Divorce is difficult for everyone involved…spouses, parents, friends, children. There are so many emotions between spouses, some so negative that the love and respect once felt for one another, is now foggy. One thing that needs to be crystal clear is how divorce is explained to the children. According to an article by Ph.D., Edward Kruck in Psychology Today.com, children think they are the reason their parents are separating and both spouses need to explain to them that they are not to blame. The article discusses that divorce is similar to grieving and there are stages that children go through while coping with their parent’s splitting up including denial, anger bargaining, sadness, rejection, and guilt. Parents who are going through a divorce need to remember their children, no matter what age are feeling negative, confusing emotions too. This is when a family lawyer could assist the entire family with helpful, professional advice. Here are helpful ways to explain divorce to kids.
- Tell The Children Together: Both parents and the children should be together for this unhappy news. Parents should have a conversation before meeting with the children so they are both on the same page about living arrangements, co-parenting, etc. The message from both parents should be honest and clear because the children, no matter what age will be sad, angry, and confused. According to Alan Ravitz, MD, MS, in an article written in ChildMindInstittute.org, parents should be extremely careful not to assign any blame “It isn’t anyone’s fault– not mom’s or dad’s and certainly not the kid.” He continued to explain that the children need to know that both parents love them and they won’t be forced to choose sides.
- Explain It Was Not An Easy Decision: Children’s maturity levels and problem-solving skills are different throughout different stages of development, but at any age, children need to understand that parents didn’t decide to separate and get a divorce on a whim. Reinforce that it was not an easy decision. Children will automatically want to fix the problem so explaining that the decision was well thought out and worked through will make it easier for them to cope with and understand.
- Ask Children Questions: Children should be part of the conversation when sharing the news about the divorce. It will be a very emotional conversation, so allow them to be open and honest about their feelings. Parents should answer questions as honestly as possible always reiterating that both spouses will always be there for them. After the conversation, check on them later and ask if they want to talk.
- Reassure Them: After announcing the divorce it is imperative that both parents tell their children how much they love them, keep them safe, and will always be there, even if they live in different homes. Continue to answer questions the children have regarding visitation and the future relationships of the family. It may be wise to have an example of another family with friends they know who has successfully managed a divorce. Remember change is difficult for anyone, especially children when the future is not clear.
Sharing the news with children that their parents are getting a divorce is a hardship for the entire family. According to an article, “Telling Your Children About Divorce” in PschyCentral.com, “telling the children marks an ending to the “old” family and the beginning of “new” family relationships. This is where the real work begins and new normals are created. It is always a healthy idea to consult a professional counselor or family attorney for ongoing advice throughout the divorce and co-parenting process.