One of the most daunting aspects of a marriage ending is explaining divorce to children. You’re barely holding it together and now you have to worry about explaining it to the kids too. The last thing you want is to scar them for life by saying the wrong thing ( I really doubt that will happen by the way!). What do you say to a confused and hurt child when you don’t even know what to tell yourself? Well look no further because your sister in Islam has got your back! I’ve compiled a list of how to tell your kids a divorce is happening in a few easy steps!
Plan the talk and handle it together
Sitting down as a family is the optimal way when explaining divorce to children. When children see both parents able to come together to talk even about divorce, they are reassured. They can see their parents are still united and can be reassured at the same time that they are loved. Think of the questions your child may have before hand and plan how to answer them.
Of course, having two parents there may not always be possible. If you feel unable to handle the situation alone then try to get another family involves to help in sha Allah.
Keep it to the point
Stick to the facts and keep it simple when explaining divorce to children. The kids don’t need to know the in’s and it’s of what happened. Remember, you want to help them maintain their relationship with their father not ruin it, despite what you may think of him. This is a father’s right. Reinforce that even though the two of you can’t be together, you both still love the kids. Maintain your calm and don’t show any bitterness or anger.
Your children still love their father and that’s a good thing. Blaming him hurts them. They will feel conflicted as to who they should side with. You want to make the transition as painless as possible for them. This is about them right now, not you. Enforce that it’s not the child’s fault in any way and focus on the change when explaining divorce to children. If your child asks why you are both getting divorced you can use a similar analogy to the one I used in the children’s book I wrote explaining divorce to children: Ramadan Without Daddy (click here to download page).
Consider their age
A younger child will need less of an explanation than an older child. But even with an older child you want to keep it simple and keep blame out of it. They may be able to handle more of the truth.
No matter what a child feels, emotions are never wrong especially in this situation. It’s how we act upon them that can be wrong. Empathise with your child to let them know they have a safe place to talk about their emotions and that you understand what they are feeling. You could even say you also feel sad but sometimes sad things do happen. You won’t damage your child if you acknowledge you are sad too. Children are resilient. This could bring you closer together. Also, let them know that any questions are welcomed.
Focus on the positives
When explaining divorce to children reinforce that your child is loved and valued. And focus on what will stay the same such as them living in the same house and going to the same school etc.
Use examples from the Qur’an
Explain how some of the prophets were raised without fathers in their lives and tell them their stories. A good example is Isa (as) who didn’t have a father and yet became one of the best men who ever lived. This is an excellent opportunity to teach them about Islam. You can even simplify it for younger children. For those children that have their fathers in their lives you can remind them of how lucky they are.
Give them a countdown
If you can, give children a countdown leading up to when you or their dad will be moving to a new home. Kids need around 2 weeks to process and digest this information. Also explain how things will work logistically and how their father will be involved in the life.
Break conversation down into small chunks
A long conversation can drag on when young children are involved. It may therefore be easier to break down the conversation into 10 minute instalments. These will be more effective. This conversation will be one that keeps happening so you’ll have plenty of time to talk.
Explain how different families exist
Once again, explaining divorce to children is a good opportunity to have a conversation about how there are other families out there. Even though they are different they are all equally special. These differences should be celebrated.
Divorce isn’t an easy topic to broach with children but it doesn’t have to be a rough ride. If you empathise, reassure and remind them that they are loved then it will go more smoothly.
Ramadan Without Daddy is the first Muslim children’s story looking at the topic of divorce from a child’s perspective. It is available to purchase via Amazon. You can download the colouring pages and page explaining divorce here.