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Back To School: How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

Back To School: How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

As family law attorneys, we often have clients who have questions about when and how to talk to their kids about the divorce. With back to school time approaching, this topic can be more top of mind for parents than ever. Whether your child is starting kindergarten, high school or a young adult off to college, a child of parents going through a divorce will likely have many questions.  Below are 5 do’s and don’ts we tell our clients to think about when talking to their kids about their divorce.

Do Present a United Front

Ideally both parents will be on the same page about when and how to tell the child.  This kind of news should come from both parents at the same time so the child can ask questions and feel supported by both parents.  If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are not in a good enough place to talk with your children together, at least discuss how the both of you are going to approach the conversation and the timing of when this discussion should occur.

Do Remind Them Divorce is not Their Fault

Children will often blame themselves as the reason their parents are separating.  It’s very important to explain to your child that he or she had absolutely nothing to do with the divorce and there’s nothing he or she could do (or could have done) to prevent the divorce from happening.  Remind the child that both parents love him or her and will continue to love and support the child as parents, even if the two of you aren’t married anymore.

Don’t Involve Them in the Divorce Process

The divorce process can be a long and difficult process for both parents, but you should not involve your child in any way.  If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are disagreeing about child custody or parenting plan issues, the last thing you want to do is involve your child.  Do not talk about what you’re disputing or your frustrations with your child.  This means taking your divorce attorney calls in private, not talking about court or judges in front of your child, storing pleadings or paperwork in a safe and secure place and not sharing any details about the actual process or decisions getting made with your child.  All you need to tell your child is that you and your spouse are handling things and the child does not have to worry about “what will happen” because things will get resolved.

Don’t Vent to Them About Your Emotional or Financial Stresses

When you’re going through a divorce you’re going to be dealing with a lot of emotional and financial stresses.  Lean on your own family and friends or mental health professionals to help you through this – not your children.  Chances are there will be times when you’re upset with your soon-to-be ex-spouse and might not have very nice things to say about him or her.  The last person you should be sharing your irritations with is your child.  Remember, your ex-spouse is always going to be your child’s mother or father and your child may resent you as he or she grows older if you talk disparagingly about a parent who they love and identify with.

Do Involve a Professional

Even if your child is happy and healthy, a divorce can be a very stressful and challenging time for any child.  Your child may not feel comfortable sharing with you everything he or she is feeling or going through.  Enrolling your child with a child psychologist or counselor is a great way to allow your child to get the support they need.  Even if your child only meets with a professional once or twice, it’s important to give your child the opportunity to have a safe place to share their fears, worries, anger, or sadness with.  You may also learn some valuable tools and information from your child’s psychologist or counselor that will help you better support your child through the divorce process and afterward. 

Do Engage Your Child’s Teacher

Teachers should also be considered part of the co-parenting team. It’s important to inform your child’s teachers of your family’s new situation this year in an effort to help your child. It can also be beneficial to get in contact with your child’s school counselor and introduce him/her to your child. School counselors can be a great resource for your child during this transition. Additionally, back to school events such as Family Social Night, Open Houses, Meet and Greet with Teachers, Back to School Info Night, Parent-Teacher Conferences – whatever event your child’s school has, it is important that both parents participate as much as possible. Both parents should be responsible for keeping informed through the school about any scheduled events. If you and your co-parent cannot yet be together in the same room, contact the school/teacher to arrange for alternate times, if possible.  

We Can Help

The stress of a divorce can be reduced by choosing a highly experienced divorce attorney to help guide you through the process. If you are looking for an attorney with extensive divorce experience, contact us today. Call our Portland office at (503)227-1515 or our Vancouver office at (360)823-0410 to request a consultation today.