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What Do You Need to Know Before Sharing the News of Divorce with Your Children?

crack in the field

crack in the field

What is the Prevalence of Divorce in Canada?

Divorce and separation have become increasingly common phenomena in Canadian society, reflecting changes in social norms, values, and legal frameworks regarding marriage and family life. These changes have profound implications not just for the individuals directly involved but also for their children, whose experiences and perceptions of family dynamics are crucially shaped by these events. As we delve into the complex terrain of mental health issues among children of divorce, understanding the prevalence and context of divorce and separation in Canadian families is a vital starting point.

Statistics Canada’s recent findings highlight that the landscape of Canadian families is continuously evolving, with divorce and separation rates presenting a significant aspect of this transformation. While the exact rate fluctuates over time, it’s estimated that about 38% of Canadian marriages end in divorce before the 30th anniversary. This statistic underscores the reality that a considerable number of children are experiencing the breakup of their parents’ marriage at some point during their upbringing.

The implications of these figures are far-reaching, signaling not just changes in the institution of marriage but also shifts in the familial environment in which children grow and develop. The prevalence of divorce and separation has led to a greater focus on the needs and well-being of children who find themselves navigating these challenging waters. This demographic reality has spurred societal, academic, and policy-driven interests in understanding and mitigating the impacts of family dissolution on the youngest members of society.

From a developmental standpoint, children’s perceptions of divorce and separation are deeply influenced by their cognitive, emotional, and social developmental stages. Young children, for example, may not fully grasp the complexities of their parents’ relationship but can experience a profound sense of loss, confusion, and insecurity. These feelings often stem from disruptions in their daily routines and the emotional turmoil they witness in their family environment.

As children grow older, their understanding of divorce becomes more nuanced, but the emotional ramifications can be equally challenging. Adolescents may experience heightened feelings of anger, betrayal, or guilt, as they are more capable of grasping the reasons behind the separation but may struggle with conflicting loyalties and concerns about their own future relationships.

Are You Getting A Divorce?

Navigating the delicate process of sharing the news of separation with children requires sensitivity, honesty, and a thoughtful approach that is attuned to their emotional and developmental needs. Here’s how parents can approach this difficult conversation and support their children through the transition:

What is The Best Way of Sharing the News with Children?

– Plan Ahead: Decide on the timing and setting. It’s best to choose a moment when the children are not rushed or likely to be distracted. A calm, private setting where they feel safe is ideal.

– Present a United Front: If possible, both parents should be present to explain the situation. This helps convey that, despite the changes, parental support and love will continue.

– Keep it Simple and Clear: Use age-appropriate language to explain the situation. Emphasize that the separation is a decision between adults and is not the child’s fault.

– Reassure Them: Assure them of the unchanging love both parents have for them and that their needs will continue to be a priority.

How Can Parents Share the News with Teenagers?

– Acknowledge Their Maturity: Teenagers can understand complex emotions and situations, so it’s important to be more detailed while still avoiding blaming or negative comments about the other parent.

– Encourage Questions: Let them express their feelings and thoughts, and be ready to answer their questions honestly, while keeping the discussion appropriate and avoiding oversharing adult issues.

– Offer Reassurance: Stress that their relationship with both parents will continue and that they will be kept informed about future changes.

SiblingsWhat are Normal Reactions to the News of Divorce?

Normal reactions can vary widely but often include:

– Sadness and Tears: An emotional release upon hearing the news.

– Anger: Feelings of anger towards the situation or parents.

– Confusion: Questions about what will change in their lives.

– Worry: Concerns about practical matters like living arrangements or school.

– Withdrawal: Some children might withdraw and need time to process the information. You may notice they go back to play their video game or play with their Legos and avoid having further discussion.

What are the Concerning Reactions to the News of Divorce?

– Extended Periods of Depression or Anxiety: Persistent sadness, withdrawal, or significant changes in eating or sleeping patterns.

– Behavioral Problems: Significant changes in behavior at home or school, including aggression.

– Self-Harm or Talk of Suicide: Any signs of self-harm or suicidal ideation require immediate attention.

How Can Parents Help Children Process the News?

– Open Communication: Keep the lines of communication open, allowing children to come back with questions or to discuss their feelings whenever they need to.

– Stability and Routine: Maintain routines as much as possible to provide a sense of stability.

– Support Their Emotions: Acknowledge their feelings and validate their right to feel upset or confused.

– Professional Support: Consider seeking support from a psychotherapist or counselor experienced in family dynamics and children’s issues.

When Should Parents Seek Therapy for their Children After a Divorce?

Every parent knows their child best. If you have seen any major and consistent changes in your child or have noticed that your child “is not being themselves”, discuss the possibility of talking to a psychotherapist. Parents can seek psychotherapy for their children when they notice:

– Concerning Reactions Persist: If the child’s reaction intensifies or does not improve over time.

– Significant Impact on Daily Life: When the child’s ability to function in daily activities is significantly affected.

– Request for Help: If the child or teenager expresses a desire to talk to someone outside the family, like a therapist or counselor.

Art therapy is often used for children after a divorce as it allows them to express their emotions and thoughts in a non-verbal yet therapeutic way. Psychotherapy is often used for teenagers after a divorce as it allows them to process their emotions and thoughts in a non-judgemental space while exploring how the new life situation is impacting their mind, personal interactions, and perceptions.

In essence, navigating a family’s transition through separation or divorce involves a delicate balance of openness, support, and attentiveness to the children’s emotional and psychological needs. Recognizing the signs of distress and seeking professional help when necessary are crucial steps in fostering resilience and healing.

To book an appointment with one of our art therapists or psychotherapists, email us at


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