Talking to a child about divorce

It’s no secret that divorce can be hard on children, but how you communicate news of a split largely sets the tone for and impacts how your child will feel about the whole process. By keeping the focus on clear and simple communication and tailoring the conversation to your child’s age and emotional state, you can explain how things will change and express future plans without upsetting your son or daughter any more than is necessary. For example, it’s important to carefully consider what you tell your child. Keep in mind that blaming a spouse or sharing inappropriate details can confuse and upset a child and even damage your relationship with him or her.

Remember, You and Your Spouse Are Both Still Parents

Despite your decision to divorce, presenting a unified front and delivering the news together can go a long way towards helping your child process and understand the divorce. This approach can convey and reinforce the message that you will both continue be a child’s parents regardless of where or with whom you or he or she lives.

In addition to presenting a unified front, it’s important to reassure your child that he or she is not the cause of the divorce. Unfortunately, many children feel that a divorce is somehow their fault and any words or actions that reinforce this belief can be very harmful to their emotional wellbeing and mental health.

Truth and Timing Must Go Hand In Hand

Be sure that you and your spouse are really going to divorce before you say anything to your child. You don’t want to send any mixed messages, where a child doesn’t know what to expect from day to day or week to week. Make your decision as adults, and then decide when, where and how to tell a child. By working together and keeping your child and his or her best interests top-of-mind, the divorce process will be easier for everyone involved.

Stay Calm and Consistent

As you and your spouse move through the divorce process, your child will be watching. Make sure you both do your best to remain calm, and to avoid arguing in front of a son or daughter. Also, stay committed and consistent in your words and actions. The more your child sees that you are staying true to what you say, the less stressful the whole process will be for everyone.

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