Partners & Parents

Talking to Your Toddler About Divorce

17 November, 2018 | DD Staff
  • Talking to Your Toddler About Divorce

Divorce is a challenging, emotionally-charged time for everyone in the family. 

It’s an especially challenging time for toddlers as they are still heavily dependent on their parents. They find it difficult to understand the situation and process the many emotions and feelings of loss that they go through.

Even though they are at an age when it is difficult for them to comprehend the complexity of divorce, it is important to explain what is going on in a simple way, be there for them and prepare for any signs of distress.

Daddy's Digest has put together a few pointers to help fathers approach the subject of divorce with their toddlers (age 1 to 3).

Here's what you need to know.

1. Pick a time when your toddler has no other interruptions or distractions. Make sure your child is not alone after the talk. There should be enough time afterwards to just be present for them, offer reassurance and plenty of affection.

2. Explain the situation to them in simple and clear terms. Avoid detailed reasoning and stick to short sentences.

3. Help them understand the consequences by telling them who is moving out, whose care they will be under and how often they will get to see the other parent.

4. Make sure to tell them that things are not going well between you and your spouse and that they are in no way responsible for the separation. Reassure them that they are not at fault.

5. Expect and plan for multiple, short conversations and be ready to answer any questions that they have.

6. Have regular conversations to explain the situation at multiple times. Spending time with them and repeating this will help your toddler process and learn about what is going on. 

7. Avoid arguing with your spouse in front of them. Avoid saying anything negative about your spouse to your child.

8. Make the transition easy on them by sticking to a consistent and familiar daily routine.

9. They will go through many emotions, feelings of loss and abandonment. Watch out for signs of distress like crying, thumb sucking and clinginess. Prepare to provide extra comfort and affection during these times.

Our guide outlines the facts based on research from several online and offline resources. If you are in doubt or worried about your child for any reason, consult with a qualified and certified mental health professional or medical doctor.

Reviewed by: Jason Eric Ross, PhD, LMHC

Date reviewed: 29th December, 2018

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