If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, it can be difficult to know how to talk to your children about this change. However, researchers believe that talking to children about divorce is extremely beneficial to them. Divorce is a confusing time and open conversations can help children make better sense of what is going on in their family. If you are in need of advice on how to approach the topic of divorce with your children, try using these tips to make the conversation go more smoothly.
Approach Divorce Discussions as a Team
Child development experts suggest that when you sit down to talk to your children about your divorce that you and your spouse tell your kids together. Even if one parent does most of the talking, it is important that you display a united front. It is also crucial to emphasize that your love for your children hasn’t changed despite the fact that you will be divorcing.
Ensure That Your Conversations Are Age Appropriate
It is important to cater discussions about divorce to make them age appropriate. Your five-year old will likely accept a basic explanation without asking for details, but your pre-teens will want more information. Keep the following age appropriate tips in mind when helping your children to handle and cope with a divorce:
- Toddlers and younger children need consistent nurturing and care in order to achieve a sense of stability. Make sure that your tot’s life is anchored with normal routines.
- Preschoolers will require simple and concrete explanations, including basics about where he will live, which parent is moving out, and how often he’ll see the other parent.
- School-aged children have a better ability to understand and talk about the circumstances related to a divorce. They will also be more likely to display their distress. Many children of this age also have fantasies about reconciliation. Introducing books about divorce may be useful in helping kids of this age to understand their feelings.
- Pre-teens and teens require more open conversation about what is going on so that emotional problems aren’t missed. Since kids in this age group can be more difficult to connect with than younger children, it is important that both parents work to maintain open and understanding relationships with them.
Don’t Place Blame
Even if you are going through a contentious divorce in which one parent was clearly at fault for the breakup of the marriage, it is important that you avoid sharing these details and placing blame. Details like substance abuse, mental health problems, and infidelity should be kept out of conversations with your children. Choose your words carefully, and be sure that you are using language that is neutral and blame-free. Your child will see himself as an extension of his parents, so blaming one parent will be taken as a put-down to your child.
Let Your Kids Know that It’s OK to Be Sad
Be sure to let your children know that you are available to answer questions and that it is perfectly okay to feel sad about the changes going on in their family. Let your children know that you also feel sad about the transition, but know the decision is what is best for your family life.
Most importantly, your children need to understand how much they are loved during the divorce process. Tell your child that both you and his other parent love him unconditionally, and while things might look different, that fact will never change. Make sure that your children understand that your love will never waiver and that you will all get through this difficult time.
If you are in need of additional information to aid you in your divorce, be sure to check out the following resources: