How to talk to kids about your divorce
Talking to children about a divorce is never easy for parents and should be done maturely and in an age-appropriate way.
For spouses, a divorce can be heart-wrenching and difficult to process. For children, it can be just as much so if not more. Like their parents, kids have to let go of what they believed to be true for today or their potential futures. They also have limited resources to understand the full scope of the situation given their lack of maturity relative to adults.
Helping children process a divorce and the resulting realities of their new everyday lives is a big job for parents. Psychology Today suggests that breaking the news about divorce to kids for the first time is best done with all children together with parents answering questions as honestly as possible and with no blame associated to either spouse.
Have age-appropriate conversations
One of the challenges for parents can be learning what to say and what not to say to children based upon their ages. This can be even harder when there are multiple siblings spanning a wide range of ages and developmental stages. Understanding how different age groups can view things gives a window into how to address kids at these points. Today's Parent gives some insight into this.
- Because preschoolers cannot always identify the difference between reality and fantasy and they have limited ability to articulate feelings, a less-is-more approach can work well here. Parents should keep facts and details to a minimum and focus on what will impact kids the most. This includes where they will be when and which parent will be with them for what things. Maintaining routines as much as possible is critical for these youngsters.
- With school-aged kids, parents can be more direct about some of the changes that will take place and discuss sadness or other feelings in some detail. Again, routines and structure will be essential means of maintaining stability for children at these ages.
- Tweens and early teens will certainly have the ability to understand more and to talk more, although they may not always be as openly willing to talk. A less-direct approach can be useful such as talking about how some people feel certain things at this time versus asking if they feel something. Also, these kids are more likely to assign blame to one parent or even to themselves and even to feel guilty for the divorce. Despite resistance to talking, parents should remain engaged and continually make sure kids know they are there for them.
Despite age differences, all kids want and need to know they are loved by both parents. They also need to feel an ongoing presence and relationship with both parents during and after a divorce.
Keeping it going
The Huffington Post points out that open communication between a child and both parents after a divorce is final is the ideal model for healthy relationships. This breeds security and trust in children and Arizona parents are encouraged to facilitate this despite their own personal feelings toward the other parent.
Because of the complexities involved in a divorce, it is important to work with an attorney from the outset. This can help spouses get the right support so that they can still manage other parts of their lives during a divorce.