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Divorce: 2 Hard Questions Kids Ask Parents and How to Answer Them
By Jean Tracy, MSS
Is your divorce sparking questions you're not ready to answer? Do you know what to say and how much to reveal? Today I'll share 2 difficult questions kids ask, the feelings they struggle with, 3 healing activities, and how stories can help.
First Question Kids Ask Parents about the Divorce:
1. "Why Are You Getting a Divorce?"
Most children often think your divorce is their fault. I know adults who still feel guilty about their parents' divorce. Perhaps you're one of them.
Don't say, “It's none of your business.” Avoid voicing how awful the other person is and don't share private problems like your physical relations.
Do say, “Our divorce is not about anything you did. It's totally our problem and we couldn't solve it and stay together.”
Second Question Kids Ask Parents about the Divorce
2. "Why Don't You Love Each Other Anymore?"
Your kids love both of you. It's tough for them to understand why you don't love each other. Sometimes they think they can fix your marriage by:
1) Being extra nice so you'll be happier.
2) Being extra naughty so you'll focus on their behavior instead of being upset with your spouse.
Some children feel angry, resentful, or depressed and choose to distance themselves from you. They may go inside and replay their upsetting thoughts over and over. This is not good.
Three Healing Activities:
1. For younger children (under 10) make up a story about a child the same age as yours. Her parents are divorcing. Stress that the divorce is not the character's fault. Give it a positive outcome.
2. Suggest your child draw and color a picture expressing her feelings about the divorce. Ask her to describe the picture to you. Never deny her feelings. The act of drawing can lift some of her pain by putting it on paper. She'll feel comforted by knowing you understand her hurt. Counselors call this ‘art therapy' and use it with adults and kids alike. (Older kids may prefer talking to drawing.)
3. While she's drawing, make a specific list of at least 5 affirmations you love about her. Feel free to complete these statements and add examples:
• I smile when I think of you because…
• I'm glad you are my child because…
• You light up my life because…
• You are such an interesting person because…
• I love the person you are because…
After she explains her feelings, give her your list. Discuss it together and share the examples of what you mean. Make sure each item is positive, specific, and true. This will help her accept your thoughts and feel better.
One more thing, in a week of two, show her the picture she drew. Ask her how she feels now. Next invite her to draw a new picture of what she could do to feel better. You might have to tell her that it can't be mom and dad staying together.
Help your child realize she didn't cause the divorce and that you love and treasure her.
When you are truthful, answering questions about the divorce can be healing for your child. Consider creating stories with positive outcomes that fit the situation, use art to help her express her feelings, and write loving statements with truthful examples to show your love. It CAN be done.
Jean Tracy invites you to sign up for her FREE Parenting Newsletter and receive:
80 Fun Activities to Share with Your Kids
101 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Cooperate
Help your child be better not bitter by picking up Character Building: Divorce Stories and Strategies to Help Your Child Heal Each story makes it easy for your child to express his feelings