Most children understand a divorce means their parents’ marriage is over, and will no longer live together. This can result in anxiety, and a lot of difficult questions. Talking to your children about divorce is not easy, but is important so the child can learn how to adapt. The timing is important, and the parents must be certain the divorce is eminent before telling the child. Although there will never be a good time to break the news, telling the child right before school, work, a sporting event, or anything that will separate the parent from the child should be avoided. There will be questions, feelings that must be addressed, necessary reassurances, and enough time to handle the needs of the child is critical.
Parents should discuss what they want to tell the child, and they should do this together. This will avoid confusion, show the child the decision is mutual, and help preserve the trust of the child. The conversation should be kept simple, and the terms used should be easily understood by the child. Explain where the parent leaving the residence will be living, and when the child will have visitation days. Make certain the child understands there is a plan, and any arguments they have heard had nothing to do with them. Then be ready to answer a lot of questions, calmly, with love, with understanding, and as a team.
Perhaps the most important point is to tell the child the divorce is not their fault. Many children hold themselves responsible for a divorce because of something they did wrong like receiving poor grades in school, or not keeping their room clean. The child must be told directly they had nothing to do with the decision, they cannot fix the problems between their parents, and that they are loved, and wanted by both parents. Any sense of guilt on the part of the child needs to be discussed until the child understands the reasons for the divorce have nothing to do with them, or their actions.
Do not blame the other parent for the divorce, or argue in front of the child. Any financial problems, or extramarital affairs should not be discussed in front of the child. When parents start blaming one another the child often sees this as a betrayal, or a criticism of their behavior. Everything said is a reflection on the child, and the parents must keep all blame out of the conversation. The fact the child loves both parents must remain an important concept to avoid as much hurt as possible. The child does not need to know all the details, any legal issues, or see the divorce papers. Care should be taken when talking on the phone because the child may be listening. The best approach is the simple approach. Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce, this is an adult issue, and has nothing to do with you, or anything you have done. Mommy and Daddy love you, and you will be spending time with us both.