What conversations should you be having with your kids about your separation?

Talking to teenagers about divorce

Kids know stuff.  Sometimes they know more stuff than we realise.  They listen, they watch, they are sponges.

When a family separates, the kids are involved whether they like it or not.  But how much involvement is too much?  And where do you draw the line between explaining what is going on and oversharing.

It’s important to understand that some conversations should be left out.  What do I mean?  Well, imagine your 14 year old teenage daughter coming to you and asking, “Why are you and Dad in Court?”  And imagine that same daughter also asking, “Does this mean that I going to have to speak to a judge?”  There is often a part of us that wants to blame the other parent for being in Court.  It might be that it actually is the other parent’s fault because they commenced proceedings!  But does it really help you kids to know that?  Is that kind of information going to make the separation journey any easier for them?  Probably not.

What information should I be sharing with my kids?

We as parents are hard-wired to reach out and make everything okay for our kids.  But sometimes, if we are struggling with our own emotions, we can find ourselves responding to our kids in inappropriate ways.  Also, and perhaps even more concerning for us, is that we may not actually have the answers for our kids.

Having worked as a family lawyer for many years, I have encountered lots of mums and dads who are deeply concerned about what they should and shouldn’t be sharing with their kids about their separation.  That kind of worry has the capacity to keep you up at night and trust me, you need your sleep more than ever right now.

What about Court?

If you have found yourself in the depths of a separation and you are in Court, take some time to find out how this might impact your kids.  Do some research. Talk to your family lawyer and ask questions.  Don’t be shy to ask for help and advice in how you should be updating your kids at each stage of your separation and how you should be talking  to them about the future.

If you are in Court, a way to help your kids, especially teenagers, to feel included and to feel like they have some control over their future, is to give them just enough facts about what is happening to empower them.  Your teenager will likely know when your next Court date is because they have either heard you talking about it with someone else, seen some information that you may have left on the kitchen table or been told about it by their other parent.  Rather than telling your teenager that they don’t need to know about it, perhaps you could share with them some of these facts:

  • The date and time of the next Court event and how that is going to impact them. Who will be dropping them to school that day?  When will you be home?;

 

  • Talk about who will be attending Court and take the opportunity to confirm that they do not attend with you (there of course may be other situations where your kids are required to attend Court to, for example, meet with a family consultant, but that is an article for another day); and

 

  • Talk about what the Court room looks like, what the Judge’s name is and who your lawyer is. And if you don’t know that information, get it!

What now?

Keep in mind that you and your ex have a choice to separate with dignity and support your kids by giving them the information they need, when they need it, and nothing more.  There are so many conversations that you could have with your kids, whether deliberately or fuelled by emotions, that just don’t need to be had. These interactions can have a far-reaching impact and not in a positive way.

 

Find your confidence to support your kids during separation by learning about what conversations you should be having and what conversations should be left out.  Use resources around you including your family lawyer to understand how the family court system works and to also understand how your kids might be involved in the process.

 

Also read “Are you coping with your children living between two households?”


If you have any questions about how you should be tackling those difficult conversations with your kids, get in touch with O’Loan Family Law, North Sydney Lawyers, on 02 9922 2230 or info@oloanfamilylaw.com.au.

This post is an overview only and should not be considered as legal advice.  If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.