Many marriages in the United States unfortunately end in divorce. In some cases, the couple simply is no longer compatible or has fallen out of love. In other cases, infidelity, abuse and other issues have impacted the relationship. Going through a divorce may be one of the more stressful and painful experiences of your life, but you are not alone in your turmoil. If you have children with your soon-to-be ex, your children will also be dramatically affected by this huge change. Children of all ages may require a lengthy period of time to transition, and some may act out in different ways. Younger children, however, may not fully understand what is going on. They may even blame themselves for the situation. If you are preparing to explain a divorce to a kindergartner, these tips can help you to communicate the situation and what to expect going forward.
Select a Safe, Quiet Space
Some parents may simply sit their child down in a random location to break the news to them. In some cases, it may even initially seem like a smart idea to talk to a kindergartner about divorce in a public place that they enjoy, such as a neighborhood park or an amusement park. Perhaps it has crossed your mind that telling your child in the morning before sending him or her off to school is a good idea. After all, your child may not dwell on the matter if he or she is surrounded by friends in an active environment. As thoughtful as these ideas seem at first glance, they may not actually be good ideas upon further reflection. Your child is likely to become very upset. He or she may yell or cry. The best place to have this type of conversation is in a private that is associated with safety and security. The best time to have the talk is when your child can have some time afterward to process the news. For example, choosing a quiet weekend day at home may work well. Ideally, both parents will be present and available to answer questions.
Use Available Resources
Some kindergartners may not have any prior experience with divorce, but others may have a close friend whose parents have been through this process. Without prior background, young children may not fully understand what divorce entails. Finding a few children’s books on the subject may help you to explain what is happening in a way that they can understand. If your child has some background knowledge about divorce, you may want to talk about differences that they can expect. For example, if a friend’s parents have divorced and they continue to fight horrendously, this may not be the experience that your child will have to live with. You and your ex may be divorcing amicably, and you may intend to both be involved fully in your child’s life. For example, you both may plan to attend every children’s school and extracurricular event rather than splitting time in this way. Use your child’s background knowledge to explain what he or she should realistically expect. If your child takes the news exceptionally hard, consider seeking therapy.
Use an Honest, Compassionate Approach
Divorce may seemingly be a private matter about you and your ex, but it is actually a family matter that affects everyone in the unit. Your child will likely have many questions, and you should be prepared to answer all of them. In some cases, children may ask questions about the divorce or about the marital relationship that they do not need to know detailed answers to. For example, they may ask why you are getting divorced. They do not need to know about infidelity or any other significant issues. They simply need to know that you can no longer get along. Some questions may be taxing on you, but remain compassionate.
Talking to your kindergartner about divorce may begin with a lengthy conversation that you prepare in advance for. However, this will likely be an ongoing conversation as your child continues to have new questions and new events develop. These initial tips can be used going forward with ongoing dialog on the subject.