All parents want to protect and shield their children from experiencing pain and heartache. With this in mind, parents who choose to divorce often have many concerns about how a divorce will impact a child. Parents have good reason to worry as, if handled poorly, divorce can be an extremely confusing, scary and difficult time in a child’s life. It’s important, therefore, that parents set the right tone and deliver the right message to a child, starting with the very first divorce-related conversation.
For any parent, breaking news of a divorce to a child is bound to be a nerve-wracking experience. While the actual words a parent uses will vary and depend largely on a child’s age, divorcing parents should keep the following things in mind when figuring out how to talk to a child about divorce.
- Ensure that both parents are on the same page with regard to messaging and delivery
- Whenever possible, parents should deliver the news together
- Be clear and concise
- Reiterate that the divorce is not a child’s fault and that both parents will be happier this way
- Assure a child of both parents’ unconditional love and continued support
Above all, parents must work to quiet a child’s fears and concerns about an impending divorce and create home environments where a child feels safe and comfortable. Parents should also be prepared to answer some pointed questions related to changes in living arrangements, custody and visitation schedules and even money.
Parents should do their best to answer a child’s questions and to encourage him or her to continue asking questions and talk about other divorce-related issues. In some cases, parents may also choose to turn to a family therapist or counselor who can help a child work through and talk about his or her feelings.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, “How to Talk to Your Children about Divorce,” April 21, 2016