Petroff Law Offices
Breaking The News Of Divorce To Children
Ending a marriage can be heartbreaking, and the news of divorce can devastate the children. Once you and your partner finally decide to go ahead with the divorce, talk to your kids about it and discuss the issue with them. It can never be easy; however, here’s how you can reduce the negative impact and make it as smooth as possible:
[ Read: Negative Effects Of Divorce On Children ]
Children might think that they are the reason for their parents’ divorce. Assure them that the divorce is not their fault
Choose the right time: Do not make the announcement in haste. Wait for the right time because you cannot simply walk into your children’s room and tell them that you have decided to get divorced. You do not have to tell them in the very early stages of separation but at the same time do not wait until everything is over.
Spend time to clear their doubts: Take time to counsel them on the reasons for divorce and reassure them. Clear their several doubts and confusion. Block a time in your day to talk to your kids.
Tell it together: It is better if the news is conveyed by both the parents. Both of you need to discuss and prepare about what you are planning to tell and how. You need to be positive in your approach instead of fearing the consequences.
Tell your child it’s not her fault: The absence of one of the parents in your child’s life is unfair. Children might think that they are the reason for their parent’s’ divorce. Give them repeated assurances that the divorce is not their fault and it has got nothing to do with them.
Avoid blame game: Keep aside any fights, arguments, accusations, and blames while talking to children as they can negatively affect their minds. Never blame your partner while talking to your kids. Remember that your partner is your children’s parent, and they would not want to listen to anything negative about their parents, especially in such a delicate situation.
Don’t go into details: Spare your children of the messy details; it’s not necessary for them to know all of it. For example, they don’t have to know about why you are separating if one of you is involved in an affair.
Keep it simple: You need to keep it simple for the kids, especially the younger ones. For them, the news may come as a shock. Get down to their level and make them understand instead of complicating or confusing them with details. Talk in a calm and neutral tone, probably on lines of, “Mommy and daddy have tried not to fight, but it’s not working, so we have decided to live in separate houses. But that will not change the way we love you; we will continue to love you no matter what.”
Talk according to your child’s age: You need to talk to your children in an age-appropriate manner. Here is a quick insight into that.
For kids below five years, probably you don’t have to explain much as they don’t have the ability to comprehend events and expect what’s in store for them in the future. They are at an age where they don’t understand the cause and effect scenarios. They do understand the feelings but can’t express them fully. If your kids are pre-schoolers, you need to watch out for warning signs such as anger, fear, or emotional imbalance. There could be some issues in their development such as losing their appetite or waking up several times in the night. You need to nurture your child with love and care to provide stability. Sticking to their normal routines is especially important for toddlers and pre-schoolers because they are dependent on the parents for everything.
Six to eight-year-olds have the ability to think, understand, and talk about feelings. However, they still can’t understand complex events such as divorce. Hence, you need to be open to their questions and clarify their doubts and love them consistently.
Nine to eleven-year-olds can understand, think and talk about feelings and circumstances. They have relationships outside such as friends and mentors, so you can plan the child’s time in such a way that they are kept occupied.
12 to 14-year-olds have greater ability to understand divorce. They may have friends whose parents are divorced. They may have an idea about separation and involve themselves in the discussions and ask questions. They want to be more independent and make other relationships outside family more important.
You need to keep an eye on your children on how they are behaving. Teenagers are generally moody, but you need to assess how much of it is due to divorce.
Be open in your communication so that you can connect to your teenage kid. There will be times when they want to be left alone but don’t stop talking to them just because they want to. Keep talking to them and show them that you care.
[ Read: What Is Co-Parenting ]
Regardless of the age, children have many questions that they are afraid to ask. Some questions will be immediate; others will arise over time. So, it is important to give children repeated opportunities to ask questions and express their worries. Most importantly the relationship of the child with the parents has to be strong and there has to be reduced exposure to parental conflicts.
Children are very adaptive to situations. But it’s your prerogative to make the process easy for them. So, prepare yourself on what to tell kids about divorce and how to tell them about your situation.
Reviewed by Ronald R. Petroff (Family Attorney)
Written by Kalpana M
June 9, 2020