How To Talk To Your Child About Divorce

Father Holding Daughter's Hand

Talking to children about divorce is difficult. Many children find out that their parents are getting a divorce from other children or adults. This causes children to lose trust in their parents. The following tips can help both the child and parents with the challenge and stress of these conversations:

  • Do not keep the divorce a secret or wait until the last minute.
  • Take time to tell your child together.
  • Keep things simple and straightforward. Use age appropriate language.
  • Tell them the divorce is not their fault.
  • Admit that this will be sad and upsetting for everyone.
  • Reassure your child that you both still love them and will always be their parents.
    • Note:  It is important when talking to young children to not use the term love in this content, “I don’t love your father/mother anymore.”  Use the term you are not getting along anymore and it would be better if you lived in separate houses.  Leave the word “love” for how you will always love them (the child/children).  Otherwise they see you did love the other parent and now you don’t. Does that mean that you might not love me (the child) in the future too!
  • Do not discuss each other’s faults or problems with the child.
    • Note:  This can be very hurtful to your child.  Remember they are a part of both of you. In fact, it may be easy for them to criticize the other parent, but don’t join in because it still hurts them to hear criticism about the other parent.

An open communication between you and your child is very important while going through divorce.  It is always good to check with your child on how they are feeling.

Click here for more information on divorce and separation.

Gail Brand, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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No More Whining

No More WhiningWhining – it’s got to be the most aggravating thing a child can do. It definitely gets the attention of adults – parents and caregivers alike. And that’s why children whine – to get an adult’s attention!

Toddlers and preschoolers haven’t yet learned words or vocabulary to express their feelings, needs, and wants. But they can vocalize. When a child gets frustrated because they are not being understood by the parent or caregiver, they often resort to whining.

Most often, this age of child doesn’t know they are whining… is not a conscious strategy. What they do know is that this behavior usually results in attention from the adult, thus making it a learned behavior that parents and caregivers have actually (although unintentionally) help to reinforce.

How Do You Stop Whining?

Keep in mind that when a toddler or a preschooler begins to whine, it usually indicates that the adult has not focused attention on the child when they are behaving appropriately. To avoid whining, parents and caregivers want to be responsive to the child’s first bid for attention.

Have Patience

As children, then, begin to whine, the most important part of a response from a parent is patience. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that the child is not trying to be irritating, but is asking for attention.

Use “I” Statements

Respond to their whining with “I” statements and the way you would like your child to speak. For instance, “I don’t like it when you whine. If you want your teddy bear, please ask like this….” then model the words and tone of voice you would like the child to use.

Or you can make a game of it! Say “Whining sounds like this…” and model how your child sounded. Then you can say, “Saying it like this sounds better, don’t you think?” Not only have you taught your child another way to ask for things, but you have provided focused attention and maybe laugh together. Please be very careful not to ridicule your child for their behavior.

In the long run, parents and caregivers need to reflect upon the underlying reasons for the whining. Has there been changes in routines, your schedule has become busier, other aspects of your life needing your attention? Children who whine are often sending the message that it is time to re-connect to you.

Lisa Poppe, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

This article was previously published for Nebraska Extension by Lisa as a PDF. It is re-published here with her permission.

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