How to Talk to Your Children About Your Divorce

What would you say?As if getting divorced isn't difficult enough, add kids into the mix and you've got a whole extra layer of complications. What should you say to them? What should you avoid saying? How can you help them through it?

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According to our survey, 51% of YourTango.com Experts agree that when it comes to sharing information with your kids about your divorce, customization is key. That is, you should share any details that the kids can developmentally understand and integrate - no more and no less. Here are some more tips from the experts about how to talk to your kids about your divorce:

1. Be honest. Be as honest as you can in an age-appropriate way. Most parents hide what is happening and this causes the child undue stress. Although it will hurt to tell them, you need to tell them as soon as possible, in a factual way. Give them the facts, a cuddle and let them know everything will be okay. -Sarah Newton

2. Assure them it will be okay. Most children fear the worst when they hear the news and worry about it constantly, not telling the parent for fear of causing more upset. Take their worries on, ask them what they are scared of, what worries them about the future with their parents apart and do all you can to alleviate and reassure them. -Sarah Newton

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3. Let them know it is not their fault.
Most children blame themselves in some way for what has happened. For example, they may think that this may not be happening had they been well behaved. Don't tell them the ins and outs of the divorce, but do make sure you tell them that in no way this is their fault and you both still love them very much. -Sarah Newton

4. Come to agreements with your ex. Talk to your ex about your children and come to agreements together about thing you will both do to make sure your children are not scared by the process, however amicable or unpleasant the divorce may be. For example, decide that you will never put each other down in front of your children. Even though you are not together, you must show a united front. -Sarah Newton

5. Think long-term.
Do you want to be able to sit together at your daughter's graduation? Dance together at your son's wedding? If so, know that the way you handle things now will have a big impact on your future relationship with each other, and if you have kids, you will have a future relationship. It is up to you to decide if you want to be able to share in the major events of your children's lives without anger, tension, and hurt If you want your kids to enjoy those moments without worrying about having both parents in the same room together, find ways to work together civilly now. The payoff down the line is worth it. -Erika Myers

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6. Remember, language matters. The way you talk about your divorce will impact how you, your children, and everyone else in your life responds. Phrases like "broken home," "split family" and even "ex-wife/husband" come laden with negative connotations and focus on loss. Instead, refer to your ex as the mother or father of your children. This recognizes and respects the ongoing connection your former partner has with your children. -Erika Myers

7. Don't lie or deceive. Kids can smell deception from a mile away, particularly when it involves their parents. They can handle unpleasant truth, even truth that hurts, particularly when it's dispensed with care and compassion; in time, "truth pain" will heal. "Deception pain" won't. -Stephen Swecker

8. Honor family. Kids need to know that the family, although dramatically changed, remains "there" for them. This can seem paradoxical; after all, the family as they've known it is taking a huge hit from the parents themselves. Divorce, however, need not include expressions of disrespect for the "other" parent or behaviors that dishonor that parent's role in the kids' lives. Long after the trauma of divorce has ended, kids will benefit from parents who, through it all, behave like responsible, mature members of the kids'
family, i.e., the family their parents created. -Stephen Swecker

Written by Sarah Newton, Erika Myers, and Stephen Swecker for YourTango.com.


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