Divorce explained to children aged three to ten - Marcia Mediation

This Friday Marcia joins a panel of experts to answer your questions about divorce during a special event this Financial Planning Week....

Day One of Family Mediation Week, focuses on the panic of families getting caught up in the storm answering any questions they may have. The main focus of this early stage for you is probably explaining your divorce to your children and ensuring they are cared for so we have put together a short guide on this.

Although you may think your children are too young to fully comprehend your separation, after years of child-inclusive mediation, we have found that children often understand the situation a lot better than parents expect. At Marcia Mediation we also are of the opinion that children are never too young to receive an explanation of their situation and have devised a guide on how to explain separation to young children.


Don’t include too many details –

Most young children will not understand the concept of divorce even if they know the word. For children aged three to four it is works well to explain that ‘although Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to live together anymore we still love you very much’. This will remind the child that they are still loved by both of you, while touching on the separation very gently. Older children of this age range (five to six) may realise that lawyers and court systems are involved, for them you can touch on some other brief details such as why you are divorcing, but nothing too explicit. For example you could say ‘Mummy and Daddy aren’t going to live together anymore because we have been arguing, but we both still love you very much and we are still going to be your parents forever’. This helps the child understand that the separation is not their fault and they could not have done anything to prevent it.


Emphasize that it is not their fault –

After you have provided them with a few basic details, it is important to explain that it is not their fault and they can’t do anything to fix the situation. This prevents children blaming themselves in the future which is very important for the child’s wellbeing.


Explain their living situation –

At this age children often believe that the world revolves around them, therefore their first questions are often about their living situation. To prevent any worry or confusion explain their living situation to them during your divorce discussion, explaining when and how often they will see their parent who is no living with them.


What to watch for –

Signs of distress in young children include fear, anger or emotional instability which are often expressed through clinginess, anxiety, whininess or irritability. The best way to combat these feelings are with love and consistency to give children a sense of stability and reassurance. Stick to routines for visiting very strictly when possible and stick to similar bedtime and mealtime routines in both homes, this will prevent confusion.


Consider mediation –

Child inclusive mediation is an inclusive process that involves children and ensures their voices are heard. Mediators can meet with children one-on-one to understand their perspective on the situation, especially hearing their preferences in living situations. If you would like to find out more about child-inclusive mediation, click here.


About Marcia

A pioneer for mediation since commencing legal practice as a family solicitor some seventeen years ago Marcia has worked exclusively as an independent mediator since 2004, focussing initially on family mediation, and latterly on workplace mediation. Marcia’s accreditations include Family Mediation and she is a qualified child consultant practitioner. Her associations include the Professional Mediators Association and Resolution. Marcia is also a Resolution qualified Professional Practice Consultant (PPC). If you would like to resolve your separation issues through mediation please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be more than happy to help you.