How to Talk to Your Children About Your Divorce
Divorce affects not only you and your ex-spouse, but your children as well. One of the best ways to help your children adjust to your divorce is to openly communicate with them. Below, the attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss how to effectively speak to your children about your divorce and custody arrangements.
Take Your Child’s Age Into Account
Talking to your children about divorce is always a difficult endeavor, no matter how old your children are. Regardless of your marital status, your love for your children will remain unconditional, and that is the key message to communicate to your children. During your conversation with children of any age, remember to make it clear that the decision to separate was an adult decision and in no way their fault or something within their control. If your children are younger, it’s important to communicate with them in a way they will understand. Have patience, be prepared for questions and stay positive. Older children are capable of better recognizing your emotions. They may have sensed conflict between you and your spouse and potentially predicted your divorce. Tailor your conversation about the situation to meet the needs of each child in the family, if there are multiple children, perhaps consider speaking with them separately after informing them generally about the circumstances so that each child can process the initial information and then ask whatever questions they have. They will have questions, however some may not come right out and ask them as children process information differently at different developmental stages and ages.
Never vent or unpack your emotions on your children. It’s important to be honest with them, but avoid putting your spouse at fault or speaking poorly of them in the conversation regardless as to the circumstances of the split. Children should never be placed in a position of feeling as though they should choose a “side” or be a parent’s caretaker and the best way to divert that situation is to leave blame out of the conversation.
Do be prepared with concrete responses as to what is known – who will live where, whether their schools will/will not change, when they will see each parent, what is happening with regard to family pets, etc. Children often want reassurances about what their world will look like after the split. Granting them a sense of security as far as showing them how their day-to-day life is changing, or not changing, is productive and helpful.
In a time of emotional stress, answering your children’s questions with honesty can help your children adjust to your divorce and maintain a strong relationship with both parents, regardless of the details of your separation. Reassure your children that they can still come to you with anything. You and your spouse should both be present for the conversation if possible. To have the most valuable and honest conversation, consider rehearsing the conversation with your spouse to help contain emotions when confronted with difficult questions.
Allow Your Children to Experience Emotions
This is a big adjustment for both you and your children. Let them take this experience with grace. As they deal with the long-term implications of the divorce and custody agreement, giving them permission to express their feelings is critical. To preserve your relationship, allow them to come to you with any questions and let them know you’re there for them if they need to talk.
Support Your Children As Best You Can
Divorce will impact your children’s personal lives. In addition to supporting your children emotionally, continue to be present in their life by doing activities with them and prioritizing quality time with them. Try to keep the day-to-day as normal as possible, despite your family’s new circumstances.
Ultimately, if your children are struggling with the changes in their lives as a result of separation and divorce, do not hesitate to seek professional help. Many schools offer therapy programs where your child can meet with a licensed clinical social worker during the school day to talk through their concerns and fears. Private therapists abound, many offering remote therapy as a convenient option at this time. If you are not sure where to begin locating a therapist for your child, you can start by investigating through your health insurance whether there is a list of providers available to you that accept your insurance. Otherwise your attorney, friends and/or family can also be a good source of names for potential therapists to begin considering your many options.
Rodier Family Law’s Divorce and Child Custody Attorneys Can Help You Explore Your Options
Developing a comprehensive approach for discussing divorce with your children can be difficult, but it may give clarity to your children. If you need assistance with your child custody case, contact Rodier Family Law in Bel Air today to explore your divorce and custody options with an experienced attorney.