Contrasting opinions on how to discuss divorce with kids

Earlier this month, we wrote a two-part post about how to discuss divorce with your children. No matter what their age, it is not easy for kids to hear that their parents are getting a divorce. And it is even scarier if they have no idea how the divorce will impact their daily lives.

The tips we shared in those posts generally reflect a consensus among mental health professionals and parenting/relationship experts. That being said, other, well-reasoned arguments can be made for taking a different approach to the talk. We’ll discuss one of those arguments today.

In our first post, we wrote that parents should break the news of divorce to their children together, and let them know that it was a mutual decision. This is to prevent kids from blaming one parent and choosing sides.

But in a recent Huffington Post article, author Michele Weiner-Davis says she disagrees with the “unified front” approach unless the decision to divorce actually was mutual. She argues that telling a lie (even for noble reasons) could undermine your credibility and send the wrong message to children.

Weiner-Davis notes that:

  • Children are often smarter and more perceptive than we give them credit for
  • If the decision was not mutual, kids will figure this out eventually by observing their parents
  • If they feel lied to, they may be angry with both parents for a long time

It should be noted that even after making these arguments, Weiner-Davis acknowledges that being honest during “the talk” comes with its own set of dangers and pitfalls. Therefore, she seems to recommend a sort of middle-of-the-road approach where parents discuss the divorce in broad strokes but don’t go into specific detail about either parent’s role in it.

Neither marriage nor parenting is easy, and reasonable people can disagree on the healthiest approach to a given situation. In the end, you may just need to trust your own judgment and hope for the best.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Kids, Your Dad Wants a Divorce,” Michele Weiner-Davis, May 12, 2015

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