Talking to your Children about Divorce

It is never easy to talk to your child about an impending divorce between you and your spouse.  It is good to sit down and plan out what you will and will not say in front of your children.  Here are a few guidelines to help you get started.

Your child’s reaction will be hard to predict

When the time comes to explain to your children about your divorce, their reaction will depend on their level of emotional sensitivity.  Their response could range from no emotion at all to a fit of tears and pleading.  Your child will possibly have many doubts and fears, so get ready for a wide range of questions and answers that may seem apparent to you, but confusing for your child.

Younger kids vs. Older kids

There is no best age for a child to go through a divorce, but younger children do experience it differently than older children. Younger children, whose brains are not fully matured, are still developing their personality. They take in everything around them and watch their parent’s every action. 

A divorce, between the ages of 2 and 8, will leave a lifelong impression on your child. Sensitive children will often blame themselves and look for things they did wrong which might have caused their parents’ divorce.  Children with stronger personalities could lash out at their friends and/or family in anger.

“It’s not your fault”

Your child may instantly blame himself for problems that are causing the divorce. It is important to reassure your child that nothing he or she did caused the divorce. Let them know that no amount of “good” behavior on his or her part can stop the split. Depending on their temperament, they may or may not believe you. Remember to repeat this assurance throughout the divorce process.

Don’t be negative towards your spouse

It may feel good to criticize your spouse and point out his/her faults to your children, but this behavior never works for the benefit of your child.  Constant criticism could make your children resent your spouse, which is never good because that person is and always will be their father/mother. 

Those feelings will negatively affect their emotional development.  In time, they could come to resent you for trying to rob them of a closer relationship with the other parent. 

Be careful not to share too much information when giving a reason for the divorce. Children need an explanation, but they don’t need the details.  Saying, “Daddy would rather work than be with his family” or “Mommy spends all of our money on herself”, are not helpful things to say. Your children will only be confused by those types of criticisms.

Change

Children do not respond well to change.  They thrive in an environment that is stable, predictable and safe.  When working out custody and visitation issues, try to bring the parent without primary custody to pick up the children.  Reassure your children that although they will not be living with both parents together, both their mother and father will be a big part of their lives, just at different times.

Although your family is about to experience a radical change, it is best for you and your spouse to keep things as normal as possible.  Do your best to put aside arguments with your spouse and get along for the sake of your children’s psychological and emotional health.

Divorce is a difficult decision, but hiring the right divorce lawyer can help you negotiate some of the most difficult issues such as child custody, child support, property division and spousal support. If you need help from a divorce attorney, contact a divorce lawyer and let them review your case.