Communicating with a child about divorce

The decision to divorce is often a difficult one to make. Once that decision has been made, it’s important that both spouses take steps to ensure for their own emotional and financial wellbeing. Complicating matters are strong emotions, vivid memories, shared finances and, in many cases, shared children.

Parents who decide to divorce are often extremely concerned about how a child will be affected and worry whether he or she will suffer mentally or emotionally. In truth, every child is different and while there’s no way to predict whether a child will adjust easily or have a more difficult time, there are things parents can do to make the process easier and less stressful.

Communicating with a child openly and honestly and providing support and love are key to helping a child cope with divorce and all the changes it brings. One of the most difficult, yet critical, first steps in this process is informing a child about the divorce.

When informing a child of an impending divorce it’s important that both parents are in attendance and are able to present a united front. It’s also important to set and agree upon ground rules when it comes to handling difficult questions or reactions. Parents would also be wise to ensure they select a time to deliver the news when a child has ample time to process the information and ask questions.

Once a child is aware that his or her parents are planning to divorce, parents should anticipate and be prepared to answer additional questions. Depending on a child’s age, he or she may experience a range of emotions including sadness, confusion and anger. Parents should do their best to empathize with a child and provide reassurance of both parents’ unconditional love.

With all the changes that accompany divorce, the process can be especially difficult for children. In cases where parents believe a child is having an especially difficult time dealing with these changes, it’s wise to seek professional help.

Source: The Huffington Post, “9 Things To Consider Before Telling Your Kids About The Divorce,” Armin Brott, July 26, 2014

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