Discussing divorce with a child can be a difficult and emotional conversation. As if separating from a partner isn’t bad enough, the whole process can seem amplified beyond belief when children are involved. Nevertheless, if a child is old enough to understand that something’s wrong, they deserve to know what is happening. Despite how hard it may be, it is important to approach the conversation with honesty and compassion.
Choose An Appropriate Time And Place To Discuss Divorce
When having difficult conversations with a child, the set and setting can have a major effect on the outcome of the discussion. It is crucial that you choose a time and place where you and your child can talk in private, without distractions, and when you and your child are both calm. As noted by the Child Mind Institute, it is important to talk to your child about divorce as soon as possible, but only when you and your spouse have made a decision and have a plan in place. Delaying the conversation can cause your child to feel confused, anxious, and uncertain about the future. Furthermore, some obvious signs that it’s time to have a talk include:
- Your child may have noticed changes in the family dynamic, such as a conflict between parents or changes in living arrangements.
- Your child may have questions or concerns about the future, such as where they will live or how their relationship with both parents will be affected.
Use Language That They Understand
Like explaining anything else to a child, use familiar and age-appropriate language that you know your child understands. It’s best to try and avoid using any complex or legal terms that they may not understand in discussing divorce. Otherwise, they may become confused and therefore anxious about the whole situation. In the end, you know your child more than anyone else, so you will know what they will understand, what needs deeper explanation, and what aspects of the separation to leave out for the time being. If you aren’t sure where to start, Psychology Today has some tips on how to start the conversation.
Be Honest And Direct In Discussing Divorce
It’s important to be honest with your child about the situation, particularly because your decision directly involves them, and will have an impact on their life. Let them know that you and your partner are separating and explain the reasons as simply and honestly as possible.
Make sure your child knows that it’s not their fault and that both parents still love them despite the divorce. Although it may be tempting, don’t make any false promises to help make them feel better at the moment. If it turns out you were lying, this can create distrust in your relationship that can develop into resentment later in life. Sometimes the hard truth is the best for everyone, even if it may not feel like it at the time.
Hear What Your Child Has To Say
The Better Health Channel explains how open communication with children is priceless in a parent-child relationship. Despite the fact that deciding divorce ultimately affects you and your partner, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your child a voice in the situation. Although it may not be easy to hear, give them the opportunity to express their feelings about what is happening in their family. Listen attentively and validate their emotions. Not only is this the respectful and mature thing to do, but demonstrates that their emotions, opinions, and feelings hold weight in the family. Of course, what they say may not be what you want to hear or make you question your decision, but it’s your responsibility to stay strong at this time. If you can tell them something they don’t want to hear, the least you can do is listen to what they have to say.
Seek Professional Help If Necessary
If you’re concerned about your child’s emotional well-being or behavior, consider seeking professional help. Some options available to most parent’s disposal during this time include
Family therapist: A family therapist can help your child and your family work through the challenges and changes that come with divorce. They can provide a safe and supportive environment for your child to express their feelings and concerns.
Family law attorney: A family law attorney can work with you and your partner to make sure that the separation goes as smoothly as possible. This way, you can hopefully minimize any conflict that may impact your child. As described by the family law attorneys at Dolan + Zimmerman LLP, a divorce lawyer can “help make sure custody and parenting time are determined with your child’s best interests in mind and with as minimal stress as possible”
Support groups: Support groups can be a helpful way for children to connect with other kids who are going through similar experiences. Many support groups are run by mental health professionals or organizations that specialize in divorce and family issues.
School counselor: If your child is struggling at school, their school counselor can provide support and resources to help them cope.
To Summarize How To Discuss Divorce
Remember that discussing divorce with a child is a difficult conversation, but it’s important to approach it with honesty and compassion. By providing your child with reassurance, support, and open dialogue, you can help them navigate this difficult time with as much ease as possible.
If you find this article helpful, read also our post: Single Parenting Effects on Children- What You Need to Know
Jackson Sawa is a published writer with works covering a number of subjects including parenting, child safety, entertainment, and more.