Divorce with kids can be a little more complicated than a divorce that doesn’t involve children – but if you’re a parent who’s contemplating a divorce, here’s what you need to know.
Divorce With Kids: The Basics
It’s far more common for parents to divorce now than it was 50, 25 or even 15 years ago. Decades of research has demonstrated that children are resilient enough to cope with divorce. And because kids learn by seeing, an unhealthy marriage can do a lot more damage than a divorce would.
If you’re divorcing with kids, you need to know:
- How to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce
- Kids of different ages cope differently
- There are things you can do to help your kids through it
How to Tell Your Kids You’re Getting a Divorce
When you and your spouse decide that it’s time to end your marriage, the next step is telling your children. Telling your kids you’re getting a divorce may be one of the hardest parts of the whole process, but knowing how can make a big difference (for you and for them). It’s usually best if you and your spouse tell them together. That sets the stage for a united parenting front as you begin your divorce.
Use these tips to tell your kids you’re getting a divorce:
- Tell the truth in an age-appropriate way. Don’t go into grisly detail, but do tell them simple, honest reasons, like “We don’t get along anymore” or “We’ve decided it’s best to pursue different paths.”
- Remind your kids that you love them. Let them know that even though adults’ love for each other can change, it can’t change between parents and kids. Tell them that you’ll still be taking care of them every day and that you’ll always be there for them, too.
- Talk about changes. Your kids will want to know how the divorce will affect them, so address any big changes now. Moving is one of the things you’ll want to mention during your initial discussion.
- Let them know you’re available to talk. Tell your children that if they have any questions, they can come straight to either of you any time.
Coping at Different Ages
Even if they look like little adults, kids’ minds haven’t developed the emotional maturity that we adults have. Kids of different ages cope differently. You know your kids best, so be on the lookout for signs of stress – and be willing to get outside help if necessary. Many kids benefit from talking to a therapist or counselor during divorce.
How to Help Your Kids Through Divorce
There are many things you can do to help your kids through divorce. Some of the most important include:
- Listen to them. When your children share their feelings, stop what you’re doing and become an active listener. You may be surprised at what’s really affecting them, and you can be there to help problem-solve.
- Help them describe their feelings. Sometimes kids – especially little ones – have a hard time coming up with the right words to describe their feelings. Keep an eye on moods and encourage your kids to talk to you when they need to.
- Let them be honest. Tell your kids that whatever they have to say is okay. That way, they won’t be as worried to share things that they think will hurt your feelings. (They’ll still be worried, but your reassurance will go a long way in getting them to open up.)
- Acknowledge the way they feel. Even if you can’t fix your kids’ problems, acknowledging the way they feel is huge to them. Don’t dismiss what your children are feeling, even if it seems silly to you. It isn’t to them.
- Reassure them that it’s not their fault. Make sure you tell your kids why you’re divorcing – and that it has nothing to do with them.
- Be patient. Like adults, kids go through ups and downs – especially during divorce. Hang in there with them. Eventually, your patience will help them come to terms with the split.
- Give them plenty of love. Your kids need lots of love from you right now, and when you provide it, it’s reassuring and calming. Simply expressing how much you care about them can put kids’ worlds back in the right place.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About Divorce With Kids?
If you’re a parent thinking about divorce, or if your spouse has already filed, we can help you. Call us right now at 970-488-1887 for a divorce consultation. We’ll answer your questions and begin developing a strategy that gets you – and your kids – the best possible outcome.