At MyBump2Baby, we feel that it’s our responsibility to not only focus on the happy areas of life but also the challenging times that unfortunately, families can experience.
Getting a divorce is a challenging time for families, we’ve written this blog ‘Divorcing with Kids – How to Tell Children About Divorce’ and we hope it provides parents with some advice around dealing with a divorce. You can find your nearest family law solicitor on our website www.mybump2baby.com/familyprotectionlegal
How do you tell your child you’re getting a divorce?
Getting a divorce is a tough time for all of the family, one of the hardest parts is talking to your children about divorce. For a child, hearing that your parents are separating is really tough at any age, but there are ways that you can make the conversation a bit easier for everyone involved.
Hearing of a divorce is life-changing information for kids that is likely to take time for them to come to terms with. As long as you support them and try to remain strong, you can deal with this experience in a positive way. Always remember that you are allowed to feel upset too, do not neglect and ignore your own emotions.
Talking to children about divorce
Before you sit down with your child to discuss your divorce, you need to think about the best way of delivering the news. Is your child likely to get upset and angry or will, they struggle to understand what your divorce means to them? You do not need to rush this conversation, it can happen whenever you feel prepared.
For some families, when a divorce is confirmed, separation comes with it, but for others, they feel comfortable continuing to share a home whilst the divorce is in progress. You will need to have made your decision about this before you speak to your child, so you can tell them straight away. Be aware that they may feel other emotions should you say you are separating too. This decision is solely up to you and what you think is best for your family. It is better for your child to live in a happier environment with one parent than an unhappy environment with both parents.
One way to help prevent your child from feeling as if they have to take sides is to have the conversation together, as a family. Both parents can try to explain the situation together, showing a united front and making it clear that you will support your child through the divorce.
Within this conversation between parents and child, you must ensure that you do not try to sway your child to protect either parent. Children do not want to feel pressured into trying to support one parent through a divorce- it is important to tell the child, that the child’s relationship with each parent will not be affected and that both parents still love them the same.
We recently recorded a video on Finances on Divorce with expert Nadine Moaddel
Children’s feelings and divorce
When parents split, it can feel as though your child’s life has been turned upside down. When some children are told about their parents divorcing, they want to understand why, this can lead to them asking lots of questions. On the other hand, some children may choose to stay quiet while they process the information. The best option for you is to try to answer any questions in a calm and collected way and explain to your child that you are willing to talk to them about it whenever they want to. As a parent, this is obviously very difficult for you, if you don’t know the answer to a question or you simply don’t want to answer, that’s OK, tell your child that you’re not ready to answer that. On occasions, children may even have feelings of guilt, or blame themselves for the divorce. It is important that you reassure children and inform them that it isn’t their fault. Supporting your children should be your number one priority during this time.
At a young age, children often find it hard to understand separation and divorce, but you should remember that while it’s good to explain these things, some parts will be better left unsaid. Try to avoid speaking badly of your spouse, as it may make your child feel resentment towards you and they may not feel comfortable or want to chat with you in the future. This is definitely something you want to avoid.
Think about how you feel about your divorce, you must try to understand that your child is going to be upset and it will most likely be up to you to comfort them. You can comfort them by telling them that it’s OK to be upset and by encouraging them to share their emotions with you.
What is the Worst Age For Divorce For Children?
When going through a divorce, the child’s age can play a large part in how the divorce will affect them. Children at around age 2 do not understand divorce on a cognitive level, but rather, on an emotional one. Children age 3 and above may struggle with the idea for divorce- with age 11 being the worst age for children for divorce.
Tips for Younger Children
It is understandable that younger children may struggle to grasp what’s going on when their parents divorce. In order to help them to understand the situation, it might be a good idea to introduce an activity such as drawing or painting whilst you talk. If your child is struggling to talk to you about it, why not suggest that they draw a picture to describe how they feel? That way, they can better explain their emotions when they talk you through what they’ve drawn. You can also repeat back what they’ve said to you, this will ensure that you fully understand them and also show them that you’re really listening. This alone will make them feel more comfortable asking you questions as they may arise.
The idea of divorced parents is a difficult one to grasp and can cause anxiety for many children. You may find that whilst you are going through a divorce, your school-age children have trouble sleeping- especially if there are new living arrangements- this is a common response when children go through a big family transition- like parental divorce.
You can find tips for how to help your child sleep during divorce here: https://www.ourfamilywizard.co.uk/blog/5-tips-helping-your-child-sleep-during-separation
Tips for Older Children
It may come as no surprise that older kids may cause you some challenging times when they learn about your divorce. Teenagers especially can find it hard to express their emotions and negative feelings and with their hormones, they are probably going through a hard time themselves. Whether they have questions immediately or not, make sure you tell them that you are there to support them whenever they need it.
Due to teenagers finding it hard to share emotions sometimes, it might be a good idea to not make the situation too serious when you’re explaining about your divorce. For example, why not suggest going for a walk with your older child, where they don’t have to face you or make direct eye contact (something we know teenagers can struggle with!). Make sure that you are putting your child in a situation where you know they will feel comfortable and don’t force them to ask questions, they will most likely ask what they want to know without the need for prompting.
Parent and Child Time
The best way to approach telling your child about your divorce is to think back to how you felt when you were their age and imagine how you would feel in this situation. Also consider things you liked to do when you were their age, whether it’s going shopping or relaxing in the garden, why not make some time to do these things with them.
Spending quality time with your children, as a family unit, if you can, is really important. If you feel more comfortable spending time with your kids alone, that’s OK, just try to make sure that they spend equal time with their other parent.
This will reduce them having an emotional bias towards one parent.
The process of getting a divorce is often not very fast, this is something else you will need to explain to your child. Perhaps after they have come to terms with the emotional side of things, you can sit down again to discuss the process of your divorce. It often takes between 4-6 months for a divorce to go through, but with money, children and property involved, it can take longer. These things are often dealt with separately. As details of your divorce are finalised, you should tell your children. It’s a really good idea to keep them updated at all times, as long as they are old enough to understand.
Encourage Normality for Your Child
Normality is quite important when it comes to divorce. Simple things such as the usual parent picking your child up from school still will be really good for your child. Obviously, every family’s situation is different and sometimes things aren’t as simple as they sound. If one parent usually cooks tea on one night of the week, you could try to ensure that you continue to do that. Simple things like that can make a big difference to your kids’ feelings.
After your Divorce
Following a divorce, parents tend to separate. This is another conversation that you will need to have with your child. It may be hard to have this conversation at the beginning because you may not have worked out all of the details. After going to court, you will have spoken and finalised the details on the custody of your child. This is where they will live permanently and also how often the other parent can see the child. Explaining custody to a child can be hard, telling them they may have to spend less time with one parent is not a nice conversation, but it needs to be discussed. In time, they will feel more at ease and both parents should try hard to make sure that the time they spend with their child is of good quality.
Help is Available
Do not be disheartened if your child does not react in the way that you expected and perhaps hoped. This is a really difficult time for everyone involved. Please be aware that there is help available for dealing with divorce as a family and also for talking to your children about divorce. Do not struggle on your own.
Watch our video on Finances on Divorce with expert Nadine Moaddel from Mancini Legal
Hi, I’m Emma and I’m MyBump2aby’s family law, protection and financial editor. I’m passionate about better-informing parents on their choices when it comes to family law and family protection and financial matters.