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Talking to Your Children About Divorce

A child lays in bed thinking what caused the demise of their parents’ marriage. They think about the times where things felt normal. As they grow older, many things trigger their memories of the past. Instead of having soothing reflections of childhood memories the truth becomes unraveled and lies and deceit flood their mind. Their mother and father made promises of things that were uncertain: “things will not change much for you” or “things will become better than they were before.” That child, now maturing into a young adolescent, begins to resent their parents, who could not hold their promises.

Adverse childhood experiences have a significant impact on the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children, and may have lasting impacts into adulthood. The continuing stress and conflict usually associated with divorce is one of the leading causes of childhood trauma.

Being mindful of how you communicate with children facing an adverse childhood experience can help minimize the effects of the trauma, according to pediatric speech-language pathologist, Bhairvi Trivedi.

When communicating with a child about divorce and custody, there are three important points to consider:

1. Be honest, but age-appropriate, when answering questions. Too many lies can confuse a child and parent(s). This may lead to more inconsistencies in communication and may contribute to anger and resentment later on as a child tries to make sense of a situation on their own. However, before you provide information to your child, consider whether it is relevant or helpful for them.

2. Prepare your child for life after divorce. Children thrive with structure, and divorce can result in changes to a child’s lifestyle and daily routine. For both adults and children, a lot of anxiety may surface with the unknown. So, make sure you prepare your child with what they should expect (e.g., custody, changes in living situations) and what you are unsure about (e.g., visitation). Most importantly, to maintain trust in your relationship, do not make false promises to your child.

3.  Talk about your emotions. Parents should reassure children and provide opportunities for their children to share their emotions in a safe environment. Parents should also share their emotions in a healthy way. It can be frightening for a child to see their parent distressed, angry, or sad without a proper explanation. While sharing your emotions with you child, make sure you are telling them what you are doing to take care of yourself. This can help your child feel validated and process their own emotions.

Although divorce can be a difficult time for many families, effectively communicating with children can help lessen or prevent the negative effects of divorce. If you are concerned and need help in communicating with your child, you can seek support from a local licensed Marriage/Family Therapist. The Manely Firm, P.C. is here to assist their clients with the family law issues they are facing. We understand that these situations are not easy to handle and we are prepared to help you obtain the most positive outcome from difficult situations.

A child lays in bed thinking what caused the demise of their parents’ marriage. They are still concerned but they know they are loved and cared for and they know that their parents will watch out for them.  The child falls into a comfortable sleep.

K.R. Chowbey 

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