Discussing divorce with your children is every parent’s nightmare, but it’s a necessary conversation that needs to be approached sensitively and age-appropriately. Here are some tips to help you talk to your children about divorce:
Schedule a family meeting: It’s best to have both parents jointly schedule a family meeting to talk to the children together. Pick a time that allows the children to emotionally process the situation and understand what the plan is for the family. Repeat this step throughout the divorce process.
Be honest: Children can sense when something is wrong, so be honest about what is happening. Use simple language and avoid blaming language.
Remain calm: Children look to you to determine how they should feel, so try to remain calm and confident about the situation.
Reassure them: Let your children know they are loved and that the divorce is not their fault. Reassure them that both parents will still be a part of their lives and that you will work to maintain their lives as much as possible.
Listen to them: Allow your children to express their feelings and concerns about the divorce. Validate their emotions and let them know it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or confused.
Avoid sharing too much information: Be honest, but avoid sharing too much adult information that may be inappropriate or overwhelming for them.
Maintain routines: Try to maintain your children’s routines as much as possible, such as their school and extracurricular activities.
Have check-ins often: Continue to process with, talk to, and listen to your children throughout the entire divorce process.
Seek professional help if needed: Consider seeking the help of a mental health professional who specializes in working with children and families experiencing divorce.
Remember, every child is different and may react to the news of divorce in their own way. By approaching the conversation with sensitivity, openness, and nondefensiveness, you can help your child navigate this difficult time and adjust to the changes ahead.
We at D’Arienzo Psychology can assist you and your family along your separation or divorce journey. Contact us at 904-379-8094 or email@example.com for more information. We offer the following family divorce services:
Standard MicroLearning’s High Conflict Co-Parenting Divorce Certificate Video Online Course is now available for $49.99! Our High Conflict Course was developed and is led by Dr. Justin D’Arienzo, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, and Divorce Expert. Divorced and separated families all have different levels of conflict. These levels range from minimal conflict to high levels of conflict with periods of cooperation to periods of extreme conflict. However, some families are entrenched in constant conflict, and denigrate each through their children, texts, emails, phone conversations, and physical interactions. Fortunately, our high conflict coparenting course can assist you in managing this difficult situation including learning how to successfully manage your coparenting relationship. Read more on what we have to say about the impact of Toxic Stress below:
What is toxic stress?
All stress is not created equal. Children are subject to a variety of stresses. An appropriate amount of stress aids children in adapting or functioning, such as when they are learning a new skill, joining a team or group, or even getting vaccinated. Unfamiliar circumstances can undoubtedly be stressful. Adults need to keep in mind that worry is a useful tool that supports children’s learning, development, and maturation. However, certain circumstances are bad and cause a loss or an injury. If stresses are brief and a child has a lot of support from the adults they care about, they can be tolerated and won’t have a long-term impact. Think about a young child who is anxious and has nowhere to turn.
Children may be exposed to a variety of frightful, frightening, scary, and perplexing situations as a result of family violence and intense parental conflict. According to research, youngsters who are exposed to persistent conflict may find it difficult to control their emotions and remain composed. Their capacity to deal with difficulties and deal with painful emotions throughout their lives may be permanently impacted.
Imagine being a little child who had continual anxiety. Stress wears and rips a child’s developing brain, causing them to read interactions with numerous people as though something would go wrong at any second. A youngster frequently finds it challenging to trust and be close to others when they view the environment and other people as scary and unmanageable.
What is known is that over time, this toxic stress has an adverse effect on the brain’s structure, causing issues with self-regulation, learning disabilities, anxiety, addictions, memory issues, and other health issues. Since children’s brains continue to grow until they are in their 20s, even older children can be affected by having high conflict parents.
We would not have these kinds of seminars if it were an easy task to reduce this kind of conflict. We are aware that altering our own approach to co-parenting requires a lot of effort and dedication. Knowing the harmful effects toxic stress from high conflict parenting has on your kids should
Dr. D’Arienzo’s Parenting Partnership Coparenting Model
Dr. D’Arienzo created his career around building, maintaining, and even deconstructing relationships in a healthy and skillful manner. Much of Dr. D’Arienzo’s work is involved in the divorce world, including custody evaluations or social investigations, evaluating other’s custody evaluations, testifying in court, parenting coordination, mediation, and divorce therapy. This work is full of intense conflict, as many people seeking these services have challenging personality characteristics or find themselves in relationships with those that do. The Gottman Method, a method that works well with marital therapy, seeks to improve relationships by rebuilding friendship, improving conflict resolution, and finding common purpose. Believe it or not, Dr. D’Arienzo has discovered divorced couples who are friends, who respect each other, and who do not attempt to control or change the other are able to co-parent well. In working with divorced couples and helping them co-parent, he recommends that these individuals take similar steps adopting the Gottman Method and applying it to high conflict couples which he has termed Parenting Partnership Co-Parenting Model or the A$$hole Free Approach to Co-Parenting. These steps are both successive and interdependent, meaning they build upon the each other linearly, straightforward; and each factor affects the other, and some factors may be stronger than others. For this to be effective, you want to successfully engage at each level together.
