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Breaking the news of divorce to a small child

If you and your ex are getting a divorce and you have a small child, you may want to consider what is the best way to break the news to your child.

Although every youngster is different in terms of maturity and what kind of information they should hear, for 5- to 8-year-olds, there are a few things you can do to ensure you handle this appropriately.

Kids know what divorce is

Even if you've never spoken to your 5- to 8-year-old child about divorce, there's a good chance that he or she knows what it is after hearing about divorce from his or her schoolmates. For example, your child will probably already know that divorce is permanent and that you and your spouse's marriage will be over.

Children will want to know specifically how their own lives will change. They'll want to know whom they'll be living with and how they'll make it to school.

Kids are resilient when it comes to divorce

Your kids may be more resilient than you are when it comes to the end of your marriage, and you want to try and keep it that way by not putting the emotional burdens and stresses of divorce onto them. Here is some advice for breaking the news:

Choose a good time: Only tell your kids when you are entirely sure that the marriage is over. Also, when you tell your child, make sure that you're going to be around. Perhaps Saturday morning would be good so that your child is around you all day, and Sunday, too, so that he or she can ask whatever questions come up. Don't just give the news and then separate from your child for the rest of the day.

Present a united front: Tell your child alongside the other parent. This way you can agree on what to say beforehand and present a united front. This helps your child stay trustful of both parents.

Stay simple with your words: Kids don't need to hear the details of why. Simply, something like this: "Mommy and daddy have thought a lot about this. We've been arguing so much lately and we don't want to be in bad moods all the time. Daddy has decided to move to a new place. You'll be spending half of every week with him at his new house and half with me. Won't that be nice?" Then you can get ready to answer a lot of questions from your child.

A few more details to keep in mind

Be sure that your child knows that the divorce is not his or her fault, that you and your spouse's love for your child will always be there, and spare the gory details of why you're splitting up. Finally, breaking the news of divorce and your entire divorce process will be the easiest on your child when you and your spouse can mediate a divorce settlement peacefully and diplomatically.

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