How to Talk to Your Kids with Anxiety About Divorce

Photo of the back of a Caucasian's boy head as he stares ahead to the ocean in front of him. Photo represents his sadness and fear over his parent's upcoming divorce prompting his parents to reach out for online anxiety counseling for kids in Illinois or Florida.

Going through a divorce can be one of the most stressful and heartbreaking times in a person’s life. It’s hard enough wrapping your own mind around the event but trying to break the news to your children can be especially difficult.

Many parents struggle to have this conversation because they fear they may not be able to keep their emotions in check. They also wonder if shielding their kids from the resulting pain might be the most loving thing to do.

Though it may seem like avoiding this conversation is a good option, it can actually be quite detrimental to your kids. In the end, it could cause long-lasting behavioral and/or emotional issues. While it will no doubt be difficult and uncomfortable, having an open and honest conversation about your divorce is the best thing to do.

Kids and Teens React Differently When Dealing with Anxiety Around Divorce

No two kids are alike so you can expect your children to react differently to the news that you and your spouse are separating.

Typical reactions to divorce in school-age children:

  • Sadness
  • Crying
  • Anger
  • Yelling
  • Anxiety
  • Asking lots of questions around the reason for the divorce
  • Worry about what will happen to them and where they will live.
  • Desire for reassurance that their parents will be OK – emotionally and financially.

Typical reactions to divorce in teens:

  • Intense anger
  • Sadness
  • No immediate reaction at all
  • Screaming such things as, “You’re ruining my life!” Or, “How can you do this to me?”
  • Anxiety over the living arrangements and how often they will see each parent.

4 Guidelines When Talking to Your Kids and Teens About DivorcePhoto of angry married couple sitting on opposite sides of a park bench turned in opposite directions of one another. Photo could represent their angst over having to tell their kids that they're getting divorced and their need for anxiety counseling in IL for kids and teens with anxiety.

While no words can eliminate the pain your children will experience as a result of divorce, there are some things you can do to make it easier on them. Here are 4 helpful guidelines when talking to your kids/teens about divorce.

Have Both Parents Break the News

This might be difficult for some couples, but ideally, a joint conversation with your children is the best option for a few reasons:

  • They’ll get the same message from both of you instead of a he-said, she-said scenario.
  • It shows them that no matter what, when it comes to parenting, you are both committed and on the same page.
  • It instills a sense of security that though family dynamics are changing, there will still be a family structure that you will all create together.

Be Transparent

You may feel uncomfortable during the conversation and want to be less than honest at times. However, it’s important to be completely transparent while speaking with your kids.

Children have a knack for sniffing out dishonesty in adults. Trying to pull one over on them, even if you believe it’s for their own good, may only cause them to feel angry and resentful. Also, if you don’t give kids truthful answers, they will wind up creating their own answers just to quell the anxiety.

Obviously, there may be age-appropriate guidelines to the discussion, and specific body language may have to be either included or excluded. But at the end of the day, honesty truly is the best policy.

Discuss Upcoming Changes

When children are told their parents are getting divorced, they can’t conceive of what that means in terms of what life will be like in the future. It’s important that you let them know what they can expect when it comes to things like where they will live and how much time they will have with each parent. If you don’t have all of those answers yet, then communicate this to your children and let them know you will share this information as soon as you’ve made decisions.

Don’t Push Your Children for a Reaction

Once the news has been broken, many parents want immediate feedback from their kids. But it’s important to remember that children will all process the news differently. Some kids may feel comfortable talking openly about their feelings, while others may struggle. While your intentions may be good, pushing your children to give you a reaction before they’re ready can be detrimental.

The best thing you can do is to let your children know you love them, and that you’re available to them whenever they are ready to share their thoughts and feelings, or if they have more questions.

Begin Online Therapy for Kids and Teens with Anxiety in Illinois and now Florida!

Photo of Causasin boy sitting at his desk on his computer while his mom stands behind him resting her left hand on his shoulder. Photo could depict this boy having online counseling with Briefly Counseling in Illinois due to his anxiety over his parent's recent divorce.If your child or teen is struggling with anxiety, there is hope! Anxiety is highly treatable and online anxiety treatment at Briefly Counseling can help.

Using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, I help kids and teens reduce their anxiety and build resilience so they can become a happier, more confident version of themselves.

And kids love being able to receive counseling from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Studies have consistently proven that online therapy delivers equal results to in-office counseling.

As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing counseling for anxiety. To start your child’s counseling journey, call me at 224-236-2296 or email to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation.

Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 18 as well as Christian counseling.

Whether you’re on the North Shore, in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Barrington, Libertyville, Glenview, or downstate Illinois, I can help.

And effective 2024, I am now licensed in Florida! For parents in Jacksonville, Pensacola, Destin, Crestview, Coral Gables, Weston, Parkland, Naples, Marco Island, and Pinecrest, I have immediate openings.

Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.