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KidTalk: Divorce and Children

KidTalk: Divorce and Children

Parenting: What Does It Mean When Parents Get Divorced or Separated?


    If your parents have told you they are getting a divorce or possibly separated you may be a little confused about what that exactly means. Divorce, is a word that means a Mom and a Dad, who were married to each other, have decided to live apart and not be husband and wife anymore. When your Mom and Dad were married, your family lived in one home.

When your parents decide to get a divorce, your family changes and instead of having one home together, you will have two different homes, a home with Mom and a home with Dad. In some families, Moms and Dads may not be married but they have lived together as a family in one home. When parents decide they don’t want to a family together anymore they may call it “splitting up” or “separating”. 

Some parents may decide to separate before they get a divorce. A separation can be a temporary way to give Mom and Dad some time to work things out or think things over. A divorce is almost always a permanent decision that does not change. Whether parents call it “splitting up” or “getting a divorce”, kids usually have the same kinds of feelings. When parents choose to live apart it can be really hard for kids. 

It is very important for you to remember that while Mom and Dad may have stopped loving each other they will never stop loving you.  As hard as it is to understand the love that Mom and Dad had for each other is different than the love they have for you. The love between a parent and a child is a forever kind of love that never ends.      


Sometimes, often out of guilt, parents may try to soften the blow for children by using other words to describe what is happening in the family.  When you avoid calling the process a “divorce” or in some cases “splitting up” children may:

1. Have false sense of hope and think that things are going to go back to the way they were.

2. Feel a sense of shame about what is happening in the family. (Not calling the process a divorce may communicate to kids that it is not okay to talk about it)

3. Be confused about how the family is changing. (After all if you are not calling it divorce then what is happening and how can children understand it)

4. Pick up on your discomfort and mistakenly think it is not okay to talk about it. Bottom line, divorce is hard for children and using different words will not take away the pain or hurt they will undoubtedly feel. However, talking opening and clearly with your children provides them with an opportunity to develop skills and learn how to handle a difficult situation. Being clear and supportive will build your credibility as a parent, as well as, set the stage for future discussions with your children.                    

Christina McGhee, is a life coach and an award-winning creator of children’s resources including the DVD program “Lemons 2 Lemonade: How to handle life when things go sour between Mom and Dad,” and is author of "Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents Can Raise Happy and Secure Kids." For more information, visit www.divorceandchildren.com.

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