The last words any parent wants to hear are “I WANT TO GO TO MY OTHER HOUSE!”. These words are usually said in response to laying down the law, turning off the tablet, or in front of plate of Brussels sprouts. Let me tell you something that will save you years of stress and agony: It is never about where your child wants to be. Your child loves you. These are thoughtful, caring kids. I have even seen my own children say to me “I don’t want to hurt your feelings but can I call Mom?” They are well aware of the strain between you and their other parent and they want to protect you from feeling anymore pain. So, if your child has that sort of outburst, take a deep breath and get to the root cause by going into FACT mode.
Find out what is really going on.
Ask your child “What’s bothering you? I can tell something is on your mind.” Kids with a greater emotional maturity will be able to identify what’s at the core of their anger. Younger kids may have a harder time identifying what is bothering them. You may have to be more Sherlock Holmes than Joe Friday and piece together the forensics of this sort of meltdown.
Do nothing else for the next 2 minutes but look at your child and really listen to what they’re saying. You don’t have to correct them or change their narrative. Just help them look at their experience. Imagine you and your child are watching a movie and your child is the narrator. Watch it unfold as your child describes the details. You have your 3D glasses on, you’re paying attending and you understand the story. If they say “I want to be at mom’s because she has better food.” Simply reply, “You like the food at Mom’s house.”
If your child says “ You never let me do anything!” simply reply, “I see, you don’t get to do the things you want to.”
Once your child has calmed down, see if you can walk a mile in their tiny shoes. On top of grades, walking the dog, and being picked last for kickball, imagine how hard it must be to have the added burden of hopping between two homes. As much as you try to protect them, their loyalties are put to the test on a daily basis. Give ’em a break and see if you can understand what their life might be like.
Don’t rush this process. It could take 2 minutes or 2 days. Just stick with it.
Your child will navigate many trials during a lifetime. You want your child to know that you are a non-judgemental, unconditionally loving rock, and that they can come to about anything. As Catherine M. Wallace says. “Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”