Talking to Children About Divorce

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
This lesson focuses on how parents can effectively and honestly talk to their children about an upcoming divorce. The lesson talks about how parents can introduce the topic and differences in how children will understand the topic according to age.

A Bridge to Cross

As with most marriages, Mike and Hope's began happily but after fifteen years and three kids, tensions had grown so large between them that they knew they needed to separate. The initial concern was which lawyer to choose, but both realized that telling their children was a big hurdle they needed to manage.

Since the children were in different developmental ranges (14, 8, and 4), Hope and Mike knew that they would have to answer different questions and watch out for age-related reactions. Just talking about divorce was difficult for them, so they knew that dealing with the aftermath of discussing it with their kids would be very hard. They also realized that how the kids reacted was likely the most critical issue in the split.

How to Broach the Topic

It is very likely that parents in the situation that Mike and Hope find themselves in will be emotionally charged. But, that doesn't mean that they should carry all of that emotion into a discussion of the divorce with their children. It is best that all members of the family be present when the talk occurs if that is possible. Parents should not openly blame one another, but should show that they will continue to support the children just as they always have. It should be a calm, rational discussion during which all of the children's immediate questions are answered.

How Children React

The way that children react to news of a separation is not necessarily something that is split along age groups. Children will react to talk of a divorce more along personality lines.

  • Some children will be relieved because they were concerned with the tension in the house.
  • Some children, no matter how old, will feel that they are to blame. This idea needs to be dealt with during the initial talk. It doesn't matter whether the children are in different age groups; they need to know that it is between the parents and has nothing to do with anything any of the children did.
  • Never make the children take sides in a divorce. Both parents should be supportive and try to make the transition as normal as possible.

Some Differences in Age Groups

Because of their diverse ages, Mike and Hope knew that their children would have differing levels of understanding, coping, and acceptance. So, they tried to deal with all of the emotions on a personal level with each child.

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