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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00002537/00001
 Material Information
Title: Talking to Children About Divorce
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Ferrer, Millie
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2002
 Notes
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: "Publication date: December 2002. First published: June 1999. Reviewed: June 2005."
General Note: "FCS 2133"
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00002537:00001


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1.This document is FCS 2133, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Ext ension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: December 2002. First published: June 1999. Reviewed: June 2005. Please visit the EDIS Web site at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu 2.Written by Millie Ferrer, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Hum an Development, Department of Family, Y outh and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Sara McCrea, Graduate Assist ant, Instructional Design, Department of Instruction and Curriculum, and reviewed by Suzanna D. Smith, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Hu man Development, Department of Family, Youth and Community Scie nces, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of F ood and Agricultural Sciences, Univer sity of Florida, Gainesville, 32611. FCS2133Talking to Children About Divorce1Millie Ferrer and Sara McCrea2One of the hardest things for parents to talk to children about is divorce. All children feel a strong sense of loss when parents separate or divorce. Kids may rebel, misbehave, or become withdrawn when their parents divorce. Children need as much support as possible from their parents and family while they deal with these emotions.Tips for Telling ChildrenWhen and what to tell your children about the divorce will depend a lot on their age. Remember these basic tips: Tell children about the divorce as soon as you have made a decision and are certain about the divorce. Children need to be told before any changes occur. Dont go into great detail about your marital problems with children. Tell children about the changes that will happen (moving to a new house, moving to a new school, or beginning visitation). Parents need to listen to children's questions and concerns. If possible, parents should tell children about the divorce together. Agree ahead of time on an explanation. This is not the time to argue. This is the time to be very supportive of your childrens thoughts and feelings. Tell your children often that they are in no way responsible for the divorce. Children need to know they are not to blame for what is happening. Children cannot understand all the issues involved in a divorce. Be sensitive to their loss and dont expect them to behave like adults.

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Talking to Children About Divorce Page 2 December 2002 Common ReactionsDivorce is hard for all children, but parents can expect certain behaviors based on their childs age. Look over the list of behaviors. Put a check in the box next to the behavior you have observed in your child.Toddler:Cries more. Exhibits baby-like behavior. Is fearful if a parent is out of sight. Acts irritable, withdraws, and throws more tantrums.Preschooler:Expresses a sense of sorrow and loss. Fears abandonment. Blames self. Becomes very angry.Elementary-Age Child:Feels angry and deceived. Feels a strong sense of loss. Fears abandonment Has difficulty sleeping.Preteen/Adolescent:Feels angry and hurt and does not accept the divorce. Feels cheated and unsure about trusting future relationships. Is highly moralistic and critical. Is more rebellious and acts out in uncharacteristic ways. Has different friends. School performance is declining. Guidelines to Help Children CopeThe following are ways parents can relieve some of the stress children feel when experiencing a divorce.Reassure your children you love them. Provide a safe, warm and loving home.Encourage them to share their questions and any feelings they might have about the divorce. Let them spend time with another adult of the opposite sex. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, or trusted friends are good choices. Children need consistency. As much as possible follow your usual family routines. Routines give children a sense of security and may help to ease fears of abandonment. Never speak badly about your former spouse in front of your children. Talk about those feelings only when you are alone with another trusted adult. Avoid using your children as a way of communicating with your former spouse about child support payments, custody issues, or coordinating visits. This can hurt your children.

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Talking to Children About Divorce Page 3 December 2002 Dont depend on your children for support. Join a single parent group or talk to good friends or close family members when you need support and encouragement. You can also seek help from a counselor. Children can become scared if they feel a parent cant take care of him or herself.Lets Talk About Visitation Avoid using visitation as a way to punish the other parent. This will hurt your children as well as your former spouse. Visitation times should be established in advance and only changed when both parents agree. If visitations are to go smoothly, children must feel a sense of ownership in each parents home. To make childrens adjustment to both homes easier, keep the following things in mind: 1)Have children keep personal items in both homes. This will help children feel a sense of belonging in each place. Keep enough at each home so that children dont need to pack a suitcase. This will keep children from feeling that they are visitors in either place. 2)Have open communication with your former spouse. If possible, have the same rules in each home. This consistency will help your children feel that adults are in charge. 3)Treat your former spouse with courtesy and respect. Keep a pleasant tone when she or he comes to pick up the children for visits. Do the same when talking about other issues related to the children. 4)Allow your child to phone the other parent whenever he or she wants. List some other ways you will help make this life change easier for your children. Commit to consistently using them. Time can heal the wounds a divorce brings to a family. For the healing process to work, parents need to be committed to showing respect for one another, using open communication, and having a lot of patience with their children. It often takes approximately two years for children to adjust to their parents divorce. Reference ListBosch, Geraldine & Bushaw, Kim (1995). [Online]. Available: http://www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/yf/famsci/ fs442w.htm Gable, Sara & Cole, Kelly (2002). Helping Children Understand Divorce. University Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia. muextension.missouri.edu/explor/hesguide/ humanrel/gh66600.htm McCoy, Jolene, Ed. (1996). Divorce matters: Talking With Children. [On-line]. Available: http://www.exnet.iastate.edu/Pages/pubs/fa.h tm

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Talking to Children About Divorce Page 4 December 2002McCoy, Jolene, Ed. (1996). Divorce matters: A Childs View. [On-line]. Available: http://www.exnet.iastate.edu/Pages/pubs/ fa.htm McCoy, Jolene, Ed. (1996). Divorce matters: Visitation dos and donts. [On-line]. Available: www.exnet.iastate.edu/Pages/pubs/fa.htm Temke, Mary. (1998) The Effects of Divorce on Children. University of New Hampshire, Cooperative Extension.