Family

How much to tell children about your divorce

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Divorcing parents should tailor communication about their separation according to the age and maturity of their children, says Toronto family lawyer Usman Sadiq.

Sadiq, founder and principal owner of Sadiq Law Professional Corporation, says no two children are the same, and parents are in the best position to understand the individual needs and preferences of their offspring.

“It really all depends on the age and maturity of your children,” he says, noting that some may be too young to understand what a separation entails.

“How much a two-year-old is aware of what is going on will differ from what a 14-year-old knows, and what you tell them is going to differ too,” Sadiq tells AdvocateDaily.com. “It all comes down to a personal level.”

For parents of younger children, that may mean waiting until they are older to broach the topic in any detail, Sadiq says. Those with teenagers, meanwhile, may consider offering them the opportunity to speak with a counsellor to help them adjust to the family’s new status quo, he adds.

Although he acknowledges it may not always be possible, Sadiq says a joint conversation between the parents and their children is preferable.

“If they can see their mom and dad sitting down together and talking about the future of the family in a calm way, it’s definitely better for them,” he says.

Whatever the nature of a family’s circumstances, Sadiq has a firm stance on the involvement of children when court proceedings are required to settle a dispute between the parents.

“That’s a big no-no,” he says. “Whatever their age, children shouldn’t be dragged into their parents’ conflict, because it’s not good for anyone’s mental health.

“It’s a standard rule I tell my clients — they should not be sharing information with their children about what is happening in court,” Sadiq adds.

In fact, he says parents should resist the temptation to bad-mouth their ex in front of their children, whether or not it’s connected to what’s happening in court.

“At the end of the day, that person will always be their parent, and there’s no good that can come out of that kind of negativity,” Sadiq says. “We don’t want children to suffer mentally as the result of a separation when what they need is to feel protected and reassured.”

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