Talking to your children about your divorce can seem like a never-ending process. Divorce will impact nearly every aspect of your children’s lives, so, understandably, they have questions.
As your children get older, you may find that their questions change. Sometimes, a thought may occur to them seemingly out of nowhere. Other times, they know someone whose family is going through a divorce and begin to wonder if and when they will experience what they see their friend going through.
Ultimately, your discussions about divorce will continue well into the future. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for making the conversations age-appropriate.
Just the basics for the littlest kids
Children under five will have little understanding that divorce is an adult decision. They are more likely to associate one parent moving out of the family home as leaving them specifically than understating that it was a decision that had to do with the adults.
When talking to your youngest children, you should help them discuss their worries about who will care for them and answer their questions with short and straightforward answers.
More understanding from kids under 11
If your children are between ages six and 11, you will likely find that they have an easier time talking about their thoughts and feelings. However, similar to their younger counterparts, they may look for a source of blame for the divorce.
It is essential to keep the conversation open. While they do not need all the details of your divorce, you can tell them that the divorce was not their fault. Instead, it was time to move toward a new chapter for your family.
Talking to teenagers
The older your children are, the more they can understand your divorce. The challenge with early teens is that they are starting to move toward independence. When they have parents who seem to be on different sides, it can feel like an endless struggle to figure out which parent has what rules.
You and your ex can help your developing teenager by having consistent rules. While it might be cumbersome to consult with each other about some of the decisions, adding consistency can help your teenager understand the boundaries.
Now that your children understand more about emotions, family life and the world around them, another challenge might be seeing your teenager as a friend and confidant. You should have open conversations about your divorce, but you should also have boundaries. Your teen does not need to know all the disagreements you had with your ex. Your children should be able to develop their relationship with their other parent without the background of why the marriage did not work.
While these conversations can feel overwhelming, you can err on the side of providing less information and seeing if your children ask more questions. Let them know you are open to having conversations with them so they can make sense of the situation.