As a divorced, divorcing, or separating parent you have to deal with painful personal issues as well as help your child navigate his or her own emotional turmoil. With your child’s best interests as a guide you will succeed in making thoughtful decisions & maintaining or creating a positive relationship with your child. It won’t be easy but the benefits for all will last a lifetime.
One of the issues difficult for separating (and even long divorced) parents to manage is how to talk to their child about the other parent especially in regards to criticizing the other parent or explaining the divorce. It is often hard to figure out what’s the right thing to do or say. Using these five questions can help you figure out what to say and not say as well as how to say it. I recommend it to all parents, regardless of the status of their relationship with the other parent. To avoid making an impulsive decision when your emotions are intense, try writing down your answers & revisit them later before you talk to your child.
5 Questions for Every Parent to Consider
- What are all of my intentions in revealing this information to my child?
- How are my children being effected by the actions I am about to discuss? How might they be impacted if they didn’t have the information I am about to give them?
- How will it help my child to hear what I’m about to tell him or her?
- Do the possible benefits of revealing this to my children outweigh the possible risks?
- If I set aside my own feelings about this person and focus solely on protecting my child’s relationship with him or her, how would I handle this situation?
I think that last question is especially important. Your child deserves to have a positive relationship with both parents and as someone who loves them it is your responsibility to foster your own healthy relationship with your child as well as supporting that for your child with their other parent. Except in the most extreme situations, it is in your child’s best interest to have a good relationship with both parents. For your child’s sake, don’t be quick to label your situation extreme.
There are many resources out there to help ease the transition. Here are a few:
Books For Children:
- Dinosaur Divorce by Marc Brown & Laurie Krasny Brown. A straight-forward & upbeat book geared towards children ages 4-8.
- Divorce Is Not the End of the World: Zoe’s and Evan’s Coping Guide for Kids by Zoe & Evan Stern. This engaging book is written by a teen & pre-teen along with their parent (appropriate for ages 11 & up).
- Mom’s House, Dad’s House for Kids: Feeling at Home in One Home or Two by Isolina Ricci PhD.
Books for Parents:
- Divorce Book For Parents: Helping Your Children Cope with Divorce and its Aftermath by Vicki Lansky
- Mom’s house, Dad’s house: Making Two Homes For Your Child by Isolina Ricci PhD. An updated classic. Also find resources as www.momshousedadshouse.com.
- The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons PhD. A scholarly book, her advice in a nutshell is to love your kids more than you dislike each other.