When a feeling is expressed, it brings new information out in the open. It indicates that an issue needs attention and action. Sometimes, the situation can’t be changed. For example, as much as your child would like you to stop the divorce or separation, that won’t happen. Often though, there is some aspect of the problem that can be worked on and made better. If nothing else, talking to your children can help them better understand the situation, and they’ll feel your support.
You can help your children understand their feelings about a situation by listening and asking questions. Try to move from the general to the specific. For example, if your child expresses fear about the upcoming move, you can ask “What is it about the move that worries you?”
At first your child might not be aware of the reasons behind the worry. Your question invites your child to think. Be patient, and don’t jump in with your own ideas too quickly. When your child has had time to think and hasn’t been able to pinpoint the problem, you could offer some suggestions. You could say “Could it be that you’ll miss having your own room?”
When you discover a specific issue, it may feel right to do some problem-solving. By asking questions and talking with your child, you might realize that the real concern is having a private place for some special personal possessions. The two of you can then brainstorm ideas. When brainstorming, anything goes, and no idea is too silly. Try to let your child propose most of the ideas. This will help your child become an independent problem-solver. Together you’ll find a solution that’s workable.
But not all children will want to talk about their feelings. Rather than pressuring them to talk, show your love and understanding with a hug.
As you practice identifying, validating, discussing, and problem-solving, you’ll probably make mistakes. If your overall intent is to help your children understand their feelings and express them positively, your positive approach will outweigh any little mistakes along the way. And you have probably already figured out that you can use these same techniques on yourself or with a friend when experiencing your own emotional feelings about the separation or divorce.