Family communication after a divorce

Family communication after a divorce is not easy. Anger and hurt feelings get in the way. To help each family member adjust to the divorce, civil communication and trust must be restored.

Even though a marriage didn’t work, aTORN HEART supportive family life for children preceding a divorce is still possible and needed. Clear and honest communication is the key. Strong listening skills are a good start. The Michigan State University Extension produced newsletter, Start Making It Livable for Everyone suggests the following effective listening that can help you:

Solve problems and deal with conflict. Let your children talk about anything, whether it is the divorce or other news. It helps them to put the divorce and their lives in perspective. This may help them begin to see answers.

Reduce tension. Allow your children to “let off steam” in a safe place. They feel anger too, but often are afraid to let you know for fear of hurting you.

Prevent trouble. Take time to think before speaking to your children. Try not to make judgments about what they are saying. Make reasonable commitments to your children that you know you can keep.

Try to understand your children’s point of view.

  • Give your children opportunities to talk. As your children begin to accept their feelings, they may be more willing to share.
  • Be interested in what your children are saying. Let your children know you are listening with such comments as “I see,” “oh,” “really” or “no fooling.” If sincere, your children will know you are listening and interested.
  • Look for differences in your children’s behavior. These differences may be a sign that your children need to talk.
  • Ask questions, but don’t grill them about your former spouse.
  • Remember that your children are just children. Look to other adults for advice when you need help with personal decisions.

Communication pitfalls

  • Avoid using children as a sounding board.
  • Don’t expect children to take sides
  • Don’t assume children can talk openly about their feelings. If children don’t want to talk, that is okay. They will share their feelings when they feel safe.
  • Children should not have to choose sides. They love both of their parents. They can become confused and torn because of their love and loyalty for both parents. Express your love and loyalty in some form such as a simple, “We both love you.” Reassure them with a touch or a hug. All of us need a hug!

For more information regarding effective listening skills check out the RELAX-Alternatives to Anger On-line course.

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