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How to Tell the Kids About Custody

Divorce is an extremely difficult issue for families to face and deal with effectively. Although it may not be the most pleasant conversation, just as it was important to speak with your children concerning the impending divorce between you and your co-parent, it is just as important for you and your co-parent to sit down and have a discussion with your children concerning your custody arrangement. Custody involves all of you, but your child will be most affected as he or she will be the one who must adjust to living in two different households. A lot of what you say and how you say it depends on the age and maturity of your child as well as the current state of your relationship with your spouse. However, below are a few tips on how to approach the conversation with your children concerning your family’s new child custody and visitation arrangements.

  1. Make sure your child knows that both parents love and enjoy spending time with him or her. It is essential that your child knows that you and your co-parent will always be there to provide love and support no matter what.
  2. Explain the visitation schedule to your child. Your child needs to know that he or she will be spending time with both parents, despite the divorce. This explanation will also inform the child exactly when he or she will be seeing both parents. Children need certainty and explaining exactly how visitation will work will reassure him or her. Additionally, remember that the more information children have about the changes they will soon encounter, the better they will be able to adapt to them.
  3. Let your child know that he or she is welcome in both of your homes. It may also help to place your child’s personal items in each home to help ensure that your child feels comfortable and welcome in your home as well as the home of your co-parent.
  4. Make sure your child understands that he or she may speak with either parent at any time. Although visitation may only occur at set intervals, reassure your child that he or she will always be able contact either parent should he or she desire to do so.
  5. After informing your child of the custody arrangement, listen to his or her concerns and answer any questions. This arrangement will be new for your child just as it is new for you. Expect many questions and try to be as honest and forthcoming with your child as possible.
  6. Refrain from arguing with your co-parent concerning custody in front of your child. If you and your co-parent work together and operate as a united front, your child will be at ease and will be better able to cope with the new changes.
  7. Consider Counseling.  Finally, if necessary, you should consider individual or family counseling if emotions are overwhelming or if there are concerns about the child moving forward in a healthy way. Support groups, family and pediatric counselors, or religious leaders may be able to offer the needed support.