Questions about talking to your child about finances and divorce

You may be asking yourself what is and what is not appropriate to talk to your child about in the context of divorce. The short answer is that what you believe is applicable is what matters. After all, it is your child and your divorce. You get to choose what to make known to your child and contextualize the whole discussion. Please keep that in mind as we go through some questions that I have heard from parents on multiple occasions regarding their divorce and the role money plays in it.

Should you try and impart any specific lessons to your child? Only that what you are ultimately trying to do as a parent is to give your child perspective, strength, and resiliency in discussing any topic with them- finances included. If you are anything like me, you understand that your child is not brought into the world with resiliency. You, as the parent, need to be the teacher in this regard. By discussing a “taboo” topic like money and finances, you show your child that grown people have to do what is best for their family even in tough times.

What should you do if your child has shown that they are worried about money? Kids are more intuitive and observant than we may believe. One second your child may be picking their nose, and the next, they may be asking you a serious question about what happens if you all have to leave your house after the divorce. If you subscribe to the notion (like I do) that more is taught than caught about kids, then this should sound pretty familiar.

You will want to create a sense of stability and consistency for a younger child because that is what all children crave if you can reassure them that you and your spouse love them, and that is not going to change no matter what happens in your divorce. Dinner will always be on the table; a roof will always be over their head, etc. Sporting events, extracurricular activities, vacations, and things of that nature may have to be put on pause until you get your financial feet back underneath you, however.

For an older child, you can be more specific about what is happening and your child’s role in the divorce. Any concerns by your teenager or pre-teen child that they did anything to contribute to the divorce should be met with the truth- that the divorce has nothing to do with your child. Do not sidestep this and any other difficult questions. Children at this age can sense when they are being avoided.

If your life has to change from a finance and budgeting perspective, you need to share this with your child. The backdrop to every comment and every piece of advice you provide is that everything will be fine. Provide some clarity for your teenaged child because very little appears to be precise right now. Please do not leave it up to your spouse to inform your teenager about what is happening. Do not assume that your child knows something. Speak up and be the force for positive thought and action during this time. Your child needs it.

Finally, suppose your child can take on additional responsibilities around the house surrounding chores, caring for younger children, and generally helping the place run smoothly. In that case, you should allow your teenager to seize the opportunity to do so. It is not wise to have your child feel pressure to do certain activities. But you can encourage them to understand adult responsibilities during this difficult time.

Will your divorce change how your child approaches money? Divorce brings out the worst in people in many cases. This isn’t just regarding children, however. Adults often find solace in spending money on frivolous or silly things during a divorce to make themselves feel better. Retail therapy, as they say. If you are a spender, you should know that your court orders are likely to keep your pocketbook in check during the divorce.

As for your children, they too may not be able to sort through the complex emotions of seeing the change in their home and within themselves as they begin to cope with you and your spouse getting a divorce. Ultimately, it would be best to be impressed upon your children (and yourself) that you can change whatever you want about yourself on the outside. Still, your feelings and circumstances will remain precisely the same no matter how nice a dress you purchase. Do not try to escape from your divorce via spending money. That lesson is equally applicable to your children as it is to you.

If you have always had difficulty speaking to your child honestly about money, should a divorce change that? I think it’s unavoidable that a divorce will change how you encounter any issues regarding parenting. If you previously lived a life that caused you to tell half-truths and deny yourself a great deal in hopes of keeping a failing marriage afloat, you may now feel the need to express how you truly feel to your spouse and even your children. Now that you are entering into a divorce, you may feel even less able to speak to your children honestly about complex topics like money and personal finances.

There is a lesson buried underneath all of the anger and sadness associated with a divorce regarding open and honest communication. Had you been able to discuss topics openly and honestly with your spouse, you may not have found yourself in a position where divorce is staring you straight in the face. Don’t give up being the honest and direct person you know deep down your children deserve. Face these issues head-on and allow your children to ask difficult questions. Please help them understand things as best as possible by creating a new way of encountering hard-to-talk-about problems.

While we’re on the subject- how should you talk to your child above the divorce in general

Talking to your child about your divorce will be one of the most challenging conversations you will likely have in your entire life; if you can tell your child about the divorce early in the process, that helps. It lightens the emotional burden on you that could be present if you try to keep the divorce a secret until the “perfect time” to disclose it to your child. Do your best (if possible) to have a conversation with your spouse. Presenting a united front to your child (even if you and your spouse are extremely angry at one another) is crucial.

Finally, be direct and do not dance around the subject. Help your child understand what a divorce is, what it will mean for your specific family, and what it will not convey. Make sure to help your child know that it is ok to feel hurt and let your child know you feel the same way. That being said- do not get into why you feel hurt or how your spouse has let you down. This can start aback and forth that is not pleasant for anyone to hear- especially your child.

Questions on divorce, finance, and anything in between? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, want to thank you for stopping by this past week to read our blog posts on finance and divorce. We enjoyed writing on the subject and hope you found the seats entertaining and informative.

If you have questions about anything you’ve read, please do not hesitate to contact our office today. We offer free of charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week.

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