How Do We Tell the Children About Divorce?

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce and Child Custody on Thursday, January 9, 2014

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of divorce involves how to communicate to young children that their parents will no longer live together in an intact household.  Moving forward, mother and father will have separate homes and separate lives that intersect only as it relates to the children.  At this moment, the children feel a great sense of anxiety, alienation and guilt, worried that the true reason for the divorce somehow relates to their existence or behavior.

If grown adults have real trouble adapting to the realities of divorce, we should expect that children will have a much more difficult time, particularly because they have an information deficit (they do not know the true reasons mom and dad chose to separate) and an age deficit (they cannot quite process or anticipate how divorce will impact their relationships with their parents and extended family moving forward).

While allowing the children a chance to speak with a counselor always should remain an option, parents can help by keeping the ugliness of divorce away from the children, by avoiding placing the children in the middle.  Also, help reassure the children that both parents will remain vital parts in their lives and that each will stay active in all aspects of their activities, in and out of school.

Another wonderful option would be to use bibliotherapy, a shorthand term for using books to help in the healing and transition of divorce.  Often, kids will understand the realities of divorce by hearing from other voices, and stories about characters to whom they relate have powerful force.

This week, Yahoo! featured a blog post by Mari Hernandez-Tuten, who was a school counselor before becoming a freelance writer. She recommended seven books to help explain divorce to children, and we were happy to see that her list included books we ourselves have recommended to clients, so we thought we would share her list:

Horse Dreams by Mary Vivian Johnson

Amber Brown Sees Red by Paula Danziger

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

When My Parents Forgot How to Be Friends by Jennifer Moore-Malinos

Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? by Carol Gordon Ekster

The D Word by Julia Cook

My Family’s Changing byPat Thomas

You can read Ms. Hernandez-Tuten’s blog post here to see more details about the different books.  For further resources, you could visit Kids in the Middle.

If you have questions about the impact of divorce on children, contact our St. Louis family law attorneys – we can help.