Talking to Your Children About Divorce

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In any divorce or separation involving children, it’s important that the children understand what is happening and parents address their concerns at each stage. No matter their age or maturity level, every child will have some anxiety about the process and changes impacting their daily life.  When you are going through the divorce process it is important to realize that your children probably know more about what is going on than you think they do. It is important to talk to your children about this process and see what they know. The following are some tips on how to alleviate some of your children’s stress when discussing divorce or separation:

Address it Together

Children need to hear from both parents and the risk of blaming or insulting the other parent will be extremely reduced if everyone is in the room together. Children need support from both parents. Unless there is a history of family violence or abuse, parties should try to sit down together to talk about the situation. If the parties are struggling to keep a neutral tone, use of a family therapist or other neutral third party may be advisable.

Stay Broad

Your children don’t need to know which spouse is paying how much in child support or what the specifics are of the marital home refinance. Keep answers to your children’s questions broad and focus on matters that will impact them. The most important items to address will be:

  • Where each parent will be living,
  • That both parents still love and want to share time with the children,
  • When the children’s schedules will change and how,
  • When and how frequently the children will get to see each parent.

If one spouse is leaving and won’t be able to have overnight visitation, the children should be reassured that the lack of overnight visitation is only temporary. Efforts should be made to have both parents continue to attend and participate in the children’s educational and extracurricular activities.

Be Respectful

It can be tempting to say hurtful things about the other parent, especially if a new partner is involved, but only the children will suffer from negative comments about the other parent. Try to show respect for the other parent in all communications with the children. To avoid conflict when interacting in front of the children. Remember:

  • Do not criticize or blame,
  • Avoid name-calling and insults,
  • Watch your body language,
  • Try to keep your emotions under control.

Fighting or having an emotional breakdown in front of the children will only add to their anxiety about the divorce and may negatively impact your case down the line. Children may internalize your emotional reactions and feel they have to take care of you, rather than the other way around. Showing your emotion or making negative comments about the other parent will make children feel they have to choose between parents. The court’s key focus in addressing custody is the best interests of the child. The court will consider the child’s opinion, but will also consider the conduct of each party throughout the process. Making negative comments or acting inappropriately in front of children will negatively impact your case at trial.

Schedule Time Together

It’s not enough to reassure your children that they will see both parents; you have to follow up and make sure both parents have consistent, positive, contact with the children. Setting a temporary visitation schedule and modifying it as necessary can save both parties a lot of time and hassle, and save the children from unnecessary anxiety.

Additional Tips

Here are five additional tips to keep in mind when discussing divorce or separation with your children.

  1. Be Honest with your Children
  2. Do not Blame the Other Parent
  3. Don’t go into Adult Details with your children
  4. Do not try and Weaponize your Children
  5. Don’t make your children pick sides

Our team at Melone Hatley, located in Reston, Virginia, has significant experience in the area of divorce and family law. We will fight to protect your best interests and help you reach an equitable resolution. To discuss your specific situation, contact us today for a case evaluation.

Rebecca Melone

Written By Rebecca Melone

Rebecca Melone established Melone Hatley P.C. in 2014 with the goal of helping families with a range of legal services from estate and family law to traffic tickets and misdemeanor criminal matters.
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