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A divorce rattles the foundations of every woman's sense of stability. Well-laid plans that just yesterday made perfect sense no longer make any sense at all. And to top it all off, those kids! Children have a talent, it would seem, for acting up and giving you added stress — just at the moment you need them to be mature, helpful and their "best selves."

As a mother it's your nature to respect your child's perspective; this is the most powerful emotion on earth. But when you're anxious, stressed and demoralized, this innate capacity is temporarily weakened. The tendency to be irritable, cross, impatient, scornful or demanding with the child is very strong. Giving in to this temptation at moments of pain is only human

So how can you deal with your child at these classic moments? Realize that the very fact that she is acting up is a strong sign that your child's is not feeling understood. Count to 10. Splash cool water on your face or scream into a pillow during these times. Then put the divorce and all of its ramifications into the background. And tell yourself: "MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY CHILD TAKES CENTER STAGE."

With that, here are three simple tips (reminders) of how to focus on your child by creating opportunities to truly hear them:

  • Make time for sharing. Unhurried, unstructured, tender discussions don't have a chance to develop in a hectic schedule. Find an inviting window to a warm, comfy conversation with your child at mealtimes, during long walks or car rides. Listen carefully to your children when they first burst through the door after school. And remember, too, that the classic setting for children to open their hearts to their mothers is during bedtime and that kiss goodnight. Whenever and wherever your child seems ready to open up, put down the task at hand if possible and lend your ear.
  • Acknowledge your child's feelings. Children can be very aware of what adults "don't want to hear" They need to understand that it is OK to talk about their own feelings of loss, anger, or worry. Well-intentioned mothers are often very saddened by what their child has to say, and may try to encourage him to feel something else instead. Let the child own his emotions. Accepting children's feelings without judgment paves the way for their trust.
  • Remember your child is not the divorce. The bitter emotions associated with the divorce itself — the loss of the dreams that filled your wedding day — can easily become part of your immediate reactions to the children of that marriage. Mom understandably feels like a victim, and the enormous demands that ordinary motherhood extracts can seem like only a continuation of that victimhood. In this mood, it is easy to want put pressure on children to "shape up this minute." Be alert to your tone and attitude toward the child whose trust you are trying to bolster. Young children and teens are likely to clam up when they deal with an adult who seems impersonal, unappreciative, moody or rushed. Youngsters only become talkative and forthcoming when they feel respected and appreciated.


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