When children are involved in a divorce, their feelings can sometimes be overlooked as parents are more concerned with their own feelings. However, the direct and indirect ways in which children are affected by divorce should be handled with great care. Many things must be considered as you decide the appropriate level of openness to have with your children regarding the divorce, including the child's age, mental and emotional maturity, and relationship with both parents. Every family is different, and there is not a one-size-fits-all plan for how to talk to your children about divorce. However, the following describes a few universal recommendations for parents as they consider the best way to handle the issue of parent-child communication.
Tell them together. Getting off on the right foot as you introduce the idea of the divorce to your children is important for several reasons. As your children grow accustomed to the idea of the separation of the family, they need to know that the lines of communication will always remain open. The dramatic change in family structure can induce in children a fear of communication, leaving them with unanswered questions and a great deal of confusion. From the very beginning, assure children that no matter what happened between mom and dad, you both are willing to work together to provide the best life possible for your children.
Be honest. Given the nature of some divorces, it can be challenging to explain to your children the reason behind the divorce. It's never easy to tell your kids that mommy cheated on daddy with another man. Or that the two of you simply fell out of love. It is understandable to want to protect young children from the not-so-pretty truth that is so often the case with most divorces. However, in lying to your children, you run the risk of them discovering the true story as they grow older, which can strain your future relationship with your kids. As you break the news to the kids, use your own discretion, taking into account the age of the child and how the news will affect both your and your spouse's relationship with the child.
Assure them that the divorce is not their fault. As a child attempts to makes sense of the divorce, often feeling caught in the middle, it is very common for him or her to feel as though the divorce is partially his or her fault. These feelings of guilt can have long-lasting effects, sometimes carrying over into adulthood and affecting future adult relationships that your child may develop. Assuring your children that the divorce is not their fault is of utmost importance. Doing so will not only contribute to a child's emotional well-being, but also to a loving and healthy parent-child relationship.
Do not encourage side-taking. One of the mistakes parents make in talking with children about the divorce is the purposeful or inadvertent encouragement of side-taking. It is important for children to be informed of the divorce to a certain extent, but encouraging your child to harbor negative feelings toward your ex is not fair to the child, nor to your ex. Keep in mind that encouraging a negative relationship between your child and your ex is never in the best interest of the child, no matter how validated your feelings truly are. Additionally, such negative influence on your child may harm your reputation with the courts, preventing a judge from ruling in your favor on issues regarding visitation or custody of your child.
For more information on your options regarding effective communication with your child regarding divorce, feel free to contact the Law Office of Bradley R. Tengler at 815-981-4859 for a free consultation. Please note, the above does not constitute legal advice. Please discuss your specific rights with an attorney in your own jurisdiction.