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How to talk to children about a divorce

For children in Illinois, their parents' divorce can be a frightening and unsettling time. When parents take the time to assess and address their children’s concerns about an impending divorce, the transition can go more smoothly for everyone.

As the American Academy of Pediatrics explains, clear, concise communication goes a long way in soothing troubled feelings. The Academy encourages parents to bring up the impending divorce while speaking to their children together. It is important that parents emphasize that divorce is the decision of the parents and that the children are in no way responsible or to blame. This is important because many children feel personal responsibility for their parents' divorce and can suffer serious emotional consequences. It also helps them understand that they cannot fix their parents' relationship.

The way parents talk to their children about divorce should be tailored to the age, temperament and needs of individual children. Very young children will need reassurance about the ways that their lives will stay the same. It is helpful for them when parents adhere to the same usual routines. Older children and teenagers may have more questions about the causes of the divorce. Parents need not get into gory details about the demise of the marriage, but should answer questions about the future honestly and openly.

In their official journal, a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics explored how a child's reaction to divorce can vary by age. For very young children, divorce can lead to regressions in behavior like speech and potty-training. Older children may become withdrawn and their grades may suffer. Teens may experience feelings of anger or resentment that may be directed at one parent in particular. The Academy emphasizes that parents and caregivers who are prepared to address the psychological and emotional impacts of divorce on children can help ease children through the divorce more easily.

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