“It’s Not Your Fault”: How to Discuss Divorce with Your Children

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According to psychological research, children tend to remember the moment when their parents break the news about a divorce just as vividly as other major life events. With this in mind, you may worry about the lasting impact your divorce could have on your children—all the more reason to make sure you’re prepared to have the talk. Your children may remember it as a sad moment, a guilty one, or even a relief. Whatever happens, there are many ways to avoid needless stress, soften the blow, and make sure their emotional needs are met.

1) Set the scene.

One of the most important aspects of this conversation is that it’s planned. In other words, don’t blurt out the circumstances of your divorce in an emotional outburst or let your kids accidentally overhear the details before you’ve had a chance to sit down and talk. They deserve to learn in a calm, familiar environment so they can feel comfortable enough to ask questions and absorb new information.

2) When it comes to their feelings, expect the unexpected.

It can be hard to predict how your children will react to the news, especially at certain ages. Prepare for the unexpected and do your best to validate your child’s feelings instead of dismissing them. Set the tone so they feel comfortable discussing their feelings with you throughout the divorce process.

3) Give them the information they need.

You should be prepared to tell all of your children, even the youngest, so they can know to expect change. Young children may have difficult questions—they commonly ask whether the divorce is their fault, and whether they can reunite the family with better behavior—and you should prepare to answer them honestly. Explain what kinds of changes they should expect during and after the divorce.

4) Avoid the blame game.

Discuss the conversation with your ex beforehand to make sure you are both comfortable sharing a certain level of detail. Stay calm when you break the news about your divorce because your children will take note. Your message should be united, reassuring, and free of bickering and blame.

5) Keep it age-appropriate.

Whatever message you choose to send with your ex-spouse, make sure it is age-appropriate. Children can have unpredictable reactions—especially when they are too young to process the meaning of your words. For example, a child of 4 years could misunderstand you and become withdrawn, believing a divorce involves abandoning your child; on the other hand, a 14-year-old might understand exactly what you mean by divorce and respond with anger.

You will likely need your own help and support throughout the process of your divorce. Easterling Law is here to provide you with the legal support you need to save money, minimize conflict, and protect your best interests in the face of a divorce. Give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced, compassionate attorneys.