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Guidelines for Telling Your Children about the Divorce

When working with a child custody lawyer, one thing that he or she can do is to help advise you on how to deal with divorce when dealing with children. The presence of children in a divorce adds a whole new element to the case and must be handled as such.

As parents, even those who are choosing to divorce we must remember that we want what is best for our children. Here are some of the guidelines you should consider when telling your children about the divorce.


There are a few basic rules to consider when discussing divorce with your children.

  1. Consider each child’s age and maturity level; tell them only what he or she can understand. The ability to intellectually and emotionally comprehend certain aspects of your divorce will depend upon your child’s age. The majority of four year olds can’t understand the concept of divorce. If they know the word, they may simply think it means “Daddy and Mommy don’t live together." By the time children are six or seven years of age, they may be able to realize that courts and lawyers are involved and that divorce has meant many changes for their family. When children are eleven or twelve years old, they are very interested in how custody is decided. By this age, children have developed a sense of fairness, and they may want to be sure custody and visitations are equitable.
  2. Always be honest with your child. If your child asks you something about your divorce, always answer as truthfully and thoroughly as possible (taking into consideration what the child can absorb). Sooner or later, fabrication will be discovered and will only confuse your child about the real reasons for the divorce. Being dishonest about the divorce will also cause your child to doubt and mistrust all of your statements.
  3. Take initiative; do not wait for your child to ask you questions. Oftentimes, children are reticent about bringing up divorce-related issues. Their silence does not mean that they don’t have any questions or don’t want more information. It may mean, however, that they are taking cues from you and sense your reluctance to discuss the divorce. If you remain open, not blaming, and calm in your discussions about the divorce, then the pertinent facts, feelings, and information will be shared naturally and comfortably with your child.
  4. You must remember that your child is not your emotional confidant. Sharing facts about your divorce is one thing. It is a quite different thing to share these facts amid your feelings and discussing everything related to the divorce, because you have the need to talk and be heard. When spouses divorce, they usually want to go over the numerous small events that lead up to the divorce and to share all the details of the divorce process with someone. Do not make your children bear this burden; they are dealing with enough as it is.

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