How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce p.232 – Special Time

Here are some ideas for special time with young children:

  • Walk around the block
  • Go to the playground
  • Rock collecting in the backyard or park
  • Shell collecting on the beach
  • Library time
  • Frozen yogurt or ice cream shop
  • Lunch at a restaurant or picnic
  • Helping you garden
  • Helping you cook
  • Playing with Play-Doh
  • Coloring
  • Playing dolls
  • Solving puzzles
  • Pretend play
  • Listening to music and dancing
  • Making a collage
  • Making cards for family members’ birthdays or for holidays
  • Playing guessing games, like “Guess the animal I’m thinking of” or “I Spy”
  • Taking a train or a bus, just for fun
  • Feeding ducks, pigeons, or squirrels

For older children, preteens, or teenagers, activities can include:

  • Going to a movie
  • Manicure/hair salon
  • Going to a sporting event
  • Miniature golf
  • Bowling
  • Going to the mall
  • Drawing together
  • Beading
  • Helping your child organize or add to any collections
  • Building things out of LEGOs, popsicle sticks, etc.
  • Cooking together
  • Biking
  • Visiting a museum
  • Going to the zoo or aquarium
  • Playing ball
  • Painting pottery
  • Crafting
  • Running or walking together
  • Going to the gym together
  • Lunch or dinner
  • Concerts
  • Watching movies and TV
  • Playing video games together
  • Reading and discussing books together


Samantha Rodman – How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce p.232

How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce – Key Points

  • Different types of marital conflict will have different effects on how your children perceive and respond to your divorce
  • The tone of your divorce will have a great impact on your children
  • Focus on putting your child first, and realize that your own emotional functioning directly affects that of your child
  • Siblings can be resources and supports for one another, but they can also undermine each other’s ability to cope if you don’t monitor their behavior
  • It is essential to maintain your child’s relationship with both parents as well as other key family members


  • Planning your initial divorce announcement can help the conversation go more smoothly
  • It is helpful to think in advance about how you’ll answer your children’s common questions about divorce
  • Emphasize that nobody is to blame for the divorce, not either parent alone, and certainly none of the kids
  • Remember that your children crave stability and routine, and try to reassure them that you will keep things as predictable as possible
  • Make your children feel that they were, and will always be, loved and wanted
  • There are ways to change your language that will positively impact how your child views your divorce
  • No matter how your co-parent communicates with your children, you can commit to communicating the healthiest way you know how


  • Adult thoughts and feelings are for adults only
  • your child is not your confidante
  • Enmeshment, or the lack of boundaries between parents and their children, can harm your child both now and in later life
  • Do not use your child to transmit information openly or covertly between you and your co-parent
  • If you find yourself relying on your child for emotional support, turn to and adult friend, a support group, or a therapist instead


  • Unique traits and circumstances affect your child’s reaction to a divorce
  • Saddling children with many new responsibilities and roles can lead to adverse outcomes
  • Vulnerable children must have their routines kept as stable as possible
  • Siblings must be treated fairly and their relationship should be a priority


  • Emotions are not “good” or “bad”; they just are
  • If emotions are suppressed, they never truly recede
  • If expressed and accepted, emotions have a natural peak, and then they decrease
  • Accepting your emotions is just as important as accepting your child’s emotions
  • You can train yourself and your child to look for the positive in life, which will help both of you become happier and more resilient


  • Mirroring is repeating what your child has just stated, even if you don’t agree with it
  • Empathy is when you truly understand your child’s perspective
  • Validation is when you convey that your child’s feelings make sense to you
  • Mirroring, empathy, and validation can defuse many tense and difficult conversations
  • Empathy and validation can be used even in tough parenting situations like rudeness or tantrums
  • Owning your actions and apologizing for them allow your child to feel closer to you and to learn these skills for himself


  • Change your language: “co-parent” and “living with” versus “my ex” and “visits”
  • Badmouthing a co-parent is toxic for your child, both in terms of his own self-image and his ability to have a relationship with his other parent
  • Parental alienation must be dealt with as soon as it is perceived, so that a child can recover a relationship with his parent
  • Don’t use your kids as go-betweens or in any way make their lives more stressful because of your own inability to communicate respectfully with and about your co-parent
  • Empathy and validation can stop you from responding with negativity toward your co-parent even when your child complains about him or her
  • Even when violence, mental illness, or co-parent absence are involved, there are ways to handle these situations that can buffer your child from a negative psychological outcome
  • Even in the worst-case scenario of a co-parent abusing your child, remain calm and do not bash or insult your co-parent
  • Challenge yourself to get into a regular routine of making positive remarks about your co-parent


