Going through a divorce is an emotionally draining experience to begin with. When children are involved, these hardships are significantly amplified. About 1.5 million children’s parents divorce each year in the United States. And while some are old enough to process the situation, it can still be difficult to truly understand and cope. While you are getting legal help and working though divorce mediation, consider the following tips for talking to your child about your divorce.
- Be clear.
Children are quite perceptive, so your child is likely observing more than you think.
Do not skirt around the main point while explaining your divorce to them. Focus on why it’s best for you and your partner. Being honest will help build trust.
- Focus on your child’s safety.
Children want to feel cared for above all. Reassure your child that they will be okay despite any upcoming changes. It’s also important that you address any insecurities when they come up, this way, they will know that your support has not changed even though your family is changing.
- Answer their questions honestly.
Your child will likely have plenty of questions. They might want to know where they will live, whether they will see your partner often, whether their schooling will be effective, and other questions. Be gentle and open when answering, and again, make them feel safe.
- Deflect any self blame.
It is common for children to think that a divorce is their fault or that they could have done something to prevent it. If this comes up, ensure that they are absolutely not to blame. Remember that it might take several conversations for them to feel secure in this.
- Validate your child’s emotions.
Every child is different, so your child may react with anger, sadness, silence, or even nothing at all. Unless they are acting in a harmful way, remember that they will cope in their own way. If you are at all concerned about their behavior or emotions, a family therapist may be able to help.
As with many types of lawyers, divorce attorneys are well versed on how divorce proceedings typically unfold. If you need any help handling your child’s reaction, do not hesitate to ask your attorney for advice. Along with legal help, they may be able to refer you to more specific counseling and services.