Telling Your Children About Divorce
Divorce isn’t only stressful for the parents — it can have a tremendous emotional impact on your child. While a child’s emotional reactions can depend on their age and emotional development at the time of divorce, it’s not uncommon for a child to feel sadness, anger, anxiety, and a wide range of other emotions. Often, a child’s reaction is very different from that of their parents and it’s important to consider what you can do to help your child get through the divorce process.
Here are some parenting tips on how to tell your child about divorce:
Talk to Your Children Once You’re Certain of Your Plans to Divorce
As soon as you know divorce is imminent, talk to your child about your decision. Children pick up on everything — and in a divorce, they are likely to sense the tension their parents might be feeling. While there isn’t an easy way to break the news to them, both parents should be there when a child is told. Importantly, any feelings of anger, blame, or guilt should not be part of the conversation. While this can be a hard discussion to have with your children, you can make it less painful by handling it with sensitivity and not delaying it.
Tailor the Discussion to Your Child’s Age
How to tell your child about divorce can largely depend upon how old they are. Although you should provide them with honest information, it’s essential to speak with them in a way they can understand. For instance, while a five-year old would not be able to fully grasp the situation, a teenager might have many questions. Give your child the facts, the reassurance they need, and validate their feelings.
Prepare Your Children for Changes
Talk with your child about what will change after the divorce — let them know that certain things will be different so they are not taken by surprise. However, you should also emphasize what will not change. Reassure them that no matter what happens, both their parents love them and will always be there for them. Be sure to start an open and ongoing dialogue with your child to allow them the time to process their feelings.
Emphasize That No One is to Blame
It’s not uncommon for a child to blame themselves for their parents’ failed marriage. You must be clear that the divorce is due to issues that you and your spouse have with each other — and your child has nothing to do with them. Remind them that they are loved by both their parents and reassure them that they haven’t done anything wrong.
Don’t Speak Badly About Your Spouse to Your Child
When considering how to tell your child about divorce, you should never speak badly about your soon-to-be ex-spouse to your child. Rather, you should encourage them to have a positive relationship with their other parent. Making disparaging remarks about your spouse in front of your child can harm their relationship with both parents — and potentially impact your child custody case.
Make Sure Your Child Knows They Will Be Safe and Secure
Your child might wonder how the divorce will affect their everyday life. Make sure they know that they will be safe and secure. You should encourage your child to be honest about their emotions and offer them the support they need. Try to minimize the disruptions in their day-to-day life as much as possible and always keep their best interests at the forefront.
Give Your Children the Time They Need to Adjust
It may take some time for both you and your child to adjust to the change divorce can bring. After you’ve told your child that you and your spouse are parting ways, give them the time they need. Be reassuring, patient, and emotionally present as they go through the healing process. Try to keep your child’s routine the same during the divorce process to maintain the stability and security they need.
Be a Good Listener
Knowing how to tell your child about divorce also means being a good listener. You should encourage your child to share their thoughts and express their emotions. Let them know it’s ok to feel angry, sad, or upset. Sometimes, it is best to take a step back to listen to your child’s concerns without trying to change their feelings. This can allow them to feel heard and lets them know that their emotions are valid.
Contact an Experienced Missouri Divorce and Family Law Attorney
Divorce can be emotionally overwhelming for both you and your child. It’s vital to have knowledgeable counsel by your side who can help you navigate the legal process and take the burden off your shoulders. Divorce and family law attorney Mark A. Wortman provides compassionate representation to clients in the greater Kansas City, Missouri area for a broad scope of divorce and family law issues. To schedule a confidential consultation to learn how he can assist you with your case, please contact him today online or by calling (816) 523-6100.