Have you noticed that the temperature in your house directly correlates with the emotional vibrations of those who live there? I don’t mean the literal temperature, of course. I’m talking about the warmth or chilliness of the atmosphere you and your kids inhabit every day. I call it the House Vibe Temperature (HVT).
I guarantee, if your children could verbalize this theory, they’d tell you when the HVT is too hot or too cold. Children are like pets: they’re very good at sensing our moods. As adults, we may be less aware of the emotional climate we’re creating.
Can we control all the factors that affect our moods? Absolutely not. What we can control is the vibe we send out. Realistically speaking, this can challenging. The real question is, are you up for the challenge?
When your family is in the middle of a divorce, home can feel like anything but home base. When clients ask me, “What can I do to help my children during the transition?” my number-one suggestion is to do your very best to create a warm environment. You need to do this despite the chaos, the button-pushing, the lawyers demanding paperwork, the kids acting out. You must do it because of all those things.
Here are some ways to adjust the emotional thermostat in your home.
First, take the temperature. You have to be aware of your environment before you can sense how to adjust.
- Anger, yelling, banging = TOO HOT
- Crying, isolation, silence = TOO COLD
Breathe and count to ten. It may sound like a cliche, but this step works by taking you out of the moment long enough to observe your own attitudes and feelings without succumbing to them.
Adjust your internal temperature. This is the hard part. You have to catch yourself adding to the negativity and correct yourself. It can be a moment-to-moment, hour-to hour, or daily effort. You may not always hit the mark, but your effort will make all the difference. Trust me, your children will notice.
Set boundaries. I was always surprised by how effectively my children – my son in particular – could read me when I was upset. My soon-to-be-ex-husband had an uncanny sense of the worst time to call or email, after which I would have to face the kids and pretend all was well. The solution was to set time limits during which divorce communication could take place: namely, not at a time when the kids were dependent on me to set the household temperature. My ex knew not to expect a reply to his call, email, or text unless it was during that specific window. “Divorce time,” we called it. (We also had a code to use when a non-divorce issue needed our attention.)
To this day, I must be sensitive to the HVT in our house. My daughter is quick to call out when she senses the temperature has become uncomfortable: “Mom, I don’t like the way the house is feeling.” Yep – post-divorce brings on its own challenges!
If you’ve found ways to adjust your own HVT, please share them with us. Let’s help each other!