Talking with children about parental separation and divorce

Family of 4 having a discussion at dinner tableDeciding to get a divorce is never easy. Many parents resist telling their children as they are unsure how to deal with the topic. Discussing your divorce sooner rather than later is beneficial to your child. It is also likely that you will have multiple conversations about the divorce and associated changes as they occur over time. Here are some useful tips for talking about the changes that are about to happen.

  • Use simple age-appropriate language to discuss the changes with your child and make sure that they understand clearly what is happening.
  • Do not be vague as this exacerbates uncertainty. Be clear that “mum and dad are not going to be living together anymore, but that both mum and dad love you very much”.
  • Ensure that your child knows that none of this is their fault, and it is a decision that both parents have given much thought to.
  • Make sure you have set aside enough time to address any difficult questions. Children will want to know where they will live, how often they will see each parent and why the two of you can’t work things out, to name a few. Be as clear and honest as you can about the answers.
  • If there are questions that you aren’t sure about, then tell your child that you are still working on the details. Be sure to revisit the question when you have worked out the answer.
  • It is also really important to be prepared to answer questions more than once. Your child will be seeking security so she may ask the same question more than once or in different ways. This is her way of making sense of the changes and ensuring things are stable. Making time to sit and talk about her concerns will also help her feel more secure.

It can be really difficult to talk about separation and divorce with our children, but it is important. If you feel you may need some assistance  with this, it may help to speak with a psychologist.