Explaining Divorce to Young Children & Toddlers

by Norris Law Group on December 31, 2013

mom-talking-to-young-daughterIs there a “good” way to try to explain the realities of divorce to very young children? Trish Thompson, contributing editor to Parenting Magazine, responds to a reader’s question with the following suggestions.

  • Less is more. Young children and toddlers are primarily interested in how the world will be affected by changes within the family. S/He can already comprehend that Mommy and Daddy live in different places, and that s/he is welcome in both.
  • “Too much information” too early may just lead to confusion.
  • Take some time. As your child grows older, you can work up to explaining more about how some moms and dads live in the same house while others don’t, as well as some of the reasons.

According to Judith Wallerstein, Ph.D., author of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: Report of a 25-Year Landmark Study, “nothing need be said about what divorce is for another six months to a year.” Wallerstein has studied divorcing families for 30 years, and in her professional opinion has concluded that while verbal reassurances may be helpful, actions speak far louder than words  when it comes to toddlers and young children.

If your spouse is moving out, arrange frequent visits for your child right away to avoid anxiety. Ideally, the frequency of visits should approximate the amount of time your spouse and child spent together before the divorce proceeding. Once your ex is settled in a new home, your child should visit as soon as possible. Wallerstein says, “…[M]eetings and exchanges between the parents should be pleasant. “Do whatever is necessary to make this sacrifice for your child.”

If you believe that your child may benefit from a deeper explanation of the reasons behind your divorce and how your lives will change, it is probably preferable to find another adult with whom to talk, whether it might be a good friend, a professional therapist, or a clergy member.

This is your divorce—not your child’s. It is very important for your child’s well-being to remember that, and to keep the issues separate.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.

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