Talking to your child about divorce can be very difficult if you don’t know in advance what to say. I encourage you to make a checklist so you can organize your thoughts and appear calm and collected when talking to your children.
Here are some starter tips to keep in mind when talking to your child about divorce…
1. There is no “best age” for divorcing – Though this is true, neurologists have proven that the brain cell structure is mainly formed between ages 1-8. Children that fit within this age range are like a sponge, absorbing everything they hear you say and see you do.
If you choose to get divorced during these critical years, you’ll leave a long-lasting imprint on your child. The amount of damage done will depend on your child’s temperament. More sensitive children often take the blame for your divorce, regardless of what you say to them. Stronger willed children can turn this “terrible event” into anger towards others.
The best possible scenario for your child is for you and your spouse to stay together. Consider giving your marriage a second chance. If you’ve tried counseling, books, courses or marriage seminars, but failed to notice a difference in your marriage, I want you to know it is possible for one spouse to save your marriage on your own - even without your spouse's participation.
2. It may be difficult to predict your child’s reaction – Depending on how sensitive your child is, when talking to your child about divorce, expect them to either break out in tears or show no emotion at all. Also, be prepared for lots of questions that may seem obvious to you, but not to your child.
3. Your child’s behavior may change – Upon hearing the bad news of this breakup, it is normal for a young child who is toilet trained to have accidents in bed, act/talk like a baby or suddenly have the desire to sleep in your bed.
4. Reassure your child that this is NOT THEIR FAULT. Your child may immediately think that something they did within the past few weeks caused “mommy and daddy to fight.” This may seem obvious to you, but depending on your child’s nature, s/he may blame themselves for your divorce.
NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, younger children who are especially sensitive may blame themselves for your divorce no matter what you say. This is just one of the devastating effects of divorce on children that are beyond your control.
5. When talking to your child about divorce, reassure them that both parents will still be a part of their life, just at separate times. Some children think that since daddy (or mommy) is moving out, they will be without that parent for the rest of their lives.
6. Keep your emotions under control when talking to your child about divorce. If your child sees you upset, they will immediately become upset, making the conversation 10 times more difficult for the two of you.
Try your best to remain calm and collected while talking to your child about the divorce. If you think this might be difficult for you, sign up for my FREE, 7-day mini-course that teaches you how to control your emotions.
7. Don’t speak negatively about your spouse in front of your child. This is probably one of the most important things to remember when talking to your child about divorce. Your child doesn’t need to know the details about why you are divorcing, but they do need a reason.
And that reason cannot be things like, “daddy has found a younger woman” or “mommy is a control freak”. Children have no way to process this kind of criticism – it will only confuse them. Over time, your negative comments will cause your kids to resent your spouse...0R it could backfire and they could start to resent YOU!
Do NOT make your child resent your spouse just because you are mad at him/her. Your spouse is STILL your child’s mother/father and they always will be. If you want to avoid seriously damaging your child’s future, you MUST always keep this in mind - whether your child is 5 or 25.
8. Tell your child what will be changing in their life. Children HATE change. They need security, predictability and routine. So if at all possible, try to arrange for the non-custodial parent to come to the children, instead of the other way around. Aside from that, do your best to keep things as normal as possible by putting aside your differences and getting along - for the sake of your child’s emotional health in the future.
Here's one thing you should NOT do when talking to your child about divorce...
Don’t try to “buy their love”. It may be tempting to try to make your child feel better by buying them things or by giving them little or no discipline at all. THIS WILL ONLY HURT YOUR CHILD in the long run for 2 reasons…
1. While you may think you’re giving your child “a break” when you give them little or no discipline at all, what you’re actually doing is giving them a clear message that you don’t care what they do. They may even get into trouble JUST SO THEY GET SOME KIND OF REACTION from you. The best thing you can do to keep their lifestyle the same is discipline them as you normally would.
2. When you buy your children material possessions to show your love, you’re actually HURTING your kids because of the 2 very destructive beliefs you’re giving them. (Which will hurt them in their adult life…)
When you give your child gifts (which are not connected to normal birthdays/Christmas) you’re ACTUALLY telling them…
Buying your child new things will make them feel good temporarily, but this quickly wears off. What children really want is for their parents to take a genuine interest in their challenges, opportunities and joys in life. No material possession can ever take the place of two loving parents in one household.
So, go ahead and start making a list of issues you want to discuss when talking to your child about divorce. Be sure to say the right things so this transition is less traumatic for your child.
When talking to your child about divorce always remember; your children need security, routine, predictability. And if you do everything in your ability to create these conditions and you might be able to minimize the emotional damage of divorce in your children.
But by all means, for your children’s sake, don’t give up on your marriage just yet. There are more positive and easier alternatives to conventional marriage counseling that will save you and your children from the trauma of a divorce.
There’s no harm in exploring all your options before you take this dramatic step that will alter the course of your children’s lives. You can explore one of the most successful alternatives here.