Having a discussion and problem solving

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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 cannot be changed. For example, as much as your child would like you to stop the divorce or separation, that will not happen. Often though, there is some aspect of the problem that can be worked on and made better. If nothing else, through discussion you can lead your child to a better understanding of the situation, and he/she will feel your support.

You can help your child reach an understanding of his/her feelings about a situation by listening and asking questions. Try to move from the general to the specific. For example, if the child expresses a fear about the upcoming move, you can ask, “What is it about the move that is worrying you?”

At first, he/she 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 theories too quickly. When your child has had time to think, if he/she hasn’t been able to pinpoint the problem, you could offer some suggestions. You could try, “Could it be that you will miss having your own room?”

When you discover a specific issue, it may feel right to move into problem solving. Perhaps through questioning and discussion, you and your child realize that the main 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 him/her to become an independent problem solver. Together you will find a solution that seems workable.

Not all children will want to talk about their feelings. Rather than pressuring them into a discussion, you could make an identifying statement and show your love with a hug.

As you practice identifying, validating, discussing and problem-solving, you will 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 slip-ups along the way. And you have probably already figured out that you can practice these same techniques on yourself or with a friend as you experience your own emotional responses to the divorce.