How to talk to children about divorce in Colorado

Breaking the news of divorce to children the right way will best help them cope with the situation.

The National Association of School Psychologists reports that 80 percent of children whose parents have divorced will be well-adjusted and productive adults. However, the other 20 percent will have social and psychological difficulties. The key in helping children in Colorado and across the country successfully acclimate to their new family dynamic is to guide them through the divorce process openly and honestly. There are several ways parents can help children cope with the situation.

Put the child first

Experts agree that above all, considering the needs of the child should be the priority. As the Mayo Clinic points out, a tough divorce could pit former spouses against each other and make conversations tense and nearly impossible. However, parents should make sure they are not using a child as leverage and instead prioritize the needs of the child when making custody arrangements and other decisions.

Part of putting the child first will include the following:

  • Preventing custody battles from becoming long and arduous, which can affect the child's mental well-being
  • Avoiding making negative comments about a spouse to the child
  • Keeping the child from having to choose sides or deliver messages

A study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that children of divorce may be prone to experiencing insecurity regarding their relationships with their parents. Therefore, parents should encourage positive interactions and never speak about marital problems in front of the child.

Break the news correctly

Telling a child about divorce can be difficult, but how the conversation is handled may dictate how a child reacts and copes with the news. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, making the announcement together as a couple is optimal because it can provide reassurance that both parents still love and support the child.

The AACAP also suggests that parents let children know about the divorce as soon as possible so no one feels left in the dark. It is important that during the conversation, parents acknowledge that the situation may be difficult and upsetting for everyone involved. Lastly, parents should make sure that the children know they are not to blame for the split.

Look for signs of trouble

Understandably, children may go through a range of emotions following the announcement. The AACAP reports that older children may experience a sense of loss, while younger children could react with aggression. When behavioral problems start presenting or children begin falling behind in school, it could be a sign that they are not handling the divorce well.

In those circumstances, experts agree that counseling for the child could help. Speaking with a licensed professional will enable a child to deal with their emotions. It is possible that some or all family members will be brought in for group counseling sessions to help promote the healing process.

People who are going through a divorce and have child custody and support issues to consider should work with an attorney.

Keywords: divorce, children, custody