Divorce isn’t easy for any couple, but it’s a decision that can be especially detrimental for their children. Depending on the age and understanding, divorce can lead to handful of adjustment issues in children and teenagers that can follow them for a lifetime – including mental health disorders, poor academic performance and behavioral problems like substance abuse.
When it comes to breaking the news to your kids about your divorce, it’s important to prepare what you will say in advance and try to anticipate any questions they may have. Regardless of how you feel about your ex, unless they are a danger to you or your child, it’s essential that you work together to give your children honesty and empathy to help them through this difficult transition.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips for discussing your divorce with your kids:
Keep your message simple and honest
You don’t need to share the specifics with your kids when it comes to talking about the deterioration of your marriage. Tensions may be high, but it’s essential that you and your ex try to provide a united front, which can be as simple as “we don’t get along anymore.” This is not the time to play the blame game or try to turn your child against your ex.
Speak to your child honestly and let them know that it was not an easy choice, but that it has nothing to do with them and you both still love them.
Let them know they are safe
Divorce can produce a lot of anxiety in children regarding how it will affect their day-to-day life. They may have to adapt to new living arrangements, switching schools or seeing each parent less often. First, you’ll want to help them feel safe by letting them know what changes they can expect from the divorce and legitimizing any feelings they have.
It may take some time for them to adjust, but you can help by limiting disruptions to their normal daily routine, encouraging them to express themselves and staying involved in their lives during this time.
Reassure them that it’s not their fault
Even if they don’t say it aloud, many children assume they had some role to play in their parent’s separation. It’s critical to let your child know that your decision for divorce was not their fault and was based on adult problems between you and your ex.
You should also stress the point that it is not a problem that they can fix, as it’s common for children to fantasize about mending their parent’s relationship.
Divorce is a stressful time for all parties involved, but an open and honest discussion with your kids can provide them with the emotional tools needed to cope with the changes ahead. Happier times are around the corner for you both.