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How to break the news of your divorce to children

When making the decision to get divorced, an issue parents should pay special attention to is how to tell their children the news. While it is not necessarily a pleasant topic, the way the conversation is handled can play an important role in how the children receive the news as well as how they cope with the new family dynamic.

According to a study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, children of divorce may feel insecure in regard to their relationships with their parents. The research notes that the insecurity is even more prevalent if the event occurs when the children are 5 years or younger. 

There are several key things that parents can do in order to help children understand the situation and remain secure in the parent-child relationship. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry states that parents who are raising a child and going through a divorce should be very reassuring that they still love the child and that the situation is not the child’s fault. Additionally, the organization suggests:

  • Acknowledging that the situation is upsetting for everyone in the family
  • Telling the children together instead of having one parent deliver the news
  • Having the conversation as soon as possible instead of trying to keep it a secret

A key part of preserving the parent-child relationship, according to the AACAP, is to never talk about spousal problems in front of the kids. Parents should not discuss each other’s flaws with children or try to involve children in a dispute. The AACAP reports that children who handle divorce well are the ones who feel confident in their relationship with their parents. 

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