When a toddler is pondering the moon and the stars, the endless stream of "Why's" is cute and joy-filled. A little one who is struggling to understand divorce? Not so much.
For kids and parents alike, the confusion is sad and frustrating.
In this second installment of our exclusive firstwivesworld series, Your Child is Not a Statistic, you will learn how to tell young children about your divorce. It's not easy. As you have no doubt noticed, everyday your preschooler seems to make huge strides in development — physically, emotionally and intellectually.
Your youngster's imagination knows no bounds. In his mind, a stick is as valuable as a $20 bill, an empty cardboard box as delightful as the shiny toy it once housed. At this stage, a little kid's mission is to feel independent; she is just beginning to establish a clear sense of herself.
You will see some signs of empathy, but up until age five or so young kids are largely self-centered — consumed with their own needs and wants. It's a perfectly normal stage. Ever try to scold a four-year-old for behaving as though the world revolves around him? In his young mind, it truly does.
That's why when parents break up, preschoolers actually believe they are the force behind it. You must make sure your preschooler understands:
- The divorce is not their fault.
- She will always be safe.
- It's okay to feel sad.
- He can love and maintain contact with both his parents.
- You will always be there for him.
Misplaced guilt, denial, fear — all common feelings for young children who experience divorce — can be minimized through an explanation of your divorce that is honest, direct and pint-sized.
Here's how you can begin talking to your preschooler about your breakup:
What is divorce?
"Divorce is a grown-up thing that mommies and daddies do when they make each other very sad when they are together. The changes that happen can be upsetting for children. But we're always here and we love you. That will never change."
Why did it happen?
"Mommies and daddies make big mistakes sometimes and hurt each other. We're very sorry that this happened and that it is hurting you. But this is all mommy and daddy's fault."
When will the divorce be over?
"Mommy and Daddy will always live in different places, but we will always love you and care for you."
Will we still be a family?
"Yes. Even though Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce, you will always be part of us. We both still love you and always will."
Next week: Learn how to discuss the divorce with your six- to eight-year-old child.
Reprinted from Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way with permission by Random House Publishing
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