KidsInTheHouse the Ultimate Parenting Resource
Kids in the House Tour

4 Ways to Help Your Child Understand Divorce

mom talks to daughter about divorce

Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, especially when you have children. Discussing divorce with your child can be challenging. You might be struggling to grasp the concept yourself and processing emotions, so looping in your child can seem monumental.

Tough conversations often provide clarity for your child and can help them deal with their emotions. Here are some ways to help support and guide your child through divorce.

1. Get On Their Level

It’s important to gauge your child’s age when planning your divorce discussion. Kids are going to react differently based on their age and maturity level. Understanding where your child is developmentally and getting on their level can help them understand a little better.

Give fewer details to younger kids who might be able to grasp them fully. Older children might have preconceptions about divorce, but it’s your job to set boundaries and expectations with them. Kids between the ages of nine and 11 often view things as right and wrong or black and white, so they are more likely to blame the divorce on one of the parents.

Between the ages of 12 and 14, your kids are much more likely to understand and engage in difficult conversations. It’s essential to gauge how your child might react to the news so you can best support and guide them. If possible, plan to discuss divorce with your ex present. Providing adequate support and guidance for your child is key.

2. Be Patient With Them

Your kids might take a while to process information about divorce. Be as patient as possible with them while they digest the information and prepare to discuss it. While divorce is almost always hard, there is a higher potential for conflict in divorces that involve children. No one wants to see their child suffer, so taking their thoughts into consideration is key.

Parents splitting up can be so confusing for children, so be patient while they try to adjust however they know how. Try not to sugarcoat things if they’re age-appropriate but shield them from putting down the other parent in every possible way. Child support, child visitation, and custody will all play a part in your divorce and alter your child’s life.

Change is difficult regardless of age, so put yourself in your child’s shoes and advocate for them whenever possible. Patience is a virtue—your child might need time to comprehend the situation. Ensure that reassurance is at the forefront of your and your ex’s responsibilities. Gaining clarity from both parental units can help your child believe that your split has nothing to do with them and that they aren’t at fault.

3. Use Outside Resources

Books and movies can clearly depict divorce and how it can look different for different people. These resources can encourage communication and allow your child to make connections that pertain to their situation. Books allow kids to focus on their emotions and understand their feelings.

Use these resources to help your child gain clarity and express their emotions. Books, videos, and television can prompt young children to start conversations with their stuffed animals in front of you that they might find challenging to bring up in conversation. Pay close attention to their reactions to gauge how to help them process and heal from their emotions and experiences.

Regardless of age, children thrive off of routines because they provide stability, predictability and reassurance. Although divorce can shake things up, try to stick to their routines as much as possible. Incorporate books about divorce into their bedtime routines or search for shows that display similar situations to offer your child perspective and help them understand. Read together to promote bonding and reassure your child that you aren’t going anywhere.

4. Actively Listen To Their Concerns

It’s essential to actively listen to your child and validate every emotion they may be experiencing. Divorce can be an emotional roller coaster for children involved as much as it is for adults. Actively listening and allowing your child to voice their concerns builds trust and offers a safe outlet for your child.

Give them the space and platform to discuss their ranges of emotions and express themselves safely without judgment. Your child may struggle with identifying or expressing what they’re feeling. Ensure them that nothing is their fault, they are loved beyond measure and you’ll get through this together. You want to answer your child’s questions as honestly as possible. It can be challenging not to overshare, especially when tensions are high and you’re angry with your spouse.

However, sharing infidelity or other adult topics is irrelevant to your child’s feelings and can do more harm than good. You don’t want your child to feel forced to choose a side because this can amplify their confusion and emotions.

Helping Children With Divorce

Divorce affects children in a way that can be hard for adults to understand. You must show up for your child and make things easy for them to understand, regardless of the tumultuous process. Use this guide to help you make the transitions as seamless as possible for your child.