5 factors to consider when telling children about a divorce

The way parents talk to their children about a divorce in Washington is key to ensuring the kids cope with the news well.

Going through a divorce can be an overwhelming and complicated process. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were 24,847 divorces or annulments in the state year 2014. In many of those cases, parents had to break the news of the end of the marriage to their children.

Having that conversation can be difficult, but parents can help children cope with the news by following a few key tips. Here are five factors to take into consideration when talking to children about the end of a marriage:

1. Take it seriously.

According to Psychology Today, a study indicates that children will hang onto the memory of hearing the news of the end of the marriage for a significant period of time. It can remain fresh, and the child can even recall the pain associated with the news. Therefore, it is imperative that parents carefully consider how and where they will have the conversation.

2. Discuss it as a family.

Experts recommend talking to children as a family unit with both parents present if it is possible and safe to do so. This enables children to see their parents together and can reinforce the idea that even though the family dynamic may be changing, the parents' commitment to the children remains strong.

3. Be open but selective.

It is probable that a child will have questions regarding how the divorce came to be. Parents are encouraged to remain open with children, answering questions honestly. However, divulging too much information can be harmful, especially if it involves one party's unfaithfulness. Therefore, parents should keep answers simple. Dismissing a child's questions could lead to further feelings of insecurity and uncertainty.

4. Keep a short time table.

Long divorces can take a toll on everyone involved, especially children. A child may feel uprooted if his or her routine and living circumstances have changed temporarily due to a battle over child custody. It is ideal to tell children about the split and ensure that the divorce proceedings move quickly from there.

5. Do not use children as confidants.

Parents who have older children may feel inclined to discuss details of the divorce. However, this can appear as though one parent is trying to pit a child against the other parent, placing further stress on the child. Parents should refrain from talking poorly about the other with the children and instead focus on ensuring the kids are coping well with the divorce.

If a parent feels that a child may not be adjusting well, he or she can turn to a family doctor or therapist for help. A child who is acting out at school, has a sudden personality change or appears withdrawn may be crying for help. People who have concerns about this issue should consult with a family law attorney in Washington.