in your child’s life. Suddenly there are so many changes in such a short period of time. Often this behavior is not meant against you personally. It is merely a child’s way of coping. When you keep this in mind it is easier to not personalize the outbursts and accusations. Patiently remind your child that you understand their frustrations. Acknowledge they have a sincere right to feel that way. Tell them how much you love them and how much you regret their hurt and pain. Let them know this was a difficult decision for both parents yet one you feel is the best alternative for your family’s future happiness and well-being. Be patient and consistent. And don’t internalize a child’s expressions of frustration as a lack of love for you as a parent.
Countering distress. Often, negative comments from your children are expressions of distress and not criticism. Children want and need encouragement, support, and security during times of stress and change. If their needs are not being met because one or both parents are too caught up in their own hurt and drama, it is not surprising to hear negative comments and outbursts. When you realize that this is a call for attention, recognition and the emotional healing that you can provide, you can move into action…
Patient acceptance. In many ways divorce is like death. Sometimes the best thing you can do is fully be there for your children and understand what they are going through from their perspective. Talk if they want to talk. Hug and cuddle if they respond to affection. Continue as many family routine activities as possible on a day-to-day basis. Be honest and sincere when you are upset or frustrated by changes in your family life-and let them express their frustrations, as well. Most importantly, accept and acknowledge whatever they share with you as okay for them to feel. Try to put yourself into the mind-set of your six, ten or fifteen year old and experience the world from their viewpoint. It will help you be more empathic, less judgmental and more open to really “hearing” what they have to say.
Check out Rosalind’s Child-Centered Divorce Network . (www.childcentereddivorce.com.)They do much more than just help parents break the divorce news to their kids. They provide free expert advice, articles, programs and valuable resources on all facets of divorce and parenting in the U.S. and around the world.
“THE SINGLE MUM’S SURVIVAL GUIDE – How To Pick Up The Pieces and Build a Happy New Life” is available to order on Amazon.