Parting ways: Talking to kids about your divorce
Explaining divorce to small kids might seem tricky and impossible, but it's something that has to be done, like it or not.
Recently, a friend of mine opened up about how she was contemplating moving on. Her marriage had fallen apart, but she and her partner had continued living together for the sake of their young boy, who was barely 4.
I’ve known them for a long time; two wonderful people who had a love marriage that went fine till the happiness lasted. People change and so do circumstances. In India, divorce is still considered a taboo, and most families dread to say the word out loud. However, it is true that divorce in today’s times is becoming more common than ever before, even in India.
Being a mother, she wanted to keep the divorce as stress-free and as amicable as possible, for the sake of the child. Explaining the situation to a 4-year-old seems tricky and impossible, so I asked her how she did it. Here’s what she said, in her own words:
1. Reducing the damage to kids: For the past two years we couldn’t see eye to eye at all. We had almost stopped speaking, except for fights and arguments. As my son was growing up, I realised he could make out that something was amiss. It was affecting his behaviour as well. So, my first priority was to have the discussions and arguments with my partner at a time when my kid wasn’t around, or maybe asleep.
2. Spotting behavioural symptoms and easing them: He was getting quieter and would suddenly hit out by throwing tantrums or crying and shouting without any obvious reason. This was very uncharacteristic of him. I could sense that it was the constant tension at home that was making him behave this way – it wasn’t just a growing up phase.
Continue reading to find out how to explain about divorce to a young child in an age-appropriate way.
3. Helping to express and vent: I started talking to him and asking him if he was feeling bad about something or if he wanted to cry. I wanted to help him express his emotions instead of holding them within. When I asked him if he wanted to cry he did, and it helped him ease the tension he was experiencing as a young child.
4. Explain about the situation in simple words: I spoke to him honestly about the issues. I told him that mamma and papa had a small fight as he sometimes has with his friends. I explained that both mamma and papa love him and that we both are all very happy with him. I also told him that just as we have one house now, we will have two homes, and both homes are for him.
5. He is not the reason - I wouldn’t say he understood all of it of course, but he did realize that the reason me and my husband were not on good terms was not because of anything he did. This is very important to prevent any form of self-doubt or low self-esteem.
I am glad I had this talk with my child despite the fact that our society may still not look very positively towards my decision to move on and start life again. But I want to be happy in order to be a good mom to my child, and I want him to realize what a good and loving relationship is like.
I am glad my friend shared this with me, and I hope it can help some of you who may be facing something similar situations at home.
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