What’s okay to tell your kids about divorce?

What’s okay to tell your kids about divorce?

Researchers and experts say it is important to tell your kids about your plan to divorce, but perhaps not right away. Although many articles discourage parents from discussing divorce with their children, inevitably the child will ask about their parents’ divorce. At some point, they will deserve some answers.

The best way to learn from mistakes is learning how to talk about them. However, it is important to know when it is appropriate to have this discussion. Discussing the details of your divorce with your children should not happen right away.  It is important that you are emotionally prepared to answer any difficult questions your children may have.  Even more important, you want to be sure your children are in a place to hear and process the conversation. 

Additionally, you want to be sure that your former spouse is ready to keep the discussion going. This is especially important in situations where you know your child will have follow up questions. 

There are many reasons that couples divorce. Some reasons parents may feel ashamed about, or uncomfortable talking to their children about. Some reasons couples divorce, such as infidelity, abuse, sexual preference, or addiction, can make for difficult conversations to have with a child. However, the silver lining in these difficult situations is the lessons that can be had from them. This can become an opportunity for you to teach your children from your experiences. 

When is the Right Time to Tell Your Kids About Divorce? 

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 before parents go into detail about their divorce.  If parents divorce in their children’s teen years, it’s better to hold off on conversations while the divorce is ‘fresh.’  It’s important for parents to wait until everyone is in a better emotional and mental place to have any discussions. Parents should take the maturity level of their children into consideration. The level of detail that a parent should go into should be gauged by the maturity level of the child.

Additionally, it is important that parents wait for their children to come ask them about the divorce. This means avoiding giving details to children without being asked.  It is important for children to be ready to receive the information when having this discussion. 

Which Parent Should Talk First?

It is important for the story to be told first by the ‘at fault’ parent. In some instances, there may not be an ‘at fault’ parent. In this case, the parent who might have been ‘more’ at fault or perceived to be, should talk first. This can be difficult in times where the child feels closer to the ‘not at fault’ parent.  The ‘not a fault parent’ needs to kindly direct the child to discuss it with the other parent first. Then, the ‘not at fault’ parent should let their ex-spouse know that the child wants to talk.

Parents need to be mindful that children are likely going to discuss the conversation with both parents. Because of this, both parents need to consider the other’s feelings when communicating about the divorce to their children. 

Make it a Lesson. 

The most important part of discussing divorce with older children is creating a lesson from it. However, a parent truly needs to be in a place where they feel they have learned a lesson for themselves. This means that the parent has let go of any resentment and are able to make the most of the discussion.

It is important to show children that through mistakes and difficult times, comes an opportunity to learn and grown from it. The possible lessons that comes out of divorce are endless. 

  • Family is more important than work. 
  • Acknowledge an addiction and seek treatment promptly.
  • Be a better listener or accepted more influence from your spouse.
  • Acknowledge your spouse’s emotional needs or insecurities.

This difficult conversation can be an opportunity to show your children what true accountability looks like. 


Be Ready for the Consequences.

Many times, people just want to know the truth, regardless of their age. 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 the possibility of that type of response.

Typically, if a parent has learned from their mistakes and grown from it, the child will see that. Oftentimes, justifying poor decisions or glazing over details, results in a less favorable response from a child. It is important to be clear, direct, and express remorse. If your child is still expressing anger, 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 overnight. 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.  It is important to show kids not only that they have grown, but that it is okay to make mistakes. It is important to teach children that accepting accountability and growing from mistakes is the most important lesson. Although difficult, these conversations can help create a better bond between children and their parents as time goes on.