In order to facilitate a successful repair, it is essential that parents and caregivers follow each of the steps outlined below.
“When we divorced it was a really hard time for everyone – especially for you. I can understand why you didn’t share with us how you were feeling. It must have seemed like I couldn’t handle it since I was in a lot of pain myself.”
“I am so very sorry that you had to go through this. It pains me to think about how you’ve suffered as a result.”
“We should have found a way to protect you from what happened next. We should have seen just how hard it was for you and given you the support you needed.”
Possibility #1 – The Blast:
The blast occurs if, after you apologize, your child repeats how they felt, and/or brings up other injuries from the past. Although this reaction may cause you to feel as though your apology “didn’t work” – it in fact signals the opposite – it is a sign that your child feels heard and understood, and they trust you to continue to validate old feelings of hurt and pain. Resist the urge to fall into the trap of:
“I said I’m sorry – what more do you want from me? I can’t change the past!”. Instead, repeat steps 1-4 until the blasts subside.
Example of the Blast – Child: “You have no idea how bad it was! And by the way – too little too late!”
Response to the Blast – Parent: “When we divorced it completely turned your life upside down. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you. I don’t blame you for being angry with us. I am so very sorry that you had to go through this.”
Possibility #2 – Denial:
It is also possible that your child will deny the impact of your role in their pain – especially if they worry about hurting you. In this case, you must insist on shouldering the responsibility for the issue raised.
Example of Denial – Child: “It wasn’t your fault. You did your best and I chose to bottle up my feelings.”
Response to Denial – Parent: “My actions DID have an impact on you. We were the adults and you were the child. It was our job to find a way to protect you and I am not letting you take that on. Had we seen the signs, things could have turned out differently for you”.