December 2004, Message of the Month
A young friend of mine shared a conversation with me that his teacher had with his fourth grade class. He told me about the day his teacher spoke to the class about divorced families and she advised them to not be messengers between their parents. My friend then suggested that I write about this subject for this month’s message.
I have had many people in class with this same issue. One or both parents using the children to pass information to one another. The children are then often privy to adult subjects and details that need to be handled by the parents such as finances and visitation. When children are exposed to these issues between parents there is often anger associated with this role of messenger. The children absorb the reactions of each parent receiving the communication. The children are in the middle, they are stuck. When children are used in this manner it robs them of a chance to lead emotionally and spiritually healthy lives.
We as parents need to step forward and take responsibility for our communication and let our children remain children. Taking charge here can change your whole relationship with your parenting partner. Begin with your vision of yourself. Who are you and what do you want? Make sure your vision is the greatest version of the highest vision you ever held of yourself. I learned this way of thinking from Neale Donald Walsch, author and lecturer. Read this part again because it is no small thing I ask of you. Create your vision of yourself in your life and in your family. Make sure your actions are in line with your vision of yourself. Begin creating anew, take charge, know you have the power to create positive change within your family.
If it is your partner who will not respect a boundary for your children and continues to use the children as messengers, then help your children make this boundary. Ask them if they are happy relaying messages to each parent. If they are not, (and most likely this will be the case) let them know they don’t have to do this. Help teach them a respectful way of saying “no”. Role play with them practicing stating how they feel about relaying messages. Teach them to use “I” statements such as: mom/dad when you ask me to relay messages, I feel nervous and uncomfortable or I feel angry and upset. I don’t like bringing messages home because it makes me unhappy. I would like to ask you to speak to mom/dad yourself and tell them what you need. Could you do that for me mom/dad? This is just an example of how to say “no” respectfully. This is a life skill. We will need to say “no” to some things and learn to make boundaries for what makes us unhappy or uncomfortable for the rest of our lives. Help your child to make boundaries now within the safety of his/her own family. Sometimes, when a parent sees their child’s unhappiness it helps them to become conscious and make changes that are necessary. Sometimes a parent can be lost in anger and still not pay attention, in which case a child must learn to remain strong and steadfast in asking for what they want for their own well-being. Help your child to continue asking for what they need and to take the action of “non-action” that is not relaying messages and suggesting another form of communication such as phone messages or email. This is a big step for a child, but a necessary one to be well.
We can do this work together. It takes effort to make changes in our lives. It takes support to make changes. Ask your friends and family for support in making positive changes for the well-being of your family. Create your vision of yourself and share it with your support team. Again, we can do this together!
Make this a wonderful holiday season for you and your family. Make these moments count. Make each one special in its own way for you and your re-created family. You deserve that!