Getting a divorce is tough enough for you and your spouse going through the sadness, fear, and frustration that it can bring even in the best of circumstances. However, for your children, things are even more frightening. They aren’t privy to everything that’s happening, and they may have no idea that there are even problems at home, much less the fact that their parents are going to get a divorce. For that reason, there are a lot of questions kids ask about divorce that might be difficult to answer.
So, what do you do? First, you have to make sure that you are honest with the kids (as much as possible) and that you let them know about the divorce sooner rather than later. They need time to process and grieve just as much as you do. As difficult as it might be for you to broach the subject, it’s something that you will want to do. If you and your spouse can do this together, it may be easier than just having it come from one parent.
Help Your Kids Handle the Divorce
Going through a divorce is tough on you and it’s tough on the kids. You need to be sure they get the care and attention they need during this time. Talk with them, listen to their questions, and consider having them go to therapy. It can be a good option for both kids and adults to have a therapist that can help them to understand how they are feeling and why they are feeling certain things during this time.
You’ll have to face a series of common questions kids ask about divorce, but they can vary depending on their age. You need to be prepared for the types of questions they are likely to ask. The answers are likely to be different for different couples, of course.
Why Are You Getting a Divorce?
Kids at certain ages don’t understand the concept of divorce. In their minds, just because parents don’t get along doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t live together anymore. After all, you tell them that they have to get along with their siblings and friends and that they are supposed to make up with one another. They wonder why the rules are different for mommy and daddy. So, they ask why you are getting divorced.
You want to be careful about how you answer, but you want to be honest if possible—even if you keep things vague. Don’t give them information they don’t need, of course.
Will You Get Back Together?
This is another question that you will often hear from children. They hope that you and their mom or dad will get back together, and even though that might be the case, you can’t give them false hope. Don’t tell them “maybe”, “we’ll see”, or anything similar. Don’t provide the children with false hope because they will be clinging to that and will be more devastated later when it doesn’t happen.
Did I Do Something Wrong?
Sometimes, kids will take the blame for the divorce on themselves when they certainly shouldn’t. They will want to know if the divorce was their fault or if they did anything wrong. You must let them know, unequivocally, that they did not do anything to cause this. It was other problems that you and their mom or dad were having, and it did not have anything to do with the kids.
During this time, the kids need to be told and shown that they are loved and still the most important part of the union between their parents.
Where Will I Live? What About School?
Of course, kids will also be worried about their living situation. They know about divorce and even though they never figured it would happen to their family, they worry about how things are going to change. They want to know whether they will be living with mom or dad and if they are going to be staying in the same house.
At this point, everything feels up in the air and very unstable. You want to ensure the kids that there is still structure in their lives. Although you might not know all of the details right now, assure the kids that they will be safe and that you will keep them in the loop as to where they will be living and whether they have to change schools or not.
Ideally, if you feel that you have to move out of the area, you can keep the kids in school at least until the end of the school year.
What Happens for Birthdays and Holidays?
Kids want to know where they will be spending their birthday, Christmas, Hannukah, etc. Are they going to be with mom or dad? Will they see their other parent on those days? It may still be early to talk about these things because they might not yet be hammered out. Let the kids know that you will talk to them about those details when you know more.
Why Are the Rules Different at Different Houses?
Often, parents will have different rules at their houses. Some parents might tell the kids it’s okay to eat dinner while watching television. Others might frown on that. One parent might require that the bed be made before going to school, while the other parent will make the bed for the child.
You have to explain that there are two sets of rules now and that they need to abide by those rules when they are at the different houses. It would be nice if you and your ex were on the same page with the rules, but this may not be possible.
You and your spouse know your children better than anyone else. You know the types of questions kids ask about divorce, but how will yours handle the answers? Before you sit down with them to talk about the divorce, think about those questions and have answers ready to go if possible. Remember to answer as honestly as you can depending on the age of the children and the nature of the question.
You will find that even though this might be one of the more difficult things you have to do regarding your divorce, talking with your children early and openly is important and will help.