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Speaking to Kids About Divorce

by Parker Janney, studioD

Divorce is extremely common in our society. In addition, there are many family structures that break from the traditional nuclear family ideal of husband, wife and two kids. In fact, single-parent households are the most prevalent in the United States. Most children today can think of many friends and peers whose parents are divorced and who live with stepparents, grandparents, foster parents, aunts and uncles. But despite how normalized this arrangement has become, talking to your children about divorce is a serious matter and should be approached thoughtfully.

Agree What Will Be Said

While you and your partner may have good reasons for divorcing, it is important that you both decide what will and will not be said to your child regarding your decision, and that you both adhere to this agreement. If a child is hearing two different stories or reasons for the split, he may become confused and distrustful, wondering which person is telling the truth. While you and your partner might have very different understandings of why the split is necessary, it is crucial that you show a united front.

Tell All Children at Same Time

When you deliver the news, tell all of your children at the same time. Some parents think they should tell the older children first, in a desire to protect their younger children from pain as long as possible. But, this forces older siblings to keep secrets from the younger, and tells the younger that they aren't mature enough to understand the situation.

Keep It Age-Appropriate

How you speak to your kids about an impending divorce will depend largely on the children's age and maturity level. You know your children best. When deciding what to say regarding divorce, use language and metaphors that they will understand.

Utilize Supplemental Resources

There are a number of supplemental resources, such as books, films and self-help seminars, designed to help ease the transition for your child. Resources that are geared toward children can help explain the situation in a way that they can understand.

Address Any Fears or Questions

Your children will undoubtedly have many fears and concerns about what this dramatic shift will mean for them. Encourage them to react to the news by asking questions and repeating information as necessary. In addition, they may show strong emotional reactions. Allow your children to express any feelings that come up in reaction to your news. Be prepared to address questions regarding changes in their lifestyle that will inevitably arise as a result of divorce.

About the Author

Parker Janney is a web developer and writer based in Philadelphia. With a Master of Arts in international politics, she has been ghostwriting for several underground publications since the late 2000s, with works featured in "Virtuoso," the "Philadelphia Anthropology Journal" and "Clutter" magazine.

Photo Credits

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