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How do we tell the kids about our divorce?

Divorce is a gut-wrenching process for California families, adults and children alike. Whether they have picked up on clues or it comes as a surprise, children may struggle to come to terms with the range of feelings that come during a divorce, such as anger, grief and confusion. Some children may feel that they somehow are the cause, while others fear they are being abandoned. Many may wish for a reconciliation long after a divorce is final.

Psychology Today offers some pointers to help you explain divorce to your children, beginning with repeated reassurances that you will not abandon them. They need to hear that both parents are going to be there for them now and in the future. Speak to them as a group and then each of them separately. Short talks and several of them will benefit them more than trying to process everything at the same time. Here are further guidelines for discussing divorce with them.

They are not to blame

If you do not tell them, in general terms, why you are divorcing, they may assume it is their fault. Divorce is an adult response to dealing with an adult problem. Make sure they hear and understand that.

Keep it real

Parents may want to cushion the blow, but you must be sure to be clear about separating and how things will change. Some children may want to “fix” what is broken, and if you are vague about what is happening, they may fill in the blanks themselves with what they want to happen.

Listen to them

Your children may have a wide range of emotions, some they may not have experienced before, such as grief, and they may also worry about their own futures. Tell them it is okay to talk about their feelings and ask questions. Give them time to process these emotions and the freedom to tell you about them. Listen and watch for clues about what they are going through.

What you do not say is just as important as what you do say, so be careful not to blame your spouse and withhold the details of whatever problem led to the divorce. They do not need to hear those details, and criticism of the other parent may be taken as personal since they are part of that person too.

This information is of a general nature and is not intended as legal advice.

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