Explaining divorce to children can be difficult, even if it is another couple within the family that is separating. Divorce can have an effect on every member of the family, from parents to grandparents to children of every age; however, when children are close to their aunts, uncles, and cousins, explaining the divorce and its consequences are necessary to prevent the emotional fallout that can happen with sudden separation, and there are a few strategies you can use to talk about the divorce to kids of any age.
1. Be Honest but Brief
When you are explaining the divorce of a favorite aunt and uncle to a child, honestly is the best policy. However, there are certain lines you may want to avoid crossing, such as details about what led to the breakup. If you are discussing this with a school-aged child under the age of 13, you can use phrases like, “Uncle Jack and Aunt Sally are going to live in different homes now” or “Your aunt and uncle still love your cousin Sue, but they are going to live separately.”
If your child asks who their cousins or other young relatives are going to live with after the divorce, you can tell them that family law attorneys, such as Cordell and Cordell, might help their aunt and uncle decide. You can also reassure them that the family will help them through the crisis.
2. Listen More Than You Talk
Your children will likely have many questions about their relatives’ divorce, so it is wise to listen to their questions and observations rather than try to overexplain. In some cases, children ask questions to have certain fears alleviated. When a divorce in the family is imminent, they may fear they will never see the divorcing relatives again. It may help your kids to voice these fears; however, refrain from interrupting and listen for those you can quell when they are finished talking.
3. Be Gentle Yet Truthful About the Future
If you know that the divorcing couple is going to cause a long-distance move for one or either of the parents due to custody terms set by the courts and a family law firm like Cordell Cordell, being honest about the future may be the best course of action when discussing it with your child. For example, if you know your son’s favorite cousin will be moving out of state, hiding this fact can only delay the inevitable and cause your child to be angry afterward.
The truth about divorce may be painful, but facing it might also help your child build good coping skills for later on in life. He or she may even surprise you by being more worried about the divorcing relatives and their children than they are about themselves.
4. Reassure Your Kids
When children experience a divorce outside of their own immediate family, it may ignite fears that their own parents will divorce as well. This is especially common for younger children, who may wonder if what caused one divorce might happen with his or her mom or dad.
Before you discuss the divorce taking place, reassure your child that it will not affect his or her immediate family and that you still love your partner. You can then explain that each divorce is different and has a variety of circumstances that cause them. If your child is very young, remember that keeping these concepts in the simplest terms possible is likely a good idea.
Dealing with a divorce is never easy for anyone, including close members of an extended family. Listening closely to your children’s questions and offering them support and reassurance can help them cope and feel validated during this difficult time.