Divorce is a confusing and frustrating process for adults, but it can be exponentially more so for children. Even older children who understand what divorce is may have serious questions about your family's specific situation. It’s hard to figure out exactly how to answer kids’ questions about divorce, but you should make sure you do so carefully, put thought into your responses, and tell your children what they need to hear.
Before you start answering the following questions, make sure you have discussed your responses with your ex-spouse to avoid any mixed messages.
Why are you getting divorced?
The answer to this question depends on the nature of your divorce and the maturity of your child. "Keep your answers basic and to the point," says Dr. Mikki Meyer, a family therapist in New York City. It is important to avoid painting the other parent in a bad light or giving graphic details of your complaints about the marriage.
What is going to happen next?
This is another question where you should tailor the response to the maturity of your child. You also may not have a clear answer to this question, and that is okay. If you do not have a definitive answer, reassure your child that no matter what happens, you and the other parent love them very much and will always be there to care for them.
Where am I going to live? Where is Mom or Dad going to live?
You may not even know the answer to this question at the moment your child asks. But it is important to emphasize that your child will always have a home and you will always take care of their needs. Do not use this question as an invitation to ask your child about which parent they prefer to live with or to coerce them into wanting to live with you over the other parent.
How often will I see Mom or Dad?
Be as direct as you can to remove some of the unknown that might be troubling your child. For older children, you might even invite their input to help you and your ex create a custody schedule, if one is appropriate in your custody situation.
If one parent will have sole custody, you will need to explain why the children can no longer stay with the other parent, but do so in a manner that does not reveal details that may be inappropriate for their understanding.
Are we going to move?
Moving is a major turn of events in a child's life and until you have things completely figured out, it may be best to tell your child that you are working on that matter. Once you know, explain it to your child so they know what to expect.
If you cannot say for sure if you will be moving, reassurance that you will take care of them no matter what is still a key to helping them cope with the changes.
Is this my fault? Do you not love me anymore?
You should never give your child cause to believe the divorce is somehow their fault. Explain that the divorce is purely an adult problem and has nothing at all to do with them, reassuring that they are the most important thing in your life.
Reassure your child often during this process that even though you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse may not want to stay together, you both love them and will always love them, even if you do not all live together.
What will happen to my school/activities/social life?
Remind them that they will still have to go to school, although it may be a different one if you are moving. Let them know that if they do have to move, you will help them find a new sports team or help them keep in touch with friends back home. You may want to arrange visits to your old neighborhood or allow a little extra computer time to chat with friends they had to leave behind.
A Bellevue Divorce Lawyer Can Help Simplify the Divorce Process
The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny will focus on getting your divorce resolved with as little hassle as possible. We will take care of the paperwork, asset valuation, and other concerns so you can focus on helping your children and yourself through this difficult time.