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How to explain divorce to young children

Going through a divorce is an emotional time for the individuals separating, but it becomes even more stressful when a child is involved. It is especially tough if you and your partner have a child that is five years or younger. At this age, your child depends on you, and neither one of you wants to let him or her down.

It may seem impossible to explain to your young child that their parents are no longer going to be married. Experts agree that divorce can be life-altering event for children. However, children of divorce can certainly grow to live happy, healthy lives.

You must start by explaining the situation carefully and in a way that a young child can understand.

Tell them together

You and your spouse should speak to your child together. Even if the divorce is not amicable, you should explain that it is decision you made together. You should also consistently use “we,” so it is clear you are united about this change to the family.

Stick to the basics

According to Today’s Parent, children five years and younger do not really understand how to think about future events. They are also highly dependent and think the world revolves around them.

First, prepare what you will both say before you begin the conversation. It is best to use concrete information. Tell him or her which parent is moving out of the home, where the child will stay, who will care for the child on a day-to-day basis and how often the other parent will visit. The child needs to know the basics of how he or she will continue to receive care.

Expect the unexpected

Even if you feel like you have both prepared well for this difficult conversation, you should anticipate some questions or responses that may surprise you. Your child may react strongly by throwing a tantrum, or ask, “Who keeps the dog?” You should try not to take these responses personally. Your child is trying to understand a complex situation that is really beyond their level of comprehension.

Keep some consistency

After you have explained the divorce, it is important to keep up with as many of your child’s normal routines as a possible. By maintaining a schedule for meals, playtime, baths and bedtime, you will lend as sense of stability during a time of transition.

If you need help navigating issues of child custody, you should contact an experienced attorney who specializes in family law cases.

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