How to Talk to Kids about Divorce and Court, According to Psychologists:
When parents decide that they’re getting divorced, it can be difficult to break the news to the kids. Telling children about the decision to divorce is the most difficult part of the process for parents, according to certified parent coach Jennifer Wolf. Despite the difficulties of talking to kids about a divorce, it’s one of the most healing parts of the adjustment process for them, and can certainly be of great benefit in the long run. Dr. Lisa Herrick, PhD, states that only 25% of parents take the time to sit down with their kids and talk to them about their divorce. The other 75% spend less than 10 minutes talking about the divorce to their kids in total. The sooner the kids know, the better off they are, says Dr. Kevin Arnold, PhD.
Arnold believes that children should know about a divorce before too much time passes, but should not have to sit on the news for a long period of time before it is final, as this can create a great deal of anxiety for the kids. Children should ultimately know about the divorce a few weeks before things are set in motion. If a divorce is going to be a long, drawn out process, the children should be notified before things begin to happen that will directly affect their life and living situation, but not too far in advance. Sitting on that information any longer than a week or two can be too long for children. It’s also best for parents to plan out how they will tell the children about 2-3 weeks ahead of time, according to Herrick.
Once a couple’s children know about their divorce, it’s important to keep the kids in the loop, but not too much in the loop. Remember this is a delicate balance. Children should know about important milestones of the divorce, such as court dates and custody hearings, and the information that impacts them. Information concerning why the divorce happened that goes into details that could disparage, or tarnish the image of the other parent should be avoided at all costs.
7 Tips for Talking to Kids About Court
Once parents have let their kids know that they are getting a divorce, they can start planning how they will talk to them about things like going to court. This may sound like a difficult discussion to have, and not every child may understand what court is, but with a few guidelines parents can open the lines of communication concerning this milestone in a divorce with ease. The rules for talking to children about court dates and appearances are the same as they were when breaking the news about the divorce. It’s important to relay the important details that will affect the children, but to do so with the help of the 7 following tips.
Tell Them Soon, but Not Too Soon
Just as children shouldn’t know about a divorce too far in advance, the same can be said of going to court. Parents will want to tell children about court far enough in advance for them to mentally prepare, but not so far in advance that they are sitting on the event with anxiety surrounding it for an extended period of time. If kids recently learned the news about the divorce, and the court date is coming up, it is OK to tell them as soon as possible. However, if the children just found out about the divorce and the court date isn’t for a few more weeks, it may be best to allow them to adjust to the news first before telling them about any court dates.
Join Co-Parenting Forces
Parents who can join co-parenting forces when communicating information about their divorce to their children such as going to court are going to have the most powerful impact on their kids in the most positive way (assuming parents keep their interactions peaceful and friendly).
When talking to children about anything related to one’s divorce, it’s always best for the kids when parents remain positive. This will be less threatening and frightening for the children, and they will have a stronger sense of safety and security when parents appear to be in a healthy mind state.
Talk in a Quiet, Private Place
Choosing a private, quiet place to talk will free children from any distractions, or feelings that would deter from their feeling safe enough to express their thoughts, feelings, and any questions that they have. It may also help to keep important adults in the lives of the children in the know as well, in the event that there is any acting out, or emotional reactions that occur in light of this news, and the event itself.
Be Supportive, and Help Answer Questions
This can be a sensitive, difficult time for children, so it’s most helpful for them when parents can be there to support them with any emotional reactions that arise, and to help alleviate any pressing concerns, worries, or fears they may have. There are likely going to be questions that arise, and parents should be patient with their children, and do their best to answer these questions without divulging any of the personal information pertaining to the divorce that the children should be free from worrying about.
Keep the Fine Details Out of It
While children shouldn’t be burdened with the personal information concerning a divorce, they should also be free from stressing about the fine details surrounding it. This includes things like the amount of money being spent, or how the property will be divided. Children are still trying to wrap their heads around the idea of their parents separating. Matters surrounding inheritances, how college funds will be affected, or if the summer house is going to have to be sold are not issues that children should be dealing with. If, and when anything happens that will have an effect on the children, parents can form a plan about how to talk to them about it. This is solely a time for telling kids the most basic facts without complicating the situation over fine details only parents and their attorneys should be concerned with.
Tell the Children Together
When parents have more than one child, it’s best to tell them together as a group. This will prevent one child (typically the oldest) from learning of the news first, and feeling extra weight from carrying the burden of the information, and not having the space or support from siblings to process, or grieve. Telling the children together is the healthiest option for everyone.
Communicating with the kids about anything divorce related can feel heartbreaking in and of itself. Heartbreaking as it may be, parents who take the time to communicate with their kids about their divorce, important milestones, and anything that will affect the kids using the tips mentioned above will be helping them better adjust and have more emotional stability in the future. It may be difficult, but the more parents open the lines of communication with their kids surrounding these changes, the easier it will be as times moves forward.
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