Divorce is never an easy topic to discuss with a child. In fact, one of the biggest concerns parents have during and after a divorce is how to explain divorce to children. However, talking with your child about what is happening is essential. Children often see divorce as their fault, and it’s up to parents to explain what is happening in a way that children can understand.

Understanding that every child reacts differently to the news of their parents’ divorce is crucial. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. But we’ve put together some tips on how to talk about divorce in a way that will be least harmful to your child.

When Parents Divorce

Children often see divorce as their fault, and it’s up to parents to explain what is happening in a way that children can understand. Getting a divorce is a choice you and a spouse are making, but for a child, it’s hard to understand why the family home will no longer have both parents. It’s also hard to understand adult relationships and the decisions parents make that lead to divorce.

Depending on their age, however, it may be easier or more difficult to understand why you are getting a divorce. Many teens may understand the reasons and even advocate for a divorce. Others may feel angry and hurt.

However, children of age 2 to 12 may be more likely to blame themselves for what is happening. So it’s crucial to let your child know how much you love them and that your adult problems are not their fault. (1)

If there is abuse or loud arguments in the home most days, a child may even feel relieved once the parents split up.

How to Explain Divorce to a Child

Talking with your child about what is happening before you sign the divorce papers is essential. One of the most important things you can do when talking to your child about divorce is to be honest.

Tell your child that you and your spouse are having problems and you’re unsure what the future holds. However, try to avoid saying negative things about your spouse in front of your child. Throwing off on the other spouse will make it more difficult for children to cope with the situation.

You may explain the separation and divorce process and what divorce means for the future. But when telling kids about your divorce, it’s crucial to be open and honest about your feelings.

Let your child know it’s okay to feel upset, sad, scared, or angry about the divorce. Reassure them that you love them and that nothing they did caused the divorce.

Cater the Conversation to Your Child

You know your child better than anyone else. When you talk with them about what is happening in your family, use language they will understand.

For a small child, you might say, “Mommy and daddy love you very much. But Daddy is going to stay somewhere else for a while. You will still see him and spend time with him, though because we both love to see you!”

Older children might need to hear, “Mom and Dad are struggling to get along, so Dad is getting an apartment. You’ll spend time with both of us because we love you very much!”

Make sure to tell your child that feeling sad is okay and that you feel sad, too, sometimes. If they have difficulties adjusting to the new changes, consider seeing a family therapist who can encourage your child to talk about their feelings.

Emphasize to your child that they are not responsible for the divorce and that both parents still love them very much. And then answer any questions they may have honestly, without putting down the other parent.

Work With the Other Parent

When one parent lives in one house and the other parent in another, it can be challenging to maintain routines. However, if you can keep the same rules at mom’s house and dad’s house, it will help your child feel more stable.

If possible, keep other significant parts of their life similar to before. Try to keep them in the same school and let them attend their usual soccer practice or piano lessons.

Avoid talking badly about the other parent to your child. Any negative talk about the other parent can also hurt your child. And the blame game is overrated anyway!

Divorced Parents Set the Tone for the Whole Family

Try not to fight or argue in front of your children – it will only make things more difficult for everyone. Remember that you and your spouse are still on the same team when it comes to raising your children.

Focus on how you can both provide a stable and loving home for your children. They need to see you working together, even if you’re not together as a couple anymore.

If possible, try to attend counseling or therapy sessions with your spouse. Counseling can help improve communication and allow you to work together better for the sake of your children.

Finally, give your children time to adjust to the changes in their family. It will take some time, but eventually, things will start to feel more normal again. And you’ll be there every step of the way to help them through it.

We Can Help

At Plekan law, our family law legal team can help you understand your divorce options and how to protect your child during this difficult time. We know how important it is to protect your children, so we work with you to find the best possible solution for everyone involved.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact us today and schedule a consultation.