Announcing a divorce to your child is no easy feat. How they respond and the proper methods of breaking the news vary by age and life circumstance. Here we’ll take a look at how divorce impacts children at critical age groups and how to talk them about divorce in an effective way.
At five and under, children are just learning to communicate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t understand or feel the effects of divorce. This age group is critical, as children are forming emotional bonds with their parents. Telling your child in a straightforward way, providing lots of love, and reminding them it’s not their fault, is the best way of informing them at this age.
At this age, the child is able to understand divorce and how it will impact them. They may have friends who have divorced parents whom they have heard about it from. This will give them a frame of reference, but if your child expresses fears from other divorce stories, ensure them that each situation is unique. At this age, it’s important to keep your child’s routine the same, as they have school to look forward to and focus on. Having them see a therapist can also help lessen trauma from the event later in life.
The preteen and early teen years are ripe for rebellion, especially if divorce is in the mix. At this age, children are going through hormonal changes, giving them added pressures on top of divorce. At this age, your child may lash out, so it’s important to watch for signs of adverse behavior. A child at this age should be informed of impending divorce in a supportive way to ensure they don’t blame themselves. A therapist can also help.
Your child is near adulthood now, but divorce can impact them significantly, as they spent their childhood with both parents. The upcoming growing pains of adulthood and leaving the nest may make this transition period more difficult with divorce in the mix. Much like their early and mid-teen years, your child may lash out. Divorce and the responsibilities of graduation and college can impact their success during this period, so it’s critical to ensure their studies stay on track. At this age, ensure that your child knows they have a support base to lean on so they navigate the journey into adulthood with ease.
Adult children may no longer be under your roof and fully understand the implications of divorce. They too struggle with it, but can also make their own decisions, leading to potentially more severe reactions. A child may choose to not speak with a parent out of anger or may take sides in a divorce. They may also conversely feel relief. They may have married, have children, or themselves have divorced, adding diverse emotions to the situation. It’s important to tell your adult child the news together and to fully explain your reasoning. They will likely have many questions and deserve proper answers. They may feel that you waited for them to be an adult to divorce, negatively impacting their feelings about childhood. Providing your child with a thorough explanation, answering questions, and providing support is the best way to maintain strong family ties.
If you’re filing for divorce and have children to consider custody of, Simon Law Group AZ can help you. We have over 35 years of trial experience and specialize in high-conflict divorce with kids custody cases. Contact us today to learn more.