Discussing your Divorce With Your Kids

By Staff Writer

When to tell your children about the divorce is one of the first questions parents thinking about, or in the midst of a divorce, ask. Parents should realize that, you are not the only one hurting as a result of this change in your life. Divorce is an equally stressful and painful period for children. Special steps should be taken to help your children through the divorce process and insulate them from the many adult issues that will develop.

When and how to tell your children about the divorce will depend, largely, on the age and maturity of your children and your individual family dynamics. There is no shame in seeking professional help in guiding you through this process. If possible, you should discuss with a mental health professional how best to inform your children about the divorce.

It is widely recognized that, when informing your children about the divorce, you should do so calmly and rationally. You do not want to first mention the divorce while in the heat of anger or while engaging in a diatribe about your ex and your perceptions of his or her failings as a spouse, human being or parent. Before engaging in the conversation with your children, you should also speak with your spouse to try and reach a joint decision on how, when and what will be said to the children. Conflicting messages and statements to the children from both of you will only confuse them. If possible, you may also want to consider having this discussion with the children with your estranged spouse. If, however, you believe that such an approach will only give rise to conflict between you and your ex, you should break the news to the children individually.

At the time you inform your children about the divorce, you should also try and have many of the details surrounding your new living arrangements worked out. Your children will likely have many questions, such as, where everyone will be living, how often they will be seeing and what days and nights they will be spending with each parent. Having answers to these questions will help reassure your children.

Your children will likely want to know why you are getting a divorce. While you should be as honest as possible, you will want to avoid sharing adult information and sordid details with your children. Remember, your children love both parents. Bad-mouthing, denigrating or blaming the other parent will only confuse and hurt your children, who should not be treated as allies or confidants in your divorce.

You should be prepared for a variety of reactions from your children. All children react differently. Some children will simply not be able to comprehend the implications of a divorce while others will blame themselves or the parent he or she believes is at fault. You should be particularly attentive to your children during this difficult stage of your life. Offer them plenty of attention, love and guidance. If you begin to notice behavioral changes or other signs that they are not handling the divorce well, obtain professional help. Divorce is a major life change, not only for the adults involved, but also for the children.