For parents going through a divorce, how to communicate changes to their children is often a top priority. It is important for parents to realize though that how one will talk to a teen or older child is different from how these same changes will be told to a toddler.
Natasha Daniels is a child therapist who often works with kids whose parents are going through a divorce. In a recent article titled, “5 Steps to Cover When Going Through a Divorce With a Toddler,” she provides advice on age-appropriate communication and expectation setting.
One of the biggest things with toddlers is to explain what is happening in a way they can understand. Toddlers do not know what divorce is. The easiest approach will be telling them that sometimes parents break up and each has their own permanent home. For the child, this means they now have two homes, one with each parent.
Children of all ages also thrive when they know what is going on in terms of their own lives and where they will be. With toddlers, Daniels suggests telling them each night the plan for the next day. When being dropped off at preschool, also reinforce this message by saying which parent is doing pickup and where he or she will be going after school.
In talking about divorce, it is also important for toddlers to understand that while parents can break up and move into separate houses, that no one is going to “divorce” them and that each parent still loves them very much. Kids need to know that their parents will not leave them.
Talking about divorce with toddlers can be tough, especially for parents who are already emotionally going through a tough time. The important thing to remember though is that divorce does not need to be negative and that parents can foster a positive approach to the process with their children.