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Talking to Your Kids About Divorce

Talking to Your Kids About Divorce

Q: What does it mean when people get divorced?

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Q: The parents of a close friend of my son recently separated and are now facing a judicial divorce (with litigation). My son only asked if I knew that his friend's father was no longer living at home to which I replied "yes." Both my son and his friend are six years old. I also have a 4-year-old girl and would like to discuss the subject of divorce with them in an appropriate manner. Your response in light of their tender age is appreciated.

A: While the "yes" in your reply is a good beginning, it's probably not what your son really wants to know. When hearing of divorce/separation from their friends, the questions that children don't know how to verbalize but need answers to, include:

  • "Will we be next?"

  • "What will happen to the father-child relationship when a father moves out?"
  • "If parents can stop loving each other, can they stop loving their children?"

The primary need is one of reassurance. You need to tell your son that his daddy is not going anywhere, (assuming this is true, if this is not, then it's a whole different answer.) We're okay and our family ― Daddy, me and you kids ― will continue as is.

The primary need is one of reassurance ― that Daddy is not going anywhere.

The secondary need is connected to the sadness and fear experienced for his friend. Some six-year-olds are more sophisticated than others. Keep your answers matter of fact, simple, and to the point.

You can certainly talk about the difference between spousal love and parental love. How the love of a parent is forever and is not dependent on anything else, and how many fathers maintain the close relationship with their child, even after a divorce. It is essential for you to continue to reassure your son that your family's stability is not at risk.

Keep Things Simple

The situation is a little different for your four-year-old daughter. She's not asking but that doesn't mean that she hasn't picked up the tension in the air from her brother. She too needs to know that Daddy is staying right where he is and that everything is okay in our family.

As far as the details of her brother's friend are concerned, the less, the better. Very simple statements are best, such as: His daddy has to go away, but your daddy does not. Everything is okay here. Your brother is sad for his friend.

Talk About God

If you are comfortable with talking with your kids about religion and God, here's a good opportunity. Actually, even if you're not so comfortable, it's a good idea.

Principles could include the following:

  1. God runs the world.
  2. God cares about, and loves each of us individually (your son's friend as well) and will take care of him and us. Try to trust Him.
  3. Painful events can happen in life and this does not negate the two previous principles.

Close any discussion on the subject of divorce by reminding your children that you and your husband will love them for always.

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Liba, January 25, 2017 6:05 AM

Its important not to risk losing your child's trust. It would be better to say that it doesn't look like it will happen to our family as opposed to it won't. One cannot predict his future and you do not want to accidentally betray a child. Also I wouldn't talk about spousal love at all. Just say in some cases the father has live somewhere else. It can make us sad. But no matter how far away a father or mother is, they always love their children. You can add a big smile and say "just like I love you always and forever no matter what." then I would talk about how your son and family can do chessed for his friend and make him feel good even though he is going through a hard time.

(8) Anonymous, March 23, 2013 3:10 PM

Utilisation Specialist

Right now i am going through a divorce process ,it is not easy and more especially for our three children 12,10 & 8.I can assure you this article was a stitch in time as far as my divorce is concerned,i wish my ex would have a chance to access the same.I was almost making a blunder but after reading this article ;i am relieved ,God bless you it works.

(7) anonymous, December 1, 2007 6:08 PM

Thank You

I just read this article. I am currentyly going through a divorce and I am trying to figure a way to explain this to my kids. The thing is that I don't have time because I deploy to Iraq in less than a week if anything else this article has helped me to able to talk to my kids. As coming from a divorced family I know it was not easy for me. I want to make it easy for my kids to know that I will always be there and love them no matter what...

(6) Anonymous, April 29, 2003 12:00 AM

Thank you for the great advice on your web site. I feel a great deal of guilt as if I'm letting my children down.I really needed some advice about talking to my three boys. Thank you for the helpful information. God Bless.

(5) Anonymous, May 23, 2002 12:00 AM

Thank you

Thank you for your brief and caring approach with telling small children about a friends divorce. We are in need of discussing this issue with our children. Your guidelines will make the task a little easier to explain.

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