Divorce and your kids—how to talk to them about it

Once a couple has chosen to end a marriage, they must then face the difficult talk of telling their children.

Among the many concerns that parents have when getting divorced is how to talk to their kids about the changes. It can also be difficult for parents to know exactly what to say and what not to say to children. This can vary based upon the ages and emotional development of each child.

Except in cases involving violence or other serious issues, keeping kids connected to both parents is of a high priority in divorces. The Huffington Post suggests that one way to do this is to allow unrestricted communication between kids and both parents. This means when kids are with mom and dad sends them a text, kids should feel able to respond without needing to hide it from mom.

It starts at the beginning

Achieving good parent-child relationships during and after a divorce starts with how news about the divorce is first shared with kids. According to Psychology Today, the best way to do this is by gathering all children together at one time and telling them together.

Each child will have his or her own questions or responses but there will be some common concerns. Among these include practical matters like whether or not the kids will need to move. Being able to let kids know as much as possible about these things up front and all at once can give siblings some reassurance as a group.

Moving forward

Once the initial news has been broken, it will be important for parents to stay connected to kids. Ongoing conversations about the divorce should center around the children’s experiences and needs. Today’s Parent notes that many of these will be held individually rather than as a group. This allows parents to discuss matters with kids in an age-appropriate way. What can be said to a 15-year-old is not the same as what can be said to a five-year-old, for example.

Being in tune to the needs of kids at different stages of development is critical. The general rule of thumb here is that the younger the child, the simpler the conversations will be. Keeping discussions focused on what the child’s daily life looks like is most important. Very young kids will have limited ability to understand or talk about feelings.

As kids mature, their emotions can be part of conversations. However, parents may need to engage children indirectly so as not to make them feel on the spot. Referencing something read in a book or other people is a good way to do this.

Creating the new normal

Divorce naturally upsets what children know as their normal lives. It is the job of parents to help put that back together and create a new version of normal that feels good and secure to kids. Texas parents are encouraged to call a family law attorney when getting divorced. Doing this helps spouses feel secure that legal matters are properly handled so that they are emotionally available to their kids.