Divorce is difficult and confusing for nearly every person who is involved, and rarely are only two people involved. Most first marriages that end with a divorce last approximately eight years, which leaves plenty of time for married couples to become parents.
Children who witness the separation of their parents experience just as much, if not more, confusion and hurt than the adults involved. It is important to tread carefully when explaining divorce to children, especially if the divorce will result in significant changes to the child’s current lifestyle and routine.
Use the following tips to help children transition more easily during this difficult time:
- Take their Age Into ConsiderationChildren at different developmental stages will need different support and explanations during a divorce. TodaysParent.com recommends using their guide to discussing divorce for different ages. For example, toddlers and young children may not fully understand the emotional aspects of why their parents are separating, but they need to know that their basic needs will be cared for. Older children will expect an explanation for changes, and might even challenge adults about their choices.
- Act Like an AdultWhen discussing divorce with kids, avoid playing games or trying to “win” a fight with an ex by convincing children to pick a side. Demonstrating maturity will help kids feel a sense of security. They will notice adults acting rationally instead of impulsively and emotionally. While explaining that you feel hurt to a child is acceptable, avoid placing blame on your spouse, or placing too many of your own emotional burdens on your children. Also ensure the child knows that they did nothing cause the divorce, so they don’t feel guilty or obligated to try to stop the separation.
- Accept Whatever Feelings They ExpressAvoid platitudes like “it’ll be okay” or “everything’s fine.” Children can tell when things are not fine, and will not react well to false positivity. Instead, give children time to talk about their feelings, and let them remain quiet if they prefer. Tell them that whatever they’re feeling is perfectly acceptable and that you’re there to support them however you can. Be prepared for anger, irritation, sadness, and anxiety. If the divorce process will result in a long-distance move, such as in international custody disputes, also anticipate fear and greater resistance to the change. Try to be as understanding as possible.
- Answer Questions HonestlyOlder children will be most likely to ask difficult questions, so be prepared to answer thoroughly and honestly as you can. Avoid making promises you cannot keep in an attempt to make them feel better. If your divorce is going to be complicated, such as in interstate custody disputes or even international custody disputes, be honest when you’re not sure exactly what will happen. Tell mature children that the process may require a divorce lawyer and that you can’t say what will happen exactly. Ensure them that they will be well cared for no matter what happens.
Divorces are difficult processes for both adults and children. Follow these steps to help avoid misunderstandings and even more hurt feelings. For more divorce advice and legal expertise on any divorce topic, from divorce papers to international custody disputes, contact us today.