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How should we explain our friends’ divorce to the kids?
Q: One of my good friends is getting divorced. We both have three children the same ages (5½, 4 and 2) who play together frequently. I’m concerned about how to answer my children's questions about their friends' family. How can I reassure them that daddy and I are not getting divorced, and that we’re very happy together? I don’t know how to answer the “why?” questions I know I’ll get from my oldest child.
Susan Canandaigua
A: My article on this web site titled, “How to Explain Divorce to Young Children,” suggests using drawings to show how a divorced mum and dad have two homes: mum has her home and dad has his. Then, with a series of lines going back and forth between the two homes, children can see how they will be spending lots of time with each parent.

Your question about how to handle the “whys” from your oldest child is a good one. This question worries a lot of parents, but the answer is fairly simple. Say something like this: “They had a lot of problems getting along with each other and they decided to live apart and not be married anymore.” Children shouldn’t be told about affairs or told things like, “Daddy doesn’t love us anymore” or, “Your mum ruined this family.” All this is beyond what children can handle. Just as you don’t inform your children about your intimate life with each other, don’t tell them the details of why a marriage ended. Kids don’t want to know this stuff, anyway, even though they ask. I strongly believe that a lot of what goes on between a mum and a dad is none of their business. I agree with you that it’s important to reassure your children that you and your husband have no intentions of living apart.
Kenneth N. Condrell Ph.D Child Psychologist