Communicating Effectively With Children in Divorce

When Illinois couples divorce, they are often going through a significant transition in their lives. If children are involved, a major challenge is figuring out what to say and what not to say, as well as how to say it, to the children about the experience.

Children are impressionable, and what they hear from their parents can have a lifelong impact. Experts have advice to help parents avoid some common mistakes in communicating with their children about divorce.

Some Basic Principles

A parent's overall attitude should be optimistic and hopeful for the future, respectful of the children and sensitive to how a child perceives what is going on.

Parents can make the mistake of assuming that children know the divorce is not the children's fault. What may seem obvious to an adult, though, is not always obvious for a child. Children may think a parent left because of the children's behavior, and parents need to be careful not to say or do anything to encourage that misconception. Children should be reminded that the divorce is not their fault, and that the divorce does not affect each parent's love for the child.

Another misstep parents sometimes make is badmouthing the other parent in front of the children. It is confusing and painful for children to be told there's something wrong with a parent they love, and they may feel bad about themselves as a result. Avoid using children to vent emotions. Parents should also avoid using the children as messengers and instead communicate directly with the other parent.

It also can be harmful for parents to argue in front of the children. Parents need to function effectively as parents throughout and after the divorce, and they need to find a way to get along for the children's sake. Focusing on the common goal of raising their children successfully can help divorced parents put aside their differences to work together in the best interests of the children.

Let Children Be Children

When going through divorce, a person naturally may want to talk with a sympathetic listener about matters such as financial arrangements and negative emotions. There may be a temptation to engage a child in these conversations, but parents should resist. These are topics for adults to deal with and it is not appropriate to expose children to these worrisome concerns.

Parents should not draw their children into the role of informant by probing them for information about the other parent. Above all, children should never be put in the position of being forced to choose between their parents. Just because parents cannot sustain the marriage, loving one parent should not mean a child cannot love the other parent, too.

Children need to feel good about relating to both parents. However negatively one parent may feel about the other, it is important to support children in loving and building a relationship with the other parent.

An experienced divorce attorney will be sensitive to family needs in divorce and take into account all factors unique to the family, including the needs of the divorcing couple's children. A divorce attorney can be a vital resource in achieving a result that is workable for the family.