Researchers and experts say yes, but perhaps not right away. Although many articles discourage parents from discussing divorce with their children, inevitably they are going to ask enough times to the point that they will deserve some answers. However, discussing details of your divorce with your children should not happen right away. When deciding when the appropriate time is, to talk to your children about your divorce, you need to be sure that emotionally, they are in a place to hear and process what you have to say. Additionally, you want to be sure that your former spouse is ready to keep the discussion going in case your child or children have any follow up questions.
There are many reasons that couples divorce that they may feel ashamed about, or not ready to talk to their children about. Their children also are likely not ready to hear the truth in it. Some of the reasons couples divorce, such as infidelity, sexual preference, substance or alcohol abuse, immaturity, abuse, financial stressors, or just even difference in values can make for difficult conversations to have. However, the silver lining in these difficult situations are the lessons that can be had from them, and what you can teach your children from your experiences.
When is the Right Time?
Divorce is a heavy topic, and can bring up a lot of emotions in children. It is important that children are well into their teens (at least 16) before parents go into detail about their divorce with their children. In addition, if parents divorce in their children’s teen years, or even in their early twenties, it can be better to still hold off on any conversation until everyone is in a better emotional and mental place to have the discussion, and the divorce is not so ‘fresh.’ Parents should take the maturity level of their children into consideration when deciding how much detail to get into when discussing their divorce. Additionally, it is important that parents wait for their children to come ask them about the divorce, and not go to them without being asked. It is important for children to be ready to receive the information.
Which Parent Should Talk First?
It is important for the story to be told first by the ‘at fault’ parent, or the parent who might have been more at fault for bringing issues into the marriage. If a child comes to their parent and asks about the divorce, where the ‘fault’ may have been on the other parent, it would be better to direct them in a kind way to discuss it with the other parent first, and consider giving the other parent a heads up that the question may be coming their way. Additionally, it is important that parents are mindful that children are likely going to discuss the conversation with the other parent, so it is important for parents wishing to have this conversation, to consider the other parent’s feelings and mindset when deciding how much detail to go into.
Make it a Lesson
The most important part of discussing divorce with older children is making a lesson from it. However, a parent truly needs to be in a place where they feel that have learned a lesson, and have let go of any resentment, to make the most of the discussion. It is important to show children that through mistakes, or through difficult times, that they learned from their choices in the past, and have grown because of it. Perhaps the lesson was family is more important than work, or that they should have acknowledged an addiction and sought treatment sooner, or perhaps they should have been a better listener or accepted more influence from their spouse, or perhaps it is that they failed to acknowledge their emotional needs or insecurities and had they done so, they would have never gotten involved in an affair.
Be Ready for the Consequences
Many times, people just want to know the truth, regardless of their age. So, often there is a sense of relief, especially when a child has been asking about the divorce for years. However, there is always a chance that a child may have anger towards their parent or blame them for divorce. It is important to be ready for that type of response. Typically, if a parent has learned from their mistakes and grown from it, the child will see that. However, if a parent continues to justify their decisions, or sugar coat details, they are likely to have a less favorable response from their child. It is important to be clear, and direct, express remorse, and if your child is still expressing anger, to be patient in hearing them out, and be willing to talk through their thoughts and emotions with them.
Discussing Divorce Can Bring Families Closer
Being able to have these conversations is not going to happen over night, and it can take time for the dust to settle after a divorce, but kids eventually will have questions. Children witness their parents’ relationship their whole life, and those interactions directly shape the relationships that their children will have. It is important to acknowledge where there were mistakes, or missteps along the way, and it is important for children to show their kids not only that they have grown, but that it is okay to make mistakes, as long as people are willing to own up to their mistakes, accept accountability, and grow from it. Although difficult, these conversations can help create a better bond between children and their parents as time goes on.
If you have any questions about collaborative divorce or how to move forward with one in the Tampa Bay area, then hire one of the top divorce lawyers. Call us: (813) 907-9807
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