Telling one’s children that their parents are separating can be one of the hardest conversations. However, there are ways to support children during this difficult time and reassure them it will be okay. The following are ways to tell children about a divorce:
Have the Conversation Together: Co-parenting continues long after the marriage ends. As much as possible, maintain a united front for this conversation and going forward. Tell the children about the divorce together; this shows the decision is mutual, leaving less room for children to blame one parent. When parents lead the conversation as a unit, children see that their parents are still partners.
Make the Conversation Age-Appropriate: Parents should never get into detail about why the marriage is over, and always keep the conversation appropriate for the children’s ages and stages of development. Talking to a teen about divorce is different than explaining it to a young child. Young adults may have a mature understanding about relationships and may ask more meaningful questions.
Avoid the Blame Game: When a child finds out their parents are getting divorced, their life is forever changed. Making accusations or blaming the other parent for the marriage’s demise only makes things worse. Shield children from divorce disputes as much as possible when telling them about the divorce. Transferring disappointment, anger, and sadness onto children is unfair and clouds their own feelings and opinions of their parents.
Reassure Children the Divorce is Not Their Fault: Children often assume something they said or did caused the divorce. When telling the children about the divorce, it is critical to reassure them it is not their fault. Explain that sometimes couples just grow apart or make better co-parents than spouses. Children may find security knowing that despite the fact that mom and dad no longer want to be married, the love they have for them remains unchanged.
Tell the Children What to Expect in the Future: Fear of the unknown adds to the stress of divorce. After telling the children about the divorce, explain how the practical details of everyday life are going to be. If a parenting plan has not been completed, tell the children what is decided so far, and be transparent with them as things evolve and change throughout the divorce process.
Ask and Answer Questions: Telling children about the divorce should be more of a dialogue than a lecture. After sharing the news, ask the children if they have any questions and respond as transparently as possibly. Children need to feel involved and invested in the transition from one to two households, and know their ideas and opinions are valued. They may not make the final call about custody and visitation, but their wishes should certainly play a role.
Create a Routine for Both Households: One way to ease into life after divorce is to establish a routine that is similar in both households. When parents stick to a similar schedule for homework, activities, bedtime, and chores, the children can transition between homes more seamlessly.
Allow Children to Process Their Feelings: Children need plenty of time and space to process their feelings. Encourage them to talk but never push; there is no right or wrong way to deal with divorce. Let them know their feelings are normal and both parents are available when they are ready to talk.
What Should I Do if My Child is Not Handling the Divorce Well?
Every child is unique and so is their response to divorce. The following are signs that a child is struggling with divorce:
- Mood swings
- Less socializing with friends and family
- Behavioral problems
- Academic problems
- Anxiety and irrational fears
- Low self-esteem
When children have trouble handling life post-divorce, parents should take steps to help. A professional counselor or therapist who works with children is a good start. Therapy offers a safe space for children to share openly and honestly without feeling they are burdening their parents or hurting their feelings. Therapy teaches children healthy ways to manage feelings and coping skills for tough days. Parents who have not used a therapist may not know where to start. The following are ways to find a local therapist who works with children:
- Ask the school guidance counselor for a recommendation
- Ask a trusted friend for a referral
- Read online reviews from current or past patients
- Ask prospective therapists about their specific approach to therapy
- Consult with at least three therapists before choosing one
Can a Divorce Lawyer Help Me Manage the Practical Details of Divorce?
Choosing the right divorce lawyer will have a trickle-down effect on the entire family, including the children. Good legal counsel can alleviate nasty custody fights and contentious court battles, allowing the entire divorce process to go smoothly. Because every divorce lawyer has a duty to act with the children’s best interests in mind, parents can feel confident knowing their children are protected.
Morristown Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Children of Divorce
If you are contemplating filing for divorce and have custody concerns, our Morristown child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help. To learn more about our legal services, or to schedule an initial consultation, call 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Morristown and Somerville, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Woodbridge, Parsippany, Rockaway, Somerset, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.