Telling the kids about divorce

Deciding when and how to tell your children about divorce will depend on how old they are. However, whatever their age, it will be difficult for them to understand and deal with. It must always be kept in mind that divorce affects the children as much as it affects the couple who are divorcing.

Older children will probably have already picked up on the atmosphere between their parents and possibly have been worrying for some time that their parents could be heading for a divorce. Even so, they will still be upset when told that their parents can no longer live together.

Whether parents decide to tell their children together or each parent talks to them separately is up to them, but however they decide to do it, they must each be completely honest and explain the reasons why they can no longer live together. Always listen to what the children have to say and answer any questions they may ask honestly.

Children should be told about the divorce as soon as the parents themselves have made this decision. It doesn’t pay to keep it a secret as long as possible, as most likely, the children will have been living in a difficult atmosphere for some time.

Your children are going to be upset. They are possibly going to be angry. Parents must try to look at things from the child’s point of view. They will be asking themselves, “why are you doing this to them?”

Apart from the fact that they want their parents to stay together, the children’s other worry is going to be how this will affect them. They see a whole set of problems ahead of them:

What is going to change in their life?

Children don’t like upheaval in their lives and they know that one of their parents, usually the father, is going to be leaving home and never coming back. They need reassurance that, even though their father is leaving and getting another home elsewhere, everything else in their present home will go on as normal. They will continue to have their own room and more importantly they will continue to see both their parents.

Are they going to have to choose who they want to live with?

Children should never be put in the situation of having to choose which parent they want to live with, so this is one of the areas in which they will need reassurance when telling them about the divorce. When talking to them it should be stressed that they will never have to make a choice between their parents. They will of course have bedrooms in each of their parents homes; some children will think this is great, others will find it difficult to adjust to having a new bedroom in a strange home that doesn’t include one of their parents.

What will happen at Christmas and holidays?

The first Christmas after the divorce will be the hardest for all the family. Children, in particular, are going to find it stressful knowing that one of their parents is going to be excluded. There had always been great excitement with all the family gathered together and a child will feel obligated to spending time with both parents on that day and be frustrated because he or she is not able to do so.

Your child may feel that he or she has to make a choice, so it should be stressed right at the beginning that your child will share holidays with each of his or her parents in turn. Your child must be reassured that there is no need for him or her to feel guilty being with one parent and not the other.

Honestly, love and understanding of the children’s feelings are the main things to help all the family get through this difficult time. It’s always best, although not always possible, if the parents can work together to ensure their children get the support and love they need.