After you tell the children about the separation or divorce, let them know they can always talk to you. Here are some tips on how to do that:
Make opportunities to talk
- Have regular family meetings or set aside certain times to give your children a chance to talk about what's on their mind.
- If you have more than one child, make sure they each get one-on-one time to talk with you. Your kids might feel more comfortable talking about their feelings or fears without their siblings around.
- Use car rides as a chance to talk with your children.
Do what you can to keep the discussion going between you and your children. One of the best ways to help your kids feel comfortable talking with you is to have conversations with them about everyday things, too. Ask them about school and about their friends. Talk about what you’re going to have for supper. If you only ever talk about things having to do with your divorce, they might avoid talking to you at all.
To help get conversations going, try asking open-ended questions that can’t be answered with just yes or no. Try asking questions like, “What did you do at school today?” or “Let's talk about what we want to do this weekend” to get a discussion going.
Here are some more tips:
- If your kids don’t seem to want to talk, don’t try to make them. Wait until they seem to be doing better, especially if you need to talk about something difficult. Remember, kids have bad days too!
- Your kids need space too. Sometimes they will just want to be alone and think. Let them have that time.
- If it looks like your kids are getting tired of talking, end the conversation and continue it at another time.
- Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything they’re worried about.
Listen to what they have to say
- Pay attention to your child when they ask questions or are talking to you.
- Don’t interrupt them. Let them finish talking.
- Take their questions and thoughts seriously, especially about the separation or divorce.
Encourage their questions
- Tell your children that it is OK to ask questions about the separation or divorce, even if they think the question might upset you or their other parent.
- Make sure they know that you will answer as truthfully as you can. If you can’t answer, make it clear that sometimes you just don’t know the answer.
- When you answer their questions, don’t badmouth or criticize the other parent.
Answer their questions
Children may ask difficult questions during and after the divorce. Do not avoid a question or give your child a misleading answer. If they have the courage to ask, try to find the courage to answer. If you don't have an answer for them, be honest about it. Say you don't know or haven't made a decision yet.
Read How should I answer my children's questions? for more information.
In the Speak Up! sections of both the Kids' Guide and Teen Guide, children are encouraged to
- talk about their feelings,
- ask parents questions, and
- let their parents know when they are worried about something.
If you think your child is shutting you out, talk to your family doctor, counselor, or social worker.