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How to Talk to Your Kids about Divorce

  • Aug 04, 2018
  • The Harr Law Firm

One of the most difficult aspects of your divorce is helping your child get through it. There will be many conversations that involve difficult-to-answer questions, anger, frustration, and sadness, regardless of how old your child is. Fortunately, your family can get through this as long as you remain open and available to your kids. Here are a few tips on how to talk about the separation.

Prepare a Consistent Explanation

It’s important for both parents to provide a consistent explanation to their offspring. If your child hears one story from one parent and a completely different version from the other parent, they’ll have to pick whom to believe. Depending on your child’s age and maturity, you may have to keep your explanation very simple. It may be enough to say that you don’t want to live together anymore.

As your child gets older, they may ask you on separate occasions why the marriage didn’t work out. It’s okay to expand your explanation. After all, it may help them not to make the same mistakes in their own lives.

Answer Their Questions

Your children will have lots of questions. Some will have to do with the why’s of the separation. It can be tough for a child when their parents separate, and a part of them will probably always wish for your reconciliation. It’s important not to encourage any illusions about this and answer their questions as well as you can.

The child needs to know that their parents are not getting back together. Your child will need to know where they’ll live, when they’ll see the noncustodial parent, who will take them to school, and how you will celebrate the holidays as a divorced family. It’s natural they won’t think of all the questions right away, so be patient with them.

Reassure Them

There are different reasons for getting divorced, but while child rearing can cause disagreements between parents, the children themselves are never the real reason for the divorce. You know that and the other parent knows that, too. It’s important that your child understands this as well. Otherwise, they may blame themselves.

You must take time to reassure your child that they’re still loved the same as before by both their parents. While it’s okay to tell them you love them, you should also show them in other ways. That includes physical touch, such as hugs, kisses, and pats on the back, doing something nice for them, and spending time with them. Gifts can also be appropriate, but don’t overuse them as they may be perceived as bribery.

Don’t Badmouth the Other Parent

It can be tempting, but you should steer clear of badmouthing the other parent at all costs. Everyone is flawed, and you’re welcome to vent to your friends about your ex. However, your child loves you both and doesn’t want you to criticize each other in front of him. Your child also shares genetic makeup with the other parent. Therefore, a verbal attack on one of the parents can feel very personal to them.

If you catch yourself in the act of talking bad about the other parent, take a deep breath and apologize. It’s okay to feel frustrated with the situation, especially if the other parent fails to fulfill their parental duties. However, your child will handle the divorce better if you can keep the conflict to a minimum and act civil around the other parent and avoid badmouthing them as much as possible.

Be Prepared to Revisit the Discussion

You’ve probably had more time to come to grips with the situation than your child. You didn’t just plan to get divorced overnight, but you may not have mentioned it to your child until the decision became final. It will take them time to get used to the idea, which is why you can’t expect to only have one discussion on the topic. It’s important to remain open and be willing to answer questions about the divorce when your child is ready to revisit the discussion. It may be a good idea to talk to a therapist if you or your child needs adjusting to the new circumstances.

When it comes to filing for divorce, our team of attorneys is ready to help you with the legal side. At The Harr Law Firm, we’ll handle all the details for you, including custody, alimony, and child support. Give us a call or use our contact form to get in touch!