When your marriage ends and you have kids to think about, telling them can be done right or wrong. While you cannot control their reactions, you can make sure that you prepare them as much as possible for what is coming. Most children value stability and consistency, and they want to know that both parents still love them and that they are not at fault for the divorce. How you talk to your kids about divorce depends on their age and where they are developmentally.
0 to 5 years old
Kids who are 0 to 5 years old depend on caregivers for everything but lack the ability to understand their own feelings, anticipate the future or deal with complex events. Preschoolers may start to be a little independent, but cause and effect still eludes them. The world revolves around them, and they often have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality. They are also limited in their ability to talk about their feelings.
Provide babies and toddlers with concrete, simple explanations, and do all you can to keep their routines as normal as possible. Stick to basic concepts such as where the child will live, who is moving out and when they will see the other parent.
6 to 11 years old
At this point, kids are starting to understand relationships outside of their own family, often see things in black and white and may be more likely to talk about their feelings. Complex circumstances are still difficult for them to understand.
Again, consistent routines are important to your children. At this age, they should also be given the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling. Approach the topic in indirect, unthreatening ways. Buy your kids books to read about divorce to help them understand their own emotions.
12 to 14 years old
This is a difficult age for kids to deal with divorce, although they are better at understanding and discussing the situation. Their relationships outside the home are very important to them, and they may question your authority and start looking for independence.
With kids this age, it is important to keep communication lines open always. Your child may act as if they do not want to talk, but let them know you are there when they are ready. Pre-teens and teens crave a connection with their parents, and now is not the time to let them withdraw. Always present a united front and be honest with your kids, especially at this age.
Keep it amicable
An angry divorce can be particularly hard on your kids, and mediation is an alternative that helps keep things calm and simple. If you have questions about a divorce, we encourage you to speak to a mediator today.