How to successfully support your children after your divorce. A 12 weeks program for divorced parents.
Week 2 - Focusing on the Children
Inside the mind of the Children.
One of the important factors of influence is the child development stage. Each child goes through a series of stages can can be identified by some characteristics that are typical for that stage. These development stages can be seen as a benchmark against which you can compare the development of your children. Because of the relevance of it, we dedicate week 4 to it.
Another important factor of influence on children is the circumstances they live in. Is the environment violent or calm? Are both parents working or is one of them at home to take care of the children and of the house and garden? If parents are divorced, what is the distance between the parents? Do the children spend time with both parents or with one of them? Is one of the parents in jail? Are the streets safe to walk alone? Do they live in the country side or in a busy, noisy and polluted city? Are there step parents, step brothers and sisters in the family?
Creating the environment.
You can shape the environment for your children in different ways.
You can create a reward-performance environment. In this environment the children are motivated and stimulated through external rewards and punishments. For example, you promise a child a horse if he finishes his school year with an A grade. The external factors determine failure or success.
An alternative environment is the learning environment. Here, the child is stimulated to investigate, to think for himself and to make his own choices. There are no good and wrong choices and answers. When a choice does not bring the expected outcome, the child will be disappointed. If it does bring the right result, he is happy from within.
In a learning environment the child takes responsibility for its own actions, choices and behavior. He will learn from his experiences, independent of the outcome. You learn the most from the mistakes you make. If you want to learn fast, you must make as many mistakes as you can as quickly as possible.
As a result, children growing up in a learning environment have a high self confidence and they become more independent.
Wrong and Right is wrong?
Wrong and right are not facts but judgments. There is no right or wrong way of doing something or right or wrong behavior itself. Behavior is only wrong in the mind of somebody. From his perspective. From somebody else's perspective the same behavior can appear right. For example, speeding on the highway. What if the person in the back of the car needs to be in the hospital within minutes or otherwise he will be dead?
Wrong or right have a powerful implicit meaning.
First of all, it places you and your children you are saying it to in the performance environment. By using these words, you plant in the mind of the children that they have to be careful with what they are doing, how they play, how they behave and how they talk. It implies that they will be judged. Now and in the future.
Second, it might result in the children believing that they finally have to choose between you or your ex partner.
But what do you do instead? Take an example.
Bobby tells his divorced mother that he eats fast food when he is at his father's home frequently. As a mother, you avoid expressing your opinion about the situation. Instead, you try to get a clear view of the facts. You could ask: “what did you eat on Friday? And what on Saturday and on Sunday?
Suppose, the answer is “Hamburger with French fries”, “Hamburger” and “Pizza”. You then express your concern: “eating fast food too often is damaging for the health of people. It affects young people in particular. I am concerned that it might affect your physical fitness and your mental health”.
The third step is to have a conversation. Discuss the options and the possible outcomes. Make your point clear, for example that too much fast food is bad for your health and that it his or her own responsibility to choose what to eat. Then put the subject aside.
This way, you place your child in the learning environment and you left your ex completely out of the issue.
The 4 key elements of focus.
The first element is Time. It is very important to spend time with your children. The more the better. Your children will learn at every interaction. In principle, that is a good thing. However, not all the time that you spend with your children is time well spent. You need to be there not only physically, but also mentally. Focus your attention on your child. Not on your iPhone, on the television or one of the other million distractions that exist in life today.
Listen to your children. Take the time and energy to understand them and to know their world: who their friends are, the path they walk when they go to school, the books they read, the movies they watch and the music they listen to. Accompany them to the sports game in the weekend and keep up to date with the matter they learn at school.
Many people have troubles listening to others. They cannot reproduce what somebody told them a few seconds ago. This is due to a lack of focus. If you recognize this in yourself, you could do this little trick/ while listening to somebody, repeat every word he says in your mind as soon as possible like in simultaneously translating. After a short while, you will come in sync with the other person. You will say the words in your mind at the same time as the other person is saying them. Then you are totally focused. After he finished his story, you will be able to repeat his story in detail.
It is the same trick people use to remember names of people the meet for the first time. You repeat the other persons name loudly and immediately.
The second element of focus is structure. Bring structure in your family. Have dinner at 6, do homework from 7 to 8. The structure gives a purpose to the family. Within the known routine, the children have a safe environment to experiment, to play and to grow. Here again, they experience the natural consequences of their own choices. They can do this in the safety of the structure.
Stimulation is the third element. Personal growth and development are the fruits from an active mind. The mind needs stimulation. Even boredom is good for the creative process. If you are bored, you start thinking “what can I do about it” and the creative process is triggered. You start brainstorming ideas by thinking. Or by walking around and fantasize what you can do with the objects or people you walk into.
In our modern world, there are many addictions, like watching televison, that switch off the mind. Instead of having the tv switching off you, you could switch off the tv.
Interacting with others is the best stimulation for the mind. Talk to other, ask questions, have a conversation or a discussion. Play a game or try to create something. In the end these activities give you and your children much more satisfaction than watching just another tv program that you cannot remember half an hour later. While interacting, you learn and you grow. That is why you feel satisfied afterwards.
The fourth and last key element of focus is protection. You have both physical and mental protection. Weird enough, these days people are over concerned about physical protection. Playground are overly safe. If children fall, they cannot hurt themselves. As a result, they do not learn the boundaries of what they can do and what the cannot. If you climb a tree, fall off and hurt your knee, next time you'll be more careful. You experienced the boundary of your physical possibility. You learned from it.
Most parents care less about mental protection of their children. Without realizing, violent movies enter the world of the children and cause mental damage. The overabundant hitting and shooting and criminal behavior does enter the unconscious mind of the children. After a while the high level of violence is being regarded as normal.
Stay tuned. Next week you can learn about Focusing on Yourself.
Do you want to read more about the subjects covered in this article?
Please read the book:
by Jill Darcey.How to Successfully Co-Parent after Divorce
Go to the Home page of Children and Divorce