Talking to Your Children about Divorce
During and after a divorce proceeding, children experience fear and anxiety about their lives and their futures. They may fear that they’ll never see a parent again, or that they will be abandoned by both parents. They need to see and hear that that’s not the case—that you’ll love and support them regardless of what happens. Ultimately, though, you’ll either sit down with them and talk to them about the divorce, or you’ll have to answer their questions.
If At All Possible, Agree Beforehand What You Will Say
If your children are old enough at the time of the divorce to understand what’s going on, it’s best that you both talk to them as soon as possible. Try to sit down (without the children present) and agree on what you will and won’t say. When you talk to your kids, honor your commitment not to discuss matters that you’ve agreed to avoid.
This may not always be possible, though. You or your ex may feel that the emotions are too fragile to have a joint conversation with your children. If you have to sit down with your children by yourself, take some time by yourself in advance to think about what you want to say. Here are some important issues to address:
- Don’t use the discussion with your children to disparage your spouse—Your children will be confused and hurt enough by the mere fact that you are getting a divorce. Don’t make their pain worse by putting them in the middle.
- Reassure them that they are not the cause, and that you still love them and will be there for them—One of the biggest fears kids have is that they will be abandoned. Make certain they know that won’t happen.
- Be willing to take responsibility—Divorce is seldom the exclusive fault of one party. By admitting your responsibility as soon as possible, you can start to build a relationship where your children trust you to tell them the truth
- Don’t tell them more or less than they need to know—For very young children, you don’t need to discuss things in any detail. Even with older children, the sordid details are likely not necessary. Remember, though, that if neither of you take responsibility for the divorce, there’s a good chance your child will.
Contact Morgenstern & Rochester
At Morgenstern & Rochester, our two partners have almost 50 years of combined family law experience. We are a boutique family law firm that takes a hands-on approach. When you hire us, you will always work directly with one of our partners, never with an inexperienced associate or a paralegal.