Children, depending on age, will have different capacities to understand divorce. Their views may be influenced by what they have seen through other extended kin and friends, as well as what their experience in the home has been like. Their sense of issues, and what may transpire, may have already been influenced. Because of all these variables, parents may find it helpful to speak with a counsellor who has knowledge and experience working with families in these circumstances, when trying to determine the best suited solution for your children.
In general terms though, it is usually beneficial to take into account the following information if you are trying to figure out the best way to tell your child about your divorce:
o For infants and toddlers, there is no real explanation that makes sense, although they will certainly experience change. It is important to concentrate on maintaining close ties between the infant/toddler and both parents so that they don’t experience a severe disruption to these relationships. Recognizing that both parents will need to take responsibility for relationship with the infant or toddler independent of the other, accommodations will have to be made to facilitate respective parenting time. This is important for the child’s sense of connectedness and worth in relation to both parents.
o For preschoolers and young school-aged children, a simple explanation, with neither parent being blamed, will suffice. The focus should be on helping the child adapt, and assuring the child is loved. The child may be concerned that if his or her parents can fall out of love and leave each other, then they may leave him or her too. Telling the child that while feelings in a relationship between parents may change, a parent’s love for a child is constant and doesn’t change, can help resolve these fears.
o Children up to pre-teens may feel responsible for either the divorce, or the ongoing well-being of either parent. It is important for them to be assured that they were not responsible for the break up, and that they are not responsible for the well-being of either parent. Adults need to be there for the child, not the other way around.
o Teenagers may have seen the divorce coming, but still may feel responsible for it, or for the well-being of a parent. Like pre-teens, guardians need to make sure their teenagers don’t feel responsible for either parent, or for the divorce.
It is usually not a good idea to blame either parent, or provide explanations beyond having fallen out of love. Kids see themselves as half of both parents. If either parent is presented as bad, then the child may wonder if they are bad by extension. The goal of parenting is to raise emotionally healthy kids. Parents must manage their own issues so that they do not befall the children and affect their well-being.