Helping Young Children Understand Divorce


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If you and your spouse have decided to get divorced, this can be a rather painful thing to experience - especially when there are young children involved. You might find it difficult to even think about telling your children that Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to be together anymore, but at the end of the day, your children will be able to process this change if you guide them through it.

One issue many parents experience is explaining to young children what splitting up actually means. You don’t want to upset your kids, of course, but you do need them to understand how the situation is going to change their day-to-day lives.

Here are a few ways you can help your young children understand divorce.

Having Many Short Conversations Rather Than One Long One

With small children, you can’t expect them to digest the full situation in just one conversation. Children take a long time to process big changes, and they might become confused if you present them with too much information at once. 

For this reason, after the initial news-breaking about your separation, it is important to continue reminding them gently of the changes that are happening. This doesn’t have to be a harsh reminder, but perhaps by speaking to their school teacher, for example, you can help reinforce the message in a gentle, kind way.

Finding The Silver Lining In The Situation

When explaining something difficult or painful to young kids, it is crucial that you find the silver lining in the situation. Some children won’t show distress right away, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t being affected inwardly. Leaving out any talk of court proceedings, divorce solicitors or financial issues is very important - you don’t want to create more worry or confusion.

Here are some positive ways to address the divorce with young kids.

  • Think of all the things they might gain from the situation, such as a brand new home to explore, or special one on one time with Mummy or Daddy.

  • A happier, calmer household with less shouting or fighting.

Reassurance, Reassurance, Reassurance

Lastly, the most important aspect of helping your children through this difficult time is reassurance. Even if you are stressed and scared yourself, it is crucial to not allow this stress to rub off on your children as much as possible. This can be challenging, but increasing their anxiety will only lead to negative consequences in the short and long term.

Children who feel unsafe or unloved, even if their parents don’t mean to do this, can act out with difficult behaviors and have problems down the line. Reassuring your children that they are still safe, loved and protected is absolutely essential. While of course they will be upset by the change - this is unavoidable - if your children know that they will always be with you no matter what, they will feel better about the situation.

If you are going through a divorce and are struggling to find the words to express this to your small children, use this article as your guide.

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