Guide to Telling Children about Divorce
Steps for Telling Children about Divorce
Telling children about divorce is one of the hardest steps you take as a parent. Depending on the child’s age, they will handle the separation differently, and there are different strategies depending on the child’s age. Normally, if a child is a teenager or older, they will understand the decision much more than a child who is younger.
Before even telling the child about the divorce, you should consider some of the following procedures to help ease the weight of the announcement:
1) Keep all your conflict, arguments, and discussions about the legal process away from the children.
2) Formulate strategies that will minimize the amount of disruptions to the child’s daily routine.
3) Agree that you will not talk negatively about the other spouse in front of the child or even people the child associates with.
4) Formulate strategies that will keep both parent’s frequently and actively involved in the child’s life.
No matter the age of the child, be sure to convey one basic principle. You should tell the child or children that whatever happened between mom and dad is not the child’s fault. Once you have specifically told the child that the divorce is not their fault, you should convey a message that lets the child know that adults’ feelings for each other can change and makes them live apart. Make the announcement as simple as possible—especially if the child is young.
Every child will react differently when finding out their parents are going to live apart. You child may become fearful, become worried or anxious, and even show relief that you two are deciding to live apart. A child may understand that the only way for fighting to stop is that the parent’s live apart. No matter the type of reaction, you should be prepared to answer the following questions. Be completely honest with the children and answer the following questions as best as you possibly can:
• Who will I live with?
• Will I keep going to the same school, or will I have to move?
• Where is each parent going to live?
• Where will I spend the holidays and summers?
• Can I still have friends over to the house?
• Will I still get to see Grandma and Grandpa?
• Can I decide who I want to live with?
There are a number of other things you should do when telling children about divorce. Some of the following strategies can help you support your children if they are upset:
1) Encourage your children to be truthful about their feelings and tell you if they are upset or extremely saddened.
2) Offer as much support as possible. Ask what you can do to make them feel better, or simply take time to just sit and talk with your child.
3) Keep yourself healthy and seek as much counseling as needed. If you stay healthy, both physically and emotionally, your stress levels will stay down and you will have more time to help the children.