How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Divorce?
Every year, thousands of children experience the stressful effects of divorce for the first time. How they react depends not only on their age and personality, but also on how their parents choose to present the news of their divorce to their children.
A recent study funded by the British Economic and Social Research Council reports that children’s’ long-term mental health may be affected by their parent’s divorce. The study noted that many people carry negative effects of divorce into their thirties.
As a parent, you can make the divorce process less painful, thus minimizing the negative effects it may have on your children’s future. The first step in telling your kids about the divorce is preparation. Planning what to tell your kids ahead of time can make their questions easier to answer and help alleviate your own anxieties so you can be calm and empathetic.
Plan to tell your kids the truth about the reasons for the divorce while taking into account the age of each child and what they can understand. Sharing personal information about extra-marital affairs is generally never a good idea — better to explain that Mom and Dad have grown apart over the years and do not still share the same interests.
Divorce can be a very difficult and trying process. It is natural to reach out to seek help and empathy from those around you. But be careful — it is very important that your children are not put in the position of having to choose between parents. Try to avoid blaming and, preferably, present a united front when explaining the divorce.
For kids, divorce can feel like a loss of a parent, home and life as they know it. It is very important, however obvious, to make certain that kids understand that while you may no longer get along with your spouse, you will never stop loving your children and will always be there for them as parents.
Some children may blame themselves for the divorce. It is important to clear up any such misconceptions by reinforcing to your children the reasons for the divorce and how you still love them.
Lastly it is important to know when to seek help. Not all children cope with divorce in the same way. Some may need professional help to understand and deal with their feelings.
Be sure to consult with an experienced divorce and family law attorney to help coach you through the many challenges of divorce.