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Divorce Talk: Telling the Kids

If children understand and identify with anything, they understand and identify with the fictional characters in their favorite movies and books. Northbrook psychologist Dr. Leigh Weisz, who specializes in children’s issues, understands this better than anyone. Weisz also understands what children need to hear, and how they need to hear about their parent’s divorce, which is why she wrote “Kara Kangaroo’s Candy,” a children’s book about divorce.

From One Kangaroo to Another

From the moment the relationship between the parents starts to become strained, to the moment the parents utter the word “divorce,” the children intuitively sense there is trouble in paradise. Similar to how animals have an innate sense of direction, children have a sensitive barometer of the emotional climate in a room.

This superpower all children have is one of the innovative elements discussed in “Kara Kangaroo’s Candy.” In fact, the book was written because Weisz could not find the perfect book to address divorce for her office. “Kara Kangaroo’s Candy” was written to help children cope with divorce, and for parents to understand how to approach the topic with their children.

Tips to Talking with Your Child

An article on PyschologyToday.com put some practical research to an even more practical purpose. Researchers interviewed children individually at length about their parent’s divorce, and the children’s responses have been published to provide parents with divorce pointers. However, we won’t completely ignore Weisz’s helpful info in this list, so don’t be surprise if you see a mix of both source’s advice.

Tip #1: Obtain some good vibrations. Take into account that your child is picking up signals like a metal detector on a volcanic island. Also take into account that although your child is, well, a child, their instincts kick into high gear to fix problems that are being ignored in the family. So do yourself a favor and be honest with yourself and to your child during this difficult time. Also do not forget to emphasize, reiterate, repeat, and go over again the fact that the divorce is not the child’s responsibility or fault.

Tip #2: Plan the family pow-wow. As it turns out, children vividly remember when they were told of the divorce, and they remember it forever. It’s suggested to actually give some thought, if not plan detail for detail, where and how you will deliver the news. Compose yourself for the task so your children don’t forever remember their parents blurting out through sobs they are filing for divorce.

Tip #3: Don’t direct the flow of feelings. As a parent it’s hard not to process your child’s feelings for them; like when they fall off their bike and run to you with a scared, confused expression on their face, the common response from you is, “Oh, that scared you, didn’t it?”

When having the divorce talk, do not try to help them out with their feelings as if divorce is a bike fall. Let your child tell you how they feel, and don’t try to fix the feeling just yet; this is something they will have to heal for themselves over time, and no help from you will make it any easier. Also, you cannot know how the child is feeling until they pin it down and tell you. By trying to paint them as sad or hurt, when they are just shocked, but understanding, it will make it harder for them to honestly face their feelings with you later.

As I’m sure you are aware, there are mounds of other tips about breaking the big news; some of these advice tidbits are sought out and some are rather forced, but we hope these were both palatable and helpful.

If you’ve been there and done that, and want to share what worked for you, feel free to share your experience below.

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