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What Not to Say to Your Kids When You Talk About Divorce or an Absent Parent

Things You Should Avoid When Answering Your Kids' Questions

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When You Talk With Kids About Divorce or an Absent Parent:
  • Don't Speak Negatively About the Other Parent - Being a product of yourself and the other parent, your children will not be able to separate negative words spoken about the other parent from their impressions of your feelings about them. So as angry as you might feel toward the other parent right now, remember that criticizing him or her in front of your children will feel to them, either subconsciously or consciously, as though you are criticizing them as individuals, not just the other parent, with whom you may be legitimately angry.

  • Don't Change the Subject or Avoid the Conversation - Honor your children's need to discuss their questions. This is natural and should not be avoided or discouraged. In addition, you may find that your children will ask certain questions again and again. Try to empathize with their need to familiarize themselves with as many details as they can, and be patient when they approach you with the same questions you discussed yesterday.

  • Don't Share Inappropriate Details - Respect that your children do not need - and should not be privy to - the specific details leading up to your breakup. Keep those details to yourself when responding to their questions. In addition, if you feel they are pressing you for more information than you are prepared to share, tell your children outright that some of these details are adult in nature, and while you want to answer all of their questions, there are some details that you will not discuss.

  • Don't Expect Your Child to Take Sides - It's nice to have people around you who agree with you and support your decisions and actions. However, that supportive role is not one that your children should fill. Save that for your adult friendships. Remember that this is not about taking sides. Regardless of how wrong you feel your ex's behavior and decisions have been, your child will - one some level - still desire to have a relationship with him or her, and you can support your child by being supportive of that continuing relationship.

  • Don't Talk About Child Support - Finally, child support is an adult concern. Your children have no control over when and if those child support checks will arrive, so spare them the details when your ex's child support checks are late or altogether missing. Keep in mind, too, that your children are most likely already well aware of your ex's shortcomings in this regard, and outwardly blaming him or her in front of your children will only make them feel unnecessarily responsible for this adult matter.
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