Talking to your kids about divorce
Dating. Drugs. Death.
These are heavy topics, but most parents will probably expect having to talk to their kids about these things at some stage of their lives. However, there is arguably one topic of conversation parents don’t necessarily imagine talking to their kids about: divorce.
What should we tell the kids about our divorce?
Like most difficult things, there isn’t just one way of talking to your kids about divorce. Every family’s situation is different, and how (and how much) you tell your kids will depend on a number of factors:
- emotional maturity and needs;
- potential impact on significant commitments like schooling;
- the circumstances of your separation;
- the visibility and level of existing conflict;
With that said, there are certainly better ways than others. In our experience, these are good basic things to keep in mind when having this conversation with your kids.
Keep it simple
Children have the right to know what is happening and how it will effect them. Expect hard questions and encourage your young ones to express how they feel about what is going on.
Don’t play the blame game
Avoid the blame game, even if the circumstances are really painful. While your kids are affected by your decisions, the circumstances of the breakdown do not affect your responsibilities towards your kids. Do your best to keep the focus of any discussion on them, and not your previous relationship.
“What changes and what doesn’t?”
For many, divorce means upheaval. Change is inevitable but children still need some sense of security in their lives. While you can’t control everything that happens, you can at least be clear about “what changes” (e.g. living arrangements) and “what doesn’t” (e.g. your commitments to your children – separately and together). Where possible, keep familiar routines and rituals, and where you can’t – use the change as opportunities to create new ones with them.
Lean into your communities of support
As we have said many times before, you do not have to be alone. Get help – either for your child or for you.
Consider letting other care providers know about the change in your family situation – this helps them be alert to possible signs that your child might not be coping.