One of the most common pieces of advice for parents who are telling their children about an upcoming divorce is that they should make sure that they stress to their children that the divorce is not their fault. In fact, that’s a message they may need to tell their children repeatedly.
In one sense, parents can take this advice without digging into it too much. They want what is best for the children. If having that conversation helps, then they should have it. However, to really know why this conversation is needed, they may want to ask themselves why children even think that they would ever be responsible for their parents’ divorce in the first place.
In some cases, especially with very young children who have not yet learned how to think from anyone else’s perspective, the issue is that they think they cause nearly everything in their world. Essentially, in their young minds, the entire world revolves around them. This can lead to selfish behavior — which is what parents often see — but it can also lead to a self-blaming attitude. Children may just naturally assume everything bad that happens is their own fault — even when there is no evidence to support that idea.
In other cases, children just misinterpret the evidence. Maybe a young boy has an argument with his father. The next day, his father and mother tell him they’re getting divorced. He had nothing to do with their decision and his father hasn’t thought about the minor argument since it happened, but it’s still the biggest event in the boy’s life. He’s sure Dad leaving and the divorce is the result of that argument.
Don’t expect your children to think logically about divorce. Instead, take the time to find out what you can do to help them with the divorce as much as possible. You can best do this through an effective parenting plan and a custody and visitation schedule that best supports their needs.