It is not easy to decide to get a divorce, even when it is the choice needed for your well-being and the health of your family. The legal process of a divorce can be made easier with a Columbia divorce attorney, but the emotional and mental stress of a divorce still exists. If you and your spouse have children, it can make a divorce feel even more stressful and high-stakes.
Having a conversation with your kids about divorce or separation can feel impossible, but it is very important to do so. Divorce is going to be hard on your kids regardless, but remember that you are likely doing this for the long-term health and wellness of your entire family. Approach discussions with your kids with care, and understand that they may react in any number of ways. There are some things you can do that could help them deal with the news and their grief.
Make a Plan
Decide how you’re going to talk with your kids about the divorce, and pick a good time to tell them. If you can, avoid breaking the news before bedtime, before they leave for school, or on days when holidays or other celebrations are occurring. It’s important to give kids the time they need to process the information and ask important questions.
Have the Conversation Soon
Don’t put off the conversation. Although you may have been aware of a separation, this is likely a surprise to your kids. Even if they were aware of changes, they would have had less time to adjust to the news of divorce. The sooner you plan and have this conversation, the more time they will have to manage their many emotions, and you can have more time to help them through it.
Talk to Your Kids Together
It’s helpful for parents who are planning on getting a divorce to give the news to their kids together and to all the kids at the same time. This provides more certainty for children, especially when parents can show that they are working together despite the difficult circumstances.
If one parent is filing for a divorce, they should never tell the children before their spouse knows. If it isn’t possible to have a conversation as a unified front, work with your spouse on a plan for how to talk to your children.
Give Your Kids a Support System
It’s important to give children the compassion, reassurance, and aid they need during this difficult time. Make sure they know that you and your spouse are there to talk and listen. Children should know that their parents are there to give them support, and children should also be aware of their other options for a support system. For example, other children whose parents have gone through or are going through a divorce, other family members, and a professional therapist or social worker can help your child through this time.
A divorce can be isolating and alienating for children, and it’s necessary for them to have peers, loved ones, and professionals who are able to help them talk through and deal with these emotions.
Explain What Will and Won’t Change
A divorce can be very tumultuous, and it can help children to be told what the divorce will affect. Tell them about changes such as one parent moving out, a temporary custody plan, or if another family member may be taking care of them during divorce proceedings. Explain the routines that will not be impacted by the divorce, which may include where they go to school, where they primarily live, and after-school activities.
Expect and Encourage Questions
After you have this discussion with them, your kids may have a lot of questions. Be honest with your answers, including being honest if you don’t know. Remain upfront without delving into too-personal details.
Q: At What Age Is a Child Most Affected by Divorce?
A: Often, children who are elementary-age are most affected by a divorce. No matter what age a child is, divorce can affect them. Adults whose parents are getting divorced can also be significantly affected.
However, very young children may not have significant memories of life before the divorce, and teenagers or adults have a better grasp on their own emotions and how to manage them. Elementary-age children will remember life before separation, and they may not be old enough to know how to handle the resulting feelings of grief when they lose it.
Q: What Should You Not Say to Kids During Divorce?
A: It’s important to ensure that children know that the divorce is not their fault or because of anything they did. Never tell them or imply that it happened because of them. You also don’t want to blame or disparage your spouse to your kids. It’s important to remain honest without assigning blame, and tell your children what is happening without going into detail.
Q: Should You Talk to Your Kids About Your Divorce?
A: Yes, if you and your spouse are planning to get a divorce, you need to tell your children. Kids are perceptive and will likely notice the emotional or other changes in the household. If you do not tell them why, they may assume that the situation is their fault. It’s important not to put off talking to your kids about a divorce. Although you have likely had significant time to grieve and come to terms with a divorce, your kids have not. It’s important to give them that time, and give them the support they need.
Q: At What Age Can a Child Refuse to See a Parent in Missouri?
A: A child only has the legal right to refuse to see a parent when they are 18 and not a child. When the court determines custody in a divorce, separation, or paternity case, a child may be asked what their wishes are. A child’s wishes are likely to be considered if they are over 12 years old. However, the court is never required or even expected to follow the child’s wishes. The court’s priority is the interests of the child. If their interests conflict with their preference, the court will not abide by their wishes.
Ease the Stress of a Divorce With an Experienced Attorney
A qualified attorney can help you navigate complicated divorce proceedings while helping you and your spouse determine what will be easiest for your family. Contact Stange Law Firm to see how we can help you mediate or litigate divorce and child custody determinations.