Whorled View

May 29, 2008

Reconnecting with kids after divorce

As a family we’ve been reading “7 Habits of Highly Effective Families“, and lately we’ve been reading about the unique challenges divorced parents have.  No matter who you are or what you’ve done, my heart goes out to you if you are having a difficult time reconnecting with your children.  As mentioned in the book we’re reading that’s perhaps the most difficult challenges you’ve had to face.

In my family I know that’s been the case.  I’m not divorced, but like everyone I have many friends and family members who have been.  We’ve made some real effort as children, all of us have, since my parents divorced a dozen years ago, to get over feelings of resentment and betrayal.  Our parents have made some real efforts to try and reconnect with us kids to mend those ties as well.

Although you may be divorced I must point out that there is a good chance that this entry doesn’t apply to your situation.

With that in mind, let me also say that I know that regardless of the circumstances divorce is devastating and few people deserve the pain of a divorce, and yet almost half of all Americans will experience that pain.  Besides, many of you if not most (at least most feel this way) endured a terrible relationship for the longest time before you were divorced.

Also, many of you, after many years of the divorce are still beating yourself up over it.  Stop doing that.  I’m certainly not doing that with this blog entry.  You need to forgive yourself if you think you need forgiving, and you need to forgive your ex because if you have spite it is just gnawing at your soul and rotting in your gut in a way that just hurts you in the long run.

My main intent is in this entry is to help those of you who are challenged by the idea that even after many years some children still haven’t forgiven you.  Many of you feel that they have no right to be angry because of the divorce.  If you feel this way then you are probably already doing all the wrong things to reconnect with your kids, even though you think you’re doing the right things.  I strongly suggest that you can start the path to reconnecting with your kids if you read the book “7 Habits for Highly Effective Families“.  If you want your kids to “get over it”, then this book will help you help them get on that path.

It will make you feel better, largely because it will help you understand and get you on that path to reconciliation.  It’s also just an amazing book for anyone and everyone – and, no, it isn’t for perfect families … quite the opposite.  It’s written for you, and for me, and for everybody regardless whether they’re married or have kids or not.  Everyone is after-all a family member no matter what, and although each family is vastly different we all deal with the same kinds of issues even if they are at different levels.

If you’ve made some real efforts to reconnect with your children then that’s wonderful and I applaud such efforts, and as a child of divorced parents I hope you continue doing that (but make sure you’re doing the right things).  Especially if it doesn’t seem to be working, find out what might work, and keep working at it.  Sometimes it may feel like it isn’t working, but in truth you’re making deposits into an emotional bank account that was probably far more withdrawn than you may have ever thought, but in time you will find those deposits were worth it if you don’t give up.

As a family today we read something from that book that was profound and especially applicable to this topic: “I’ve come to give a simple four-word answer; ‘Make, and keep promises’ … I’m convinced you would be hard-pressed to come up with a deposit that has more impact in the family than making and keeping promises … the promises we make in the family are the most vital and often the most tender promises of all … Even when promises have been broken in the past, you can still [say]: ‘Will you please give me one more opportunity? Not only will I come through, I will come through in gangbuster style.’ … Dealing with a difficult problem, and a mistake in an honorable way, [makes] a massive deposit in [thier] emotional bank account.”

I know that works with me.  “Make, and keep promises”, is one of the best formulas for success in life, and especially for mending ties that were damaged by broken promises. But you have to both “Make” and “keep” a promise that they’d appreciate.  That may even mean they may want you to promise to leave them alone for a time – now you must promise to honor that wish, and you have to keep it, no matter how much it hurts you.  Don’t promise something they don’t want, and don’t break the promise whatever it is.  Lastly, you also have to expect nothing in return (that’s discussed later in the book) or it will only eat you up inside, in which case it may do the same to them.

Hey, nobody said it would be easy, but these efforts are worth it.

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7 Comments »

  1. The fact that my husband and I divorced after 24 years of marriage and that there are still some lingering issues is what first attracted me to your post. Then when I read about Covey’s book, I just had to read the rest of it. I LOVE the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and feel that it transformed my way of thinking and living. Now I’m going to order this book as well.

    By the way, the emotional bank account is one of my favorite concepts, and lately I’ve used it in dealing with a situation involving one of my daughters. Instead of feeling hurt over a slight, I’ve reminded myself that this daughter has a high balance in our account and that there’s no way she could ever overdraw. She makes constant deposits, and just because she missed one, it didn’t overdraw her account.

    Comment by marlajayne — May 29, 2008 @ 5:15 pm

  2. This is a nice post David. Stephen Covey has so many wise insights into interpersonal relationships, and so do you. I think what you wrote in here is good advice for anyone in a family, divorced or not.

    Comment by Sally — May 29, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

  3. Marlajane – You fortunately have a healthy enough perspective to consider most of the interactions that you’ve had with your daughter over the years as deposits into your account. I think I’m the same way (or at least I hope I am). The concept of the emotional bank account however breaks down when the parent is by nature so self-absorbed that they perceive every interaction with their kids, despite how positive it should be, as emotionally draining for themselves. I’ve seen that happen, and it’s just a shame that such people never learned to really savor the joy that can accompany the process of child rearing. Such people also have difficulty remaining happy in a marriage …. or happy at all.

    That brings up another book: http://www.feelinggood.com. That book (Feeling Good) has been instrumental for me to understand why one person will naturally perceive the very same personal interaction as being a deposit while another would perceive that same interaction as being a withdraw from their emotional bank account.

    We have 5 kids and most of them are 5 yrs and younger. I hope I can continue to savor and remember my joy with each interaction I have with them. That has to make it so much easier to cope and forgive when they start making some serious withdraws … and they nearly all of them will at one point of another.

    Comment by davea0511 — May 30, 2008 @ 6:16 pm

  4. I have also heard great things about this book. You used the phrase “get over it” twice in your post–and I thought to myself, this should be a title for a book on how to live life in general: Get Over It. Or maybe a blog. Let’s see…my kids kept me up all night last night: get over it. My water bill was late, so I had to pay a late fee: get over it. Our car nearly caught on fire: get over it. I think I should embroider (sp?) this and hang it on the family room wall. The key to happiness. 😉

    Comment by Jolly — June 3, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

  5. Good point, Emily!

    Comment by davea0511 — June 3, 2008 @ 7:53 pm

  6. I haven’t read really anything about divorce or seperation but in our scriptures but I think I would like to look into some books to find out a bit more.
    I never really expirienced anything having to do with divorce till recently. But I think i really need to look into it.

    Comment by Austin — June 30, 2008 @ 6:25 am

  7. A great idea, Austin, to learn more about whatever you are going through which is just what I’d expect from you, instead of feeling sorry for yourself. There are spiritual leaders who can really help in this regard. Parents too, want to talk with their kids when they’re having challenges, if only to comfort their kids. The key is communication – keep those lines open no matter what.

    I think it’s probably good in some ways that not a lot is written for youth about separation and divorce as those are topics that are so sensitive and easily misunderstood that it’s best done in an personal setting with a loving parent or a trusted spiritual leader pr professional that both the kids and the parents trust.

    Comment by lullabyman — July 3, 2008 @ 8:53 pm


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