divorce can take a tremendous toll on young children. By taking the time to explain
the situation and encouraging open communication, parents can help to
ease the emotional burden placed on their kids. While making the decision
to speak to a child about divorce can be difficult in itself, it often
leaves parents with another question; how?
Age Plays a Crucial Factor
How you speak to your child can depend on their age as well as their mental
development. As children get older, they are able to process more complex
ideas and may learn how to mask their feelings. Understanding your child’s
development can make a vital difference in how you tailor your message.
Typically, younger children respond better to simple concrete ideas that
provide reassurance on how the divorce will affect them specifically.
Multiple conversations with younger children may be required before they
begin to grasp the situation.
How Does Your Child React?
Once you breach the subject of divorce, be on the lookout for any signs
that your child is attempting to process the information. Children may
not always understand their feelings or know how to express themselves.
Emotions can manifest through redirected anger or frustration. Other times,
children may attempt to carry on as if nothing has changed.
If you feel as though a child is attempting to avoid the issue altogether,
an indirect approach may help. For example, mentioning that children often
have questions, rather than asking your child directly if they have questions
may help kids to open up.
While speaking to children about divorce, be sure to reinforce the notions that:
The divorce is not their fault: One of the most important points to express is that nothing the child has
done led to the divorce. They are not and should not feel responsible
for the changes that are happening.
It is okay to feel sad, frustrated, and anxious: Each child will interpret and react to divorce in a different way. Some
children act out while others may become withdrawn. Whatever they are
feeling, it is okay to be sad and it is okay to reach out for help.
Many families go through a divorce: Factors which set children apart from other kids can often be interpreted
negatively. Emphasize that a divorce does not make them different from
Both parents will still be an active part of their life: Children are understandably concerned with how upcoming changes will affect
them. A divorce does not mean that they will “lose” either parent.
Conflict and disagreement are inherent parts of any divorce and it can
be difficult for spouses to contain emotions such as anger and frustration.
Do not redirect these feelings or vent to children. Even if you feel as
though your spouse’s specific actions led to a divorce, do not say
that to a child. Badmouthing your spouse or painting one parent as the
“bad guy” can hurt their parent-child relationship and hinder
your child’s emotional development.
Legal Help for Divorcing Parents
There is no universal strategy for speaking to kids about divorce and if
your marriage has begun to break down, the right legal guidance can be
invaluable. At the Moodie Law Firm, we understand the emotional and legal
issues that divorcing parents must overcome and have substantial experience
helping families to find the most appropriate solutions. If you have questions
about divorce, child custody, or visitation, do not hesitate to contact our
Denver family law attorney.
Call (303) 578-3940 or
request a consultation online to learn about your family’s options.