One of the hardest parts of divorce? Talking to the kids about it. It’s not a natural or an easy conversation to have, but we are here to help with our five top tips for discussing divorce with children, plus one of the best resources we have ever seen to help children cope with divorce.
Top 5 Tips for talking to children about divorce
5. With your spouse, create a mutual story to explain the divorce. Consider it like a press release for your children: keep it short, to the point, and only as detailed as necessary. Your story shouldn’t accuse or blame the other parent. Rather, it’s a way to create a united front to provide security to your children. If possible, have the conversation together with your spouse. But, if you can’t do that, have the same story to tell your children.
4. Provide only as much information as they need. Focus on how the divorce will impact them, and how their life is going to change. Reassure them, not just once but for the rest of their lives, that the divorce was not their fault. Follow your child’s lead, ask him or her questions about their feelings, and address their expressed concerns, all rather than giving them your own detailed narrative.
3. Give your children a certain amount of control. Focus on positive decisions in the future: “Yes you will have two different rooms in two different houses, but I can’t wait to work with you to decorate your new room. Let’s talk about what kind of theme you would want!” Give them choices where all outcomes are acceptable: “Should we invite dad over here for your birthday, or ask him if he wants to go out? ” Some amount of control provides a positive focus to progress into the future.
2. Speak to kids in a developmentally appropriate way. You will talk differently to a 3, 6, 9, or 15 year old. Not sure what’s developmentally appropriate? Consult a child specialist, check out positive, professional websites like thenewfamily.com, and use your instinct. If you have younger children, the best resource we’ve come across for processing all of life’s big issues is www.sparklestories.com. This non-profit audio storytelling company’s award-winning mission is to validate children’s feelings by giving them stories (instead of lectures) as tools to cope. A ten day trail is free (but we’re subscribers, of course).
1. Talk to children. Period! There is never a “good” time to have the talk. Don’t wait. They are perceptive, and if you are not talking to them, then you don’t know what story they are playing in their heads. Even if you don’t know what will happen next, you can still reinforce they are loved, they are not the reason for the divorce, and that while families change, but the bond between parents and children never ends. Tell your children (whether or not you’re divorcing) that they’re the best thing you’ve ever done. Then watch their faces light up.
Be sure listen to the archived show and hear all of the wonderful tips that you do not want to miss! 6.15.16 Recording:
For more resourceful articles and contact information visit the following links.
Thank you to this week’s contributing professionals:
Attorney Jenny Bain – Forester Purcell Stowell PC, @law_fps
FPS Blog – Do kids belong in divorce courtrooms?
Enlightened Littles, Inc. – www.elittles.com