FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2013-01-08
Making the decision to divorce is rarely easy, particularly when there are children involved. Many parents struggle with how to discuss divorcewith their children, wondering what the best way to tell the children is and how children will handle the news. Parents going through a divorce should be aware of some of the mistakes parents often make when talking about divorce with children so they can avoid making those errors.
Not Telling Children Together
Experts agree that it is important for parents to tell children about divorce as a couple. Having both parents involved in the discussion reinforces that idea that both will still be involved in the children’s lives and that the children still have a family, even if things are changing.
Assuming Children Understand Reasons for Divorce
While parents understand that the reasons for divorce are issues that they have between themselves, children may think that the divorce is somehow their fault. Some children may believe that they did something to cause their parents to divorce, or that if they had been better behaved their parents would stay together — particularly if parents often fight about their children.
Parents need to reassure their children that they are not the cause of the divorce and that both parents still love them the same even if they can no longer get along with each other.
Treating Children Like Adults
Parents should make every effort to answer their children’s questions about divorce, but they also need to be wary of providing too much information. Confiding in children with details that only other adults should know can be burdensome to them. Similarly, parents may mistakenly look to their children for support during divorce. However, parents need to realize that they should be comforting their children and assuaging the children’s fears — not the other way around.
Disrespecting the Other Parent
Emotions often run high during divorce and many parents are angry and frustrated with one another. However, parents should make every effort not to disparage each other in front of the children. Making negative comments about the other parent can make the children think there is something wrong with them because they love someone who upsets the parent so much. Children need to maintain relationships with both parents after divorce and that may be difficult for children to do if it seems that one parent makes the other parent too angry.
Making Children Choose Sides
Some parents may try to get their children to unite with them against the other parent. They want to make themselves look like a good parent and the other parent as a bad parent. However, children who feel pressured to choose one parent over the other may end up confused and feeling guilty for continuing to love both parents.
The way that parents discuss divorce with their children can have an impact on how children handle the situation. Having a plan and some ground rules for talking about divorce can make it easier for both parents and children in the long run.