Divorce is a big change for children. Parents often struggle to broach the topic of divorce with their children, no matter their age. Some parents think it’s better to not discuss the divorce, but their children will eventually learn about it. Talking about divorce early may help with children’s development.
When talking about divorce, parents may find it easier to plan ahead. Parents can set a time in the week when it’s best to break the news. But, one of the things that often confuse parents is what to say.
Depending on a child’s age, a talk about divorce can go in many different ways. Here’s what parents can say for children of all ages:
Babies and toddlers
From an early age, many babies and toddlers adapt to a lifestyle where both parents live under one roof. If this changes after divorce, it can take some time for children to adapt to a new lifestyle. Children at these ages will not understand the complexities of adult decisions. Instead, they will need very simple and frequent explanations of what will change to help them process the divorce.
As children grow, they begin to understand a rudimentary sense of cause and effect. Children in grade school may try to understand why a divorce is happening and ask frequent questions. Parents can try to answer these questions truthfully to help their children process the divorce.
Children at this age may show emotions during the divorce. These feelings can come out as anger, anxiety, fear, sadness and confusion. Parents may help their children by asking them how they are feeling.
Many teens understand what divorce means, but that doesn’t mean they will take it lightly. Teens go through a lot of hormonal changes and the news about a divorce may exacerbate their emotions. When parents talk about the complexities of their divorce, they may need to consider giving their teens space to process the news.
Children hearing their parents are getting divorced is difficult for any age – even adults. However, it’s often a necessary conversation to have. Parents who understand their legal rights and know what will happen after the divorce may find it easier to have this conversation with their children.