It is difficult to hear, but it’s a reality of life. Fifty percent of marriages now end in divorce. Divorce can be a painful and traumatizing event for an adult, but is even more confusing to a young child.
A child’s understand of life events shifts as they grow. An infant will not really understand what is going on, but will sense the change in their life. A toddler has a partial grasp on what is happening when their parents divorce; however, the difference between reality and fantasy at this age is sometimes hard to distinguish. Children six years and older can understand and are often hit the hardest.
When you and your spouse have decided that you can no longer remain married, one of the first things you should do is talk about it with your child or children. It is important to talk to them together. Even though you no longer wish to live together you will still make parenting decisions together.
Put aside whatever differences you may be having and come up with what you would like to say to your children before you talk with them. The children will have questions. It is important that you listen carefully and answer them the best you can. You may want to try and anticipate what they will want to know ahead of time. If you do that, there will be no confusion when the time comes to talk with them.
As you are talking with them, emphasize that though you are divorcing each other, you are not divorcing them. They will need extra reassurance that you are not leaving them and that both parents will still be present in their lives. Discuss the difference between marital love and parental love. Even though you may not love each other, remind them that you will always love them. That will never change.
Also stress that the divorce is not their fault. They did nothing wrong. Children of all ages tend to blame a divorce on themselves. They often wonder if they had done something to make their mom or dad want to go away.
Welcome their questions and answer as best you can. They will want to know that their basic needs will still be met. They will want to know that they will still be fed, cared for, and loved. For a child a divorce is a major and stressful life change. They feel is if their entire universe is shifting.
Do what you can to keep things simple. Be as calm and relaxed as you can manage. Divorce can be messy and they do not need all the details. Talk about what will be different and emphasize what will remain the same. It is also important to let them know that divorce is final and there is nothing they can do to change it.
Remind them that even though mom and dad will no longer live together, the rules will remain the same. Structure in a time of upheaval is vitally important.
After talking with them and answering their questions, there are a few other things to keep in mind. During the divorce do your best to be available to your kids. They need extra reassurance that they are loved during this time.
Try to keep the negatives out of your children’s world. Never talk in a negative fashion about your spouse when the children can hear you. Never ask your kids to tell you what the other person is doing. Do not use your children as spies. This can place them in a very awkward position that will ultimately cause more pain.
There are a great number of books about divorce written for children. Make time to sit with them and read through a few of these. They may help the child understand divorce in ways you may not have been able to put into words.
Children ask some tough questions. Always be truthful with them. This is better for them in the long run. You don’t need to give specifics, but be honest.
Lastly, remember that the most important thing you can give them is love and reassurance. Be patient, be available, and keep a schedule that lets them know they are still an important part of your life.Lastly,