How to Talk to Your Children About Divorce

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Divorce is one of the toughest topics that you will ever have to discuss with your child, and it gets tricky having a difficult conversation when you are also dealing with your own challenging emotions. However, children who are treated with honesty and respect when they learn about their parent’s divorce adjust faster and better to the new living arrangements. Before you start your conversation, make sure that you are calm and in an environment that fosters good communication. Then, use these strategies to help your child understand what to expect over the next several months.

Try to Work With the Other Parent
When it comes to your child, it’s best to set aside any grievances that you have with the other parent. Today, many divorced parents find that co-parenting benefits everyone. If possible, talk to your child’s other parent first to set up a time when you can all sit down together and talk about the divorce. Seeing you take a unified approach reassures your child that they are not losing either of their parents, even if you may live in different houses.

Avoid Using Negative Language
Divorce rarely happens when everything is going fine. Most likely, you have your own feelings about the situation, and they may not all be positive. However, your child will be paying attention to your words and body language to figure out how they are supposed to feel. Make sure to check any negative emotions at the door before you sit down with your child. While you don’t have to lie, you can leave out things that don’t contribute to a positive conversation such as the detailed reasons for your divorce.

Be Prepared For Surprising Reactions
Children react to divorce in a variety of ways, and you may be surprised at your child’s response. For instance, some children seem relieved or nonchalant when they have seen the divorce coming for a while. Alternatively, your child may be fearful or express anger. All of these emotions are completely normal. Just watch out for any negative emotions that linger since these could indicate that your child needs additional help to learn how to cope with the divorce.

Be Honest About What Will Change
Naturally, your child will worry about how their life will change. They may be scared that they might lose their friends or have to change schools. Reassure your child that while you are trying to keep their life as normal as possible, things will still change. If you already have a custody arrangement in place, then share it with them so that they are prepared for the time when the other parent moves out.

Encourage Open Communication
Adjusting to a divorce is a process that often involves many emotional changes along the way. For this reason, your conversation about divorce should not be a one-time event. Before you end your discussion, make sure that your child understands that they are welcome to come to you with their questions at any time. Working through new issues as they arise allows your family to continue to rebuild after the divorce.

Talking about divorce with your child is always easiest when you already have an understanding of how their life will change. Make sure to consult with your lawyer about what to expect as you proceed with the divorce. While nothing is set in stone until the divorce is finalized, having a plan in place helps you answer any questions that your child asks during your conversation.