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Protecting Your Children: The Importance of Communication in Times of Parent Separation

People often get so caught up in the stress and details of the events that caused them to separate from their spouse or partner that they forget to keep the children informed about what is happening. Perhaps they want to spare the kids the unpleasant information, but children will likely imagine the worst when their parents keep the truth from them.

The challenge is to strike a healthy balance between creating anxiety by failing to communicate with your kids and telling them too much information. A North Carolina family law attorney can provide guidance for you about protecting your children and the importance of communication in times of parent separation. 

Presenting a United Front as Parents

You are divorcing each other, but not the children. In other words, although you will no longer be spouses, you will still be parents. The children could benefit from having both parents tell the kids about the divorce together. Agree ahead of time not to bad-mouth each other.

If you want your children to get through this turmoil in their lives without psychological damage, you will have to set your own emotions aside and put the kids first. Assure them that you will both continue to be active and involved in their lives, and that they will not be “losing” one of their parents.

Do Not Put the Kids in the Middle

A parent should never use the children to deliver notes, verbal messages, child support checks, or anything else related to the divorce to the other parent. Doing so puts the kids in the middle. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to have to be the messenger between your parents in this situation?

Children Often Blame Themselves

It is natural for kids to think that you are splitting up because the children did something wrong or were too much trouble for one or both of the parents. Even if they never admit to this worry, you should sit down and tell the kids directly that the divorce is not their fault. You will probably be surprised at how relieved your kids look after you tell them this fact.

Communication Should Be Civil and Age-Appropriate

You should never lie to your children, like making patently false accusations about the other parent. You should, however, consider your child’s emotional maturity when deciding how much information to share with them. There are ways to “water down” the truth and still be honest. 

For example, rather than telling an eight-year-old that your spouse had affairs, you might explain that you are both happier living apart and that you will answer more questions when they are older. Often, the extended families drop enough hints that the child finds out sooner or later. After that happens, you might try to gently address your child’s concerns. 

If the parent who had affairs moved out of the marital home, the child might worry that you will also love out if your get involved with someone, leaving the child alone. The child needs assurances upfront that you will never leave them, and that they will always have a home with you. These few paragraphs barely scratch the surface of the topics you should address with your children when separating from their other parent. You can talk with a North Carolina family law attorney about how to best meet your child’s emotional needs. For legal help contact our office today, we gladly offer a free consultation.