For most children the news that their parents are splitting up is devastating. It might help to try and empathise, think about how you would have felt or did feel when your parents divorced. Follow our simple Dos and Don'ts when talking to your children about your separation:
- Tell them when you are calm and as a couple if possible. Repeat what is happening clearly to make sure they understand
- Reassure them that you are still "Mum" and "Dad" and that you still love them. Explain that the divorce is not their fault and the decision to separate has nothing to do with them
- Explain that Mum and Dad will be living in separate houses, and that they will get to spend time in both. This is an effective way to explain divorce to younger children who may find the concept of separation difficult
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings and listen to and answer any questions they have
- Respect their right to have a loving relationship with two parents
- Make sure that they have contact details for the non-resident parent and are allowed to write and make telephone calls between visits
- Encourage your children to visit our Young People section for help in dealing with their parents separation
- Criticise and blame the other parent. Being negative towards their Mum or Dad is likely to be hurtful and cause resentment
- Attempt to encourage your child to take sides or involve them in your disputes
- Depend on your children to help you emotionally. Reassure them that you can take responsibility for yourself
- Refuse to talk about the other parent and ignore their questions
- Try to turn your child against the other parent. This is emotional abuse and may cause your child long term problems as well as backfiring when they are older. See Parental Alienation Syndrome
A Child's Perspective on Divorce
- Do not talk about my other parent. This tears me apart. It also makes me feel bad about myself.
- Do not talk badly about my other parent’s family or friends. I care about them even if you don't.
- Do not talk about the divorce or other grown up stuff. This makes me feel sick. Please leave them out of it!
- Do not talk about money or child support. This makes me feel guilty or like I am a possession instead of your child.
- Do not try and make me feel bad about spending time with my other parent. This makes me afraid to confide in you.
- Do not try to block visitation or allowing me to speak to my parent on the phone. This is upsetting to me.
- Do not interrupt my time with my other parent by calling over there or planning activities during my other parents parenting time.
- Do not argue in front of me or on the phone where I can hear. This turns my stomach inside out.
- Do not ask me to spy for you when I am at the other parents home. This makes me feel disloyal and dishonest. Do not ask me to keep secrets from the other parent. Secrets make me feel anxious.
- Do not ask me questions about my other parent’s life or what I do with my time with them. This me feel uncomfortable. Just let me tell you what I want if I want to.
- Do not give me verbal or written messages to deliver to my other parent. This causes me anxiety. Call the other parent, leave a message or post a note in the mail.
- Do not blame my other parent for the divorce or for the things that go wrong in your life. This makes me feel really terrible! I end up defending my other parent from your attack and it makes me feel sorry for you or like I have to protect you. I just want to be a child. Don't put me in the middle.
- Let me take my things to my other home as long as I carry them back and forth. Again this makes me feel like I am just your possession.
- Realise that I have two homes not just one. It doesn't matter how much time I am spending there.
- Do not treat me like an adult as it causes too much stress for me. Find me a therapist to talk with.
- Do not ignore my other parent or sit on opposite sides of the room during school or sports activities. This makes me sad. Act like parents and be friendly, just for my sake.
- Let me love both of you and see each of you as much as possible. Be flexible even when it is not part of the regular schedule.
Thanks for loving me, your child, more than you hate your ex!