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"Anonymous" writes:

It's important to me that I respect my son enough to not pull the typical "You'll understand when you're older" on the topic of my divorce. At the same time, he's not stupid. He knows we split up for a reason and he has a right to know about those reasons. Any tips for explaining the reasons for the split honestly without trashing his dad?

Dr. Scott Haltzman responds:

The answer to your question depends, in part, on how old your son is and, in part, on what you mean by "the reasons." If your son is not yet school age, then the simpler the explanation the better. As a child ages, he can understand more of the world. As a teen, he begins to understand more about relationships, and more about his own role as a man in society. If that's the case, he deserves a more complete picture of the cause for the divorce.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say your son has a "right to know." There are many things that your children have a right to know that you can choose not tell them — how much money you have in the bank is one example. As a parent, it's your decision whether or not you share information. If the reason you split is because your ex is involved in something that is public knowledge (arraigned on embezzlement charges, in prison for domestic violence, living with another woman, got a sex change operation, and the like) then your son is sure to find out, and, if his dad doesn't tell him, then you might have to. But if your husband's problems are more private, then your son doesn't need to learn the details from you.

You may wish to shout out to the world all the bad things that your ex-husband has done, but to your son, a simple "Your father and I had a lot of private issues that affected our relationship. We tried to sort them out, but we weren't able to. So we thought it was better to move apart," will do. That reinforces the privacy of the relationship, but also tells your son that the decision wasn't taken lightly. As for the terrible things that your husband did, your son only has to find these things out on a "need to know" basis.

Click the following to return a directory of articles and resource videos on Kids, Family and Divorce.

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2 comments

  • Comment Link Shea Thursday, 18 October 2012 13:52 posted by Shea

    Do they have a "right to: Do they have a "right to know", NO! What children deserve from the adults in their lives is respect. Being truthful with your children no matter the circumstance is the best gift we can give our children. I believe it is disrespectful and dishonest for we adults to sugar coat issues. It does not allow children to use their best judgement and instincts when it comes to relationships as they grow. When a spouse walks out on their family that is a profound statement of rejection to the spouse and the children, the Family! Why stand there and defend such an action and say well the children will figure it out, or dad is just having a bad day but he still "Loves you". We are teaching them to accept anothers bad actions and to become a doormat, yes, even with parents. Our children are depending on us to show the way so I say be as truthful as possible. My ex accused me of bad mouthing him. No, I was speaking the truth and even told the kids what to expect regarding what was going on, and he did not dissapoint. He lied to their faces constantly and then would say he loved them and missed them. I taught them to read between the lines when it came to their father. Then he would accuse the kids of being disrespectful because they would question him when things didn't add up. I refused to be his enaber. We all know respect is a two way street. Why be surprised your children don't trust or respect you when you dump them during visitation, and lie to them. The kids have drawn a line in the sand as to what they will put up with regarding their father and the new wife. They will not bury their heads in the sand and act like nothing happened, act like a new , wonderful, happy family. They love their father very much but they know who of the two of us is their for them. I supose this is a form of tough love for the kids and for the ex. Sorry for the ramble.

  • Comment Link Guest Saturday, 02 July 2011 10:24 posted by Guest

    Since when does a child have: Since when does a child have a "right to know" how much money her parents have in the bank?