7 Tips for Talking to Kids About Divorce
Did you know that most children adjust to their parents getting divorced within 2 years in the United States?
The separation of a family can be difficult for a child to navigate. Often, divorce is a much better option than staying together.
If you and your partner are getting a divorce and you need to bring it up to the kids, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Keep reading to learn some of the best tips when it comes to talking to kids about divorce!
1. Honesty Is the Best Policy
One of the most important steps in talking to kids about divorce is, to be honest.
Children live in the homes of their parents, they hear and see all of the disagreements and often aren’t shocked by the news. No matter what your situation is, you need to be honest with your children so that you don’t mislead them. It’s common for parents to smooth things over and kids think that their parents will get back together, only to be let down.
This doesn’t mean that you need to go into all of the details and inappropriate information, however. Make sure that the information you tell the kids will be comprehended by them and be as transparent as possible.
2. Listen to Your Child
If you are planning on telling kids about divorce, you need to listen to them.
Whether they are panicking, shocked, or angry, listen to what your child has to say. Even in moments of outbursts, you can learn what the root of the problem is for your child. Listening to them will also help make them feel heard instead of alone and confused.
Try not to interrupt kids when they are working through their emotions. Some people recommend using an emotion chart or wheel to help kids learn about and understand what they are feeling. Putting words to the emotions can often help them work through the changes.
3. Be Neutral
No matter who (if anyone) is to blame for the divorce, you should always remain neutral.
Making your child “pick a side” during the divorce can damage their relationships and mental health. You and your ex-partner must stay neutral and focus on your children instead of your relationship. If you disagree, wait to discuss it— calmly when the kids aren’t around.
It’s easy for children to misunderstand venting and take it personally. If you are getting overwhelmed and unable to manage your emotions during the conversation, it’s okay to step away. You can ask for a moment and return to the conversation once you are unbiased.
4. Take Responsibility
The day that you and your partner said “I do,” you made a vow to each other.
Children see this commitment and sometimes take the blame for their parents getting divorced. This is rarely the case, which is why you need to take responsibility when you can. Don’t try to blame everything on your partner or the conditions, just explain the truth to them and apologize for the role that you’ve played.
There is always something that could’ve been but at the end of the day, the only two people to blame are you and your ex-partner.
5. Tell Them Your Plan
When parents get divorced, they must work together and create a plan.
Divorce leads to a lot of uncertainty for children, so the more answers that you’re prepared for, the more confident they will feel. If the living arrangements or schooling is going to change for your child, let them know as soon as possible.
If you don’t have a plan yet, you should contact an uncontested divorce lawyer immediately. A lawyer can help you determine the next steps and ensure that you and the kids are taken care of.
Working as a team will show your child that they are the most important thing. You shouldn’t put anything about your divorce before the children.
6. Let Them Ask Questions
As mentioned above, divorce means uncertainty for children, so they might have a few questions when you talk to them.
Give your children the chance and safe space to ask questions so that they understand what is going on. If you don’t have the answer to a question they have, let them write it on a piece of paper. When you solve the problem, you can return to the question and provide reassurance.
7. Be Patient
Kids experience many emotions and they can’t understand all of them yet.
Giving your child time to process the news of the divorce is crucial. Telling them the info at the last minute or giving them no time to process could result in behavioral problems and other issues. No time is too long for children to grieve the split of their parents, so don’t pressure them to “get over it” either.
Support your child and focus on them so that they can process everything in their own time.
Are You Worried About Talking to Kids About Divorce?
If you are worried about talking to kids about divorce, you need to take a step back.
Children have lived through the relationship, so being honest and open is essential. You must give your child time to adapt to the news and ask questions, they might even want to discuss their feelings. Don’t be afraid to work with your soon-to-be ex-partner and come up with a plan.
Your discussion about divorce should never place blame on anyone, especially your child.
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