When you and your ex have decided to officially call it quits on your marriage, one of the more difficult tasks you have to deal with is how to explain the divorce to your children. This is not an easy conversation to have, but it is necessary. Depending on the ages of the children involved, you may need to change the way you explain the situation when you talk to each of your kids.
How to Tell Children About Divorce
Even if the news of the divorce may not be a complete surprise because you and your ex have been fighting a lot, it’s a good idea for the two of you to tell your children together. Arrange a time when all of you can talk and you won’t be interrupted.
Deliver the news calmly and simply. Explain that the decision has been made and that while you and your ex will always be your child’s parents, you won’t be married to each other anymore.
Babies and Toddlers
Children in this age group are dependent on their caregivers. They aren’t able to understand complex ideas or their feelings yet. The idea of their parents getting a divorce isn’t likely to be something that they are able to understand.
By the time children reach preschool age, they are better able to understand cause and effect. They still can’t think ahead to events in the future. Be prepared to explain the change in your family’s living situation more than once, using simple language, for your child to understand the divorce.
At this point in their development, children believe the world revolves around them. You may finish explaining about the divorce and be asked a question like, “Who will look after me?”
This is the age when friends and school life take on a more important role in a child’s life. They want to fit in among their peers. At this age, a child may feel a sense of deep sadness or guilt about the divorce.
It’s quite common for children in this age group to hold on to the idea that you and your ex will get back together someday. It’s important for both of you to explain to your child (separately and together) that you aren’t going to be married anymore, and that this change is permanent. Your child will also want to know the following:
- Both you and your ex love him very much.
- She will get to see both of you.
- None of this was his fault. He didn’t do anything to make your marriage end.
- It’s OK to feel different emotions about the change like being sad and angry, even at the same time.
Tweens and Teens
At this age, children are going through major changes and trying to figure out who they are. They are making choices that can have an impact on their lives going forward, like the types of friends they choose, whether to drink or use drugs, and more.
Many parents don’t spend a lot of time talking to their children about their divorce. With children in this age group, be prepared to have more than one conversation. You will likely have to keep repeating the same messages several times.
- Your (mother/father) and I made the decision to divorce after trying to make things better for a long time. We realized it wasn’t going to work.
- We made this decision. It’s not something you (the child) can change by deciding to “behave better.” You didn’t do anything to make us decide to get a divorce, and none of this is your fault.
- You can still love both your parents. No one is asking you to pick a side.
- We (your parents) love you, and that hasn’t changed.
Divorce is a challenging time for the entire family. You don’t have to go through it on your own. Rodríguez Family Law has helped people just like you through difficult divorces — we can help you, too. Call us at 862-241-1228 or send us an email to get the process started.