How do I talk to my kids about divorce?
Every year in New Hampshire, thousands of kids experience the confusion and challenges associated with their parents filing for divorce. Divorces are, without fail, difficult and painful for children. But, if you talk to your kids in a sensitive, thoughtful, and age-appropriate way, and guide them through this transition, you have the chance to minimize the disruptive impact the divorce can have on their lives.
If you have teenage kids, please see the answer to the question above about talking to your teens about divorce. Below, however, are tips for talking to younger children about divorce or separation. As always, however, an attorney’s primary focus is helping guide you through the legal matters of the case, and it is advisable to seek professional guidance – such as a therapist or counselor to get help in talking to your kids.
How New Hampshire Moms and Dads Should Talk to Younger Kids about Divorce – Tip 1:
Once you’ve decided to go forward with the divorce, you should inform your children, particularly before there is a change to their lives – for example before one of you moves out. It’s good if both parents talk to the kids together – so that they know they are loved and supported by both of you. It’s also best to have the talk when you both are calm and your emotions are in check. You probably have some negative feelings about your spouse and perhaps about the divorce, but it’s important to keep these emotions in check.
How New Hampshire Moms and Dads Should Talk to Younger Kids about Divorce – Tip 2:
You need to reassure your children it’s not their fault that you’re getting divorced – that instead it’s something between mom and dad. Explain that sometimes adults change the way they feel about each other or sometimes they no longer agree on things, so they have to live in different homes. Be sure to tell them that just because mom and dad no longer have the same feelings for one another, they still have a family and you both will always love them.
How New Hampshire Moms and Dads Should Talk to Younger Kids about Divorce – Tip 3:
Your kids will likely have questions, and you should be prepared to answer them as honestly as you can. Many questions will be about their daily lives and routine – where everyone will live, whether they’ll get to see their friends, whether they’ll go to the same school, whether they’ll participate in the same activities, and where they’ll spend holidays. If you don’t have all the answers, let them know this and explain that you’ll tell them when the arrangements have been worked out.
How New Hampshire Moms and Dads Should Talk to Younger Kids about Divorce – Tip 4:
Be prepared for your kids’ reactions. You know their personalities and temperaments, so try to anticipate the different ways they may respond. Your kids may be sad, anxious, frightened, or angry – reassure them that you understand how they feel and that it’s normal to feel this way. Some kids may not react immediately, so make sure they know that you can talk about it whenever they’re ready.
How New Hampshire Moms and Dads Should Talk to Younger Kids about Divorce – Tip 5:
Seek outside guidance from friends and family members who may have also gone through a divorce. Or, consult a therapist to help you talk through your unique situation. Get an understanding of what issues tend to be most difficult and learn how to address the topic with your kids – while separating your own emotions from the conversation.