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Talking to your kids about divorce

The divorce rate in the United States is about 50 percent. According to some reports, about 1.5 million children are affected by divorce each year. Parents going through a divorce are naturally concerned about their children, but Scientific American reports that only a few children experience serious problems in the wake of a divorce. Although children are strongly affected in the short term, how parents talk to the kids about divorce helps children process their emotions and feelings. Children do recover and move on, especially when both parents are involved in their life.

Tips for initially telling your children about the divorce

Most children experience multiple emotions when they hear their parents are separating. Depending on the age of the child, there might be relief, sadness or anger. Allow children to move through their feelings. Additional tips include:

  • If possible, both parents should tell the children together about the divorce.
  • Reassure children that you will always love them. The divorce is not their fault.
  • Do not tell older children and ask them to keep secrets from their younger siblings.
  • Keep age in mind when you talk to your children.
  • Answer questions honestly, but do not provide more information than the child needs. It is not always easy to balance this, but you do need to be careful that you do not speak poorly about the other parent.
  • Plan your conversation before you talk to your kids. Have the conversation before living arrangements change, if possible.
  • Do not blame. Try to present a united front.

Help your kids express their feelings

Divorce is a loss, which means your children (and you) will likely go through the stages of grief. You need to listen to your children. They may have problems finding the right words for their feelings. Encourage your child to talk about how he or she feels when you notice a mood change. Help your child be honest. Children often keep their feelings bottled up for fear of hurting a parent. Acknowledge all their feelings, even though you may not be able to fix the problem. Tell your child you understand, and do not dismiss her or his feelings. Work with the other parent to find solutions in the divorce proceedings that work for your kids.

Your children will likely need multiple reassurances that they are not to blame for the divorce. You may have to clear up some misunderstandings about the divorce process to help them work through their feelings. Do not forget to talk to your attorney about your parental rights and responsibilities so you can protect your child's future.

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Mathis, Bates & Klinghard PLLC
412 Franklin Street
Clarksville, TN 37040

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