Tips for How to Talk to Kids About Divorce
One of the most heartbreaking conversations we deal with at Buckhead Family Law is the one regarding how to talk to your child about divorce. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all guide regarding this type of conversation. The course of this conversation will depend on so many different aspects of your life – including your relationship with your soon to be ex-spouse, your family dynamics, and, perhaps most importantly, how old your child(ren) are and their individual needs. While not all children will openly discuss these milestones or their feelings, the following is a helpful guide for how to talk to your child about divorce and child custody in Atlanta.
Babies, Toddlers, & Children Up To 5
Babies, toddlers, and children up to 5 years of age are dependent on their parents for care. They may not be able to fully grasp what is happening or truly understand their feelings about it. However, as children approach the age of 5, they may begin to have more questions. At this point in psychological development, children cannot process anyone else’s feelings – and they often cannot express their own in productive ways.
When talking to your young children about divorce, you need to use simple explanations. Talk to them about where they will live, how often they will see the other parent, and how you are going to handle important things in their life, like toys and school. Try to keep the conversations short and as positive as possible. Remind them that you love them. It also helps to have the conversation multiple times instead of forcing the information into one long conversation.
If possible, consider getting some childhood books on divorce to help explain the delicate situation with visuals.
Children 6 To 11 Years Old
As children go out into the world and make their own friends, they are more likely to hear about divorce. As they grow, they will most likely have multiple friends who have parents who aren’t together, even though they may not completely understand the word divorce. Your child may ask things like, “Why does Sally have two houses and two Mommies?”
This often means you will battle some pretty nasty images of divorce and colliding parenting styles that they may pick up on from those friends. Try to quell their fears if they talk about friends who never see one parent or those who have parents who are always fighting.
At this age, the separation of time between you and your ex-spouse will be more complicated. You will need to account for sports and activities when thinking about child custody in Atlanta. Be sure to look for signs of anger, sadness, or anxiety in your child(ren). You may want to talk to your child’s guidance counselor or teacher for some insight into how behavior may change and signs to look for in the coming days.
At this age, your child will understand schedules and timing. You will be able to talk to your child about divisions of time, holidays, and who will be there for them. At this point, they will begin to understand the arrangements you are making for them.
Again, visuals are still helpful at this age, and Scholastic has some great reads for children who are living through divorce at this age.
Children 12 to 15 Years Old
Children who are young teenagers are more likely to anticipate a divorce before it happens. This will change how to talk to your child about divorce because you are dealing with a child who is changing themselves, and they may have intense feelings that they don’t understand. At the same time, they are starting to question your authority, so it may be more contentious than you’d hoped. And though you want to avoid it, depending on the situation, your child is more likely to take sides at this point.
When your child is older, they are more likely to want to have a say in how and where they spend their time. Try to work with them when determining child custody in Atlanta, even if that means not getting to spend as much time as you’d like with your child (unless there is a safety concern).
Even if your child is mad at you, you still need to make the effort to be a part of their life. Teenagers will try to rebel and say things that deliberately hurt you. Do not be discouraged. Stick with it – after some time, your child will see that the situation you have chosen for them is what is best for them.
Raising children through a divorce is tough – it may be tougher than any other aspect of divorce. Make sure that you do not neglect your own mental health and self-care, have your own resources for how to be a good parent during this time, circle friends and family to vent to, and obtain a good family law attorney to hold your hand through the process and guide you as you navigate the rough waters of child custody in Atlanta..
Contact our Atlanta divorce lawyers at Buckhead Family Law for legal advice regarding divorce and child custody. Our lawyers will answer your questions regarding child custody laws in Georgia. Get a consultation by calling at 404-600-1403.