After you tell the children about the separation or divorce, keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. Here are some tips on how to do that.
Make opportunities to talk
- Hold family meetings on a regular basis to give children a chance to talk about what's on their mind.
- If you have more than one child, make opportunities for one-on-one time with each of them; some children may feel more comfortable talking about their concerns without their siblings around.
- Talking in the car while driving somewhere is also another opportunity.
Do what you can to keep the dialogue going between you and your children. One of the best ways to keep your kids communicating with you is to have conversations with them about everyday things too. If every conversation seems to be about separation and divorce, they may soon start to avoid them altogether.
To encourage conversation with your child, choose phrases or questions that require more than a one-word or yes/no response. Try, “What did you do at school today?” or “Let's talk about what we want to do this weekend” to get a discussion going.
Here are some more tips:
- Do not force discussions, particularly about the separation or divorce; always consider their mood and frame of mind. Kids have bad days too!
- Appreciate their 'space' and need to be alone with their thoughts sometimes.
- If you sense they are tiring during a discussion or “have had enough”, end the conversation and continue it at another time.
- Reassure them that they can talk to you about anything that worries or concerns them.
Listen to what they have to say
- Give your child your full attention when they ask questions or are talking to you.
- Do not interrupt them; let them finish what they have to say.
- Treat their comments or questions seriously, especially about the separation or divorce.
Encourage their questions
- Tell your children that it is OK to ask questions about the separation or divorce, even if they think the question might upset you or the other parent.
- Reassure them that you will answer as truthfully and as best as you can, but that sometimes you may not know the answer yourself.
- In your answers, do not badmouth or criticize the other parent.
Answer their questions
Children may ask questions that are difficult to answer throughout – even months or years after – the separation or divorce. Do not avoid a question or give your child a misleading answer; if they have the courage to ask, try to find the courage to answer. If you don't have an answer for them, be honest about it – say you don't know, or haven't made a decision yet.
See Responding to children's questions for more information on how to answer children's questions about the separation or divorce.
In the Speak Up! sections of both the kids' guide and teen guide, children are encouraged to speak up: talk about their feelings, ask parents questions, and let their parents know when something concerns them.
If you are concerned that your child has become increasingly withdrawn and is not willing to communicate with you since learning about the separation or divorce, talk to your family doctor.