  • Toddlers and preschoolers may be very anxious and confused about divorce
  • Be honest and clear when communicating about what will happen logistically to your child
  • Be direct and empathic when dealing with any behavior issues, such as regression or tantrums
  • Reassurance and extra love are of paramount importance


  • Kids thrive on routines that allow them to focus on learning and having fun
  • There are many ways to initiate positive conversations with your school-age kids about divorce or any other difficult topic
  • Don’t force conversations or put your child on the spot
  • Understand and honor your child’s need to fit in with his peer group


  • Preteens are very focused on social concerns
  • It is normal for preteens to want to spend time away from the family, with friends and while doing other extracurricular activities
  • Now is an ideal time to teach your child positive lessons about relationships and sexuality
  • Your preteen still needs lots of love and reassurance, but not as much physical time spent together
  • Respect and empathize with your child’s concerns, even if they seem unimportant or self-involved


  • Teenage years are very difficult, even without the added stressor of divorce
  • Your relationship with your teenager is more important than stopping any behavior he is doing
  • Acknowledge your teenager’s needs and preferences, even if you don’t give in to them
  • It is normal for a teenager to want to spend more time with friends and significant others than with parents; don’t let your teenager get out of seeing you entirely, though
  • Teenagers can be dramatic and black-and-white in their thinking, and this can make them lash out viciously at one or both parents
  • Try to be involved without micromanaging your child
  • Owning your own mistakes and apologizing go a long way with teenagers
  • Teenagers rise to the occasion: The more you respect your teen, the more mature he will act
  • If you are truly scared for your teen, find her a therapist; family therapy can also help you improve your parent-child relationship


  • Your child will likely feel insecure and jealous upon meeting a parent’s new partner
  • There are ways to gently and considerably bring up the topic of you or your co-parent’s new partner
  • The way you handle initial meetings with a new partner can set the tone for his or her relationship with your kids
  • Keep in mind that your children may become newly attuned to sex, and you may have to discuss this
  • Blended family issues can be challenging, but never let your child doubt your love


  • Check-ins and daily special time with your children can make them feel loved and cherished even when you’re busy and stressed
  • Have fun with your child; not everything is a teachable moment
  • There are many small ways to show your love to your child
  • Be a realistic optimist about your ability to parent well through your divorce


Samantha Rodman – How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce

50 Questions To Ask Your Kids Instead Of Asking “How Was Your Day”

  1. What made you smile today?
  2. Can you tell me an example of kindness you saw/showed?
  3. Was there an example of unkindness? How did you respond?
  4. Does everyone have a friend at recess?
  5. What was the book about that your teacher read?
  6. What’s the word of the week?
  7. Did anyone do anything silly to make you laugh?
  8. Did anyone cry?
  9. What did you do that was creative?
  10. What is the most popular game at recess?
  11. What was the best thing that happened today?
  12. Did you help anyone today?
  13. Did you tell anyone “thank you?”
  14. Who did you sit with at lunch?
  15. What made you laugh?
  16. Did you learn something you didn’t understand?
  17. Who inspired you today?
  18. What was the peak and the pit?
  19. What was your least favorite part of the day?
  20. Was anyone in your class gone today?
  21. Did you ever feel unsafe?
  22. What is something you heard that surprised you?
  23. What is something you saw that made you think?
  24. Who did you play with today?
  25. Tell me something you know today that you didn’t know yesterday.
  26. What is something that challenged you?
  27. How did someone fill your bucket today? Whose bucket did you fill?
  28. Did you like your lunch?
  29. Rate your day on a scale from 1-10.
  30. Did anyone get in trouble today?
  31. How were you brave today?
  32. What questions did you ask at school today?
  33. Tell us your top two things from the day (before you can be excused from the dinner table!).
  34. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
  35. What are you reading?
  36. What was the hardest rule to follow today?
  37. Teach me something I don’t know.
  38. If you could change one thing about your day, what would it be?
  39. (For older kids):  Do you feel prepared for your history test?” or, “Is there anything on your mind that you’d like to talk about?” (In my opinion, the key is not only the way a question is phrased, but responding in a supportive way.)
  40. Who did you share your snacks with at lunch?
  41. What made your teacher smile? What made her frown?
  42. What kind of person were you today?
  43. What made you feel happy?
  44. What made you feel proud?
  45. What made you feel loved?
  46. Did you learn any new words today?
  47. What do you hope to do before school is out for the year?
  48. If you could switch seats with anyone in class, who would it be? And why?
  49. What is your least favorite part of the school building? And favorite?
  50. If you switched places with your teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?


