If you are facing a divorce, you’re probably worried about a lot of different things. Of course, if there are children involved, no concern will outweigh the fears you have about how your divorce might affect your children. They are innocent bystanders who desperately crave peace and happiness. Depending on their ages, there may be different concerns to address.
At the Elliott Frazier Law Firm, we have spent years helping people with their divorces. We know that children are a big source of worry and heartache for those facing the end of a marriage. With this in mind, here are some time-tested and basic tips for talking to your kids about divorce.
Keep it Age Appropriate
If you have multiple children, you should tailor the talk to each child. Don’t try to have a big family meeting and dump all the information at once. While yes, this may feel better for you because you only have to say the words once, rest assured you will not communicate it effectively for everyone. Today’s Parent magazine explains some of the keys to talking to kids, depending on their ages.
For children between birth and five, they are still very much self-centered in their worldview. So trying to explain to a toddler that mommy and daddy are going through a difficult time in their marriage may not be the best approach. Instead, you might focus on things like:
- Where the child will be staying
- Where the child will sleep at night
- Where the child will spend holidays
- The kinds of things that will not be changing
For an older child, between six and eleven, they may be more focused on larger issues like how often they will see their friends, whether they will have to change schools, and if they will still see grandparents and other relatives. Again, tailor your tone for the age and maturity of each child.
Pre-teens and Teens (12 – 18)
Finally, for teenagers, things are going to be much touchier. Expect backlash. Expect them to say things that hurt. Teens are great at using anger to sublimate fear and sadness. They will deflect attempts at empathy by wielding hostility. The good news is that these behaviors almost always pass with time.
Finally, the best thing you can do is educate yourself. Talk to a trusted clergy member who has experience counseling divorcing couples and their children. See if your spouse would be willing to encourage counseling for the children. In many cases, the more united the parents are in their efforts to help the kids, the more the kids thrive, even after a divorce. Above all, remember that life will go on. Millions of people get divorced each year, and in the vast majority of those cases, they are able to move forward, recover, and the kids turn out okay.
If you are facing a divorce and need guidance, talk to a lawyer who can offer both legal and practical solutions. Call the Elliott Frazier Law Firm today.