Divorce is a difficult, challenging time for everyone involved. It’s tough on kids. But with the proper support and information, kids can process this news in healthy ways. They can even emerge stronger as individuals and as a family.
How you explain divorce to your kids will have an impact on them for the rest of their lives. You must take care in choosing how and when to share this news so they understand it and know both parents still love them.
This guide will help you navigate explaining divorce to your children in a way they will understand. Let’s get started!
Timing is Everything
You must be very careful when you tell your kids about the divorce. If you tell them too soon, they might feel like they are being caught in the crossfire. If you tell them too late, they might start forming false conclusions that may be more harmful in the long run. Ideally, you want to tell kids about the divorce when everyone is at their best and emotions have cooled down. This might sound like terrible advice, but there are two reasons this is important. First, divorcing parents may use their child as a way to get at the other parent. Let’s say you are angry with your spouse, and you want to get back at them. A way to do so is to make a lot of drama around what’s going on with the divorce. Your child will likely pick up on this and feel like they are trapped in the middle of a battle.
The last thing you want is your kids to feel like they are caught in a crossfire. Your best option is to wait until everyone is at their best. The other reason is that your child needs time to process the divorce and adjust to the idea. If you tell them too soon, they may not be ready to process it, and their emotions may get the best of them. If you tell them too late, they may already have formed false conclusions about what’s happening. Ideally, you want to give your children time to adjust to the idea and then tell them when they seem ready to process the divorce.
Make Children Feel Safe
You need to make your child feel safe during this time of transition and uncertainty. One way to do this is to let your child know that they don’t have to choose a side. You want to avoid putting your child in the middle of a battle between their parents. Ideally, talk with your spouse to come up with ways to minimize the drama and let your child know they don’t have to choose a side. This can include making sure that things like the child’s schedule, transportation, and activities are kept separate from the divorce so your child doesn’t get caught in the crossfire. You can also help your child process their feelings by letting them know that emotions may be all over the place as they process what’s happening. Let them know that it’s completely normal to feel a range of emotions. Let them know that it’s ok to cry about their feelings. However, you may want to let your child know that there are appropriate ways to express their emotions. While it’s ok to cry, you want to avoid letting your child use destructive ways to express their feelings, such as self-harm or harming others.
Start with the Basics
You can start with the simple things and then move on to more detailed explanations as your child is ready to hear them. Let your child know that you two are not getting a divorce because they did something wrong. You want to let them know that neither of you did anything wrong. It’s just something that sometimes happens when two people who love each other get married. Let your child know you are both still loved and will always be their parent. Let them know that nothing about their relationship with you will change. Let them know that both of you will continue to live in the same house and and no big changes will happen regarding their daily routine and living situation. You can let your kids know that you plan on keeping everything as usual for them as possible during this time.
Let Children Ask Questions
Once you’ve laid the groundwork, let your child know that they can ask any questions they have or have any concerns or fears. Let them know that no question or concern is too small. Let them know that they can ask you anything at any time. You want your child to feel comfortable giving you any questions they have or concerns they have. You want them to know that they can talk to you about anything. even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. Let them know that you want to be a resource for them. You want to be someone they can come to with any questions or concerns they have. And that will help them feel secure.
Be Honest and Direct
Whatever you do, don’t lie to your child. They will almost certainly find out the truth eventually. This will only make them feel deceived and may lead them to distrust you in the future. Instead, be honest and direct about the situation. Let your child know that divorce is a challenging but natural part of life. Let them know that it happens a lot, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Explain to your child that divorce happens when two people who love each other decide to end the marriage. Let your child know that this doesn’t mean they did anything wrong. It just means that two people fell in love and then realized that they aren’t right for each other anymore. Let your child know that divorces happen for a variety of reasons. You can tell them that sometimes people get divorced because one or both spouses are unhappy or feel trapped.
Don’t blame the other parent
You don’t want to place blame on either parent for the divorce. Let your child know that you don’t have any ill will toward the other parent. Let your child know that you didn’t divorce them but instead divorced their other parent. Let your child know that no one did anything wrong, and both of you just realized that you are better off apart. You want to let your child know that you and the other parent tried to make the marriage work, but you realized that you were both happier apart. Let your child know that you both tried your best but realized you were happier apart. Ideally, you want to divorce with as much kindness and grace as possible.
The Bottom Line
Divorce can be a scary and confusing experience for both children and parents alike. While this is certainly a difficult situation, it’s important to remember that most children will likely be able to process this news in a healthy manner. However, parents need to take care in choosing how and when to share this news, so kids understand it and know both parents still love them.