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How to talk to your children about divorce

Prior to the beginning of the pandemic it may have been the case that you have not had an opportunity to discuss difficult or unpleasant subject matter with your children in quite some time. Your existence may have been a pretty stable one where you and your family had your routines and did not have to deviate from them very often. However, that likely changed in March of this year when the coronavirus pandemic came upon the shores of the United States. Virtually overnight we saw that life changed for every one of us. As a result, we had to make sense of the situation for ourselves and our families. 

If the pandemic was difficult enough for you to process, consider how difficult it has been for your children. I have very young children in my home and even they became aware of the coronavirus fairly early on in the process. Kids at school we're discussing the Houston rodeo closing down early due to concerns over the pandemic and my wife and I were confronted with how to talk to a three and four-year-old about this situation. Like many of you, we were asking ourselves questions about how to best attack this problem and how to approach the kids with the news of the pandemic. 

For the most part, we had questions. That is a familiar position for us to be in given that since the beginning of this pandemic we've seemingly had more questions about the virus, and our response to it, then answers. Just think about how we reacted to the pandemic as far as the government's response in March to what it is now. It is safe to say we are being counseled to do things differently by public health officials do too there having gained knowledge in specific areas during the past eight or nine months. With that said, the questions my wife and I were asking ourselves related to what the kids could handle based on their maturity levels. 

How much should we even tell them about the pandemic? at first, we weren't sure how much the kids were capable of understanding about a viral pandemic and its impact on their lives. All they knew at first was that their school had been closed and we could go to church on Sunday. These were two of the more frequent places our kids would go outside the home and this was the most logical place to start. We started small by explaining to them how people were getting sick and why we couldn't go to church, and the kids could not go to school for the time being. After we locked them through this, we did our best to keep the kids focus on other areas and maintain as much consistency in their lives as possible. 

Once all of us became more acclimated to living in a pandemic we shifted the conversation too how the kids should approach other people right now. Admittedly, our children Fortunately very healthy and we do not have many concerns over the kids getting very ill. Also, Fortunately, children have not shown themselves to be at great risk of getting very ill with this virus. That does not mean that children cannot get sick from the virus or that there have not been cases of children getting sick. All I mean is that for my wife and I, we felt like the chances of our children getting sick was very relative to other people.

however, we made sure to talk to our kids about the importance have eating well in getting enough sleep so that they did not get sick and risk passing on sickness to other people. We did not go over the top as far as explaining the consequences of getting other people sick, but we did share with the kids how these were habits that they needed to develop anyways. Let's keep in mind that washing your hands, staying home when you're not feeling well and keeping a distance from others during certain times in the year are not bad pieces of advice even if we were not in a pandemic. 

Otherwise, we have mainly tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy instability in the lives of our children throughout this process. Again, my family is in the fortunate position where the kids have been able to stay in school, my wife and I have been able to maintain employment and our lives have continued on virtually unabated other than the need to wear masks on occasion. Hopefully your family has experienced something similar and is maintained your health despite the risks of this virus. As we head into the year 2021 my hope and prayer is that better times are ahead for us. After all: how much worse can things get than they were in 2020? 

Shifting the discussion towards talking about divorce

Everything we have discussed thus far in today's blog post has been a precursor to the meat and potatoes of today's blog post. Namely, I would like to talk to you about how you can best address a very difficult subject that may be ongoing in your family's life. That subject is you in your spouse getting a divorce. There are so many consequences to divorce that to attempt to list them all would take an inordinate amount of time. Obviously, none of us have that sort of time on our hands. 

However, we certainly have enough time to discuss how to begin to discuss the divorce with your children. Of all the people that are impacted by divorce it is your kids who will feel either the benefit or detriment of your decision to split with your spouse most significantly. A point I made about the coronavirus pandemic is similar to divorce, in that children have less understanding and knowledge of the world and are therefore less capable of grasping the concepts involved. However, paradoxically children also are very resilient in most cases and are oftentimes better able to take on change then us as adults are. 

So, the question is for you and your spouse would be how you can balance these paradoxes and help your children to be able to process and understand the divorce. Much of what we will be discussing in today's blog post is based on experiences I've had working with families in Southeast Texas as they manage divorce. Some of the advice will be taken from my own experiences as a parent in helping my family go through different circumstances we have experienced together. 

Ultimately, I understand that your family's circumstances may be completely unique. In that case, it may be true that none of what I talk about today in our blog post will be relevant to you specifically. In that case, it may be a great idea for you to contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys can listen to your circumstances and provide you with some information that may be of assistance to you. From there, if you choose to hire our office to represent you in your divorce, we can provide you with specific advice, counsel and a plan to help you achieve whatever goals you have for your divorce and your family. 

