I’m going to address two frequent questions about children and divorce in this blog.
How to tell your child about the divorce?
Telling children about an upcoming divorce is difficult and awkward for most parents. Prepare what you are going to say. Pick your words carefully. Practice it in your head and out loud.
Talk to your children openly and honestly, but in a kid-friendly way. Tell the truth. Your child is entitled to know why you are getting divorced, but keep it simple without long-winded explanations. Again, keep it all kid-friendly.
Make sure your children know that the divorce is not their fault. Nothing they did led to the split. This is important since children have a tendency to blame themselves for a divorce.
Tell your child “I love you” over and over again.
Tell your children that you will try to keep their daily routine the same. Address any changes that may be coming. Let them know that you both together can deal with the changes. Let them know that you are in charge and you are looking out for them. Comfort them. Reassure them. Be specific and concrete.
It is ideal if both parents can have the initial conversation with your child. But that is not always possible. Often it is not possible.
Present a united front to your child. As much as possible, you and your spouse should present the same explanations to your child. Otherwise, it may be confusing and less comforting.
Avoid blaming. Do not blame your spouse for the divorce. Do not create loyalty splits. Do not try to elicit an alliance from your child.
Be respectful to your spouse when explaining the divorce to your child. No negative or critical comments about your spouse.
How to help your child mourn the loss of the intact family?
Encourage your child to talk and to express feelings. Help your child find the right words for feelings. Drawings are a good way to get a child to express feelings and concerns.
Listen to your child. And communicate back what you hear so that your child feels heard and understood. Feeling heard is so crucial for children.
Encourage your child to be honest. Children can sometimes be reluctant to share their true feelings for fear of hurting you. Tell your child that all feelings are OK, even angry and hurtful ones.
Let your child know that talking about the divorce will be a frequent, ongoing process. You may have to discuss things over and over again. It’s not a one-time talk, it’s a process.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings at every step. You may not be able to fix their sadness or unhappiness but you can validate their feelings so that they feel understood. Do not be dismissive of their feelings.
Be reassuring and let your children know that both parents love them and will always be available for them. Do not blame your ex.
Tell your kids that everything will be OK.
Give your children hugs, pats, and kisses to reassure them. Physical closeness is important.
Be patient with your children. Grieving is a major phenomenon in their lives. It takes time; it will not happen overnight. Children have to figure out that their new family life is OK. They have to figure out that they are stable and safe and protected.
What not to do with your child.
Be honest with your child but do NOT talk to him/her in adult language.
Do NOT put your children in the middle of issues or conflict with your ex.
Do NOT treat your child as an adult. Do NOT make your child your best friend.
Do NOT talk to your child about legal or court matters. They are adult matters.
Do NOT say negative things to your child about the other parent.
Do NOT encourage your child to feel distant or estranged from the other parent.