Wondering what to tell your kids about your divorce? Divorce can be confusing, stressful, and sad for your children regardless of their age. Whether they are teenagers or toddlers, there is a strong likelihood that they will feel upset, angry, or fearful at the thought of their parents splitting up. As a parent and an adult, your stable, responsible behavior and positive, reassuring words can help to make the separation and divorce process less painful for your kids. There are no guarantees that this period of time will be smooth sailing, but by following these suggestions, you’ll help yourself and your children navigate the challenges that are likely to arise.
1. How do I tell my children we’re getting a divorce?
Children of all ages will benefit from an honest—but age-appropriate—explanation. Be up-front and tell the truth in a thoughtful, empathetic way. Older children and teenagers may have many questions and will want a more detailed explanation. Very young children may become confused with too much information, so as you tell your kids about your divorce, explanations may need to be shorter and simpler if your children are young. Regardless, reinforcing to your children that both parents will continue to love them is essential. Children want and need to know that they will be loved by both parents in order to feel secure and cared for.
2. Interactions with my spouse are very challenging right now. How do I handle this with my kids?
Experiencing a rocky road with your ex-spouse can be a challenge. But when it comes to your children, it’s essential that you put aside critical thoughts and words. Your children love and need both of their parents, regardless of the current tensions or hurt feelings between the two of you. Show restraint and avoid the “blame game” at all cost. When you tell your kids about your divorce, take the time to plan out your talks with the children, and as much as possible present a united-front when giving the explanation for your divorce.
3. My children have so many questions about why we are getting a divorce. How much should I tell them?
When you tell your kids about your divorce, you will need to give careful consideration to how you present information about the reasons for your divorce and how everyone’s lives will change as a result. Be sure to share information about how living situations, school, and activities may change and allow the children to voice their concerns and questions. Remember that it’s OK to say “I don’t know right now” or “I’d like some time to think about that question” if you are uncertain of how to answer questions your children may pose – just be sure to provide an answer in a reasonable amount of time.
4. I’m worried that my children aren’t telling me how they feel about our divorce. How can I help them confide in me and express their feelings?
The best way to support your children express their emotions and adjust to the new routines that a divorce will bring is by acknowledging their feelings. To do this, you really listen to what they are saying. If a child is hesitant to say anything, or appears distant, don’t give up. Help them find the words or provide them with alternate ways to convey their feelings (drawing, painting, dance…) that you can then talk about. Encourage honesty, and let them know that what they have to say is OK. Admit to your child that while you might not be able to make their sadness about the divorce go away, you do care about their feelings and want to understand them.
5. I’m afraid my children think the divorce is their fault. What can I do to show them that isn’t true?
Many children believe that it is their actions or behaviors at school or home that caused their parents to divorce. It is important to clear up this misconception early, and reinforce it frequently during your discussions with all of your children. Repeat your reasons for the divorce and reassure them that both parents will continue to love and care for them regardless.
Parental separation and divorce can create strong emotions in children, and as the adult it’s important to remember that it is normal for them to feel anger or resentment, anxiety about the future, and sadness about the changes in family life. With time, and your help, kids will work through their feelings and their outlook should improve gradually. However, if behaviors worsen rather than improve, it could be a sign that your child is struggling with a deeper form of anxiety or depression. Some symptoms to watch for include frequent or violent outbursts, pervasive sleep problems, using drugs or alcohol, withdrawing from family and friends and experiencing academic or behavioral problems at school. These warning signs should be discussed with your child’s teachers, doctor, or a Marriage and Family Therapist so that you and your child can learn the strategies to cope with divorce and return to a path of good-health and happiness.
Are you looking for post-divorce legal help or unbundled legal services in Fort Collins and the surrounding areas? Contact Laura Monty Law today.