Depending on age, maturity, and experiences, children have a different understanding of divorce. Parents will, therefore, need to tailor discussions accordingly. Parents need to be able to talk about this, and children need to hear about it. Even if they say they don’t want to.
Keep the message simple and positive
Gather the whole family and tell everyone at the same time. Handling the news will be tough enough for your child, you do not want them to also have the burden of keeping a secret from their sibling(s). After telling the family together, follow up with each child individually for a conversation and answer any questions they may have and didn’t ask in front of their sibling.
When addressing your children, work as a team and leave out the messy details that could lead children to believe that they caused the divorce or makes one parent look like the bad guy. Be sure to have open, calm conversations that support your child’s reactions.
Expect a mixed bag of reactions
Don’t assume how your child will react. Everyone reacts differently to divorce. Your child will react the way they need to. You can’t control how they react. Some children will react positively, thankful that the hostility will end. Some will react sadly, wishing things could stay the same. Let them feel all the feelings, even if those feelings are confusing to you.
You know your child best. Read their cues to determine if they need space and time for the news to sink in or whether they need a reassuring hug.
Be ready to answer questions
It’s never comfortable when having this type of discussion. You are causing your child pain; nothing is going to make a divorce better for your child. Be ready to address their confusion and pain. They need to know details and receive answers to their questions. By being truthful, you can reduce confusion.
As time goes on, there will be more questions. Your child will need time to process and think of more questions they have. Have those conversations with your child as they come up. Do not put them off and leave your child waiting for answers.
Through all of this, be supportive and open. Make sure your child knows the plan and how the divorce will change their lives. Allow your child to react the way they need to, understand that one child might not have as many questions or might not react as negatively as their sibling. Continue to let them know that everything will be ok and that both their parents love them.
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