Let him tell you about his feelings

When marriage ends in separation or divorce, a person is bound to be bitter. You are probably no exception. As long as you can make it clear sincerely that you feel bitter because your former husband or wife made you unhappy, and that your resentment is connected with what went on between the two of you, your youngster can be more free to feel his own way. As you let him have his own voice, he can be well disposed or not according to his own choice and dictates.

Most probably your child will have piled up anger at both of you for separating. This anger he needs to bring out directly, not in acts that hide the intent but in words that make it clear.

Take Amy, who was thirteen, as a case in point.

Amy stopped eating after her father left. On the advice of her doctor, Amy's mother sought psychological help. Among other things she learned that lack of appetite, lying, stealing, listlessness, poor concentration and a dozen and one other problems can be expressions of anger as surely as a raging temper.

Among other things, Amy was angry because of the divorce. Unconsciously she was showing her anger through her behavior. "So the next time she sits and stares at her food and tells you she doesn't like what you give her, try putting the anger into more direct words for her. Show her also that you still love her and that you understand it's natural for her to feel as she does. Then maybe she'll pick up enough courage to tell you more about it herself. Don't push. Don't prod. Just open the subject. When she knows that you accept the fact that she may be angry, it will probably come eventually of its own accord."

Next evening at the dinner table, Mother looked at Amy's mad, stubborn face and she said, "You look so furious. And I know you must be. I would be too if I were in your place. It's not a happy thing to have a mother who can't give you what you want most in life--your dad. So, of course you're mad . . ."

"I'm not," from Amy huffily.

Her mother said nothing more at the moment. But a short while later, when she went past Amy's chair to take her own empty plate out, she put a comforting hand on her daughter's shoulder. For just a moment. And then, as she went on she turned and gave her daughter a smile that seemed to say "I understand your anger and I still think you're a wonderful girl."

Amy swallowed and gulped and a little smile stole over her face in return. She didn't say anything. But she began to eat.

Three days passed. And all unexpectedly there came a torrent of anger and tears. "I don't see, Mother, why you had to do it. You're supposed to be grown up, you two. And yet you acted worse than children. You don't think I knew how you fought. You thought it was hidden. But your tight faces spoke up louder than words . . ."

And then, somewhat shamefaced, "I guess I was figuring how to get even. I said to myself, 'I'll starve. And then they'll be sorry.' But now I feel better. I don't have to go 'round the barn. I can tell you straight that I'm mad."

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