How to explain divorce to kids in a way they will understand
Whether your kids saw something about the latest celebrity divorce on TV or their best friend’s parents recently separated or you yourself are planning to get a divorce, you have to know how to explain divorce to kids in an easy-to-understand way.
Divorce: a harsh reality
Unfortunately, some marriages do end in divorce. When it comes to ending a marriage, the numbers are high globally. According to Divorce.com, Belarus has the highest number of divorces in the world with a 68% divorce rate. Russia is not far behind with a 65% rate and Sweden with a 64% divorce rate.
There are children involved in most of these ill-fated marriages. This means that the couple has to balance ending their life together with trying to create a new relationship that involves co-parenting their children. The first step in creating this brand-new relationship is explaining to the kids why their dad and mum will no longer be together.
Explaining divorce to kids
Kids can be the collateral damage in a divorce when the parents don’t know how to explain divorce to kids. Most times, children have no hand in the end of a marriage, but their lives still get impacted negatively. If the parents don’t manage this situation, it could affect the kids well into adulthood.
If you want to know how to explain divorce to kids, these are the steps you should take:
1. Put up a united front
Your children need to know that divorce or not, you will always be a family. This means you should sit down with your estranged spouse and break the news to the kids. Seeing mummy and daddy together will give them a sense of stability in this kind of upsetting situation.
2. Plan beforehand
You have to know what you want to say before you share the news with the kids. Planning will allow the parents to air any negative emotions before the kids are around to witness it. Rehearse your speech together until it sounds coherent enough. The goal is to show your little ones that it was a mutual decision, so plan ahead and choose your words carefully.
3. Be age-appropriate
You need to ensure that your conversation matches the age of the kids. If the children are younger, you have to find the words to make them understand that mummy and daddy will no longer be together even though they still love their family. For older kids, you may need to watch your words and your body language. You don’t want the kids to grow up thinking they had something to do with this decision.
4. No blame games
There’s a Nigerian joke that says you can have an ex-wife or an ex-husband but you can never have ex-kids. The takeaway is that you still have a duty to your kids whether you’re together or not. Knowing how to explain divorce to kids is understanding that children need to be kept innocent. They don’t need to know which parent was responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.
Most courts frown upon badmouthing your ex to your kids. You should place a priority on making sure the kids have a great relationship with both parents. There are instances where the court strips one parent or both parents of the right to see their kids, and this usually happens in cases where there is sexual abuse, drug abuse or domestic violence involved.
If this is not the case in your divorce, then your kids deserve to have a relationship with both parents.
5. Explaining custody
Depending on your custody arrangement, the children may need to live with one parent while the other parent gets visitation rights. It is normal for children who lived in one household with both parents to suddenly feel abandoned because one parent didn’t get primary custody. It is important to explain that while you no longer live together, you don’t love them any less.
6. Future romantic relationships
Divorced people are allowed to move on with their lives, but it can be tricky when children are involved. Should any of the parents get into relationships with new people, they’ll need to have ‘the talk’ with the children. Your little ones want to be assured that you are not replacing them and that you still love them just as much.
7. There’s no need to be ashamed
The fact that divorce rate in Nigeria is high does not mean that there’s no stigma attached to broken homes. Children of divorced parents often get scathing remarks from their peers and adults alike. It is important to remind them that it is not their fault and that they shouldn’t feel bad when people bring up the subject.
Divorce is hard, but it can be trickier when there are children involved. You can reassure your children effectively by learning how to explain divorce to kids.