How to Explain Divorce to Young Children

Discussing divorce with your young child is a conversation you probably never expected or hoped to have. It is an emotional discussion, confusing and overwhelming for both children and parents. Your child will likely have a lot of questions as they try to process the huge change that is happening in their life. Some of these questions may have simple answers, while others may not have an answer at all. However, it is important that the entire conversation be held with appropriate openness and honesty so your child can better understand the situation and feel as comfortable as possible.

While nothing can remove all of the stress and emotion from this conversation, there are still ways to lessen the strain on your child. Here are five tips and resources for explaining divorce to young kids:

  1. Reassure your child that this decision is not their fault. Especially for young children, it can be confusing to understand their parents’ decision to get divorced. It can be easy for your child to feel responsible or feel like they had something to do with your decision. They may think that the divorce is a punishment for something wrong, such as misbehaving or leaving a mess behind. Be sure to continuously remind your child, even beyond this first conversation, that nothing they did led to this decision. 
  2. Use picture books or stories to help explain. Young children may have a hard time fully grasping what a divorce means, and that’s where utilizing outside resources may become helpful. Picture books and stories may allow your child to better understand the situation. There are many picture books written about divorce, each with unique details and storylines that may fit the scenario you are in. For a list of picture books about divorce, visit: 
  3. Establish a custody schedule to give your child structure. Your child may have a difficult time transitioning from one home to two. It will be strange for them to have two houses at first, but with time those feelings of confusion and uneasiness should subside. It’s important that a set custody schedule is put into place from the very beginning. For example, your child may struggle with leaving mom’s house to go to dad’s because they are worried about being away from mom. If they have a consistent custody schedule, they know that mom will pick them up in a couple of days and vice versa. This security will help them through this big transition. 
  4. Take your child shopping for their new room. Although it won’t take away all of the stressful emotions, creating excitement about a new bedroom will help your child with this transition. Let them decide the color scheme and decorations for their new room, and allow them to create their own safe and happy space. This will allow kids to feel comfortable and at home when spending time at their new house.
  5. Create an open line of communication. Beyond the initial conversation, your child will likely have a lot of questions. Allow them to come to you at any time when they are feeling confused or unsure about their new lifestyle. This open line of communication will help clarify any misunderstandings or questions that they may have, whether it is about custody arrangements or new feelings and emotions.

Although divorce is a difficult topic, especially when trying to explain it to a young child, there are ways you can help to alleviate some of the stress and emotion involved. With these five tips, you can help your child to begin adjusting to their parents’ divorce, and with time, it will become a normal part of their life.

If you are in the process of navigating a dissolution of marriage, call the Law Offices of Joseph Cerino at (239) 561-2820 today to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney.

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The law office of Joseph Cerino handles all matters of litigation, concentrating in family law including divorce, custody, child support, paternity, alimony, property division and domestic violence, as well as, criminal defense and appeals in Southwest Florida.

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