“When my mom and dad told me they were going to get divorced, I was pretty sad. And confused. I mean, I have friends whose parents are divorced, but that always seemed like it wouldn’t happen to my family. Some friends think it’s cool because they get two of everything, but I don’t know. I like spending time with Mom and Dad together, and I’m not sure if that will happen anymore.” ~ Christian, age 7
“I was really mad when my parents told me they weren’t going to live together anymore. I love our house, and I don’t want to move. We’re super close to all my friends’ houses, and I get to see them all the time now. Where are we going to live? And does this mean Mom will have to get a job and I’ll be alone after school? It’s so unfair! Why couldn’t they just figure it out? They always tell me I’m #1, but they were obviously lying or they wouldn’t be getting divorced.” ~ Isabelle, age 11
“I don’t know what I did. I do good in school and I pay attention. I listen to my parents. I must have done something to make them not love each other anymore. I feel like I could cry all the time.” ~ Jayden, age 6
When young children are facing the effects of a divorce, they go through a number of emotions. The younger they are, the more they’ll internalize what’s going on around them; everything is their fault in their minds. Toward the end of elementary school, they’re starting to have a crew of best friends, and the prospect of going to a different school or living in a different place can be very scary for them.
“It’s kind of cool that I get to have two houses, but it’s kind of scary too. I’m not sure where I’ll be when my parents live in two different places. What if I forget where I’m supposed to go that day and take the wrong bus home from school?” ~ Sarah, age 10
“Right after Mom and Dad told me they were getting a divorce, things started to change. Dad moved out almost right away, and we didn’t see him very much. Mom cried a lot. I’m just a kid, but now I’m taking care of my little sister more because Mom isn’t acting like Mom anymore. And with Dad not there, I don’t know what to do.” ~ Noah, age 9
Kids need stability and routines; that’s how they make sense of the world around them. Divorce adds a monkey wrench in their day-to-day activities. Who’ll take them to school and pick them up? Will Mom and Dad both go to their soccer games, ballet recitals, and school plays? How will birthdays and Christmas be? They have a lot of unanswered questions—many of which they’ll be too confused or scared to even ask.
“Even though I’m not happy that my mom and dad are getting divorced, I kind of get it. We all sat down as a family, and we talked it all out. It’s still pretty confusing, but I can see that they look happy and are acting like friends, so that helps. They promised that we’ll still do some family things for a while, and we can even have my birthday together, if I want. And I get a phone to call them and Grandma and Grandpa, so that’s cool. Sure, I’d rather that we all lived in the same house, but lots of kids have divorced parents. I know that my mom and dad love me, so I know it will be okay.” ~ Annie, age 12
When you and your spouse choose to end your marriage, it’s important to let your children in on the conversation as soon as possible and to talk with them in language they understand. Stress how much you love them, that they did nothing to cause the divorce, and that you’re both going to continue to be around for them.
Create schedules immediately; don’t let even a week go by with the kids not knowing what’s happening. Keeping things simple and “business as usual” will help young children process the situation in their own way.
Make it safe to talk about anything with either of you. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and allow them to ask questions or talk about their other parent with love. Don’t make them take sides or you’ll create animosity that’s challenging to overcome.
“When my parents told me they were getting divorced, I was scared. I didn’t know what would happen. But they are doing something called a collaborative divorce, and we all work together. People ask what I think about things and what I want to do. People don’t usually ask kids what they think, so I like that. Mom and Dad were talking about their grown-up stuff, and I got to talk about my stuff with a super-nice lady. I like that we’re doing this together, even if we don’t live together anymore.” ~ Alex, age 10
If you’re considering divorce, avoid a contentious separation and opt instead for a collaborative divorce. Working as a family unit, you’ll have the support you all need to move through this transition with dignity and respect. Contact us at Ogborne Law to learn more about this positive resolution that will help your children make sense of it all.
Engaging with an attorney to protect your family is never an easy step. Whether you need to protect your family from the unthinkable or restructure your family through collaborative divorce, we’re here to help. When you’re ready to schedule a consultation with Michelle Ogborne, please visit the scheduling page to get started.