Talking to Your Children About Divorce
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We all know that getting a divorce is a terribly hard situation for the couples involved, but there's no doubt that divorce is even harder on the kids, which is why it’s important for parents to handle the situation correctly. What parents say to their children and what they do through the entire divorce process can make a world of difference.
Different Reactions From Different Children
Reactions to a divorce from the children depends a great deal on a child's age, their disposition, and the circumstances surrounding the ending of the marriage. It isn’t uncommon to see kids feeling scared and sad, while other kids become angry. It’s also quite common for children to act up and out because they have so many different feelings going on all at the same time. But parents can help. The first and most important thing that parents can do is to make sure there is as little tension as possible between the parents. As the whole family goes through the divorce, everyone needs to be patient, as each adjusts to the situation. Therefore, it’s crucial at this time that parents answer the children’s questions, respond honestly and pay attention to their children’s concerns. Even if the couple has been unhappy, children want the security of living with both parents. Very often they feel afraid about what’s going to happen to them. This is no time to make it worse by fighting with each other because fighting only adds to the stress the kids are already going through. If not handled well, the trauma of divorce can last for many years to come.
When to Tell Kids About Divorce
Don’t wait to talk to the kids about the divorce. Once you are clear on your plans to divorce, talk to your child about the upcoming decision to separate. It’s not going to be comfortable, so if you can, it’s good to have both parents together when you break the news to the children. You may be tempted to delay telling the children, but it’s usually best if you tell them right away. When you begin to address the situation, don’t blame each other or express feelings of anger towards each other, but instead try to explain why you are divorcing. Consider the age of the child and their ability to handle the situation, before speaking. Most important, make sure that the child understands that this has nothing to do with them. Explain to them that what’s going on is strictly between the parents. This is one point that you may have to repeat a number of times. If the kids are a little older, you might need to give more details. But, when you sit down to talk to the children, parents should already know what they’re going to tell the children. In other words, they should be in agreement.
Mourning the Loss of a Family is Natural
All of us want to have a stable, loving family and when that comes to an end, there’s going to be a period of mourning. When one parent moves out, the children are going to miss them being around. Expect that children will hope that parents change their minds and get back together. This is a painful process, so it’s going to take time for children to accept the divorce. Just keep letting them know that whatever they feel is okay and it’s okay if they wish that dad or mom comes home, but continue to explain that the decision to divorce is final. Whatever a child is feeling, try to help them express their feelings. Don’t discourage their strong emotions. It may be hard to hear, but it’s healthy for them if they can express the fears and feelings. Above all, don’t minimize their feelings. As a parent, you may want to fix the situation, but the only thing you can do, is continue to reassure them.
Listening to Your Child
No matter how many times a day you find yourself reassuring your child, be willing to hear and respond to the child’s fears. It doesn’t matter that you’ve already explained the situation to them a hundred times, because explaining doesn’t make the fear go away. Sometimes children have to express their fears repeatedly and in response you may have to explain the situation many, many times. Simply acknowledge their feelings and give them as much reassurance as you can. One of the best ways to help your child is to keep the home environment stable. Whatever you can do, to create an atmosphere of calm and normalcy, will help the child adjust to the situation. It’s during early conversations that you need to explain to the children that some things will change in their lives, but a lot will remain the same. What is most important to a young child is that eventually life will get better.
Reassuring the Children
As you come to understand your children’s greatest fears, do what you can to reassure them. They may be concerned about where they’re going to live, when they will see the other parent whether they will have to go to a different school and a number of other things. Just explain in simple terms what’s happening and share important decisions with the children as they are made. Keep reminding the children that mom and dad love them and will always take care of them.