Divorce Story

3 Strategies for Explaining Divorce to Your Children

Divorce affects every person in your family. It is so challenging to navigate the process, confusion, and accept your loss while trying to explain to your children that the family will not be the same.

As parents who are no longer together, it is so hard to be neutral and give answers to your children when you, the parent, might not even know what those answers are.

The good news is, you can still develop healthy, thriving children even when a separation or divorce happens.

As a child therapist that has worked with divorce for 8 years, I have seen the benefits of parents
giving their child a narrative or divorce story. I find that it is one of the most important steps you can take to help maintain trust within the parent-child relationship.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when you begin to tell the divorce story to your children.

#1: Be age-friendly.

Telling your children the divorce story in developmentally appropriate ways is essential in helping them understand the changes that are occurring in the family.

Sometimes, words are something that children just do not understand, especially many words.  If your child is between 2-9, using dolls, pictures, or multiple dollhouses can help the child understand that the parents are no longer going to be living together.

#2: Be Straightforward.

When it comes to words in your divorce story, less is truly more!!!! Because it is a big change, and a major loss, children do not always understand what is actually going on in their family. 

It may be difficult for them to process any words because the child may be in shock/despair or even numb at first. So keep the divorce story concise and lean into how challenging it may be or feel for them. Such as, “This may feel very big and scary and this is hard for us(parents) to share. The family is going to be changing, and your mother and father are not going to be living in the same home any longer.” 

Oftentimes parents use lots of words to explain something because they may be feeling anxious or confused themselves, because divorce IS confusing. It is important to know that it is perfectly appropriate to respond “ I don’t know” when you in fact do not know the answer to the question your child is seeking.  

Such as, “Will we still do things as a family?” or “Where is Mom going to live now?”

After indicating that you are unsure of the answer, you can reassure them that you will answer their question as soon as you and your co-parent have come to a conclusion. 

#3: Be consistent and neutral without placing blame.

This is probably the most challenging step in sharing the divorce story. It is hard to remain neutral and work together with your co-parent when there is an active loss occurring within the relationship. 

It can be even more grueling not to place blame when you feel that the other parent is at fault. 

Remember, that when you are sharing the divorce story to your child, you are showing that your child’s wellbeing matters more than what is happening in the relationship with the parents. 

Although partners may not agree on some things or even most things, they both have to show consistency in the divorce story so that the child does not develop unhealthy relational patterns or future relationship issues.

Getting a divorce can be such a painful process, and it can stir many emotions that seem unbearable. It can be even harder to work together as parents to help children remain connected to both parents and ensure success in children’s future relationships.

It would benefit children to understand that even through divorce, both their parents love them, and can show their child that they can work together in times of change and conflict. You can find out more about play therapy and how it can be helpful to children and families. 

Sharing your divorce story with your child will be a pivotal moment in your child’s life.  If you need extra support to share your divorce story, book a free consultation to see if we can help!

We provide therapy in Provo, Tooele, and across Utah.  

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