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How to Talk to your Children About Divorce

January 12, 2012

By Vi Ballard

• Don’t ask your children to choose sides. This puts tremendous pressure and anxiety on children because they don’t want to hurt Mom or Dad’s feelings. They want to please both parents. If you ask them to choose it puts them in a “loyalty bind”.

Don’t badmouth your co-parent or put them down in front of your children. Remember WHEN YOU PUT DOWN THE OTHER PARENT YOU ARE PUTTING DOWN THE CHILD.

Talk to your children about the way they feel, but don’t ask “How are you feeling about the fact Mommy & Daddy are getting divorced”?  One of the best ways is to talk about this subject is to reinforce that the  divorce is NOT YOUR FAULT.  Say something like “It must be very sad for you that Mommy and Daddy are getting divorced”.  Then let them take the lead and empathize with their feelings and the difficulty they are having dealing with this. Don’t preach or try to fix it. Just listen and understand how they feel. You could say, “It sounds like you feel_________”.  (Sad, hurt, angry, or whatever they are feeling). The divorce is affecting their world also.

Be A Parent.  You are the adult and as such you and your co-parent make the major decisions. Don’t allow your children to determine how much time they’ll spend with each parent, for example, or, which dentist they will go to.

 Don’t Embarrass Your Child.    Name calling, or arguments at the soccer game or back to school night only hurt and embarrass your children. Keep the focus on the child and remember why you are at the particular event.  Anytime your child is around is not the time to create a conflict.  If the other parent “starts it”, have the courage to politely walk away.

Vi Ballard is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Collaborative Divorce Coach located in the South Bay. She is an active member of A Better Divorce.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2012 11:02 am

    As adults we don’t realize how much long term damage we may inflict on our children when we are wrapped up in out own emotions throughout the divorce process. Collaborative divorce and mediation are two approaches that could help many couples realize this in the process.

    Dutch television produced several PSAs around this topic, which are chilling but hit home nonetheless. It is publicly available from vimeo: and also linked to from our facebook page:

  2. January 13, 2012 6:17 am

    Excellent article. When a divorce is handled properly, the damage that it does to children can be reduced significantly.

    • January 13, 2012 9:37 am

      Thank you! We think so as well. It’s our hope that a parents divorce can go as smoothly as possible for any children involved.

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