Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Discusses How to Explain Child Custody to Your Young Child

A divorce alone is difficult enough for your child. The trial separation, the fighting, the court hearings, and the stressful atmosphere can cause extreme trauma for your child. When you factor in child custody, the anxiety level may heighten. Your child will be shipped off to various homes, will witness terse encounters when you and your former spouse meet to exchange your child, and may have difficulty adjusting to the unexpected changes.

When explaining child custody to your child, it is important to first understand how a child thinks. Books, television shows, movies, and even past parts of your relationship have shown your child that parents love each other unconditionally and until death do them part. Media targeted toward children does not show divorced families or even single parent families, so the concept is foreign to your child.

While it may seem illogical for your child to blame the divorce on himself or herself, many children in fact do this. Children remember happy memories in which the entire family was doing something together, having fun, and smiling.  When you argue with your former spouse in front of your child, you child often thinks that he or she is the cause of this arguing. In addition, divorce is a very emotionally taxing experience for the parents, and children are commonly neglected during this period. When children do not have the same loving household and level of attention they are accustomed to, they believe that they must have done something to cause this.

So knowing that, how do you go about explaining something as difficult as child custody with your child? Below are five tips to get you started.

  1. Work as a team. This may be one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have with your child. Regardless of how you feel about your former spouse, you must join together to tackle this head-on as a team. If you or your former spouse has a new significant other, do not invite this person to the discussion. Parents only!
  2. Explain divorce to your child. This is the hardest step, but it is imperative that you start the conversation with explaining what divorce is. Provide examples of people who have gotten divorced. Then explain why you and your former spouse are divorcing. Make this explanation age-appropriate and gloss over real issues. For example, if you are divorcing due to adultery, simply state, “Mommy and Daddy still care about each other very much, but we think it would be better for the family if we lived in different houses.” Do not disparage your former spouse in front of the child.
  3. Tell your child that he or she is not to blame. Your child needs to know that he or she played no fault in the divorce. In addition, your child needs to know it is okay to be upset or sad.
  4. Tell your child the proposed custody and visitation schedule. Clearly but succinctly explain the schedule you and your former spouse have come up with so that you child knows what to expect. Your child will likely have a lot of questions about how the schedule will work. Be prepared to tackle difficult questions.
  5. Listen to your child. There may be something about your proposed schedule that works for you and your former spouse but not your child. For instance, your child may want to stay with Mom during the weekends in order to play with friends or may want to be with Dad on Monday nights for baseball practice. Be flexible based on your child’s suggestions and concerns.

If you need advice on child custody in Mississippi, contact Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free consultation.


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Mississippi Divorce Lawyer Discusses How to Explain Child Custody to Your Young Child
Mississippi Divorce Lawyer offers steps to take in terms of explaining child custody matters to a young child.