Divorce: Five Things Your Kids Need to Hear
Even the most amicable of divorces can be tough on kids. We know there are some things they don’t need to hear. They need to be protected from the fighting, they most definitely don’t need to hear the nitty gritty details of why you are divorcing and they absolutely do not need to hear either of their parents being criticized by the other parent. They also should not be burdened with what I call “adult” problems: financial stresses, custody fights, etc. But what are some of the things kids do need to hear? These are my top five:
1. It’s not your fault
As adults, we assume that should be understood without spelling it out but kids are very self- focused. Understanding their normal inclination is to think everything is about them, it stands to reason that many kids will take the burden of the divorce on themselves. They need to hear, “it’s not your fault!”
2. The truth
Having reassured them the divorce is NOT their fault is important, but they do deserve to know why their parents are getting divorced. Make it an age appropriate explanation, leave out “adult” details, keep it simple and be respectful of your ex. It can be sticky, especially when there is infidelity involved.
3. You are loved!
All kids need to hear this every day but especially during the emotionally difficult time of divorce. They need to be reassured that both their parents love them; yesterday, today and forever. The parents are divorcing but they will never divorce the child.
4. It’s going to be OK.
Divorce brings lots of changes and uncertainties. Kids need to be reassured that life is going to be ok. They need to know what to expect. No, it will never be the same and we can’t pretend it will be but there will be a new normal and things will be OK.
5. I understand this is difficult
Acknowledge their feelings. This involves listening and it may be tough to hear their confused and painful emotions, especially as you’re dealing with your own issues, but it’s essential they know they have a safe place to be heard.
Divorce is a time of turmoil for adults and sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own emotional upheaval we overlook the fact that the children are going through an extremely tumultuous time also. Some kids may seem unaffected but studies have shown that even infants can sense the stress and have negative reactions. These are only guidelines and parents must determine what each child needs. It’s always good to have an open line of communication with your kids so they feel free to express their concerns and worries. If your kids seem to be having a particularly difficult time, consider working with a counselor skilled in family issues.