Families Change Parent Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

After you tell the children about the separation or divorce, keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. Here are some tips on how to do that.

Make opportunities to talk

  • Hold family meetings regularly to give children a chance to talk about what's on their mind.
  • If you have more than one child, make opportunities for one-on-one time with each of them. Some children feel more comfortable talking about their concerns without their siblings around.
  • Talking in the car while driving somewhere is another opportunity.

Encourage conversation

Do what you can to keep the dialogue, any dialogue, going between you and your children. One of the best ways to keep your kids communicating with you is to have conversations with them about everyday things too. If every conversation seems to be about the break-up, they might soon start to avoid them altogether.

To encourage conversation with your child, choose phrases or questions that require more than a one-word or yes/no response. Try “What did you do at school today?” or “Let's talk about what we want to do this weekend” to get the discussion going.

Here are some more tips:

  • Don’t force discussions, especially about the separation or divorce. Always consider their mood and frame of mind. Kids have bad days too!
  • Appreciate their space and need to be alone with their thoughts sometimes.
  • If you sense they’re getting tired during a discussion or have had enough, end the conversation and continue it at another time.
  • Reassure them that they can talk to you about anything that worries or concerns them.

Listen to what they have to say

  • Give your child your full attention when they ask questions or are talking to you.
  • Don’t interrupt them. Let them finish what they have to say.
  • Treat their comments or questions seriously, especially about the separation or divorce.

Encourage their questions

  • Tell your children it’s OK to ask questions about the separation or divorce, even if they think the question might upset you or the other parent.
  • Reassure them that you’ll answer as truthfully and as best as you can, but that sometimes you might not know the answer yourself.
  • In your answers, don’t criticize or say bad things about the other parent.

Answer their questions

Children can ask questions that are difficult to answer throughout the separation or divorce, or even months or years afterward. Don’t avoid a question or give your child a misleading answer. If they have the courage to ask, find the courage to answer. If you don't have an answer for them, be honest about it. Say you don't know, or haven't made a decision yet.

In the Speak Up! sections of both the Kids Guide and Teen Guide, children are encouraged to speak up, talk about their feelings, ask parents questions and let their parents know when something concerns them.

If you’re concerned that your child has become increasingly withdrawn or doesn’t want to communicate with you since learning about the break-up, talk to your family doctor.