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Section 1
Divorce Effects on Children’s Behavior

CEU Question 1 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Introduction | Couples
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Do you have a couple who is preparing to divorce?  Do they struggle with how to tell their children about it?  How have you responded to their questions in the past?talking to child Divorce Helping Children psychology continuing education 

On this track, we will discuss Telling the Children About Divorce. This will include telling together, headlining, the "now", and why. As you listen, think of your clients going through divorce and their children.  How do your techniques regarding explaining divorce to children compare with those presented on this track?

Jason, age 35 and Yasmin, age 33... came to me about getting a divorce.  Jason stated, "As you know, we’ve been struggling with our marriage for a long time…I think we were madly in love with the emphasis on the ‘madly’ and not the ‘love’…"  Yasmin added, "I think we both agree that getting married was an impulsive mistake."  Jason stated to me, "Basically…we feel it’s better to have a good divorce instead of a bad marriage…and we’d like to do that not just for us, but for our kids." 

Yasmin asked, "I’m concerned the changes will probably be an emotional crisis for them.  How do we even begin to tell them?"  How would you have answered this question?  I answered, "Especially when your children are involved, you will want to try and rise above your adult differences and act with integrity throughout the divorce process.  You will want to make a concerted effort to minimize the number of risk factors that can increase your children’s mourning."  Jason replied, "Well, that’s no small task!"  I stated, "You’re right, but it could end up being an essential one."  Yasmin asked, "Fine.  How do we start?"

Telling Children About Divorce - 4 Guidelines

Share on Facebook Guideline #1 - Telling Together
Here's how I answered Yasmin's question.  See how it compares with your answer regarding how to get started.  "You can start your efforts by telling your children as soon as the separation or divorce is a reality, preferably before one of you moves.  If possible, both of you can tell the kids at the same time.  This will help the two of you keep your story straight and let your children know that they still have two parents who love them very much.  As difficult as the telling is, this might be thought of as your first caring act as two separate parents who are committed to co-parenting your children."

Share on Facebook Guideline #2 - Headlining
Yasmin stated, "I was thinking of leading into the actual matter by telling the kids about our neighbors, the McKays.  They got a divorce last year, and their children play with ours.  I was thinking of asking, ‘Do you remember when the McKays were fighting a lot, and then they got a divorce and were happier?’"  I stated, "I would suggest leading with the headlines or the facts.  By starting off with a seemingly unrelated story, your children will likely be able to sense the headline coming anyway.  It might be helpful to cut right to the chase.  You can say, ‘Mom and Dad are getting a divorce.’  Remember, very few things you can say beforehand will soften the blow of the headline that you are getting a divorce."  Do you agree?

Share on Facebook Guideline #3 - The "Now"
I stated, "Third, in addition to telling together and headlining the fact that you are getting a divorce, let’s discuss the ‘now’.  I stated, "Clearly this is an emotional time, and you both will probably be feeling overwhelmed by the lifelong ramifications of the divorce.  Kids have the wonderful ability to bring you back to the now.  They will probably be mostly concerned at this point with the immediate effect your divorce will have on them."  Jason stated, "Well, they’ll be better off.  Who wants to live with two arguing parents together, when you can live with two peaceful and hopefully friendly parents who are separated?"  I stated, "After you have given the headline and the facts, it will probably be tempting to rationalize with things like, ‘We’ll all be a lot better off.’  Try not to do that.  Just be present for your children to hold them, cry with them and answer questions they might have.  They might be shocked and unable to do anything but cry, or too shocked even to cry.  They probably won’t be interested in lots of details at first; just let them know that you will be there for them when they have more questions."

Share on Facebook Guideline #4 - Why?
Jason asked, "But what if we have two different ideas about why we’re getting divorced?  How can we keep that fair to the children?"  How would you have answered if your Jason had asked you this question?  Since Jason and Yasmin's children were 8 and 12, I stated, "Your 12-year-old may ask the ‘why?’ of the divorce.  Try to save the gory details and dirty laundry for your adult friends and counselors.  You can be truthful without being hurtful or casting each other in a negative light to your children. 

"If the question is about the other parent, you might agree to a response such as, ‘We have agreed not to answer questions on the other parent’s behalf.  It’s ok to ask your mom or dad about it directly.’  Remember, the two of you are getting a divorce, not the kids.  The kids need to have a meaningful and healthy relationship with both of you."  Yasmin stated, "And we can tell them that despite the things we couldn’t work out in our marriage, we can make a decent co-parenting relationship, right?"  I replied, "Absolutely.  The marriage may have ended, but the family has not." 

Yasmin asked, "What if they don’t ask questions?  Our 8-year-old, Leah, is very quiet, and I’m afraid she’ll just take the situation silently and never express her feelings about it…"  I stated, "You might consider bringing things up when you sense that Leah has an unspoken concern.  Listen carefully for comments that might contain questions she might be afraid to ask.  She might ask you, for example, ‘How could you and Daddy just stop loving each other?’  That could really cover up the feeling, ‘I’m afraid you’ll stop loving me, too.’" 

Jason stated, "Thanks…this is going to be really difficult…but I feel like we have a game plan now.  Is there anything else you would suggest, after we’ve told them?"  I stated, "Only two things.  First don’t be afraid to be repetitive.  What children might have blocked out at the onset of their grief might be better understood at a later time.  Second, whether they ask or not, kids need to hear that they still have a family, both of you love them and that they are not the cause of the divorce."

Do you have a Jason or a Yasmin?  How are they planning to tell their children about getting divorced?  What suggestions have you made to them?  Might playing this track be helpful? 

On this track, we discussed Telling the Children About Divorce.  This included telling together, headlining, the "now" and why?.

On the next track, we will discuss letting children mourn.  This will include the grief of good-bye, reorganizing their lives and sharing sorrow with peace. 

Evidence-Based Counseling Interventions with Chidren of Divorce:
Implications for Elementary School Counselors

- Connolly, M. E. and Green, E. J. Evidence-Based Counseling Interventions with Chidren of Divorce: Implications for Elementary School Counselors.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Boring, J. L., Sandler, I. N., Tein, J.-Y., Horan, J. J., & Vélez, C. E. (2015). Children of divorce–coping with divorce: A randomized control trial of an online prevention program for youth experiencing parental divorce. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(5), 999–1005. 

Pelleboer-Gunnink, H. A., Van der Valk, I. E., Branje, S. J. T., Van Doorn, M. D., & Deković, M. (2015). Effectiveness and moderators of the preventive intervention kids in divorce situations: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(5), 799–805.

Weaver, J. M., & Schofield, T. J. (2015). Mediation and moderation of divorce effects on children’s behavior problems. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(1), 39–48.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 1
What are what are 4 parts to telling the children about divorce? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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