Some honest, sincere tips on exactly how to talk to your child about your own divorce.
It’s been a rough time in my divorce. This is one of those times when I have to prepare tons of paperwork and am on the phone with my divorce attorney way too much. Copies, file boxes and piles of paperwork are on every surface of my home. I find it really tough to keep all this chaos away from my child. The stuff is everywhere. And, she’s an adolescent so her radar is always on. She hears and sees everything. (Parents of preteens and teens can relate. When you want them to listen to you they are suddenly deaf but when something is going on that you don’t want them to hear- they are suddenly ALL ears.)
She sees me go into my closet to talk in whispered tones to my attorney on my cell phone. Or I go outside and pace while taking calls. Pretty obvious that I don’t want her to hear.
She sees the piles of paperwork, bills and receipts suddenly stacking up as I prepare to make yet a few more copies (for another request for documents).
So what do I say when she asks what I’m doing? My own parents divorced when I was very young. It was the 70’s, and laid back parenting was in, so my Mother chose to tell me EVERYTHING. All the gory details about my parent’s divorce that my young brain wasn’t ready for. It was kinda horrible. And I’m determined to shield my child from these details as much as I can.
So here are 4 straightforward tips for talking to your child about divorce.
1. Be honest.
But I don’t give any more information than is necessary. I keep my explanations short and sweet, I make sure that the explanation is adequate for her age range.
What you tell a 3-year-old vs. what you tell a 13-year-old is very different.
2. I’m careful with details.
This can be tough, but I try to keep any paperwork or notes with specifics about the divorce away from her. I also try to make any phone calls pertaining to the divorce when she’s not around when possible. She doesn’t need to know the minute details of our disagreements or fights. Keep your files and any letters or communications in a lockbox or file cabinet away from prying eyes. And make sure that you lock your phone.
3. I keep my anger to myself.
OK, let’s be honest, this can be the toughest. BIG TIME.
You need to share or vent, but this is my divorce, not hers and it’s not her responsibility to carry that anger around. Vent to your friends, your family, your friends on Facebook if you absolutely have to, but do not vent to your child. If possible, find aother woman who’s going through a divorce so you have someone who really understands the stress and sadness that divorce brings. (Here’s an entire post with real women sharing the advice they’ve learned through their own divorce.)
Above all, I try to remember this is my divorce, but more importantly, this is her childhood.
She’s not my grief counselor, my friend or my ally. I try to keep her shielded from the inner workings of my divorce and the anger and emotions that go along with it. It’s important for her to love her father, and have a good relationship with both of us. Don’t do anything to ruin that for her.
My best tip?
4. When in doubt, keep it to yourself.
If I’m not sure that I should divulge any information to her. I DON’T. Trust your parenting instincts. If you are uncertain if this information is too much for her, then don’t say it. It’s easier to revisit this topic at another time than to say things that can damage her image of either parent.
How do you handle details of your divorce with your children? I would love to hear what tips you have for you and your child.
Keep your chin up and keep going!