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Tips for Speaking to Kids About Divorce

It's never easy to break the news of a pending divorce to children. At a time when you're under enormous stress yourself, it may be difficult to offer your children the support they need. However, it's important to try to see things from your children's perspective so you can help them navigate this difficult life transition.

Children and Adults See Divorce Differently

While you and your soon-to-be-ex are likely focused on external issues such as how to divide assets and debts, the process is more internal for kids. Regardless of your children's ages, they may struggle with the following:

  • Grief over the absence of one parent from the home
  • Feeling somehow to blame for the divorce
  • The stress of many changes at once, such as changing schools and visiting one parent in a different home
  • Stress about their lack of control over the situation

The younger the child, the more he or she needs physical comfort. Hold and hug your child often and encourage him or her to talk about feelings. Just be aware that some children may be reluctant to express strong feelings like anger towards either parent.

It's also important to keep routines as consistent as possible. This helps children feel secure when so much in their lives are changing. Explain when they will see the other parent by creating a calendar or other system. You can even talk about other children they know with divorced parents and how that family worked everything out.

Don't allow your own negative feelings about your former spouse to interfere with the relationship your children have with him or her. Kids should feel comfortable to speak of both parents and display items from them without fear of upsetting the other one. If your older child appears to become depressed, frequently lashes out in anger, or engages in uncharacteristic behavior, reach out for professional help. Your child may even feel more comfortable with this option than he or she does speaking to you.

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