When parents separate or get divorced, children suffer and they rarely really understand why their parents split up. They rarely feel good about it. When asked why? Most parents come up with some trite and meaningless response like, “sometimes people just stop getting along with one another”.

Perhaps the honest answer should be, because we never spent enough time sharing with one another how we were feeling, especially about the difficult moments and situations in our lives. Why is that?

Because, when we were children, our parents and our teachers and therefore the other children in our lives, rarely thought that talking about how we were all feeling about ourselves or each other and the things that were happening in our lives - was an ok thing to do.

Emotions as a topic just did not feature in our conversations. So who do you think is going to break this vicious cycle of silence? The non-discussables that are our emotions are not a topic for conversation. Why is this so? – is a question we should ask  and discuss among ourselves.

When we do not even attempt to have conversations about the fact that sharing our emotions is not a topic for polite conversation, then we have sealed our fate as far as the ‘non-discussability’ of the topic is concerned  - i.e.,  our emotions are not on the agenda.

Someone has to break this vicious cycle, must it be our children? Perhaps, as parents, if we think that our fear in the face of being exposed by talking about how we are feeling makes us less than the competent parents we would like to be - We might begin anyway.

Parents could start this journey with one another by beginning with simple sharing conversations that enable them to talk about the safest emotions they feel they can talk about, moving slowly and respectfully to being aware of more risky feelings they are having towards one another or other people and agreeing to try sharing these with one another on the understanding that this is an experiment to see if they can accurately identify the emotions that are present in their lives.

Maybe you can begin this journey with your children? But, both parents need to be part of this journey if it is to be safe and truly successful. It needs to be free of punitive or critical consequences if people are going to share feelings that are perhaps not ones that are part of everyday polite conversation.

Most people and all children have moments of shame and jealousy and pride, as they have moments of happiness and sadness and confusion, sharing these makes them more real and acceptable, especially as no normal human being on the planet is exempt from having them at some time.

Living with real emotions as part of the dialogue in your daily life, so that awareness of emotions and discussion of them, is a continuing experience for you and your children may well mean fewer people find themselves ‘just not getting along with one another’.

Originally posted on: 11 October 2011
Last updated on: 18 February 2024
Phil Boas

Phil Boas

For the past 25 years Phil Boas has worked primarily as a consultant to the public and private sectors, mainly throughout Australia with very large and medium size client organisations both here and overseas. He has worked in New Guinea, Canada and the USA. Phil is regarded as one of Australia’s leading consultants and trainers in the sphere of human relationships, especially in interpersonal skills and small groups; including problem analysis, problem solving and counseling with individuals and work-teams, organisations and organizational development and culture change. For the last decade has been involved in innovative and organization-specific leadership programs and the development of leadership capabilities in large organisational systems. He is the author and co-author of a range of books and research reports on organisational programs, counseling and interpersonal skills.

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