Children and divorce: How to break the news to your children

Talking to children about divorce can be difficult for parents, but it is important in helping them to cope with, and adjust to, the changes.

When parents separate or are going to divorce, they will inevitably have to tell their children. For many parents, however, this is one of the most difficult conversations they will ever have with their children. Since communication is often key to helping children cope with this type of major life change, it is important for parents to be open with their children about what is going on. Therefore, parents may use the following tips to help them talk to their children about divorce or legal separation.

Keep the conversation simple and age appropriate

The manner in which parents first broach the subject of a divorce with children can sometimes set the tone for future conversations and how they will cope with the change. Therefore, it is advisable that parents keep the initial conversation simple, but give the children enough information so they can prepare for the pending changes. Parents should also tailor these talks to each child's age and maturity level.

It is common for parents to have feelings of blame or animosity towards the other parent during, and after, a divorce. When talking to the children, however, it is recommended that parents avoid speaking negatively about the child's other parent. They should also refrain from giving children too many details about the specific cause of the split, particularly ones that may reflect poorly on one parent or the other. This type of negativity may cause children to blame one or both parents, feel like they have to choose a side, or impact the relationship with one or both parents.

Tell all of the children at once

In an effort to protect younger children, some parents may choose to tell only the older children about a divorce at first. According to Psychology Today, however, this can send the younger children the wrong message and put an unnecessary burden on the older children. As such, parents may consider telling all of the children at the same time that they are getting divorced. After this initial discussion, they may have additional, in-depth conversations with the older children apart from the younger ones.

Allow children to react

Due to their age, maturity and other factors, children may have differing reactions when they learn their parents are separating or divorcing. In some cases, they may feel confused or angry, while in others they may be sad. Even if it is difficult for them to hear or upsetting, it is important that parents allow each child to have their own reactions, and to express their feelings about the situation. This may serve to help the children work through their emotions and come to terms with the future changes.

Keep the lines of communication open

The Huffington Post points out that it can take time for children to process what is going on. As such, it is helpful for parents to give them extra time and attention. Sometimes, they may repeatedly ask the same questions, particularly about parenting time and how things will work moving forward, as they work through their feelings and try to come to terms with what is happening. It is also suggested that parents check in with their children to understand how they are feeling and coping with the changes.

Seeking legal guidance

The longer the divorce process is drawn out, the longer it takes for New Hampshire families to begin the process of adjusting and rebuilding. Working with an attorney may help them take some of the emotion out of the process, and achieve amicable settlements. A legal representative may guide them through the process, as well as negotiate on their behalf.