Explaining a Divorce to Children
One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is explaining to your child what is going on, why it is happening, and providing reassurance that things will be okay. Seeing your child upset may cause you to be angry at yourself, and even more stressed out by your separation or divorce than you already are.
Although change will always be difficult for children, especially when the change involves the relationship between their parents, there are ways to explain the situation that may help the children feel more secure and loved during this difficult process.
Be Clear that the Divorce is Not Your Child’s Fault
Children may find it difficult to understand divorce and have a tendency to blame themselves as being the cause of the break up. First things first — make it immediately clear that mom and dad are choosing to live apart, but that has nothing to do with your child. Let your child know that this new arrangement will causes changes for him or her as well, and that you will do everything you can to make this time easier, including trying to never disparage the other parent.
Be Clear that it is Okay for Your Child to Have Feelings
Make sure your children know that you are aware change is difficult, and that you sympathize with the changes they will go through. Remind your child that change is often initially difficult, but that in time they he or she will grow accustomed to these changes and might enjoy having two homes and some new experiences that living in the same home would not provide. For example, the members in one household may be more musical or enjoy the arts and the other household may have more athletic or outdoor pursuits. Or, perhaps at each home, there are different pets to enjoy or the same pet travels between the homes. Encourage your child to speak to you if he or she is upset or has concerns, and provide any reassurance needed. Ensure your child feels safe and secure at all times.
Help Your Child Understand The Living Arrangements
In many cases, whether because of joint custody, or because one parents has substantial visitation rights, the children often must adjust to living in two homes in the face of divorce. Make your child understands that even though it may take some getting used to a new home (or two new homes), he or she will still be able to see both parents who care about them, even if for different amounts of time. At each place your child should feel safe and will likely to have a space that belongs to him or her.
Explain to your child that, as he or she grows, he or she will be able to take responsibility for packing favoured things that move back and forth between the homes. Explain that, eventually, your child will want to keep some belongs in both places, so transporting things won’t be as much of a hassle. Encourage your child to tell you about any concerns that may be had and how you can help make this adjustment period easier.
Explain What Things Will Change and How
Once a separation agreement or divorce order is finalized, be sure your child understands exactly what is going to change, and what the arrangement looks like. While you don’t want to involve your children in the divorce or in making decisions that aren’t age appropriate, you can take your child’s needs and preferences into consideration when making plans and explain to your child how to navigate his or her new circumstances.
Your child will inevitably be concerned about matters such as who will be picking him or her up from school, on which days, and when, whether the school needs to be informed, and who will be responsible for the drive to soccer practice or swim lessons. Sit down with your child and carefully walk him or through what information needs to be conveyed in a way your child understands. Use words that remind your child that he or she is loved, is still special and is your top priority even if schedules won’t always work out as planned.
Reassure your child that he or she still have two parents who are responsible to ensure that he or she is looked after and taken care of, and that you will do everything in your power to make sure this happens.
Remind Your Child That You and Your Spouse Will Always be His or Her Parents
Express to your child that even though you and your former spouse will live separate and apart, you two are still his or her parents and no one will replace this special role in their lives.
Your child may feel confused if you or your spouse begin dating new people, so wait a period to ensure the relationship is stable (6 months is often recommended) before introducing your child. Remind your child that you and your former spouse may find new companions to spend time with and develop long-lasting relationships with, because this makes mom and dad happy, but that this does not change who mom and dad are.
If you plan to introduce new siblings in the future, whether by common law, marriage, or blood relations, plan to do so slowly. Be sure to include your child’s own grandparents for visits as well to assure your child that he or she is loved by the family.
Contact Martin Goose & Associates for Divorce Law in Etobicoke
Navigating divorce with children can be extremely emotionally difficult, especially when you and your spouse are having a difficult time reaching a parenting agreement. Our legal team is committed to making this process easier for you and helping you reach a satisfactory agreement with your spouse as efficiently and effectively as possible. Call us for a family law consultation in Etobicoke at 416-239-4811.