Co-parenting: How to have difficult conversations with your children
There is a common thread connecting the heart of all the great family law attorneys I know in Arizona. Everyone can argue either side of a spousal maintenance claim and Rueschenberg. However, at the heart, most of us family law attorneys care ABOUT your children and their best interests. More than ever, we need to take special focus of our children as they travel between co-parent households.
Usually, I can write faster than I speak; however, when preparing for this article, I spent about ten minutes trying to think of a first sentence. Ten freaking minutes. In that time, I couldn’t come up with a damn thing. All I could think about was the chaos that has been 2020 and I, eventually, was led to tears. Between the pandemic of COVID-19, the senseless murders and the peaceful protests, I couldn’t muster one single word. So, instead of trying to write what I thought was right, I sat down with my daughter and had a difficult conversation about COVID-19, racism and the disregard some people have for police and police departments who protect our civil liberties. While it wasn’t perfect, it was helpful, and I hope that the following may help you when you discuss difficult conversations with your children.
This should be a given. We should always listen with the intent to be empathetic rather than give our own perspective, especially with our children. When talking to our children, it’s important to remember that they ARE NOT our psychologist, counselor, or best friend. They are, even in their teenage years, little people who crave to be heard. The most important thing we can do is offer them space to be heard and, most importantly in a co-parenting situation, not allow bias for the co-parent to bastardize the conversation. If they are hurting or curious or have specific questions it’s best to simply allow them to talk and to have patience with their words, even if they may have a starkly different viewpoint than you do. It’s important not to make their opionion the co-parents and know that they are coming to us for a safe space – a space they may not have any other place.
Simple tips for listening include, but are not limited to, making eye contact, repeating back to your child what they say (word for word) and sharing empathy.
2. Being honest.
It seems obvious, but one of the most important things for a child is honesty. My daughter is 13 and has access to everything under the sun in her handheld device. If I lie to her the trust is broken and she will be unlikely to listen to me about important topics. Even if the conversation is difficult, it’s always paramount to be honest with our children and tell them exactly what’s going on. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your own discernment. You, clearly, know your children better than I do, and you know if your child can handle knowing about a global pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands around the world. However, you can let them know that something serious is happening around the world and that the least concerned person should be them. After all, they are kids. Let them be kids.
Simple tips for being honest include, but are not limited to, reminding them of the present moment. Remind them that currently, in their house, there are no people trying to break in to the house, that there are no gunshots or bombs going off, and that they are perfectly safe right where they are. Breathing exercises can help immensely as well.
3. Turn the News off.
I don’t care if you enjoy CNN or Fox News. I really don’t. All I care about is that you live your life knowing that other people are struggling and that it’s best to lead with a kind heart. I’ve seen people red, blue and purple who all carry these characteristics. Your children on the other hand, need firsthand experience, parenting and fearless based advice. My daughter always says the worst part about going to her grandparents’ house (sorry grandma and grandpa) is that they always have the news on and that it’s always negative. Whether that opinion is right or wrong, your children deserve to hear about difficult topics from you, not Anderson Cooper or Sean Hannity. When your children are around provide uplifting and happy content so that they are calm, at peace and more at ease. It will allow you to have the conversations with them, rather than have them hear things that you may not agree with.
As always, if you need help with co-parenting or any other family law situation, Citadel Law Firm PLLC is here to help. For a free consultation call us at (480)565-8020. My name is Michael Albee and I am looking forward to talk to you, you can see my full profile by clicking here.