Explaining divorce to a child using clear communication, some common sense, and honesty, can help “break the news” of divorce to children in a healthy manner. “Do you hate each other?” “Do you love me?” “Is it my fault?” Every parent going through a divorce likely confronts one or more of these questions from their children at some point.
Parents who follow the below principles can reassure their children. Common sense: parents shouldn’t overthink how to approach their children. Parents should carefully explain the divorce process, what it means, and what the kids should expect. For example, parents should explain that their children will likely share time at each parents’ home. The explanations should be simple and straightforward because kids do not need to know every detail about the divorce process.
Parents should also express love and reassurance throughout the divorce. Children may internalize the divorce and believe that it is on their shoulders. Parents should emphasize that they are both committed to and love their children. Both parents should express their love through their actions. Parents should take time to drive their children to school functions, after school events, attend games, keep promises to spend time, give attention, hugs, and other expressions of love.
Importantly, both parents should present a unified front to their children. If possible, both parents should explain the divorce process to the children together at the same time. Specifically, the parents should ensure that their children understand that, even though things are going to change, that both parents remain committed to their children and are still in charge.
Moreover, parents should encourage their children to express their emotions and ask questions – as many as needed. Divorce is difficult for children, and they need to know that they can still come to their parents. Also, children should be reassured that the changes they will experience are best for the whole family. It is more likely than not that children of parents going through divorce saw their parents fighting and treating each other poorly. And, in that same vein, letting the kids know that even though the parents are getting divorced, they both still love them and that will never change can help kids cope with the changes ahead.