Telling the Children About Divorce, and How Collaboration and Mediation May Help

  •   |   Meghan Freed

how mediation and collaborative law can support you in telling the kids about divorceUpdated December 9, 2023

One of the most challenging conversations we have with divorcing parents surrounds their fears about telling their children about divorce.

Choosing the right approach when informing children about divorce is crucial for their understanding and future development. Mediation and collaborative divorce offer a compassionate way to navigate this difficult conversation.  They allow parents to maintain open lines of communication and work together to decide on this and other issues.  Ultimately, this benefits their children.

By engaging in mediation, parents can involve a neutral third party to help facilitate discussions and find common ground, alleviating some of the stress and tension often associated with divorce proceedings. Through collaborative divorce, parents can establish a framework for decision-making that prioritizes the best interests of their children, fostering a sense of stability and security.

Addressing the topic of divorce with children requires sensitivity and empathy. By choosing mediation and collaboration, parents work together to decide on a compassionate and age-appropriate way to tell their children.  This will help them navigate the changes ahead, knowing they have both parents’ understanding and support.

As divorce lawyers, we have two best pieces of advice.  First, seek out a mental health professional experienced with families and children who can guide you through telling the children.  Second, commit to keeping your divorce amicableCollaborative or mediated divorces can provide you support to remain co-parents through the divorce and into the future.  Accordingly, they also encourage a faster, less conflicted divorce.

Read: Mediation, Collaboration, or Litigation? 

Read: Alternative Ways to Divorce in Connecticut: Litigation, Mediation, and Collaborative Divorce

Traditional Approach to Telling Children About Divorce

Traditionally, parents approach the divorce conversation with their kids in a manner that often heightens tension and uncertainty for children. Some parents choose to have the conversation individually, leading to conflicting information and confusion. In other cases, one parent takes the lead, leaving the other feeling left out and the child caught in the middle.

These approaches can create unnecessary stress and anxiety for children, impacting their emotional well-being and ability to adjust to the changes ahead.

Read: Divorce in Connecticut: What You Need to Know

Get Help From a Mental Health Professional

Mental health professionals have long known two keys to help children better navigate their parents’ divorce.  First, children do better when their parents remain emotionally strong and supportive of their children. Second, children are more impacted negatively by high-conflict divorce than by the divorce itself.  A mental health professional provides expertise tailored to your family’s situation and focused on the best approach for your children.

Read: ADR & Divorce

Read: Settlement & Divorce

Telling the Kids About Your Divorce

If you would like to do some background reading, in Psychology Today, Dr. Kevin Arnold gave six tips on telling the kids and having a child-centered approach throughout the process. For example, he recommends you “give much thought to the setting and circumstances when you break the news” and “not to assume how children will react, and let them feel all the feelings, even when those feelings are confusing to you.”

Another point Dr. Arnold makes is, “When you decide to end the marriage, end it swiftly. Then, no one will win either way.”

He elaborates:

“Financial and parenting issues take on a life of their own during a divorce. Some divorces take years to settle the issues-often more because one or both parents feel the need to win. For children, the never-ending divorce feels like a 12-hour drive to Disney World done in one day: uncomfortable and interminable.

In the Utah study, one child said, “Get on with it.’”

Read: How to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce

Consider Collaboration or Mediation

In addition to recommending that couples not allow their divorce to drag on, Dr. Arnold emphasizes that children benefit from a “united message delivered by both parents-children feel less disturbed when parents exhibit this kind of maturity.”

In her “Guide to Telling the Children about the Divorce” and “A Good Problem to Have: Family Togetherness Post-Divorce,” Dr. Lisa Herrick agrees that choosing collaboration or mediation as opposed to a traditional, litigious divorce can help spouses transition into successful co-parents. From telling the kids, treating each other well through a divorce, and “maintaining a close and friendly connection as the children grow up,” collaborative divorce and mediation can assist parents committed to helping their children adapt more quickly to a stressful time in the family’s life.

Read: Collaboration or Mediation?

Read: What Are the Big Differences Between Mediation and Collaborative Divorce?

Explaining Divorce to Children in an Age-Appropriate Manner

When informing children about divorce, it is important to consider their age and level of understanding. Younger children may require simpler explanations.  For example, with younger children, the discussion’s focus should be that their parents will no longer be living together but will still love and care for them. Older children can be provided with more detailed information.  The goal is to ensure older children have a clear understanding without burdening them with unnecessary details. Using age-appropriate language and answering their questions honestly can help children feel more secure and better equipped to cope with the changes.

Read: How to Get a Divorce

The Role of Open Communication in Mediation and Collaboration

Open communication is a fundamental aspect of mediation and collaboration. By engaging in honest and respectful conversations about divorce, parents can ensure that they are informing their children in a compassionate manner. This approach helps children understand the reasons behind the divorce and allows them to express their emotions and concerns. By actively listening and validating their experiences, parents can help children process their feelings and navigate the changes ahead with support and understanding.

Addressing Children’s Emotions and Concerns

Divorce can evoke a range of emotions in children, including sadness, anger, and confusion. It is important for parents to create a safe space for their children to express these emotions and address concerns. Collaborative divorce and mediation support parents in this commitment. By reassuring them that their feelings are valid and providing ongoing support, parents can help their children navigate the emotional challenges associated with divorce. Additionally, it makes good sense to involve professionals like therapists or counselors.  They can offer additional resources to help children process their emotions and provide guidance for parents on how to support their children during this time.

Learn More About Telling Your Kids About Divorce

Please get in touch with us at Freed Marcroft for more information about what amicable options like collaborative divorce and mediation are, and how they work.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC