Communicating Divorce to Children
How to deal with children when divorce is an inevitability? The fact is, thousands of children every year are affected by the legal process ending a marriage, and they range from newborns to older teenagers just on the cusp of adulthood themselves. However, for parents, breaking the news of divorce can feel like spanning a mental Grand Canyon. Some just want to turn around and avoid it. Others want to do the impossible and cover the span in one leap. Still others accept the reality that disclosure is a process and start making their way down the gap, across and to the other side incrementally.
How to Best Tell Kids About Divorce
The fact is, there is no perfect answer for every situation as a generic rule. However, ultimately, every family should disclose to their children that a divorce will eventually happen at some point. And the first step is to arrive at an agreement about how and when that discussion will happen so that kids don’t feel like they are caught in a mental crossfire between their parents. In fact, as tough as it might seem, many experts agree that parents should disclose an impending divorce together and at the same time with their children. The Tierney Law Group can help you through this challenge as well.
There are a couple of principles to remember in any strategy or approach:
- Focus on keeping the explanation simple and truthful. Getting too detailed leaves room for confusion. Stick to the truth and don’t embellish.
- Make sure to express love. Parents need to reinforce their love for their kids as unconditional. The first thing that will cross their minds in a divorce is a sudden shattering of the sense of stability, followed by predictable questions of what happens to them specifically next.
- Don’t avoid the discussion of changes in family life and home. Instead, manage the change and help them transition through the expected changes.
- Keep children feeling safe with what won’t change and can be depended on to be there for them day after day. This is also critical; children need to retain a sense of an anchor when other parts of their family life go through flux.
- Spend time listening to children and observing. A massive change like divorce will have an effect on kids involved, and they will respond to it in different ways and at different times, usually unpredictably. Anticipate these reactions and give them an ear instead of ignoring the outbursts because children want to be heard just as much as anyone else.
- Stay away from the blame game. Kids automatically feel conflicted and in the middle if parents start attacking each other and blaming what goes wrong on each other. Remember, to children, both parents are critical. Their loyalty to either parent shouldn’t be questioned.
Kids are Different at Different Ages
Remember, children process information differently at different ages. It doesn’t hurt to spend a little time understanding child psychology to understand how to approach the issue of divorce. For example, grade school children are very much rooted in direct, visual conditions. What they see, hear and sense directly matters most. Abstract concepts such as legalities don’t connect with them. Pre-teens and early teens, on the other hand, are in a hybrid state. On average, cognitive abstract development manifests at about 13 or 14 years of age and becomes full-bloom by 16. While they seem to grasp the complexities of divorce, early teens may still snap back to fundamental emotional responses of immediate loss of stability.
Older teens, on the other hand, have begun to stabilize their early adult minds. Rationality becomes common in many of their responses, as well as questioning the deeper motivations of statements they hear. At this age, older teens are very capable of taking on the complexities of divorce legalities, but they don’t have the life experience yet to fathom to depth of the issues they hear. So, some guidance is still needed.
Help from a Pleasanton CA Divorce Attorney How to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce has been, from experience, one of the toughest challenges for clients. However, based on past cases, the Tierney Law Group believes inclusion of children in the divorce process is essential for long-term family health. In this regard, as a Pleasanton divorce mediation attorney team, our attorneys will try to help guide our clients as best as possible based on prior case experience. Again, there is no perfect solution, but there are lot of missteps that can be avoided as well. After all, your children are your most important legacy and depend on you for what continues after the divorce is over. Call us for advice, it works.