How parents should talk to kids about divorce

Understanding the emotional development of kids can help when discussing a divorce with them.

People facing the end of their marriage have an unending list of things to be concerned and worried about. For parents in New York, the needs of their children commonly-and understandably-top this list. The way that children are told about a divorce initially as well as how ongoing conversations are handled can make a big difference in the ultimate impact on them.

Are individual conversations best?

For families that have more than one child, especially if the age range of the kids is quite large, the thought of telling each child about a divorce individually may sound appealing. This allows parents to speak to each of the children in an age-appropriate manner. Certainly there is benefit in this but there are also potential pitfalls.

Psychology Today points out that this approach can leave some children shouldering the burden of knowing a big secret and being unable to discuss it with siblings. It can also leave other children feeling somewhat inferior if they are the last to be told. Parents are instead encouraged to have one conversation with all children that initially tells them about the divorce.

It is also important that this meeting not assign blame to anyone, especially the children but even the other parent. Any questions that are asked should be answered as directly and honestly as possible. Some things will likely be taken off-line and handled in subsequent one-on-one conversations with different children.

Communication with both parents

During and after a divorce, it is important for all children to be protected from any pressure to align with one parent over the other. That is why the above point highlights to avoid blaming language when initially giving information about the divorce. This concept carries through as a divorce unfolds and even beyond.

Children will spend time with only one parent at a time. This then raises the question about the nature and frequency of communication with the other parent. The Huffington Post recommends that instead of restricting phone calls or texts, parents should let these little touches happen organically.

One-on-one conversations

At different points along the process of a divorce, children may ask questions or need to know certain information. Here is the time when discussing things in a one-on-one setting can be beneficial. Parents can focus on a particular child's ability to understand the divorce as well as that child's immediate emotional needs. Preschoolers, for example, need to know where they will be at bedtime. Tweens and teens need to know that without a doubt, you are there even when they say that they don't want to talk.

An ongoing process

Parents should know that talking to their kids about divorce is never a one-time thing. Being prepared for this can help children and parents to develop strong communication skills and trust. It is also helpful for parents to work with experienced attorneys to make sure that all legal aspects of a divorce are properly handled.