Divorce is a complex topic and can be difficult for any child to process. Often, they may feel they are to blame or that they did something wrong to cause their parents to split up. In addition to the simple fact that it can be difficult for a child to understand the concept of divorce, they may also experience a range of emotions, from anger and sadness to confusion and fear.
As a parent, it’s crucial to be honest with your children about the divorce and to provide them with age-appropriate support and guidance. Here are some effective tips on how to talk to your kids about divorce:
Do Not Prolong the Announcement
Once you have decided to divorce, it is important to tell your children as soon as possible. This is recommended for a few different reasons. First, your child will sense that something is wrong if you are keeping such a big secret from them. Children are extremely intuitive, and they will anxiously sense something is up. Second, the longer you wait to tell your child about the divorce, the harder it will be for them to adjust to the news. It is best to get the truth out in the open and allow the healing process to begin. Finally, the risk of the child hearing about the divorce from someone else increases the longer you wait to tell them. This could be devastating for your child, and it is important that they hear the news from you first.
Break the News Together
If possible, it is best to break the news to your child together with your spouse. This sends the crucial message that you are united in this decision, and it shows your child that you are still working together as a team, even though you are getting a divorce. It will be easier for your child to accept the news if they see that their parents are on the same page.
Prepare for Questions
Your child is likely to have a lot of questions after you explain the situation to them. They may want to know why you are getting a divorce, what will happen to the family home, and where they will live. It is important to be prepared to answer these questions in an age-appropriate manner. Remember, you do not need to go into detail about the reasons for the divorce. You can simply tell your child that sometimes grown-ups fall out of love and that you are no longer able to stay married.
Common questions a child may ask about divorce:
- Why are you getting a divorce?
- How will this affect me?
- Where will I live?
- What about holidays and special occasions?
- Who will I spend more time with?
- What about my friends and activities?
- Will I have to change schools?
- Will you ever get back together?
Reassure Your Child
One of the most important things you can do when talking to your child about divorce is to reassure them that they are not to blame. It is also important to reassure them that both parents still love them and that the divorce will not change that. Finally, reassure your child that they will still have a family, even though it may look different after the divorce.
Explain What Divorce Means
Children, especially younger ones, may not even know what divorce means, or they may have fears and notions about what it is that aren’t true. When talking to your child about divorce, explain what the word means and help them understand the concept. You can explain that when two people get a divorce, it means that they are no longer married. You can also explain that even though the parents are getting a divorce, they will still be the child’s mom and dad.
It is important to be supportive of your child during this difficult time. This means being available as much as possible to answer their questions, listening to their concerns, and providing comfort and reassurance. It is also important to encourage your child to express their emotions and to let them know it is okay to feel sad, scared, or angry.
Give Them Time and Space to Grieve
It is important to give your child the amount of time and space they need to grieve the loss of their family as they knew it. Parents who finalized the decision to divorce have had their own time to process the information and start grieving. However, the experience for children is entirely different. It can be a complete shock, and they may need some time to adjust. It is important to be patient and allow them to go through the grieving process in their own time.
Allow Them to Consult With a Professional
In some cases, it may be beneficial for your child to talk with a professional about their feelings surrounding the divorce. This is especially true if they are having difficulty coping. A professional can help your child to understand and process their emotions and to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Encourage Normal Day-to-Day Activities
It’s a good idea to encourage your child to participate in their usual day-to-day activities. This may include going to school, participating in extracurricular activities, and spending time with friends and family. This can help your child to feel a sense of normalcy during a time of upheaval. It can be understandable that your own personal grief might tempt you to pull back from some activities but try to ensure your child has proof that other aspects of their life will go on as normal.
It can be difficult to know how to talk to your children about divorce. However, you should be honest, supportive, and age-appropriate when having these conversations. By following these tips, you can help your child to understand and cope with the divorce.
Legal Help for Your Divorce
If you are entering a divorce and need legal assistance, contact a St. Louis, MO, divorce lawyer today. The value of working with an attorney during a divorce cannot be overstated. Your lawyer will treat you and your family with compassion while also aggressively representing your interests both in and out of court. Schedule a consultation today to discuss your case and learn more about how a lawyer can help.