Discussing divorce with kids: Make an age-appropriate discussion

Flicker, Kerin, Kruger & Bissada LLP

Explaining divorce has benefits for children, because they learn what it means to go through a divorce and how a divorce will affect them. Of course, when you talk to your kids about a divorce, you have to make sure that you do so in an age-appropriate manner.

How you speak about divorce with a teen is going to vary significantly from how you’d talk to your toddler about what’s happening. Here are some tips for breaking down divorce to children of all ages.

For children up to the age of five

When children are young, potentially up to the age of five, you’ll want to keep divorce simple. These children may not understand how to emote or explain how they feel, so you need to speak plainly. State the facts, and remember that it may take some time of explaining that your ex-spouse no longer lives with you to help them understand custody exchanges.

For children between six and 11

For this range of children, they have developed a better ability to understand and talk about their feelings. They have a limited understanding of complex situations like divorce, too. The older kids in this age range may be quick to assign blame, so be sure that you and your spouse are able to sit down together as a combined front and explain what the divorce is and what’s going to happen.

From this age onward, children gain more of an ability to understand situations like divorce. All children mature at different rates, so you should use your best judgment to determine how to discuss what’s happening.

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