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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


Related Articles:

Divorce Through A Child's Eyes

Real-Life, Must-Do Tips to Help Your Kids Cope with Divorce

Click the following for more articles and resource videos on Kids & Family and Divorce.

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  • Comment Link Susan Bloomfield Friday, 16 May 2014 11:56 posted by Susan Bloomfield

    How do you tell a 3 year old about divorce when before any legal agreement has been reached and parents both still in the same house (seperate bedrooms) but the mother has rented an apartment and is taking the girls - one is almost 4 and the other is 2 1/2 - to the new apartment which now has 'Princess' beds in it, according to the 3 year old who has given this information voluntarily. The child also divulged that the mothers 'friend' was there.
    It is known that the mother has a boyfriend and takes the children out to meet up with him. the mother cannot sit and talk to the father for more than a minute or two without lambasting him, whether the children are present or not. The father does not know if the mother has told the girls anything, or what.
    It will be best if he can talk to them about it simply and quietly. He adores his children, has been their 'rock' from birth and wants only the best for them.
    Thank you very much.

  • Comment Link Guest Wednesday, 04 May 2011 02:54 posted by Guest

    It is estimated that upwards: It is estimated that upwards of 95% of divorces in the U.S. are "uncontested," because the two parties are able to come to an agreement (either with or without lawyers/mediators/collaborative counsel) about the property, children, and support issues. When the parties can agree and present the court with a fair and equitable agreement, approval of the divorce is almost guaranteed. If the two parties cannot come to an agreement, they may ask the court to decide how to split property and deal with the custody of their children. Though this may be necessary, the courts would prefer parties come to an agreement prior to entering court.

  • Comment Link Guest Sunday, 08 March 2009 23:03 posted by Guest

    I totally agree with you. One: I totally agree with you. One of the hardest part of a divorce when children are involved is trying to explain the entire process to them. I would like to add also that you should never explain to your children especially young children that you are divorcing because your spouse cheated on you or was abusive. This can lead to problems between the parent and child, as well as could even cause problems in your own relationship with the child. While it may seem dishonest to not tell your child all of the details, it is not. You are simply avoiding telling the children all of the details. There is no reason for your child to know all of the details.

    Also reassure your child that you really do love them, and so does the other parent but that you and the other parent have some grown up problems. Reassure them that they should not choose between parents, and that both parents will still be there for them. This will help your child to try to still be comfortable with both parents. Another important issue is to assure your child that you both love them and will ensure that they are taken care of. Make sure they realize that they will still be able to see both parents as well.