Top Ten List – Do’s and Don’ts Regarding Telling Your Child About Your Divorce and Helping Them Cope

By Nancy L. Rommelmann PLLC | Family Law Attorney –

Divorce is both stressful and difficult for a child.  It is particularly harmful, however, for a child to be subject to conflict between their parents.  The following strategies can assist you in helping your child cope with divorce.

Do:

1. Assure your child that you love them.

2. Reassure your child that the divorce is not their fault.

3. Give your child age appropriate information about your divorce.  If you’re uncertain what “age-appropriate” information is then consult with a good mental health professional.

4. Answer your child’s questions honestly.  A child gathers a lot of information from the media and their friends and can be quite discerning about the reality regarding your family in crisis.

5. Allow your child to grieve.  Divorce is like a death.  The stages are 1. denial, 2. anger, 3. depression, 4. letting go and 5. acceptance.  Be emotionally available to your child.  Make an appointment for your child to counsel with a mental health professional if you can afford to do so.

Don’t:

1. Overwhelm your child with too much information during your first conversation with your child that you are getting divorced.

2. Act like everything is going to stay the same.  Things will change and advise your child of changes over time as things actually begin to change.

3. Make the child your emotional surrogate spouse (being the little man or little woman around the house – i.e. “since Mommy isn’t here you need to help me cook,” “since Daddy isn’t here you need to keep me safe.”)

4. Sabotage visitation with the other parent, but acknowledge concerns and be thoughtfully responsive to questions your child has about visitation, new circumstances regarding the other parent’s new residence, significant others, etc.

5. Tell a child about your divorce just before they are going to school or a big event.  Tell the child when the child has adequate time to absorb the information and ask you questions several hours later.