Communicating To Kids About Divorce Essay
A young child sits on his bed with tears rolling down his face. His mother and father stare at him with a distraught look on their face. The little boy asks, “If parents stop being married, can they decide not to be a mommy or a daddy anymore? ” His mother leans over and gives the little boy a hug and replies, “Your daddy and I just can’t live together anymore, we still love you and we will always be your mommy and daddy. ” This question, along with many others, are very common for young children to ask when they are told that their parents are going to get divorced.
How does one reply to such a question? Looking into those big, tear filled eyes, it can be hard to explain. The explanation that this mother gave was filled with love and compassion. Many parents to comfort children while explaining divorce use doublespeak and jargon. Doublespeak is language that makes the bad seem good, and the negative appear positive (William Lutz, “The World of Doublespeak. ” 188). There are many ways that parents can explain to their children that they are getting divorced. Children usually know when their parents aren’t happy and may feel confused about the situation.
Barb Clark, a divorce counselor and psychologist, suggests different ways to communicate to your children about divorce. She recommends that children need to be told about the divorce before it happens (Divorce: Telling the Children. web. tusco. net/pfcs/prog%2033. htm). However, many parents fail to tell their children that a divorce is in the near future. For instance, John Lewis and his wife Phylis decided to get a divorce after several years of marriage. Their son Brian was 14 years of age at the time of this decision.
Phylis one night packed her bags and left the house, without any xplanation to her son about her leaving. The next morning, John sat Brian down and explained that they were getting a divorce. Although Brian was at a mature age, it still didn’t make sense to him and he was very disappointed. Could this have been because it happened all so suddenly with out pre-warning? Brian happened to be at a more developed stage in his life when this event occurred, however, some children are at a very young age and a parent’s choice of words are important while explaining divorce.
M. Gary Neuman, therapist and author of “Are You Getting Divorced,” explains that epending on your child’s age, detail should be minimal. He says that when children are between three and four years old, simply telling them that divorce is a grown-up thing that mommies and daddies do when they make each other sad for a long time, and decide not to live in the same house anymore could be enough (88). Being a child of divorce myself, recollection of how it was communicated to me is not all that clear because I was at the very young age of three years old. However, after interviewing my parents, their approach was similar to M. Gary Neuman’s advice.
They sat me down and proceeded in telling me, “Daddy was going to live in a different house than you and mommie because we can’t live together anymore. ” This statement seemed to be clear and understood. Instead of saying, for instance, “We are getting divorced and you are going to have to live with only one of us,” they made the divorce sound more comforting by essentially coming down to my level. This is an example of doublespeak. After children understand that their parents are going to be divorce, many of them begin to ask questions.
A common question asked is, If your parents don’t live together anymore, do you still have a family? ” M. Gary Nueman suggests that, when dealing with these sort of questions always revert back to the fact that the child will be loved just as much as the child was when the parents were married. He also recommends explaining that there are many kinds of families. This may be confusing for the child to understand at first, however, explaining that a “family” isn’t always the mom, dad, and children, it is also the grandparents and cousins that don’t live with you, but are still very important members of the family 88).
Even after the child asks questions, the child may not be clear on what was just described to them. The child may not understand or the child may be confused. Cheryl Cocks and George Cocks were married for seventeen years. George traveled frequently and when he was home there was turmoil. Finally, the couple decided to separate. After returning home one trip, George stayed with a friend and only came home to visit his children. When explaining to their four children (ages 17, 15, 12, and 8) that they were going to live in separate houses, all four children were still onfused and didn’t understand what was going on.
The children would ask questions like, “Where is dad? ” and “Are you two getting a divorce? ” This is a prime example of not being clear with children. The children had no idea what is going on, regardless of their age. All they knew was that dad wasn’t living at home anymore. Barb Clark advises telling children more than once, with words that they understand. Both parents sitting down together is also an essential part of telling the child that the parents are divorcing. Rebecca Rubens was 19 ears old when her parents divorced.
Each parent told her separately and was negative towards the other parent. This made Rebecca feel as if she was being put in the middle and as if she was also, in a way, getting a divorce from them. She was confused and frustrated about the situation and didn’t know how to deal with it. Barb Clark, author of “Divorce: Telling the Children,” implies that it is extremely important for both parents to set aside any anger towards each other and explain the situation to the child together. This will make the child more easily comprehend what is oing to happen instead of feeling involved.
This will also eliminate similar feelings that Rebecca felt after she was told about the divorce. Explaining to children that the divorce is final is very important, because many children spend a lot of time hoping their parents will get back together. In every situation that has been illustrated previously, none of the parents made it clear to the children that the divorce was final. Brian was never told in detail what would happen and later was still confused about his parents and whether they ever are coming back together.
My mother always hoped that one day they would get back together therefore didn’t explain to us that the divorce was final. For the next few years, I hoped that one day I would have both parents together again. Cheryl and George never discussed with their children about divorce let alone that it was final. Their youngest still hopes that they will be a family again. Rebecca’s parents are still in the process of getting the divorce, and her mother still can’t believe that it is going to happen to her marriage, therefore Rebecca is still in hopes of a commitment between her parents.
In all of these cases, children are hoping for something that is not going to happen. According to a Parents November 1998 article, fifty-three percent of couples who get divorced have children affecting about one million new kids a year. This is a sad statistic, but true. These children are being greatly affected by the divorce alone. Parents need to realize this and take into consideration how to make the divorce process easier on their children. The first step in making the divorce transition easier on the child is effective communication between the parent and the child.
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