Written by Mike Flinn

Mike has over 20 years of experience as a counsellor, he works with adults, couples, young people, and families going through separation and divorce. He worked for Couple Counselling Scotland before moving to Shrewsbury to work with Relate. He now works in private practice.

OK …. The first thing to remember is that you are the adult so it’s up to you to role model the behaviours you expect your son to display. If you listen then, generally, so will he. If you stay calm then, generally, so will he etc. It’s up to you how this progresses.

You can expect to be seriously tested. He will expect you to leave him so he’ll push you very hard. In light of this it’s worth you modelling the behaviour you expect him to exhibit.

Second is that your son, at 8, will have a degree of emotional understanding, which means he will be worried about whether he is good enough for you, whether you will leave him again, and if he can trust you. All of this is irrespective of the circumstances that led to the 2 year gap. Your comment suggests you might be thinking on similar lines to him, so at least you have an understanding of each other.

You can expect to be seriously tested. He will expect you to leave him so he’ll push you very hard. In light of this it’s worth you modelling the behaviour you expect him to exhibit.

So listen, check that you’ve understood by paraphrasing and then reply saying what you think. Then give him the same opportunity. If you get upset or angry, then say so, by using an ‘I’ statement … ‘I’m getting upset, I’m just taking a 10 minute time out to calm myself down, then I’ll be back to listen to you’. Use mindfulness breathing to slow your heart rate down… (in for 5, feel the breath going in through your nose and filling your lungs, then out for 5 through your mouth… I use a 3 syllable word between each number ..ELEPHANT… ). This keeps youradrenaline and cortisol levels lower, and if you think of something that makes you happy, you’ll increase your endorphin levels, and feel calmer.

Do not say ‘You’re making me ….. ‘ because all you’ll get is an argument.

It’s worth you thinking about why you left your son, and how that equates to the way you were parented by your parents. There’s a possibility that you were triggered by issues from your own past, and that is worth you exploring with a psychodynamically trained counsellor.

If you are able to communicate with your ex, then talk to them about your son’s likes and dislikes, interests and friends. Ask how he’s getting on at school, with peers, and what he does in his leisure time. Communicate with school and find out how he’s doing from their perspective.

Thirdly, think about how he might feel, what he might like. Try to find things to do together, build up the time you have together, starting with an hour or two, then gradually build it up in one or two hour blocks.

Check how he’s feeling and ask him what he’d like to do. If he can’t think of anything then go with your instincts.

You might want to consider where your worry about whether you love him has come from. It might be fear of him rejecting you, which he’s perfectly entitled to do, and which will take time and persistence from you to overcome. He will need consistent approaches from you, whether you’re rejected or not, to reassure him that you’re going to do what you say.

Keep lines of communication open. Listen and show him you understand, whether you agree or not. Children, however smart, can have some very offbeat ideas! Do not tell him he’s wrong, just offer him options according to your views.

It’s worth thinking about how you show someone you care. Your son knew you for 6 years, so will know this, so do what you used to do. Be ready for rejection and being ignored. Persist, remembering that actions speak much louder than words. So a touch, a tone of voice, a hug, a card, a message, phone call, all mean a lot to your child, however old. Mine are in their mid 30’s and it’s still the same!

    Did you find this useful?

    Thanks for your feedback. :)

    Can you tell me which of the following applies to you:


    Anything else to add?

    Do you want to read more?

    You may find this article useful 'What Does It Mean To Put Your Children First'. You can read it here......

    Read More >