Talking To Your Child About Divorce
You might already know that divorce statistic rates are increasing, but did you know that divorce and separation rates have increased significantly since 2020 as the worldwide pandemic piled more pressure on relationships? As a result, couples found themselves pushed to re-evaluate their futures together; the end result being a shared decision that divorce is necessary.
Talking about divorce or separation is not always easy, so how do you navigate the process, especially if you share children?
When you are confident that you are deciding to separate, it is time to speak to your children about what will happen and that you will be living apart. If possible, have both parents there as you break the news. Although there may be negative emotions between the two of you, leaving them out of this conversation is essential. This is not the place and time to place blame or make accusations. If one party is hostile, it may be better to do this with one calm parent who can respond to the child’s needs.
Take into account the age of your children and how you feel they may respond to the news. Make it clear that this is not the child’s fault, and they are in no way to blame. Be reassuring that the family dynamic may be changing, but they are still loved and important to both parents.
You can explain that sometimes adult relationships can change and that they no longer want to live together, but that relationship is forever as a parent. Parents and children don’t stop loving each other.
Keep it as simple as possible and give the information needed to understand what will happen next. They may specifically ask questions about where they will live and if they will still see their friends or go to the same school. Be as truthful as you can when answering questions and reassure them what will and won’t change. Older children may be more aware of issues within the relationship. Once again, however, it is important not to share all of the reasons behind the breakdown of the relationship or blame each other - divorcing parents and separating families are enough for your children to manage already.
If you have children of a similar age, it may be better to break the news simultaneously to each child; if you have older children, you might find telling your older child first will allow them to ask more detailed questions. However, be mindful of giving too much information at this point.
You may have to deal with big emotions as your family processes the information and adjusts to the new routines and living arrangements. If you think it will help, let your child know that you are still working things out and are getting used to the changes. Allow your child to vent anger, frustration and sadness, reassure them that they are loved and how they feel is normal.
When living in separate households, the following guidelines may help:
- Be polite and positive about the other parent.
- Agree upon some guidelines about rules.
- Avoid conflict in front of your children.
- Maintain structure in your children’s daily routine.
- Listen to what your kids are saying.
- Be compassionate and supportive.
Divorce is so often difficult for families, and it is vital that those within the family are capable of handling it as best as they can. If you or your children struggle to cope with divorce or separation, you can seek further professional support for your family.