June 6, 2023 11:43 pm

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How to Talk to Your Child about Divorce



Not all children are necessarily sad about the divorce, as every child’s reaction to is unique and can depend on various factors. However, it is common for children to experience a range of emotions when their parents separate or divorce, including sadness, confusion, anger, guilt, and anxiety.

The degree to which children are affected by divorce can also depend on their age, personality, family dynamics, and the circumstances surrounding the divorce. It is important for parents to talk to their children openly and honestly about the divorce due to proceedings which may involve custody of the children and property.

In Nigeria, the National Bureau of Statistics claims the divorce rate increased between 2006 and 2016. Divorce rates in Nigeria are higher in urban areas than in rural areas, with Lagos State recording the highest number of divorce cases.

According to a 2020 report by the United Nations, globally the divorce rate skyrocketed between 1960 and 2019 with the highest divorce rates found in Western countries. The reasons for divorce vary across cultures and can be influenced by factors such as economic conditions, cultural norms, and religion.

talking with your child about divorce
talking with your child about divorce

Talking to Children about Divorce

This can be difficult as it is a challenging experience for both parents and children. Parents may feel overwhelmed by their own emotions, such as sadness, guilt, or anger, which can make it tough to have a productive conversation with their children.

Communication barriers increase the difficulty as the kids may not understand the reasons for the split, and parents may struggle to find the right words to explain it. While young children need simple explanations, older children require more detailed information about the divorce.

In a situation where one parent is negative about the other, children may receive conflicting messages which can get confusing. It’s a process that requires ongoing conversations between children and their parents, as they may have questions or matters arising over time.

While the experience of divorce can be difficult for children, it’s important to remember that not all children react the same way. Some children may feel a sense of relief or even happiness in certain circumstances, such as when the divorce removes them from a harmful or tense environment.

Additionally, how children cope depends on factors such as their age, personality, and the level of conflict between their parents. Some children may show signs of sadness or anxiety, while others may appear to be more resilient or able to adapt to the changes. Parents must be attentive to their children’s well-being during and after the divorce.

Despite the sensitivity, it is important for parents to talk about the divorce in a clear, honest, and age-appropriate manner. Children need reassurance, and stability to help them cope with the changes, and sometimes it requires seeking therapeutic help or counselling which can be beneficial for both parties.

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The importance of having a conversation with your child about divorce can help them through the process in the following ways:

  1. Reduces anxiety and confusion: Children may feel anxious but having an open and honest conversation can help clarify some misunderstandings.
  2. Provides emotional support: Talking to your children about the divorce can help them feel loved, heard, and understood.
  3. Helps maintain a sense of security: Children may feel a sense of loss and instability after their parent’s separation. Talking to them about it can help them maintain a sense of security and stability by explaining what changes will occur and what will remain the same.
  4. Promotes trust and honesty: Talking to your child about the divorce can promote trust, and honesty, strengthen your relationship and make it easier for your child to come to you with any concerns they may have in the future.
  5. Encourages healthy coping mechanisms: Such crucial conversations can also help them develop healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with the changes and challenges in future.

Essentially, having a conversation with your child about divorce is important for their emotional well-being and can help maintain a strong and healthy relationship with them. So, you must prepare yourself for the conversation.

preparing yourself for divorce

Preparing Yourself for the Conversation

As a parent, you can seek counsel from trusted friends or in therapy, and be emotionally stable and composed before having the conversation. This is a difficult and emotional experience for parents and preparing before having the conversation with the child here are some tips on how to emotionally prepare yourself:

  1. Acknowledge your own emotions about the divorce before having a conversation with your child.
  2. Timing is important, choose a place where you and your child can have a private, free and uninterrupted conversation. This will help both you and your child feel more comfortable and relaxed.
  3. Plan what you want to say to your child ahead of time. This can help you stay focused and clear in your communication with your child.
  4. Be honest about the reasons for the divorce, but age-appropriate, avoid using negative or blaming language, and focus on the facts and it will affect your child’s life.
  5. Provide emotional support by reassuring your child that they are loved and supported, and also encourage them to express their feelings and concerns. Listen to their responses and be prepared with suitable responses to their queries.
  6. Seek professional support from a therapist/counsellor, legal or an elderly person in the family who can help you process your emotions and provide guidance on how to communicate with your child.
  7. Keep it simple use clear language when talking to children, your approach should be based on the child’s age, while younger children may need more real examples, older children may want more details.
  8. Provide reassurance: Assure your child that the divorce is not their fault and that both parents will still be there for them, make your children understand that their feelings are valid and it is normal to feel sad, angry, or confused. Answer their questions sincerely and be open, it will encourage the child to ask questions and answer them honestly.

Remember that preparing yourself is an ongoing process, and it is okay to take breaks and seek support as needed, approach the conversation with your child in a calm and supportive manner, and help them navigate this difficult time with confidence and resilience.

In conclusion, divorce data is rising and it can have a significant impact on children, regardless of where it occurs. Some of the ways divorce can affect children include emotional distress, behavioural problems, academic struggles, relationship issues, and even health problems. Therefore, it is important for parents to understand the significant impact on their children.

Talking to your child about it can be a daunting task, but it is essential to plan ahead, be open, and simple, have listening ears, be reassuring, and supportive, and keep the conversation going.

Parents can also seek support for themselves and their children during and after the divorce process, but most importantly find a way to maintain normalcy and routine by being consistent, and loving home.

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