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Talking to kids about divorce

Going through a divorce is never easy, but it is especially challenging when children are involved. Wisconsin couples may be wondering how to tell their young children that they plan to separate, or they may be looking for ways to help their children adjust to splitting time between two households.

Announcing the divorce

If you have not yet broken the news to your kids about an upcoming divorce, it is best if you do so together with your soon-to-be ex. Keeping a united front even after separating helps ensure that children have structure and discipline at home, and it prevents them from trying to manipulate their parents to play one off the other. When you do tell your children about the separation, make sure to let them know that you still love them and that they are not to blame for the divorce.

At the same time, do not blame your spouse for the divorce, and do not get into the details about how your marriage went awry. You should not lie to your child about why you are separating, but you do not need to overshare.

Talking about emotions

When you talk to your child about the divorce, encourage him or her to express how he or she feels about it. If your child is on the younger end, it may help to suggest a non-verbal form of communication, like drawing or painting, as a means of expression. You should also be sure to regularly express your love for your child and spend time with your child. This is particularly important if you are sharing custody, since your child will be struggling to adapt to seeing you less often.

What not to do

Not only should you avoid bad-mouthing your ex-spouse, you should also exclude your child from discussions about the divorce itself, such as how property and assets are being divided. If your child is a teenager, you can consider whether to solicit his or her opinion on child custody if you are actually prepared to entertain it, but you should generally keep conversations about child custody between you, your ex, and your family law attorney.