In today’s world, divorce is more commonplace than on-going marriage. If your home is the place that kids congregate and socialize, sooner or later one or more of these young people are going to turn to you for support. Here are five pointers to direct your actions:
Offer a Listening Ear
Often the issue is not much more than needing a person to bounce conflicting feelings and thoughts off of. When parents are divided, a child may feel there is no one to turn to, and a friend’s parent may come to feel like the sane port in a storm. Rather than feeling like you need to have lots of information and answers, first hear the young person out and reflect back to them what you are hearing. You will go a long way toward helping them sort out their own problems in this way.
Offer a Safe Place
When home doesn’t feel safe, children will be looking around for the places that give them that needed security and comfort, and if your home has come up as that safe place, you should feel honored to have them there for a little while. If it feels comfortable to you, extend your home as a place they can feel comfortable coming to when they need to get away, and let the parents know as well.
Let the Parents Know
Explain to the children that you will let the parents know you are talking with them, but that you will not divulge any specifics. This is important in order to avoid any conflicts with the family at a later time. This is a good time to explain to the family that the child or children have expressed feeling comfortable at your home and that you have offered your home as an extra haven if needed. Keeping secrets away from the parents will only make things much worse.
Keep the Trust
You can continue to make your home feel safe by honoring the youth’s boundaries, talking about what they want to talk about and not pushing beyond that or sharing with others what the person does not want shared. Check out whether the kids have shared with your kids what is going on or if its’ strictly for your ears alone. Don’t assume what they are telling you is something that all of their friends and family know about too.
Establish the Boundaries
It’s important to set boundaries in both directions. For instance, you cannot be a place that kids run to, to escape dealing with their parents when there are conflicts that need to be faced. You can be a place to come to if everyone is in agreement that there’s a need to get away for a while or have a weekend off. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where you’re in conflict with the family. If the tension becomes too stressful, consider talking to the parents about seeing a divorce mediation professional. When things at the child’s home are clearly very unstable, you still need to keep your boundaries, and suggesting outside help is one of the best things you can do.
Kids need other adults to talk to and get support from while dealing with divorce. Your goal should be to direct them back to deal with the situations at hand in the home, while providing a helpful hand along the way.