•                                        H   Children of Divorce   H

    Below are key points from Dr. M. Gary Neuman, director and founder of the "Sandcastles Program", author of Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way, and international speaker and counselor of children and divorce, in how to talk to your children about your divorce. Dr. M. Gary Neuman says that the cardinal rule that all divorcing parents need to follow is to never criticize each other in front of their children. "When they bad-mouth each other it causes [the children] to question if they can love both," he says. "Kids should be able to love both parents. And if you say something bad about the other person, they feel disloyal to you, if they actually love the other person. And, they should never have to make that kind of choice."

                                              3 Rules When Telling Children About Divorce

    1. Tell them together as a family. It is crucial that you send a message of unity at this moment when the family dynamic is about to change.

                            -give a sense of being united 

                            - convey "we are still going to be together as a family" 

                            - children will remember certain moments for the rest of their lives, and this is one of those moments 

                            - tell them together as a family, because we are still going to be a family

    2. You will only have 45 seconds to get across crucial information, before the children's brains shut down due to the overwhelming nature of the information being delivered. The messages you need to get across in 45 seconds are:

                            - Mom and Dad made each other very sad, and we think it's better for the family in the long run if Mom and 
                              Dad live apart
                            - you are going to spend plenty of time with both of us in our homes 

                            - it is absolutely not your fault, and you've done absolutely nothing wrong to cause this

    3. Practice, practice, practice what you are going to say. In the initial meeting, don't use the word "divorce" yet. Just discuss living apart, and you can discuss divorce at a later time.

                            - practice TOGETHER what you are going to say as parents in your 45 seconds 

                            - rehearse together, and get your message across together 

                            - after you deliver your 45 second message together, sit back and let the children ask questions 

                            - if children have difficulty opening up, use feeling statements to help them open up ("I imagine you might
                              be feeling about what's going on with Mom and Dad.") 

                            - deal with their sadness; hug, hold hands 

                                                                              Children Asking Why?

    Kids will want to know, and will ask why the divorce happened.

    1. How to respond:

                            - do not give specific reasons 

                            - do not bad mouth each other 

                            - do not blame each other

    2. What to say:

                            - real things that the children can learn from your mistakes, under those circumstances 

                            - general ideas that are meaningful, like: 

                            - we didn't love each other in our marriage enough

                            - we didn't get help early enough

                            - we were too selfish

                            - we said nasty things to each other that we could not take back


                        Five Steps to Help Your Kids Open Up After Divorce

    1. Choose and informal setting.   Disguise the talk by participating in a fun, distrcting activity.  fon't make it formal, awkward, official meeting.  "One of the ways to shut down a kid is to say, 'Tell me how you feel about the divorce.'  That's it.  You'll never hear from them again.", says Dr. Gary M. Neuman.  "it's about going to the pizza shop, having dinner together; it's the long drive in the care, it's the cuddling in bed.  Those are the times that are relaxing and not threatening to kids.'  Gary says big family meetins are good for deciding what to do about a specific issue - not to discuss feelings.

    2. Don't be a conversation killer.   Gary says this is the number one thing that loving parents do. Parents want to rescue their children, tell them "everything's going to be okay", or tell them why they shouldn't feel bad - and instead, parents shut their children down by implying what they are feeling is wrong. "The children do come to you and they do talk, buy they learn not to talk to you because you really don't listen to their feelings," Gary says. "Recently, I had someone say that a kid came to them and said, 'I can't believe Dad is marrying that woman.' She said back to her daughter, 'Honey listen. Dad loves you. He's a good man and he's allowed
    to get married.' Good answer? Wrong answer! Because what you've just said to your child is, 'That's not a good feeling. You're not suppose to feel sad or mad." Kids then take that message and say to themselves, "There's nothing more for me as a kid to say to you. I'm done. You've told me my feeling is wrong.'"

    3. Put yourself in their shoes.   Don't assume what they're feeling. "It's really just trying to hear what it's like to be them in that moment," Gary says. "If you really do that in your heart, you will always say the right thing. And you will say things like, 'It sounds like you feel really sad, kind of mad that dad is not around.' And just stop They'll say, 'Wow, yeah, I do feel that way', and they'll continue, and they'll start talking to you."

    4. Initiate the conversation.   Don't say, 'Come to me if you want to talk.' Gary says too many parents avoid bringing up certain subjects because they're afraid they'll make their kids feel sad. "If they're not sad, or you get the feeling wrong, they'll correct you. You're not going to make them feel that way. So if they are not talking, and/or if they've had a conversation and you need to talk again, just bring it up. You can even say, 'Listen, I know you must be feeling kind of sad. If I were you, I'd feel that way.' Let them know it's okay, and we're going to keep talking about it and eventually they'll open up."

    5. Welcome tears and emotions.   It's important for your children to get their feelings out. "The hardest thing as a parent is to really see your child in pain, especially when you think that somehow you have contributed to that pain," Dr. Neuman says. "Don't feel guilty because that guilt sometimes stops you from wanting to see it, and it's so much better to just be able to see it. Be welcome to it. And I'm telling you, understanding and 'getting' your child is the greatest gift you can ever
    give to your child. ... They will heal through love and connection."

    Note: Dr. M. Gary Neuman states that sometimes it is much easier for children to write how they feel to their parents, instead of talking to them directly while facing them. One suggestion Dr. Neuman makes, is to ask your child to write you a letter. Once your child has completed his/her letter, ask him/her to place it in your mailbox (or a special place) for you to read the following day. If your child doesn't want to share it with you, respect his/her privacy, but ask her/him if you can read it, if you agree not to discuss it for a few days. Give these instructions to your kids: Write a letter to your mom, then write a letter to your dad. What do you want to say to them about your family and about all of you not living together anymore? Tell us all the things you would like to say to us, or ask us.