Divorce is a difficult time for families, and every family member deals with it differently. Many parents dread the divorce talk with their children, no matter what their children's age may be. Divorce is especially scary for younger children because of two reasons: change and loss. Children are concerned with how a divorce will change their lives. “Where will I sleep?”, “when will I see Mom/Dad?”, and “how will I get to school?” are some of the many questions that they may be thinking. If one parent is moving out, the child may feel a sense of loss and uncertainty. Jaclyn Wolfson, our Licensed Clinical Social Worker, supports children and families throughout the process. Some strategies to consider before discussing divorce are identified in the following paragraphs.
Although there may not be a right time to have the divorce talk, there are some things to consider before doing so. Divorce is a difficult concept for a young child to grasp, so attempt to make things less complicated by avoiding discussion of optional divorce or separations. Plan on having the conversation once a change is in fact happening. On the day of the talk, allow for an optimal amount of time to explain the divorce and next steps, answer questions, and give lots of love.
In the best case scenario, breaking the news to your children should be done together. Be sure to rehearse the conversation beforehand in order to compromise on a single story. It will confuse your children if each parent tells their side of the story, so keep it to one simple explanation. After the talk, be cognizant of what you say around your children about your partner. Remember, your spouse is still their parent, and in most cases, a huge role model in their life.
Depending on the age of your child, the content will vary. For preschoolers, keep it simple. Only disclose the information that is relevant to your child, leaving out the finances, legal issues, and specific reasons for the split. Reinsure your child that nothing they have done is the reason for the split. Explain that the child will still see both parents but it will be a little different. An example of telling your children can go as follows, “Mommy and daddy are going to move into two separate homes. You will spend time at both Mommy and Daddy’s houses. It is nothing you have done and we both love you so very much”.
You may need to repeat the conversation a couple times for your child to fully understand. Allow your child to ask questions and share their concerns. Continue to show love and consistency throughout the entire process. For assistance before or after the divorce talk, contact Lumiere Children’s therapy for a session with our licensed clinical worker, Jaclyn Wolfson.
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"How to Tell Your Child You're Getting Divorced." BabyCenter. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2016.
"Kids Coping with Divorce." WebMD. ©2005-2016 WebMD, LLC, n.d. Web. 18 May 2016.