More goes into telling your kids about divorce than just having a one-time, prepackaged sit down and delivering the information.
The stage of development that your child is in will have a big impact on how you have the conversation about your divorce and what to expect next.
Children who are young, under 5, are very egocentric, which means everything is about them. They also have a limited ability to talk about their feelings and no capacity to understand the complexities of something like divorce.
When having the divorce talk with your young child keep it simple.
Focus on what is going to happen, like who will live where and who will be taking care of your child. Make certain they know their basic needs will be met. Put yourself in their shoes. What does a 4 year old worry about? Here is a simple question you may need to answer: “Where will I sleep, who will tuck me in?”
Expect to answer the same questions over and over as they move through this stage of development. Your child may even leave one parent’s home and go to the next with questions of, “when is mommy or daddy going to be home”? This is quite normal.
Children ages 6-11 have more understanding of their feelings but see things very black and white.
If your child is in this age group, they often place blame on one parent or the other, or may even feel that it is their fault that the divorce happened. A child of this age may think that he or she said or did something that finalized your decision to move out or that they gave you the go ahead to break up their family.
Having ongoing discussions with your child about the divorce to reiterate the important things they should know is normal and in good practice.
The experience of your divorce changes over times as they grow and have their own life experiences. When they are children it is important to let them know who will care for them and that they came from love even though you are no longer married. As they get older something that may be important for them to hear is that not all marriages end in divorce and your path isn’t theirs.
Teenagers understand a lot more as they are more abstract thinkers than their younger selves.
Keep note of how your teen behaved before the divorce compared to after. Teens are tricky because they are generally moody creatures, so it can be hard to tell if they are moody from hormones or moody from the stress of divorce. One thing is for certain, they are impacted and may play the blame game as well.
Adult information is adult information.
Every situation is unique and if you need a consult do so, but a rule of thumb is that your teen may seem mature enough to hear the nitty gritty details about how your spouse cheated or said this or that, but keep it to yourself. This information will not gain their alliance long term and WILL NOT serve them well.
Even though you are getting a divorce, do your best to at least stay united on the parental front.
The more parents can come together in the consistency of their message to the kids about the divorce the healthier the kids will be. The happier the family will be. Never try to get your child to take one side or the other because that will only tear them in two.
Collaborative divorce will offer you more of an opportunity to do this because it makes space for emotion and healing whereas litigation focuses on legality.
If you need more guidance on this subject, Collaborative Law or other issues that arise in divorce you can contact me or any professional on the collaborative website.
About the Author : Kristin Craren
Kristin is a former member of CFLA.