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 appropriate is what actually matters. After all- it is your child, and your divorce. You get to choose what to make known to your child and how to 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 that divorce.
Should you try and impart any specific lessons upon 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 him or her- finances included. If you are anything like me then 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 are showing your child that even in tough times grown people have to do what is best for their family.
What should you do if your child has shown that he or she is 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 he or she may be asking you a very serious questions 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 in relation to kids then this should sound pretty familiar.
For a younger child, you will want to create a sense of stability and consistency because that is what all children crave at that age. If you can reassure him or her that you and your spouse love him or her 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 the role of your child in the divorce. Obviously any concerns by your teenager or pre-teen child that he or she 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 side step 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 is going to be fine. Provide some clarity for your teen aged child because right now very little appears to be clear. Do not leave it up to your spouse to inform your teenager about what is going on. 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, if your child is able to take on additional responsibilities around the house surrounding chores, caring for younger children and generally helping the house to run smoothly you should help your teenager seize the opportunity to do so. Obviously it is not wise to have your child feel like there is pressure on him or her to do certain activities. But you can encourage him or her to gain some understanding of 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 in regard to children, however. Adults often times 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 then you should know that your court orders are likely keeping your pocketbook in check during the divorce.
As for your children, they too may not be able to sort through the difficult emotions of seeing change in their home and within themselves as they begin to cope with you and your spouse getting a divorce. Ultimately you need to be able to impress upon your children (and yourself) that you can change whatever it is you want about yourself on the outside, but your feelings and circumstances will remain exactly 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 many issues in regard to parenting. If you previously were living 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 difficult to discuss topics like money and personal finances.
There is a lesson buried underneath all of the anger and sadness associated with a divorce when it comes to open and honest communication. In fact, had you been able to discuss topics openly and honestly with your spouse you may not have found yourself in a position where a divorce is staring you straight in the face. Don’t give up being the honest and direct person that you know deep down your children deserve. Face these issues head on and allow your children to ask difficult questions. Help them to understand things as best as they can 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
It goes without saying that talking to your child about your divorce will be one of the most difficult conversations that 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 the 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 to understand what a divorce is, what it will mean for your specific family and also what it will not mean. Make sure to help your child to understand that 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 a back 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 posts to be 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 six days a week with a licensed family law attorney.