One of the toughest moments in a divorce is telling the children. Although it is better to tell the children together, sometimes one parent selfishly decides to tell the children his or her story alone, without involving the other parent.
According to Huffington Post Divorce, Family therapist Diane Shearer says parents should look beyond the questions about divorce and get at what kids are really asking for. "When kids ask tough questions, they aren’t looking for complicated answers. They are looking for affirmation, not information." This means they want to be assured that both parents love them no matter what. They want to know that the parents recognize their turbulent feelings.
Here are some tips on three of the most common questions.
Kids want to know the big picture reason behind the break-up. According to Shearer, the child really seeks an affirmation of love. The child’s subconscious logic may be, if mom and dad can stop loving each other, can they stop loving me too? The child isn’t asking, nor does he or she need to be told, all of the real reasons for the split. Instead, both parents should provide reassurance to the child that both parents still love him or her and they will all continue to be a family – just a different family than they have been.
2. Is it my fault?
Children, especially young children, can be self-centered and can’t help but wonder if something they did caused the split. Sometimes this will cause children to become pleasers – trying to please each parent so maybe they will get back together. The most important response to this question is reaffirm both parents’ unconditional love for the child and reassure them that the complications the parents face are unrelated to the child.
3. Where will I live?
A child will want to know how the break-up affects his or her life. It is best to have a decision about when the child will see each parent before offering the child an answer. Certainty for the child is important since other aspects of their lives are in upheaval. Tell them where they will be, when, and for how long. Speaking positively about the other parent at this time is extremely important for the child’s wellbeing. If there is no finality as to a parenting time schedule, offer the child as much certainty as possible. Be honest by saying that some of the answers haven’t been decided yet, but that the child will see each parent frequently.
What questions are your children asking you about divorce? And, how are you answering them?