Explaining divorce to children is probably the most difficult part of talking with kids about divorce. It's for this reason that proper explanations are frequently never given. Yet explaining the divorce is also one of the most important things you will do, because these explanations can have a profound effect on the messages a child carries with them into the future: what marriage is, what it means to be a family, how they interpret their role in the divorce, how they feel about their parents as people or as role models, and so on.
There are several key areas of explanation that must be given:
1. Explaining what divorce means
2. Explaining why you're getting divorced
3. Explaining the divorce process
The Basics of Explaining Divorce to Children
Explaining divorce tip #1: Ask kids what they understand about divorce
Before you offer your own explanations for what is happening, start off by asking children what they understand about divorce. Kids begin forming their own explanations as soon as they find out the news, based on their own presumptions or information they've picked up from peers. Ask them if they have any friends whose parents divorced and if so, what they learned from this. Children will often pick up bits of information here and there, along with many concerns or fears. But kids seldom volunteer information about these suspicions or fears without being prompted. Having them explain what divorce means from their perspective will help get their beliefs out in the open, letting you address any real or irrational ideas they might have.
Explaining divorce tip #2: Never make assumptions about what the child knows
It's quite common for parents to assume that the child already knows the reasons for the divorce. They've overheard the fighting, they've witnessed the disconnect with each other, and so the parents assume the child has made the connection. This is a mistake. Many kids - and young children ex especially - may not make a connection between parental fighting and their parents' separation. Even hen they witness family turmoil, this may not always equate to divorce in their mind. .
Explaining divorce tip #3: Honesty is the best policy
Be as honest as you can, without giving them any information that is going to injure their relationship with the other parent or provoke a child to take sides. For example, younger kids don't need to know about a spouse's affair if it can be avoided, nor should you tell them one parent wants to stay married but the other is pushing for divorce. Although you should try to be as R open and honest as possible, there are a select few situations where it's OK to say “some things are just personal between me and your mother/father.”