When divorce happens, most parents find it so challenging to talk the issue with their children; and indeed, it is so hard to explain why you are living separately from their mum or dad.
Some parents opt for lying to children about the divorce while others keep it a secret and rebuke a child who dares to ask about the status, holding children in confusion.
Dr Alphonse Sebaganwa, a lecturer and researcher at University of Rwanda’s College of Education and an expert in human behaviour and child’s education, says that parents should avoid lying to children and disparaging their ex-spouse because that may affect children for a life time.
“Children under seven years of age often remain unaware of what happened to their parents and ask many questions to each of the couple about why they are living separately, and indeed the questions are genuine,” says Dr Sebaganwa.
“It is so bad when a parent talks from their anger over their spouse’s deeds and tells a child that their dad or mum was selfish or adulterous or liar or was not providing for the family and more scornful words. The words can make a child hate another parent and develop cruel behaviour.”
The expert says that bad words against their parents make them lose trust in adult people and confidence in themselves, resulting in feelings of loneliness, disrespect adult people and poor school performance and more bad effects.
“When a parent tells a child that their ex partner was aggressive and brutal against them, the child may develop cruelty in order to revenge for the formerly brutalised parent,” says Dr Sebaganwa.
The best way to go about it
A child should be told about their parents’ divorce in a truthful way but the details differ depending on their age. Whatever their age is, never lie to your child but help them meet with another parent as often as possible.
A parent should not wait until a child asks about the divorce, instead should find appropriate time during their usual interaction time and tell children about the divorce.
“Tell the child that you will do everything that the mum or dad was doing for them like taking them to school, on tours, coaching and playing with them. Tell them that their parent living away still loves the child and that you will be visiting them. Promising to stay in touch with another parent will show a child that there is no disastrous situation in the family which keeps some unity and contact,” says Dr Sebaganwa.
Dr Sebaganwa insists on avoiding lies about parents’ divorce because a child will hear a different story from other people and make them lose trust in their parent.