Explaining Separation or Divorce to Your Children
Sun, April 11, 2021

Explaining Separation or Divorce to Your Children

Separation or divorce could be inevitable at this point, and definitely this situation will have a profound effect on the couple’s children / Photo by: fizkes via Shutterstock

 

The idea of a family means being together for the rest of their lives. Just like the message in Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch” said: “Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” However, in reality, there are moments when couples are no longer able to see each other eye to eye and to continue to accept their differences are already out of the question. Separation or divorce could be inevitable at this point, and definitely this situation will have a profound effect on the couple’s children.

According to KidsHealth, a non-profit organization that caters to children’s health systems, there are thousands of children being affected by the stress of their parents getting through a separation. Depending on the gravity of the situation, the children’s personalities, age, and other factors, you have to expect that there will be different reactions to the divorce or the separation.

Initially, most kids will react with sadness or shock when they hear the news from their parents. A lot of coping methods are then employed by the children without parents even realizing it, like eating too much, being out of the house most of the time, or sometimes, even plainly making it look like they aren’t affected at all. However, divorce and separation will affect all children, whether they are young or old. The way they react is entirely a different story.

When your children are sad, it could make them feel isolated or they become emotionally unstable. There will also be times when your child could underperform in academics due to the separation. Some children might even feel that they are being abandoned by their parents. This could have a big impact on their well-being.

In an article by Kidspot, an Australian website that provides information on parenting problems, it was mentioned that there have been studies about the long-term effects of divorce and separation on children. Some of these include a higher risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, criminality, and depression. Although these are just statistics, the majority of these effects could also come from parents who are not able to talk to their child about the separation or showed very visible signs of hatred or anger toward their former partner. Such a development could leave children scarred for life, especially if they see that the conflict between parents is still ongoing.

 

Talking by Age

A child’s reaction to a divorce or a separation will mainly be dependent on their age and level of understanding. For most preschoolers, they have a very limited ability to understand the whole situation and will actually just question why there is an absence of one parent at some point. Also, they will not think about the future yet since they are so into the world around them in the present. If one parent starts not coming home due to a separation, it will take more simple explanations for them to understand. Usually, this can take a lot of time, weeks perhaps.

For toddlers and kids up to nine years of age, they have some ability to think and talk about what they feel, so a more specific explanation of the separation could be necessary. Since children of these ages are already able to have relationships outside of the home, they will be able to show their reactions in obvious manners. They may feel sad, angry, anxious, or even blame themselves for the separation. At this age, most kids would want their parents to get back together. It could be a problem for the couple, but there should be better explanations for kids at this age.

For teenagers, they are already at the age of having a greater ability to understand what a divorce or a separation between their parents means. They can also already be part of the discussion, and most will ask questions as to why the parents came up with such a decision. However, parents need to watch out for the mood swings since this is the time they develop into young adults, so the hormones are very much active. At this stage, communication is very vital in making sure that there is less damage or negative effects on the children from the separation.

A child’s reaction to a divorce or a separation will mainly be dependent on their age and level of understanding / Photo by: Photographee.eu via Shutterstock

 

What and What Not to Say

Your children’s loyalty will always be with you. In order for that to stay, make sure you never break the trust they put in you. As much as possible, when talking about the other parent, be respectful and avoid saying ill things about the other party as this could be very destructive to your children. At any age, it could be very bad for your child to see such anger coming out of you.

Also, avoid saying words that will eventually end up on your child having to choose sides. Remember, this can put so much pressure on the kid, and it may ruin another parent’s reputation or name. Imagine how your child would feel if they heard someone talking bad about his parents.

Make sure also that you do not ask your child for information relating to your former partner once the separation has begun. This is using your child to your own benefit. In addition, it is just plain disrespectful of your former partner’s privacy.

You may hate your former partner’s guts so much that it will be a relief just to express it to someone else. Just make sure it’s not your children or while in front of them as most likely, they will still love their other part as much as you. Whatever negative thing you say about your ex-spouse will surely hurt your children as well. They certainly don’t deserve it.

Your children’s loyalty will always be with you. In order for that to stay, make sure you never break the trust they put in you / Photo by: Africa Studio via Shutterstock