The Talk: Age-By-Age, Divorce
Starting a Challenging Conversation about Divorce
By Laura Betts, LICSW, MSW
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the last data on divorce rates is 3.6%, per every 1,000 people. Given the high rates, it is a common issue families face, and many struggle with how to approach conversations with children. For parents going through their own difficult emotions about the end of a relationship, it is challenging to think about how to support your child at the same time. Having your own supports – family, friends, church, therapy – can be invaluable. Beginning the talk with your child will be important as you continue to discuss the changes in your family and their feelings about the divorce.
For children of all ages, there will be several common things they need to hear during this time. Many will wonder if they caused the conflict between their parents and the resulting divorce, so it is important to emphasize that it is in no way their fault. They will need to know that they will continue to be loved and cared for by both parents.
All children will have questions, concerns, and worries so it will be important to provide opportunities for these issues to be expressed. Support your child, no matter what their age, in expressing their feelings about the divorce. Many children feel a loyalty bind between parents and will need reassurance that they can have a relationship with both parents. Divorce is an issue that many families go through and the older the child the more likely they know other families who have also experienced divorce.
As much as possible, keep the conflict between you and your ex-spouse away from the kids, this includes comments you may make about one another. Express to your child that this will be a tough time, but that ultimately things will get better. Setting a tone for open communication early will be helpful for your child to discuss how the divorce impacts them.
Remember you know your child, family, and values best, so this article is intended to be used as a starting point and offer general guidelines. If you are concerned about your child/teen consult your pediatrician about mental health professionals in your area to get extra support for your child.