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How To Talk To Your Kids About Divorce
Divorce is a stressful time for everyone involved, especially children. It’s a time in their life when their world is changing, and usually they have no idea why. It can be scary, a time filled with uncertainty and hurt. As a parent there are different ways you can help your children, talking openly, if the children are old enough to understand, giving plenty of morale and physical support, patience and lots of reassurance can help to make your divorce less unsettling for them.
Times will be tough for you and it’s all to easy to use the children as a go-between, but that will have devastating and profound effects on their emotional well-being. Divorce isn’t a time to ask or expect your children to take sides and make choices. It’s a time when your love, understanding and support is imperative to help your children survive the changes that are happening in their family life.
The infographic below suggests different ways and strategies you can use when Talking To Your Children About Divorce. Read on to find out how explanations, talking and listening skills will be required to ease their pain and help them come to terms with your divorce
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HELPING CHILDREN THROUGH DIVORCE
A basic guide to helping your child deal with divorce.
HOW TO BREAK THE NEWS
- It’s better if both parents do it together.
- Speak simply and leave out ugly details.
- Say something like: “We’re not getting along as well as we did, so we think we should live apart.”
- TIP: Inform your child’s teacher, school counselor, and doctor about the divorce.
You cannot stress, or repeat the following enough:
- The child was not the reason for the divorce.
- You both love them as much as ever.
HOW MUCH INFORMATION TO GIVE YOUR CHILD
- Be age-aware.
- Share logistical information.
- Kids don’t need to know every detail, but showing how their life will work may make them feel more secure.
KEEPING YOUR KIDS OUT OF THE FIGHT
- Don’t speak badly about your spouse in front of your child.
- Don’t force your child to choose sides.
- Don’t use your child as a messenger or go-between.
- Don’t argue or discuss child support issues in front of your child.
- Don’t pump your child for information about the other parent.
- Don’t use your child as a pawn to hurt the other parent.
TALKING TO YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT DIVORCE
- Let your child know what emotions to expect, and that they are perfectly natural.
- Say something like: “It’s normal to feel sad and angry about divorce. When you tell us you feel sad or angry, we will talk to you.”
- Start an ongoing dialogue about the divorce by asking them how they are feeling.
SIGNS YOUR CHILD IS STRUGGLING WITH DIVORCE
- INFANTS: Problems with sleeping, eating, and digesting can be caused by exposure to hostile and unpredictable routines.
- TODDLERS: If progression in areas such as potty training diminish and/or your toddler becomes clingier instead of becoming more independent, this could be a sign of developmental regression. Tantrums and aggression may also be a sign that your toddler is struggling to cope.
- AGED 3-5: Regression in motor activity and language development can be a signal that your child is not coping.
- EARLY SCHOOL: At this age, signifiers of depression may manifest in physical complaints such as fatigue, headaches, and stomach-aches. Separation difficulties, moodiness and anxiety are also warning signs.
- TEENAGE: Worsening academic performance, depression, anger, and “acting out”, could all be signs that they’re struggling.
SIMPLE STRESS RELIEF FOR CHILDREN
It may help keep in mind ways to help children reduce stress. Here are some of the easiest ways to help children lower their stress levels.
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- Deep breathing slows down the body’s natural response to stress and provides a feeling of being in control.
- Simply breathe in deeply.
- Hold the breath for a moment.
- Release it slowly.
- Repeat until your child feels relaxed.
- A physical activity can be great to reduce stress and give your child a break.
- Laughter soothes tension and helps the body relax. You could encourage laughter by:
- Telling jokes.
- Taking turns making silly faces.
- Cuddling a pet or a loved one can lower blood pressure and decrease stress hormones.
THE ADVANTAGES OF MEDIATION
Court is an expensive and adversarial method of solving your problems, making it more difficult to shield your children from the emotional fall-out. That’s why many parents prefer mediation.
What is mediation?
- Mediation is led by a trained professional (a mediator) to help parents come to an agreement on issues such as: contact, residence, finances, and property.
Preparing for Mediation
- Approach mediation with an open mind and be willing to listen and compromise.
- Come prepared with several options, not just your number one choice.
- Stay focused on your child’s needs. This is not the place to rehash marital arguments.
- Issues such as child support amounts and other expenses will be easier to negotiate if you have the figures in black and white. School and activity schedules are also useful.
- Make sure you come with a positive, problem solving, attitude.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN COMING UP WITH A PLAN
Every family will be difference, but here are some of the considerations you will probably have to cover in your mediation.
- Consistent schedules: Very young children rely on comforting repetition and so parents should keep the same schedules at both homes. Keep in mind that some of your child’s activities, such as after school sport, could impact both parents contact time.
- Emergencies: It is vital that, during mediation, a plan for what happens best during an emergency is agreed upon.
- What happens when the children move between houses? When a child leaves one house to spend time with the other parent, the situation can become stressful. Put a procedure in place to cover issues such as:
- Will new parents be present?
- Where should they be dropped off? (Some couples prefer neutral houses, such as grandparents).
- Preparing for the unexpected: No plan survives contact with reality perfectly intact. It’s important to put in place a procedure to discuss what happens when plans need to change.
- Counseling: Divorce will always be a troubling time for children. Will your children need counseling? They may feel more able to talk to someone who doesn’t know them and is not involved in the situation firsthand. If so, when will it occur? Who will take them? And, who will pay for it?
THE ADVANTAGES OF CO-PARENTING
By forming a parenting partnership, it will help your children:
- Feel more secure
- Grow up in a consistent environment
- Give a good example of how to communicate and problem solve
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