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Consider a child's age and development when talking about divorce

There's no cookie-cutter way to talk to your kids about divorce. It's different for every child, perhaps even within your own family, because their ages and mental development have a huge impact on how they process it.

For instance, psychologists note that kids between the age of 0-5 sometimes have a difficult time telling the difference between fantasy and reality, so all of the facts you give them may not strike them the same way they would a 13-year-old.

Additionally, children at this age do have thoughts about their feelings and the ability to consider them internally, but it can be very hard for them to put that into words. If your child isn't able to tell you how he or she is feeling, or gives an answer that doesn't make sense, keep this in mind.

Between the ages of 6-11, psychologists say that children are a bit better at thinking about the world and the big picture, not just themselves. They can talk about feelings more. They also have more interactions outside of the house -- friends at school or church, for example.

It's important to think about these things, as children at this age may be distraught by the idea of moving -- living with mom for a week and then dad for a week, for example -- if it's going to take them out of their schools and social groups. Younger children will have other concerns, while older children, particularly those who are 16 and older, may have some ability to stay involved with friends even if they have to move.

These are just a few examples, but they really show how divorce hits kids differently at different ages. If you and your spouse decide to split, you need to know how to legally set up a parenting plan and custody arrangement with all of your kids' best interests in mind.

Source: Today's Parent, "An age-by-age guide for talking to kids about divorce," John Hoffman, accessed March 02, 2017

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