Andrea Harrn Counselling Services

How to talk to your children about divorce

Can you imagine being a child in the middle of a divorce.  It is a confusing and upsetting time for all concerned and as caring parents the more you can do to help your kids through this difficult time the better.

No two people go into marriage with the expectation that it won’t last and of course where children are concerned this is doubly upsetting.  Even if you were the one that chose to divorce it is still a difficult decision to make.  When a marriage breaks down its all too easy to apportion blame.  In reality with two of you in the relationship there has to be responsibility on both sides for making or breaking the relationship.

Here are 10 tips on how to talk to your children about the divorce:

1.    Do not talk about divorce until you are both sure that is what you want and that is what is happening.  If possible seek marriage counselling and do everything you can to resolve the situation.  Many relationships can get back on track with the right help and commitment.  If conflict is happening at home try to keep this away from your children.  Explain that you are having a few problems but reassure them as much as possible.

2.   If things cannot be resolved and when the time is right speak to the children together about the divorce and what that will mean.  Do not apportion blame for the divorce or even let your children hear that you blame.  Instead try and let your child know that this is a difficult decision that you have both taken.

3.  Stick to boundaries and rules that are already in place and do not bend them or make exceptions because you feel guilty.  The rules and boundaries are your child’s security and needed more than ever at this difficult time. Try to keep to a routine as much as possible with both parents taking interest in school work and hobbies.

4.  Do not play one against the other.  Good guy bad guy.  All too often parents that are in conflict will not back each other up on important issues.  Try to stand firm as parents still.

5.  Do not turn your child against your partner by making comments, slights or faces of disapproval/anger.   As much as you may feel against your partner this is still your child’s father or mother.   By doing this you are confusing your child and putting them in the middle of you both in a very negative way.   If you are very hurt by your partner this will be a difficult one for you but in your child’s best interest they need to hold respect for you both.

6.  As upset as you might feel at times do not discuss your problems with your child.  Let them have their childhood.  If you need someone to talk to find a good friend or family member.  Don’t be alone with your feelings but remember children are too young to take on this kind of responsibility.

7.  Be real with your children about the changes that might take place such as housing, financial, holidays, Xmas arrangements etc.   Where you have organised access to children please make sure these are adhered to.  Nothing is worse for a child’s self-esteem than to be let down by a parent over access.

8.  Allow them to talk about their feelings openly and validate their feelings by empathic communication.  For example, if your child is angry and playing up acknowledge that they are angry and let them talk about it.  Children sometimes blame themselves for divorce so it is important that they know this is a difficult decision you have both taken and it is about mum and dad’s relationship.

9.  Watch out for signs of behavioural changes in your child and let them know you are there for them and will support them.

10.  Tell your child that no matter what happens they are loved by you both.

In the meantime there is a seminar coming up this Friday 24th May in East London which may be of interest being run by a colleague of mine who is a family divorce lawyer.  Details:

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