Divorce is never easy, especially if there are children involved. Often, all kids know is that their parents are no longer together and that they will have to split time between two homes going forward. For parents, it can be difficult to figure out how to explain what’s going on to their kids in a way they’ll understand, especially if the children are very young. However, one of the best ways for children to move forward after a divorce in an emotionally healthy way is keeping the lines of communication open with them throughout the process.
How Do I Talk to My Kids About Divorce?
WCCO-TV, a CBS affiliate, recently did a television segment with relationship expert Dr. Carol Bruess about the do’s and don’ts of talking to your kids about divorce. Dr. Bruess mentioned at the outset of the report that there is research that shows the 75 percent of parents getting a divorce are not having a productive conversation with their children about divorce, and that on average, these divorce talks only last around 10 minutes. Of the 25 percent who are having good discussions about divorce with their kids, here’s what Dr. Bruess says they’re doing right:
- Having multiple talks with their kids about divorce. This is a big change and children need more than just one discussion about their parents’ divorce to understand and make the transition to this new dynamic in a healthy way.
- Overemphasizing to their children repeatedly that the divorce is not their fault. Many kids mistakenly believe that it was something they did wrong that caused their parents to breakup, which can be stressful and emotionally crippling.
- Making sure their kids know that even though things are changing, they’re still going to be their parents and they’re still going to be a family.
- Be prepared to answer questions, such as where each parent will be living, when the kids will be with each parent and whether the children will have to change schools.
Dr. Bruess also suggested that the parents talk to their child or children together and present a united front. For grade school age kids, Dr. Bruess says that you want to wait until about two or three weeks before the divorce is finalized to talk to them, so that they don’t spend a lot of time worrying about when it’s going to happen and be over with. In addition, parents should try to tell their children’s teachers the day before they have the talk with their kids about divorce, so that the teachers are aware and can keep an eye out for any issues in the days that follow.