5 Tips on Answering Children’s Tough Questions about the Divorce

Divorce can bring out the worst parts of yourself. There may be feelings of anger, disbelief, anxiety, and confusion to name a few! While being in one of the most challenging transitions of your life, you may wonder how am I supposed to answer tough questions without my emotions getting in the way?

That is a great question to ask yourself as a parent!!! Managing your emotions is very important while you are taking care of your grief and supporting your children in theirs.

The good news is you can prepare yourselves to answer the tough divorce questions that children will ask or are thinking about.

I’ve worked with many parents experiencing divorce and have seen the benefits of parents responding clearly, and honestly to the questions that children have. It can be an important step to ensure healthy parent-child relationships.

Here are 5 tips to help answer tough divorce questions your children may have about the divorce.

#1: Pause

Sometimes the divorce questions that children have can be like “ OH NO!!! How do I answer that question?” It is important to remind yourself that this is your first time going through this process too and that you may not know the answer.

When a divorce question catches you off guard and you need to think, simply pause. Take a breath. You can even respond “Hunny, that is a great question. I am going to get a glass of water and then come back and answer it,” or “Wow! Thank you so much for asking! Let me think about how to answer that best, and then I will let you know by tomorrow morning.”

Instead of responding right away, pause when you are unsure or not in the correct headspace to respond neutrally. Doing so protects the integrity of all relationships in the family! – Now that shows character!

#2: Remain Neutral

Neutrality and feelings usually do not go together. In this situation, neutrality is very important because it helps the child know that you are not encouraging the child to take sides.

Using neutral language such as “Mom and I decided,” or “Sometimes we agree and sometimes we disagree which is okay. We will handle it on our own,“ or “That may be something that Dad chooses to do at his house and here we do it this way.” 

How powerful it must feel for a child to be able to love both of their parents equally and not feel the need to blame/shame or choose between parents.

#3: Protect all relationships

Protecting your ex may feel like that last thing you want to do. Research shows that when both parents are speaking kindly and promoting healthy connection/contact with the other parent, that the relationship with their child also improves.

Think about it for a second, the child is “half” the other parent and when one parent uses demeaning or hurtful words about the other parent, the child may internalize and think that way about themselves. It is crucial to promote a healthy relationship with the other parent and not talk poorly about them no matter the situation to ensure the child’s likelihood of success in all future relationships.

#4: Lean into the discomfort

There are times that children ask tough divorce questions and make statements about how difficult the divorce is. It can be helpful to support the child in their discomfort and it also can be appropriate for you to show your discomfort that you are facing and model healthy coping skills. 

Something like, “You are absolutely right to feel the way you feel. This is hard for you and it has also been hard for your mom and me.” 

It is encouraging to know that if you are not emotionally available or ready to disclose something that is painful, that you can model how to set a healthy boundary. It could be like “Sweets, that is a hard question for me to answer right now because I am sad, so Mom is going to talk to a friend to help with the sadness and I will come back and answer this.”

#5: Be honest and Be Clear

Oftentimes, parents may bend the truth, or even borderline lie about divorce because they want to protect the child. According to attachment research, it is not recommended to lie (even with a white lie) in a major family transition because it could influence the child to not trust you. 

While also keeping the age in mind, explaining complex situations such as infidelity, money issues, falling out of love, or abuse are not appropriate to go into great detail. 

Being honest and clear can be something as simple as “We parents did not treat each other with respect and have agreed that we want to show our children respect at all times. We can do that for you and each other when we live separately and work better when we are not married.” 

There are so many divorce questions that children may have. Be kind to yourself during this challenging time and remember, if you do not know the answer you can reassure them that you will inform them once you do. If you would like to learn more about what questions children may have, please see 5 Common Questions Children Have Related to Divorce.

Answering questions related to divorce is no cake walk. If you need help with answering tough questions, book a free consultation to see how we can help! We provide therapy in Provo and across the state of Utah.

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