As busy parents, it’s easy to become disconnected from our children’s day-to-day activities and what is going on in their emotional lives. Daily interactions with our children can often be reduced to coordinating schedules and school work, and finding out where and when they need to be so we can plan our own schedules. When you are in the midst of divorcing your spouse, however, it can be that much more challenging to connect with your child on a personal and emotional level. Yet your physical and emotional presence with your child can make all the difference in the world to him or her. For starters:
1. Set aside a block of time each day to focus exclusively on connecting with your child. This might be as little as 10 minutes a day, but the quality of that time is what your child is most lkely to remember. If necessary, put the time on your calendar as an important appointment. During that time, be fully present with your child both physically and emotionally.
2. When your son or daugther talks to you, listen to understand what he or she is saying to you, what John Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People “calls “empathic listening.” As John Covey explains it, this is where you “get inside another person’s frame of reference and you see the world the way they see the world.” To do this effectively, don’t interrupt, don’t evaluate, don’t judge. Just listen. Adjust your body language by leaning forward so your child can sense that you are interested in what he or she is saying. If something specific is bothering your child, instead of jumping in with a solution, brainstorm with him to help him reach a solution that feels right for him or her. For example, your son’s best friend said something hurtful to him at school. You might help him devise some possible ways to respond so that he feels good about himself.
3. Get to know what your child loves to do. Plan and schedule this activity with your child. For instance, ask your 10-year-old daughter what she would choose to do if she had a day to do whatever she wanted. If she loves crafts, she might tell you that she wants to knit a sweater for the dog or bake a chocolate layer cake from scratch. Make it happen for her.
Use your imagination. Be guided by who you want to be as a parent and how you want your child to recall this time in his or her life.
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