Getting Kids Talking to Their Parents About Divorce

A mom comforts her children as they walk through the park.

Divorce is a difficult topic of conversation for parents and kids alike.  Pretty much every child in a divorced family situation hates to hear their parents talking about it, much less talking about it with their parents. 

Though it may feel rather hard to talk about emotions at times, keeping feelings bottled up can have harmful consequences. While every family and situation is different, consider the following as you begin talking to your kids about divorce:

Encourage your kids to be honest about their feelings.

It’s not always easy for kids to express what they are feeling.  They may be shy or even nervous when talking to their parents about what emotions the divorce is causing them to feel.  When they do begin talking to you, be a good listener. 

Allow your kids to be talking about their feelings without inhibitions or fear of being judged by their parents.  Even if something they say takes you by surprise, it is important to both you and your kids that you know exactly how they are feeling.

Be honest with your kids.

When talking to their parents about divorce, kids may start to ask questions that their parents may or may not want to answer.  Keep your responses simple and truthful, but choose your responses carefully. 

Don’t use this as an opportunity to bash your ex-spouse in front of your kids, as this may discourage them from being open with you in the future.  Kids want to be talking freely and asking questions to each of their parents, so give them the assurance that it is okay to do so.

Ask your kids the right kinds of questions.

Don’t overwhelm your kids with questions if they don’t feel like talking about it right away.  If you notice that your kids are having a difficulty talking about it, observe your kids and try bringing it up at a time that you think they’re ready to talk. 

Let their responses come as they do, and don’t get too discouraged if they don’t have much to say right away.  If talking about the situation is making them visibly uncomfortable, try lightening their mood by changing the subject to something else that you know they enjoy talking about, like a favorite pass time or about friends.  You can come back to what you were talking about before another time.

Once you begin living in separate homes, it may be tempting to start asking your kids questions about your ex-spouse.  Asking questions like this isn’t fair to your kids, as it may make them feel uncomfortable.   Kids like talking to their parents about the things that make them happy, and they should be encouraged to enjoy their time with each of their parents. 

In talking to your kids and asking questions which involve their other parent, keep it as positive as possible.  If they have just spent a weekend with their other parent, ask them about what sorts of fun things they all did together.  If your kids tell you that they had a great time and are happy about it, let them know that this also makes you happy. 

Remind your kids how much you love them. 

The most important thing you can remind your children during this time of transition is that their parents still love them.  A simple “I love you” has a great impact on your kids each time you say it, so it’s nothing to be taken lightly.  Remember to say it often.

To get kids talking to their parents about divorce and how it’s making them feel may seem impossible at first, but it typically will become easier with time.  Keep in mind that if your kids have a hard time talking to you or their other parent about it, they may feel more comfortable opening up to someone other than their parents. 

Their school counselor or a family therapist may be the right person to help your kids to start talking about it.  Doing so may offer you more insight into just how your kids are feeling.  In time, it may also open them up to begin talking about it with both of their parents.