5 Things To Remember When Talking To Kids About Divorce

·7-min read

Marriages for the longest time have been a dreamy affair promising the fairytale-esque “happily ever after.” However, the reality of life and its complications will assure you that not everything always works out as you planned. And couples do split up if they aren’t compatible.

In 2019, the average age of divorce for males in Singapore was 43.4 years, while that for females was 39.3 years. Between 2010 and 2019, the resident crude divorce rate on the island was 1.9 per thousand people.

But now, a recent MSF report suggests that the divorce rate in Singapore is on the rise, especially between couples on the verge of their 10th anniversary.

At this point in a marriage, there is usually the addition of children, bringing another variable that needs to be addressed. Now, a divorce isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Experts suggest that constant fighting in high-conflict marriages is more damaging to the kids in the long run.

Instead, an amicable divorce where both partners commit to co-parenting the children is a better solution.

If you do decide to split up, you need to be talking to kids about divorce beforehand to prepare them for what’s to come.

But it can be challenging for mums and dads to convince children that things are changing for the better. That’s why we’ve listed five ways you can make this a simpler process.

Talking To Kids About Divorce: Between 2 And 5 Years

talking to kids about divorce
talking to kids about divorce

Image Source: iStock

While toddlers may not be able to understand the depth of what’s happening, they are more likely to remember the feeling associated with it.

Children at this age also crave more attention and can perceive the separation to be their fault.

For children this young, you may need to go overboard in explaining that mum and dad will live separately. However, nothing changes as far as love and care are concerned from both the parents.

You will also need to keep your emotions aside, especially if the divorce is a bitter one.

Talking To Kids About Divorce: Between 6 And 10 Years

Older children are better tuned with processing their emotions but a divorce between parents is still a hard pill to swallow. They will also have more mature questions that you may feel uncomfortable answering.

“Did dad beat you? Is he leaving because I’ve been a bad child? Why is mum mad at us?” Expect some of these questions to come from your little one and you will have to prepare some answers.

Also, be prepared to talk about the emotions your child is going through. Is he sad, angry, anxious? Make sure your child processes those feelings instead of bottling them up inside.

Talking To Kids About Divorce: Between 11 And 15 Years

talking to kids about divorce
talking to kids about divorce

Image Source: iStock

Adolescent children and those in their teens have a better understanding of divorce and how they feel about the entire situation. You can also be more open to them about the circumstances that led up to the divorce and how you need their help to make this a more seamless process.

This does not mean they won’t act out.

Teenagers are more likely to be vocal about their feelings – both and good bad – and will feel they have more at stake. This includes their relationship with cousins, friends, other relatives, teachers and more. The ripple effect from the divorce will be larger.

With teens, you may not sugarcoat the situation and rather speak to them as an adult. This includes explaining how the situation in the house changes and how joint custody (if there is one) works.

You will also need to be more truthful with your answers to any follow-up questions.

Much like the younger children, give them time and assure them constantly that nothing changes between them and the parents when it comes to individual relationships.

5 Things To Remember When Talking To Kids About Divorce

1. Prepare in advance

talking to kids about divorce
talking to kids about divorce

Image Source: Pexels

While kids should not be a part of a couple’s fights and arguments, you should not spring upon them the divorce either. Once you and your partner have mutually decided to split, you need to let the child know about your decision and then give her time to process this.

Kids will need the transition time for a decision as big as this. And it may include acting out, asking questions, and maybe blame themselves too.

You will have to be there to answer all their concerns and reassure them that is a good decision for the family. Parents also need to make sure you break the news at a time when the child is mentally ready to process his.

A mid-week conversation about this wouldn’t be ideal and makes more sense on Friday after school or over the weekend when children have more time at home and with you.

You also need to constantly assure them that the relationship between you and the child does not change with the divorce. The onus is on both parents to have this conversation either together or individually.

2. Break the news together

With kids, divorce is as much about them as it is about the two individuals. So when it comes to breaking the news, you need to do it together as a family. You need to be in control of the situation and that can only happen when the kids hear it from both of you.

They know then it’s a decision taken by both the parents. At the same time, do not be contentious about the whole process.

Keep the blame game aside even if one person is at fault and keep the focus on what the child needs at that moment. You can always be more honest about what transpired as the child grows older.

You will also need to be clear about how your child’s life changes after the split. Does the living situation change? What about the school and classes? Any changes in terms of responsibility? Explain the details to them and be prepared for a variety of responses.

3. Keep it simple

Keep the conversation simple when it comes to explaining to toddlers and young children about divorce. They don’t need to know the complexities of the relationship but they do need to understand things will change from here on.

Keep your language simple, clear and do not give out too much information. At the same time, avoid half-truths and actually use the terms when necessary to make them more acquainted with the situation.

4. Maintain boundaries when speaking to older children

While we maintain that older children and teens need to be handled more maturely, you also need to set boundaries about what exactly do you share with them.

Pre-teens or teens may want to be actively involved in the whole process. Do share with them what you think is comfortable and help them process the information and heal.

It definitely would be best to avoid more graphic details like extra-marital affairs, sexual problems with children in order to not scar them in the long run. At the same time, do not bicker or fight in front of the child, no matter the age.

5. Focus on keeping a stable home

talking to kids about divorce
talking to kids about divorce

Image Source: iStock

Divorce brings along unpredictability for the child that makes the process so scary. So even if the parents aren’t living together, the child can expect them to continue doing certain activities as a family.

This is necessary for social events like a sports day or a parent-teacher meeting wherein the presence of both parents matter.

At the same time, try to not disrupt your child’s schedule after you’ve broken the news. Keep maintaining the same activities, expectations and even the scolding when things aren’t done.

Of course, the rules can change after divorce depending on either parent’s house rules. However, certain activities like bedtime, study time, and mealtime need to be consistent at both places. It will also help your child adapt quickly to the two-home concept.

Parents getting divorced is always a trying time for the family and you need to tread carefully about how you handle it. Divorces aren’t a bad thing and it’s necessary that the child understands this. It’s not about losing a family but gaining two instead.


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