Step 1: Commitment to Co-parent
Each side must accept they are divorced, believe they are better off not being married with the other, and are eager to put their own needs aside to ensure their children’s best interests and needs are met. It is okay at this level to not be in complete agreement about what these best interests are, but there must be a genuine willingness and motivated desire to work with another person to co-parent the children.
Step 2: Maintain Open Communication
Each party must be willing to openly inform and involve the other parent in regards to their children’s events, activities, and potential decisions. The parties must also be willing to talk about their own needs, ideals, and wants. These must be shared, perceived or actual threat. Both parties must be open and willing to hear and must discuss what the other wants for the children.
Step 3: Foster Mutual Respect and Fondness
The parents must ensure the children believe that each parent (and step-parent) respect the other parent, words and actions. Offer praise the other parent in the child’s view. Ensure that they know you appreciate one another despite being separated or divorced.
Step 4: Joining Forces
In good times and tough times, Co-parents must seek out and give full support to the other parent in managing the children. Yes, it is necessary for both parents to be responsive for this to work. If one parent reaches out for assistance, the other must be there for support. Ideally both parents should be present for the children’s celebrations and during difficult times. This factor has the potential to be mismanaged, where one parent is too reliant on the other parent for assistance with the children. It is necessary that both parents do their part as a unified front and team.
Step 5: Conflict Resolution
If there’s an identifiable desire to co-parent, to have open communication, shared respect and fondness, and sense of joined forces, then it will be much easier to resolve disagreements. It is vitally important for parents to maintain control of their own sense of anxiety, need to be in control, and need to change the other person (refer to Step 1: Commitment to Co-Parent). When managed effectively, each parent will see each other in a positive light and give the other the benefit of the doubt. Here, both parents must act like adults, share experiences and wants, consider the ideas of the other, and understand how their past relationship continues to impact their ability to clearly identify and manage their emotions. Remember, you are no longer with this person. Your job is to control yourself and your emotions for the well-being of your child. There’s nothing to resolve about your former relationship and that relationship is over. The new relationship is that of a parenting partnership. It is up to each parent to take initiative to exercise, utilize diaphragmatic breathing, see a psychologist, do yoga or take a walk, receive acupuncture treatment, or do whatever it takes to control your physiology, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Remember this mantra, “Control thyself and not thy former partner”.
Step 6: Mutual Expectations and Mutual Appreciation of Individuals’ Desired Outcomes of Children
Each parent has a dream for their child. If lucky, both parents want similar things. If not, the parents must ensure and support each other’s dreams so they are illustrated, as the goal is to find balance in those dreams. For example, you may want the child to attend Harvard while the other wants them to find their way and consider taking a gap year after college. Parents may need a third party to assist in mediation and outlining a plan for them. As children move to their teen years, parents can also can participate in outlining their dreams as you will need their commitment to reach them as well. However, regardless of your child’s maturity, they still lack a full understanding for planning for the future. Parents should offer some level of guidance to ensure their children see their potential and is moving on a path towards that realization.
Step 7: Mutual Support for Renewed Identity of the Parents
In addition to the parent’s goals and dreams for their children to be facilitated and achieved, each parent must accept and support the new identity of the family, as well as the new identity of each individual parent. For example, expectations of the mother ensuring that the children’s homework is completed, or the father possessing the majority of the financial responsibility for the family may need to be resolved, and then fully embraced. Both parents are free to redefine themselves, but if they are to have a relationship and involvement with the children, the way in which the relationship is defined should also be in the child’s best interests.
Divorced and separated families all have varying levels of conflict, ranging from minimal conflict, to high levels of conflict with periods of cooperation, to periods of extreme conflict. However, some families are entrenched in constant conflict, and denigrate each conflict through their children, texts, emails, phone conversations, and physical interactions. If you have a high conflict co-parenting situation, then you’re aware of what the cost this conflict is to your nerves, your health, your time, your wallet, and on your children’s wellbeing. Psycho-legal professionals and researches have insightfully established that high levels of conflict between parents largely impacts their children in many negative ways, including (but not limited to) poor grades and physical/psychological problems. Despite the many known detrimental consequences, it is often that at least one parent in a high conflict dynamic persists in wreaking havoc for the children and their former partner.
Depending upon your coparenting needs, we invite you to take both our Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course (Standard Divorce Course) and our High Conflict Coparenting Course.