When you’re going through a divorce, the last thing you want to think about is how to explain it to your children. But it’s an important conversation—and one that has to be had.
“It’s really important for parents to talk with their children about divorce as soon as possible,” says Dr. Claire Bidwell Smith, co-author of The Divorce Resource Book: A Practical Guide for Parents and Children. “You don’t want your kids thinking that mommy or daddy just up and disappeared.”
There are many ways parents can go about explaining divorce to kids, but the most important thing is that you do it respectfully and honestly. Here are some tips on how:
1) Keep it simple
Try not to use big words or complicated explanations when talking with kids about divorce. You don’t need to get into all of the details; just keep things simple by saying something like “Mommy and Daddy have decided that we should live apart from each other.”
2) Keep it positive
Don’t focus on the negative aspects of the divorce—instead, emphasize all the things that will remain constant in your child’s life (like their friends, and family members). This way they’ll know that even though their parents aren’t living together anymore, they have lots of support and love in their lives.
3) Be honest
Don’t lie to your children if they ask why you’re getting divorced—they’ll likely figure it out sooner or later, so it’s best to be upfront with them from the start.
4) Let them know they can talk about their feelings
No matter how old, they have lots of support and love in their lives —even if their parents aren’t together anymore. If your child is having a hard time talking about how they feel, try not to push them into discussing the subject—just be supportive and patient.