I was a child of divorce, and during the experience, nobody explained a thing to me. I overheard an argument, we left and I rarely spoke to my mother again. I was almost eight years old, and I never asked my father any questions until I was 36.
It left me confused.
At the beginning of my own divorce with my ‘X’, we sat down with our three children (well-the two who were old enough to talk) and told them what was happening.
That alone did not stop the questions….
I will never forget on many occasions, when my four year old daughter would sit at the dinner table at night and ask, ‘So, who’s idea was it for this divorce thing, anyways?’ (So, maybe we hadn’t explained everything.)
I was always shocked, that at her age, she would be capable of asking such a question, never mind think it. (As she has become older, I realized that she’s become quite an outspoken child, so maybe that’s why she had the guts to ask.)
Honestly, most kids of divorce feel the same way, but it’s very likely that they are not comfortable coming out an asking those types of things, but they really-really want to know what’s happening…)
Kids have feelings too. They are comfortable with their routines and their current lives and they are severely affected by their parent’s separation. Even if their parent’s were never married, they still experience the changes along with the grown-ups, and desperately want to understand.
So, how do you talk to them about it?
The answer is: Carefully.
A divorce is ultimately a result of two people’s differences, weaknesses and decisions . Finger pointing at the other parent as the responsible party for the divorce is not only unfair, but damaging to the child. Believe it or not, it can also be extremely detrimental to the relationship between the child and the ill-talking parent.
Your child will always form their own opinions, whether you bad mouth your ‘X’ or not. And no matter what you say they did wrong (or continue to do) your child will always side with his own feelings in the end.
Many parents are afraid to admit to their child that they’ve initiated divorce or been imperfect in marriage.
It’s important to put yourself and your own fears aside to explain to your child the reasons for your divorce…so that maybe, just maybe, you can help break the cycle, and keep them from making the same mistakes you did.
Here are some tips on how to explain to your child, ‘why you divorced your spouse’:
First: In every conversation, always tell them, ‘It’s not your fault and we both still love you very much.”
1. Make time to sit down for the talk, no interruptions from phones, siblings, etc.
2. Do it in a comfortable place, somewhere they like to be.
3. Keep it age appropriate, but if they ask mature questions, it’s possible they may be able to handle a little more.
4. Don’t hide the truth. They will find out on their own in due time, and when they do, you can be sure they will hold it against you if you lie to them.
5. Don’t tell them, ‘You wouldn’t understand.’ (They can, and will, if you help them.)
6. Don’t try to make your spouse look bad, you need to take the blame as well (we all know it takes two).
7. Get them books, look them up in the library or on Amazon. There are several characters and age level stories to help kids understand (from a kids point of view) how to cope and what to expect, and it can sometimes help explain ‘why‘.
8. Put the divorce discussion on the table for questions today, and always.
My son was only two when I divorced my ‘X’. He had no clue what was going on.
He will always have questions and will continually need help to go back, and fill in the blanks.
It’s our job to help our children understand the divorce. I believe that kids can deal with it just fine as long as someone they trust tells them what’s going on, and is there continually, to help them through the mounds of questions and emotions, so that someday, they can find closure…like I finally did, at 36.