Talking to Your Children About Divorce

Often the heaviest crosses are hidden under smiles

(photo: Credit: Ryan and Mary Rose Verret)

“What’s the D word? The word that means someone’s parents decide they can’t be married anymore and they have to live in different homes?” our daughter asked quietly at the dinner table one night after school. She went on to share that one of her friends at school was acting unusual and was sad and saying some confusing things.

When adult problems become children’s burdens it can break their hearts. This heartbreak will be shared at school or at soccer and come home to other families as dinner conversations. The point of this blog is not to make parents who have gone through a divorce feel bad but to help parents listen to their children who are trying to understand what their classmates are going through and love and support them.

Every tragedy of divorce is going to be different. You need to be prepared to help your children deal with the topic and know how to best respond to these situations when it is their friends or classmates who are hurting. Where do you start?

Step 1. Listen to your child. Listen to what they are observing, thinking and feeling. Keep in mind that the number one thought on their mind is, “Would Mommy and Daddy ever get divorced?”

Step 2. Thank your child and encourage them for coming to you with their fears and questions. Assure them that you and your spouse are working hard to always be kind and forgive each other, and that even though it can be hard work to fight for your marriage, you will always fight to protect it and will always be there for them.

Step 3. Help your child to understand that their friend is sad, confused and hurting. It is not their friend’s fault, and they do not know how to deal with this hurt. Sometimes it will come out in ways that hurt their friends. They do not mean to do this. When someone is really hurting sometimes it just spills out. What they really need is your patience and your love. Do not take it personally. Stand up for yourself but always be kind.

Step 4. As a parent you may need to talk to your child’s teacher. If you know the parent who is going through the divorce, or difficulties in their marriage, invite them over for a playdate or just meet them for coffee. Try to find a way to let them know that you are there for them.

Always be kind. We never know the burdens that children or adults are carrying even if they “look” fine. Often the heaviest crosses are hidden under smiles and boasting or a prickly personality and hurtful words. Be kind anyway, because you don’t know what Christ will look like as he passes by. Right now dear child, he is passing you in the guise of a hurting friend. Always be kind — you never know the battles little people are fighting.