The word “divorce” can be one of scariest words that a child will ever hear. Even if it is obvious to the child that the situation at home is not going well, kids never really want to think of a future without their mother and father living in the same house. It evokes feelings of stress, sadness, and confusion.
To make this process as positive as possible, you need to establish open communication. This is key because it opens the door for kids to express their feelings and ask questions. If they know that you welcome their questions and feedback, it will definitely alleviate their stress and worry, as compared to having to keep everything to themselves and wonder what the future holds. Also, ensure that they understand that it is normal for them to have an emotional response to the divorce.
Kids should also be encouraged to voice their concerns to people close to them that they can trust, aside from parents, which may include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. It is also a good idea to make sure that they know that they are not the only ones going through this. You likely have other relatives or family friends who have gone through separation or divorce, which you could use as examples that may help them relate.
When you and your spouse decide to separate or divorce, you should expect your child to ask these types of questions:
- Why are you getting divorced?
- Was this my fault?
- Do I still have a family?
- Will my parents both love me after the divorce?
- How often will I see my mom/dad?
- Who will I (and my siblings) live with?
- Are we going to move?
- Will I always feel this bad?
- How long is the divorce going to take?
- Are you going to get remarried?
The more confidence you have in your answers, the more at ease your child will feel. This is why it is very important to be prepared with what you are going to say prior to telling them about the separation or divorce. The goal is to avoid as much uncertainty as possible.
After your initial discussion, ensure that you check in with your child ongoing to see how they are feeling, if they have any questions, and to ensure that their school work is not suffering from the stress of the situation. Also, remember that divorce is between the adults, not the children. You should never speak ill of the other parent in front of the children. It almost always leads to the children feeling the stress of the situation and taking the blame for it.
It is crucial to make your child feel as though their thoughts and feelings are important and that their voice counts!
An excellent Canadian publication “What happens next?” provides useful information for children about what to expect from their parents’ separation or divorce.
In Collaborative Divorce, the goal is to reduce the negative effects of your separation or divorce on your children as much as possible. Call Rahul for a FREE 20-minute consultation to discuss why this would be a smart choice for the well-being of your family.