Talking sensitively about divorce

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divorce, remarriage

I’ve had some awkward conversations with my eldest daughter just recently. The subject matter, you see, has been divorce and how it has affected her extended family.

Helen has reached an age and a level of comprehension whereby she’s realised there are extended family members she either rarely sees, never sees or has only ever communicated with via Skype. My parents are divorced and both remarried, as have various other family members.

Just to muddy the waters further, there is an international element to my family and this goes some way to explaining why there are relatives we don’t see very often. It’s relatively straightforward on my wife’s side but I have relatives in destinations across the world. This includes siblings from the various remarriages (we’ve never actually been in the same room at the same time, but if it happened, if would be like the United Nations).

I’ve always been open with Helen, but it’s been apparent she’s never fully comprehended the situation, despite my best efforts to explain things to her. Parents of some of her friends have separated and divorced, so she’s understood the general concept. I also noticed that when she started shcool her comprehension of relationships and divorce increased significantly, she just never quite understood how it applied it to her own relatives.

This has clearly changed. The other day Helen asked me a very clear and poignant question about my background. I did my best to answer using age appropriate language.

She hasn’t come back and asked anything further which suggests she understood. Even so, I have to tread very carefully. She’s become quite upset when talking about freinds whose parents have separated. It’s a subject she finds distressing. It’s also a subject that can’t be avoided but I don’t want to cause any uncessary stress.

So tell me, how do you handle this subject? Have you had to discuss divorce with your children, especially young ones? Let me know, I feel like I need all the help I can get.

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10 thoughts on “Talking sensitively about divorce”

  1. This is an interesting topic and one that my girl is also just encountering as her best friend’s parents are divorcing and she can see the impact it’s having on her best friend, which is touch. We also have a strained relationship with one set of grandparents. I think our girls are about the same age, 7(ish)?
    I often try and use comparisons in her own friendship groups, to explain how relationships work & breakdown, and how you can communicate & work with someone without cutting anyone off completely or being bitter. I’ve also emphasised that although parents live in separate houses it doesn’t take away the fact that they still care and love you, and it’s the extension of care which is important.
    But you’re right, it is a toughie.
    Best of luck

    1. Thanks Tracey, I hadn’t actually thought of comparing it to her friendship groups etc. That’s a very good idea and I may adopt this approach.

  2. Fiona @ Free Range Chick

    Heavens, no John. I haven’t considered this topic as we don’t have anybody in the kids’ immediate family who have divorced. My sister-in-law ended her relationship with her boyfriend earlier last year, but my elder son didn’t bat an eyelid. They are now back together, and it is like her boyfriend was never away. Having said that, if it were to happen now, questions may be asked. I can’t even remember when I became aware of the idea of divorce end the end of relationships. God forbid it happens to Ian and I…

    1. Strictly speaking htere isn’t anyone in the immediate family circle has divorced (or certainly not in a way that afeects my daughters directly). It’s simply that Helen is peicing it together and figured out she doesn’t get to see some relaitves and that’s been enough to stoke her curiosity. Goodness knows how I’m goign to explain why her aunts and uncles don’t all speak with British accents. She hasn’t quite clocked on to that one yet, but it’ll happen I’m sure.

  3. This is a really hard one. Z is only four and he’s clicked onto the fact that my family and husbands family don’t meet each other. It’s pretty complicated and so best they stay apart. So far distraction has worked really well but I know that won’t always be the case. I basically have no advice whatsoever but good luck. I do sympathise and have no real clue how to handle it when it comes knocking on my door eventually.

    1. Very tricky isn’t it? Best of luck when the time comes. As I said in my post, it all changed when Helen started school so brace yourself, that may be the time it becomes an issue.

  4. Tricky topic I’m sure. Must be great to see your children think for themselves and contemplate different things though. I’ve, surprisingly, not had to deal with this yet with my 6 month old daughter so afraid I have no advice buddy 🙂

  5. I divorced from my husband two years ago and telling my children was the hardest thing I have had to do in my life. Ever. But in fact, my kids have been wonderfully resilient about the whole thing, and are very happy in our new life.

    It’s so important to be honest with children – or as honest as you can be. To say that adults sometimes fall out of love with each other; that it is NOT the child’s fault, at all; that parents always, always love their children, no matter what; but that when adults don’t love each other any more, sometimes they have to separate, and make two happy homes, rather than one unhappy one.

    Hope this helps. My blog is ALL about divorce – come and take a look if you fancy!

    1. I cannot image what that discussion with your children must have been like. Very hard indeed. I will indeed pop over to your blog.

  6. Really interesting, none of my friends are divorced so it hasn’t come up but it’s a subject we will need to broach at some point and it’s worth considering how best to do that. I’m always open with my kids, Oliver knows women can marry women, men can marry men and I’d handle this the same way, openly with tact-‘some parents decide they are happy apart’-Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts x

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