Neuroscience continually points back to this truth more and more all the time: our bodies and brains are literally wired for connection with others. Perhaps by strengthening our relationship with our children first and then helping them connect with others, we are giving our children gifts that they will see the fruits of for all their years to come.

 

If you’ve been following our blogs for long, there are probably a few themes you’ve noticed.

 

One of the themes you have likely noticed sounds something like this – talk to someone, parents. Talk to your friends, your trusted family members, your co-workers. Talk to your mentors or talk to a therapist. We believe in owning and sharing your story and that it is healing for your soul and for your families.

 

Why? Because sharing your story with a safe person cultivates connection. It helps us feel understood. It gives us the chance to be seen and known and still loved. Those are the things that shape us, change us, and hold us up.

 

Brene Brown defines connection as this in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

 

She follows it up a few paragraphs later with this, “It’s amazing – yet perhaps not surprising – that the connectedness we experience in our relationships impacts the way our brain develops and performs.”

 

So, if you were getting tired of me repeating the same song every few blogs about talking with someone and connecting in meaningful ways as you heal, maybe you’ll give me a little credit now that you hear it literally impacts your brain’s development and performance if you will follow my advice!

 

Along those lines, I noticed there was a piece of that theme that I had not harped on quite as much. It is similar but more pointed – Take the time to intentionally connect with someone who has been down this road before, who knows the ropes. This is someone who has felt the heartache of divorce, grieved themselves and grieved watching their kids, and hopefully come out on the other side.

 

There really is something about shared experiences that brings us together and can even heighten that feeling of connectedness and understanding.

 

There’s a reason many churches and organizations offer Divorce Care classes that are always thriving. We need each other, especially others who understand where we are because they have been there too but are just a little further along.

 

The past few weeks, I have been mulling over this idea with our children in mind and wanted to see what you think.

 

If we are wired for connection and need each other as adults, are kids that way too? After all, they are developing human beings with developing, performing brains who equally experience pain and heartache and crave connection too, don’t you think?

So what can we do for them to help them experience these same kinds of connections in their healing journey?

 

First of all, a child’s most important connection is you. You are their parent, their primary attachment figure. Bettering the parent-child connection by making it as safe and comforting as possible is their best form of connection. As always, we want your kids talking with you, sharing with you, feeling safe and loved and known with you.

There is nothing better you can offer your child in the ways of connection than a safe place of consistent love and belonging. We always want to start here and strengthen this first.

 

After that, I started thinking: But what about other kids? Could it be possible that children’s brains will develop and perform even better if they experience connection with other children too?

 

Think about how helpful it has been for you when you’ve experienced something really raw and painful and then found someone who gets it. Maybe it’s this divorce, maybe it was a miscarriage or a job loss or the death of a close relative. When someone understands your pain and is able to express empathy, doesn’t it immediately decrease that feeling in you that you’re the only one all alone feeling this in the world?

 

So what if the same is true for our children?

 

Obviously, this is age appropriate. I’ve got a two year old in my house and he certainly doesn’t talk to his friends about much more than Elmo and play dough.

 

But my seven year old nephew? He’s capable of so much more depth and conversation through his pain, though I don’t know if he knows to name it that way or not. Certainly a middle school child or high school student would be even further down that path.

 

Brainstorm with me here. I don’t think this has to be too complicated. But again, these are all just thoughts and ideas, so I genuinely do want your input.

 

One route I have wondered about for children to connect through the process of parental divorce is group conversations.

 

In my city, there is this beautiful, homey kids counseling cottage that specializes in group therapy with kids. They group together certain ages and have a facilitator helping them all talk together while they eat cookies and popcorn. I can’t help but imagine the de-escalation and peacefulness those children feel when they discover they are not alone.

 

Certainly this form of connectedness is beautiful, and I wish my parents had known about it when I was a kid!

 

But what about a route even less formal than that? What about just play dates? What if as parents we intentionally got together our children with kids their own age who have experienced something like this? I know this particular route is helpful with other struggles.

 

Kids who have similar interests or similar struggles get together and connect all the time, in school clubs or on sports teams or in hospitals. Why not children who have both experienced divorce?

 

Maybe you don’t even facilitate it for them. What if you just arranged it with the other parent beforehand, both talked to your kids about the other child understanding them well, and then just let the kids play? It may take several lunches or afternoons or backyard games together before one of them brings it up. Maybe, in fact, they never do, and maybe that is okay too. The simple act of connecting with someone who has something so deep and painful in common with your child can be healing in and of itself.

 

Another avenue of connection may look something more like a mentorship. Maybe it’s a kid a few years ahead of them in school or in your church youth group that could take your son or daughter to get ice cream and talk with them. Maybe it’s a college student when your son or daughter is still in high school. The options are limitless!

 

I remember my first “mentor” of sorts was in high school when I was in 4th grade. She would take me to get lunch or ice cream and ask intentional questions about my simple 10 year old life, and it was really shaping for me. What if your child could connect with and learn from someone just a few years further down the path who has done the two houses tango for several years and learned how to survive and maybe even thrive along the way? What a gift it would be to give our children that kind of connection!

 

Again, these are all just ideas I have been mulling over and would love your thoughts on. How have you seen this play out in your children’s lives? Is it working well? How can we flesh this out more together, if it is helpful?

 

Neuroscience continually points back to this truth more and more all the time: our bodies and brains are literally wired for connection with others. Perhaps by strengthening our relationship with our children first and then helping them connect with others, we are giving our children gifts that they will see the fruits of for all their years to come.

April Moseley

April is a Marriage and Family Therapist with a background in youth and campus ministry. She’s an avid reader, an occasional baker, and a lover of words and people. She enjoys continuously learning and sharing on emotional health, spiritual growth, and safe places to land. April lives in Nashville with her husband Josh and their son Jude.
April Moseley

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