You and your soon-to-be ex probably gave considerable thought to how you were going to tell your child that you had decided to divorce. Have you given your child any guidance on how they should tell the kids and adults in their life about this turn of events – or how to respond to questions and comments on the subject?
As the new school year approaches, it’s wise to prepare your child to answer questions from other kids as well as teachers, coaches and other parents. That’s especially important if your separation occurred over the summer or your child is going to a new school.
Even though it’s certainly not uncommon for kids to have divorced parents, that doesn’t mean your child won’t feel uncomfortable talking about their circumstances. That discomfort can be exacerbated when children – and sometimes adults – say unkind things, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Make sure they know it’s nothing to be embarrassed about – and that the situation has nothing to do with them.
Talk about boundaries
It’s crucial for your child to understand that they don’t have to answer any questions about their family that they’re not comfortable with. Young children in particular often don’t have a clear grasp of boundaries and what are private family matters. Make sure to inform their teacher and others at school who need to know about your divorce and custody situation, as no one should have to get that information from your child. Let your child know they should direct the school employee or any other adult to you or your co-parent if they have questions.
Give your child a simple sentence or two to use if they want to (like “Mom and dad live in different houses now and they take turns taking care of me”). Let them know they can feel free to say, “That’s all I know” or “I’d rather not talk about this anymore.” Make sure your child feels free to tell or ask you about anything someone has said that disturbed them or left them with questions.
Remind them that every divorce is unique
It’s also a good idea to prepare your child for disturbing things they may hear from other kids based on their own parents’ divorces (or even from other parents). Let them know that every divorce is different and that what happened to another family (like one parent moving away) has nothing to do with yours.
Finally, by maintaining an amicable relationship with your co-parent, you can better prepare your child for such challenges. Having sound legal guidance throughout your divorce can help you to navigate related co-parenting issues successfully as well.