Each year, thousands of children are told their parents are going to divorce. Of course, no one goes into a marriage thinking that it will end, and no one willingly has children just to put them through a divorce. That said, sometimes it is unavoidable. While it often comes with devastation and heartbreak, divorce can be a good thing because it can also mean a much better quality of life for all parties. But how do we communicate with our children about divorce openly and honestly while making them feel safe and heard? Today, we will walk you through a few methods to help you navigate these discussions with your children.
Consult A Child Psychologist, Pediatrician or Social Worker
Consulting a professional who has expertise in child psychology can assist you in understanding the best method to communicate to your child or children about your divorce. They can guide you in the best language and tone to use and inform you of potential issues that may arise with the future family dynamic.
First and foremost, timing is everything. You must be mindful of when you initially have the conversation. Along with considering what might be going on in your child’s life at the time, you also want to be sure that you have answers to the questions they will ask. If you are still on the fence about separating or divorcing, it might be best to hold off on sharing this information with your kids until you know for certain the changes to your family.
Communication amongst parents is vital when sitting your children down for this conversation. Remaining on the same page and presenting a united front, especially when it comes to your kids, is the first step in showing them that their feelings, emotions, comfort, and safety remain of the utmost importance to both of you. The reasons that led to the decision to separate have no bearing on a parent’s love for their child, and it is important that the child not only hears that but knows it to be true.
It can be challenging to determine how honest you want to be with your children about your separation, especially if you’re dealing with very young kids. But it is essential to be as honest as is appropriate. For example, while the intricacies of your relationship remain more personal no matter a child’s age, being honest about a change in the family dynamic is quite important. Children pick up on many things that we may not always know, so being secretive and trying to hide things may not always work and can lead your kids to think you’re not being honest, even if you feel by shielding them, you are protecting them.
Be exceptionally cautious around anything that could lead your children to think they need to pick sides. Developing a loyalty to one parent over another can be extremely detrimental and have long-term consequences on your child’s mental health. Circumstances from our childhood are known to inform our outlook on scenarios later in life. Children of divorced families carry these memories and experiences with them for their entire lives. As a parent, you must ensure they never feel like they are being asked to side with one parent over the other.
While conflicts with your ex will surely arise, be very conscious about leaving your children out of it. Even if you feel like your child may have a one-sided or inaccurate picture of a scenario, be extra cautious about how you respond. Stay away from blaming one-half of the parenting team and do your best to shield your children from arguments or conflicts that may arise throughout this transitional period.
Speaking to your children about divorce is a delicate subject, but you don’t want to approach it by tiptoeing around your children. Maintaining an open and honest line of communication is critical. With that said, if you’re concerned about the psychological impact your divorce may have on your children, please consult your local family counsellor or child psychologist. At Gelman and Associates, our lawyers are equipped with the tools to assist you, your ex-spouse and your children navigate the legal elements of your separation. If you have additional questions and would like to speak with one of our experienced lawyers, contact us today.
There’s no specific age for this. However, it’s better to do it sooner, when children are young, rather than waiting for them to grow older, whereby the separation can cause them more harm.
Divorce is challenging for any child. When it comes to their emotions, they will feel insecure and sad growing up, especially when they see other children who have a complete family. Therefore, parents should make sure to prioritize the welfare of their children even if they are no longer together.
Generally, courts will respect the child’s wishes once he or she turns 12. However, that’s nothing concrete and a court can choose to disregard the child’s wishes as well.