What to Tell the Children
When an impending divorce is looming on the horizon, the main consideration affecting the question of what to tell the children might be their age. The ages of any dependent children in the home will dictate the subjects to be covered, as well as the amount of information to be given. Common sense should also play a role as well as remembering to be mindful of the fact that evn though you and your spouse are no longer on good terms with each other, the children should never be made to feel they are at fault or made to feel they must take sides.
For very young children, trying to explain in detail things really doesn’t work, as children under three years of age don’t have the ability to understand a divorce. It is probably better to simply to try help them maintain normal routines and make sure their daily lives stay the same as possible. Newly single parents might have to fill some of the holes in the daily routine left behind by the absent parent, like play time or reading time. Young children will always feel more secure if their daily routines remain stable. This becomes even more important when tensions in the household are running high or one parent is noticeably absent from the family dynamic.
At about four years of age children become more aware of their surroundings and are a little less self-absorbed, but fully understanding a divorce is still not within their grasp. Children at this age might notice that a parent is absent and may even inquire about it. When that happens, honesty is always the best policy and the situation should be explained as simply and as gently as possible without emphasizing any loss or causing alarm. A level headed approach and calm conversation can go a long way to maximize the positive effect in these interactions.
As children grow up they begin to get a larger sense of the world around them and from about five to eleven they will be acutely aware of any changes in the behaviors, attitudes, and schedules of their parents. This age group needs to be told honestly and gently what is happening. It is also very important to let them know that both parents still love them and that every effort will be made to allow them to spend as much time with the absent parent as possible. Children of this age group and even older can suffer feelings of abandonment and overwhelming feelings of guilt if they think that they may have been the cause of the divorce. Pre-teen children may also begin taking sides. Allowing them to ask questions, and giving them honest answers will help them to gain perspective and maintain a sense of security in an uncertain situation.
Children in their teen years may seem to live in their own world, but they are old enough to understand a divorce and they will recognize what the negatives and positives are. Tired of seeing mom and dad fight or tired of the tension in the house, some teens may actually feel a divorce is a good option. Still, any questions should be answered honestly and any fears or insecurities addressed. Teens should also be allowed to express their own feelings on the issue at hand. No matter what their age is, children involved in a divorce will always do better when the love of both parents remains constant and feelings of abandonment or guilt are never allowed to creep into the picture.