Mommy and daddy are getting a divorce.”
To children, those fateful words can mean a range of things, depending on their age. A baby or toddler won’t understand them at all but may pick up on your somber tone and be confused or frightened by it; an older child may worry that she’ll wind up like a friend at school who sees her dad only rarely, or that she’ll have to move to a smaller house and share a bedroom with her little sister.
While it’s just about impossible to put a positive spin on such a negative event, there’s a lot parents can do to ease the difficult transition from intact family to divided one. Target your initial broaching of the topic to your child’s age (if you have kids of widely differing ages, you might consider talking to each of them separately). And then be prepared to have your child come back with more questions as the years pass and she comes to understand the situation more fully. Some guidelines for talking to kids of various ages when a marriage splits apart.
While you may think that infants are too young to be affected by divorce, they’re surprisingly intuitive. Even a 6-week-old can sense that his routine has been altered —he no longer sees both parents daily, he’s suddenly eating at a different time or sleeping in a new room. Schedule changes can be particularly anxiety-provoking for babies. “They need structure and continuity to feel safe and to trust that all is right with the world,” says M. Gary Neuman, author of Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way.
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