Your toddler may not even have the word “divorce” in his or her vocabulary, let alone understand what it means. But that does not mean the end of your marriage will not affect your child. This big change will certainly impact your toddler, but you can help with the right words and actions.
It may sound impossible to explain divorce to your young child. You may even feel helpless or guilty about the situation. But there are plenty of ways to teach and support your toddler through this transition.
Time the discussion right
If you and your partner are considering a divorce, do not talk to your child about it until you are certain. While there is no “good” time for breaking the bad news, there are definitely times to avoid. For example, do not bring up the divorce on preschool or daycare days or right before you go to work. Choose a time when you will be there to offer reassurances and hugs. Try to tell your child together to avoid confusion.
Keep it simple
Limit your explanation to a few sentences in words that your toddler understands. You may simply say that Mommy or Daddy is moving out. Explain that both of you love him or her and that he or she will continue to have a relationship with both parents (absent any abuse, of course).
You may be angry at your spouse for a variety of reasons, but you do not need to tell your child that your spouse is to blame for the breakup. Avoid arguments in front of your toddler. Additionally, do not disclose any details regarding financial problems or extramarital affairs.
Expect a lot of questions
Your toddler will likely ask a lot of questions about why the marriage is ending or when the other parent is coming home. Offer simple explanations and reassurance. The best thing to do is to keep giving your child all the love and support you can muster.