Original Article by Dr. Joan B. Kelly for CBC Documentaries

Dr. Joan B. Kelly discusses how to tell children about divorce, and how to display the right attitude towards telling them. Children are very impressionable, and need to know that they are loved, and both parents will always be there for them.

“It is very important for parents to talk with their children about the separation, preferably before you physically separate or very soon thereafter. Surprisingly few parents provide an explanation of what is happening and give their children an opportunity to ask questions. Parents frequently dread this conversation because of worries about how the children will react and whether you and your partner can control your own emotions. Parents often feel guilty about hurting the children’s adjustment, and may have fears that an older child or adolescent may blame or reject them. But despite your anxiety, all children need to know what’s happening, and how the separation will affect their lives.”

Dr. Joan B. Kelly also gives some very important tips to help you plan for your discussion with your children.

  • “Think about the tone of your conversation. Despite how you each feel, can you both agree to contain your anger, accusations and harsh words in front of your children? Your sadness and tears are OK.
  • “Telling children about separation should NEVER be used as an opportunity to damage or destroy your children’s relationship with the other parent, no matter how angry you or your partner is. This can have tragic outcomes for children.
  • “Basic reassurance about continued love and caretaking after separation is important. Inappropriate details of why the divorce is happening are not.
  • “A great deal of divorce research tells us that the vast majority of children love each of their parents, want them involved in their lives after separation and divorce, and want opportunities to be with each of you after separation.”

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