Wouldn’t it be great if there was one answer that works for everyone?  For young children, I like Fred Rogers’  book Let’s Talk About It: Divorce. Helen Benedict, PhD, Yale University,  is a Clinical Psychologist at Baylor University the past 25 years or so, treating and researching children and their reactions to divorce.  I received a training from her some 15 years ago and believe she still provides the most simple and direct descriptions of childrens’ reactions to divorce, death, and trauma.  Ideally, parents tell the child together, reassuring the child it is not their fault in any way.

The short list of things to cover with children or prevent are 1-visual predictability of parent, home, schedule on a calendar; 2-validation of their feelings, asking them questions to bring out their feelings.  Play therapy often works well with young children to express unconscious conflict about divorce.  Talking it out with a therapist provides safety to the child rather than risking being caught between parental loyalties.    3-A locket or other keepsake of a parent given to their child serves as a wonderful transitional object to soothe anxiety and fears.  4-Prevent badmouthing the other parent or exposing the child to even telephone arguments that raise anxiety.  5-Reassurance of physical love and attention through demonstrative love and affection without projecting any neediness onto the child.  6-Setting appropriate boundaries between kid  stuff and adult themes and situations.  7-Maintain similar rules for behavior in each home, making sure to place limits on undesirable behaviors while remaining calm with your child.  8-Inform your daycare provider of changes in your child’s world.  9-If a child is experiencing challenges adjusting to divorce, it is often helpful to alert her/his school of the change or simply do more check-ins with the teacher regarding academics and behavior.  10-Consider that a child will take longer than you to adjust to a divorce.   Since divorce can create obstacles to normal child development, please seek help for your children if she/he continues coping behaviors that appear extreme, or if you notice depression, anxiety, or acting out.

For older children, I just spotted an article : Talking to Children About Divorce by Sean Brotherson, Ph.D that wisely covers all ages from 4 to 18.

I invite parents to comment on Talking with Children about Divorce and their experiences. I can keep names out of your responses if you prefer.

Thank you, Robert