How to talk to children about divorce
Regardless of their age, kids may feel angry at the prospect of mom and dad breaking up. As a parent, you want to see that the process less painful for the children. Talking with your kids will help them cope with divorce as you provide stability in your home and attend to their needs with a loving, positive attitude.
Anyone that has been through a divorce can tell you that it’s not easy even if it was the “right” thing to make happen. For kids, it can be devastating. In a sense, a divorce in the family does mean the end of their world. That’s why it is important when breaking the news, to be careful.
Before you have “the talk,” Here’s TK things to do:
Write It Down
This isn’t a talk that you want to improvise. This is especially important if you and your soon-to-be-ex will be talking with the kids simultaneously. Regardless of who filed for divorce, you and the STBE should agree on some ground rules before breaking the kids into the conversation.
There isn’t any way to grasp how much time it will take, but set aside at least an hour, so the kids have plenty of time to ask questions. Don’t schedule it just before bedtime or when you’re in the car on the way to daycare.
Make It Authentic
If you and your spouse are still working to save the marriage, don’t say anything to the kids. You’ll just scare them — possibly needlessly.
Think Like a Kid
What you need to say and what the kids want to hear may not be the same thing. Reassure the kids that even though you and your spouse won’t be living together anymore, neither of you will stop loving them. Reassure them that they’ll get to spend a lot of time with both of you and that you each will always be there for them.
It’s alright to let the kids see that you’re sad about the divorce. Don’t make the mistake of putting them in the position of having to comfort you; it is your job to comfort them. Never, ever use your children to spy on your ex or to pass messages and never badmouth the ex in front of the kids. Never. Ever.
When to Say When
Know when to ask for help. If you find yourself overwhelmed or the kids seem to be having a significantly rough experience coping, locate a therapist who can work with you, the ex and the kids.
How Much is Too Much Information
At the start of the divorce, you need to pick and choose carefully how much to tell the children. Think carefully about how specific information may affect them. As a minimum:
Generally, younger children need less detail. Older kids may need, and want, more information
Tell kids about any changes that may affect them such as living arrangements, school and after-school activities. Be mindful not to bewilder them with details though.
Not matter how much, or how little, you tell the kids, the information you share must be truthful above all else.
A Child’s List of Wants
- I want both parents to stay involved in my life.
- Write me letters, call me and ask me loads of questions.
- When you don’t stay connected, I feel like I’m not important.
- Stop fighting and work to get along.
- Try to agree on things associated to me.
- Please support me and the time that I spend with you.
- I need to love you both and appreciate the time that I spend with each of you.
- Communicate directly with my other parent, so I don’t have to carry messages.
- Please remember that I want each of you to be a part of my life.
- I count on my parents to raise me, to teach me what is important and to be there for me when I have problems.
Getting through a divorce will not be a seamless process, but using these tips — and some common sense — will help you help your children cope.