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How to Talk to Your Children About Divorce or Separation?

Couples that are experiencing marital problems and are considering divorce have several issues to work through. Concerns such as the division of assets, custody of children, support of children and support of a spouse are all major considerations that must be resolved. However, one of the side effects of a divorce or separation is the toll that it takes on other members of the household, children. Many couples have tolled over the decision as to how and when they are going to communicate the fact that their marriage is ending to their children. To that end, there is no right or wrong answer. However, several psychologist and experts have examined this question.

A recent article by Ann Buscho Ph.D. with Psychology Today took an in depth look at the best way to approach telling children that their parents are getting a separation or a divorce. While acknowledging that this conversation is difficult and can be painful, it is important that children hear this information from their parents first and not from another source. Children are very perceptive. Often times, children are present for some of the difficulties that parents are experiencing in the relationship. Some of the suggestions for how to approach discussing a divorce or separation with children include:

  • Plan what you are going to say to your children
    • Telling your children on a day that allows for family time with both parents is ideal. However, for couples that have a difficult time communicating with each other, the use of services such as a divorce coach or a counselor can assist. It is also recommended that you try to avoid telling children during the holidays or before they are going to school.
  • Talk to you children about the divorce or separation together
    • Of course, as listed above, this largely depends on the parent’s ability to remain civil and cordial throughout the process. Additionally, if there is more than one child in the household there should be some consideration for the different ages and maturity of the children in the home.
  • Avoid placing blame on the other parent during the discussion
    • This can be difficult. This isn’t to say that a parent is wrong for feeling that the other party is the cause of the relationship ending. However, it is important for children to not feel as though they are caught in the middle or being forced to pick a side. The truth is less important than providing the support and reassurance that your children need. It is recommended that couples use the word “we” when explaining the decision to children.
  • Tell your children why the divorce or separation is happening
    • Specific details about the cause for the divorce aren’t as important as the general explanation without blame.
    • For older children that may press their parents for more information, explanations such as “we like each other and want to be friends” or “we both want different things in our lives” are good responses.
  • Tell your children what will change and what will stay the same
  • Tell your children which parent will leave the home
  • Reassure your children
    • Inevitably, the end of the marriage will bring about change. However, being able to communicate to your children those changes, explain them and assure your children which aspects of their lives that will remain intact is helpful.

Most of the literature related to creating a less stressful environment for children in the midst of a divorce center on the information being provided to them, especially younger children. Parents that are able to pause and consider the impact of the divorce or separation from the child’s perspective are at an advantage when it comes to navigating through this process. The main point to take from this is that, although divorce is difficult for everyone involved, the right approach can help reduce the anxiety for the children from the marriage and create an overall less stressful environment. Attorneys at the Faucette Law Firm, LLC have extensive experience with assisting clients with all matters related to divorce and family law such as contested and uncontested divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, legitimation and modifications. Contact our law firm today for a consultation.