Children at varied developmental levels naturally have a different understanding of divorce, the reasons for it, and what the future will bring. Parents will therefore need to tailor discussions according to their children’s maturity. Parents of young children should maintain routines, provide consistency in rules and expectations, and provide extra affection. Provide young children with repeated reassurances that the divorce is not their fault and that you love them. Teens will likely want more details about the divorce and how it will affect their lives. Parents of teens should have open, calm conversations; support their teen’s emotional reactions; and continue to maintain high expectations for their behavior.
Keep Messaging Clear & Simple
For all kids, their parents’ message should be clear and simple. It should leave out messy details that could lead children to believe that they need to fix the problem or that they are the cause of the divorce. Parents–ideally together–should explain in a calm tone something like, “We have decided that we can’t live together anymore and do not want to stay married. This was not an easy decision, but it was an adult decision. It has absolutely nothing to do with you; we both totally love you.” Children may have mixed feelings in reaction to the news.
It may be helpful to make the following points:
· Mommy and Daddy will both be happier.
· There will be two homes where you will be loved.
· Each of us will continue to be an important part of your life.
It is important to listen and pay attention to your children’s reactions.
For older children, this news may not come as a surprise. They may have friends with divorced parents. They may have worried with every argument that their parents would be next. For other children, the news may come as a shock. Prepared and unprepared children have many questions that they are afraid to ask. Some questions will be immediate; others will evolve over time. For this reason, it is important to give children repeated opportunities to ask questions and express their worries.