Introducing the subject of divorce to your family

Depending on the age of your child you and your spouse will need to have a conversation with your children about your upcoming divorce. Let's begin the discussion by talking about how important it is for you and your spouse to have a discussion together with your children about the divorce. It is critical for both of you to be involved in this discussion so that the children can see two things. the first thing you will want your children to see is that you and your spouse are still a united front even if you will not be married for much longer. This can cause your children to feel more comfortable about the changes that the family is going to endure as long as mom and dad are still on the same page as far as loving the children. Your children will have a better idea about your divorce once you share the information with them, but they will have a much clearer idea about the state of your family if you have this discussion together.

The other aspect that I would like to discuss with you as far as presenting a united front on the divorce is that children can actually be under the mistaken belief that a divorce may not happen unless both parents talked to them about it. For instance, if you spend some time talking to your kids about divorce but they hear nothing about the divorce from your spouse then they may be under the mistaken impression that the divorce will not occur period to them, unless mom and dad talk about something happening it may not be true. It would be like if the kids ask you for candy before dinner and you said no but they went to dad and dad said to ask your mother. The inconsistency in messaging can be very important and therefore I would recommend speaking to your children together. 

The age of your children can make a difference in what you tell them

Without a doubt, the actual conversation with your children needs to be tailored to their age. Younger children are not able to grasp most of the fine points of divorce and will instead be focused on what it means for your family in the future as well as well as what it means for them right now. Your preschool age children need to understand that changes will be made in your family in that the living situation of one another will change as well. However, you should reinforce the stability and consistency of her family by talking to the kids about, but they can expect as far as things that will remain the same. 

The older your kids are the more detail and information you can provide them with. Small children are not able to process a great deal of information so I would not bother spending a lot of time going through different facts, scenarios and details that may ultimately confuse them. Older children are better able to process information and you may want to give them somewhat more detail about what to expect in the timeline of probable events. However, the bottom line is that you need to make it crystal clear that a divorce is upcoming and that they can expect to see some changes. However, the most important aspect of the divorce to reinforce is that the love each of you have for your children will not change and will be consistent no matter what happens in the divorce case. 

From that point forward, you need to be willing to sit quietly and listen to your children. They may have questions, concerns, feelings and emotions that need to come out at that time. This can be uncomfortable for many people seeing your children cry or get upset or not understand what is happening is completely normal. It can be uncomfortable, as well, to answer questions about how your marital relationship has failed and what it means for the future of your family. However, going through a divorce without answering these questions for your children would be doing them a significant disservice. If the divorce is that important and that necessary, you need to be able to honestly answer these questions for your children, so they have a clear understanding of what to expect in the months forward. 

The reality of the situation is that there really is no end to the conversations that you are going to have about the divorce. Even after your divorce your children are going to have questions and you need to be willing to listen to those questions and give honest answers. The strange thing is that even if your children do not fully understand all the complexities surrounding your divorce, they can sense whether or not you are being honest with them. That does not pay to try to shield the truth from them or to be dishonest simply to avoid having a difficult discussion. 

Where are the children going to live? 

This is an immediate question that many children wonder about after learning that their parents are going to get a divorce. In talking to your children about the divorce they may understandably want to know where they're going to living and how their living arrangements are going to change given the divorce. Depending on the specific circumstances of your case he will likely need to give one of a couple answers. You can either tell your children where they will be living, ask them their preference, or discuss a plan that you have in mind and then take their input. 

If your children are very young, then it is likely that you will not take much of their input on where they will be living. The trouble that parents get into when they take into consideration the ones of their young children is that the preference of their children can change overtime seemingly for no reason at all. Rather than leave it up to your children to decide where they want to live when they're young most of the time parents will decide that for them. 

In divorces where the children are 12 years or older, they have a right to be able to talk to the judge about where they want to live if either you or your spouse file a motion to allow them to do so. At the outset of your conversation with the children you may want to ask them what their preferences as far as where they want to live on a full-time basis. Other times, a conversation does not need to be had given the living situation for the families to that point. For example, If your spouse has not been living at home for some time then it is not likely to be the case that he or she would take on the responsibility of parenting and child on a full time basis. 

Whatever your family decides to do as far as living arrangements for the children I would recommend that you make it apparent to them that both you and your spouse are going to be a part of their life moving forward. The last thing you want to do is to give the kids the impression that only one of you will be raising them at that point and that the other parent will be out of their lives permanently. While this may seem to be a far-fetched idea to an adult, many children feel this way after learning about a divorce for the first time. 

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

if you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post I recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys are available for free of charge consultation six days a week. These consultations can be had over the phone, in person and via video. 

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