Written by Leslie Means

Childhood Unbound p.175

A few basic signs [of reliability]:

  1. Keeping one’s word about the small things – time home, calling as had been agreed, being (pretty) honest about who’s around in others’ houses.
  2. Your internal feeling that what your child says makes sense – pay attention when it doesn’t add up – you’re probably onto something. The truth usually flits across your mind and you ignore it.
  3. Both you and your partner get the same – or at least a similar enough story. Kids can only play us against each other if we don’t bother to talk to each other.
  4. Giving you enough time to truly think about a decision – feeling less like a hostage to time pressure makes you feel more trusting.
  5. Owning their behavior – without torturous explanations or excuses.
  6. Your child is not afraid to tell you the truth – even if it’s not something you don’t want to hear. This is a hall-mark of mutual trust – in your child and your being a reasonable, firm parent.
  7. Your child has a couple of good friends, regular playdates and receive calls – a sign of trustworthiness with peers.
  8. Other parents are truthful around you – and do not hold back important information you then hear about later. This openness usually indicates your child is acting within acceptable bounds when you’re not around.
  9. Your own growing sense of trust – be clear-eyed, but be open to seeing and enjoying your child’s maturation.


Ron Taffel – Childhood Unbound p.175

Childhood Unbound p.42

The flip side of the new freedoms was a new anxiety. It was infused by endless access, early decisions about high-risk behavior, the ability to do “whatever” without concerns about being seen, and by the overwhelming reach of technology and the warp-speed of life itself. The free-est generation began to shimmer with neon-bright anxiety. This was different than internal neurotic anxiety, by which I mean symptomatic, psychological conflict, thought to be the result of guilt between “right” and “wrong,” the struggle between “id” and “superego,” and the fear that “bad” thoughts meant being a bad person. In children this anxiety can lead to a raging battle between pleasing parents and pleasing oneself, and even to feeling personal responsibility for the very lives, health, and well-being of one’s parents. This type of internal conflict had been the bread and butter of psychoanalysis during the time of the greatest generation and its boomer children.

No, by the second millennium, the kids of older boomers and post-boomers were suffering from a different breed of anxiety, generated by real-life forces: intense social, academic, and techno-driven pressures.


Ron Taffel – Childhood Unbound p.42

The Fifty Minute Hour p.277

In his work, moment after moment, an analyst lives intimately with the human passions. Lust, greed, envy, hate – the seven deadly sins and more; love, charity, faith – the heavenly virtues and all the beatitudes; these assail him endlessly. While he is not to be caught up in the emotional tempest that storms about him unremittingly, it is in such an atmosphere that he must exist. One consequence of this incessant exposure must be satiety, a feeling of fullness, of overripeness, the defense against which is the antagonistic feeling of monotony. Only a “surprise,” only a sudden, unpredictable event, can restore to the analyst who has reached the satiation point that quickening of interest, of zest, necessary to refresh his senses and render him once more sensitive in the way he must be if he is to perform efficiently. Fortunately, such “surprises” are not lacking.

By confinement, I refer to the actual physical fact of enforced immobility that is the condition of work for people such as I. Everything we do takes place in the consulting room. Activity, movement, is denied to us. The great dramas of which we partake, the tremendous conflicts, the shattering experiences – these come to us, come to the rooms in which we sit and listen. Eternally, we are spectators – rather, auditors. Sometimes, it cannot be denied, one chafes against the sheer physical constriction of such a life; one longs for movement; one becomes physically restless, hungering for the air of the outdoors, for the vigorous employment of the limbs and for the distant use of eyes against horizons rather than walls. Finally, one tires of words, words, words. The long vacations habitual with analysts are one antidote, and it is to be observed how they drift to the mountains and the sea in an annual effort to feed their appetites for mobility and space.


 Robert M. Lindner – The Fifty Minute Hour p.277