Divorce is a common occurrence in today’s society, and it frequently affects families with children of all ages. There are several effective and age-appropriate ways to address divorce when it comes to talking with children.
One of the most important factors to keep in mind when facing a divorce with kids is that clear and open communication is essential. No matter your child’s age, there are techniques you can employ to make your best effort to help your children minimize any feelings of fear and guilt they may have surrounding the divorce.
Talking to young children about divorce
Once your child is old enough to talk, he or she can be part of a conversation about divorce, or at least listen to a brief explanation about what is happening regarding the divorce. Very small children do not need much detail, but they do need to know what is happening in a way they can understand. Straightforward explanations are usually best in these cases, such as simply stating something like “Mommy and Daddy are not going to live together anymore.” Once children are elementary-school age, they will likely have more questions. They can also handle a bit more information, such as a statement of the circumstances surrounding the divorce (fighting, etc.) without going into specific personal details.
Talking to older children about divorce
Adolescents handle divorce in a substantially different way than young children. They will require a more mature and thorough explanation. You still do not need to reveal personal details regarding the conflicts you have with your spouse, but you can provide more specific information about custody arrangements and how the new living situation will affect your teen’s day-to-day life. You may face more open hostility on the part of a teenager, or a tendency to change behavior and withdraw. If you notice any especially concerning behaviors, you may wish to seek out professional assistance, such as from a therapist who has experience working with teen children of divorce.
While divorce is certainly never a pleasant experience for a family, it can be less traumatic for you and your children when you make a concerted effort to be honest and open and provide age-appropriate communication. If you and your ex can work together to present a united front when it comes to your children, you will be making great strides to help preserve family unity even after the difficulty of divorce.