Talking to Kids About Divorce
How you talk to your kids about divorce can make all the difference. Sometimes, especially with younger children, you don’t even need to use the word “divorce.” A brief and simple explanation of what changes might be happening is a great start.
For example, “Daddy will be moving to another house soon,” or “Mommy will be spending a few night staying with her sister,” would be appropriate.
More questions might arise from the kids at this point, and then it is best to let them guide the conversation from here. “Is it because you and daddy have been fighting?” might be the next question, to which mom might answer, “So you have noticed that mommy and daddy have been fighting a lot lately?”
If ever this emerging dialogue gets uncomfortable, or you are uncertain of how to answer something, never be afraid to take a “parent time out.” This means that you can respond to a difficult question by saying, “You know honey, I’m not entirely sure how to answer that question. It’s complicated and I want to explain it to you in a way that is clear and truthful and that you’ll understand. Can I take a little bit to think about this and talk to you about it later tonight?”
Perhaps most importantly, consider TIMING when you talk to your kids about divorce. Never choose right before bed (when anxiety or thoughts and worries might keep them awake), when a child is hungry or grouchy, during a time that might ruin something special (like a friend’s birthday party or soccer game later that afternoon), or when there is a time constraint that might not allow for a leisurely discussion or follow up questions.
Written by: Dr. Lisa Rene Reynolds
About the Author:
The author is an assistant professor of marriage and family therapy in the Master’s program at Iona College in New York. She is the author of many articles and books on divorce and parenting, including her most recent release, Parenting through Divorce: Helping Your Child Thrive During and After the Split, available in English, Polish, and Portuguese versions. www.drlisarenereynolds.com